irene

I Could Have Been On The Weather Channel

So, Irene.

For the first time in my entire career, I was home for a storm. I didn’t expect to be, and even the day the hurricane hit I kept waiting to find out I had to go to work. But it never happened. So I was confronted with actually preparing.

I went to the grocery store on Friday afternoon, figuring that everyone else would be there after work that evening. But of course, I wasn’t part of the first wave. It’s fascinating, by the way, what people plan to eat when they’re hunkering down for a storm. Did you know that Chef Boyardee is a staple of storm sustenance? I had no idea. I go for toilet paper (because I genuinely actually need toilet paper), it’s almost gone. I go for water, of course it’s almost gone. I go for batteries, fugheddabaoudit. And then I round a corner and see a vast empty shelf and think, Weird… what’s usually here? and get close enough to read the label on the shelf and it’s Chef Boyardee Beefaroni. And Ravioli. Cleaned out.

...I don't understand.

Really?

Like… seriously?

I had a roommate in college who used to eat Chef Boyardee out of the can, cold. I thought it was gross then and I still do. No siree,  no Chef Boyardee for me.  You can take it all. Leave me the brownie mix. THAT is emergency preparedness.

One of my co-workers says she saw a guy in Walmart with a cart full of Spam. Storm Spam.

Blech.

I would rather die.

What happens to people in storms? Jeez.

Since it was also my day off and I cook for the week on my day off, I headed for the meat section. I passed a guy with a whole cart full of Simply Asian instant meals. Whole cart.  And I couldn’t figure it out. I mean, first of all, it looks really odd when you see a guy with 27 packages of Simply Asian instant meals in his cart. But also… don’t you have to heat them up? Which requires electricity, usually.

Maybe he has a gas stove.

Still, I’m worried about the amount of Simply Asian he eats. He’s going to die of a heart attack from the sodium. I feel compelled to check on him or something.

I mean there was nothing else in the cart.

When I got home from the grocery store I strategized about what I could get accomplished while I still had power and then figured out how to divide it up so I could get most of it done Friday and some done Saturday before the power died. (Because I was sure it was going to blow.) And of course, I needed some goodies to take to work when I did have to go in on Sunday, if not before. The only thing that keeps you going when you’re working during a major temporarily life-altering storm is food that’s really bad for you.

Alright, so, cooking: check. Baking: check. Cleaning: check. When Saturday rolled around I got a couple of loads of laundry done and vacuumed the carpet while the rain steadily got heavier and the wind came and went and came back. The Weather Channel kept me constantly updated on what was happening with the storm (I don’t worry about storms usually, but A: this was a hurricane, and 2: that freaking channel is so addictive! Reporters standing sideways while their clothes slap them in the face? How do you not watch that? Getting hit with detritus blowing about? Hilarious!)

I finished a book and started a new one (Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder – I’m 1/3 of the way through and so far it’s really good). I listened to music (but kept The Weather Channel on, with the volume down). Every once in a while I went out on the balcony to check out the conditions. I talked to friends and family on the phone as everyone checked in with everyone else in various parts of the country to see how things were going. Sister 2 texted to brag that she and BIL 2 and Youngest Nephew had driven through the early parts of the storm to get to Charleston for their vacation and it was lovely there. I kept the phone charged because since there were no batteries in the stores by the time I remembered I needed batteries for the flashlight, I was going to have to use the cell phone as the flashlight, at least to get me to the candles.

Late, as the storm was really picking up, Jack sent me a text and told me he was coming over to ride it out. Upon arrival, he immediately tracked mud on my carpet and was almost all the way to the kitchen by the time I got him to stop walking… and then he walked back to the door with the muddy shoes on instead of stopping and taking them off where he was.

“What are you— aaugh! Stop! Just take them off!” I said, half laughing at his cluelessness. He’s not usually like that.

“Awww, hell,” he groaned, pulling his shoes off and putting them in the hall outside the door as I went to the kitchen to get the cleaning stuff. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it, that’s what this stuff is for,” I said, holding up the carpet cleaner that I was using for the first time in a non-cat vomit related incident.

“Ugh. I’m worse than having a dog,” he groaned as he sank into my loveseat.

On my hands and knees with the Resolve and the paper towels, I smiled. We both want a dog, actually, but I had never thought about how they track mud into the house, even as I heard my neighbor taking her apparently desperate basset hound out in the middle of a particularly fierce band of rain. Jack is nothing if not practical.

Still waiting for the power to blow, we weathered the occasional flicker as we watched storm coverage and “Kill Bill: Vol. 1″ on cable (which is a ridiculous film, by the way). When the winds picked up even more, we went out on the balcony – which you’re totally not supposed to do – and watched the trees blow. So far, this is the closest we’ve come to sharing our mutual fantasy of playing in the summer rain.

When we came back in, the power started to flicker a little more seriously. It went out.

For 30 seconds.

Then back on.

For like 90.

Then out.

For 30.

Then on.

For about 60.

Out.

On.

Out.

On.

Out.

On oh for crying out loud I’m turning everything off this is annoying.

We both went to bed. My bed happens to be directly under several trees or parts thereof, on the corner of the top floor of my building. Lying there, in the super-darkness (the power finally went out altogether around 2:30am), I wondered, like the Roaming Gnome in those Travelocity commercials right after he gets shocked by a power outlet.

Am I going to die?

(You have to do that in a refined British accent. I’ll give you a few seconds to try again.)

(‘Kay.)

So I was lying there thinking, Well… that tree could come right through this roof and kill me where I sleep. 

Or… a branch could blow right through the window and pin me here.

Or… the tree could come through, make a hole in the roof, NOT kill me, just make a hole through which it will rain and ruin all my stuff and I’ll have to move. And I’ll be on The Weather Channel.

That thought pissed me off, because as I thought about it, it became clear that that was by far the most likely Tree vs. Building scenario.

I couldn’t get comfortable. I wondered if my phone alarm would really go off when I had set it to go off. I don’t know why I wondered that, but I did. Twice, Jack and I had to use the phone as a flashlight to access the bathroom (him first, after realizing as soon as he walked in without it that he couldn’t see the toilet and that would probably be messy).  I had to get up to check on my laptop and make sure it was powered down so the battery I had thought to charge wouldn’t die before I was up for the day.

Then I remembered my cooking spree Friday and realized I had a refrigerator full of perishables.

Well, that was dumb.

I had a cooler, and my plan had been to use that to house the most perishable of the lot, but by now the ice in the freezer was just water.

As the winds picked up to around 50mph, whipping around the side of the building and sending the trees into wild dances, I realized that my strategy of parking my car on the far side of the street in the one spot that wasn’t under power lines or tree branches would only prove successful if the power lines directly over the near side of the street didn’t come down. The car could be clear as can be, but if I couldn’t get to it, I was going to have a problem.

I think I got three hours of sleep before work called. Which was right after the phone’s alarm went off.

Fortunately, the power outage was the worst of the problems. In the daylight, Jack looked through the blinds and declared that the outside world still existed and none of the tree branches we’d spotted with concern the night before had come down. There was a lot of flotsam and jetsam heaped about… leaves and smaller branches and various undetermined things, but no power lines and no big tree limbs.

And no excuse not to go to work.

But I had realized on Friday that the good thing about always working through major temporarily life-altering storms was that I was always somewhere with power and there were always other people around. And usually pizza. I realized I’d probably lose my mind as some sort of survivalist woman on her own trying to conquer piles of debris without power and for want of refrigeration and a functional hair dryer.

And coffee maker. Jeebus, I couldn’t make coffee. Three hours of sleep and a whole stretch of work ahead of me and no. Coffee.

Oh, this day is going to suck out loud.

Jack’s cell phone had died in the night, and so I sent him out into the storm-ravaged world incapable of communication with anyone else to see if he had power at home. I showered in the dark, thankful for my gas water heater. My prep time was cut significantly by lack of iron, hair dryer and coffee maker.

The Starbucks near me was closed. Closed. 

Oh the humanity! Damn you, Irene! Damn you to hell!

Ten minutes from work after a drive full of limb-dodging, wearing a baseball cap to cover for the lack of hair drying capability and schlepping brownies, banana nut bread, a yogurt and a chicken dish I had rescued from the warming fridge in the 10 seconds I allowed myself to have the door open, I found a McDonald’s and settled for their coffee. Work was craptastic for the first six hours but got better for the last three or four. And when I got home, the saints preserve us, I had power and still nothing had crashed through the roof.

I was not going to be on The Weather Channel, after all.

But I’m still worried about Secret Asian Food Man.


skating party

All Skate! Now Reverse!

It has become clear to me that when someone turns 30, there is absolutely nothing you can do for them other than throw them a 70s Disco Funky Roller Skating Party.

We did this for Sister 2 on Saturday.

Sister 2 is graceful, chic and reserved. She is also a complete awkward, nerdy nutball. I’ve known this since she developed a personality, but her friends have a real grasp on it. She also loves parties and loves to celebrate her birthday. The semi-surprise skating party was not my idea; I was just along for the roll. BIL (brother-in-law) 2 and their friends planned the event. Sort of flawlessly. Aside from the fact that someone may or may not have had to go to the ER afterward.

Sister 2 wore this, but rainbow cooky, and no wig. (image from doodysfancydress.co.uk

As the ’70s Disco Funky Roller Skating Party name may suggest, there were outfits. I’ll hit the highlights. First of all, every woman there sported blue-green eyeshadow. Some of it was sparkly. Sister 2′s outfits had been purchased for her by her friends: for pre-game, a lame’ funkadelic rainbow tie-dyed halter-topped bell-bottomed skin-tight unitard, false eyelashes and platform shoes. She’s 5’8 1/2″ barefoot, so in this get-up, she looked like an Amazon woman. A brick house. Plus she’s got long blonde hair, which was curled back at the ends. For skating, she changed into Olivia Newton-John circa 1982 (a chancy dodge of the ’70s vibe), in those glittery stockings that are impossible to put on or take off, super-short, satiny, hot pink shorts, a white shirt covered with a hot pink off-the-shoulder 3/4 sleeve top, and (the ’70s prequel to the legwarmer) tube socks with hot pink stripes around the calves.

