Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Red red whine*

When I returned from the movie in Loring Park last night, the thermostat in my house read 88; the faulty breathalyzer read .05, and the clock read close to midnight. Anyone wanna take a guess at how I feel today?

On top of that, the movie was entirely uninteresting, and my handy camp seat was temporarily stolen by a cognitively challenged woman who had earlier been rooting around freely in her nostrils and absentmindedly playing with her spit. To make that last part even better, in my wine-fueled annoyance, I actually thought it was a logical idea to reason with the woman. She clearly had no inkling that she'd done anything wrong, and yet I apparently felt the need to look at her sternly and ask, "Why did you take that?" Considering the way my friends often like to distort this sort of thing for amusement in later retellings, I imagine that simple question will eventually be distilled down to "Stefanie yells at the mentally handicapped," much the same way an incident in a hotel hot tub years ago is now retold as "Stefanie swears in front of small children" and the way our friend Greg's simple complaint to a restaurant server has long been relayed as "Greg once beat up a Denny's waitress." Ah, good times.

Anyway, all circumstances and after-effects aside, it was still a fine summer evening in the city. There was good conversation with friends, a lovely cheese-heavy picnic spread, and wine (oh my yes, so much wine). Still, foggy-headed and crabby is no way to start the week. I may need to take another hobo nap on my lunch break.

* A shout-out to my dear friend GG on that stolen title, of course. I'm at a loss for anything more appropriate right now.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Five things I have NOT done this week

  1. Read the new Harry Potter book. Did you hear that the last book recently came out? It's possible you might have actually missed that news. Frankly I'm a little surprised I haven't heard more about it myself. I mean, hasn't anybody on the Internet been talking about this? Oh wait. It seems approximately 10 million people have. Go read about it from one of them, because aside from this one brief mention, Stefanie Says is still a Potter-free zone. I really have nothing against the books, by the way; I just don't give a damn.

  2. Gone to BlogHer. My first thought, upon learning this year's conference would be in Chicago, was, "Hey! It's happening only a six-hour drive from my house? Maybe I should go!" Sure, I'm not any sort of big-time blogger, and I actually hate conferencey things by nature, but by all accounts, BlogHer is a fun and wonderful time. They even have drinks, I hear! We never get drinks at the conferences I attend for work! Perhaps that could make all the difference. You know what, though? Getting somewhere six hours from home still requires about $100 worth of gas or a $100 plane ticket. And when I get there, I would have to pay for parking or cab fare, not to mention a likely rather expensive downtown hotel room for three nights. Add in the cost of the conference itself and whatever incidentals are not included in that conference cost, and suddenly a quick weekend getaway not too far from home was looking set to ring in at around $700. That is entirely too much money to spend and barely leave the state, I say. Besides, I think Noelle is on to something. She prefers to meet bloggers over tiki drinks, one by one. Who's coming to Psycho Suzi's with me next?

  3. Seen I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, despite the fact that some three million of my fellow Americans did. I remember the first time I saw a preview for this reportedly awful film. I was in a theater with my friend Lisa, waiting for Waitress to start, and when we'd seen enough of the preview to grasp the premise, we both looked at each other slack-jawed and horrified, hoping beyond hope that a ringtone would suddenly break in on the sound track, revealing that it was not a real and actual movie set to play in theaters soon but instead one of those fake previews designed to cleverly remind you to mute all electronic devices. Seriously. Do the meatheads of America really need any help making gay jokes? Do we really need Adam Sandler and Jessica Biel sanctioning inane stereotypes? I wasn't going to write anything about this, because it's entirely possible I'm being closed-minded and the film is actually a light-hearted and sensitive approach to a timely topic, but still. Number 1 movie in America?? Really??

  4. Cleaned out my bathroom drain with the intriguing little Zip-it tool I recently bought precisely for this purpose. Apparently I would rather stand in three inches of water every day as I shower than spend the presumably brief number of minutes involved in trying out this simple and chemical-free little gadget. Perhaps I will do that tonight yet. Staying in alone on a Friday night isn't quite exciting enough, after all. It's best to do something practical and yet disgusting while I'm home as well.

  5. Bought a jean jacket, despite all my repeated best efforts to do so. What the fuck, Macy's, Gap, and every other store in Rosedale Center?? Everybody in the world has a jean jacket except me; where on earth did they all get them?? Tell me!!

One thing I will be doing this weekend, however, to prove that I'm not above unanimity all of the time, is see The Simpsons Movie tomorrow. And since this is sort of an "everybody's doing it" post, I thought I would be the last person on the Internet to create one of these as well. So here it is: a Simpsons-ized me! Nerd-tastic, wouldn't you agree?

As pretty as Princess Leia and as smart as Yoda

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Obviously this sort of thing is contagious

Most of the people in that "real life and in-person" category of friendship don't make themselves known in the comments here very often. They read (or, some of them do), but they rarely mention they've been reading, so it's only when I start telling some little story about the ridiculous or amusing thing that happened to me recently and they stop me with, "Yeah, I read that on your blog" that I'm at all aware they've stopped by. (Yes, I do have a Sitemeter account and of course I periodically examine my stats, but despite apparently popular belief, I have no idea which St. Paul-based Comcast visits are actual friends of mine and which are people popping in via -R- or WhiskeyMarie.)

