30 November 2005

boy with brain

I got my hair cut this afternoon, and I have to say I'm giving tattoo guy the thumbs up. I think he's actually the first guy to ever have cut my hair; he was a welcomed change after my last cut.

As I explained how much I wanted cut off, he made suggestions based on looking at me while still being willing to take my instructions literally later if that's what I preferred. I always appreciate a hairdresser with the skill to look at someone and suggest what would work best for that individual. As soon as he'd done that, I knew I was in good hands.

His forearms were largely covered by tattoos, but his ink was diffused by his body hair. Hairy tattoos were not something I'd ever really considered. I wondered if he'd had to shave before he got them.

A few minutes of snips later, he said, "Perfect," and handed me a mirror so I could look at the back. He was right. It was short but with no sign of neck hair. Then he checked with me to make sure it was as short as I wanted, a step many discount stylists ignore. Bravo, tattoo guy, bravo.

29 November 2005

radio frontier

I'm loving this.

tip worth the time...

If you hate customer service lines with "Interactive Voice Response" (IVR) as much as I do, this cheat sheet is worth checking out. It lists quick steps for bypassing automated systems so you can talk to an actual person for many different companies.

Thanks to Mighty Girl for the link.

27 November 2005

10 Years Ago: Old Age and Permanent Ways

On our way to Virginia we stopped at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania- mushroom capitol of the world. As we walked through the gardens, Mom pointed out the overwhelming fragrance of boxwood. I recognized the smell immediately even though I hadn't been home in over two years: my parent's home, that is, or rather the town in which they both grew up. Boxwood exudes the scent surrounding the house my uncle and grandmother live in.

My uncle pulls his wheelchair out of the way as we enter. Dad and I shake hands with him, and Mom leans over the chair to give him a hug. Then we each loudly announce our presence to Grandma as we lean over the reclining easy chair. I squelch my instinct to cringe and flee as her bony fingers pull me closer to her milky eyes, so she can kiss me on the cheek.

"How you doin', Lisa?" my grandmother inquires.

"That's Claire, Mama," my Dad corrects. He needn't have bothered, I've gotten used to it.

"Oh that's right, how you doin', Clara?"

Not since I was born have my parents been able to convince her that my name is Claire. My mother's mother told my parents they could call me anything but Clara, so they altered it to Claire (for which I am truly grateful). However, my other grandmother never grasped this distinction, and never will, so I ignore it amicably.

"Fine," I holler hoping the inquiries will cease.

"You still in school?" she asks.

I sigh and turn back to her as I take my seat on the sofa. "I just graduated."

"You graduated?"

"Yes, Grandma."

"You gonna go to college?"

Looks like I've drawn the short stick on this occasion. I respond, "I just graduated from college."

"That's real good. What you gonna do now? Be a teacher?"

It's still early in the visit so I know there's no help yet to be had. For my uncle's benefit more than for Grandma's I try to explain. "No. I'm either going to graduate school. . ."

"What's that?" she asks tilting her ear toward me to hear better.

I'm not even sure she knows what graduate school is, but I try again louder and enunciating more. "I'm either going to graduate school, or I'm going to get a job."

"That's good I reckon."

Finally there is a pause, I relax and lean back trying to blend into the wall. But then she begins again, "Lisa, how's your Mama doin'?"

Dad explains, "She passed away, Mama."

"Oh that's right. I keep forgetting that. How's your Daddy doin'?"

"He's fine. He still gets around pretty good," my Mom offers.

"Clara, you still going to school?" Grandma asks.

Anticipating her next inquiry I respond, "I just graduated from college."

"What you gonna do now?"

"Either go to graduate school or get a job."

"What's that?"

I decide to try a simpler approach. "Make movies."

"That seems like a good thing to get into."

"Yeah, I like it."

"Yeah, I think you'd like it, too."

"I do like it."

"How's your Mama doin'?" Grandma asks me. I look over to Mom who is sitting in the chair next to Grandma.

"I'm fine." Mom interjects.

"Oh you're here, Lisa. My eyesight's not so good anymore. How's your Mama doin'?"

When I look at Mom I think she's almost gotten used to it, but her face betrays the hurt. If there was one thing I could make my grandmother remember it is that my other grandmother died two years ago. It'd be nice if she knew my name was Claire, but that would be pushing my luck.

"She died," my Mom states gently.

"Oh that's right. I keep forgetting that." Grandma responds oblivious to the discomfort she has caused.

"That just doesn't stick in your mind," Dad comments.

"Yeah, I don't know why," Grandma says. We all sit for a moment in silence. "You going to college, Clara?"

26 November 2005

No good for me, but...

I know at least a couple folks who happen by are in the DC area, so I thought I'd mention this blogger gathering next week in case you hadn't seen it. If you go, by all means post about it so I can enjoy it vicariously.

More haiku- it is addictive

I need more to read,
but it is still snowing here.
Please melt tomorrow.

24 November 2005

Thanksgiving haiku

Partake in some holiday inspired amusement at my friend Cathy's blog.

