Friday, January 30, 2009

Next thing you know I'll be punching Oprah

It's Friday. Some stuff happened.

I punched a lady's truck.
It was involuntary. See, it was the third time some giant truck has parked diagonally in a parking space right next to me in the Rite Aid parking lot, making it impossible to either get in the driver's door, or pull out of my space without a diagram and a man with flags guiding me. I snapped.

Granted, it was a weeny, girly punch, and it caused no damage, but since I'm usually the one who thanks people for walking all over me, I'm counting it as personal growth.
Important side note:
When the lady came out of the store, five seconds after I punched her truck, she had the largest forehead I have every seen. You could project a movie on that forehead. I'm just saying.

Tile Guy and associates have been in my house for three days doing shower-building wizardry. Everything smells like wet cement and stale cigarettes. There are tarps all over the house. I don't care. I love those guys.

I received two awards (me!? I know!), one from Margo at Life in the Short Lane and the other from Scrappy Doo at Adventures in Ellis County... , and I've been obsessively visiting my blog seventy three times a day to admire them! Thanks again, guys! Both awards require my passing on the love, which I will, and also Scrappy's came with a couple of directions to follow:
Say something nice about a man in your life.

The postman has very expressive eyebrows.
Also, hardly any of our mail has been delivered to the neighbor lately.

List 6 ways you measure success in your life:

1) Not locking myself out of the house in my socks.
2) Going an entire day without saying something that results in an awkward silence.
3.) Being able to look in a full-length mirror without squinting so that my vision's a little blurry and the full horror is obscured, allowing me to live in denial about that twenty pounds another day.
4) Having somewhere to put all the cereal boxes that are reproducing like rabbits in the kitchen.
5) Oprah has me on her show and makes me her book club choice, even though I don't have a book. Wait, I DO have a book, because I'm suddenly successful!
6.) Hordes of adoring visitors show up on my blog and the site actually crashes from the volume of comments pouring in.
I've almost managed to achieve the first one, so I'm pretty much on my way.
I chose two blogs each to receive these awards, which means I'm slightly not following the rules. (I know- first the truck, and now this. I'm on a slippery slope.)

For the first award (here)

I chose the following two blogs, because both write with a simple honesty that makes them feel like old friends. Go say 'hi' from me.

Mi Vida Maravillosa
She She

And this award

Goes to these blogs ,

Of Cabbages and Kings
Fragrant Liar

because both of them make me laugh every time I visit. (Plus, the picture is a little naughty, which I knew Fragrant Liar would appreciate.) Check these sites out, if you haven't already!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I Have Some Questions About Prosthetic Frog's Legs

This morning I learned in the news that frogs are disappearing. Lots of frogs, and faster than you can say "boo", according to a guy named Corey Bradshaw at the University of Australia.

Which you have to admit is pretty fast.

Instantly, the pinball machine I call a brain careened off the intended course.

First I needed to know why faster than 'boo'? Off to my wise friend Google to find out. I learned that everything on the internet happens faster than you can say "boo". For example, at above boo speed I learned that you can:

get dung dropped in your lap
get a gel coating to dry
recognize a face with your lightning quick brain
get kicked to the curb
outgrow your clothes
get squeezed into a stick figure
get a cap in your ass

Unfortunately, no one had any information for me on why boo is the ultimate measure of fast. It's some kind of closely guarded secret.

I'm going to start saying, "faster than you can say 'ho" instead. It's one syllable, so just as fast, right? I'll let you know when it starts to catch on. (You can use it too, if you want. I'm all about sharing.)

Also, the headline was Frog legs for dinner? Study advises against it, which , based on the title, seems like a waste of research money, because I could have told them that. (Frog legs for dinner? Vic advises against it)
This is culturally insensitive of me, since apparently people are eating frog's legs like peanut butter sandwiches in other countries.

Then this made me think, (because I hadn't actually gotten around to reading the article), maybe there's another salmonella outbreak! and can you get salmonella from a frog? Would you have to eat the frog, or would just licking it be enough? I had to look it up, and it turns out you CAN get salmonella from frog's legs. Probably even fondling them too much in transit or in the privacy of your own home would do it.

Anyway, it's not salmonella, it's a worldwide shortage of frog's legs because people have been overeating, according to the first line of the article. Like people are routinely buying a bucket of frog legs and camping out on the couch with the remote and a side of dipping sauce.

At first it didn't occur to me for some reason that whole frog bodies were gone; I was sitting at my desk picturing an epidemic of frog amputees. Like hunters were cutting off their legs in the wild, and then letting them go free, and then the poor frogs would be army-crawling over lily pads with their little front arms and sad bulgy eyes.
Just in case I looked up "frog leg prosthetics", because you never know, right, and maybe I could make a donation?

Big surprise: no frog prosthetics. This was a dilemma. And then, faster than you can say 'ho, (because my brain works that way), I thought, maybe we can get people to eat tadpole legs instead, because they can regrow them! I bet they're lower in calories too. I'm totally checking in to this, after I finish reading the article.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I Got the Music in Me

Once, in the fifth grade, I came dangerously close to breaking out into song in the school library.

I could feel the music welling up in me as I sat there, ready to burst forth and fill the room with magic. I was full of the joie de vive that only a Sound of Music binge the night before could induce, and I had on my new bell-bottom pants (orange and red plaid), which were flashy and satisfyingly voluminous. It was going to be amazing, because everyone knew that if someone started a song, all other occupants of the room were legally required to strike a pose, eyes snapped to the front, adrenalin pumping. In my mind's eye I could see myself, as if it had already happened, leaping graceful as an antelope on to the nearest table, my swinging hair glossy under the fluorescent lights. From somewhere behind the returns desk the music would start. Boom, boom, boom, boom. Fingers would snap, starting with the library aid, whose name was Reggie. Or maybe he would stamp the books to the beat, his choice.

