Thursday, November 29, 2007

Random Thoughts Concerning the News

In the Future, Even Wires are Wireless
So Amazon recently unveiled the Kindle, which the company is describing as a "wireless reading device."

While I certainly see the merits of this new contraption, I would like to take this moment to remind everyone that books — or "reading devices," if you will — are wireless, too.

Sometimes You Gotta Let the Story Speak for Itself
So I've been getting really irritated with NPR lately, as the last few broadcasts I've heard have had obvious editorial undertones despite being presented as actual "news." Even though I generally agreed with those undertones, the news — in my perfect world — is never slanted. It's presented "as is," regardless of the opinion of the reporter and his/her employer. This goes double for you, Fox News.

Anyway. I first noticed this story yesterday and was amused to find it completely devoid of a slant. It tells the story, has quotes supporting both sides, and ends.

It's written like that for obvious reasons.

Time to Make the Donuts
I wish I could take credit for the below image, but I can't. It was sent to me via e-mail without credit to the photographer.

Go ahead.


It's OK to have a sense of humor.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Come Like Shadows

So depart.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Enchanted (Movie Review)

I like my family and all but, man, do I ever get bored on some visits home.

There's a natural tendency to want to get in quality time with friends and family while I'm there, but my parents don't always make that easy. They sit in separate rooms watching different shows on different TVs and it's difficult to get them to go, well... anywhere.

So, yeah, I caught up on some reading while I was home. But I get restless, and two friends — whose visits seldom coincide with mine — happened to also be there this Thanksgiving and so essentially spared me my sanity.

But I was nevertheless determined to cut my trip short and head back a day early when my brother informed me I'd be watching my five-year-old nephew for the night.

About an hour into the evening, I realized I can only play "cowboys" for, well... about an hour. So I offered to take him to a movie, and he eagerly accepted. The nearest theater (20 miles away) is about 50 years old and only has two screens: so it was down to Fred Claus and Enchanted. He chose Enchanted.

And he seemed to be enjoying it, too, until he turned to me grumpily — at precisely 8 p.m. — and said, "Is it 8 o'clock yet?"

Turns out 8 p.m. is his bed-time, something I didn't find out until later.

Man, I'm a bad aunt. The movie wasn't over until 9.

The good news is he enjoyed the film enough to stay awake for its entirety. And I enjoyed it enough to find it mildly amusing. My mother — I talked her into joining us — was even more entertained than I was.

So here's the scoop on Enchanted (2006): it's a modern twist on old fairy tales. Essentially, a cartoon princess is sent to "reality" by the wicked stepmother of her Prince Charming ("No," she corrects someone when they refer to her fiance as such, "His name's Price Edward"). She emerges in-the-flesh from the New York City underground and is very much so lost until a divorce attorney's daughter takes pity on her.

And so begins the convergence of reality and fantasy, with the two slowly (though blatantly) mixing until one becomes the other and all variety of roles become reversed. The end result was a little too obvious for my tastes, but this is a PG film intended specifically for kids, after all.

But on that note, it was also a bit too long and could've benefited from some editing.

Otherwise, a decent film that's as good for cynical, curmudgeonly adults (that'd be me) as it is for charming little kids that are generally all smiles until bed time rolls around.

Did I mention my nephew's an amazing kid? Really is. More on that later.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Sorry About Last Night Urchin

The title of this post has nothing to do with this post.*

Rather, it was the subject line of some spam I received today, and it amused me enough that I felt compelled to share.

And now for something completely different.

Ever since I moved into my most recent apartment — in my "series" of apartments — flushing the toilet has been anything but simple.

You have to hold the handle for 5-10 seconds in order for it to flush properly. And even then, there's no guarantee everything'll go down.

A couple months ago, the handle stopped working altogether, and when I peered into the tank it looked like there was a "string" connecting the handle to the flush valve, where normally there is a chain.

The "string" appeared to be broken.

So I called my landlady, hoping that when the "string" was replaced, I'd no longer have to "hold the handle" in order to flush.

Because, contrary to popular belief, I *do* have more important things to do with my time. Like brushing my cat's hair, counting the number of pink bears in my Beanie Baby collection, and writing boring blog posts about toilets.