Feel free to submit
your own haiku if you wish
in Cathy's comments.

Dad is shoveling
while Mom is throwing snowballs
up at my window.

In reply, I stuck
out my tongue and waved at her.
It looks cold outside.

You are, of course, welcome to leave Thanksgiving haiku here as well.

Breakfast of champions!

We just finished thanksgiving dinner a while ago. My family's traditional spread is still my favorite: mashed potatoes, brown gravy, stuffing and dressing, sweet gherkins, bread and butter pickles, olives, cranberry sauce, brown 'n' serve rolls, peas, turkey, curried fruit, pumpkin pie, and sweet potatoes. Other people seem to douse everything in garlic.

The leaf-barren trees are all outlined with snow, and the sky is reversed: muted pale blue clouds broken by white patches of sky.

If my niece were here, I'd bet we'd be playing in the snow right now.

23 November 2005

Chip, chip, chip

The single tone air raid siren sounded too early this morning only to be quelled by even louder intermittent gear grinding.

The tree men were back with their chipper.

21 November 2005


I would love to have the job these guys have.


Don't forget to pick up some 3-D glasses in today's TV guide if you're going to watch tonight's Medium.

Life with chainsaws

The tree men are back today, dare I say vengefully attacking the trees next door. Early this morning the loud buzz began with one saw cutting downed trunk sections into manageable rounds. Finishing up the job, I presumed. Then there were two saws relentlessly grinding and revving.

I just helped Dad move the picnic table into the shed for winter and was greatly dismayed to see three tree men next door. One was at the top of a tree, now free of branches, sawing a ten foot section of trunk off while the two guys on the ground pulled a rope to control the direction of the fall. There are two other trees in this interim stage of removal which means days more of chainsaws.

And now they seem to be gone for the day which means this will all get dragged out even further.

Well, that was interesting. There was a knock on the backdoor, which being an unusual thing I went down to investigate. I should really commit Larry's face to memory because I never immediately recognize him. He's the old dude from next door who's having all the damn trees cut down.

He needed to borrow the phone since he had his phone line taken down for some of the tree removal. The maintenance guy who took it down this morning said he would rehook it this afternoon, but now it may take until Wednesday. I'm not feeling too sympathetic except that I don't want to provide interim phone service for him. It turns out the tree guys left because the power company never showed up to lower their line today, so Larry had to call and make sure they weren't coming later.

The only good news is that he said the tree guys weren't coming back until later in the week, so maybe I won't wake up to chainsaws tomorrow. Rrrarrhhh.

20 November 2005

It wasn't in there

I liked Jitterbug Perfume which I read a few years ago, but Still Life With Woodpecker was off for me from nearly the beginning. Actually my opinion of it was doomed from even before I lifted it from the bottom shelf at the library because I was expecting a sequence of four words it didn't contain.

During my second year at grad school, I TA'd the first years' Cinematography II class. To help them prepare for their upcoming shoots, I had them set up their most difficult shots during class. Because the group was small and the point was to give them more experience, I was stuck acting out the scenes.

For this particular shot, another person was needed in front of the camera. It ended up being Jim because everyone else was engaged: operating the camera, pulling focus, pushing the dolly, or walking with a bounce card.

I reread the script page and shot notes. My character would sit in a chair facing forward as the camera pushed in to a medium close-up. Jim would lean his face into frame perpendicular to mine, I would turn to face him, and he would say, "Stay here with me." Except when we tried it, and I looked at him some few inches away, he couldn't get the words out.


They set up the shot again. In film, timing is often everything. This time, he sputtered the words out but couldn't keep eye contact with me. I felt badly because I was obviously making Jim nervous. It wouldn't be the first time I found out I'd unintentionally intimidated someone.

The focus was off, and the bounce card had edged into the shot, so they set up again for another take. From behind the camera, Matt pointed out that we were supposed to kiss after Jim said the line.

I protested with the most obvious excuse that came to mind, "He's engaged."

With a big smirk, Matt replied, "Not anymore."

All of Jim's classmates watched me curiously. For a fleeting paranoid moment, I suspected they all knew something I didn't, but I was more concerned about getting out of the kiss. I didn't want to be beholden to kiss any and everyone if I gave in this time. Besides, Jim was looking even more traumatized.

"Look," I began, "There's only so much I'll do for the sake of a cinematography exercise. You'd have to rework that with the actual actors anyway."

We did another take sans kiss. Jim's "Stay here with me" was smoother, and he kept eye contact, but he was shaking. As the dolly withdrew for another take, I asked, "Is that position uncomfortable for you?"

"I'm fine," he replied.

"Are you sure? If it's hard to stay leaning over like that, maybe we should try something else."

"No, it's all right," he said and looked away.

The moment we were enacting was part of a scene pulled from Still Life With Woodpecker. The directing students were allowed to reset the scene as they wished, even to rewrite bits of dialogue. "Stay here with me" came from Jim's version of the scene.

