30 December 2008

"Every day is a winding road, I get a little bit closer" --Sheryl Crow

Since I've been on the road for the last week, I thought I might share some of my deep thoughts from the trip.

1. Restaurants advertise Chicken Tenders. I don't know about the Tenders but I predict huge sales if someone comes out with Chicken Chewies. Doesn't that sound fantastic?

2. There are two kinds of people in the world: those that go to someone's house and use the bar of soap that's in the shower and already in use by the host (sequentially, not simultaneously), and those that bring and use their own. I am of the latter category. I've no interest in pulling hairs from other people off the soap I'm considering applying to myself. Ew.

I've been informed that everyone falls into the former category and I'm just plain wrong. So, are you people completely disgusting or am I right?

3. If your house is less than 3,000 square feet:

a) It probably doesn't need statuary or fountains. I'm not talking about the small frog or Buddha in the garden. I'm talking about the 20' tall plaster statue of Woman with Lute that's takes up half of the front lawn. Scale people. It's a principle we can all embrace.

b) It doesn't need a name. It may be Twin Oaks to you but it's just another house on Elm to the rest of us.
4. When driving past a field with at least one bale of hay, it is always funny and never annoying to point and shout out "Hay!"

23 December 2008

Open Letter to CNN

Dear CNN,

I don't know what sadistic game you're playing but you have to stop scaring my mother.

Every time you show anything bad happening in or near Washington, DC (and, really, how often do you show anything good happening?), my mother assumes that it is happening to me. Tornado touches down in Fairfax? Me. Multiple murders in Southeast? Me.

This morning, you reported on your national news that there was a huge water main break on River Road in Bethesda and there were helicopter rescues from the trapped cars in the rushing, way cold water. Guess where my mother thought I was?

Doesn't matter that I live nowhere near Bethesda. Doesn't matter that I work nowhere near Bethesda. Doesn't matter that this morning I'd have as much chance of being in Gdansk as Bethesda.

She called, very upset.

She's an old lady.

That's just mean.

-L A Cochran

PS to Anderson: For the inauguration, it's your turn to bring the vodka. And none of that cheap stuff, like last time. Although you looked cute passed out in the kitty litter.

22 December 2008

Magical Holiday Moments

Jostling at Macy's

Is this final reduction?

This register closed

Office full of food

Betty made her famous cake

One more bite I'll puke

Garish lights display

People stop and gawk in road

Honking and swerving

Hideous sweater

Mom says: Now, Dear, say "thank you"


Spot last Wii on shelf

Hear Wii seekers rounding bend

Hide Wii behind Bratz

19 December 2008

"Each and every day true player way" --Blackstreet

Okay, someone didn't get the memo around here that it's late December. I'm still having to attend meetings and deliver presentations and do analysis and update charts and did I mention IT'S LATE DECEMBER?! What happened to "down time", people?

So, sorry if I've been missing out on all the reindeer games lately. Why are the reindeer such game players anyway? Do they follow Roosh's advice or Roissy's or Alec Greven's? So hard to keep up.

I've never been a game player. I'd rather be on the up and up and folks can take it or leave it. So far, it's worked really well. But clearly there are alternate views out there.

Once, I had a roommate who sent flowers to herself with the name of a fictitious boyfriend on the card in hopes of making another guy jealous. It seemed pretty lame to me. Apparently, it did to him, too. He didn't care before the flowers and he didn't care after the flowers. This woman didn't need the book "He's Just Not That Into You", she needed "He Wouldn't Stop to Pee On You If You Were on Fire".

So here's the hotly contested question(s) du jour: Does gaming work? And why don't more games feature the magnificent pop-o-matic?

18 December 2008

"As the hours turn, you can hear them" --Hothouse Flowers

[I can't explain it either.]

Here's a seasonal peeve. I know it's not much longer but, jeez louise...

How come you have to pay to have the Salvation Army person stop ringing that bell? And how much do you have to pay to get them to stop forever?! Can we get a collection going?

I can't be the only person who has fantasies about ripping that bell out of the Salvation Army drone's hand and flinging it farther than Dane Cook ever could. How is this noise pollution allowed?! There's got to be an ordinance that could apply here!

And wouldn't you think they'd try to ring a little softer as you get closer? But, no! They get more aggressive with the damn thing!

It would be different if they had the whole band there or if the person was playing a little tune on a set of bells.

Or if it was cowbell. Because the world needs more cowbell!

But, no.

For the love of all things holy, MAKE IT STOP!

17 December 2008

"I couldn't close my eyes 'cause you were on my mind" -- 5th Dimension

I have a confession. I think of you sometimes late at night. Not every night. Just some nights. When I'm in bed. It's late and I'm trying to go to sleep but you're in my head. TMI?*

That is to say, while you are getting a bad case of pillowface, I am thinking of an idea to post about that may amuse you. Then, I wonder if I'll remember it in the morning. So, I reach for the pad and pen that are on my night table for just this purpose and, in the dark, I jot down a few key words. So, come morning, it'll trigger bleary-eyed me to remember what I was thinking about as I was drifting off.

Here's last night's gems:

Yeah, that's a great big FAIL. Make sure your pen is actually writing before you trust your midnight squiggles to it.

So, if this post isn't all it should be, let's agree to blame the pen, shall we?**

I think what I wanted to say was that reading a blog is like taking ice core samples. (You probably already got that from my notes.) And by "ice core samples", I mean what I make up about taking ice core samples because I know nothing about taking ice core samples. Maybe less than nothing. But why mess up a perfectly good analogy with pesky facts?

[Don't get nervous, I will not be taking out my ruler.]

You're still here? Huh. That's nice. And always a little surprising.

Anyway, here's what I was thinking...

When you read someone's blog regularly you get samples of them. Core samples. They're deep but not broad.

You don't really know much about what's happening on the surface. You don't see the animal tracks. You don't know how many acres the ice is covering. You just know a few random deep drills where you get a keen insight on what's happening at the core and maybe some of the layers in between.

So it's more biopsy than plain old microscope viewing. Maybe, over time, you get enough samples to put together a little kaleidoscope.*** And you get a little intimacy and a little connection with people you may have absolutely nothing else in common with and with whom you would have no other way of knowing about their really nice cores. And that can be quite beautiful.


* Sometimes I dress you in funny outfits. Is that wrong?