Sometimes, however, I get e-mails from friends that let me know they're still here. For example, the other day a good friend of mine forwarded a message that a co-worker of hers sent to their company at large. Apparently it reminded her of something I was appalled by a couple weeks ago myself...

From: [Friend's co-worker]
To: [Entire company]
Subject: It won't happen again

I just wanted to apologize to anyone I may have upset yesterday by wearing my socks-and-sandals combo. I understand the error of my ways, and it won't happen again.

[Friend's co-worker]
[Title, Company]
[Phone and Fax numbers]

The friend who forwarded me that message wondered which was the greater offense: wearing socks with sandals in the first place, or sending out a company-wide e-mail apologizing for it. I actually think it's the former. The latter proves a redeeming sense of humor and humbling nature, after all, so I must give him credit for that.

I'd also like to note that the offending co-worker at my own office wore his white socks with leather sandals again yesterday and offered nothing by way of an apology (or good humor) for it. Since scientific law commands that every dorky action result in an equally dorky reaction, however, I've continued to prove myself a winner lately as well. Case in point? Twice (twice!) in the past week, I have stepped into the shower with my glasses still on.

Stones and glass houses indeed.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The correct answer to #5 is "Teen Spirit"

Many years ago, when I still subscribed to misogynist drivel useful and culturally relevant literature such as Glamour, I remember reading an interview article featuring Gwyneth Paltrow. In the interview, she mentioned that her friends had begun teasing her about her sudden climb to fame. "I only do art films," she apparently insisted, to which they replied, "No way; you're totally a cheesy movie star."

Art films. The woman said she does only art films. Clearly this was before she signed on for View from the Top and Shallow Hal.

I'd have to say it's an unlikely and rare occasion for me to be drawing any comparisons between Gwyneth Paltrow and myself. I mean, sure, I suppose there's a possibility that I'll someday sustain a bothersome head injury and thereafter start speaking in a fake British accent and naming my children Blueberry and Potato, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that's a long shot at best.

I am, however, a big ol' hypocrite just like Ms. Paltrow, apparently. When I started this blog, I was somewhat against the "list-about-me" memes. Then I decided to pick and choose which ones I was against and which ones seemed fun or worth doing. Now I'm not just posting a meme, but asking YOU GUYS to fill it out! My word; I know it is summer, but WHERE will the lazy blogging end??

Ahem. With that compelling introduction in place, allow me to tell you about the fun game Sognatrice is playing over at Bleeding Espresso right now. There's a list of twenty questions, or actually, twenty fill-in-the-blank type statements, but rather than Sognatrice completing each one with her answer, she's put it out to commenters instead. This really isn't the cop-out that it might seem to be; aren't you just as curious as I am how well people know you or don't?

So then. If you'd like to play along, copy and paste this list (or whatever portion of it strikes you) into the comments, completing each sentence with the "true" answers if you know them or amusing and absurd ones if you don't. And then go do the same thing on your own blog (if you want, of course) so we can all be lazy summertime bloggers together. Whee! Doesn't that sound like fun? I thought so. Here we go.

Stefanie is.....
Stefanie needs.....
Stefanie's best friend is.....
Stefanie's dog is named.....*
Stefanie smells like.....
Stefanie drives like.....
Stefanie craves......
Stefanie's favorite TV show is.....
Stefanie hates the actor whose name is.....
Stefanie's alcoholic drink of choice is.....
Stefanie's NON alcoholic drink of choice is.....
Stefanie's favorite musical artist is.....
Stefanie's favorite cupcake flavor is.....
Stefanie's hair is.....
Stefanie's celebrity crush is.....
Stefanie's occupation is.....
Stefanie's favorite book is.....
Stefanie's favorite color is.....
Stefanie hates.....
Stefanie wishes.....

Thanks in advance for humoring me (I hope... I could very well be met by crickets on this one, I know). Also, if it's not too much to ask, please make me smile rather than laugh. I promise that none of you are on my nemesis list, so don't be a hater, OK?

* This is a trick question, of course, but I decided to leave it anyway, rather than replace it with something more appropriate (you know, like "Stefanie's imaginary boyfriend is named..." or "Stefanie likes wine better than..."). So do with this one whatever you like.

Friday, July 20, 2007

I sort of wish the plural of "nemesis" were "nemesi"

Having a nemesis seems to be all the rage this year. -R- has one. Crazy Aunt Purl has one. And recently I learned that Jessica of the Fug Girls has one. I can be as surly as the next person (surlier, actually, depending on the day). I really ought to have a nemesis, don't you think? It might actually be good for me. I could channel all the aggravation that builds up in any given day towards my nemesis, compartmentalizing my annoyance in one spot and therefore freeing the rest of my mind up for a sunnier disposition. (What? It could happen...)

How does one choose a nemesis, however? I suspect that if I have to ask the question, I likely haven't found one yet. That or I just have too many to choose from. That's probably it, actually. So I'll have to think on this a bit longer. Meanwhile, though, here are five ongoing contenders for the position.