19 November 2005

Mr. Rogers' moment

I stared at his feet while he tied his shoelaces. Then he picked up his docksiders, stood up, and said, "It's time to retire the slip-ons for winter," as he set them down in front of his closet.

18 November 2005

No big surprise

This evening it's official: my brother and his family are not coming up for Thanksgiving next week. Months ago they called saying they were going to make travel plans, but then my sister-in-law got a federal jury duty summons.

For my mom, this did not dispel the sense of impending arrival. The last several weeks have been like watching puppy torture as my mom threw things out, rearranged her room, and lamented that she never should've bothered changing it in the first place. Unfortunately the torture was self-inflicted, but that does not mean my dad and I were immune to her distress. Globs of teary nostalgia and anger at limited space erupted at irregular intervals. Less clutter gave her no joy, and still there was no word if they were coming or not.

My sister-in-law emailed me that she was having no luck convincing my brother to come visit with my niece regardless. She joked that he was afraid. Presumably of traveling for hours with a two year old, but one could also argue that he's afraid of spending time with his immediate family without his wife as a buffer. I can't remember when I last saw him alone, not for several years at any rate.

The courthouse was supposed to have information a week ago regarding her summons, but she didn't get word until today. The phone rang around 7:30, and I had a feeling it was them. A few minutes later, my dad poked his head into my room and said, "They're not coming."

At least there's no more waiting. Mom can stop anticipating their every possible need: car seat? baby bed? what do they eat? I'm sure she's found my father and I delinquent this whole time, unprepared with our wait-and-see outlooks, but now that can stop too. Unless they decide to come for Christmas.

17 November 2005

It's just my nature

AlwaysWrite wrote about attending a blogger happy hour yesterday. I find meeting new people really stressful, so I'm always impressed when people do such things willingly.

It sounded like they all had a good time, so I checked out the Meetup site she'd found the listing on. I admit I was relieved there were no blogger gatherings near me. In fact, the only group close to me is for witches. In elementary school, a girl from my class claimed her mom was a real witch, and I do watch Charmed, but that's it for my ice breakers.

Further away there's one for vampires. Vampires! They're listed right after "Moms" in the "Cultures & Community" category. If there were a Sheriff Hartwell to meet, I could see going, but even if there were, he'd be keeping a low profile, so it doesn't seem worth the effort.

Just wait five minutes

Seems like only yesterday it was a moist 64 degrees- oh right, it was. Now it's 31 and snowing.

(For the Celsius inclined, that's 18 C and -1 C, respectively.)

16 November 2005

It's pouring

I hope that means there will be no chainsaws next door tomorrow morning. I can't take it anymore. This morning it sounded like a tree was going to fall through my window.

15 November 2005


The classroom part of driver's ed was held after school at my high school. Our instructor was Mr. Ramirez. A big stoner from my class always called him Mr. Ramsey.

I heard that Mr. Ramirez lost his arm when he was a kid by sticking his arm out of a car window when a semi ripped past.

He usually leaned against the desk at the front of the classroom and held his prosthetic arm by the hook.


A couple mornings ago, I felt a scratch on the back of my neck, diagonal and over two inches long. It's almost done healing, but I'm still baffled by its mysterious appearance. I hate injuries I can't explain.

14 November 2005


I was helping my dad carry some stuff out to his car when I smelled something I couldn't identify: unpleasant, burning, exhaust related.

My dad noticed it at the same time and simply commented, "Cigarette smoke."

How cool is it that my brain had actually forgotten the smell of cigarettes? Maybe it's just that I'm tired though, because the smokers are the same guys who've been cutting trees down with chainsaws next door all morning for the past two days.


FYI, when your photo is stuck to broken frame glass, breaking the glass more does not actually help.

13 November 2005

All you have to do to sell it is commit

These guys are clearly having a good time. What makes this vlog brilliant to me is the third guy in the background.

For easy access to more music videos by the Back Dormitory Boys, click here.

12 November 2005

Why should I wait?

(Thanks for the inspiration, AJ)

A few weeks ago, I was out with my parents and we stopped to eat. After we ordered, I got up to use the restroom and wash up before dinner. The restrooms were in an alcove, the men's on the left and the women's on the right. The door to the women's restroom was closed and the men's was open. I scoped out the men's room: it was a single person facility. I glanced to the right, but the women's door was still shut. There might have been some rustling from within, but I wasn't certain and I didn't feel like harassing someone unnecessarily by knocking or trying the handle.

I stepped into the men's room and closed the door, sliding the simple but trustworthy bolt lock into place. The slightly distorted urine smell common to all men's rooms that I've encountered permeated the small space. Must be from the urinal, I thought to myself.

As I pulled off some toilet paper, the door handle started to jiggle. The bolt was secure, so the door couldn't open, but it could move a hair because it wasn't latched. I was pretty sure it was my dad, but I didn't feel like saying anything in case it wasn't. I figured the guy would hear the flush and figure out someone was inside. The door jiggled again. Geez, give it a rest.