** Note to self: Astronaut pen real?

*** I'll bet you thought I couldn't get there.

**** Ice art credit: Dr. Peter Wasilewski.

16 December 2008

Stay Home/"Cheeseburger in Paradise" --Jimmy Buffett

We are four women chatting at a work social gathering. Those words don't really go together, do they? Work social. Doesn't even sound right. But there we are. Workmates. On company time. Trying our best to pretend we're social mates. Haha! What fun.*

Anyway, the conversation turns to one person's sister in Hawaii and this leads to who has been to Hawaii, and so on.

Pretty young thing (PYT): You know if you really want to go someplace beautiful you should go to Grand Cayman. It's the best island!

[This is met with assorted ooo's and aahh's]

PYT: Yeah, I went with my Mom. It was great because it was the most Americanized of the islands we went to in the Caribbean.

Me: "Most Americanized"? What do you mean?

PYT: They had McDonald's and places like that, so it was great. 'Cause some times you really want a cheeseburger.


So, she's here:

and here:

and what makes her happy?


I like a pampered holiday as much as the next person (okay, more) but I sure as heck don't need an American fast food meal to make me happy. 51 weeks of McDonald's haute cuisine isn't enough?

Am I wrong in thinking that there's something seriously wrong with this chick?

* See, if you were there, we would exchange a look that says "Can you believe this?! We have to get the eff out of here." 'Cause you're like that. It's great that you're like that. Thanks for being like that.

15 December 2008

"Bubbling brown sugar"--Loften Mitchell by way of What's Happening

Sunday night I am baking again. I have the first two trays of cookies in the oven and I start to put the ingredients away.

It is at this point in the baking process--as I am reaching to put it away--that I actually take notice of the brown sugar. *insert string of expletives here*

I look at the oven with the baking sheets inside it. The cookies are starting to brown.

I look at the brown sugar. The box of brown sugar seems to be regarding me smugly. Yeah, you thought I was going in those cookies but guess again, Sucka. It is doing a little end-zone dance.

The recipe only calls for 1/4 cup of brown sugar in the whole thing and this is in addition to the regular sugar in it that I'm sure I put in. Pretty sure. No, I did.

I need those cookies for gifts that I am distributing the next day to co-workers and I don't have enough chocolate to start over.

What to do? It's too late for the darlings in the oven. But what about the rest of the batter? If I can add the brown sugar in at this late stage, how much is the right amount for what's left?

I curse my 4th grade fractions teacher for not yelling at Mitchell Parsons, who distracted me by turning his eyelids inside out. Who can focus on numbers after that? How much to put in... I back off to 1/8 cup, doing my best to try to integrate the brown sugar into the batter that is already dense with oats and chunks of dark chocolate. Urg. It will have to do.

I wish I could say I do this buffoonery for your amusement but, alas, I'm just this pathetic in the kitchen. My gifts lie in other rooms of the house.* No, this sort of slip up is by no means unusual. Cooking and especially baking requires attention to detail, and, as I've said so often, I am not a detail person. And yet, I continue to try to cook and bake. Crazy.

It takes tremendous focus for me to produce something of quality. Even something that should be pretty basic. I find the only way to get it right is to repeat each direction to myself multiple times as I'm doing it, like Rainman, because otherwise it flies out of my brain.

And if I try to do anything WHILE I'm preparing something, god help us all. Whatever you do, don't talk to me while I am in the kitchen. I don't know how many times I've either left something out completely or measured something wrong (wait, that was two teaspoons?? I put in two tablespoons!) because I was trying to carry on a conversation or answer a question while cooking or baking.

Years ago I bought myself a cooking class at L'Academie de Cuisine, thinking I could learn and then I'd be good. *snort* I took a sauces class. How hard could it be to be saucy?

We each had our own little cooking station with a burner and pot and such. The chef/teacher, complete with haughty French accent, did a demo and then encouraged us to try it. I think we were all doing the bordelaise** when he came by. He took one look at my sauce, dumped the pot's contents into the garbage, and turned off my burner. Ouch.

But he was right. I'd totally been chatting with my neighbors and mucked it up.

Back to the cookies... I make smaller cookies from the remaining batter so I'll have enough to go around. I am pleased that I added the 1/8 cup of brown sugar because, where the first two trays are okay, with the brown-sugared version not only is the extra sugar helpful to the flavor but it changes the texture to a much preferable lace cookie experience.

I go on to make chocolate raspberry cookies to augment the gift and these, thankfully, turn out better. 1 teaspoon almond extract, 1 teaspoon almond extract, 1 teaspoon almond extract... 'Course three minutes to Wapner, yeah. I'm an excellent baker. Excellent...

* Um, the laundry room. I'm hell on wheels with a fabric softener sheet.
** Not a euphemism.

12 December 2008

Assorted Friday Flotsam

Yeah, it's Friday, so we're a little more laid back and interactive today. You can wear your flannel with the butt flap but please keep it buttoned.* Pull up any chair you like. But leave the couch for Fiona, please. She called it.**

Who wants to share first? Anybody?

How about I give you a topic? Shaken or stirred?


Um, whoever brought the crickets? Check with me next time, okay? They keep jumping into the ChexMix.

Alright, here's some flotsam. Maybe something in it will spur you to respond.***

  • Speaking of bugs, Sunday, we were eating at a restaurant that will remain nameless when a bug the size of a jumbo, plump, delicious raisin--if said jumbo, plump delicious raisin had legs--strolled across the table. We called the waitress over and she scooped it up, wordlessly, in her hand and took it away. And I guess I prefer her scooping it up to squishing it in front of me but, well, I hope she washed her hands. Who knows. Maybe she didn't squish it at all. Maybe it's her pet. "Lenny! I told you to stay in the kitchen!"
Lenny was not this cute:

  • I happened upon a new show on G4. It's called "Human Wrecking Balls" and that's what it is: A TV show with two brothers who use their bodies to destroy stuff. Maybe it's my pesky second X chromosome but I'm having a little trouble seeing the quality entertainment potential.
  • I saw a hawk this past weekend in a tree about six feet away and it brought to mind the idea that some folks have that a sudden sighting of an animal or bird is an indication of a spirit guide. What I thought: Human beings are the most self-absorbed creatures on the Earth to believe that everything, even the animals and birds around us, are living their lives in some specific way only to serve us. 'Cause it's always all about us.
  • I can't see a car carrier in the lane in front of me without imagining a car flying off it. Am I the only one who has this thought? I think I've seen too many action movies. Speaking of which, we just saw Iron Man, which was significantly better than I expected. Also saw You Don't Mess With the Zohan which wasn't actiony at all but was as silly as I expected.
  • Have you noticed that everyone is saying "It is what it is"? That's bad enough but I catch myself saying it, too. A lot. Apparently everything is what it is to me. And, really, what the hell does that mean? Of course, it is what it is. It's also what you make it. Whatever the hell that means.
  • When people have multiple air fresheners hanging from their rear-view mirror I wonder what the heck happened in that vehicle to funk it up so completely that a simple airing out couldn't fix it...? My bet is it involved cat pee. That's a forever smell. Or are these people just addicted to the smell of pine?