BIL 1 looked like Chester the Molester in a semi-see-through button-down rolled sleeve shirt with breast pockets and the top four buttons undone to show off his rather copious chest hair, plus red polyester pants, a diagonally striped belt and a pair of driving mocs. Plus a pair of gold-rimmed sunglasses, some slicked back hair, and some fine shaving work that pared his full beard down to mutton chops and a mustache. When we got to the skating rink, I was a little surprised that there was no photo of him posted on the door with a big, block-lettered message warning everyone not to let him in because it was dangerous for him to be around children. Before he left the house, he told Twin Nephs that if anybody who looked like him ever tried to talk to them, they should run away.

I wore something like this, but striped. (image from auctionnight2008.org)

I myself had nothing disco-y on hand. Instead, I opted for JC Penney’s catalog circa 1979: higher-waisted, dark, flare-legged jeans, a very striped almost butterfly collared button-down shirt with the sleeves folded back, tightly tucked in and finished with a skinny red belt. I was going to do the Farrah Fawcett thing to my hair, but I couldn’t bear to go quite that far with the look knowing I’d have to get gas and stop at toll booths, so my hair hung flatly from its center part.

We pre-gamed briefly at a local watering hole and then swept into the skating rink where we descended on the poor retiree at the skate rental desk with reckless fervor.

This is probably the part where I should mention I have not been on roller skates in at least 20 years.

First order of business after lacing up my skates (which were oddly wet in spots – I chose to believe the rental desk guy had just thoroughly disinfected them with anti-fungal spray) was to relieve my bladder, straining from a road trip twice as long as it should have been due to traffic, and compounded by a beer. Skating on carpet is trickier than I remembered. I struggled to figure it out. Do I skate? Do I walk? Capable of neither, I sort of half-assed it with a combination of the two, punctuating my moves with occasional arm-wheelies for balance retention.

When I got to the bathroom, I was confronted with a tile floor. Huh. This could be a scene. And me without my LifeAlert. I stutter-skatewalked to a stall, bursting for relief, and slowly rolled in.

And then I couldn’t turn around.

I stood there, facing the toilet. Strategizing.

Okay.

Okay, so…

Okay. 

I slowly worked myself around in tiny little controlled baby steps so that I was facing the stall door. Thinking I was home free, I got myself situated and began to assume the position. My bladder contracted excitedly.

I don’t know about you, but public bathrooms always make my mother’s voice ring in my head, so I squat instead of sitting. I crouched.

And rooolllled into the stall door. Thunk.

Groovy.

Muttering under my breath, jeans around my knees, growing increasingly sure that I would kill myself on the skating rink, I pushed myself back toward the toilet. Sorry, Mom. I have to sit. That proved a bit harder than I anticipated, because the toilet was set for the children who frequent these kinds of establishments and not grown women who are at least 5’10″ in these skates. But I managed not to bust my ass or my face.

Finally comfortable again, I made my way back out as everyone was laced up and venturing onto the rink’s wood floor. With a little trepidation, I clopped out and made my initial effort. I think I went about three feet in the first minute. I couldn’t seem to recall how to coordinate my movements to propel myself forward.

Skating, turns out, is not like riding a bike.

Eventually I remembered how to use my hip muscles to get going, and I sang along to the far-out tunes that were blasting from the DJ’s corner. But the muscles I worked much more than I had as a grade school skater were the ones in my arms. The flapping was frequent. I haven’t seen the video yet, but since there were no fewer than six cameras there, I’m sure it’ll turn up, and I’m sure I will look like a Grade A Freak Show. Ass out, knees bent, then the sudden and uncontrollable switch to the ass-in, shoulders back position, followed by the ever-so-graceful Arm Flail, orange-wheeled feet slapping the floor fruitlessly in search of purchase, sometimes punctuated by the verbal “Ooah! Whoa! Oof! Ah!”

Yes, it is a seductive dance.

It took maybe 20 minutes for me to find something I could loosely call my groove thing. The rink was a little rougher than I remember them being in my day, and I couldn’t really steer. Turning the corners became a hodge-podge effort, positionally, as I couldn’t quite get secure enough to do that thing where you cross one foot over the other. But though I was struggling a bit, I certainly wasn’t the only one. BIL 2 and his friends, who used to be actual skaters as teenagers and have played a fair amount of roller and ice hockey, were pretty self-assured, but the girls were all awkward all these years past junior high skating parties. And one friend, who’s not even from the US, had never been on skates before in his life. He inched his way around the rink, staring at his feet, tight white jeans and chest-baring shirt flashing under the blacklights.

Brave, secure man.

Just when we had gotten our mojo together in a somewhat controllable way, it was time to see how low we could go. Limbo! No, not bending backward. You’re guaranteed to crack your head open that way. You have to squat.

Squatting would prove to be my Achilles Heel throughout the day.

I managed to make it through four rounds of limbo before my knees – and my jeans – would no longer let me get low enough. I rolled under the bar and my weight shifted. Next thing I knew I was on my ass. Out of the game. Hysterically laughing. Good thing I had already peed.

Next up: Elimination. All skate until the music stops. Then, get to a corner. The DJ decides randomly which corner will be eliminated. I worked up a good bit of speed and then the music cut out, and I remembered I had absolutely no idea how to stop. “Aaaaahhhhh I’m gonna die!” I yelled as I hurtled toward a cinderblock wall.

That’s how you stop.

One of Sister & BIL 2′s friends used to actually work at a skating rink, and he is serious about his games and his rules. He’s a big guy and he spoke with a great deal of authority. But in polyester pants and a wild print shirt, a medallion glinting in his chest hair, it was hard to respect him. He laid down the orders for game #3: Roller Relay Races. The boys gave themselves over to chivalry and didn’t totally wipe up the floor with us. Then it was on to game #4. Form teams of 5. The first four people crouch in a straight line like leap-froggers. The fifth person stands at the back and it’s their job to push the crouched line down the rink, around a bowling pin and back.

The first problem with this game, obviously, is going to be the sustained crouching. It wasn’t long before Roller Ruler was met with protests from near the floor: “Um, can you hurry it up with the rules, dude? I’m dying here. My knees…”

Sister 1 groaned in front of me as I clutched her waist. “Can Apolo Anton Ohno sub in for

Shake it down, shake it down, shake it down-down. (image from fanpop.com)

me?” I asked.

“Don’t make me laugh, I’ll wet myself!” she warned.

Roller Ruler sounded off. “Ready? GO!”

Emphatic urging and shouting erupted from each line, along with grunting and laughing. Sister 2 pushed from behind me in a fit of competitive energy. “Let’s go let’s go let’s go let’s go!” she cried, brow furrowed. But all of three feet from the starting line, my right leg went away. Just… drifted off errantly. And I was once again on my keester.

Sister 2 looked back at me, torn. “Go!” I yelled, motioning over my head for the team to go on without me.

“I gotta leave you behind!” she yelled.

“Go!” I urged. “Save yourselves!”

Unofficial game #5, by the way, was the Getting Up Game. As in: get up off the floor, you pathetic, inflexible creature. Oh, many of us played. I think BIL 2 had the most spectacular wipeout, actually, because he went down hard and fast at the center of the rink, THWACK!, hefty gold chains rattling around his neck and hitting him in the face.

Game #6 involved hula hoops and holding hands in a chain like Red Rover. The mission: pass your own body completely through the hula hoop, and then pass it on to the next person in the chain, without letting go of their hand. The hoop had to make it all the way to the end of the human chain and back. My team won. Woot!

But the game that did us in for good was game #7: Over/Under. We formed two lines, single file, facing forward. The object was to stand still and pass a ball backward, and then forward. The first person had to pass the ball over her head to the second person, who had to go under her legs to the third person, who went over his head, etc. But on the return pass, one of the girls on the other team lost her footing and went down hard. She tripped up a second girl, who came down awkwardly on her own hand, and that triggered the fall of a third girl, who landed on top of the second girl. Everybody laughed and laughed and laughed, and one of the guys skated around the pile in a circle, taking video, “Aaaahaha, this is gonna be so great on YouTube!”… until we realized the second girl was crying.

“Uh, free skate,” Roller Ruler directed us awkwardly so we would stop staring at her. I felt bad for her, though I have to say I was relieved not to be the one who wound up sitting on the sidelines with ice on her wrist, debating a trip to the hospital. I did that at a skating party in fourth grade. Hairline fracture. Didn’t dig it.

There was a debacle when one of the hula hoops came apart on the rink and scattered 5,327 little black plastic beads all over the place. I nearly took a header skating through them, but I thought I had just hit some sort of weird patch of floor. And then someone who came after me actually did take a header. Next it was eight people in outlandish outfits, on hands and knees picking up these little beads. The loser teenaged rink employee (and you knew there had to be one) came out with a sad little broom and dustpan while we worked on gathering all the marbles. It wasn’t until we were almost done that he left the floor and came back with a giant push broom.

Douche. You think it’s funny to watch people twice your age crawl around in wigs and ill-fitting poly-blend, picking up tiny plastic bits they can’t even see in the roller rink darkness? One of us has already split his pants. When I get up off this floor I’m gonna kick your ass.

I had a Slurpee for the first time since my senior year of high school, and Sister 2 had a Ring Pop, which she licked blissfully while batting her fake eyelashes and swishing by in her satiny shorts and sparkly stockings. And when two hours were up, we took a group photo on the rink, rolled off the floor and reclaimed our grown-up shoes. Plans were made for doses of ibuprofen before bed. We all headed back to Sister & BIL 2′s house for a cookout. I’m sure the neighbors didn’t wonder at all why the cast of “Welcome Back, Kotter” had appeared in the yard. When I got back in the car for the road trip home, I rubbed off the blue-green eyeshadow. Getting out of the car in front of my building, I had hints of the soreness to come.