And wouldn't you know it, not only did I still need to hold the handle, but after the "string" was replaced in addition to holding the handle, the water would henceforth keep running unless I jiggled the handle 2-3 minutes after the flushing was complete?

Call me crazy, but I don't think flushing a toilet should be so complicated.

But I dealt with it all the same, my frustration culminating in embarrassment when a couple friends visited two weeks ago, and the "string" again broke around 1 a.m. Sunday morning. I informed my friends, recommending they "hold it in" until we could find someplace to go (literally) in the morning.

I woke up around 7 to the sound of someone jiggling the handle and removing the tank lid.

"I fixed your toilet," one of my friends boasted in lieu of good morning.

"Awesome! You're quite the plumber," I continued, adding the requisite joke involving plumbers and crack.

She further informed me that the "string" (more observant readers have likely detected the annoying presence of quotation marks in this post) was actually a rusted old wire that was broken into two pieces that hooked into each other.

In short: she had hooked them back together (which is most likely all my landlady did in the first place, and most likely what she'd do if I called her again).

And I hoped that'd work. Hoped the fix would at least carry me through a couple more months.

But it hardly lasted the day. In fact, I'd estimate in the last week, I've "repaired" my toilet more than a dozen times — and I was out of town for three days. A couple of times, even, I got out my gloves and my pliers and set about to reconfigure the "hooks" altogether so they'd be less likely to slip loose from one another.

And each time: that'd work for about 24 hours before a piece of metal would break off, turning one of the hooks into a straight (and now shorter) wire.

And, yes, each time I'd STILL need to hold the handle and I'd STILL need to jiggle it afterwards to keep the water from running.

But last night I got out the gloves and the pliers again. And I "fixed" it. Again.

And now for the first time since I moved in, I neither have to hold nor jiggle the handle.

AND it flushes.

I doubt this porcelain bliss will last long — the wire is bound to break off again eventually, thereby unhooking the makeshift mechanism and flooding my bathroom floors anew.

So, Santa, if you're listening:

I'd like a new flush valve and all the necessary accompanying parts for Christmas. And maybe someone to install it for me correctly, too.

And don't tell me there are people out there without indoor plumbing who'd LOVE to be in my situation. I know it, and I feel badly for them.

But I don't pay what I pay in rent so I can count to ten every time I flush my freakin' toilet, then jiggle the handle, and then remove the tank lid for repairs 2-3 times a day.

Thank you.

*Alternative Titles for This Post
Potty Mouth
Flushed from the Bathroom of God's Heart
God Hates Me and My Toilet
I'll Get You, My Potty!

Are You There God? It's Me, Flushing.
It's My Potty and I'll Cry If I Want To
It's My Potty and I'll Flush If I Want To

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Friends in High Places

They say you can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep.

I sure hope that's true, 'cause my friends are HOT.

....Or maybe I'm the "ugly" friend? I've heard every group has one of those, too.

Uh oh.

In any event: thanks for visiting, kids. I know it's a long haul, but hopefully it won't be another 2-3 years before I get you back here.

What are you doing next weekend?

Just kidding.

Sort of.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lars and the Real Girl (Movie Review)

What most bothers me about Lars and the Real Girl (2007) is that everyone refers to it as a "comedy" when, in fact, its humor derives almost entirely from the audience's discomfort with the subject matter.

In which case, yes, it is funny in parts. And yet, others, I'd wriggle a bit in my seat when the rest of the audience was laughing. And all of this because director Craig Gillepsie has complicated our perception of human tragedy (drama) by masking it with a ridiculous — though not entirely implausible — concept (comedy).

In short: Lars, well-played by Ryan Gosling (who could serve as a David Arquette double with his Lars-sytle 'stache), is a man in his late 20s/early 30s who keeps almost entirely to himself. He lives in the garage behind his brother and sister-in-laws home; both treat him well and are clearly fond of Lars, hermit that he is.

And though Lars seems capable of semi-normal human interaction, it's clear that he's on the verge of a breakdown — particularly after he orders a life-sized, anatomically correct "Real Girl" doll and passes her off as his girlfriend.

For a brief interval there, I thought Lars was being intentionally sarcastic — rebelling against all of the charges that he find a girlfriend, get married, etc. And so for about 10 minutes, I struggled rather substantially with his character (not to mention, the film as a whole).