*You know I don't mind but we've gotten complaints. In writing. On official lawyer-type letterhead.

**Remember when you were little and you could "call" things and other kids were all "well, there was nothing I could do, she called it"? How weird was that?

***No, I'm not doing that thing with my tongue again so stop asking.

11 December 2008

Real conversations/"Can you hear me, I've been calling all day" --Yaz

Real conversations from yesterday with only the names changed (to more accurate ones):

Idiot #1, National Catalogue Morons Customer Service: NCM Customer Service, this is Idiot #1. How may I help you?

Me: I just received a shipping confirmation email on a gift I ordered. [I provide order #.] The confirmation says a free gift of cheese and sausage is being included with the gift. This is a Hanukah gift. Do you know how inappropriate it is to send sausage in a Hanukah gift??

Idiot #1: Oh dear. I'm sorry but I can't help you. You'll need to talk to Corporate. Here's their number: [1-800 number.]


Idiot #2, NCM Corporate: NCM Corporate Customer Service, this is Idiot #2. Can I help you?

Me: I certainly hope so. I just received a shipping confirmation email on a gift I ordered. [I provide order #.] The confirmation says a free gift of cheese and sausage is being included with the gift. This is a Hanukah gift. Do you know how inappropriate it is to send sausage in a Hanukah gift??

Idiot #2: Ma'am?

Me: It's completely inappropriate. I didn't order it. I don't want it. I want the shipment stopped. Can you do that?

Idiot: #2: Um, I don't think so.

Me: Can you see if it's been delivered yet?

Idiot #2: It looks like it's scheduled to be delivered maybe tomorrow or the next day.

Me: I need you to stop that shipment.

Idiot #2: ... Please hold.

[Muzak version of Silver Bells]

Idiot #2: I'm sorry, Ma'am. I can't stop the shipment. I can give you a discount.

Me: That's not acceptable.

Idiot #2: Um... I'm sorry, Ma'am?

Me: I want to speak to a manager.

Idiot #2: Um... please hold.

[Muzak version of Silver Bells]

Idiot #2: Um, I'm sorry, Ma'am. We can't stop the shipment but you can call UPS yourself and stop it. Here's the number [1-800 number and tracking number].

Me: I can stop it but you can't.

Idiot #2: Yes, Ma'am.

Me: Fine.


UPS Customer Service: UPS, can I help you?

Me: I need to stop a package that's being delivered. [I provide tracking number.]

UPS Customer Service: Who am I speaking with?

Me: L. A. Cochran. I ordered the gift that's in the package.

UPS Customer Service: The good news is it hasn't been delivered yet. It's still on the truck. The bad news is that only NCM can cancel the delivery since they're the ones that sent it.


NCM Corporate: NCM Corporate Customer Service. This is Idiot #3. How may I help you?

Me: I need to speak with a manager. Now.

Idiot #3: Is there something I can help you with?

Me: No. And this is time sensitive.

Idiot #3: Is this in relation to an order?

Me: Yes.

Idiot #3: Can I get the order number so the manager can help you faster?

Me: [I provide order #.]

Idiot #3: One moment please.

[Muzak version of Silver Bells]

Idiot #4: This is Idiot #4. How can I help you?

Me: You're a manager?

Idiot #4: Yes.

Me: I received a shipping confirmation email on a gift I ordered. [I provide order #.] The confirmation says a free gift of cheese and sausage is being included with the gift. This is a Hanukah gift. Sending them sausage is completely unacceptable. I contacted UPS to stop the shipment. They said it's still on the truck but I can't stop it. However, they said you can. I want it stopped.

Idiot #4: Oh, that free gift gets put in automatically.

Me: That's unfortunate. I'd like you to stop the shipment.

Idiot #4: See, most people like the free gift. Our folks would have no way of knowing it was a Hanukah gift.

Me: It was sent with a Hanukah card. And a message that said "Happy Hanukah".

Idiot #4: Oh. We don't get a lot of that. Most people like the free gift.

Me, speaking slowly: Do you understand that this shipment needs to be stopped?

Idiot #4: I'll call UPS and see if I can stop it. I'll call you back either way in 10 minutes.

Me: Thank you.


Idiot #5, NCM Corporate: NCM Corporate Customer Service, this is Idiot #5, how can I help you?

Me: Can I speak to Idiot #4, please?

Idiot #5: Idiot #4?

Me: Yes.

Idiot #5: I'm not sure I know Idiot #4. Is there something I can help you with?

Me: Idiot #4 is a manager. Can you find her for me?

Idiot #5: I'm not sure what department Idiot #4 is in.

Me: I called this same number, asked for a manager and I got Idiot #4.

Idiot #5: You did?

Me: Yes.

Idiot #5: Okay, did you get a message asking for you to call her?

Me: No. I spoke with her and she said she'd call me back in 10 minutes. It's now been 20 minutes. So I'd like to speak with her.

Idiot #5: Okay, let me see if I can get her.

[Muzak version of Silver Bells]

Idiot #4: I was just about to call you. I was able to stop the shipment. We'll take the free gift out and re-ship it.

Me: Thank you.

Idiot #4: I don't know where you are but we don't have a lot of Jews here so we don't know about these things.


Idiot #4: So, that's why we did that.


Idiot #4: So, it should be all taken care of.

Me: Thank you.

Idiot #4: Thanks for shopping NCM!

10 December 2008

"Didn't you ever feel like the largest Elizabeth in the world?" --The Roches

[A messier approximation of the lusciosity lying in wait for me Saturday night.]

