Friday, February 29, 2008

This Is Why People Are Awesome

I'm not really sure exactly how this all went down, but this is awesome. In Trafalgar Square (I'm not sure when) all these people got together and did the coolest thing I've heard of in a while. Inspired by improv everywhere and made a reality by hundreds of volunteers, at exactly 3:30pm on a secret cue, almost everyone in the square froze. The few bewildered tourists didn't know what was happening. For 5 minutes the participants held their positions, and then magically everyone unfroze.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

In Which Amazing Cheastypants Learns to Fly. Sort of.

I've always been secretly jealous of people who have flying dreams on a regular basis. I almost never fly in my sleep. Once when I was eleven I rode a pink flying elephant about an island peopled with strange creatures, and once or twice in college I woke up feeling triumphant, having soared above the ground in dreams I no longer remember. But it's never been a regular feature of my dreamscape, active and cluttered though it may be. It seems to me that people who do fly frequently might have some inner strength that eludes me, or a deep well of self-confidence that propelled them to majestic feats in their subconscious lives. I covet the experience; after all, I've read dream books. I know what they say. And, by extension, I understand what that means about me, in that not having those dreams is in some way an admission of a character riven by fear and insecurity. And I just don't feel like that's true about me, no more so than any other relatively normal, healthy, well-loved, well-adjusted, incredibly gorgeous and unspeakably talented young woman of our times.

Well, guess what, dream dictionaries. Lately, I've been flying my amazing cheastypants off. It's pretty weird, actually, because now is not a logical time for my dream life to take flight. Don't get me wrong. I'm happy, I love my life, I love the town I live in, I even love my work, no matter how herculean the task in front of me seems. But I'm about as stressed out as it's possible for me to be, I'm not in love, I haven't achieved any great and long-standing goal. In other words, I haven't done anything that might produce a subconscious catharsis grand enough to catapult me into the sky. And yet, I'm flying.

Upon further consideration, perhaps I should clarify something. I am not actually flying myself. In my dreams, I'm mastering the art of harnessing the flight capacity of objects around me. The other night my Dad taught me how to fly some weird proto-helicopter machine made from aluminum. It was super light and fast. I had to fly into a war zone and rescue my brother (Fairy King, not Bug) from fighting in an unjust war. (This is funny on a number of levels, primarily because if you knew the Fairy King, you'd know that there is NO WAY IN HELL he'd be fighting in any war, just or unjust. Although he could probably paralyze an enemy combatant with a contemptuous glance, at base, he's a lover, not a fighter. War just ain't his thing. It was also funny because in my dream he didn't insist that I let him fly the proto-copter. Very out of character.) Then two nights ago, I learned how to take a towel or garbage bag or whatever was around and harness the power of the wind. It was like kite surfing, but on the ground. I flew like Spidey, in huge airborne leaps and bounds. Wow. Just remembering it gave me chill bumps cause it was so awesome. There have been a few other isolated incidents of night flying, but I can't actually remember the dreams anymore.

It turns out I was right to be jealous of people who flew in their sleep for all those years, just not for the reasons I thought were true. I no longer think that flying in your sleep necessarily indicates a zen-like peace with the world, or a wealth of self-confidence, though that also may be true. But this is what I know about me, about flying, about right now.

I'm just having more fun when I sleep.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Thoughts on General Incompetence

First of all, I'd like to blame Spring. Damn you, beautiful weather. Damn you, alluring sunshine. Damn you, pretty flowers.

This is what was on my list of things to do yesterday.

1. Read Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis
2. Go to breakfast with Umulu
3. Read Latin American Women by Asunción Lavrín.
4. Read Hello, Hello, Brazil by somebody I can't remember who right now.

Simple, no? Uncluttered schedules are nice. Ha. This is what I actually got done.

1. Go to breakfast with Umulu.
2. Fiddle around on the internet trying to find out how Jill Homer from Up in Alaska is doing on the Iditarod.
3. Get 3/4 of the way through Founding Brothers.
4. Go to Home Depot's garden section to buy flowers and basil.
5. Fiddle around in the garden, repotting plants, playing in the dirt, making babbling noises like a happy baby.
6. Pick up Founding Brothers, determined to finish last 1/4.
7. Read listlessly.
8. Eat an orange, make some phone calls.
9. Keep reading.
10. Stare longingly out the open window, wishing with all my heart I could be on my bike or on the lake. (Sprained Ankle, a note of thanks to you. If it weren't for you this list would be very short indeed. It might have only one item on it - something like "number one: play outside all day.")
11. Go see No Country for Old Men. Scratch my head and wonder what the point was.
12. Watch the end of the Democratic debate.
13. Look at books still to be read.
14. Decide to go to bed, get good rest, and start again tomorrow.