I stretched out my leg and flushed the toilet with the sole of my shoe. I turned on the water, soaped up, scrubbed, and rinsed my hands. With my elbow I depressed the lever for the paper towel roll. I dried my hands and then got another piece of paper towel to shut off the faucet and open the door. When I stepped out, there was no one in the hall. The women's door was still closed, so I figured the guy had decided to use it instead of wait.

I walked back to our table and caught the end of a conversation my parents were having. "Do you see that guy at the end of the bar?" my mom asked.

Dad looked past me and said, "I didn't see him come in."

She continued, "Neither did I. He came out of nowhere. Maybe it was him."

My Dad got up and walked back towards the restrooms.

I could see where this was going. "What were you guys talking about?" I asked.

"Oh, we were just waiting to see if a man came out from the restroom."

"He could have been waiting a long time," I began. "I was in there."

Mom looked up at me and laughed.

"I heard him jiggle the handle. I figured he'd hear the water running and figure out someone was inside," I explained. "He didn't even wait."

"I know," Mom said shaking her head, "Your father just got all embarrassed because he felt like the door was stuck and he was doing something wrong," my mom explained.

"Didn't it occur to him that someone might be inside?"

"He's a man. He's not used to having to wait for the restroom."

I laughed and argued, "But by coming back to the table, someone else could get in next ahead of him. It's conceivable that the door could be closed each time he got up to check it all through dinner."

"I know," Mom sighed. "When your father's uncomfortable or embarrassed, he folds his arms and tries to fade into the background."

I knew what she said was true. When they'd visit my dorm room at college, Mom would sit on my bed and Dad would stand next to the door. His arms weren't always folded, but he rarely sat down and only would if it was in my desk chair.

Dad slid into the booth next to Mom.

"Guess who was in the men's room," Mom demanded with a smirk.

Dad looked at her and then me in confusion.

"It was Claire," she announced triumphantly.


He was surprised and still a bit confused. Clearly, the why-wait-when-a-single-person-restroom-is-available? approach was one that never would have occurred to him.

11 November 2005

The Expedition

My alma mater sponsors trips for alums throughout the year to exotic and intriguing locales all over the world. I got on their mailing list a few years ago in a hopeful spirit, but the expense of the trips has always been well out of my reach. I should take my name off the list, but I enjoy the pictures and reading the itineraries: it's the prospect of adventure.

A few days ago, I received the latest brochure for a trip next summer. I keep staring at the photographs because I dreamt about this place last spring. I still can't afford it, but it feels like it means something.

10 November 2005

The Man of Mixed Signals

a beginning, a prequel, the sequel

I didn't see Ted again before I left town, but a few days after I got home, I received a padded envelope from him. He'd taped a photo from a magazine to the front and written my address on it. Inside were three CDs he'd made for me and a letter. One of the artists we'd talked about at the wedding.

I'd recently picked up PJ Harvey's Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea, but Ted had insisted that her earlier work was better. He sent me Dry and Rid of Me. He also included an album by Cat Power because he thought I'd like it.

His handwritten letter started, however, by saying that he was sorry we didn't get the chance to say a proper goodbye. Ted explained that he felt uncertain of how to act without the wedding reception backdrop the next day. He was afraid he'd act possessive or inappropriate in some way if we walked around campus with an audience of old friends. The letter meandered to some atmospheric moments in San Francisco, his struggle to become a professional writer, and ended with an assurance that when he'd said I was lovely, he'd meant not only in appearance, but also in spirit. Ted's writing was exquisite, and his explanation made sense to me when I read it, so I forgave him for standing me up.

I wrote back sharing some of my life's uncertainties and struggles, and our correspondence began. I suggested that he reply by email explaining that I liked the immediacy of it, but he replied that he preferred the tangibility of real letters and liked receiving them. The same things appealed to me as well, so I was easily swayed.

Every few weeks one or the other of us would fold a few pages into an envelope and mail it off. These were not love letters by any means, they were there's-something-here-between-us missives. I wanted to leave Tallahassee and hadn't decided where to move to, but San Francisco had growing appeal.

About seven months later, he wrote that he wasn't sure if it affected things at all, but felt he should tell me he'd gotten back together with his girlfriend from 6 months ago. I did the math, and I was pissed. He'd had a girlfriend when we'd hung out at the wedding and had never mentioned her though there had been many opportunities to do so. I wanted to kill Splice for encouraging me that night because she would've known that.

When I confronted Splice, she said that Ted and Liz had been together for a year but had been on and off a couple months before the wedding. She thought they were off at the time and just wanted me to have a good time. Splice's advice had been given in a haze of drunken elation, so I really couldn't stay mad at her. My anger turned back to Ted.

He began by writing that I'd never asked if he was seeing someone during the wedding weekend. No denial in that, just an attempt to make his dishonesty my fault. I wrote back explicitly asking if he'd omitted anything else I might want to know. He said no, but being called on his bullshit seemed to hurt his feelings. We stopped writing.