I can’t say for sure, since we had a blast, but at this point it’s probably wise to hang up my roller skates for good.

Buh-bye now. (image from gigharborb365.wordpress.com)

Kind of a bummer, man.

pile of clothes

Fine. I Shopped.

I’m not into disposable things. Disposable income, disposable razors, disposable food containers, disposable clothing… not me. But I realized yesterday that since half my wardrobe is five years old, some of it should be disposed of. So I shopped til I dropped lots of money.

I hate shopping. I really don’t do it much. Which, frankly, was why I needed to do it yesterday. It was my day off, and there were sales. Deals to be had. On clothes that I needed. Because I actually regularly wear pants that are ten years old.

Not even kidding.

I guess you could say I have classic taste. Most of the stuff I buy tends to be relatively timeless. Who wants to go back and shop again because the clothes they bought last year are woefully out of style now? If I find a pair of pants that I like, that fit properly, that go with everything for work, that are machine washable and don’t give away blatantly what year they were made, I will wear them every week until they fall apart.

This is partly because nobody makes clothes for women with curves. Skinny girls? Yes. Heavy girls? Yes. Women who have hips bigger than 35″ and thighs bigger than 20″ and some junk in the trunk? Nope. And I’m not saying they’re substantially bigger measurements, but they look pretty different. So if I find a skirt or a dress or a pair of pants or, God help me, jeans that fit, I’m wearing those babies into the ground.

It’s also because I can’t justify spending $75 on a pair of pants, and then doing it again the next year.

What on earth could possibly make a pair of pants worth $75? They’re pants. They’re not woven of flaxen gold.

The other thing I hate about going shopping for clothes is that I have to try everything on. I’m not one of those people who can just breeze through and buy stuff, take it home and figure out what to do with it from there. I have to find a room with terrible lighting and subtly fun house mirrors that somehow make me look worse unclothed, but make the clothes I’m trying on look better on me than they will at home. I have to do it. Because the only thing I hate more than shopping is returning stuff.

First stop in the mall: the department store to get a gift card for Sister 2′s birthday. She had spotted a watch there that she liked. I browsed the clothes there only briefly, because for some reason I always forget that I don’t like any clothes in department stores unless they’re $125. I remember as a kid, the department stores were where my mother always took us. Jeans, shirts, sweaters, pants… we got them all there, at Penney’s or Sears, and tried them all on while carefully avoiding the straight pins that littered the floors of the fitting rooms. Mom could find ways to buy us all clothes and not spend more than $150.

Things must be different in the children’s department.

Fortunately, I know which stores sell the kinds of clothes I like and are most likely to fit me. The exception to this rule is Express. I used to love Express. (Not their pants or skirts – because you can’t have hips to wear those – but their shirts and sweaters.) Then its buyers decided to trend the store toward trollop streetwalkers in their early 20s.

No can do. Apparently some people can show up to work in spangly metallic strappy tank tops and super-tight pants. But they probably work on the corner.

I headed into New York & Company. Far and away, this place’s clothes fit me the best. They also over-size them in a delightful twist to that old “Field of Dreams”philosophy that morphs to “If you make me think I’m a size 6, I will shop.”

Now I had to battle the demons of my classic taste. Everything is ruffles in this place these days. Did you know that? Ruffles are big.

I don’t do Ruffles. Unless we’re talking about the potato chips.

But I decided to get out of my comfort zone. I had actually seen one item online that I really liked, and found it easily (which never happens). It fit and it didn’t look retarded. I could wear it with the ten-year-old pants. Score.

You may have guessed... this is not me. But it is the top I bought. (image from nyandcompany.com)

I wound up with three tops that have some variation on a ruffle. They’re all tank tops (why do people think most women wear tank tops in the fall?) that will be worn with a cardigan. And they’re all a variation of purple, because purple and blue were the only colors in the store that weren’t white or black.

I found a black cardigan that would work with the tanks. This took a little searching. The first one I tried was cut off at the ribcage, which makes my hips pop out like they’re Serena Williams’ butt. Suddenly it’s all anybody can see. So that was a no. Then I found a really cute wrap that I liked a lot, but there were ruffles that fell at – you guessed it – the hip. And I would have needed to belt it with one of those skinny belts. Which also makes my hips more noticeable.

I think most clothing designers are hipist. It’s like a whole different kind of culturally insensitive bias.

Happily, I managed to find a cardigan that was longer and still fit properly and would look good over the tank tops. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized I will be wearing that cardigan a lot. 

I also found a pair of khakis that I can wear on casual days at work, or at home. Major bonus. And I bought a casual skirt. Normally I stay away from those; there are pockets at the hips and that’s usually a really bad idea on me. I obsessively rule out hip pockets as I screech hangers across rods in stores. But in the fitting room, the skirt looked decent. I hemmed and hawed a bit, walked out of the fitting room to the triple-mirror to see what it had to say, sort of hoped that another woman would walk by and give me an honest assessment (this apparently only happens at Sears and Penney’s), and ultimately decided it was definitely fine here but would probably be dreadful when I put it on at home. It went in the Yes Pile.

I haven’t worked up the courage yet to put it on post-purchase. When I took it out of the bag at my place, it looked huge. I had to put it down and drink some wine.

Next up: two pencil skirts and a pair of dress pants. These are the items that make me love this store. Not all their styles fit, but I usually know which ones will.

False.

First of all, who invented knit pencil skirts? They’re so clingy. In all the wrong places. No Pile.

Then there was the other pencil skirt, which would have been perfect if the designers hadn’t decided to put a raised panel seam right where the rise of the hip happens. I suppose women who don’t have hips might look for something that would help them look a little fuller.

I hate those women.

No Pile.

The dress pants. I had such hope for the dress pants, but they were all wrong. Fit in the waist, fine in the butt, but too much fabric in the front and all kinds of wrong in the saddlebags.

No Pile.

Sad. This is the store whose clothes are supposed to fit my bottom half the best. Despair began to creep in as I looked with trepidation at the jeans I’d pulled from a shelf. Ominous music played in my head.

Jeans are like my best frienemy. There are some jeans I love. Not many. The ones I love, I own forever. There are other jeans – most of them – that are flat-out horrible on me. Gaping at the waist – always gaping at the waist if they fit in the hips. Indescribably problematic in the thigh/saddlebag area. Sagging at the crotch so that I look like Dick VanDyke in the “Jolly Holiday” scene of Mary Poppins.

tallgirlrunning.blogspot.com/"Mary Poppins"

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Something quite atrocious.

The reason I’d grabbed these jeans was because the sign said they were contoured so they wouldn’t gape at the back of the waist.

Well, that’s exciting.

And the sign did not lie. They do not gape at the back of the waist. No one can see my underwear when I sit down in them. They have a higher waist than I’d like, so we’ll see what I think of them when I put them on at home.

After assessing the damage at NY&Co., I hauled my purchases out of the store in a big bag and set off. I thought I was finished for the day, since I had been shopping for an hour and a half, and that’s pretty much my limit. I stopped by Bath & Body Works to stock up on my signature scent and stood in line at the cashier behind a woman who kept saying she just can’t tolerate odd numbers in her checkbook and was therefore making the store clerk ring up $3.53 of her purchase in cash, and $16.50 on the debit card. This transaction took several minutes because it was confusing the store clerk, and the register. And me. Because why don’t you just put $20 on the card and pay her three cents in cash, lady? Or learn math. I’m standing here.

She was really nice about it, but Nice only goes so far in excusing Stupid.

Leaving there, I walked by The Limited. This is a store I used to love until all of a sudden their clothes got super-expensive without getting any nicer. They have good clothes, but not $75-for-pants good. But the sign out front caught my eye because they were having a huge sale.

Wouldn’t hurt to look.

Happily, their colors ranged beyond blue and purple, and they had a classic, tailored white long-sleeved shirt (which I have to get every year or two because mine always wind up yellowed under the arms) that did not have ruffles, ruching, ribbing or anything else on it that would make it look like an alien was trying to emerge from my bosom under a sweater. And it was 40% off. Sweet.

The salesperson who accosted me immediately upon my arrival handed me a fun peel-and-save coupon that told me I would get 40% off another top. So then I had to find one. And I came upon a red and black dressy tank top that would work well with the ten-year-old pants and the destined-to-be-ubiquitous cardigan.

Holla.

They had a pencil skirt that I loved, that fit. OMG.

And, wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, I also found a pair of pants. A pair of pants, I tell you, that fit right in all the places where they usually fit wrong, and were only $30. 

Jesus wanted me to have them. It’s the only explanation I can think of.

And I saved 30% on the purchase by opening a credit card. The sales girl said I had to put some of the purchase on it now, but it could be a small amount and I could just close the account next week if I wanted.

Sold.

With a smouldering debit card and arms sore from carrying heavy loads of clothes, I went out to the car. Three and a half hours of shopping had me aching for a cold drink and a massage.  I could only have the former. My shopping wasn’t done yet.

But the next trip was to the grocery store. And that’s my favorite kind of shopping.

 

 

 

 

Old Dress Greens

I’m awakened by a noise I can’t identify. I lie in bed for a moment, in the darkness, then slip out, looking around. I cross the hall, seeing no one and nothing. I walk toward the bathroom.

When I turn around, suddenly there is an Army soldier there. Less than two feet away.

He is African-American and I would guess he’s in his late 20s or early 30s. He is wearing old style Army dress greens and standing with his hands at his sides. Staring at me.

No. Through me.

Stunned, I stare back. The sense of doom rises in me. Who is this? Why is he here? How did he get in? How did he suddenly appear there when he wasn’t there two seconds ago?