  1. The guy who I don't think even lives on my block and yet insists on parking his rusty and ginormous red truck directly in front of my house and then leaving it there for nine days or more in a row. I do not even typically park on the street; I park in my garage out back, and yet, this annoys me no end.

  2. The Taco Bell executive who decided that all drive-thru workers had to start greeting me with a meaningless and awkward "How are you?" instead of proceeding directly to the standard "Welcome to Taco Bell; may I take your order?" That kid with the headset really doesn't care how I am, and I'd rather not waste my time with an equally pointless "Fine thanks; how are you?" in reply. Let me just order my damn seven-layer burrito with nachos and move on, OK?

  3. The lady at my gym with the 100 rowdy and obnoxious children whom she insists on bringing into the locker room with her rather than dropping directly into the nursery. OK, in actuality, the number of children under her care is closer to three, but given how loud and annoying they are, it seems much higher than that. When they are not chattering at full volume or running around getting underfoot, they are standing and staring slack-jawed at me as I change, which frankly is every bit as unsettling. Furthermore, each week during kickboxing class, this woman insists on drifting out of position and getting all up in my jab-space, and one of these days I am going to lose the ongoing battle with my patience and decorum and send one of my left kicks directly to her skull. (No, I am not a Rockettes-worthy high kicker with tremendous strength and flexibility, but this woman is rather tiny. I could totally reach her head with my foot if I tried.)

  4. People who use supposedly cute shortened forms of words that really don't need to be shortened at all. Sammies instead of sandwiches. 'Zah instead of pizza. 'Sconnie instead of Wisconsin.* I'd even prefer we all forget the word hubby and just say husband instead, but I realize I'm very likely in the minority on that, so I suppose I can let that one slide.

    * This one is particularly loathsome to me, especially when used by Wisconsinites themselves. Strangely, I am significantly less averse to the more unique "Wiscoe" abbreviation I heard recently, but I'd still like to keep using all the syllables.

  5. The unnecessarily chipper and gregarious man at my office who insists on singing a ridiculous birthday song from a 1950s-era children's show whenever we gather for cake in the conference room. His overenthusiastic rendition comes complete with accompanying sweeping hand gestures and a dramatic falsetto in the finish. This same man also annoys me daily with outbursts like, "There she is!" upon passing me in the hall (not when he's been looking for me, mind you, and a "there she is" would make sense; he apparently just likes to announce his presence in some way). I must note that he is actually a perfectly nice man and so I feel a bit guilty proposing him as a potential nemesis, and yet, I can't help myself anyway.

The more I think about this, the more I realize I may need more than five slots, actually. After all, I haven't even mentioned the morning show DJs who ignite my ire, nor the neighbor who seems to think the entire alley is his personal dumping ground. I'd better stop now, though, I think. So tell me, who's your nemesis these days?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Reason #47 that it's best I live alone

Because there was no one around to hear me (and thereafter to mock me mercilessly) when I let out a sudden string of high-pitched squeals (while simultaneously and dramatically hopping around quickly out of the way) after stepping on what I thought was a tremendous bug scurrying around my laundry room floor but which actually turned out to be a black rubber washer I'd accidentally sent spinning with my foot.

I think I ought to steal Abbersnail's "Why I rock" label for this one. Sometimes "Nerdery" just doesn't suffice.

Monday, July 16, 2007

My Blueberry Nights (er, Day)

I seem to be running on summer hours here at Stefanie Says. I was all set to tell you all about my blueberry picking adventure yesterday (I'm a modern frontier woman! I picked my own fruit! From a farm! And then I took it home and baked something with it!), but "I picked blueberries yesterday" is about all I can muster for that story. We drove to a farm in Wisconsin. We had a lovely picnic along the way. We picked some delicious blueberries. Then we came home. End of story. I do have pictures, though! And isn't a picture still worth a thousand words or so? Here then is my 11,000-word essay on my blueberry farm outing. Enjoy.



Friday, July 13, 2007

If the Internet has taught me anything, it's that "weird" is entirely relative

I came across this "Weird Sleep Things" list on Typical Redhead linked from Poppy Cedes recently. While I am wholly confident that I have already told the Internet more than enough "weird things" about me, I also know that it is too damn hard to pass up an easy-to-copy list topic 55 weeks into this Friday Five game of mine. I actually worry sometimes that I am giving away too many pointless little secrets about myself online... that someday, a bad man will capture and kidnap me, and he will try to convince me that he has been in contact with my sisters or my friends or an ex-boyfriend by relaying something that no one but that person could possibly know about me. Publishing all my ridiculous secrets online is not a very good way to ensure that no one but [insert any specific person here] knows some strange and trivial fact about me. It's a good thing Demi Moore in Ghost didn't have a blog, or she never would have believed that Whoopi Goldberg was in contact with her dead boyfriend and let her and an invisible Patrick Swayze in her home.

Anyway, this isn't about Demi Moore or Whoopi Goldberg, nor is it about the routinely overactive imagination that forces me even to think about being kidnapped by a bad and lying man. This is about five more things probably none of you need to know about me. Specifically, Five Weird Things I Do While Getting Ready for Sleep or While Sleeping.