The meanest kids would stare in amazement, mouths agape, as me and my crew began to move in unison, hitting every move in our crazy choreography, my powerful voice soaring over the music. Love for our fellow man would shine out of our every pore and the mean kids would be sucked into our vortex of grooviness. Rainbows would form in the sky over the playground. Coca cola would flow like a river.

It was so real, the colors so vivid. I opened my mouth, the first note a pearl on my tongue, when Mark H knocked over a chair, climbed up on the table, and began an impression of Mohammed Ali. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, he said out of the corner of his mouth, fists jabbing at an imaginary opponent. He did some quick boxer steps on the blond wood. Several of the boys in my class answered in mirrored movements of their own.

There was no way now. The magic musical window was closed. My plaid pants were scratchy and the mean kids were still mean. I never felt The Call again the same way.

Looking back on it, I probably should find Mark H. and send him a fruit basket for saving me from myself and certain social death. I wonder if he still has quick feet?

This morning, I put on some music while my first period class was working. "Heard It Through the Grapevine" came on. Heads in the back row starting nodding. A foot in a size fifteen shoe swung out into the aisle and tapped. Hand motions worthy of the Pips appeared, first one, then two, then a whole row. Except for "heard it through the grapevine.." no one knew the words. It didn't matter; there was singing anyway. By the time Marvin got to the last chorus, everyone's pencils were lying on the desks, hands and feet were hitting every move. It was a Moment with my people. I'm pretty sure there was a rainbow outside.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Thank You to the Motown Man

I think I'm almost over the motion sickness caused by my out of control font changes yesterday. It seems the site rebels against cut and paste. I asked it politely to arrange itself all in Georgia, but it laughed at me, and then just to spite me it made every paragraph a different font. If I need to reimburse you for the Dramamine, let me know.

Today I'm thinking about the other part of the Motown Man's message, which is, if you want to be happy then do something good for someone everyday. For a man who, if the stories are true, wanders the streets with a shopping cart and a glittery vest, he knows what he's talking about.

A few years ago I submitted a story to the publisher of the Random Acts of Kindness series, which they included in the second book. You probably saw them in the bookstores then, and they still sell them today. The books are a collection of things people did or experienced that were unexpected, unselfish, and made a difference in someone's life.

My story was about my first semester in college. At seventeen I packed up all my belongings, got on a plane, and flew a thousand miles away to a campus I'd never seen before, in a town where I knew no one. Because this was back before time began, and email and text messages did not yet exist, college students depended on mail from home to stave off homesickness.
I didn't get a lot of mail, and the first couple of months were pretty lonely.

Then one day I got a postcard, addressed to me, from a mystery person, telling me all about the crazy antics of my uncle (who rode his horse into Safeway again?!), and other wacky relatives. None of whom were actually people I knew. I thought it was a mistake. Yet my name was right there on the card.

I had a mystery to think about.

Soon another postcard came in the mail, full of more wild adventures of misbehaving relatives. Then another.
I looked forward to checking my mail box every morning, wondering if another installment would be there. Over the course of my freshman year I received about ten postcards, none of which had a return address. And without realizing it, I had forgotten my homesickness.

It wasn't until I went home for the summer that I discovered (and she admitted it reluctantly) that the mother of an acquaintance had worried about me being so far from home, and wanted me to have mail. Since we didn't really know each other, she made stuff up.

It's been a long time since this happened, but every time I think about it, I still feel good.
I'm constantly amazed at the impact we have on each other, very often without realizing it.

Motown Man challenges me to remember this today. It doesn't have to be flashy, or expensive, or acknowledged. Probably it shouldn't be any of those things. But there is something easily within my power to do for someone today that will change us both for the better. I'm keeping my eyes open.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Why I Need a Motown Man

Naked Wrestling. On campus. Apparently. (No, not me. That's disgusting!)

This morning on the school announcements the student presenter was all "Wrestling Nude! - today in the gym! Mr. Emerson and the team. See you there!"

Well. This I do not approve of.

Mr. Emerson weighs three hundred pounds and has no business wrestling anyone nude, especially at school. I spoke in understandable outrage to my seniors about this issue. I was eloquent on the subject as only a trained professional can be.

How did this get past the school board? I asked. What surfaces will be used for nude wrestling, so that I can send some disinfecting wipes over? Is there a "nude wrestling" section in the yearbook? If so, what is the best angle from which to take a yearbook picture? Who gets to write the captions?

We in the business call this a “teachable moment”. And I did, I learned something. Which brings me to the word

Presbycusis, which is fancy talk for "your ears are broken".


"Wrestling News". Heh heh.

Also my students keep trying that trick on me where they play a high frequency cell phone tone that is supposed to render adults confused and compliant, or at least unaware that someone's dealer is calling during class. At least they used to play it. I haven't heard it in over a year, so they probably quit trying.

I am calling my ninety-year old grandma today to find out which hearing aid she recommends. We lost her for awhile last week because she didn't answer her phone all day, even after twenty-six consecutive rings,and so we were picturing her bound and gagged and lying in the zucchini plants. But it was okay because she just turned her hearing aids off. Which is cool, and opens up so many possibilities for getting through my day. Like, if I turn them off when I am talking I can remain blissfully unaware that I am turning in to

Cindy Brady, or possibly a lizard. Does your tongue keep growing? Because I swear I'm lisping all of a sudden. I'll be reading aloud to the class, and suddenly it's "Shakthpeare" and "Pleath thtop talking." It's like it's unfurling, and the more I think about it, the worse it gets. It'th exhauthting.

Which is why I need a Motown Man - Someone picked this up and sent it in to FOUND:

I need to call him. Because I do, I DO want to be happy. How did he know?

I want to go up to him on the streets and let him know my needs. Like for hearing aids. And a completed shower, which I still don't have. And maybe brisket. At, say, 3 am.

Nothing says comfort like brisket, and between all the naked wrestling and the lisping, I could use a little comfort food, especially in the company of a Motown man. If you know his number, could you give it to me?