As my heart pounds and I reach for understanding, he softens slightly and begins to speak. “Ma’am, I’m here to tell you that your friend’s son, Jesse Green, was killed in action in Iraq.”

I’m baffled. Still wordless, I drop my eyes away, searching my memory. Jesse Green? I don’t know who that is. I roll the name over in my head. Jesse Green… Jesse Green… Then his identity dawns on me and I’m overcome by sadness for his parents. “Oh! Oh, God! Oh, no!” I softly bemoan their tragedy.

But why is this soldier here, telling me? I don’t understand.

The soldier breaks his stony expression and smiles a bit, bowing his head slightly. “I have a card, if you’d like it…”

As he extends his left hand, seemingly blank business card held out, I sense that I’m in grave danger. I look up from the card and see his right hand coming up, his index finger on the trigger of a .45.

I duck, turning to my left, low, with my arms coming up over my head.

And wake up.

*******

Where the hell did that come from?

I look at the clock and find that it’s 6:00am. It’s not quite light outside, and I begin to drift back to sleep, and back into that dream. Struggling to the surface of consciousness, I fight to wake up completely and break away from the nightmare. It is a mighty fight. I slip away twice before I finally manage to really wake up and end the dream.

Heart pounding, eyes blinking, I repeat to myself, “It was just a dream. It was just a dream. It was just a dream. It was just a dream.”

I am not sure whether I only said those words in my head, or if I actually whispered them aloud.

I hear a click from another part of the apartment and shift my eyes to the bedroom doorway. Without contact lenses or glasses, in the pre-dawn gray light, I won’t see anything. But even the cat has been alerted to the sound, her ears perked up, her gaze fixed in the direction from which it came.

Another click. The cat gets up on her front paws.

Is someone trying to get in?

Now I can’t determine whether the dream was triggered by the sound or whether the sound is more frightening because of the dream.

Just a dream. Just a dream. Just a dream.

I breathe deeply, in and out, in and out, trying to grip the reality of the early morning and let go of the strange circuitry of the sleeping brain.

*******

No one was trying to get into the apartment. I don’t know what the clicking was that the cat and I heard. But now, more than 30 hours after I woke up from the nightmare, I’m fascinated by it.

I was really terrified in that dream. Everything about it felt wrong. The house I was in was not a house in which I had ever lived, though the furniture in the bedroom seemed similar, at least, to my set. Perhaps it was a house in which I will live one day? I knew it was my home, and I liked it. I know that.

The soldier… what was it about him? I was astonished by a number of things. He was African-American. Why? (Why not?) He was wearing old-style dress greens. I can’t remember the last time I saw those. But I didn’t feel that I was in another era, like a past life, in that dream. I wondered in the dream, briefly, if he was a ghost, because he had appeared so suddenly in the hall where I had just walked. But I knew almost right away that he was not a ghost. And his expression… stone-faced. Not just disciplined away from expression. Cold. Heartless. Menacing.

When he softened and began to speak, my sense of dread for myself waned a bit as I thought about the tragedy of another family. I lowered my guard just slightly. And when I saw him raise that arm with the .45 in his hand, I knew somehow that making me lower my guard had been his intention.

How did I know it was a .45? I don’t know anything about guns. I hate guns.

But I know it was a .45.

I looked it up to be sure. And I was right.

I even remember it was silver and gold toned. Silver in the handpiece and the lower portion of the barrel. Gold on the top portion. Running along the length.

And what about the name? Jesse Green. I don’t know a Jesse Green. Truth be told, in the dream, Green’s father was exactly the person who may have been struck by the last name while reading this. But I know he doesn’t have a son named Jesse. And he shouldn’t be concerned. The only thing about the dream that I’ve been able to figure out is that the reference to his last name was my brain’s way of connecting my dream to “reality.” In fact, as soon as I woke up, I thought, “I should write a blog post about this.”

There is a Jesse Green who served in the Army in Iraq. He’s alive, and lives in Ohio. I used to live in Ohio, but not since before 9/11, and I have no idea who he is.

The details I’ve described are those that I know must matter to the dream. They must matter to my psyche, or I wouldn’t remember them so clearly and absolutely. They must hold keys to the interpretation. And yet, I have no idea where this nightmare came from.

I have a friend whose fiance’ was critically wounded a few weeks ago, but in Afghanistan, not Iraq. He is African-American – is that why the soldier in my dream was? Normally, when I can’t figure out a dream, if I find a connection somehow, I know it’s the right one by how it resonates with me consciously. If it’s an “Oh!” moment, I know that must be it. I haven’t had any of those moments about this dream.

I think that’s what scares me the most.

It was not the most frightening dream I’ve ever had, but for a dream that seems to hold no connection to anything I know in waking life, it was terrifying. I can’t shake it even a day later.

Have you ever had a dream that shook you without making any sense at all?

In Which I Bestow Honors On People

My dear blog friend Bud over at Older Eyes has suggested I play a bit of a blogging game. That’s my description of it, not his; his description of it is “it’s NOT a meme.” It’s called the Seven Links Challenge, and the purpose is to give bloggers a chance to share previous posts that might deserve some props. Two rules: I have to publish seven links of my own blog, one per category listed below; and I have to nominate 5-7 other bloggers to do the same.

But this is not a chain letter, so if the people I select don’t participate, nothing bad will happen to any kittens and God will not smite them with His mighty hand or otherwise judge them to be faithless heathens… like when you ignore other chain mail.

I found this challenge to be an interesting one for a couple of reasons. One: I haven’t been blogging long. Just since March. So even my “old” stuff isn’t very old. The other is that I am pretty critical of my own writing and often go back and re-read to find it’s not nearly as great as I thought it was when I published it. So this was an exercise in putting aside some of that criticism, as well.

And here I go:

1. Most beautiful post. Well, I don’t generally write “beautiful” posts. I generally write “smart-ass” posts. That being said, one of the first posts I ever wrote was an example of how I can write when I’m not being snarky. The Smell of Spring won’t necessarily resonate right now as summer wanes, but at the end of a long, cold winter, my fingers were itching to write it. I wrote half of it in my head, just walking from my car to my apartment late at night after work. It was the second thing I ever posted, back on March 19.

2. Most Popular Post. I had a hard time with this one, believe it or not, because I couldn’t decide how to define it. I’ve never been Freshly Pressed, so it’s not like I had one post that did gangbusters over others. Was it based on the most reads? or the best reactions? Finally, I settled on Who Let You In Here?, a post I put up on May 30 that generated 29 comments (half of them mine, I admit) and six “likes” from fellow bloggers. Turns out, writing about chasing a mouse – and a cat – gets a good reaction.

3. Most Controversial Post. Oddly, I haven’t stirred up a lot of controversy on my blog. There have been times when I thought I was opening up a can of the proverbial worms, but then there wasn’t much tussle over things in the comments. So I’m offering up a post that I think might have been the most controversial if anybody had read it. It’s called God is not a carcinogen. Now what?, and it is one of the most raw emotional things I’ve published here. It was posted on March 20.

4. Most Helpful Post. Well, I suppose It’s a Muscle, Not A Dinosaur…and Other Things I Learned On the Massage Table wins that distinction. Since its publication on May 7, it’s gotten the highest number of views of any post I’ve ever written. I gather that’s because a lot of people search the interwebs for photos of the muscles of the lumbar spine, which I was kind enough to provide in that post. I say that post got the highest number of views because I’m quite sure the people who somehow stumbled upon it on page 82 of their Google search results didn’t actually read it.

5. Most Surprisingly Successful Post. Hands down, Enough Is Enough from July 26th. I knew it was a high-caliber political rant and I knew I was striking while the iron was hot, but I had no idea it would get as many views as it did. That is thanks in large part to Dan Bain over at bainwaves, who was kind enough to socialize it on various social media outlets.

6. Post That Didn’t Get the Attention It Deserved. This was a tough one to determine. There were posts that got less attention than Betty Friedan Would Be So Disappointed, but I didn’t necessarily think they “deserved” to get more. I actually really like a lot of the stuff I wrote in March and May (as you can tell from the pattern of what I’ve chosen), but I really liked this one from May 6, and to date it has gotten fewer than two dozen views. Sad.

7. Post I Am Most Proud Of. The one I decided on for this category could have been Most Controversial, as well, but again, if there were readers who found it controversial, they didn’t comment, so I don’t know. It’s called Just A Man. I wrote it after the death of Osama bin Laden. I was struck by the realization that if someone came across him and had no idea of what happened on 9/11, or other attacks, they would have no idea that he was who he was. It seemed unbelievable to me that a man who was behind so much horror could possibly not actually seep it from his pores. That was a valuable realization for me because it made me think about the way history shapes our understanding of its characters.

I hope the selections I’ve made are worthy of their distinctions. Feel free to comment on them when you read them. If you read them.

——

Meanwhile, over on jodistone’s page, I’ve been honored to be called a Versatile Blogger. Jodi’s page is centered around her dogs, Sampson and Delilah, and if you’re an animal lover, it’s a go-to page for sure. Her gracious recommendation comes with the commission to tell readers seven things about myself and nominate 15 more bloggers. Bud at Older Eyes has bestowed this honor on me in the past, so now I’ll come up with seven more things so I don’t bore you all. And again I’ll say that I don’t have 15 bloggers I can solidly call “versatile,” but I’ll happily give you links to the ones I’ve discovered since the last time.

Seven Things:

1. I want a dog, either a black or chocolate lab, at least 50 pounds (so maybe a bit of another dog in there for heft), at least a year old, and I want to name him Seamus. Or Guinness. But I can’t have him until I buy a house. Oh, and he has to have a good bark for when people walk up to the door.

2. I never drank coffee until about two years ago. I blame Starbucks’ Caramel Macchiato for this. It’s a gateway drug. Now I drink the hard stuff. But only one cup, in the morning. Unless I have two.