But it soon becomes clear that Lars truly believe this "doll" is real. He's delusional, suffering from a mental disorder that clearly has roots in his family history.

The end result is touching, awkward, heartbreaking, and yet: downright sweet.

But the film's humor often requires we laugh at Lars, and the absurdity of his crush. And I had a difficult time laughing at Lars. Kind of like how when Estragon is struggling to pull off his boot at the beginning of Waiting for Godot, I recognize the humor and yet don't laugh along with the audience; rather, I feel a little sick... a little weak in the knees.

Which isn't to say I don't appreciate the way Gillepsie comedicized a tragic element of human existence by thrusting the absurd onto the screen. Because I do.

But then again, you're reading the blog of a girl who fell in love with the Theatre of the Absurd long before she learned the expression.


Monday, November 19, 2007

You Can't Spell 'Bad Karma' without 'Kar'

So, listen, there's nothing particularly special about me.

I've not saved any lives (that I know of), given three years of my life to the Peace Corps (though I've seriously considered it), or operated an animal shelter out of my apartment (Maude notwithstanding).

But I do try to be a generally, inconspicuously "nice" person. I don't push people in line, wave my middle finger at drivers who cut me off, gossip about co-workers, or yell at telemarketers. But I will loan out my cell phone to people in distress; return lost animals to their home; pull over to help when I witness an accident; donate when charities send me things I didn't want or need; give up my seat on the train; etc.

I mean, I try to treat people as I'd like to be treated. And though I'm anything but perfect, I'd wager that — more often than not — I succeed in my efforts.

And, I swear, I don't expect anything back in return. Nothing at all.

It'd just be nice if, maybe from time to time, karma could remove its very large knife from my severely scarred (and increasingly spineless) back.

I mean, I've started recycling everything again (I did this before I moved here, but only recently figured out how the recycling system worked in this city). I now use reusable shopping bags when I don't need plastic ones; and most recently I started volunteering at a tutoring center that primarily assists inner city kids.

But would you like to know what happened the first night I tutored there?




Any guesses?




If you went with, "I bet someone hit her (new) car and didn't leave a note" — you win!

They left their paint on my car; took some of mine; and left a nice dent where the front bumper meets the side panel.

The best part: I was in a parking garage in which half of the spaces were open. So these people don't even have the excuse of "tapping" my car while trying to maneuver into a tight spot. Only thing that could've happened was the result of complete and total carelessness. Changing the dial on their radio while pulling out, looking down to check cell phone messages, etc.

In any event, this is the fourth time my car has been hit — and no note left — in the four months I've had it.

At this rate, I'll be lucky if it's still running in a year.

Now before you lecture me on the general state of world affairs, you should know that I realize there are people out there who have it far worse. People who face seriously difficult circumstances every day of their lives. People who would think that, by comparison, I've lived a fairly privileged life.

And, in many ways, I have.

But I'm also a big believer that if we all treated one another a bit better, the general cosmic vibe would improve substantially, making life better all around.

So, please, Karma — if you're listening — tell me what I need to do to make things suck a little less.

Thank you.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Squeaky Wheel Stays Home and Blogs

So a friend was testing out the (cheap) Sears brand elliptical machine in my living room, which squeaks a fair deal. So much so, in fact, that even with the sound muffling mat I've tucked underneath, I'm hyper-paranoid that I disturb my neighbors whenever I use it to exercise.

Friend [noting the squeaks]: "Wow. I bet your neighbors think you get a lot more action than you really do."

Me [pausing]: I was worried about the noise in general, but I've never thought about that.

[Awkward silence.]

Me: Sigh.




[End Scene.]

Friday, November 16, 2007

Pushed (To the Periphery)

The start of every day is eerily similar to the last.

My alarm goes off with grand intentions, and I hit the snooze every 9 minutes for an hour or so until I have no choice but to crawl out of bed and let the day begin.

And yet: in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that in terms of restful sleep... there's hardly any difference between one day and the last.

What varies, though, is the "or so" referenced above. The amount of time I snooze, which thus determines how quickly I need to scramble to get ready for work... and thus the hour at which I hop into my car and begin my commute.

And this, in turn, can result in a small but significant change in the rest of my day.