It is now tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Monday, February 25, 2008


Turns out it was NINETY-TWO DEGREES today. 92. Fahrenheit. 92 degrees fahrenheit. In February.


SORRRY!! I know, I didn't post yet. Don't even start in on me, and please don't hate me. It's just that the weekend was so beautiful and today I was just swamped with work, and on top of it all, for once in my life the book I'm reading right now is FASCINATING. and on top of all that, it's BEAUTIFUL OUTSIDE. Truly, heartstoppingly, mind-numbingly, springtimingly beautiful. I have no time to post anything new, but I'm going to put something up that I wrote last spring on just such an afternoon. While the exact circumstances differ (it hasn't been raining here, and we still don't have lots of leaves on the trees), this is true in spirit. Is there anything better than spring? (other than spring with no work to do that keeps you inside, that is.)

Ready? Ahem.

It's been raining here forever. At least 3 days, now, and the humidity has been barbaric. My hair looks like a beehive. But today it stopped. At some point between 2pm when I went down in the basement of the library to look at microfilms, and
5:45pm, when I came back outside, the clouds had gone away, the sun had come out (boy did it come out!) and everything all of the sudden looks clean and crisp and GREEN and the flowers are blooming and birds are chirping. It's a goddam mary poppins movie out there.

so I went for a walk. i smiled at strangers, and skipped instead of walking. i took some pictures to commemorate the kind of afternoon that makes me want to share it with you all whom i love so much. also, it makes me want to live in a pink house:

and drive a blue truck:

or sit outside and sip champagne on a porch like this:

or maybe in a hammock on a porch like this:

I saw people doing fun and unselfconscious things. Little boys playing in the yard with no clothes on. I wanted to take a picture, but their dad was there too, and he was giving me a look that very clearly communicated his inclination towards shooting first and asking questions later. So instead, I took a picture of this awesome chick:

(notice the gold shoes and great orange bandana. i want her bags.)

This is the kind of day that makes me notice small things, like the fact that my neighbors have this really awesome yard art which I've seen before, but never fully appreciated:

And for the first time in two years I finally stopped to take a picture of the lobsters on my sidewalk. I always step between them when I walk so I can pretend they're about to bite my foot, but I didn't want my picture to be scary, so I stepped back from that dangerous precipice:

I ran into my sort-of cat that actually belongs to my drug-dealer neighbor, but sometimes he comes over to play. he was enjoying the sunshine too, so we bonded for a moment...

And then when I came home from my walk I noticed that the grass in front of my apartment was maybe the prettiest green thing I've ever seen.

But the best new beginning of all happened this morning when it was still gray and humid and yucky and too early to be out of bed. At my physical therapy they strapped me into a corset-like weight-bearing harness (which gave me GREAT boobs, i must say), put me on a treadmill and let me run. It was only 10 minutes, but it was the first time since September that I've let myself do that, and it felt so wonderful that it was all I could do not to cry. So I laughed and jumped and giggled instead. It reminded me of when I was 14 and I was having a lot of operations on my lower back and then one day for the first time in 7 months I got to sit down on my bottom like a normal person. I wrote an ode that day, but I lost it. Poetry is beyond me right now, so instead I offer a photographic representation of my experience. Here's my shadow from this afternoon, remembering what it felt like to run this morning. (I know I look like a T-Rex, but I promise, I haven't shape-shifted. it's just the angle of the sun.

It's been a great day. I hope you all are having good ones too.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

This Bun is Fine Benny Lava

For anybody who's ever watched a Bollywood movie with a lot of their friends, all of whom understand the words except you.

It's subtitled with what it sounds like they're saying in English. Not a translation, but somehow so much better. And the dancing is awesome, too. Whoever did this is my new hero!

If you want to see more, just search Benny Lava on YouTube.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Guess Who's Coming Out To Play?

Look who just popped their heads out in my garden:

Hello, pretty Geranium. I love you. I love your sweet and bitter smell. I love your reliability, and the color of your flowers.

You are so lovely, Geranium. I should point out, however, before you get too full of yourself, that your neighbor Sage is quite attractive himself. Strong and soft, straight and proud. Fragrant and delicious. Mmmm, I love Sage, too.

This is a particularly handsome Sage, being variegated and all. Maybe Sage and Geranium will fall in love and make gorgeous babies.

Ah, spring.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

¿Y el houka habla frances, tambien?

This is one of my favorite stories of all time, and I'd forgotten about it. Lucky for me, I remembered it the other day, so instead of complaining about how miserable my day was, or how much my sprained ankle hurts, or how much work I have sitting on my desk, I'm going to tell you this story. It's awesome. It's the kind of story where I often start laughing before I get to the funny part when I'm telling it.  I hope it's as funny when I write it, given that I can't do the gestures and facial expressions that normally punctuate the narrative.  (Note: it may be helpful to understand how to say "you speak well" in both french and spanish in order to get the punchline.)