3. My favorite season is fall. I love to curl up all cozy and warm with that crispness to the air and that smell of burning leaves. To hell with the environment.

4. I despite “reality” television. Except for “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.” Don’t judge me.

5. I cannot think of a turnoff more vile than the sound of food sloshing around in one’s mouth. You could be George Clooney– if I have to listen to you smack your lunch around, I’m totally writing you off.

6. I vascillate between thinking I’m entirely too picky and thinking I’m nowhere near picky enough. I usually think the former when I’m not seeing anyone and the latter when something’s just ended.

7. I’m grateful that the Bluetooth system and that in-car phone system have been invented because now I can talk to myself freely in the car and no one looks at me like I’m crazy anymore.

My nominees for Versatile Blogger:

pithypants – I think she and I should be friends in real life, and I have told her as much in a comment on her blog. So she probably has taken out a restraining order against me.

lafemmeroar – warning: not for the faint of heart. This girl lays it down for real. Make sure your kids don’t see it.

Bainwaves – Dan’s got good sense and a good sense of humor. Plus he can write, and I love his blog’s tagline: “The world is hurting. Laugh more”. Can’t argue with that.

PDX Running Chick - She’s new. And she’s baring her heart and soul in a very brave way. I find her inspiring. Plus she makes me feel better about being a total train wreck sometimes. (That’s not an insult, PDX.)

The Observationalist NYC - he’s a 32-year-old costume designer in New York, with a Dog. A French Bulldog, to be precise. And that dog is the man, figuratively speaking. NYC’s posts can range from sequins and thread to heartache and confusion. Like NYC itself.

steadilyskippingstones – She’s funny, she’s serious, she’s honest, she’s easy to blog around… I can’t imagine why anybody wouldn’t like her.

Your turn, blogfriends. Go!

belly-button-ring-16

If You’ve Got It, When Should You Stop Flaunting It?

What do we think of belly button rings?

I’m not asking because I’m thinking about getting one. I ask because I already have one, and I’m wondering how long that’s going to be acceptable.

I’m 34. I’ve had the ring since I was 26. It went like this: Sister 1, who is two and a half years younger than me, was standing in the upstairs bathroom at my parents’ house on Easter Sunday. I came up the steps and saw her there in front of the mirror, curling her hair, with her shirt riding up and a shiny new piercing exposed. My mouth gaped open and I pointed at it, wide-eyed. She nodded at me excitedly.

“I want one too!” I mouthed, pointing at myself emphatically.

“Okay, I’ll take you to where I got mine!” she mouthed, and then gave me a thumbs-up.

“Where?” I asked with an exaggerated questiony face.

“Warrior!” she lipped at me.

The whole exchange was silent because, despite the fact that we had both been out of the house for a while and she was now married, we did not want to alert our parents to the fact that there were belly buttons belonging to their daughters being pierced.

Mother’s Day happened to be a couple weeks later, so there we were, back at the house for a visit. My sister and I ventured out, secretly, to the place where she had her belly button pierced, so I could get mine done, too.

We arrived at the place and I saw that it declared its name via a sign with a tongue hanging out of a mouth. There was a spike driven through the tongue.

Okay, then.

The place was scary to walk into, but it was clean, and we were the only people there. Us, and the tattooed, pierced guy who worked there and had just opened the shop. Apparently he was early and we didn’t really know that the place wasn’t open yet, since it was 2pm. The guy asked us what we wanted and I told him I was there to get my belly button pierced.

Almost wordlessly, he shuffled over to me, pulled up my shirt, stuck a finger in my navel and grabbed the skin at the top of it.

Oh my!

Um… I sort of liked that!

I did not know that about myself!

“Okay,” he said. “You have a pretty hot stomach.”

Those were two separate thoughts. I think he did the finger thing to make sure I had the right amount of skin for this kind of accessory, but apparently the statement was borne of additional cursory observation.

“Sorry,” he said as he slowly prepped the stuff he needed. “I’m still hung over, and we’re not really open.”

My sister and I exchanged looks. And yet I still got in the chair.

You’re not going to believe this, but I actually watched him do his thing. Needles never bother me, so why wouldn’t I watch him drive a small nail through the skin at the top of my navel and then push a ring through it, bending it into submission with pliers and then closing it?

It looks like this. But this isn't me. (image from leeladesigns.com)

It didn’t even hurt, actually. Though the thought occurs to me now, eight years later, that perhaps the alcohol he swabbed on also contained a numbing agent. Like when a mohel performs a bris.

We went back to my parents’ house and celebrated Mother’s Day with no one the wiser about my newly acquired secret hardware.

Which was crooked.

Because the Hungover Piercing Guy didn’t stick the piercing tool through the skin in a straight line.

For a while, I tried to sort of “train” the ring to be straight. I seriously used to thread dental floss through it and tape it or band-aid onto my stomach so that the ring would line up right. I hoped it would heal up in such a way that everything would be fine.

Nope.

It’s really not that noticeable if I’m standing up. It’s more noticeable if I lay down, because then it sort of flops over to one side a little bit.

Oh, I should mention that I still have the same little silver ring with which Hungover Piercing Guy pierced my belly button. That’s for two reasons:

  • A) I sort of think that blingy dangly belly rings look silly on a grown-ass woman… and
  •  2) I am terrified of taking out the original ring. My sister says her husband had to use pliers to get hers apart far enough to take it out.

And I think it would be awkward to ask him to do that for me.

(I have also discovered a benefit of having the ring that I think would not be as beneficial if it were just a post or a silly blingy dangly thing, but we’re not going to discuss that here. It would be gauche.)

I should note that, while the moment of the piercing was not painful, the following several weeks hurt like hell. These were still the days of higher-waisted pants… none of the low-rise stuff we wear now (which is much kinder to the navel piercing). A couple weeks after I had it done, I was once again visiting my parents. I got there late at night, parked on the street and got my bag out of the trunk. I was trying to be quiet because it was so late, and I didn’t want to wake anyone up. Lifting the bag out by its shoulder strap, I didn’t think through the physics. The bag swung backward and hit me right in the belly.

Which seemed to catch fire.

I turned into that guy in the Edvard Munch painting, “The Scream.” Silent… but dying. For a really long time.

Eight years later, it’s still crooked, but whatever – most people either don’t notice because they’re not, like, at eye level with it, or they don’t mind because the very few people who have been at eye-level with it were not assessing its placement in any deliberative way, know what I’m sayin’? But now, though my stomach is still in pretty good shape and the ring isn’t getting lost in any flab or anything, I’m wondering how old is too old for this particular adornment.

I guess the reason I got the piercing also figures in. People who know me personally never would have thought I would do such a thing. In fact, a lot of people are shocked – shocked, I tell you – if they find out I have it. As I grew into myself more in my 20s, I started being less “afraid” of the “crazier” sides of myself. I was less “disciplined.” That doesn’t mean I was bad, by any means. It means I lightened up. Mellowed out.

Took the stick out of my ass.

And I wanted to replace it with a small symbol of my lesser-known, more emboldened side. Something that people would only see if they were an intimate acquaintance.

Or a random stranger on a beach.

Or at a pool.

Or on a cruise ship.

Pretty much anywhere I might wear a bathing suit.

Getting my belly button pierced was kind of liberating. I didn’t have to ask permission and I didn’t need to seek validation for it. It was just for me. When my mother saw it at the beach a couple of months later, she sighed, gave me a dirty look and said, “I’m glad you have your own health insurance.”

Now you know where I got the Ass Stick. I was 26, for crying out loud. I wasn’t a kid. But she hated the ring and thought I was going to die of some sort of belly button infection. She also thought it was overly (and overtly) sexual and therefore probably thought I was going to hell’s first circle for getting it.

No, I did not get my navel pierced as a way to rebel against my uber-conservative mother.

Well, maybe a little bit, but not really.

Over the years, I’ve gotten compliments from some who have seen it. My parents’ friend once saw my sister’s at the beach and commented to my dad (thoughtlessly) that he reeaaally liked those things.

“I mean in general. Just, you know, generally,” he said when my father shot him a look.

Yes, it produces a reaction from certain members of the population, and frankly, I like causing a stir. (Not that it happens that often.)

No, mostly it really is for me. It reminds me of the side that’s wilder, less uptight, more game for adventure. I wouldn’t necessarily lose that side of me because I let the piercing close up, but maybe I would have to lose a little of her in order to make that decision.

So… how old is too old to walk around with this thing?

debate.8.11.11_620x350

Thursday Night Fights

Bret Baier is not a real man. This was my first observation in the GOP debate on Fox News Channel last night. I’m not calling his masculinity into question – I’m just saying he’s a Ken doll and all his hair probably pops off in one piece. Also I think his suit was folded onto his body with little paper tabs.

See what I mean? (photo from mediabistro.com)

Not really the point of watching the debate – nor was it the biggest take-away of the night. But it was definitely the first thing I noticed.

So I sat on my couch, late night, post-Colbert, fully-functional (thank Jesus) laptop in lap to make notes for this post, watching the replay of the debate… because I’d been working for the live version. Oh, and because I’m a nerd. And while in political debates I equate playback with previously-recorded sporting events, it was still a hoot and a half to watch, and probably even more entertaining than watching the preseason Eagles vs. Ravens game. (Preseason football is like post-mortem clothes shopping. It just doesn’t matter because you’re never going to see it again.)

The first thing I noticed after the Bret Baier thing is that Rep. Michele Bachmann thinks it’s not that hard to fix the economy and that she can turn it around in three months.

Just when I had started to think she was being picked on too much, she reminded me that she’s a crazypants.