  1. I have a ridiculous obsessive compulsive routine I follow when setting my alarm. It goes something like this. Switch alarm setting to "Music" option. Confirm that little dot displays beside the time, noting that alarm is set. Press "Sleep" to activate radio and check the volume and reception of radio. Press "Snooze" to turn Sleep off. Press "Alarm time" button to make sure alarm is set to proper time. Press again to check for good measure. Worry that somehow the Sleep and Snooze button presses have deactivated the alarm setting. Slide alarm set switch to "Off" and back to "Music" setting again just to make sure. Possibly press "Alarm time" button to verify one more time. (Note: I do this EVERY. NIGHT. The whole routine takes only about six seconds, but still, I recognize it is insane.)

  2. I cannot get into bed without checking underneath it first. What I'm checking for I'm not sure, and if anyone were actually hiding out under there, I wouldn't be properly armed or prepared to deal with it anyway, and yet, I do this every night. (Note: I do not do this in hotel rooms. In most cases, hotel beds are installed on an enormous block bolted to the floor and therefore there is no "under the bed" to check, but mostly I just figure that what I might find under a hotel bed is likely to be more unsettling than not looking at all, and so I resist.)

  3. I will admit it: I am not one of those people with impeccable oral hygiene who dutifully flosses carefully every night. There. I said it. (Admit it, most of you don't, either.) I do, however, floss between at least two of my teeth every night, in a spot where I know food routinely gets stuck and where I'm consistently paranoid a cavity might form. Why I can't just spend another 30 seconds to floss the rest of my teeth once I'm there, I have no idea, but obviously my laziness knows no bounds.

  4. I take a drink of water immediately before brushing my teeth and have to take another one within two minutes after brushing my teeth. If I don't go back to the kitchen for another drink before I get into bed, I know I'll just have to get up again to do so in a matter of minutes. Something about brushing my teeth makes me inexplicably thirsty. (Does anyone else have this issue?)

  5. When I am sleeping in the same bed as someone else, I can somehow discipline my unconscious self to stay entirely within the confines of "my side," barely an inch from the place I started. (Note: Rolling over for periodic spooning is not included here. I'm talking primarily about hotel stays when I've had to share a bed with a friend who I'm not dating. Sleeping with someone I actually want to sidle up against is a remote and foreign memory to me these days.) When I'm sleeping in a bed by myself, however, I roll around and flail my arms with strange abandon. I have actually woken up with sleep clothes so disheveled, one arm is fully out of its sleeve or camisole strap. How I do this, I have no idea, but it's happened more than thrice.

Just out of curiosity, does the fact that none of those really seem that odd to me mean I am entirely out of touch with reality, or just that I have read enough similarly absurd confessions on the Internet to know that "weird" is entirely the norm? I think I'm going to have to say it's the latter, though feel free to dispute me on that.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Two, two, two book reports in one

A few of you, upon realizing I was reading The Time Traveler's Wife (or, more recently, upon seeing that I had finished it), said you were interested to hear what I thought of it. Honestly, I actually felt a little pressure with this one. I mean, Metalia counts it as her favorite book ever, and I know it was much beloved by several others of you (not to mention presumably most of the 1,456 people who logged in to record their opinion on Amazon) as well. If I hated this book, I might have some explaining to do.

So what did I think of it? Well, I liked it. Quite a bit, really. The problem is, I can't entirely explain why. It was well-written, sure, but the prose was fairly straightforward. I was abruptly awed by a beautiful passage every now and then, but I didn't go through a whole stack of Post-it flags marveling over every page, the way I did with Tolstoy Lied. And the plot was compelling, but not in an "I can't possibly put this book down now; I simply must read the next chapter before I go to sleep!" sort of way. So mainly, I suppose it was just a good story, a clever premise, with a sweet love story and a sufficient number of vivid images woven within. In all, it was a lovely book.

If you aren't familiar with this one, here's a brief synopsis. (I promise I won't give away anything that you won't also read on the book jacket or in the first pages of the first chapter.) The narrative alternates between Henry and Clare, who met when Clare was a child and Henry was a 40-something-year-old man. The two are actually only eight years apart in age, but Henry has a genetic defect that makes him spontaneously time-travel, so they meet over and over at various ages and times, often out of sync but always linked to each other in some way.

I am still trying to wrap my head around Niffenegger's approach to time travel, which I suppose is what kept the book interesting. I am probably not alone in saying that my understanding of time travel is culled almost entirely from Back to the Future, and with Marty and Doc Brown as my only reference points, a lot of how this story unfolded made no sense. Henry maintains that he can't affect the future in any way during his time travels, because everything has already been decided. His friend with HIV can't go back and "kill the fucker" who gave him the virus, because he didn't kill him back then. I read that, and all I could think of was Michael J. Fox's hand disappearing while he was playing guitar because he had affected the past in a way that made him not exist in the future. Audrey Niffenegger, didn't you learn anything from Marty McFly?? Sheesh.

Because of this logic (or missing logic), I couldn't make sense of the love story. (Again, I promise I'm not spoiling anything here; all of what I'm about to write plays out very early in the book.) Henry thinks nothing he does in his time travels can affect the future (or the past) from whence he came, but if that were true, the love story never would have taken place. When Clare sees Henry in the opening chapter (she is 20; he is 28), she throws her arms around him as a long-lost friend who she's been told since childhood she's going to marry. He, on the other hand, has no idea who she is. The first time Clare met him, he was in his 40s, so he has no memory of her yet. So, if he hadn't met her in the past, she wouldn't know him in the future. She wouldn't have nearly accosted him in the library, and they wouldn't have begun their romance. It's baffling; I can't get out of the circular logic of it. So quite obviously I need to let it go.

