Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I carried a watermelon. (I carried a watermelon?)

What was that I was saying about needing to go on dates in order to gain blog fodder? I'm not sure what I was thinking. Obviously there are plenty of equally ridiculous things I could do in the name of having a story to tell.

Like take up Latin dance, for instance.

What's that? You don't really see me as the Latin dance type? Well, then. That makes two of us. But I've been curious about the Zumba class enthusiastically advertised on flyers at my gym, so the other night I finally cut out of work early to give it a try.

Do you know what Zumba is? I didn't either, so allow me to explain it to you. It is sort of like the cantina at Senor Frog's, except without the giant margaritas. Lively music? Check. Tiny Latin American woman in tight pants shaking her hips in front of a crowd? Check. Bunch of awkward pasty-skinned Midwesterners? Check. Margaritas? Alas, no. Which is unfortunate, really, because I could have used a margarita after that class. Come to think of it, I could have used a margarita before that class. In fact, I'm pretty sure most of the moves in those routines are intended to be done solely under the influence of alcohol. Part of me kept expecting the instructor to come around to each of us, pour a shot down our throats from a big plastic bottle, and shake our head between her hands while blowing an obnoxious whistle. Yes, I've decided right now: that is what Zumba really needs. Tequila poppers. Any Zumba instructors out there? Take note.

Basically, in short, Zumba is another attempt to disguise exercise as fun. And it is fun. If, unlike me, you do not lack basic coordination and rhythm, or possibly even lack a specific pivot point in your pelvis that makes simultaneous hip swaying and booty shaking physically possible. I'm telling you: my body does not move like that. It's as if I'm built like a Barbie doll--my legs and waist bend and rotate on specific trajectories, but try to force my frame to move in a way not allowed by those trajectories, and I remain stiff as a board. (By the way, that is, more than likely, the first and last time I will ever compare my own figure to Barbie's. We may both lack the necessary anatomical structure that makes Zumba moves possible, but I will never topple over from the strain of my impossibly narrow waist and dainty feet being unbalanced against my perky, ample, wedge-shaped bust.)

I knew right from the warm-up that I was in trouble. There is no actual instruction. Our tiny leader simply whistled and pointed when we were to change direction, but in most cases, I hadn't yet gotten the last move down when we moved to the next one, so it's a wonder I never actually trampled my neighbor. I was certain the instructor was going to stop the music and banish me from the class for lack of talent, perhaps even channeling Johnny Castle in the process. "She can't even do the merengue! She can't do it. She CANNOT. DO IT."

After a while it did get a bit easier... and then it got harder, and then I honestly didn't care anymore. I looked ridiculous, I am more than certain, but the room was dark and crowded, and I told myself (whether it was true or not) that no one was focusing on me. I made it through the class, worked up a productive-feeling sweat, and figured, "Well, I tried that, at least... I made it through the whole class, and I didn't even step on anyone once. Let's call that a success, shall we?"

But then last night I did something crazy and unexpected. People, I went again. 

This class was with a different instructor. Her routines weren't any easier or harder, necessarily, but one notable difference is she left all of the studio lights on. I still think I prefer the anonymity of the semi-darkness, but I'm also sort of glad the lights gave me a better chance to look around. Because when I glanced at my fellow Zumba-goers, I realized that yes, there were several women inexplicably able to make their pelvis vibrate just like our instructor's did, but there were also plenty of women only slightly more coordinated than I. Plenty of middle-aged suburban women with mom hair and last decade's workout clothes, swaying awkwardly and missing steps, just like me. Suddenly we were all the hapless vacationers at Kellerman's, shuffling our way through Penny's dance class in the community room while she cried, "Come on, ladies! God wouldn't have given you maracas if He didn't want you to SHAKE 'EM!"