Just because Newsweek is now run by a--holes doesn't mean they're not really out to get you. (Photo from dailykos.com)

Then Mitt Romney talked too long and a bell sounded and I thought for a second that he’d just pulled into a full service gas station. I expected to see a crew of Texaco gents trot out and comb his hair. Turned out it was just the “time’s up” bell. It also turned out that the Texaco bell was the most strident and challenging opponent Romney would have all night. Nobody touched him. There wasn’t enough about the health care dispute to really bruise him and even when there was discussion of it, he played it off pretty deftly with an explanation that nobody rebutted. Debates are great places for Romney. He’s unflappable because he’s prepared and he can come off above it all but not arrogant. Unlike when he got heckled at the Iowa State Fair earlier in the day by a non-Republican who shouted him down about entitlements and taxes. Romney wound up insisting that corporations are people. Hmm.

Rep. Ron Paul was next. This guy… he’s such an interesting character. He starts out

"Get off my lawn!" pic from infowars.net

making good sense and talks fast and then completely runs off the rails politically. And then he starts yelling. It’s fun to watch, but he’s never going to get anywhere in his presidential runs. Which is a shame, because regardless of whether I agree with him or not, point by point, I like the way his mind works. He’s logical until he forgets that when he gets fired up, he screeches. Remember what happened to Howard Dean?

(Incidentally, I know someone who was a photographer and followed Dean’s campaign in 2004. He said Dean did variations on that “eeyeahhh!” thing all the time, but it was just the moment when the national cable cameras caught him doing it, at that particular point in the campaign, that the “eeyeahhh!” killed him.)

Next to take a question: Jon Huntsman. The recently former ambassador to China under the Obama administration. Well, that’s interesting in and of itself, but somehow nobody’s asked him about it yet, or if they have, it hasn’t gotten much play. He only brought it up once in the debate, and I suspect he won’t get much more opportunity to do it. The problem Jon Huntsman has is that he has no flash and he has no economic plan. He’s been in the race for a month and a half and he still has no plan. Right now, if you want to run for president, you have to have a plan written, printed, proofed, bound and covered before you announce. Huntsman is way too far behind the 8 ball. And it’s because he’s deliberative and measured. That’s an attribute the country needs, but not what it responds to. See also: Obama presidency.

"Oh, hello. Hello, Yes, nice to see you. Welcome, I've been here for 82 years." (image from washingtonpost.com)

This is when former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich got to speak up, and of all things, he talked about divided government. He pointed out that Saturday is the 30th anniversary of the day Reagan signed a tax cut that Gingrich was in the Congress for– which led to the invention of the “trickle-down” theory of economics (which leads to me wondering why Reagan is apparently a saint now). I don’t know why Gingrich would point out that he was in Congress 30 years ago. It only demonstrates that younger people have no interest in him, and by the way, years later, he presided over the shutdown of the federal government. People right now are going to associate that with partisanship and fighting on the Hill, and that’s the last thing they want to hear.

Then former Gov. Pawlenty offered to cook dinner for anybody who could find the president’s specific plan for some stuff I don’t remember because he’s boring until he offers to come to my house and cook. He did say he would mow my lawn if I didn’t want him to cook. This was the most interesting thing he said all night, and I still bet he didn’t have any takers.

"Um... I'll make you dinner?" (pic from cbsnews.com)

They didn't ask Santorum much. Probably because they googled "Santorum" and now he makes them uncomfortable. (pic from politico.com)

Somebody remembered that Rick Santorum was there and asked him about the economy. He said that he’s been to 68 counties in Iowa talking about how to create manufacturing in the US again. He pointed out that jobs are going overseas to China, Malaysia and Indonesia, and that his plans include energy ideas because manufacturers use energy. He wants to cut manufacturers’ federal taxes to zero and says that’s when the jobs will come back. Smart, interesting approach in some ways. But only about five people applauded. I don’t know if they didn’t get it, didn’t think it was practical, or were just trying to remember exactly how many counties there are in Iowa, anyway.

When Chris Wallace took his first turn at questioning the candidates, he immediately pitted Congresswoman Bachmann against Tim Pawlenty. In fact, he asked Pawlenty flat-out, “Is she unqualified, or is she just beating you in the polls?” Frankly, even Bachmann looked shocked by the question.  Pawlenty basically made the entirety of his case right here: “I have experience in getting results and she doesn’t. Also Barack Obama is bad.” If you ask him anything else, this is what he’s going to say. He’s all about results. It’s easier to be about that when you’ve been a governor. It’s a little less easy to beat back a woman who’s on a roll and who quotes you saying “the era of small government is over” when you were governor of the state from which she represents a constituency.  Bachmann resorted to her stump speech more than the rest of the candidates did, but she knows how to score points with it.

Oh, and by the way, she was enthusiastically proud of the fact that she introduced the “Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act.” You don’t get to choose whether you have a child, but you get to pick between incandescent and CF, dammit.

Meanwhile, on the reservation, Mitt Romney was talking about business. When Chris Wallace pointed out that Romney’s business ventures netted lots of layoffs for employees and his time as governor of Massachusetts showed dismal job growth ratings, the former governor pointed out that not every investment works. This was the only moment during which any candidate recognized that Herman Cain was standing there. Romney said he and Cain were the only people on the stage who understood how an economy can lose and gain jobs, because they’ve done it in their businesses. And then he pointed out that Massachusetts’ unemployment rate was below the federal rate for three of the four years he was governor.

He did not, however, point out why he was only governor for one term.

As it turns out, the sassiest person on the stage last night was Newt Gingrich, and this was when it started: Chris Wallace went at him about how his campaign is a mess and he’s a million dollars in debt. Gingrich replied with a very curt: “You know, I took seriously Bret’s request to put aside talking points. I wish you’d put aside gotcha questions.”

The crowd cheered and I cringed.

Look, Mr. Speaker. You’re a politician. If you can’t handle “gotcha” questions, get out of the game. Don’t be a crybaby about it. Chris Wallace is a pretty tough questioner. It was obvious last night that he was taking aim at the “main candidates” and the people with whom he could raise hackles. That’s what he does. But if you can’t handle a completely fair concern about your campaign, you’re not going to be able to handle being president.

Once we got that pouting out of the way, Gingrich noted that Reagan lost 13 members of his senior staff the morning of the New Hampshire primary in 1980, and he laid off 100 people later because the consultants had spent all the money. The facts are a little fuzzy… some of the aides might say they were axed, maybe it wasn’t 13 of them, but the larger point stands. Somehow Gingrich parlayed that into recalling the Congress, repealing Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley, and getting rid of “Obamacare.”

For the record, I shut down on anybody who calls it “Obamacare.” I hate politicizing terms like that. It’s transparent campaign bluster and I find it patently derisive and insipid.

And then Gingrich circled back around to being mad at reporters and said he wanted to see questions for the rest of the debate about what the candidates could do to lead an America “whose president has failed to lead, instead of playing Mickey Mouse games.” When Wallace responded that people want to hear questions about the candidates’ records, the crowd booed.

I officially do not understand these crowds.

Some other actual fact-based highlights of the debate, broken down candidate by candidate:

Jon Huntsman was obliquely accused of running in the wrong party because he has said that the Obama stimulus package was not big enough and he favored regional cap and trade market approaches when he was governor of Utah. He also believes in civil unions. His response was that the stimulus needed to included more tax cuts for businesses, which he did in Utah. He also instituted the flat tax there and the state became the #1 job creator in the country. And yes, he does favor civil unions, because he thinks the country could do better in issues of equality, regardless of how marriage is defined.

He believes it’s unrealistic to send illegal immigrants back from whence they came. He says he is pro-life, pro-second amendment, and pro-something else I don’t remember because I got distracted by trying to figure out why he’s running for president without hopping up and down about China. This guy knows more about China than the Chinese do, and he’s not really playing it up. Fail.

America: Lighten up! (pic from dailycaller.com)

Herman Cain defended his apology of a defense of an assertion that communities have the right to ban Muslims from building mosques. At least, I think that’s what he did. But mostly what he wants to establish is that Sharia law has no place in American courts. I think it’s hard to argue that it does, and the crowd cheered his emphatic pronouncement. He also clarified a statement in which he said southerners (he lives in Atlanta) don’t understand Mitt Romney’s and Jon Huntsman’s Mormon faith. He didn’t say he didn’t respect their faith; he says he’s hearing from others that they don’t. That’s all.

Apparently he didn’t explain it to them.

Cain has no firm plan on what to do in Afghanistan. He wants to talk to the generals first. I can only assume they’re not returning his calls because they didn’t order any pizza. He’s been hit for not understanding Afghanistan well enough and not understanding the issue of the Palestinian Right of Return. His best defense here was that he’s learned some stuff about those things since the last debate, and that he now realizes we don’t have one problem in Afghanistan, we have three, and if he gets more time, he’ll explain what they are.

Didn’t happen. For the most part, Cain has a business mind and nothing else to run on. But his best line of the night came when someone asked him whether he was serious about proposing a 20-foot electrified fence to protect the border on the heels of the president’s crack about moats and alligators.

“America needs to learn how to take a joke,” Cain said.

Newt Gingrich stated pretty plainly that he thinks English should be the official language of the US and that the government should figure out a system by which it knows which illegal immigrants have been here a long time and which ones just got here, and then someone showed up to get gas and I was glad because I had no earthly idea how to make that parsing happen, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t, either. Later, the former speaker explained why he thinks the “super-committee” on spending reduction is “about the dumbest idea Washington has ever had,” and his problem with it centers on the fact that the 12 member panel would conduct its decision making basically in secret. He’s still probably the smartest guy in the room, and a lot of his answers were very intellectual. I just don’t think he’s selling it. He goes for the populist Fox News jugular when he complains about the media, but mostly he just doesn’t have a sharp enough point on the end of his spear.

Mitt Romney painted a pretty sensible picture of finding a way to welcome the best and the brightest from around the world and make them America’s own. He said he would rather staple Green Cards to their diplomas than send them home, because at least they can prove their worth. He wants to crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants. That’s supposedly already happening, so I guess he means crack down more.