Instead, then, let's focus on some of those lovely passages I mentioned, shall we? Like I said, I didn't flag a whole lot while I read this one, but here are a few parts that struck me nonetheless.

[Clare]: I have never been in the Newberry Library before, and now that I've gotten past the dark, foreboding entrance, I am excited. I have a sort of Christmas-morning sense of the library as a big box full of beautiful books.

[Henry]: Mom had just gotten back from Sydney, and she had brought me an immense, surpassingly blue butterfly... I would hold it close to my face, so close I couldn't see anything but that blue. It would fill me with a feeling, a feeling I later tried to duplicate with alcohol and finally found again with Clare, a feeling of unity, oblivion, mindlessness in the best sense of the word.

[Clare]: I wake up in my bed, the bed of my childhood. As I float on the surface of waking I can't find myself in time; is it Christmas, Thanksgiving? Is it third grade again? Am I sick? Why is it raining?

[Clare]: I am having a hard time, in my tiny back bedroom studio, in the beginning of my married life. The space that I can call mine, that isn't full of Henry, is so small that my ideas have become small. I am like a caterpillar in a cocoon of paper; all around me are sketches for sculptures, small drawings that seem like moths fluttering against the windows, beating their wings to escape from this tiny space.

[Henry]: A nurse calls our names. We repair to an examining room. Clare gets undressed, and gets on the table, and is greased and scanned. The technician watches the monitor. Amit Montague, who is tall and regal and French Moroccan, watches the monitor. Clare and I hold hands. We watch the monitor, too. Slowly the image builds itself, bit by bit.

On the screen is a weather map of the world. Or a galaxy, a swirl of stars. Or a baby.

"Bine joue, une fille," Dr. Montague says. "She is sucking her thumb. She is very pretty. And very big."

Clare and I exhale. On the screen a pretty galaxy is sucking her thumb. As we watch she takes her hand away from her mouth. Dr. Montague says, "She smiles." And so do we.

When I was adding The Time Traveler's Wife to my list of Books I've Read This Year, I noticed that I never wrote anything about Prep, despite noting at least three times that I was going to do so. I guess that's why I still have it sitting in a pile of CDs and books and paperwork on my desk. Sometimes my cluttered disorganization has a purpose after all. Huh.

So. My flags are still in the book, and I can still try to call up what I liked or didn't like about it. My only problem with Prep, I think, was the timing with which I read it. When I started it, I was trying to hold on to the high of confidence and the strive toward self-actualization brought on by Eat Pray Love. The last thing I needed right then was to be reminded of the awkwardness and insecurity of high school. I wanted Lee to get over herself and just cheer up or at least speak her mind for once, but I likely wouldn't have felt that way had I read it just a few months earlier.

Was Prep an overall incredible and must-read book? No. Probably not. But I did marvel at Sittenfeld's keen, seemingly effortless memory of the small details of youth, of the same thoughts and experiences I have from high school and early college but which I've long since let slip from daily thoughts. Parts like these...

Classes ended that Friday, and ... in the dorms, some people had already started packing, which I hated doing--I saw the naked walls and cleared-away surfaces as unkind reminders of just how fleeting it all was, just how illusive the idea that any of it belonged to us.

I pursed my lips toward him; we were kissing. It was harder work than I had imagined, and less immediately pleasing. In fact, it felt intriguing more than enjoyable--the shifting, overlapping wet and dry parts of our mouths and faces, the mild sourness of his mouth (it seemed so personal to be tasting Cross's mouth), and also the way it was hard not to be conscious of the moment as it happened, not to want to pause and acknowledge it, even if only by laughing. I didn't find kissing funny, but it didn't seem that serious, either, not as serious as we were acting like it was.

Two days later, I picked up my first packet of birth control pills from the infirmary, which made me feel so unlike myself that I would not have been surprised, when I looked in the mirror, to see a forty-year-old divorced mother of two, a cowgirl, an aerobics instructor on a cruise ship in the Caribbean.

...and also parts where Sittenfeld looks between youth and adulthood and compares what she's learned with startlingly accurate observations...

To play a great game of high school basketball--it was something I myself had never done, but I could tell--made you know what it was to be alive. How much in an adult life can compare to that? Granted, there are margaritas, or there's no homework, but there are also puffy white bagels under neon lights in the conference room, there's waiting for the plumber, making small talk with your boring neighbor.

There was plenty I learned from Dave. Later... I even saw Dave as practice for Cross, as preparation. He made me ready, as Conchita had made me ready for a friendship with Martha; there are people we treat wrong and later, we're prepared to treat other people right. Perhaps this sounds mercenary, but I feel grateful for these trial relationships, and I would like to think it all evens out--surely, unknowingly, I have served as practice for other people.