A few months later, I started my cross country drive in search of the perfect place to live. I ended up back in California and spent the holidays with friends in LA. Splice and her husband had moved down from San Francisco that fall. She invited me to their New Year's Eve party and forewarned me that Ted and Liz would be there amidst a bunch of other people. Liz was cool, and I liked her right off, but Ted seemed a little nervous when he saw us talking together.

Later, Ted and I had a friendly conversation. He told me several of the people at the party were planning to go to the Getty on Thursday and asked if I'd like to go. I'd been a couple of times before and enjoyed it, so I said yes. He was staying with other friends in town, so he took my phone number so we'd be able to coordinate. (The museum was still pretty new, so you needed to have parking reservations and this venture would require carpooling.)

Tuesday passed, no call. Wednesday passed, no call. Goddamnsonofabitch. I could've called Splice to see if she had the number where Ted was staying, but I was too embarrassed. I couldn't believe I'd fallen for this a second time. I was upset, angry, and felt foolish which made me even more angry. About a week later, I couldn't take it anymore and sent him a simple, immature email: You suck.

In his reply, he was pissed off beyond all measure because he had no idea why I was upset. I calmly explained and reminded him that though it might seem like a small thing, it felt very personal because he'd done this to me before (perhaps I'd not so much forgiven him for standing me up the first time, I'd certainly not forgotten it). His excuses started with losing my number and ended with an elaborate story involving an ER trip for the boyfriend of the woman he was staying with to explain why he'd forgotten. Whether they were true or not didn't really matter, all that mattered to me was that he couldn't say that he was sorry that he hadn't called. His word didn't mean anything under a variety of circumstances at a time when my word always counted.

09 November 2005

Mind soothing

So often of late when I see trailers that interest me, I have not followed through: I put it off and then the movie is gone and it no longer matters. This afternoon was overcast and cold; I was having the usual second thoughts: there was literal stuff I needed to deal with, but I knew I needed to go. I just needed it.

I went to see Good night, and good luck., and despite the sizable, murmuring retirement crowd, I enjoyed it.

Later, when my parents got home, my mom called up to tell me they had my book. Just this afternoon, I'd mentioned that I'd given up hope that one of my requests would ever show up at the library. I'd intended to re-request this evening, but there was no need.

In fact, I've already finished it: A Man without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut. He discusses many things regarding the current status of the U.S. in relation to itself and the planet which all depress me, and yet I find it very reassuring to see it in print. I loved the book. It was just what I needed today.

08 November 2005

sequel to the prequel

a beginning, a prequel

It was after 1 AM when I went upstairs, but Marc keeps late hours, so he was still up. Like excited schoolgirls (although Marc came off, of course, as a most manly schoolgirl), I confessed that I'd just made out with a boy downstairs. After recounting my day's details and catching up on his activities, my excitement dissipated; it was after 2, and I needed to crash because there was a brunch to attend in the morning.

The alarm went off at 9:30, and I begrudgingly got out of bed. The brunch was from 9 to noon, but I figured other people who'd been out late would probably show up around 10. I took a shower and walked over to the Alumnae House enjoying the unusually pleasant November weather.

When I walked in, it looked like everyone was already there. I'd failed to take into account that many of the guests were staying at the Alumnae House. The brunch was buffet style, so I picked up a plate and scanned the room. Ted topped his plate with a croissant and walked over to say hello. The seats at his table were all full, but he told me he had plans to walk around campus with a couple people later and invited me to join them.

I filled my plate and sat at a table with friends of the groom that I'd briefly met the day before. The guys were friendly, but one insisted I should move to San Francisco and had all sorts of career advice for me. After my second plate full, I wasn't in the mood to hear it anymore, so when I got up to get some more fruit, I looked for a new table. The crowd was thinning out as people had flights and trains to catch. I saw Ted making the rounds of goodbyes, so I caught up with him to see when and where we should meet to walk around campus.

"I just need to go upstairs and pack, so I can check out. We're going to see if they'll let us leave our luggage in the lobby until we need to leave for the train later," he explained. "I'll stop back in when we're ready to go."

"Ok. If you can't leave your stuff here, I'm sure you could leave it at my friend's house if you need to," I suggested.

"I'm sure it'll be fine. I'll see you in a bit."

"All right."

He walked upstairs with his traveling companions, and I returned to the brunch. A seat was open next to Splice, so I walked over and sat down. We chatted a bit, but mostly we sat in companionable silence because we were both exhausted. Periodically she would get up to say some goodbyes, and then she'd return. I felt a little guilty for monopolizing the seat next to the bride, but another friend of hers told me not to worry about it. "I bet she's glad for the reprieve from all these people."

A half hour had passed so I started watching the door more, still no Ted. When an hour had gone by, I felt like a heel for hanging around near Splice and the line of people she was saying goodbye to, but I didn't know anyone else there anymore. I kept expecting to see Ted walk in at any moment, but he didn't.

I was reluctant to ask, but when an hour and a half had passed and he still hadn't returned, I made myself do it. "Have you seen Ted?"