My thoughts Saturday night at the party*...

Oh, look! Steamed shrimp and cocktail sauce! Love it! And it's so healthy! Low fat! Low calorie! Fantastic!

Well, I can't stand next to the shrimp platter all night. People are starting to notice. Note to self: Next time don't growl when someone reaches for a shrimp.

A few chips and dip won't hurt too bad. Tasty!

ow, those cheese stuffed shells look really good... Maybe just a little... but that doesn't look right to leave half a shell in the pan... I'll just even that up. Mmm, these are the BEST STUFFED SHELLS I HAVE EVER HAD!

Okay, cheese and crackers... hm... I'll just eat the cheese. Gotta cut back somewhere.

Oooo, cream puffs. Look how adorably tiny they are. Oh my god! They're filled with custard instead of cream! Custard puffs!! These are incredible!

What? Someone just brought cheesecake?! Are you flippin' kidding me? I LOVE cheesecake!

Here's my philosophy: if you're going to do something you know you shouldn't do, you might as well enjoy it. At least while you are doing it.

And so I do. I enjoy this luscious food so much I could be Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger in the kitchen scene in 9 1/2 Weeks. I eat so much that I wonder if I am beginning to resemble Violet, the blueberry girl, in Willy Wonka.

We leave before the Oompa Loompas can start circling.***

Sunday morning, also known as "The Morning of Regret", I survey the damage.

I exercise. I peruse two magazines I receive that are "stay fit" oriented. In one, I come across an article for healthy snacks. I am quoting one of the recipes, verbatim, here, so get ready to hit print for this tantalizing treat:

Parmesan Rice Cakes

2 brown rice cakes
1 tsp. tomato paste (optional)
2 tsp. grated Parmesan cheese
Black pepper

Spread the rice cakes with tomato paste if using. Sprinkle with cheese and season with pepper. Toast in a toaster oven or broiler until cheese melts. Watch carefully--they cook fast. Let cool.

Doesn't that sound totally delicious and satisfying? No?

Okay, seriously, how totally sad is that?!

I hope that I am never that hard up for a snack.

I love the fact that there are only four ingredients, including the black pepper, and the tomato paste is optional. It's optional, fergawdssake! Wouldn't want to go hog wild and put a whole TEASPOON of tomato paste on those nummy brown rice cakes! That would be way too indulgent. Somebody stop me! I'm reaching for the teaspoon!

*shakes head*

* Because you can only play "Find the Pickle" for so long and then you have to give it a rest.**

** What? Too easy?

*** Judgy bastards. The O.L.s, not you. I'm sure you're thinking well of me at this point.

09 December 2008

"I know just what you're saying" --No Doubt

The cleaning lady is in the house and I am working from home. (Shut up. You spend your hard-earned money on what you want and so do we. We love a clean house and we hate to clean it so it is totally worth it so shut up.) Eventually, I hear her packing up her supplies...

Cleaning lady: Okay, I go. Thank you!
Me: Okay, thank you!
Cleaning lady: Thank you!
Me: Thank you!
*sound of door opening*
Cleaning lady: Ehhcuse me... you cheese es dry.
Me: I'm sorry...?
Cleaning lady: You cheese es dry.
My cheese? She's eating our cheese?
Me: My cheese?
Cleaning lady: Ches. You cheese. I put in dry.
*she points to the laundry room*
Me: The sheets??
Cleaning lady: Ches. You cheese. I put in dry.
Me: Ooooooohhhhhhhh! Great! Thank you!
Cleaning lady: Okay. Thank you!
Me: Thank you!
Cleaning lady: Okay. Thank you!
Me: Okay!

07 December 2008

"Feliz Navidad" -- Jose Feliciano, singing the only decent Christmas song

We are invited to a 'holiday' party Saturday night.* We walk in and the place is already crowded. We locate the host and he welcomes us.

He then invites me to play "find the pickle".

My reaction:

As you can imagine, this is not the first time a man has suggested this game to me. Well, okay, it is. In that particular terminology.

Turns out there's some German tradition of getting a pickle ornament and putting it somewhere on the Christmas tree for others to locate. News to me. Those wacky Germans.

I go over to the rather large tree that is packed with ornaments and do a scan.*** A boy of about eight walks up next to me.

Boy: Are you looking for the pickle?
Me: Yes.
Boy: I know where it is.
Me: You do?
Boy: Yes.
Me: I haven't spotted it yet... Where is it?
Boy: I can see it right now.
Me, trying to match my line of sight to his: You can?
Boy: I'm staring right at it.
Me, getting irritated: You are?
Boy: Yes.
Me, tempted to headbutt the child out of the way: You've got a clear line of sight on it, huh?
Second boy walks up: Are you looking for the pickle?
First boy: She is.
Second boy, in a bored tone: I can see it.
First boy: I know. Wanna play hockey?
Second boy: Okay.
Me: Wait! Where's the pickle?!
First boy: You see the letter?
Me, scanning until I find a letter ornament: Letter... letter... Yes!
First boy, rolling his eyes: It's right next to that.
Me: Um...
First boy, with an exaggerated sigh: Way in the back.

It still takes me another minute to find it because the pickle is not a standard pickle green but the sickly bright green of a thousand irradiated pickles that have been dipped in clear coat to add an unhealthy shine. It is behind other ornaments next to the core of the tree.

The boys run off.

Someone walks up next to me.

Me, smugly: Looking for the pickle?

* People say 'holiday' when what they mean is their holiday: Christmas. But, fine. A party is a party. And this party had cocktail shrimp the size of my hand.**

** I once had a roommate who could not fathom the idea that some people did not celebrate Christmas. She kept insisting "Everyone celebrates Christmas." Me: "Um, actually, no." It's in the name, people.

*** It's not something I put on my resume but I am quite the whiz at finding the hidden objects in the Highlights magazine puzzle. I can even find the comb! I kick butt at the pediatrician's office.

05 December 2008

"Riding on the Metro" --Berlin

First: New poll up (top right) on the peculiar lure of the vampire flick.

Oh, stop. You know you're dying to make your voice heard. Go vote. You can even select multiple answers.

I mean now. Don't make me chase you.*

And now on to today's completely unrelated post...