Eventually there were brief moments where I forgot that I had no idea what I was doing, took my eyes off the instructor for more than three seconds, and just let my body do what the music was telling it to do. I didn't care that my arms and legs were flailing haphazardly. Like Phoebe jogging through Central Park, I have realized that's the only way dancing is any fun. Usually I confine my ridiculous dancing to the privacy of my empty living room, but it's important to branch out of one's comfort zone now and then, don't you agree?

In other news, I am still without a bathroom sink or fully usable shower. But (BUT!), the tiling in the shower area is finally complete and ready for grouting and sealing, and if all goes as planned, I may be taking a shower in my own home as early as next Monday. Hurrah! The other components of this remodel are another story, and I choose not to dwell on them for fear of sinking into a deep depression over the tiny light at the end of the tunnel that still refuses to flicker into view. A tiled shower is progress! And it looks beautiful to boot. It will all come together eventually. Patience, grasshopper. Indeed.

In other other news, I have a new post up at The Greenists today. This one's about borax. It's a science lesson! It's a cleaning tip! Stop; you're both right! Sounds exciting, doesn't it? You know you want to pop over and read it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It's been a quiet week in Lake Wo... Wait a minute. This post may ramble on to nowhere, but I still can't use that line.

I stand by my sensible vow to blog about work only in the most general of terms, but today was one of those frustrating days where the nature of my company's business required me to pretend to be an expert in an area I'm not, which is something I will never be particularly good at or comfortable with. I maintain that my liberal arts education successfully prepared me to bullshit my way through myriad tasks and situations, but sometimes it just seems more appropriate and ethical to say, "Sorry, but no, we don't do that. Seriously, don't hire me for this."

Or maybe I am hiding behind ethics simply because I don't want to do the thing they want to pay me to do. In any given situation, if it's a question of ethics or laziness, there's a good chance the latter is more solidly to blame. Or, equally possible, maybe I am making a big deal out of nothing. Perhaps this is just the way business works. After all, lots of people get paid to lie. Meteorologists, for instance. Nine times out of ten they're just making stuff up, right? Maybe I should be a meteorologist. Would I have to get a helmet-like haircut for that?

At the moment, I couldn't possibly be any less accurate a meteorologist than the ones currently serving the Twin Cities metro area, because every one of them repeatedly assured me that the temperature would reach 30 the past two days, and every one of them was downright wrong. Which wouldn't be so bad had I not BELIEVED them and been so bold as to downgrade from my down jacket back to my flimsy wool pea coat and to leave my hat at home. After nearly two solid weeks of sub-zero temperatures, I should be used to this. Instead, I feel perma-cold.

Even if I'd been out of the country in some balmy locale for the past week, I would still be able to tell that it'd been ridiculously cold for days on end. No one dares get a car wash in weather like this, for fear that the damn thing will freeze solid. Hence, everyone's car becomes so uniformly spattered with road spray that you can barely see its original paint job. Highways and parking lots start to look like suburban subdivisions--just like the cookie cutter houses in those neighborhoods, every car on the road is an only slightly varying shade of beige. As soon as the temperature reaches the mid-30s, there will be lines ten deep at every car wash, not unlike the gas crisis of 1973. Except that people will let their gas-guzzling giant SUVs idle for the duration that they wait in that line, so really, I guess nothing like the gas crisis of 1973 at all.

Moving on. I realize there are few less interesting things to talk about than the weather, but I am a Midwesterner. Talking about the weather is what we do. It ensures we don't have to muster any creativity in our small talk, and it prevents most of us from getting too personal (which makes Midwesterners uncomfortable), too. Besides that, even our esteemed public radio affiliate thinks the weather is news. Just the other day, I heard a thoroughly interesting and enlightening (read: utterly obvious and pointless) story explaining just why driving on every residential street in Minneapolis is like driving on a glacier right now. Really, MPR? When the snow melts a bit and then immediately freezes again, it turns into bumpy mounds of ice? And snow plows aren't designed for solid masses of ice? They can clear piles of snow, but not ice floes? How fascinating! Shocking, really! You learn something new every day.