Which is a problem for Rep. Ron Paul, who doesn’t want to put the burden of policing the nation’s immigration issues on the business people. I hadn’t thought of it that way before, and that’s where Paul wins points. He puts things in ways that make you go, “Dude, you’re kind of nutty, but that makes sense.”

And then he ranted about how we don’t blame churches for feeding hungry people, and made a leap to ending the wars. He doesn’t think Iran is really a threat and finds it perfectly logical that Mahmoud Ahmedinijad might want a nuclear weapon, since everybody around him has one. Hard to argue with that, but Paul sees you your nuke and raises you a nod; he doesn’t really care if Iran has nuclear weapons. Which everyone else on the stage was nearly apoplectic about. As for health care, Paul basically has no problem with insurance and pharmaceutical companies. One gets the impression he doesn’t think that a fix is needed at all.

Ron Paul, in a nutshell (which is kind of what he is, in political terms), is about ending the wars, letting states decide things if they really have to, but mostly just leaving everybody the hell alone and getting off each other’s lawns.

Nobody in the race wants to raise taxes. Ever, ever again, apparently. In fact, when they were asked if they would accept a deal in which Congress promised 10 dollars in spending cuts for one dollar in taxes, they all said they would not take that deal.

So… they’re all kind of ridiculous.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think taxes should go up all the place all the time, but come on, people.

Michele Bachmann went a little further with her insistence that the debt ceiling shouldn’t be raised by actually claiming that the markets, and Standard & Poor’s, proved her right by reacting badly after the debt ceiling was raised. There are actually about 42 reasons those things happened, none of which are because you were right, but okay.

She also got a question about why she decided to get a JD in tax law. Her husband had encouraged her to do it in 2006. She didn’t want to, but then is quoted as saying she remembered she should be submissive to her husband, as the Bible says. She explained that answer by saying that, in her marriage, “submissive” means “respectful.” If she got a tax law degree because her husband told her to, I’m not sure about the difference.

Tim Pawlenty got a second chance to hit Romney on what Pawlenty once – and only once – called Obamneycare. Chris Wallace gave him the shot and he took it, explaining rather weakly that the administration’s health care plan was patterned after the Massachusetts plan and that Romney can’t credibly fight against that. Then Pawlenty pointed out what he feels are other similarities between Romney and the president: Romney increased spending in Massachusetts and nominated either pro-choice, Democratic or “liberal” judges to the state courts.

No matter what Tim Pawlenty does, I still think he comes off like the little brother who’s desperately swinging at his older sibling’s legs while they hold him by the head at arm’s length.

Rick Santorum was largely ignored in this debate, which I found interesting. When Santorum can’t even get Fox News Channel to call on him, you know there’s a problem. When it all came down to it and the cards were on the table, Santorum was about outlawing abortion, criminally charging doctors who performed them, refusing rights for gay people and not allowing states to decide what marriage is, because what’s to stop them from allowing polygamy and forced sterilization? He actually asked that question.

Aside from 235 years of them not even considering doing that, that is.

But he made sense on the debt ceiling, basically telling everybody else they were loony for thinking that the country wouldn’t have to raise the debt ceiling ever again.

It was a long debate and it covered a lot of topics. That’s pleasantly surprising unless you wind up watching it until 2am and then writing a blog post about it. Still, I do think it was better than watching the Eagles/Ravens game. I have an even better idea of the differences between GOP candidates now. And I still think Romney’s got this sewn up.

Unless he outsources the seamstress job.

Dirty-Old-Man-87781

Dirty Old Man

What is it with dirty old men and their fascination with my marital and reproductive status?

Yesterday at work, one of my (six) bosses confessed that he had run out of regular dog food for his bichon frise and, by way of compensation, filled her bowl with treats instead. I remarked that at least he doesn’t have actual children. Within a fraction of a second, a voice came from behind me, to my left: “Your time will come.”

I turned and found Dave standing there, beady eyes fixed on me. Well, some part of me. Dave is exactly what you would picture a dirty old man to be: sloppy, with a desk hinting at tendencies toward hoarding. Large, bald, rumpled, bespectacled, and an avid fan of wearing suspenders and a belt at the same time. (I always thought it was an either/or thing.) He’s built like Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum.

Image from alice-in-wonderland.net, which is somehow not a porn site.

That’s even how he looks when he talks to me. Hand on hip, eyes closed, trap flapping.

So anyway, he’s all “your time will come” over there with his hands on his hips, out of nowhere and frankly apropos of nothing. Because we were talking about a dog. And I do want a dog. But that wasn’t what Dave was referring to.

Half-befuddled and half irritated already, I responded to his unsolicited comment with a professional, “Huh?”

“For children,” he said.

Oh, go away already.

“Dave, I–”

“But you have to find a man first.”

Great. Because this is a discussion that’s appropriate for the workplace post-1965.

This kind of crap makes me bristle just out of reflex. As a matter of fact, if I wanted children, I would, indeed, prefer to “find a man” first. And given my tendency to shirk medical intervention, it would seem I would have “found a man” in order to conceive, even if he promptly wandered into the woods afterward. But that’s just me. Not everyone does it that way. Some people don’t even like men, but still want children. Including, incidentally, one of our co-workers, who is raising a son with her partner and standing about 20 feet away right now. Oh, and by the way, Dave, it’s none of your beeswax and I’m not quite sure why you think you know the faintest thing about me, my biological clock or my love life.

But the polite and controlled response I gave was meant simply to just end the conversation. “Well, that’s not necessarily true, Dave,” I said, laughing falsely. “Not in this day and age.”

Dave closed his eyes and leaned in, Tweedle-like, spittle spraying from his mouth. “Don’t. Put the cart. Before the horse. Trust me.”

Dude, are you kidding me with this conversation right now? What are you, Babydaddy to five? You’re a bitterly divorced father of two, conceived in exactly the way you’re advising me to do it. Assuming I’d want to.

“Dave,” I replied exasperatedly and uncomfortably, because exactly zero co-workers were coming to my aid even though three of them were overhearing this. “There’s no cart. There’s no horse. There’s nothing.”

“Good,” he said.

Then he told me his part of the project was done and asked me to look it over because he’d tweaked a couple of things since we last went through it, and he toddled off.

“I swear to God, I threw up in my mouth,” muttered my friend Andrea, wide-eyed, from her desk across from mine.

This isn’t the first time Dave has spouted off unprompted about his perception of my relationship and reproductive status. A few months ago, again randomly, he intoned that I would never find a man working in a basement, nights and weekends.

I’m not saying he’s wrong about the assertion. But he’s sure as hell clueless about whether I care to hear his opinion.

Dave is known throughout the basement as a dirty old man. Recently, when he needed help with his new iPad, he asked a co-worker, but forgot to clear the web browser history, and um, let’s just say we know what Dave’s doing with his free time, and we’d like him to wash his hands.

When one of our co-workers was pregnant, he noted aloud to her that the Titty Fairy had come.

I did not make that up.

During a project that involved a discussion on bras (yeah, it was odd – stay with me), he wandered around the basement asking every woman we work with, “Do you wear an underwire bra? Do you wear an underwire bra? Does your bra have an underwire?” He claimed it was research.

One time, in a meeting, the subject of physical therapy and massage came up, and Dave openly stated that he has never been a fan of massages if they didn’t have Happy Endings.

I know.

And most of the time, people are somewhat professional and polite and don’t really tell him that he needs to shut his sexist, idiot pie hole. Even when people try, he doesn’t really take the hint. It’s awkward.

Earlier today, he came over to me. I found myself raising my defenses. What will I say? I had been thinking about options, but one never knows what is going to come out of Dave’s mouth (aside from spittle). Faced with uncertainty, I cringed inwardly.

Turned out he just wanted to check a date.

Dodged him for now. But I’ve got to be ready for next time, when he tells me maybe I’m single because of my choice of underwear.
——
Featured image from freakingnews.com

Streets of Saint Louis

Can I Go Now?

Nothing makes you want to get away more than encountering a screaming man on your way to get a salad.

I brought my dinner to work yesterday, but as often happens, I didn’t really want it. It was rice and chicken and broccoli and it was boring and seemed like it was going to be kind of heavy. I decided I wanted a salad instead, so I climbed out of the basement (which was really probably half the motivation for wanting to score some chow somewhere else) and headed down the block to fetch one. As I crossed the street, I could hear a man yelling. This isn’t terribly unusual, and I figured it was probably a homeless man out of my line of sight.

But as I approached the restaurant where I meant to get my salad, I discovered I was wrong. In fact, it was a guy I believe to have a home, in his 30s, wearing shorts and sandals and a hooded sweatshirt (a sweatshirt, in 90+ degree heat), and bellowing into the phone. Something about “..and now she’s dumping it on me?! She’s dumping it on me after I wasted a hundred minutes of cell phone time?! I wasted a hundred minutes on my cell phone and she’s dumping it on me now?!…”

He was standing about ten feet away from a silent homeless woman who I’ve seen before. She intrigues me because she’s black (I don’t mean to be culturally insensitive with that vague description; quite the contrary – I don’t know if she’s African-American or an Islander or otherwise), but she paints her face darker. With big round circles left unpainted around her eyes. Like she’s making her own private statement on Vaudeville or something. I’ve wondered before if she’s just touched in the head and doesn’t realize she’s already dark-skinned. But given her company on the sidewalk, tonight I was thinking she might have been the saner of the two.

With Sweatshirt Guy screeching away, I rolled my eyes behind my sunglasses and walked into the restaurant. It took 20 minutes to get my salad because there was only one person preparing food and there were about four people ahead of me. When I walked out of the restaurant, I was surprised to find that the same guy was still standing outside, yelling into his cell phone. And I could swear I heard him call the person on the other end of the line “Mom.”

Wow, I thought as I stood at the curb waiting to cross at the light. You’re a real winner, huh? I could still hear him yelling after I’d crossed. Who was this guy? Who were his friends? Who could possibly like or love him? He’s screaming at his mother through a cell phone on a city street with lots of people around. And it’s not just that maybe she’s hard of hearing or the connection is bad. There’s definite anger involved.