People that are in my Metro car every single time I ride:

  • Bag Guy. Bag Guy has 14 different full plastic and paper bags and arranges them on the seat next to him, on him, in front of him and on you if you'll let him.
  • Teenager on the Monkey Bars. Teenager on the Monkey Bars has to try to impress his friends by pretending the overhead grab bar is actually a chin up bar. He comes this close** to smacking his head on the ceiling. His friends find this hilarious.
  • Matchy Tourist. Matchy Tourist is one of a group of at least five people wearing hideous, neon-bright t-shirts and matching hats. It's like they found ugly-t-shirt-and-matching-hat.com and said, "Yeah, that's the stuff! We'll be able to spot each other easily and fit right in in ΓΌber-tony DC."
  • Overshare Woman. Overshare Woman insists on sitting on one side of the car and carrying on a personal conversation with her friend on the other side of the car at top volume. The conversation always includes the phrase "I'm not gonna put up with that shit."
  • Clueless Tourist. Clueless Tourist "discovers" the Metro map and stands, slack-jawed, in front of it, unable to decipher it, occasionally looking around pathetically for help which always comes... from another tourist.
  • Screaming Gregory. Screaming Gregory is the child that screams and cries for the entire trip despite his parents, who are busy eying Overshare Woman nervously, saying "Now, now, Gregory. It's all right, Gregory."

Are these people on every subway system or is it just the DC Metro? Or is it just me they follow? 'Cause, you know, I'm not gonna put up with that shit.

* Unless you're going to do the slasher movie run while looking over your shoulder causing you to trip and fall down bit. I'm a sucker for that move.

** I originally had two angle brackets here but it was screwing up the html. Sheesh. Imagine me holding my fingers an inch apart a la Maxwell Smart.

04 December 2008

"No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher's dirty looks" --Alice Cooper

In honor of To Blog Or's brave/foolish recent attendance at his school reunion, I thought I might share a little of my formative years...

When I was sixteen, I was late to school every day.

Every. Single. Day.

I was sixteen and in the habit of staying up until 3 or 4 in the morning so once I got to sleep I wasn't excited about getting up early enough to go to Homeroom. Homeroom was when they checked attendance and made announcements about JV bake sales and such.

I saw it as optional.*

The vice principle had a different take on it.

He called my mother and asked her to come in. She was none too happy about missing work.

I was not invited to the meeting between Vice Principle and Mum but I can imagine how it went, based on the fact that I know my mum. Here's how I imagine it went down:

VP: Thanks for coming in, Mrs. F.

Mum: I'm missing work so whatever it is, can we make it quick, please?

VP: We have a serious problem. LA is late to school every day.

Mum: And?

VP: She needs to come to school on time.

Mum: She's sixteen. What do you want me to do, drag her here?

VP: She's missing Homeroom every day. We can't have that.

Mum: Homeroom? What's that?

VP: We take attendance first thing in the morning and make announcements.

Mum: Oh. ...And?

VP: You can understand how important it is that she be on time...

Mum: Is she failing anything?

VP: Well... no...

Mum: Then I don't see a problem. In fact, as long as we're here, I have a few things to say to you about how much time is wasted in this school. Take "Gym". Where I come from, we learned all kinds of subjects, like Latin and Advanced Calculus, and we didn't waste our time playing on a field. Now here's what I think you ought to do [insert diatribe about how terrible American schools are and how she'd like Gym and maybe a few other subjects eliminated from the curriculum.]

I never got hassled again. In fact, the Vice Principle avoided eye contact when I passed him in the hall. Heh. Mum rocks!

* Who me? Issues with authority? Um, yeah, you could say that. Where some see "rules", I see "guidelines"... "suggestions"... "possible approaches." Now doesn't that sound more reasonable?

03 December 2008

"What a long strange trip it's been" --The Grateful Dead

The plan:
Wednesday night we do last minute cooking, laundry, pack, etc.

Thursday morning we drive to NJ, pick up my mother, take her to my sister's for Thanksgiving dinner with 25 or so family members and friends. Thursday night we deliver Mum back to her home.

Friday we visit some with Mum.

Saturday we, and a stuffed giraffe, drive to Long Island for a baby naming ceremony. Saturday afternoon we drive home.

The reality:
Wednesday night we do last minute cooking/etc. Also, in the blink of an eye, I manage to spill coral nail polish in a remarkably wide swath on the brand new seafoam green carpet in the family room. We spend hours feverishly trying to remove the polish with limited success.

Thursday we drive to New Jersey and make comments about all the terrible things we are aware of by comparing them to the worst possible thing ever.

Hubby: Wow! Can you believe how badly that Volkswagen cut off that van?
Me: At least he didn't spill nail polish on the new carpet.
Hubby: Yeah, nothing's that bad.

And so it goes.

We arrive at Mum's to find that she is not well. She was in the hospital 10 days earlier and no longer exhibits the symptoms that she went into the hospital for but she is very weak and dizzy and sick. She can't go to my sister's. I stay with Mum and we have a quiet evening. Hubby brings the six food items we cooked/baked/promised to provide for Thanksgiving, plus a few gifts to my sister, stays for the meal, and brings Mum and me leftovers.

An aide comes to spend the night with my mother.

We check into the local budget hotel. Normally they treat us well and upgrade us. Not this time. We get the room we paid for. It is lacking the usual amenities (hair dryer, shampoo, tissues) but does come with a fan in the bathroom that has the tonal pleasantness of Roseanne singing the National Anthem. But without the charm. We discuss that this is not ideal but not as bad as polish on new carpet.

Friday morning I discover there is no plug for the bathtub so I shower instead of bathing. We agree this is inconvenient but nothing in the grand scheme of the horror that is spilling polish on the new carpet.

At 8 am, I speak with my mother. She says she'd like to see us but there's no hurry. I tell her we will visit at 10 am, when the aide is scheduled to leave. At 9:45 we arrive. There is an ambulance and two police cars parked out front and the paramedics have my mother on a stretcher. We are told that she was so weak that her legs buckled under her. The aide caught her before she hit the floor, and called 911.

We follow the ambulance to the hospital.

We spend the day in the Emergency Room. After running a series of tests, all of which elicit the following exchange:

Tech: I'm here to take you for a doppler [or EKG or chest x-ray or...].
Mum, weak and angry: I was here less than two weeks ago and I had a doppler! Don't you have files? Get it from the file.
Tech: We need another one.
Mum: This is ridiculous.
Me: They have to check you out again.

it is determined that the medicine prescribed for the last problem, has created a new problem: her sodium has dropped dangerously low. A few points lower and she might have suffered brain damage, they inform us.