Cast your minds way back in time to four or five years ago, when I was a glamorous and highly paid middle school Spanish teacher living in Durham, NC. My then-boyfriend and I were hanging out in Chapel Hill (that bastion of liberals, that den of iniquity!) and we stopped into a head shop. A head shop, for those who aren't up on things like this, is where certain folk go to buy glass pipes (for decorative purposes only, of course) and other items of counter-culture consumerism. Boy wanted to check out some t-shirts, so in we went, and it was the greatest thing ever, cause guess who I met on the inside: The Archetypal Head Shop Employee. We'll just call him Dude.

Dude was everything young stoners hope to become one day. In his late 20s, shaggy blond hair in his eyes, scruffy facial hair, pale and slightly pasty from spending too many late nights eating Pokey Sticks and pizza, and perpetually smiling in a blissed out sort of way. He looked like a Buddha as he sat behind the counter polishing a houka pipe. He polished most assiduously. I looked around the shop, checked out the merchandise, and found something I liked. A belt buckle that had a cool design on the front, but I wanted to make sure it wasn't a logo for something I didn't want to advertise, so I approached Dude.

"Hey, dude, how's it going?" He looked up and smiled, still polishing his houka. "Heeyyyy, what's up, man," he said, in archetypal stoner accents. We chatted for a while about houkas and the weather and other sundry items. He still polished the same spot on his houka. It was more a zen thing than a productive activity, I think. Anyway, I asked him about the belt buckle, he didn't think it represented anything, so I moved into negotiation phase.

"Wow, it's so nice," I said, "but I'm a teacher, and I make no money, so couldn't you cut me a sweet deal? Like 10% off?"

A delighted smile lit his face. "Oh, duuuuude, you're a teeeeeeacher? That's aaaaaawesome! What do you teach?"

I smile back, thinking how sweet this daffy dude was. "I teach Spanish," I told him.  

ANOTHER delighted smile!

"Duuuuuuuuuude, that's aaaaawwwesome! Languages are, like, so unbelievable. Like, the way you can just, like, communicate with other countries' peeps! Wow."

"Yeah, cool!" I enthused.

"Yeah," he agreed. "I, like, totally double majored in Spanish and French in college!"

(Here comes the punchline, for those of you who were wondering where this meandering tale was going.)

"A double major?" I asked, and then it occurred to me that maybe I'd underestimated this guy. I mean, he was clearly fluent in two languages.  Maybe I could speak Spanish with the Dude, and he'd like that!  

"Entonces, hablas muy bien, no?"

His forehead furrowed up, and all the sudden my marvelously placid Dude looked frustrated and confused.

"Oh, man," he sighed. "I guess my French is all rusty. But wait, wait!  Try my Spanish, instead!"

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I Saw Leslie's Butt (and all I got was this lousy t-shirt)

There's a guy in Austin named Leslie. He's a wildly famous homeless crossdresser who hangs out around the downtown and is about as big a tourist destination as anything else Austin's got. He's flamboyant, he's talkative, he's a relentless campaigner against police cruelty, a perennial mayoral candidate, he's got a relatively hairless and surprisingly freckled rear end, and everybody knows that you're not really an Austinite until you've had your first Leslie encounter. If you don't believe me, look at this Wikipedia site about him. It took me a year before I ever saw him, but once I broke the seal, he seemed to pop up everywhere I went. I saw him at Guero's, on the bus, at the library, in coffee shops. But you know what's weird? He never mooned me. I know, it sounds kinky. Who wants to see Leslie's butt? But (no pun intended), everybody saw Leslie's butt. He flashed and mooned and dropped trow all over town. Everybody I knew had seen his butt. And when I said, "Hey, I saw Leslie yesterday," they always said something about his thong or his butt. "Did he moon you?" It bothered me. Why did Leslie moon every Tom, Dick, and Harry in Austin, but not me? In fact, definitely go look at the Wikipedia site. He's mooning the camera in one of the pictures. (To be fair, it isn't always a direct mooning. Sometimes his skirt is just that short.)

Anyway, it finally happened. Cookie and I were at a coffee shop the other morning (a red letter morning!) and in walked Leslie. Chat, chat, chat, he just got a 61-inch TV to put in his shed that he lives in (dear lord), he finally found the perfect skirt, do I like this shade of red nail polish, yada yada yada. I happened to have my camera with me, and asked for a picture, so he and Cookie posed for me. Charming, no?

(Sorry your face is blurry, Cookie. I didn't have my flash on, and the battery was low.)

Then Leslie walked away.

Then Leslie turned around. He's coming back. What does he want?