(Also, the fonts are attacking me - I tried to make them all line up and behave, but they won't do it. Why, why?)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

In Which I Hunt the Elusive Wildebeest (or just a little peace)

I dragged my schlumpiness off the chair at the library yesterday at precisely 5:45 pm., because the librarian was yelling at me. There was fog in my brain, a swirling mist of chi-squares and IEP compliance analysis, and it took a few seconds to realize that the insistent voice I was hearing didn't match her officious little body.

"There is an EMERGENCY in the building. Please exit IMMEDIATELY," she said in a loud, yet oddly pleasant, male voice. "WAAAP. WAAAP."

Lights flashed around the room. "WAAAP. WAAAP," she said again.

Oh. An emergency. In the building. OH. I began packing my books away, all the while looking over my shoulder at the librarian, who was watching impatiently, the recorded voice repeating and repeating.

In my defense, I was not the slowest person in the room. I'm pretty sure the guy in the next carrel was sleeping, judging from the pool of saliva that had collected on his notebooks over the past hour, and also because he hadn't moved. It may be that he was dead, in which case he was probably free to stay where he was.

I never did see flames, or smoke, or ninjas. No bomb squad. One white and blue fire truck drove past me leisurely on my way out of the parking lot.

I'm thinking the saliva guy really was dead. Or the librarian had a date. Either way I still have a paper left to write, which is a problem because the library is closed today, and Starbucks is full of college guys with guitars playing bad covers of old Smiths songs because, apparently, girls love this.

Home is no good. There are dishes in the sink and the floor needs sweeping. My husband walks from room to room in the house, sighing pointedly. Ben Ten is blaring on the TV.

Would it be weird to sit in the car in my driveway and work? Probably I'd have to sit in the neighbor's driveway. As long as I'm in my car, and not theirs. Because that would be weird.

On the bright side, I like you guys! Everyone in this alternate blog reality has been so nice to me. Dr. Zibbs (That Blue Yak) gave me a shout out on his blog, and Margo, at Life in the Short Lane just graced me with my first award! Thanks!!

At least now, when the neighbors have me towed away with my car later today, I'll have something nice to think about.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Put a Little Cream on That

Well, I've caught a meme from Pseudonymous English Teacher.

At first I thought it was the result of poor hygiene.
Turns out I don't need a prescription at all -- just the answers to some questions! Even I can do that!! Probably! (Unless the questions are about deep-sea fishing or statistics; in that case, can I just have the prescription?)

1. How did you come to be an English teacher?

The way everyone becomes an English teacher. First, I got a degree in music composition. Then, when I realized that approximately no one makes a living as a composer, unless you're Danny Elfman or that guy who wrote the Star Wars Theme, I got a teaching credential to "fall back on". (I'm also a credentialed music teacher, but the idea of taking large groups of high schoolers to competitions makes me sweat. I added English so I could be home with lots of essays...)

Then I got a job teaching in a psychiatric hospital because I saw an ad on a bulletin board. This was a cool job because you never knew who would be in your class from day to day, even if they looked like the same people. Many of my students were actively hallucinating, or had multiple personalities, or Tourette's. One boy tried to burn my classroom down. Another student attempted to strangle her doctor with his tie, on my desk. Good times
Public school seemed incredibly low-key when I finally made the transition from the hospital after four years. I've been teaching for 20 years now. If you want, I'll do the monologue from Macbeth. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and....No? Well maybe later...

2. When you were a little girl, what did you imagine would be your 'career'? If you were able to magically change careers now and be transformed into a wildly successful and fully trained anything-other-than-a-teacher...What would you be?

When I was little, I fully expected to grow up and become a famous singer named Tina. Really. I don't know why 'Tina'. At the time I thought that the singers on the radio actually had to travel to the radio stations every time to sing their songs. The concept of recordings had not yet taken hold in my brain. (Stop mocking me; at least I didn't think the singers were actually IN the radio. That would be silly.)

The Tina dream did fade, eventually. Now, if I could be anything, I would be an artist. I love the idea of really seeing something, and feeling it, and then being able to capture it in an image. I suppose writing's the same, but as an artist , I would require a big, light, studio with huge canvases propped all over, and music playing in the background.
I love the idea of a studio almost as much as the art, I think.

3. What is your favorite thing to do in So Cal?

I like the beach, of course. My kids and I spend a lot of time there in the summer. I think it's more what I like about California, than what I like to do. Like the smell of the eucalyptus trees that are everywhere in my area. Or the way the ground looks freshly swept (not a lot of undergrowth here). Palm trees. Eating Thanksgiving dinner al fresco almost every year. The quality of the light in the morning. In-N- Out burgers.

4. What was your favorite thing about living in Oregon?

Oregon is where I grew up. It's beautiful, in completely different ways than southern California. I love the huge expanses of forest, and the wildness of the coastline. I loved curling up in front of a window with a great book, wrapped in a blanket, with the rain coming down outside. Also, Oregon has great blackberries. (I have the scars to prove it!) I think my favorite thing was the way you could find a little solitude when you needed it.

5. If you could time travel back in time or forward in time for an afternoon of hanging out and chatting, what time period would you visit and who would you visit with?

I had to think about this one a while. I took Jesus out of the running, because he's too obvious, and even though I know he'd be gracious, I'd be so self-conscious. Plus, what would I wear to meet the son of God? I think that calls for more than a robe. Also, I'd want him to come to my house, because of all the Roman soldiers. So that's out.

I've always been interested in the Tudors, and Henry the VIII reminds me of my dad, only without all the extra wives and the beheadings, so I think I'd go hang out in Henry's court for the day. I could probably advise him on some matters of state. Maybe I'd run in to Mary and Elizabeth, and the rest of the family, and Elizabeth would let me borrow one of her gowns, which would totally look good on me, I think.

Thank, Pseudonymous. This took some thinking !

If you want to participate…

1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.”
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. (I get to pick the questions, and who knows what will fall out of my head?).
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lost? Why Yes I Am!