They admit her Friday late afternoon. We send a message to our Long Island cousins explaining what has happened and that we will not be coming to the naming ceremony.

From Friday to Tuesday Mum slowly gets her sodium levels up and a modicum of strength back. We call our bosses and explain that we are staying in NJ. We keep her company in the hospital, helping where we can. It is not easy to stay with her because she keeps getting moved. She is placed in five different locations in five days. I'm not kidding. Five. Once, they move her at 3 am. I've got to tell you, it's unnerving to go to the room where your loved one was only to find either an empty space or a different person. You immediately think "Oh, god, what's happened?!" What happened is they needed the space for someone else so they played musical beds. Again.

Yesterday, Tuesday, Mum is discharged and we deliver her home by early afternoon, arrange for round-the-clock aides until she is stronger, and we, and the stuffed giraffe, head home ourselves.

We arrive home last night.

Hubby: You know you can hardly see that nail polish.
Me: Yeah, it's no big deal.

25 November 2008

"I got more than I could ask for" -- Grand Funk Railroad

You'll probably think less of me (what else is new?) but I hate this time of year. I mean I really hate it.

Yes, I'm thankful. I have a lush life. And I know it's nothing to take for granted. And I have you. Amazing you! It's pretty damn great and I don't mean to underplay it.

And yet... of all the times of the year, this is the worst for me. The light is fading and the temperature is dropping (it's already in the 30s.) And if it's not gonna snow a foot such that work closes for the day and I can stay home, guilt-free, and do, oh, 15 minutes of cross country skiing and spend the rest of the day curled up in front of the fire, what's the point? If I've got to scrape the ice off my windshield and trudge through the bitter cold to earn my living, what's the freakin' point?*

And this is also the time of year when we slog through department stores, online bazaars and catalogues.

Me: *pointing to a Horton* Horton! You think [loved one] would like a Horton?

Him: Would you?

Me: Um, yeah. I think I would.

Him: Okay, get it.

Me: No, it's complete and utter crap.

Him: *pointing* Here's a marshmallow bazooka. It actually fires marshmallows. You think [same loved one] would like that?

Me: I do.

Him: Really?

Me: Yes, but I fear for the dog.

Him: Poor dog.

Me: Poor, poor dog.

And so we continue wandering aimlessly through the nightmare that is holiday gift giving, examining and discarding various items, waiting for inspiration to strike for gifts for loved ones who we should know better than we do. And we buy extra presents for the dog. Poor dog.

It leaves me feeling a little like this:

except with less attractive markings.

This is decidedly different from most of the year when I feel like this:

Oh, sure. When the cat does it, it's cute. When I do it, I have "anger issues."


So, um, I guess this is my lurvly way of saying Happy Thanksgiving.

Wishing you and yours blah-de-blah-blah-blah.

PS Go look at Sean's adorable kitten and remember all that is good in the world.

* Don't just sit there, answer me when I ask you rhetorical questions. [Said a la Napoleon Dynamite:] God!

24 November 2008

"Every breath you take, every move you make..." --The Police/and our waiter

We go to The Bastille, which is north of Old Town, for lunch on Saturday. It is Hubby's pick. He is easily suggestible. In fact, I believe it is because we were meeting friends for French food on Thursday that he thought, hmmm, let's go get some French food this weekend! Never mind that it is a french restaurant named after a jail.

So, we go. (He's buying, I'm going!)

And it is part of Open Table's Appetite Stimulus Plan where you can get lunch for some ridiculously cheap price. I mean CHEAP--three courses for $21. Something like that.

That's if you don't drink. Our bar tab comes to more than our food tab. But that's not what I want to say. And the food is REALLY good. Amazingly good. We will definitely be going back to The Bastille. But that's still not what I want to say.

Something happened there that never happens.

The waiter fixated on me like he was Dennis Miller and I was a string of esoteric references.

Like he was a Jonas Brother and I was awkward, poser hair.

Like he was me overworking a simile.

Here was the moth to my candle--but a really intense moth that felt if he didn't flap his fuzzy wings and bash into my flame he just couldn't exist.

Waiterguy, a tall, attractive, knowledgeable server, barely acknowledged Hubby. It wasn't that he was out and out rude to him. Waiterguy just kept his eyes on me. He addressed all comments to me. Even when Hubby asked a question, Waiterguy addressed his answer to me.

Hubby started talking to Waiterguy about the white Burgundy we were drinking and Waiterguy responded briefly but then he rushed off and grabbed a bottle of it to present to me, as if to say, "Here! Honor this bottle by letting your amazing gaze fall upon it. Ahhh."

He was completely consumed with making sure I was happy (and, really, shouldn't all men be worried about my happiness?) and he even started chatting me up about how I should go to France. That I would love it. Lyon, in particular. How Lyon was fantastic, gastronomically speaking, and less expensive than Paris. Then, he brings over a Wine Spectator, open to an article on Lyon, for me to examine. Waiterguy is practically booking our trip (his and mine.)

When Waiterguy goes off to fetch me more wine:

Hubby: He really likes you, doesn't he?

Me, grinning like a Cheshire: He really does, doesn't he?! It's nice, isn't it?

Hubby: *Hmph*

Me: Oh, like I haven't put up with a hundred waitresses falling all over you. For once, it can be me.

And, it's true. Waitresses love my husband. Maybe it's the puppy dog eyes. Maybe it's the southern accent that honeys up a bit when an attractive waitress is leaning over him. I don't know how many waitresses have completely failed to notice my existence while throwing themselves into the task of making him happy or just blatantly throwing themselves at him.

When the bill comes:

Me: I love this place! And the service is so good! You should tip really well.

Hubby: He's getting enough.

22 November 2008

"No more drama in my life" -- Mary J Blige

Thursday night we meet friends at Montmartre for dinner and the Beaujolais Nouveau release.* These friends have lots of other friends that they invite to join in and it is a fun evening.

Montmartre is a small, modestly attractive bistro within a block of the Eastern Market metro. The service is good, I like everything I taste (and I taste everything that is offered) and the presentation is quite nice, too. I have a surprisingly generous portion of mussels as an appetizer (a big bowl of them for $8.95) and the monkfish with gnocchi for my entree, which has a really lovely, light sauce to set it off.