"He left about an hour ago," Splice said simply. He'd probably said a straightforward goodbye to her before he went up to pack, but it didn't seem worth explaining. He wasn't coming. I said my goodbyes and thank yous and left.

As I walked down the hill breathing in the leaf-tinted air, it occurred to me that I'd been stood up. I had never been stood up before: rescheduled, cancelled, left waiting for people egregiously late, sure, but no one had ever made plans with me and then not shown up at all, not even called*. I felt like an idiot and didn't understand what had happened.

Maybe he just forgot. I wondered if I'd run into them if I walked around campus, and if I did, if I wanted to...

*Neither of us had cell phones in 2001.

07 November 2005


I was going to work more on my Ted story, but my parents have been hauling things out of the attic for the past couple of hours, and a number of boxes seem to have my stuff in them.

I never put anything up there, so I'm dismayed by this turn of events as the boxes are crushed, damp, or otherwise not in good shape. Dealing with more boxes is not what I wanted to do this afternoon; heck, I didn't want to know I had more mystery boxes. My concentration is blown for now, so I may as well go sort through some junk.

tip of the week

If you hate walking into spider webs as much as I do, you might want to carry a stick or walk behind someone taller than you if you decide to go for a walk in the woods.

If it's getting too cold to go hiking where you live, it's probably time to put down your storm windows.

05 November 2005

prequel to the sequel?

(the beginning)

I'm sure this is not at all what you had in mind, Sarooo, but it is for you just the same.

Our meeting had all the earmarks of a great story we'd tell at our wedding, and for that I should've known it was doomed. We spent 4 years at the same college but didn't meet until our graduation rehearsal when our surnames put Ted and I side by side. There wouldn't have been much to say, if not for two things: we discovered Splice was a mutual friend, and I pulled out a 1974 yearbook I'd recently received that was full of hippies, nudity, glamour, and old pictures of a few professors still at the college.

Six years later, Splice got married on campus, and the seating chart for the reception put Ted and I next to each other again. By the end of the night, Splice was telling me to go smooch him.

A friend of mine from grad school happened to be teaching at the college that year, so I was staying with him for the weekend. It was after midnight, so Ted offered to walk me back to Marc's place. When we reached the small front porch, I was relieved to see that the door was slightly ajar. Marc lived in a house with a few apartments, but his bell for the front door wasn't working which meant you had to bang or yell until he noticed.

I stood on the step above Ted which made me a little taller than him as we said goodnight.


The tipping point

I was annoyed because I had other things on my agenda yesterday when mom was gungho about pulling the tall black chest out of my room.

I had assumed it was completely full of her stuff, but some drawers were actually empty because of a kerosene smell emanating from them. Like much old furniture, the drawers were shallow, so I'd never been interested in using it anyway. Having it gone though opened up the room immensely. For the first time since I came home, the room feels like it has more stuff that's mine in it than isn't.

Oddly this served as a reminder that I need to get my act together and move out. One of these days...

04 November 2005

3 on 3

Eight years ago on a pleasant day much like this one, I met up with some friends at a park off Tujunga Ave. in North Hollywood to play a friendly game of touch football. The six of us knew each other from grad school: three of us had just graduated a couple months before, and the other three had graduated a year ahead of us.

James, Elaine, and I formed one team, and Gil, Dennis, and Tom made up the other. With teams of three, everyone was really involved in the game. My throws didn't have much spiral, but my aim was good, and the ball didn't flop end over end, so I ended up as the quarterback. It didn't take long for me to see that Gil was taking the game much more seriously than the rest of us. As soon as his mississippi count was done, he was charging at me hard every single play.

Touch football's flaw has always been that to block, you still really have to block. In his case though, his aggressive competitiveness felt personal. We'd dated for a while in grad school a year and a half earlier, but I'd withdrawn by throwing myself into my classes over the summer semester before he graduated. Maybe he's just a jerk when it comes to sports, I thought to myself.

After each "hike," I got rid of the ball as fast as I could and braced myself for Gil's lunging block. He didn't tackle me, but I knew I'd be sore the next day; it was intimidating and pissed me off.

The others must have sensed the moment that I was fed up enough to quit, because Tom suggested we switch up the teams and everyone readily agreed. Gil and James switched places, and the game became much easier.

Possession of the ball went back and forth a couple times until it was back to James, Dennis, and Tom's team. When their quarterback threw the ball, Gil intercepted it. In that moment, my desire to win overcame my common sense, and I ran to block James. Though he's tall and slender, his body is all muscle and bone. Had he seen me, he would've slowed down or altered course. But he didn't.

His shoulder clobbered me full force on the side of my neck and across my shoulder. The ground was cool and hard. As I lay there unmoving, I wondered if I was seriously injured. I thought my way through my body trying to figure out if I could move. From the cheering further down the field, I could tell we'd scored, but I no longer cared.

"Oh my god, I'm so sorry. I didn't see you. Are you all right?" James asked as he knelt beside me.

I pushed myself up on my elbows and looked around. "I think so." He helped me up, and we joined the others in the end zone. My throat was sore and talking aggravated the strain.