I got the email in my box yesterday. The one I've been dreading since November. It's a cheery message, all chipper and off-the-cuff, like "Hey!! It's that time again, Lost people!! Meet Friday at lunch - Room 17, for grinders and a talk about what's happening on the island!!!!!"

I read the message and little piece of me dies inside. No, really.
I am so totally a fraud.

I like Lost. I do. I'm always mesmerized by the scar on Locke's face, and Sawyer's funny when he calls Hurley "Jumbotron". Ha ha. That's good. Everybody's all related to everybody secretly, like a big hillbilly family. Locke's bad dad used to be on Emergency! back in the 70's, and my sister and I loved the one where the lady got her big toe caught in the bathtub faucet, remember that? That was good too.

I sorta get why everyone keeps running around the island, finding hidden manhole covers and pits of dead bodies, and peanut butter, and stuff. I think Gilligan lives in one of the houses, probably next door to Ben. I'm not sure.

So, I get this email, which is because one time last year in the staff lounge people were talking about Lost, and I said something thoughtless like, "I know!" and then I was on the list for the emails. Plus, I have a little bit of reputation for being a hermit, and I'm trying to "be more social," and "interact with actual people".

So now I have to go. And it isn't that the people in the group aren't nice. They are. We all sit in a big circle in desks with our wax paper wrappers and hero sandwiches (except I always forget to "put in my order" because I didn't get that far in the email and now I'm the only one in the circle eating the apple I brought. I eat it very slow so that I have something to do with my hands)

Then the conversation starts. I'm okay at first. Everyone except one guy thinks Juliet is not to be trusted, but he also likes Pamela Anderson, so there's that against his Juliet support. I shake my head in rueful amusement at him. I am fitting in!
After that I'm swimming with the sharks.
"So who has a theory about the mechanism for adjustment of the space-time continuum? What ramifications will there be for not adhering to the exact travel coordinates? "
Everyone but me has a theory! Hands clutching grinders wave in the air, napkins are knocked to the floor in all the enthusiasm. I wave my apple around a little too. It's got three tiny bites taken out of it.

"Whoa. Good ideas! I did a little research on the name Farraday, and he's actually a scientist who.....magnetic............something, something, something.....
I just noticed how cool it is that my apple has a yellow patch shaped like a bat. I don't have a napkin so I can't set the apple down.

"What do you think, Vic?"
"Whaa??" I look up from my apple. Smiling faces, expectant.
"Do you see Locke as a messianic figure?"
The stem of the apple has come off. I giggle a little hysterically. "Um.. well, I like his scar," I offer.
Suddenly the smartest guy sits up straighter. "I see what you mean!" he says.
He does?
"You're saying that the scar represents Locke's stigmata!"
What?!? I look around and see admiring faces. Quickly I arrange my features into a mysterious and knowing expression. "Perhaps," I say.
And then, because there is a God, lunch is over, and everyone has to go.

Last night was the season premiere of Lost. I tried, I really tried to watch it all, but I had Wife Swap taped too, and I had to see if I was going to root for the prissy, military mom or the messy, hippie mom this week. Plus, I missed the grinder order again. I'm thinking of calling in sick.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sarasota Senior Theater Group
Production of "Of Mice and Men"

Director's Notes:

Gerta:- underwear, please!- (stage lights = transparent, for God's sake!)
Fred: put teeth in before monologue
check store return policy on bunnies from dream sequence???? if missing one?
Gerta: "flirtatious laugh" too forceful (like donkey) TACTFULLY

Make sure gun isn't loaded
Bob : Move "Lenny"'s walker behind hay bale after barn scene
Everyone: watch the spit! (complaints from front row, last month's Hamlet)
Earle: review 'stage left' and 'stage right' - don't exit into orchestra pit
Larry: hearing aid static distracting during death scene

Actor shot by loaded gun during rehearsal
January 21, 2009

...One actor picked up a pistol he had borrowed from another cast member and fired it at the head of fellow actor Fred Kellerman, who was playing the character Lenny...

The gun was supplied by a member of the Sarasota Senior Theater group, Bradenton police said. The group had used the gun in the past as a prop, but the member told police she did not check to see if the gun was loaded when she brought it for the show Sunday...

"It took a chunk off my ear, but I was told it will grow together. I really feel no pain," he told the newspaper. "I was really lucky."

The silver lining: Fred is so getting the lead in next season's "Van Gogh: The Musical"

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Stop Me If You've Heard This One

One day, three years, ago, I came home from work and found my shower doors in the master bathroom had spontaneously disintegrated. The remains were piled in a neat pyramid of glistening nuggets, like tidy pirates had come over and left their treasure on the bathroom floor. I'll admit I was confused. Why did the doors lie down in piles? Was there a hidden message? Were there crop circles in the backyard ? I had questions.

Home Depot agreed to sell us some rattly replacements doors, which was fine, until we attempted to take the old frame off, and the white tiles on the shower walls began leaping to their deaths.
(Ode to fine tract house construction, entitled, You Took Ten Whole Minutes To Build My House! removed in the interests of time.)

Because my husband is a "shoemaker", and our children "have no shoes" (this is code, people), we have lived the last three years admiring the bare plywood and chicken wire in what was once the shower. My husband has taken to hanging decorative items of clothing on the exposed materials (see exhibit #1)

Actual showering has involved a daily trek down the hall to the kid's bathroom, where the potential showerer is confronted with the Kilimanjaro of Wet Towels my son has left on the floor as a sort of friendly challenge. If you can hurdle the mountain and land in the tub without spraining any of your naked bits, you win! It's a good game, but predictable.

When I became just inches shy of certifiably insane, my husband finally agreed to hire someone to turn the current hat boutique back into a shower. Actually, our dog chose our contractor for us. He's a stern judge of character, and generous with the feedback, so we knew we were in capable, er, paws. A parade of hopefuls came and went under his careful eye, leaving an array of estimates in their wake. No one met his exacting specifications, and so were ushered out. One guy who smelled like smoke and tried to charge us the equivalent of the gross national product of Peru sat for an hour with the dog positioned directly within crotch attack range.