I wanted to be touching Cross and now I was; I could feel the rise and fall of his chest. And we matched each other well, our bodies fit. I didn't know enough then to realize that doesn't always happen--that sometimes you cannot settle on an angle with the other person, your weight won't balance, your bones poke.

And then there were the passages I just found funny, or true-to-experience, or simply notably original descriptions of the average and everyday. Here are just a few...

My self-consciousness... was something I'd anticipated, something I had to live with but could not acknowledge--a bride descending the aisle with an itchy nose.

I could hardly talk to my classmates, and I definitely couldn't dance. I had tried once at a cousin's wedding and I had not been able to stop thinking, "Is this the part where I throw my arms in the air?"

It wasn't that I suspected Mrs. Morino of lying, more that it seemed so hard to believe anything ever happened, or was happening. The big occurrences in life, the serious ones, have for me always been nearly impossible to recognize because they never feel big or serious. In the moment, you have to pee, or your arm itches, or what people are saying strikes you as melodramatic or sentimental, and it's hard not to smirk. You have a sense of what this type of situation should be like--for one thing, all-consuming--and this isn't it. But then you look back, and it was that; it did happen.

The wrongness of what had happened... I could feel it now. Not a moral wrongness, but a screwup, a thing that needed explanation: a bird in the grocery store, a toilet that won't stop running, that moment when your friend has come to pick you up and you open the door and realize it's not your friend's car at all; the person driving is a stranger, and now you must apologize.

I was wholly unafraid of getting caught; I have always believed that extreme circumstances protect you from ordinary dangers, and while I recognize my belief as illogical, I have not yet been proven wrong.

Our relationship... was about the irrelevance of words. You feel what you feel, you act as you act; who in the history of the world has ever been convinced by a well-reasoned argument?

So. That's two thumbs mostly up for The Time Traveler's Wife and Prep, belated though those thumbs-up may be. And although my "to get at the library someday" list is long (as is the stack of books-not-yet-opened on my own bookshelf), I'm still uncertain just what to read next. Tell me, what have you loved or not loved lately? I'd love to hear what's on your lists.

Monday, July 09, 2007

My weekend, in bullet points (again)

Is it a sign of unforgivably lazy blogging when nine out of ten of your last posts involve a bulleted or numbered list of some sort? I care not. It has been hot, and I have been wallowing in lethargy. Here we go.

This weekend, I...

  • Wrote my 54th Friday Five entry. Can you believe I have been creating those damn lists for a full year now? My first thought is, "No wonder I have such a hard time coming up with topics for those lately!" My second thought is, "Wait a minute. 54?" Help me out on the math here, folks. If my first one was the last week of June 2006, and my most recent one was the first week of July 2007, shouldn't that be 53? Perhaps I've forgotten how to count in this heat, or perhaps I need to add calendars to that growing list of basic concepts I apparently do not understand.

  • Saw three movies (one on DVD, one in the theater, and one outside in a parking lot) and watched six Netflixed episodes of What I Like about You, an entirely cheesy sitcom that I should probably be embarrassed to admit I like and yet, I persist in telling the Internet about it. (Note: I also think the son-in-law on Reba is occasionally hilarious. You see? I have no shame.) (Note to the note: If it redeems my poor taste at all, I have never seen a full episode of According to Jim or Two and a Half Men. -R-, does this mean you can still be friends with me?)

  • Sold an old air conditioner to an overweight drag queen (No! For real! I saw his WhySpace page!) and a dehumidifier I'm no longer using to an aging hippie in a wife-beater and felt clogs. (Thank you, Craig's List, for the extra $55 in my wallet now. Whoo hoo!)

  • Managed to complete a 21-mile bike ride on a 98-degree day without either collapsing from heat stroke nor melting and fusing to my seat.

  • Finished The Time Traveler's Wife. Unfortunately, I finished it five days after it was due (the library wouldn't let me renew it because there are several holds on it behind me), which means not only am I a book-hoarding jackass, but I have incurred a library fine for the first time in at least 16 years. I was a little worried that deliberately keeping the book past its due date would be a bit more expensive today than it was in my tiny home town nearly two decades ago, but it turns out the late book rate has skyrocketed up to only 30 cents per day. Pshaw. They can have my $1.50, I say. Hell, the library is a good and worthy cause; maybe I'll throw in an extra $1.50 just to show my apologies. See? I'm a rebel and a philanthropist! Delinquency has an upshot after all.

  • And finally, last but not least, received an award from the lovely Poppy Cedes. This pink-tastic prize is apparently making the rounds, because last week, Sognatrice was kind enough to bestow it on me as well. I am thoroughly flattered, ladies. Even if this logo does call up memories of Barbie & the Rockers (or better still, Gem & the Holograms), I will post it proudly anyway. (Gem is truly, truly outrageous, after all, and who's going to argue with that?)

    I rock

In response to that last one, I'm supposed to pass the prize along to five other deserving lady bloggers. Obviously my friends -R-, Poppy, and Sognatrice have already received it, but even that doesn't make it much easier to narrow this down to five. I assure you, you all rock. This list is just a small sampling (in no particular order) of the fabulous women I'm happy to call my Internet friends.