"I think I'm going to call it a day," I announced. There was talk of getting food, but I opted to go home instead.

Later, it occurred to me that James could've crushed my windpipe if his shoulder had hit me just an inch or two over. As my shoulder started throbbing, I swore I'd never play football again.

(NB: names changed)

02 November 2005

At the bar after the wedding reception

In my last post, I mentioned a guy that I was interested in after meeting him at a wedding. We'd actually met once before; Ted and I sat next to each other for the rehearsal and graduation from college. Six years later, we were back on campus at our mutual friend's wedding.

We hung out for hours. After we closed out the reception venue, all of the young adults spent a few more hours at the Dutch Cabin, a Mexican restaurant/bar, that many of us had frequented years before.

With a big grin, Splice reached across the table, placing her hand behind my neck and pulled me diagonally across. Cheek to cheek, she spoke into my right ear, “So, are you and Ted hitting it off?”

My cheeks started to burn. She could probably feel it: if not by actual warmth, certainly by body language. She continued, “Because you're two of my closest friends, and I love you dearly. So go smooch.” She planted a kiss on my cheek and let me go.

I straightened up still looking at her. I didn't speak, but there was no need. I stepped back, put on my jacket and waited for Ted as he made his rounds of good-byes for the night. Splice pulled him close too, and I'd guess they had much the same conversation.

Apparently I'd left my mind open to read. Or maybe my heart. Considering it was her wedding day, she wasn't supposed to have time to notice; if she did, then the whole end of her table probably knew that I liked Ted. A few years earlier, I probably would've been mortified into hiding my feelings just to prove her wrong. Instead, beautifully, any embarrassment I felt at being read so easily made me grin and laugh.


NB: names changed

Phase 1

Considering the various eruptions of frustration I've experienced today, I'm pretty happy with the new look for the blog. I don't consider it done, but I can't stare at hexadecimal color codes any longer today. Let me know if you have any trouble viewing it, e.g., formatting issues with other browsers.

Thanks, Rarity, for your help.

01 November 2005

Eye Contact (intermezzo)

The break between spring and summer semesters arrived and the library was nearly empty again, the staff greatly outnumbering the patrons. As usual, the makeshift computer lab (not even run by library staff) was the busiest spot in the building. Students wandered in to finish papers, projects, and to play games on the lab’s decked out computers. For my part, this was the first downtime I’d had at the media center in months so once the daily paperwork was out of the way, I popped a movie into the media cart to "familiarize myself with the collection" as I told anyone who inquired, particularly the bunch of slackers upset by my good fortune. I had earned it and my supervisor concurred.

During breaks, the building was open fewer hours so only library staff were let in early to start computers and set up before patrons were allowed in. The computer lab staff had been arriving a few minutes after the building was officially open.

A short student approached my counter so I sat up, ready to help. "Is the computer lab open today?"

"Yes, it should be." I looked across the tables and media alcoves and saw that the lab monitor hadn’t arrived yet. "They’re sometimes a few minutes late since they can’t get into the building before it’s open to the public."


“They should be in shortly.”

The student looked confused as if she’d wanted a better reassurance from me, but after a moment, she turned and walked towards the lab without saying anything else. The lab staff arrived at the entrance just before her so I focused on my morning paperwork satisfied that the matter was resolved.

Three hours later, she returned striding across the long expanse purposefully. I lifted the VCR remote, paused the film I was watching, and turned to give her my full attention. From fifteen feet away, she hailed, “Working hard or hardly working?”

Original, I thought sarcastically to myself. Pleasantly, I replied, “I’m familiarizing myself with the collection so I can better help people.”

She smirked and rested her hands on the tall counter. “What are you doing tonight?”

Hunh? Is she asking me out? “Why?” I ventured cautiously.

“Because I haven’t been able to get what you said out of my head since I went into the lab.” That was three hours ago. I tried to remember what I’d said. She continued, slightly misquoting me, “’They should be here shortly,’ ‘Sometimes, they’re a few minutes late since they can’t get into the building.’ I’ve been hearing these over and over in my head. I can’t get the way you talk out of my head.” She looked away bashfully.

“Oh.” She sounded a little crazy to me.

“What?” she asked.

“I just said, ‘oh.’”

“So what are you doing tonight?”

She definitely is asking me out. It was Thursday, and I was thrilled to have a real excuse as I don’t often lie and only in the most extreme circumstances to a direct question. “A friend of mine is going to call so we can catch up.”

“Excuse me?” She looked away again and I noticed a clear plastic hearing aid protruding from one ear. Since I knew from experience that even unconscious lipreading improves comprehension, I repeated my answer addressing her directly.

Clearly, she thought it was a lie or at best, very flimsy. “Who’s your friend?”

“You wouldn’t know her,” I explained realizing that was the lamest thing I could’ve said. “She’s lives in LA.”

“Can’t you call her another night?” she persisted.

“She has a really hectic schedule and we arranged for her to call tonight. I haven’t talked to her in ages and am looking forward to catching up with her.”