You see, though my morning schedule varies as much as 40 minutes on any given day, the world around me seems to keep pace with a far more reliable clock.

If I leave on time, my neighborhood is all but silent. If I leave a few minutes late, parents are dropping off children at a nearby school, their vehicles sometimes blocking me in. After that, a group of kids have gathered outside of school, waiting for a bus to arrive and take them elsewhere.

And if I leave later than that, a guy in an overcoat sometimes nods a hello as he rounds the corner and makes his way to the train (or so I imagine his path leads).

The people out walking their dogs change. The joggers change, everyone keeping rhythm to a clock that seems somehow to defy me.

And so begins my day.

But there's this boy.

There's this boy, and whenever I see him my day belongs to someone else — to him — and I fear that he may never see.
The first time I saw him, he was walking down the sidewalk alone, pale white legs scrawny in spite of the overstuffed book bag that had him hunched at the shoulders.

He kept his eyes down; whether because of the world weighing on his mind — or the pounds of books in his pack — I couldn't immediately determine.

In any event, he kept walking on to school, eyes down. Shoulders hunched. And always on his face there was that indiscernible look of a child going to a place they'd rather not.

He approached the swarm of classmates that had beat him to school. They talked to each other over and around him, his arrival met with no "hello's" or "how are you's."

No one even looked at him.
I've seen him a few times since then, and always it's the same thing: whether I see him approaching school, or he's already there amongst them, or he's just walking up...

It's the same overstuffed backpack. The same gait. And always — always! — that same, heartbreaking look upon his face.
Today, I am sorry to report, was no different.

Except for this:

A mountain of leaves had been swept into a pile along the sidewalk, no doubt in preparation for the crews making their rounds around the city. Kids were laughing and kicking at the pile, imitating the act of jumping into them. Leaves were breaking loose from the pile, scattering despite some laborers hard work.

And there, feet upon feet away from his classmates, was the boy.

Standing in the street, between two parked cars. His back turned to the excitement, his face tilted up just enough for me to realize, for the first time, that he has a faint hint of freckles.

He's waiting for the day to be over, I thought. He's waiting for it to be over, and it hasn't even begun.

He scarcely moved as cars buzzed past. Scarcely moved and yet: it was much to my relief that he didn't. I was half-afraid he'd take one step forward — whether by intention or oversight — whenever a vehicle approached.
He's a clean kid with simple (but otherwise good) looks. A little on the thin side, but not unhealthily so. And though his clothes aren't exactly the cutting edge of fashion, it's easy enough to discern that someone at home is taking decent care of him.

But why, then, does no one see him? Why is his backpack so full, when the others scarcely have a notebook to their name? And why, for the love of God, does no one talk to him?

I wonder if his parents talk to him. I wonder if his teachers talk to him. And I wonder what's better: endless taunting by schoolyard bullies, or finding yourself surrounded by names and faces and voices that refuse — always — to acknowledge you exist.
Despite my hermetic and anti-social tendencies (coupled with my class clown persona), I was lucky enough to always have friends. To never really be the subject of scarring ridicule (siblings notwithstanding), even as I shrunk away from the crowd and retreated to my books.

And yet: whenever I see this boy, I cannot help but think it should come as no surprise that I most identify with him.

That of the hoards of kids that regularly gather there, his is the only face I remember.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

In Many Ways the Fall Was Over Before Autumn Began

Photo taken August 26, 2007

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Simple Life

When it comes to fashion, I've long touted my tastes as simple at best, innocuous at worst.

I like earthy colors: shades of brown and pale blues. Deep red and burnt orange. I prefer comfort a million times over style, the clearance rack over the hottest runway releases.

I'm a tomboy just as comfortable in camouflage khakis and sandblasted jeans as I am in the peasant skirts and sun dresses more commonly aligned with the least conspicuous nouveau hippie.

I prefer homemade jewelry, little faux pearls and small silver hoops over anything you'd find at Tiffany's, and I think diamonds rings are an egregious waste of money.

And if you're going to make me go shopping, please... let's go to REI or a bookstore or World Market or maybe — if we really must shop for clothes, let's keep it quick.

Because, well, life is short and my tastes are simple.

Or so I've long foolishly and falsely claimed.