But the release was a little disappointing, and not because of what Restaurant Refugee had to say about it. I'd never been to a Beau-Nou release before and I don't know what I was expecting. A "release" sounds so momentous. You know, a BIG DEAL. I guess I was expecting something dramatic. Something extraordinary. Something amazing!

Maybe something like the running of the bulls at Pamplona but with wine.

And, okay, no one had said to me "You know, you really ought to experience the Beaujolais Nouveau release, it's like the running of the bulls at Pamplona." I mean, here we are at a French restaurant so where I got the idea that this would be a similar thrill is beyond me. But I did. I thought "This is going to be really astounding!"

Er, no.

At the start of the meal, our hosts ordered wine for the table (quite a bit of wine because there were fifteen of us) and the servers poured it and we drank it and they poured some more and we drank more. The servers weren't even particularly flourishy when they poured the wine.

Don't get me wrong. We had a very nice time. Great people! Tasty food. Okay wine. And it was a great excuse to leave work really early on a Thursday.

But no one got gored. No one got trampled. There were no young, athletic Spaniards flinging themselves about. No blood spilled. Not even wine spilled.

It lacked drama.

* I apologize that I can not provide a link to the restaurant's web-site. I couldn't find it. I hate that. I know it was just a few years ago that if you wanted to find a restaurant you hauled out the yellow pages but I've gotten so spoiled to all things webby and finding exactly what I want regarding restaurant information. Just last night we had the following conversation:

Hubby: We have all these phone books. I thought I might get rid of a few.

Me: Get rid of them all.

We're probably the last people to do so. And how do you get off the distribution list for future phone book deliveries? Do tell! But, meanwhile, back to our story...

21 November 2008

"We have no secrets" -- Carly Simon

[Imagine entertaining and highly appropriate image here.]

It's Friday and the last thing I want to do is work on Friday.* So, for the two of you that are reading, I thought we might try something a little more interactive. I don't need to be the center of attention all the time** and I feel like I've been spilling a lot here lately. So, pull your chair a little closer.

C'mon, closer. Yeah, knee to knee. Nice.

And tell me a little something about you.

What? Suddenly you're shy?

Okay, I'll get you started with an easypeasy poll. All ya gotta do is click on a choice. It's on the sidebar, up there on the right.***

C'mon, share.

* Or any other day.

** Note to self: Good job! That almost sounded sincere.

*** Despite attempts with two different poll sites this morning, I was unable to embed the poll in this post so I put it in the sidebar. See? My brain doesn't even try to engage on Friday.

20 November 2008

"She cried 'More! More! More!'" --Billy Idol

I am not a fan of Zagat, the compiled restaurant review people.

Before I completely trash them, let me say:

  • I like the fact that they provide numerical ratings that reflect averages for restaurants in different areas of consideration (Food, Decor, Service, Cost.)
  • I do always feel better when I see the little Zagat Rated sign in a restaurant window.*

Now the bad:

  • The little number ratings don't give me insight into what people were thinking. Did they rate Decor high because the restaurant was elegant or because it was comfortable and cozy or because the lighting was so low they couldn't really see their ugly Match.com date? If the write up doesn't explore this dimension, I'm SOL.
  • As good as I feel when I see the Zagat Rated sign in a restaurant, I'd feel even better if the little sign told me how the restaurant was rated. Something like Zagat Rated Nummy! or Zagat Rated Not Even on a Bet. That would be, oh, I don't know, useful?
  • But, so much worse, is their "write ups"! I like brevity but this is too brief to be useful. All those snippets from surveys mooshed together feels disjointed.**
  • And with all those quotation marks, I'm always tempted to read them like air quotes, all sarcastic and smutty. Yeah, I'll just bet its VERY SMALL SPACE is augmented by its BIG PATIO OUT BACK. *nudgenudgewinkwink* ***
When something is this cobbled together, it loses context. It's like those one-word movie reviews:

"FASCINATING" --Bob Mediabuzz, The Herald Tribune Sentinel

"HYSTERICAL!" --Jane Snoot, NeverHeardofItMovieReview.com

How do I know that the full quotes weren't:

"The acting was so bad it was fascinating to see how wooden Nicole Kidman could be."--Bob Mediabuzz

"This movie was so insultingly unfunny, leaving after five minutes was the only thing that kept me from getting hysterical!" --Jane Snoot

So in closing...

Zagat is big on the "not so much", provides a "generous dollop" of "insufficent detail"; its "helpful numbers are the bomb" and combined with its "quotaliciousness" suggest more than is "actually" there; "fascinating"!

* Not as good as when I find a golden ticket in a candy bar but, still, strangely, good.

** I bought a cream for painful snippet mooshing but it didn't help. Dammit! Now it's all welty, and not in the Eudora way.

*** Okay, maybe I'm the only 8-year-old that reads it that way.

19 November 2008

"If we could talk to the animals, learn their languages" --Dr. Doolittle*

[She's got Bette Davis eyes.]

We need a baby gift and we wind up buying a stuffed animal. A giraffe. It's very cute. Plus, not scary at all. You never see an Animal Planet special entitled "When Giraffes Attack!", "Killer Giraffe!" or "When Good Giraffes Go Bad". There's never a "Giraffe Week" on Discovery Channel.

Well, I've never seen it. But I don't watch a lot of nature shows.

Plus, I've never had a giraffe hit me up for money, eat the last piece of the cheesecake, or call me "Doodoohead".** I'm sure I've never seen a giraffe in a wife-beater getting kneed in the back on Cops.

* There are no giraffe songs. Not one. Well, none that I could think of in the 10 seconds I thought about it. So, yeah. None. I guess 'cause nothing rhymes with giraffe. There's shark songs ("Oh, the shark bites, with its teeth, dear..."). That seems unfair. Can we get a government grant to study this, stat?

** They might have been thinking it but they didn't say it.

18 November 2008

"If you could read my mind, love"-- Gordon Lightfoot

I've been thinking lately about writing about my time at Omega. There's so many stories. Not funny stories but life isn't all laughs, people. Okay, it certainly should be, but maybe you can give me a pass today.

Reya's post about being psychic has egged me on. Reya has certainly demonstrated her abilities and it's pretty cool. That said, I think everyone has the ability to be psychic. I think most of us move at too fast a pace most of the time to register all the things we know at that level.