In truth, I may have been predisposed to annoyance at that particular story solely because it was presented by the reporter who didn't find me charming enough to warrant a second date. I should be over and past that by now, of course, but usually when a dude doesn't like me (or I don't like him) I have only to worry about spotting him in Target. I don't typically have to hear his voice in my car on my commute, reminding me of the rejection, taunting me, if you will. This particular reporter has a specific beat, so when I hear the intro for a story that falls under that topic, I'm at least prepared for the commentator to say, "Here with more on that is Tim Becker." But ice floes in the street are not Tim's beat. What is he doing on my radio so often these days?

I'm not the only one to notice he's been in increased rotation, either. Ever the supportive friend, Carrie said out of the blue one day, "I'm so sick of Tim Becker." It surprised me, because if we're being entirely objective, there's actually nothing wrong with his reporting style, nothing at all unpleasant about his voice. Truly, the man's only offense was his lack of interest in me. But my disappointments are her disappointments, apparently. It's nice to know a friend's got my back. I'm equally grateful to my pal Flurrious, who once wrote, "That MPR reporter was a fool. When we cast your montage, let's find someone ugly to play him." Heh.

Incidentally, I should mention that Tim Becker is, of course, not the reporter's real name. I am not quite foolish enough to type that. I was, however, foolish enough to give the man my blog URL. (It was an experiment, part of a brief period where I decided to do the opposite of what I'd usually do in certain social situations, which unfortunately met with no notable results.) I cannot imagine any reason said reporter would still be checking in here regularly, but if I'm wrong about that, well, hello, Tim. Keep up the good work. How's it going? Call me! (Sigh.)

Maybe I should return to dating again. It has, after all, been a while. I went on fewer dates in 2009 than any year in recent memory, but you know what? I think I was, on the whole, happier in 2009 than in other recent years as well (nonsense with the Buddhist notwithstanding, that is). Could the two be correlated? Perhaps. Still, dates give me stories, and if I had stories, I probably wouldn't subject the Internet to three consecutive paragraphs about the weather. It's food for thought, I suppose.

Of course, before I go on another date, I should probably have a usable shower, because this showering at the gym or trying to get clean hair in my tub really isn't quite working for me. I can't bring myself to get up early enough to mess with a bath or the gym in the a.m., so I've been washing my hair at night and then sleeping on it unstyled, which leads to this misshapen conehead sort of thing in the morning. It's a good look, I tell you. I should take my next Catch dot Mom profile pic right NOW.

And that about catches you up, I think. I am cold, tired, and not-so-recently showered with no definitive remedy to any of those soon in sight. Tell me, what's new with YOU?

Monday, January 04, 2010

All that was missing was a roast duck that smiled at us

So then. Now that I got that belated New Year's post out of the way, should I belatedly talk about Christmas? Eh. It was same old, same old, really. My grandma is gone, but the KFC legacy inexplicably remains, so although my mother actually made a meal from real ingredients rather than from paper to-go cartons for our Christmas Eve dinner, that meal was still accompanied by chicken and biscuits from KFC. People, I cannot explain my family. But you know what? If I'm being totally honest here, KFC is actually pretty good. I mean, it's fried chicken. And delicious, starchy biscuits. How am I going to argue with that? Also, we had fresh brownies for dessert instead of year-old pie, and my older sister ensured we had red wine that wasn't labeled "serve over ice," so really, I can't complain, I guess. Also, we didn't slide into a ditch and die on our way to or from church during the Christmas Eve sleet storm, so hurrah for that as well. Christmas Eve miracles abound, even aside from that whole Son of Man born of a virgin thing.