  1. Noelle, because she approaches workouts with the same sort of twisted logic I employ on a regular basis, because she wrote probably the best "How I spent my summer vacation" essay I have ever read, and because she introduced the terms "landlesbian" and "waterlesbian" into our lexicon. That last one alone is worthy of an award, I say (even if -R- may have actually coined the latter, if my recollection is correct).

  2. Liz, because she is nicer to animals than I am to most humans. Also because she is capable of doing all sorts of things that I most certainly am not. Like fix her refrigerator, and exercise 70 days in a row, and avoid unnecessary and superfluous cheese. Oh, and sing! (Really, folks. I've heard her on CD. The woman has a fabulous voice.) Also, her comments routinely crack me up. Her feedback on my posts (and those on other blogs I read) is as entertaining as her own, actual posts, and it makes me think, as Darren once said to Red, "Save the A-material for your own blog!"

  3. Maliavale, because she is a genius and a visionary (I am still waiting for that International Size Tribunal idea to take hold) and because her now-infamous "Tiny ponies in sneakers" post is still quite likely the funniest thing I've seen all year. Also, she is one of the most positive, optimistic, "the world is my oyster" people I've ever met (or, almost met, if being "virtual" friends counts). And I very much admire her for that.

  4. Metalia, because she is smart and charming and consistently hilarious, not to mention incredibly helpful, what with all the wonderful product recommendations and movie reviews and all the recipes she sends to my poor domestically challenged self. Plus, she is downright lovely, with her perfect hair and dark brown eyes and her impossibly adorable family. Metalia is like that beautiful and popular girl in high school who you wanted to hate but couldn't because she was actually down-to-earth and nice instead of bitchy and judgmental. Plus, she is apparently even more clumsy and accident-prone than I am (not to mention magnetic to in-the-street-peeing hobos), and really, how can you not love her for that?

  5. And finally, Nabbalicious, because she taught us all about waxing and Dr. Pepper Lip Smackers and reminded us how very tasty Cadbury Creme Eggs are. And also because at least 127 times, she has written something that has so perfectly encapsulated my own thoughts or experiences that I just have to say Nabbalicious is obviously a cooler, wittier, more ambitious, more talented, and overall more awesome version of myself. And since by at least two accounts, I rock, surely Nabbalicious rocks as well.

OK, so that is five, but it would be terribly remiss if I didn't also include a shout-out to my pal Guinness Girl, who has been terribly busy with real life lately and therefore not spending nearly as much time online. She is still witty and fabulous, however, and therefore very deserving of some accolades. As are the rest of you, of course. Let's just say we all rock and leave it at that, OK?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Stones, glass houses... you know how it goes.

The other day, I found myself inwardly chastising a middle-aged male co-worker who showed up to work in a button-up shirt and khakis paired with white socks and leather sandals. I shook my head in horror, marveling at the level of dorkitude he was able to achieve with that one bold wardrobe choice.

A few hours later, an incident while shopping forced me to rethink my air of superiority, and several other events throughout this particularly dorktastic week have served as further humbling proof that I'm really in no position to judge anyone. I may not wear socks with sandals, but there are plenty of other good, solid reasons that I am a tremendous oaf/loser/uncoordinated fool. I'm not too proud to share, so here are five of them.

  1. In the dairy aisle at the grocery store recently, I walked towards the refrigerator case across from the milk, where I've always found my Kraft Deli-Thin Sliced Swiss before, only to see that the case is now filled with butter and tubes of cookie dough instead. In my brain, the words I immediately said were, "Who moved my cheese??" (And then I looked around quickly to make sure I had, in fact, used my inside-my-head voice for that and not my out-loud one. Whew.)

  2. Earlier this week, I decided to wear the new American Apparel skirt I bought in Columbus. As usual, I tried it on one more time before clipping the tag (which was pointless in this case, really, as there is no American Apparel store here and therefore I was basically stuck with the skirt, like it or not). I then must have moved directly on to some other, more important task, because I didn't think about that tag again until I was sitting at work, fidgeting with my waistband, trying to figure out what on earth would be poking and scratching me so much. I'm a quick study, folks. Yay me.

  3. That same day, I noticed a few little gnats or fruit flies circling near my desk, and I was immediately annoyed and indignant, wondering who had thrown something inappropriate in the uncovered trash can in the kitchen and caused such a disgusting disturbance. I smushed four of the damn little things before I finally moved the vinyl lunch bag I'd had sitting on my desk for who knows how long and inadvertently stirred up several more. I was too horrified to even look inside to see if it was a banana or a peach or who knows what else that caused fruit flies to spawn on the rot. I immediately folded the bag tight against itself and took it to the dumpster outside. And then shuddered repeatedly in my seat for the next two hours. Yech.

  4. In one day (this Fourth of July Wednesday), I (A) cut myself shaving... three times, (B) drew blood stabbing myself on a plastic bottle, (C) nearly fell over whilst spinning around to show how twirly my skirt was, and (D) missed a step on a reasonably well-lit front stoop and nearly face-planted on the ground. Note: I was almost entirely sober during each and every one of these mishaps.