You’re not real, I thought. You are a character in a sitcom or something. I’m being punk’d. You cannot be real!” 

And then I thought, You don’t see nonsense like this in other countries. 

I have been fantasizing lately about fleeing the country and visiting some really awesometastic place. Not like Bengali or Bora Bora (although I have friends who went to Bora Bora and let me tell you, the photos were pretty freaking awesometastic). No, what I’m craving is something more “oldest established.” London. Paris. Rome. Florence. Prague.

Yeah, I’m mostly limiting my fantasies to Europe, I guess. But I think I want to go somewhere that I have an image of in my head, as opposed to some totally new place where I don’t know what to expect. I mean part of the fantasy is the idea that it could actually come true, right?

I’ve been to Paris. Before I went, I had told several people at varying times that I would generally like to spend my money traveling to different places rather than returning to the same place. It was a big part of the reason I had repeatedly told my friends in Melbourne that I couldn’t come back to Australia before I’d done some more globetrotting. When I returned from France, I promptly told everyone (except my friends in Melbourne) that I had lied. I wanted to go back to Paris as soon as possible. I know it’s obvious and trite and, like, soooo 1900s, but it’s true. I fell in love with that city and I didn’t get a ton of time to explore it, so I have to go back and finish my unfinished business.

Bonjour, Rive Seine..

I want to go to London. I used to not really be enamored of London at all… I didn’t really care if I saw it or not. But now I want to go, and I can’t really say why. The accents are cute. What? It’s all I got. That and the stone structures everywhere.

Even when the rioting broke out, I still sat at work and deliberated and decided I would rather be there than in a basement. I knew the unrest had gotten bad when the postcard my sister had sent from London several weeks ago threw itself off my refrigerator door two nights ago. When even the stationery is in an uproar, there’s a problem. And you have to be impressed by the solidarity.

When I bent over and picked it up, I looked at the collage of photos of the city and sighed.

I want to go to Italy. One of my coworkers just returned and had all these great stories about randomness that happened while he and his family were there. They just jaunted up to Castel Gandolfo from Rome one day and wound up being blessed by the pope. They got lost in Venice. How great does that sound? To get lost in Venice? It’s hard to care that you’re lost when you don’t really know where you are to begin with. They ventured into neighborhoods and found hardware stores and markets and I kind of hate my coworker now.

Then I came home and I watched back-to-back episodes of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, and one of them was in Rome, shot entirely in black and white. And now I want to go to Rome in black and white, please.

From planetearthdailyphoto.blogspot.com

I realize that I was just in a pretty great place.

Castaway Cay, Bahamas, with a storm brewing

I’m ready to go to another great place now, thank you.

I don’t know what’s causing this craving for change and adventure. I’m a little bored, I admit, but that happens sometimes. I guess I’m restless, but that’s a motivator. It’s only been three weeks since my vacation. Most people would tell me to shut up. But apparently the Mickey Boat and getting out of the basement and walking down the street to find a guy screaming at his mother on a cell phone is not enough adventure for me.

At least if there was a guy screaming at his mother in France, it would sound nicer.

********
Now, for my lovely subscribers and/or commenters: the laptop works. You can imagine my relief when I closed my eyes and squished up my face and turned my head away while I hit the power button to find out what would happen. The lights came on, the little computer music played, and I swear, angels sang.

Glory, hallelujah.

motherboard

Water + Toshiba Satellite A505 = Frozen Pizza

It’s funny how I couldn’t think of anything to write about until I killed my computer.

I was carrying it out to the balcony to do some work on the first not-100-degree day in like a month when I spilled at least half a glass of water on the keyboard. I couldn’t put it down or flip it over fast enough. The water settled in between the keys as I moaned and tried to convince it to stop, you know, possessing the qualities of liquid.

When I could, I flipped it over, shook out whatever would shake out, and then dried it off with my skirt. Inside my place, I dried it off again, grabbed toilet paper and dried between the keys.

I hit the power button.

A flutter of light. Then nothing.

I hit it again. Same results.

Hair dryer. I need the hair dryer.

I carted the laptop – which was only 14 months old – into the bathroom and started blowing it dry. Maybe the heat setting is bad. Cool air button.

I took the battery out, put it back in. Tried the power.

Bupkis.

If I had the sweet kind of relationship with my mother, I would have wanted her at this point.

I called my IT guy at work and left a voicemail about what one should do if one hypothetically spilled half a glass of water on one’s laptop. Not at all surprisingly, the IT guy did not fix my computer problem.

I called Brad and BIL1, both great with computers. Brad had no suggestions other than what I had done. BIL1 was more educated, but less positive.

“Yeah, you probably fried the motherboard.”

Mommy!

“You might be able to unscrew some things and get the keyboard off, and then you can dry underneath it. I did that when I spilled milk on mine once.”

I went digging through my tool box (read: Rubbermaid storage container full of crap dating back to 1995) and found the proper screwdriver while BIL1 asked about my warranty.

“I don’t know what I got. I don’t remember, and I have no idea where it is, ” I told him, twisting tiny screws.

“Well, you can call and find out what you have,” he said.

“Yeah, but… won’t that tell them that I’ve done something to the laptop?”

I get paranoid about stuff like this. I picture them typing it into my account info: Asked re: coverage, extension, type of coverage, 8/4. Then I go waltzing in all, “My computer isn’t working,” and they’re like, “You called, right?” and my grand plan to pretend absolutely nothing happened to the laptop goes out the window because I am such a bad liar that I start in with a facial tic before I even attempt the lie.

“Well,” said BIL1, “sometimes taking apart the computer voids the warranty, so…”

Okay, retwisting tiny screws now.

“…And you don’t want to try to turn it back on for at least a day. Let it dry completely, or if you haven’t already fried it, you will.”

I couldn’t form the words to say I’d tried three times already.

The lack of contact with the outside world had already started eating at me before I even hung up the phone. And all of a sudden, there was so much stuff I needed to write about. I whimpered. I didn’t even have paper. Who needs paper when you have a laptop? Forget internet access; I couldn’t even type. Faced with the understanding that it would be at least 24 hours before I could even try to boot up again, I was freaking out. I paced. I chewed my lip. I looked around.

I had to leave the apartment.

I went to the grocery store to fetch cat food and sour cream for the scones I wanted to make. Once there, I blindly cruised aisles I didn’t need to be in, mentally mumbling half-thoughts to myself like the guy in “Office Space.” Without realizing it, I stood unblinking in front of the frozen pizzas. When I snapped back to consciousness, I wandered away, fighting the urge to become an emotional eater.

The grocery store had been a bad idea. I was hungry, and I was upset. Danger, Will Robinson.

Forcing myself to buy only what I needed, I proceeded to the checkout with cat food, sour cream, a small frozen pizza (oh, leave me alone), a college rule notebook and a package of pens.

Wow, I thought as I looked sadly at my basket. I am a pathetic loser. The cat food seals it.

(Cat food is like feminine hygiene products. I try to make sure I need other things when I go to the store to get it. God forbid everyone know it’s the only reason I’m there.)

It was a Thursday at 5pm in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. Forget it. There were four checkout lanes open, and three of them were “express,” meaning those lines were so long that I had to double down in the line behind the woman who had apparently done her shopping for the month. Standing there, I started writing this post in my head. Longhand, there’s no delete key, and cutting and pasting is way harder. I had to get started mentally now, to work out the kinks.

I compulsively checked my email and Facebook on my phone.

Twenty minutes later, still standing in line, I realized what I could lose if the laptop was complete toast. I have an external hard drive, given to me by my boyfriend for my 33rd birthday, as I was getting ready to buy a new computer. It has all the files from the old laptop, plus a “mix tape” he put on it weeks after we broke up – a sort of gallant gesture that fulfilled a promise he’d made to enhance the somewhat un-romantic gift with which he intended to make life easier for me by giving me a way to transfer everything easily from the old computer to the new one. Very thoughtful, really. But apart from the old files and enough music to play from now until my death without ever repeating a single song, the hard drive is empty. It doesn’t have a single thing on it since I bought the new laptop… because seeing the hard drive reminded me of the boyfriend.

We won’t get into that.

Point is, I hadn’t backed up anything from the new computer. Pictures, revisions of my resume, my cover letters, the beginning of a book I started writing, the video I took on the Mickey Boat, including my sisters doing a very, very poor – but absolutely gut-busting, pants-peeing hilarious - Charlie’s Angels impersonation… all of it gone if I couldn’t get my laptop back.

I entered the Bargaining Stage. If I can just get it to turn on one more time so I can back everything up to that hard drive… I can ding the Future Real Estate Fund to buy a new laptop if I have to.

Sigh.

I went home, dug the notebook and pens out of the grocery bag and started writing out this post. By the time I got to the sentence you just read, I’d forgotten what other posts I’d been formulating in my head. (How did anybody remember things before computers?) The laptop sat, open and dark, its guts possibly destroyed by the least threatening thing in the developed world, its battery removed. Taunting me.

It’s a good thing I was getting together with Ali that night and driving to my sister’s the next day to go to a concert. The urge to try to power my baby up before it had dried out was too great. I felt as fried as the laptop might be. I thought of what might be gone for good and how much hassle it is to set up a new computer, and I flopped down to eat my pizza.

Woe is me. I am woe.

Now I’m functioning off a backup laptop: my old one, which I gave to Ali when I bought the new one. It has an aqua blue line down the center of the screen and it’s slow, but it works. Thank goodness for friends who can’t afford their own internet service and can’t pick up a signal from someone else’s unsecured wifi. I’m still terrified of what happens when I try to turn on my computer again. BIL1 says I might be able to get the motherboard replaced and avoid buying a new computer altogether for the second time in 14 months.

Hold me.