As for Christmas Day, now that we no longer have a grandma's house to go to, apparently our new Christmas tradition is a movie and the Chinese buffet, and I have to say, that's not a bad tradition either, if you ask me. In fact, next year, when we drive to Sheboygan in search of an open restaurant for our pre-movie dinner, I am going to cut to the chase and outright suggest we drive directly to the New China Buffet, as we have already done the rounds throughout the city twice, and we already know it is damn near the only place open. I have had better Chinese food, certainly. But I sort of love the low-brow ridiculousness of the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet--a buffet that includes watered down Americanized versions of all your Chinese favorites, as well as imitation crab leg sushi, pepperoni pizza, and a soft serve ice cream machine from which to self-dispense your dessert. On an ordinary day, it might be my last choice, but on a major holiday? It's got a certain ironic A Christmas Story charm.

I also received several useful and much appreciated presents, including a toaster oven that is approximately half the size of my Saturn but that I need to somehow fit into my kitchen anyway rather than admit to my mother that I didn't confirm the specific model's dimensions before adding it to my Amazon wish list. And I am eagerly awaiting my next journey to a location I've not been before, so I can test out my new GPS unit. I remain disappointed, however, that I haven't been able to locate the Yoda voice the marketing copy promised me I could download. I mean, the standard, built-in, personalityless voice named Megan is fine and all, but I totally wanted to hear Yoda say "In 300 feet, turn right you must," or "Reached your destination you have." Wouldn't that make driving about town that much more fun? Then again, maybe Yoda doesn't dictate precise directions at all. Maybe he just says, "The force is strong with you. Find your own way, you shall." Maybe Megan is my better bet after all.

I know I received other lovely gifts too, but I've almost forgotten about them at the moment, as I barely had time to toss things into various disorganized piles before my friend and tiling savior Andy came in with a vanful of tools and started tearing my house apart. I'm exaggerating. Slightly. The truth is my house is a disaster area at the moment and it's driving me a little bit mad, but I'm well aware it's a disaster very much worth enduring, as at the end of it, I will have a very dusty, cluttered home, but I will also have a brand new bathroom with genuine fully waterproof tiles and no duct tape whatsoever in sight. I cannot wait. Meanwhile, however, I still lack a functioning toilet, so I'm crashing at my pal Carrie's place. It actually worked out pretty well, as she happens to be out of town this week, so I can pretend that I am doing a good deed and house sitting for her rather than just squatting on an available couch like a common vagrant. Yes, she is preventing me from having to both pee and bathe in my basement utility sink, but I am doing her favors as well! I am here to make sure her car still starts in this ridiculous sub-zero cold, and equally important, I am here to keep her cats company, too! I have a lap full of cats at the moment, actually, and a keyboard growing increasingly more dusted with cat hair. Who ARE these furry creatures who want little or nothing to do with me when I come over to visit but who are purring like friendly little outboard motors when they rub up against me now? A few days without their usual human around and look how easily they adjust and make do with whoever feeds them. I've known people like that, actually. (With cats, somehow it seems slightly less cheap.)

All right. I have various other things to ramble on about, including very important questions to help me decide upon various details of my new bathroom's design. But right now, it is getting late, and the lap of cats is making it ever more difficult to type, so such surveying will have to wait for another time, I fear. Can I move, however, with a lap full of cats? Is it rude to disturb them? I feel it may be, but I also feel like, "I'm sorry I'm late, but I had a lap full of cats" is not the sort of excuse that's deemed acceptable at work, so chop-chop, off with you, kitties. Night then.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Shows I've seen in 2010

  • The Current's Five-Year Anniversary Party (Lookbook, Mason Jennings, POS, & Solid Gold) - January 29 (First Avenue)
  • The Avett Brothers  - March 5 (First Avenue) 
  • Vampire Weekend - March 22 (First Avenue)
  • Dan and Matt Wilson - March 26 (Pantages Theatre)
  • Rogue Valley - April 10 (Fitzgerald Theater) 
  • Owl City - May 1 (State Theatre)
  • Mumford and Sons - May 25 (Varsity Theater)
  • Basilica Block Party (Rogue Valley, Spoon, and Weezer) - July 9 (Basilica of St. Mary)
  • Josh Ritter w/the Minnesota Orchestra - July 15 (Orchestra Hall)
  • The National - August 6 (First Avenue)
  • Local Natives - October 1 (First Avenue)
  • Benefit for Brad Kern (Semisonic, Mason Jennings, Jeremy Messersmith, Twilight Hours, etc.) - October 8 (First Avenue)
  • Rock of Ages - October 23 (Orpheum Theatre)
  • Spring Awakening - November 7 (Orpheum Theatre)
  • Cloud Cult - November 18 (First Avenue)
  • The New Standards - December 3 (Fitzgerald Theater)