Hope was nearly gone.

Then Tile Guy (Tile Guy!!) rode up in his white truck. He knew the way to the dog's heart; he played The Dog is Invisible to perfection, and passed inspection. Hired.

Tile Guy is my hero, because he can do fractions in his head and stick stuff to walls in a straight line. ( He can also draw a three-dimensional room on a piece of scratch paper, which is totally cool, but also makes me want to lie down.)
Yesterday, (yes, on Martin Luther King's day. I, too, have a dream) we met to order the tile. Soon we will have sleek tiled walls and powerful water jets where once a Desolation stood.

I'm planning on holding a wine and cheese reception in the shower when it's complete. White wine or red with porcelain tile? Let me know.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

You May Be Stardust, But I'm 98% Caffeine

You know how sometimes you think "I bet the kids would really enjoy an educational outing today!", and when you break the news to them, the response is an outpouring of joy and appreciation? And then when you get in the car to drive to the Griffith Observatory (because that's where we're going) the kids put away the Ipod and the DS so that they can watch the scenery along the way and ask you to tell them heartwarming stories from your own childhood trips?

I ask, because, despite all prior evidence to the contrary, I always think that this is how it will go. (And it would, really, they would LOVE to go, except there's this ICarly marathon running today and plus they planned on doing a lot of laundry.)

Only we load them, snarling and scratching, into the car anyway, two hours later than we planned, and head for Los Angeles, both kids safely plugged in to their docking stations in the back seat.

We have been warned that the parking is crazy at the observatory, and that most people on weekends opt to park in Illinois and take the shuttle up, or walk. Sure enough, as we continue to inch arrogantly up the hill we see small swarms of visitors hiking doggedly up the mountain. After a small encounter with a strange Greek man on the side of the road who reaches in the open car window on my side and pats me on the shoulder, we arrive at the upper parking lot, where there are, oh, twenty open parking spaces.

After standing next to the public toilets in the parking lot and taking the obligatory 43 pictures of the Hollywood sign, (here's one) ,
we proceed to the front entrance of the Observatory, where we are required to pass an initial IQ test:

Then it is on to the displays, where my ten year old begins channeling Stephen Hawking. Not wanting to interrupt his impromptu lecture in front of the Tesla Coil exhibit, the rest of us wander the shiny marble hallways, stopping occasionally to feign interest in Molybdenum (??) and the electromagnetic spectrum.

Soon it is time to line up for the planetarium show. I secretly love to line up, and stand for a good long while, especially if it is in the full glare of the sun at the top of a mountain. Lucky for me, this is the plan!, and as we stand in our pen made of seat belts, I eavesdrop shamelessly.
"Will do, Fishhead!" a man in line exclaims to someone on his cell phone. (Fishhead?)
"I hate when you do that. You always think you KNOW EVERYTHING, but you don't, so just stop it RIGHT NOW", a women in a straw hat and three inch heels hisses at a man standing next to her. Unfortunately, the man catches me listening, and involves me immediately in his personal drama.
"Hey, do we need tickets for this show?" he asks me.
"Yeeees?" I reply, because obviously everyone else in the line is busy fanning themselves with their limp tickets, and how could they not have seen the huge signs posted everywhere?
"Told you," he says, and she shoots me a solar flare death ray as they leave their place in line.

My daughter begins to worry the minute we walk into the planetarium show. Scarred emotionally as a tot by a traumatic experience otherwise known to the world as the "Bug's Life" show at California Adventure, (in which small children are made to believe that rats and spiders are running across their feet and dropping from the sky, thank you, sadistic Disney Imagineers), she is already half-expecting some kind of space tarantulas or cosmic vermin to attack.

I, actually, could use a good rat diversion, because a tribe of people who look very much like giant Fisher Price Weebles are now wedging themselves into seats next to my children, which would be okay if two of them didn't then proceed to suck each other's fingers lasciviously. I report to you that there is some moaning. I do not make this stuff up. I'm sorry, I don't know about the other patrons, but I, for one, did not pay 7 dollars a person to witness nasty Weeble Lovin'. I am about to become Embroiled in a Situation when

the lights fade, and the show is starting. Thank God. A narrator who I'm pretty sure is Eartha Kitt with a head cold kicks in on a recording, and the night sky appears. Across from duh Big Dippuh is the nort star, Boh-laris, she says. I marvel that this, apparently, was the best take when Eartha was in the recording studio. Stars whirl, Ptolemy, Copernicus and Gallileo appear and disappear. The man in front of me explains sausage-making to his wife. The Weebles moan.

Then, the BIG BANG! which lights up the room. It looks to me like an auditorium filled with glassy-eyed deer, and then galaxies, galaxies everywhere. And it feels like we are ho-mbuh, says Eartha solemnly. Huh? Music swells, something cinematic, and we are out the door.

Now it's all just pictures, and some unpleasantness at the gift shop. (It is enough to say that my husband, who gazes with undisguised interest at the adult-sized astronaut flight suits on sale at the gift shop is successfully distracted by something shiny. I do not have to worry that he will appear in public dressed in Oompa Loompa coveralls with NASA patches on the chest.)

We are home now, and the kids are smarter and destined for careers in space. Here are two more pictures, for no other reason than that I took them and I am forcing them on you. Enjoy.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Parking Lot Pain

So I take this picture in the parking lot at Baja Fresh today. The owner of the car is looking out the window at the time, and is not pleased that I appear to be snapping pictures of his license plate.
I think to tell him he has a big string of gum attached to his tire, but he already seems a little sad, sitting there alone with his pinto beans and large soda, looking out the window at strangers.

I imagine he had a date that was supposed to be meeting him, a hard-eyed blond he picked up in the frozen foods aisle where he was stocking up on 3 for 10 dollar pot pies, but he and I know she isn't ever going to come. She's already driven her car past his in the parking lot, just moments before, and seen the gum. "Loser," she muttered, and drove on. It's just as well. She would never have understood him.