Years ago, for about six summers, I visited Omega. It's not for everyone. It's basically summer camp for adults and it's pretty earthycrunchy. Often people go there when they are in transition--they've finished one chapter of their lives but they aren't sure what the next chapter should be. It's the perfect place for that.

I found that the more I was at Omega, the more I knew on a psychic level, because you slow down there (simple schedule, minimal commitments, no TV, no computer, no cell phone signal) and you are literally in touch with the earth (you walk everywhere and you're in buildings with screens so when the birds sing you hear it and when the humidity goes up you feel it.) Weird little things would happen on a pretty regular basis.

A very simple example...

The dining hall is where 500-700 people at a time come to eat three times a day.* It's centrally located on the 80 acre campus so you're likely to pass it even when you aren't going for a meal. One night, I finished my dinner early and took off out the front door to head to the bookstore to peruse the shelves.

As I was leaving the dining hall, which was basically a HUGE screened-in cabin, I had this image flash in my brain of all the people in the dining hall singing, like in a beer hall during Octoberfest. It seemed to me an odd thing to pop into my brain. The dining hall was still crowded with people. They weren't singing, they were talking.** I'd never heard singing in the dining hall.

Half an hour later, I am heading back from the bookstore en route to my tent, and I pass the dining hall and there is singing coming from inside. Lots of people joined in song.

This kind of stuff happens all the freakin' time at Omega. Often at a more profound level. I like it. It's like suddenly spotting a deer in the trees. The deer's clearly been there but now you're seeing it. A little freaky but nice.

On a related tangent, I like Christina Baldwin's "The Seven Whispers":

  • Maintain peace of mind
  • Move at the pace of guidance
  • Practice certainty of purpose
  • Surrender to surprise
  • Ask for what you need and offer what you can
  • Love the folks in front of you
  • Return to the world
Move at the pace of guidance. I take that as: slow down and really see what there is to see/know what there is to know.

P.S. Okay, you read through it even though I told you in wouldn't be funny. So, here's something that amused me, maybe it will amuse you, too. When I mentioned to my mother that I would be staying in a tent for one of my trips to Omega, she was concerned. The conversation went something like this:

Mum: You're gong to sleep in a tent?

Me: Yes.

Mum: Alone?

Me: Yes. I'll be alone in the tent but I'll be in a campground area so there'll be other people camping there, too.

Mum: Do you have a lock?

Me: A lock?

Mum: For the tent. So people can't get in while you sleep.

Me: These are very cool people. I'll be fine.

Mum: *making worried sounds*

Me: They have security patrols there.

Mum: *still making worried sounds*

Me: I'll take a lock.

Mum: Good!

I saw no point in explaining to her that the tent was fabric and if someone really wanted in, they could just cut through a tent wall. Mum is so sweet.

* I know this number because I always signed up to work when I was at Omega (like in Dirty Dancing the most interesting stuff is going on behind the scenes) and I spent one of my work details doing dinner prep (lots of chopping) in the dining hall. Most exhausting job I ever had. But I learned a lot that I've used since (use sharp, good quality knives; clean up your station between events; keep the trash bin accessible while you work; don't stop to ask why--just clean it up; try to leave things better than you found them; etc.)

** With that many people talking at once, it becomes this wash of white noise: "wallawallawallawallawalla..."

17 November 2008

"Here it goes, here it goes, here it goes, again" --OK Go

[OK Go demonstrating proper treadmill avoidance technique.]

You are a bad influence. Yes, you are. Stop smirking.

I had a day off and nothing I had to do and my car was in the shop for an oil change so I couldn't even go anywhere. I thinks to myself, I thinks "Hey, this will be a great day to get on that treadmill and get some running in!"*

I present to you: My Day Off

8:05 Open eyes. It's sunny! Look at that!

8:06-8:30 Morning ablutions.

8:31 Great day to exercise! This is going to be wonderful! I'll just do a quick log in and see if anyone has sent me any messages or commented on my blog and then right to it!

11:30 Well, I seem to be caught up on my Google Reader. Jeez, it's late. Hm... I'm starting to get hungry. NO! Exercise before you eat so your "after" weight will be lower. Oh, look, Lbluca77 just updated her blog...

11:50 I should exercise. Hm, maybe I've been neglecting Hubby. Call Hubby at work. Ask what he's doing. He's clearly busy. I dawdle. He asks if he can call me later. Whatever.

11:52 Hm. Guess I have to exercise. Wow, look! The hamper is almost full. My favorite jeans are in the hamper. I might want to wear those. I might as well start a load of laundry. That won't take long and it can be going while I'm running.

12:00 Look at all this stuff. I should really clean up around here. Hey, look at all the updates on the Reader...

12:55-1:03 Hubby calls to ask what I wanted earlier. I've got nothing. He's gotta go to a meeting. I dawdle. He's now late for his meeting. I dawdle. He hangs up. Whatever.

1:04 Ooo, I've got an idea for a post! I'll just sketch it out real quick...

2:40 Gotta go to the bathroom.** How come I still have to go even though I haven't eaten anything yet? Stupid.

2:45 Oh, yeah, laundry! Guess I better do a load switch...

2:55 Biggest Loser is on tonight. I'd so be voted off for not exercising. Jillian would so be in my face. I am the Biggest Loser but, you know, if it had a bad connotation. Jeez, Jillian is so freakin' buff. So is Bob. They're like crazy in shape. Wonder if Jillian has a web-site...

3:30 Briefly consider buying Jillian's exercise DVD. Laugh at myself. Wonder if Rs27 has posted yet... He has!

4:30 Man, it's already starting to get dark outside. That sucks. I hate this time of year. Guess I should start to work a dinner plan...

Okay, it wasn't quite that bad. I did get on the treadmill around 1:00 and I managed to run a measly mile and a half. I'm not exactly proud of it.

I blame you. You really need a lot of attention, don't you?

* Don't be impressed. I do half-mile intervals and not even a lot of those these days. It's mainly to keep the grilled cheese love handles in check.

** I am not your typical woman.*** I can go for many hours, sometimes all day, without feeling an urgent need to go. I'm just not needy like that. I feel like it balances out all the ridiculously needy things I do in other areas of my life. Yes, it does. Yes. It does.

*** But you knew that, didn't you?