She wasn’t buying it. “Really?”

Tired of being disbelieved, I stated firmly, “I don’t lie.”

“Neither do I. That’s so refreshing. How about tomorrow night?”

Oh brother. This was going to be a problem because I had no Friday night plans yet. “Uh...” My mind raced through ways to say I wasn’t interested without actually saying it. I wasn’t, right? I looked across at her: she was decent looking, but standing, she was only as tall as my seated height. No, not interested. Besides it’s weird being approached based on a 3 minute exchange; that means the attraction is based overwhelmingly on my looks. That’s it! “I don’t even know you.”

“That’s the point of going out.”

I glanced at the staff elevator and the open doors leading to the Documents department: no one was nearby. “I’m not a student and I look a lot younger than I am,” I stated carefully for emphasis. “I’m 28.”

“I’m 22 and I think maturity is a state of mind,” she countered. “I was married to an older woman for three years up until a few months ago.”

Multiple red flags popped up in my head: she’s on the rebound, she’s in to older women, and she equates marrying young with maturity even though her marriage didn’t work out. I wondered if they’d actually had a ceremony or if she just committed easily and quickly describing their relationship as marriage for effect. Distancing my argument from her personally, I rebutted, “Young couples have shotgun weddings all the time but that doesn’t mean they’re mature.” Though I continued looking at her when I spoke, she kept breaking eye contact, looking right, left, and coyly down which gave our conversation a stuttering comedy routine feel as I repeated fragments of what I’d just said. Clearly, my gaze was too intense to be met for long, but as she still had some difficulty understanding me, desisting (and thereby reducing the amount she understood) seemed impolite. Though it grated against my ingrained manners, I glanced away while she was talking to make her less self-conscious.

“It wasn’t like that at all. I met her at a club, we hung out all night, and I knew I wanted to be with her,” she expounded, “She was seeing other people at the time but I showed up every night and after three months, I moved in with her and we were married.”

My stalker red flag wagged violently at me. The more she tried to prove her maturity, the crazier she sounded. “Ok,” I conceded to keep her calm. “I’m just really anti-social.”

“That’s ok.”

WHAT? I clarified, “I don’t like people. My life’s motto is: People suck.”

“I’m an introvert too,” she said.

Aside from some nervous behavior, nothing about her announced: introvert. I wondered what else she would say to ingratiate herself. “I’m sorry, I’m just not interested.”

“Why not?”

In no particular order the following came to mind: you’re short, intimidated by my eye contact which I’m only doing to help you understand me, stalker crazy, and I can’t stand the name Brenda. She was watching me carefully as I replied, “There’s someone else I’m interested in.”

“Oh yeah? Who?”

Not again. “I met him at a wedding a few months ago.”

“Where does he live?” she said, emphasizing the male pronoun. Simply saying I was straight would put a quick end to this while preserving her feelings, but I couldn’t bring myself to lie after proclaiming my honesty.

Barney came to mind. We’d worked together on a terrible low budget movie in LA a couple of years before. As I was the gaffer (head of the electric department) and he was a 2nd 2nd assistant director (glorified production assistant), it would be more accurate to say we both worked on the same film as opposed to worked together. Many friends of mine were also on the production, and they laughed mercilessly as Barney relentlessly hit on me 6 days a week. I told him I wasn’t interested, but he persisted anyway. He was friendly and kind, but his constant advances annoyed me and precluded any interest I might’ve developed. During our third week of shooting, he hedged around waiting for me to reveal my sexual preference. I told him if he had something to ask, he should just ask. (It’s my opinion that if a person can’t ask you if you’re gay to your face, they’re not ready to hear the answer.) He explained that he’d previously been attracted to another strong woman who shared many of my qualities, but she wasn’t interested in him because she was gay. “Is that the case with you?”

I could’ve said yes and spared his feelings, but I had no compulsion to lie with all the times he’d unwelcomely hit on me. “No, I’m bi.”

Across the media counter, Brenda rephrased her question, “Are you really interested in someone else?”

“Yes, he lives in San Francisco.”

“San Francisco? How often do you see him?"

“Not since the wedding, but we’ve exchanged some great letters.”

“So are you dating long-distance?”

She was trying to sniff out a lie, but it was true: talking to her had clarified my feelings for Ted. “No, but he’s the one I want to be with. That’s just how I feel, and it wouldn’t be fair to string someone else along,” I concluded. Feelings you can’t control were something she understood.

“I never should’ve come over here.” She looked crushed, as if this one experience would discolor everything to follow.

I tried to lessen the importance of my rejection, “It took a lot of courage to approach someone you don’t know. I admire that. Don’t let my reaction discourage you. I’m sure there’s someone else out there who’ll be a great match for you.”

“I could’ve been the best thing that ever happened to you, but you wouldn’t give me a chance, so you’ll have to live with that.” She hoisted her backpack on her shoulder and walked away.

I shrugged and said, “Yup.” She was going to be fine. And I was going to be stalker-free.

(NB: names changed.)