I make sympathetic eye contact with him as we walk through the door, but he swings his stumpy little legs free of the high stool and slides down, avoiding my eye. Poor, poor, little stumpy man, I say to him in my head. I feel his pain, because I am sensitive like that.


After lunch we drive to Michael's, because my son needs sequins, doll hair and a pound of felt in order to bring Ben Franklin back to life. On the way back to the car, I see this:

I try to distract the children, because they're too young to be confronted by a scene so filled with pathos. Just like you, it is immediately clear to me what has happened.

"Let it be on your head," I murmer, "shoe repair man, who chose to hide your store way back behind the real estate office making it impossible to find, resulting in wide-spread shoe abandonment."

Somewhere out there, a tiny transvestite man has been forced to wear his pilgrim shoes.

I know.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fear of Pilgrim Shoes

The following is a list, in no particular order, of some of my irrational fears. I know there has been some discussion amongst you, speculating on my hidden neuroses, plus, I am in the mood to list, (which is an important skill to practice), and also I have absolutely nothing else to say. So. Here you go:

  1. Pilgrim Shoes: Those flat black or navy shoes with the big silver buckle and the crepe soles that women wear with tapered pants and suntan knee-hi hose. What if I suddenly think they're not so bad and buy a pair from Penney's and wear them so much that I have toe-shaped marks worn into them, and I don't care? What if I wave them in people's faces in the staff lounge, proclaiming how "comfy" they are?
  2. Groundhog Day gifting: what if I've accidentally given people the same birthday gifts over and over every year, and I don't know because I'm slowly losing my grip on reality and everyone's too nice to say, so they have to look excited every year when I give them the same copy of Celine Dion, My Story, My Dream?
  3. Carrot Top: Definitely he is Chucky the killer ventriloquist dummy. See also "Danny Bonaduce". What if he runs for governor of California next, and he wins, and then he makes everyone watch toilet seat prop jokes from the podium? And we have to call him Governor Top, and he makes all his budget decisions in a 'roid rage?
  4. the Chupakabra in the crawl space that we still haven't seen, but that makes sinister scraching noises all the time, and may or may not have left a mysterious clump of hair on my daughter's bed. What if it is running willy nilly through the house in the middle of the night? What if it is standing at the foot of my bed every night, staring with its red eyes and hot mouth-breathing? What if it's the secret alter-ego of my dog, and I'm actually curling up on the couch watching Celebrity Rehab with a chupacabra every night?
  5. and then it eats me, and they make a movie of the week about my shocking story, and they cast Celine Dion as me (naturally), and Carrot Top as the chupacabra, and I die wearing the pilgrim shoes in the last scene.... Okay.
Deep breathing.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Golden Hour

light bands at golden hour

The last hour of sunlight is my favorite time of day. Today feels like a Friday because I'm off tomorrow (day between the semesters). I should go in tomorrow and sort through my file cabinet, but I have a feeling I won't. Finished my first statistics assignment, which was all kinds of traumatic and probably still not done correctly, but it was still satisfying to hit the 'send' button and watch it all disappear.

Came home and took a short nap, and the light bands across the bedroom door were the first thing I saw when I woke up. Made me feel repentant about yesterday's post (although the wind is still returning every night) because today was beautiful. Eighty five degrees. I thought all day about the half of the country that's freezing and snow-covered and was thankful, today, for the drought.

At three I walked over to the elementary school to pick up my son. On the way home he told me he'd been sent out of class for arguing with his teacher. About dragons. Mr. A said dragons were a myth, a thought so patently ridiculous that my son had no choice but to object. Science and authority prevailed. But those of us who still believe in dragons know what we know.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Even My Fish Are Dehydrated (curse you, El Nina!)

First of all, I don't know why they name weather patterns after children and saints. For instance, El Nina, when it happens (like now), sucks all the moisture out of the bottom half of California, which seems like a big power trip for a little girl.

If it were up to me, I'd rename it King Tut.
Then they would say on the news "The dry spell we're currently experiencing is a result of King Tut off the coast." That'd be cool.

Then there are these damn winds, which I hate with the passion I normally reserve for cheese. As I mentioned in my previous weather whine fest, they are called the Santa Anas, for reasons everyone argues about. They are also called the devil winds, for reasons no one argues about. The Santa Anas work in cahoots with King Tut to give you a permanent, full-body chapping.

Okay, you big baby, you say, who was the genius that bought a house in a wind tunnel? This is a good question.

Is it my fault that when we were looking fifteen years ago, no one mentioned that this town is Hell's foyer? Could I have predicted that the neighbor's house would have its windows blown in twice, or that several of our trees would uproot themselves and fly to an undisclosed location? I think not.

Let me list for you some of the reasons that I hate the wind: (If I need to stop to peel my eyelids from my eyeballs, I will let you know. )

1. Zombies. For the last three nights I have had vivid zombie dreams. The zombies want very badly to eat me. One of them looks like Christopher Walken. This is thanks to the constant Thriller soundtrack playing outside our window.

2. I Think His Name is Lenny. A man with a dreamy expression and a gas-powered leaf-blower strapped to his back appears every morning outside my classroom door to blow the three foot pile of leaves away from the building. The fact that it sounds like a 747 idling directly outside our door, and that we are taking final exams does not seem to worry him. Then the wind blows the leaves back against the building so that he can do it again the next morning.

3. Crazy People Roll Call. It's like a dog whistle, but for crazy people. The wind summons them, and they appear, matches in hand. Then, when the neighborhood catches on fire ("pretty!"), the wind does an excellent job of spreading the burning ash. Some of the crazy people don't do fire, they just shoot each other. The wind tells them to.

4. The Spores Might Get You - Besides crazy people, the wind also summons mutant spores that lurk somewhere, like under rocks, or behind the supermarket. They they blow around and lodge in your lungs. If you're lucky, you get to be a science experiment and have the Centers for Disease Control request a chunk of you for study. They will probably call it Valley Fever, but it's really that you are now hosting an intelligent alien life form.