    Books I've read in 2010

    * = Loved it
    ^ = Hated it
    ~ = Enjoyed it enough to mark in some way, but "love" is such a very strong word
    1. The Thorn Birds by Colleen Mccullough
    2. Stay by Allie Larkin *
    3. Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch *
    4. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann ~
    5. The Help by Kathryn Stockett *
    6. Half Empty by David Rakoff *
    7. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott *
    8. The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs (via audiobook) *
    9. Forever by Judy Blume
    10. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer (via audiobook) ~

      Movies I've seen in 2010

      * - My thumbs are up
      ^ - My thumbs are down
      ~ - At least one thumb is up, but maybe not super-enthusiastically

      January 1 - Son of Rambow (2008)
      January 23 - Stop-Loss (2008) *
      January 30 - Dancer in the Dark (1999) ^
      February 5 - Up (2009) *
      February 6 - Zombieland (2009) ~
      February 12 - A Serious Man (2009)
      February 13 - Bright Star (2009) ~
      February 14 - I Hate Valentine's Day (2009) ^
      February 14 - Hannah Montana The Movie (2009)
      February 26 - Coraline (2009) *
      February 27 - Whip It (2009) *
      March 13 - The Room (2003) ^^^
      March 20 - The American President (1995) *
      March 21 - Alice in Wonderland (2010) *
      April 2 - The Lost Boys (1987)
      April 3 - The Blind Side (2009) *
      April 17 - The Impostors (1998)
      April 18 - Cold Souls (2009) ^
      April 21 - Fresh (2010) *
      April 26 - Trampoline (2010) *
      April 28 - The Hurt Locker (2009)
      May 1 - An Education (2009) *
      May 8 - The Cove (2009) *
      May 8 - Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (2009) ^
      May 29 - 17 Again (2009)
      May 30 - Lifeboat (1944) *
      June 25 - TiMER (2009) *
      June 27 - Crazy Heart (2009) *
      July 5 - Adam (2009) *
      July 12 - Twilight: Eclipse (2010)
      July 24 - Salt (2010)
      July 24 - Inception (2010)
      July 31 - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) *
      August 13 - Valentine's Day (2010)
      August 14 - Eat Pray Love (2010) ~
      August 15 - Leap Year (2010) ^
      August 19 - The Runaways (2010)
      August 20 - The Switch (2010)
      August 22 - Dakota Skye (2007)
      August 22 - Melvin Goes to Dinner (2003) ^
      September 4 - Cinema Paradiso (1988) ~
      September 5 - Into Temptation (2009)
      October 9 - Hot Tub Time Machine (2010) ~
      November 12 - Fame (1980)
      November 13 - The Experiment (2010)
      November 13 - Chevolution (2008)
      November 19 - Winter's Bone (2010) *
      November 20 - You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger (2010)
      November 26 - Mary and Max (2009) *
      November 28 - Sex & the City 2 (2010) ^
      December 5 - Someone Like You (2001)
      December 11 - Rebecca (1940) ~
      December 11 - Charade (1963)
      December 12 - How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)
      December 14 - Parenthood (1989)*
      December 16 - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) ~
      December 25 - How Do You Know (2010)
      December 26 - Martian Child (2007) ~
      December 27 - Only You (1994)
      December 30 - Daybreakers (2009)