For whatever reason, I've done an unhealthy amount of shopping in my past couple weeks. New dress shoes to replace the ones with holes in them. New, longer skirts in preparation for the coming winter. New sock monkey house slippers because we all should have a pair. Et cetera.

And what this has all revealed to me, above all other things, is that shopping for simple styles is anything but simple.

Example: a few months ago I spied a pair of Born boots at a department store going out of business. They were exactly what I'd been looking for: they'd fit as nicely under a long, flowing skirt as they would something shorter and plaid. No heel. No bells and whistles. No flair. Just simple, basic, built to last and originally priced way beyond my means.

But it was a clearance sale, after all, and for the low, low price of $40 I could've owned dream boots that were originally marked for significantly more than that.

The problem, of course, is that my size 8 1/2 foot is among the most popular. And so, naturally, they didn't have my size in stock.

Tuesday I went out in search of anything that resembled those Borns. And, naturally, I was sorely disappointed.

Recent searches online have proven to be equally fruitless. No one has my size. And the only other boots I even sorta like aren't on sale.

Also Tuesday night, I found the skirt I was looking for: a natural, creamy white with soft folds at the bottom, thick material to keep me warm, and — above all other things — it fit like a dream. Add to that it was on the clearance rack — and all around me people were shouting ecstatically when they realized their cargo was significantly less than what the price tag read — and I foolishly allowed myself to hope that a genuine bargain was in my clutches.

I ran it over to a price scanner, shoved the bar code under the glowing red eye, and stood a little dismayed to realize the price was exactly what the tag read: $140, marked down to $101.

Sure, it was "on sale." But it was on the clearance rack, for crying out loud. Those things are supposed to ring up for even less than the lowest marked price.

I mean, I'm a writer and writers, as you all likely know, aren't exactly beacons of wealth. So I marched the skirt back over to the "clearance" rack and returned it to its home among the other Ralph Laurens.

Because I knew I could easily buy 2-4 "decent" skirts for that price.

And I insist on being a sensible shopper.
But, let's be honest.

I'm being anything but sensible. Dropping way too much cash on new work clothes, even if I do need them. Replacing my Payless no-name MaryJanes with (admittedly much more comfortable) Merrells. Going to the mall before (or after) I go to the gym all the while still making it clear to anyone and everyone that I absolutely despise shopping.

And I know what you're thinking. And, no, my mama didn't raise no fool.

I know precisely what this is about.

Because no matter how desperately I want for things to be simple...

They seldom are.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Honor System

You won't find this in the city: a vegetable stand where you take what you want and leave your money in a jar.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

No Exit

The city doesn't always sound so ugly; so busy. You just have to know where to look, and when.

Like jogging along side streets late in the evening, when lamp posts have gone about their work of casting shadows (oak, maple, etc.) against brick buildings.

I wonder sometimes when I'm fighting the urge to stop and observe further -- which would subsequently interrupt my jog -- if it's normal to marvel at these things. If it's normal to chuckle every time I see a "Speed Hump" sign. If it's normal to sometimes be so in awe of a tree's reflection that I can barely keep pace with my own shadow.

I sometimes worry, nauseous, that I'm on the verge of a sensory overload: like when I stop dead in my tracks and pause to listen to everything. To soak in the image of yellow leaves with a blue-gray sky behind them. Or as with tonight:

To clench my fists and rest my head upon them. To sit on a city bench and just wait -- hope -- that I'd fall asleep.

Wake up.

And find that days upon days had passed.

November's Rent

She followed close behind him, the floor boards creaking as they made their way down the stairs of her apartment.

"I have meetings all day today," he said, mitigating the seriousness of their conversation. "Not looking forward to that at all."

She nodded, stopping to gaze out of the front door as he opened it.

"What's the matter?" he asked. "Why are you looking like that?"

She was struck, suddenly and painfully, by the obvious:

Time is passing.

"It snowed," she said. "It snowed, and it's only November."

They looked at each other — and then away — and continued walking in silence, arms interlocked and feet kicking up bits of white dust. Elsewhere along the road, the remnants of an interrupted autumn dangled from the occasional limb.

"See you later?" he said, opening her car door.

"Yeah," she said, staring at the ground and clearing a circle with her feet.

She looked up.

"See you later."

She climbed in around him, started (and stopped) to kiss his cheek, and drove away.