This is not a comprehensive list. It's just that my sinuses are so filled with dirt that my head is swelling and I need to go sign my name in blood for some more pseudoephedrine at the drug store. Before I go, I will admit there is one good thing about the wind.

Once, I got to see the custodian sailing around the school parking lot while clinging to the side of a dumpster. He rode out of the lot and down the street before I lost sight of him. It's one of my fondest memories.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ya'all Come Back Now, Ya Hear?

Okay. I'm intrigued. Sunday I wrote about the Hagar brothers (see My First Boyfriend Is Gone) figuring that, like Cat, most people would think I made them up, since who in their right mind would watch (or admit to watching) Hee Haw?

(I apologize right now to my grandmother, who even though she has no internet, does have a recipe for 'squirrel n' dumplins', and can probably sense with her grandma spidey powers that I am being disrespectful to Roy Clark .) (Cat, you can google him too :)

Turns out I was right that no one will admit to it, as I received only one comment expressing sensible confusion, BUT I logged 62 new visitors in twenty-four hours?! There are sixty-two other Hagar twin fans out there! (none of whom are my sister,who refuses to compromise her hipness by going there).

Ohio and Kentucky appear to be prime Hagar land, which is good to know if I ever want to set up a Hagar twin bobble-head booth somewhere.

So what's with the shyness Hagar people? Stand up and be counted! At least say hi....I'm a little lonely. This about sums it up:

Where, oh where, are you tonight?

Why did you leave me here all alone?

I searched the world over and I thought I'd found true love.

But you met another and PTHHP! you was gone.

I hear you singing, Delaware and Tennessee....

Monday, January 12, 2009

Now My Daughter AND the Dog Are Not Speaking To Me

Spent an hour this afternoon digging through stacks of old school papers, drawings, reports cards, etc., looking for my son's kindergarten picture. He's a fifth grader this year, and they need a "look how far we've come" picture for the yearbook. So far all I've found was this picture, which isn't him (when I showed him, he was relieved to hear that) but my daughter at about 8 months.

Someone cut it out (probably me for some very important reason I don't remember) and did a really bad job,like using the wrong hand bad. The poor kid's all kinds of pointy. I'm pretty sure she never had Spock ears or linebacker shoulders, but I may be wrong. I love this picture, though, because it documents the approximately ten days out of her whole life that she was chubby.

I'm not sure why I thought the outfit was a good choice either. ( She is working the old-man high-water pants.)
She's fourteen now, and wouldn't be caught dead in that outfit.

And now my dog can read. Or at least scan the pictures. Here's what he found today while we were gone.tasteless gag gifts from relativesThe drawing actually looks like him. I'm pretty sure he checked out the label and thought "Hey! I've done that! I should lick these!" (It's actually lemon drop chunks, and came as a gift from my brother-in-law who will be sending us a singing bass plaque next.)
Here's what used to be in the package: Oh look, a big mess on the floor Judging from the sticky yellow chunks littering the living room floor, he licked each one, and found them disappointing. Another victim of advertising. Then he abandoned them for other, more exciting snacking in the kids' bathroom trash . (Nothing says hearty satisfaction like a used Q-tip.)

I'm glad someone had a productive day.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

My First Boyfriend is Gone

His name was Jon. He was my first unsuspecting boyfriend (or was it his twin brother Jim, I could never really tell them apart), and now he's gone. Of course, I hadn't given either of them a second thought in two decades, which shows you how cold I am, since Jon/Jim had likely been living with the pain of my loss for a long time.

My sister and I, I must admit to you, were once Hee Haw fans. I know.

In our defense, this was back when watching the dryer spin was also good entertainment. We knew all the corny jokes, admired the way the beauties all tied their checkered shirts up high, and thought that Junior Sample might just be our Uncle Johnny in disguise.

The highlight of the show for us was always the Hager Twins. We would have thought they were hot, but no one said 'hot' back then unless someone was running a temperature and needed a cool washcloth. They were just, instinctively, ours. Despite the significant age difference (I was nine), we were a perfect match.

The beauty of identical twins was that no one got gypped. Both Jon and Jim had the same deep part with the sweep of bangs across the forehead. Both had the mutton chops. Both had the same wide flowered lapels and slim hips dressed in slinky polyester dress pants (it was years until I realized that Haggar slacks were not named after the Hagar brothers). When they inclined their heads gently over their matching bulbous microphones and smiled those smiles, it was all for us. Their harmonies were unoffensive. Their songs, well, who remembers the songs?

They had a sense of humor, too. Sometimes they would leave their microphones in their stands and join the cast for a skit. We always squirmed a little with pride at our boys, at how they outshined everyone else, even Minnie Pearl, whose dangling price tag always got a laugh.

In the end, I was fickle. All it took was a channel change one day, and I was a prisoner to the charms of David Cassidy, whose pukka shell necklace gave him an unfair advantage over the competition. This led to Shaun Cassidy, and Scott Baio, and all kinds of other pretenders; but the Hagar Twins (oh Jon/Jim!) would always be my first loves.

They're both gone now (Jon died Friday, Jim in May, see article), and even though I abandoned them for most of my life, I am sad to see them go. Rest in peace boys, and thanks for being a part of my childhood.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Send in the Locusts

Last night we had an earthquake. It was only a 4.5 according to this morning's radio poobahs, but we live a few miles from the epicenter, and it was an exciting thirty seconds. This time it was the "who drove their El Dorado into the house again?" kind of earthquake, which starts with a sharp jolt and then tapers off like the wake of a fat kid cannonball.

My dog, I need to report, did not see the Discovery Channel special about the discerning powers of animals who act strangely just before a natural disaster and warn their owners JUST IN TIME. Instead, he was caught out just like the rest of us, perched on my lap and silently reproaching me for the sub par kibble he'd found in his bowl (he prefers it with a piquant jerky gravy, but that's not my fault). When the shaking started his ears flew up and he promptly wedged his head into my armpit.