  5. And finally, the ultimate in my terrible, "I'm very worried about my brain" week... I returned from work tonight and decided it was about time to haul out the cumbersome, noisy, and inefficient air conditioner units in my basement and finally get them into my windows for the season. In the process, I managed to rip the ill-fitting plastic accordion-folded piece that I typically tape between the unit and the window frame, so I had to improvise and cut a piece of cardboard for that space instead. I was actually mentally patting myself on the back, thinking how much better the cardboard fit in place anyway and wondering why I haven't just used cardboard for this purpose every year... Then I went outside to check the seal from the other angle, and only then did I say to myself, "Hey genius. Cardboard isn't waterproof, and it actually does, on occasion, rain a bit." Here's hoping the layer of duct tape I applied is sufficient in keeping out both water and intruders. (Kidding on that second part. I've actually got a really sophisticated method involving wooden dowels to keep the bad guys out.)

So. In summary, I am smart. And coordinated. And always thinking on my toes. Or, quite obviously, I am none of these. But at least I don't wear socks with sandals. There is that, anyway.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Sometimes, I think heaven will be kind of like a Target store, and then other times, I pray to God it's not.

So I went to Target yesterday. News flash, I know. I'm sure you people probably think that I go there often enough and with such enthusiasm that my shopping jaunts might actually be considered a hobby, but the truth is, it had been so long since I'd been to Target that I actually had a list of eleven specific items that I legitimately needed. Eleven! Usually I make a stop in there at least once a week for the few assorted items I remember needing or wanting and then have to return a few days later with proper list in hand to pick up the rest. For whatever reason, though, I haven't made any impulse trips over there lately, and with only half a roll of toilet paper and possibly two showers' worth of shampoo left, it was nearing a Code Red situation, so to speak. So off to the big bullseye I went.

I am pleased to report that I purchased ten of the eleven items on my list* and bought only one item that was not on the list. That one item is actually something that's been on my "get someday" list for a while now, though, so I'm going to count it as Not-an-Impulse-Buy anyway. So then. Responsible Target shopping. It's a bit of a foreign concept, I know. This is progress. Yay me.

I didn't really start this post intending to talk about what I bought or didn't buy at Target, however. What I wanted to do was point out the two things I cannot believe I saw at Target (and yet, that I saw there anyway). What were those two things?

  1. Dove Pro-Age Deodorant. So now it is not enough that we have to worry about fighting the effects of aging with special face creams and hair products and body lotions and vitamins? You are telling me my old lady armpits will have special needs, too? Man, getting old is entirely more complicated and depressing than I thought.


  2. Adam from meMarmony. AGAIN! Honestly, people, what the fuck. I don't run into my real friends unexpectedly in public on any sort of even arguably regular basis. Again, Minneapolis is not Stars Hollow. I am not trying to plan my Doose's Market trips around the brief moments when I won't need to dart into the cereal aisle to avoid CuteDean.** This is a major metropolitan area, with at least 35 separate Target stores. Why is Adam from meMarmony always at mine?

I was so thrown off by that second item that I had to tell someone about it immediately. I texted my friend Carrie from the health and beauty aisles...

Me: I just saw Adam from meMarmony at Target AGAIN!
Carrie: Wow! You must be meant for each other. Was it a specific aisle?
Me: No. I was on my way in as he was on his way out, just like last time. What aisle would mean we are made for each other?***
Carrie: Archer Farms?

Heh. The woman has a point, I suppose. I do dig that cranberry nut trail mix, after all...


* Doesn't Target sell hand towels that you can tie or loop to your drawer pulls anymore? I am sure that is where I got the frayed one I've been using for the past six years that finally bit the dust in my dryer last week, and yet, no such thing exists in the towel aisles right now.

** You thought that just because Gilmore Girls had been canceled the references would stop, right? Obviously you thought wrong.

*** Yes, I really text in complete words and complete sentences. This is why I rarely text. It is also why I am so very glad Malia and Darren finally taught me how to use T9.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Saturday in the park, the day before the first of July

Have you ever been to Minneapolis? No? Well, you should come. Particularly in the summer. Yesterday was a damn-near perfect summer day, and rather than fritter it away on something as useless as yard work (or worse, lounging about inside catching up on my blog-reading), I took my pasty-white self outside and hopped on my bike. And while I was riding from my house along the river path to Minnehaha Park, I started thinking about all the things I love about this city at this time of year. Here are just a few of them.

  • Miles and miles of bike routes and walking paths... along rivers, around lakes, on old railroad lines, and beside gorgeous old homes that I could never afford but love to look at.
  • The fact that even in the middle of the city, it's so easy to find quiet green patches.
  • The Stone Arch Bridge and St. Anthony Main. We really need some better restaurants down there, but the block is just so pretty, I can easily accept the limited (and overpriced) options.
  • Drinks on patios and rooftops.
  • Movies in the park.
  • Outdoor concerts.
  • Ice cream at Grand Ole Creamery and Izzy's. (OK, those are both St. Paul, but this is an equal opportunity list. I have no qualms about venturing across the river as often as necessary.)
  • Summer festivals involving fried food and things on sticks.

I'm off to enjoy one of those list items tonight, actually: a movie in the park(ing lot) outside a small playhouse. It's a gorgeous, clear evening; I've heard good things about the film; and there's sure to be wine and popcorn and fun conversation with friends, so really I can't go wrong.

I hope your weekend was as lovely as mine. Tell me, how's your summer going so far?