Upstairs my kids were dutifully hunched in doorways. My son was especially wide-eyed; most of the earthquakes we've had in his lifetime have happened while he was sleeping, and he sleeps like a drunkard . He'd been in the shower when it hit and sent him leaping through the shower curtain, water flying. (He has declared that he will be showering in his underwear from now on, in order to avoid unseemly nakedness if forced to wander around outside after the house falls down. Because wet underwear would be better.)

About three am the Santa Ana (devil) winds started blowing. These are fun because they bow all of the windows and doors in, and shriek through the unsealed windows that are the norm in fine southern California tract houses. Now that sleep is impossible you can lie for hours monitoring your own instant dessication from the -50 humidity. We have a mystery hole the size of a quarter that appeared in one of our bedroom windows; this hole acts as a power funnel for the swirling grit tornado outside. This morning we resembled nothing more than Egyptian mummies, lying on the bed all leathery and covered in dirt.

The poobahs say we get two more days of windstorms. I figure if we get a few good aftershocks as well we'll get to fly around the neighborhood in our underwear. I'll be like a super hero.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Hard to Handel

Is it a bad thing to look at your hair in the mirror first thing in the morning and think, "Hello, Beethoven"?

Because that's what I did this morning. The default setting for my morning hair is usually "styled by feet", but this was really above and beyond. If only in sheer volume. This is my punishment for washing my hair so late last night that I only gave it a thirty-second pass with the hair dryer and went to bed with it damp.

Left to it's own nefarious devices, my hair will take over a room. It must be subdued, preferably by professional snake handlers, and a roadhouse bouncer.
When I got to work this morning, I googled Beethoven , just to compare.
Here he is, looking nearsighted, and a little like Sally Fields after a tussle, hairwise.

It wasn't him.

Then I tried Bach:

I was getting closer, He had the frown line, and a wig that is the ancestor of Berber carpet, but still... not a match.

Finally, it hit me. It's this guy:

Handel's my man. Note the dizzying hair heights he achieves, the impressive dual arcs rising from the center part. Note the lack of product. And the expanse of forehead... (Now I'm all worried. What if it's really my eggy forehead, and not the hair at all that whispered "who's that dumpy old man in a wig?" at me while I was brushing my teeth?)

I'd like to pause now, in silent gratitude for the maker of the flat iron.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

I'd Stick My Head In The Oven, But It's Convection

convection oven front panel
and electric, and I don't know how that would work. Because I really only bought our oven because it was shiny and I liked the knobs (how many times have you heard that one). I sorta never read that boring manual , and besides, hello , how hard could it be?

It lies to me all the time-- it will say things like "easy convect bake", and "preheating". It has trained me to leap up all sweaty and panicky when I hear the pleasant warning sound . I run to the oven, but the timer has already started, and it's not the same amount of time as a real oven because it's convection, meaning it has it's own magical secret time, but the food will still be raw/burned/plastic because I didn't throw the pan in at the exact moment of the bell because I was distracted by "The Dog Whisperer" on TV, just for a second. The only time I program it correctly is when I reach over it to get the Nutella on the shelf above and hit the touch panel with my belly flab.

Maybe I could just stick my head in the warming drawer ...
My husband is hunting mysterious "thumping and clicking" noises over my daughter's room. We probably have a chupacabra in the crawl space. Yesterday a lady named "Chi Chi" came to our house with papers to sign and the dog mistook her for a veterinarian and showed his teeth.

At least I found my lost debit card today. I left it at the pizza place when I was trying to get my husband to do a cartwheel because the waitress was avoiding us, and he wouldn't and I forgot to put it in my purse, which is still piney-fresh from Christmas. But now it's back. And I'm going to bed.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Play That Funky Music, White Boy

Last night my son offered to play me a little harmonica solo. With his nose. At midnight. A hard offer to pass up, true. Pass it up I did, regretfully, as his sister, of the 'crankypanticus' variety, does not appreciate his prisoner-in-the-next cell performances.
She has a point. More than once, when he couldn't sleep, (getting the stuffed-animal stare down? Worries about Wall Street? not sure...) my son has summoned his inner Blues Brother. The mournful tones carry well into each bedroom and are an unexpected treat in the middle of the night, just when you thought musical gifts were done for the day (see Walking Off the Guitar Hero Hangover).
I thought the nose part was just showing off, frankly. When I told him so, he leaned over his favorite stuffed tiger, harmonica in one hand, and kissed me forcefully on the cheek. Chap Stick. Lots of it.

(Note: While I take full responsibility for the Guitar Hero, the blame for the harmonica belongs to my husband, who thought it would be a "nice stocking stuffer". Rue the day, buddy. Rue the day.) image:

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Null Brain Hypothesis

drowning in statistics
Tomorrow is Monday, which means I am back to class, in more ways than one. Yesterday I graded fifty-three senior research papers, which was every bit as life-affirming as it sounds.

Tomorrow is also the first day of my last graduate course session--- which is wonderful, but only if by "wonderful" you mean "certain death to me", as I have foolishly saved the only class that terrifies me till the end of the program.
I can't actually say the word without whimpering, just a little bit. Nice liberal arts girls like me shouldn't be exposed to things like "p-values" and "statistical inferences". Even the cover of the book raises my blood pressure, and that's the one for dummies, which seemed like a good fit for me in the current situation. And yet, even the little cartoons inside, and the handy "cheat sheet", did nothing to stem my rising panic because there were all these scary backward 'Z''s and cryptic mathematical equations that were actually kind of pretty, like Chinese, but otherwise my worst nightmare. The real textbook, the one the university so kindly assigned me, might induce a coma. I'm not sure, but don't you think it's better not to risk it? That's what I thought, so it's still at the bottom of my book bag, safely hidden by a bag of half-eaten Christmas sugar cookies a student gave me, and an umbrella .

I'm going to go take the tater tots out of the oven (yes, I know, but they're my way of saying "I support you, carbs, even though you have been slapped around a lot on TV lately.")