"Sorry," he says. "I just realized I didn't give you the picture you really want. Got your camera ready?" I did, so he turned around, picked up his skirt, and mooned me. Turns out, I could've lived an entire lifetime quite happily without seeing Leslie's butt that close to my face. And funniest of all? My camera wouldn't take the picture (see comment above re: battery and flash), and his bare naked butt was THREE FEET FROM MY FACE. (oh, shudders) I'm holding camera up there, pressing the shutter button, holding my breath for some reason, face averted, praying for death to take me quickly, but it doesn't, and finally I lie and say, "Oh, there it goes! What a great picture. Thanks, Leslie!"

So, yeah. I saw Leslie's butt. What's that old adage about being careful what you wish for?

I'll leave you today with a much nicer mental image. Here's a cute picture of my cute friend Cookie. She's single, boys. Act quickly.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Other Boleyn Squirrel

You know how Anne Boleyn was supposed to have had a little teeny sixth finger on her hand? I'm sure this is just urban myth, but I clearly remember learning about it in fifth grade social studies class. It wasn't a real finger, just a little nubbin off her pinky, and she apparently designed her gloves to have a little veil of fabric off the side of her hand to disguise it.

Well, this morning I went on a walk and saw a squirrel with an extra tail. Not a full-on second tail, just a good sized nubbin sticking off the bottom side of its real tail.

Crazy, Mother Nature. Very very crazy.

Monday, February 18, 2008

My Life Is Glamorous and Exciting

I am a jet setter. I do more fun things on any given day than anybody else on the planet. If I were a superhero, my name would be Captain GlamourFun. Take today, for example. I started the day by glamorously hitting the snooze button somewhere between 10 and 50 times, then staggered into the bathroom and stared in the mirror for about five fun-filled minutes, debating whether I needed to take a shower. In the end, I decided I was so naturally resplendent that bathing couldn't possibly enhance my beauty. After elegantly breakfasting on gold-plated breakfast cereal, I hopped on my very exciting bike, and rode glamorously into campus, where I proceeded to take dazzling notes on the American Revolution. Everybody noted (with some jealousy, I'm sure) the flair and style with which my dainty fingertips skipped and flew about the keyboard. Then, with a carefree smile and insouciant wave of my hand, I proceeded to the gymnasium, an ethereal cloud of my bouncing, shining, glorious hair flowing out behind me in the gentle breeze of my elegance. I proceeded to gracefully mount a diamond-studded exercise machine and become, over the course of the next 30 minutes, progressively more slender and lithe of form. When I was done, a gathering circle of admirers offered a polite round of applause. I consented to sign a few autographs, and then swished out of the building in high style. I effortlessly rode my exciting bike home, cresting each hill with little visible effort. I made a delicious plate of caviar for lunch, sipped casually at my glass of champagne, and summoned my stylist to once again render me gorgeous. At this point it is 2 p.m. Who knows what glamorous and exciting adventures await me in the second half of the day. Will I attend an opening gala at a swanky art gallery? Be photographed by the throngs of adoring paparazzi that follow me at a cautious and respectful distance? Or will I simply dissolve in a cloud of sparkly dust, having become entirely too fabulous for one human body to contain such grandeur?

In actual news of my glamorous and exciting life, I did do two exceptionally fun things this weekend. First, I went to visit my good friend Reeno in San Antonio. Hi, Reeno! You are wonderful!

She's got babies. They're both adorable, but the most fun of all was playing with the teeny little girl baby at dinner time. I have never in my life seen a child get this much food on their face while they eat.

I said as much to Reeno, and she (ever the enterprising jokester) showed me just how much fun food on the face can be. "Look," she said. "You can just stick all the rest of her food to the goop, and then she just picks it off her face and eats it herself!"

It's true, you know. She did eat all the food we stuck to her face.

In other news of Amazing Cheastypants and my glamorous and exciting life, on Saturday night I went to a sold out show at the Zona Rosa to see Rodrigo y Gabriela, the Mexican guitar duo. They kick ass. If you've never heard them, or even if you only want to hear them again for the very first time, watch this video. The concert was spectacular. High energy, packed, phenomenal, and fun. And shrimpy little me and my almost-as-shrimpy friend the Samurai Warrior were even able to find a wee spot off to the side and pretty close up where we could ACTUALLY SEE THE SHOW. wow!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Things I Learned About Nascar Tonight

I grew up in North Carolina, but three years living in Charlotte taught the folks I had dinner with tonight more about the wonderful world of _______ racing than I ever learned. I put ______ back there, because I just realized I don't even know what kind of racing Nascar is. Stock car? Drag? My friend Penata's helpful suggestion was "boxcar," but those belong on trains, and while a lot of country music does indeed talk about trains and car racing, I somehow don't think the two are connected in any meaningful way. Fill me in in the comments, if anybody has a clue. So here are the things I learned about Nascar and Nascar culture tonight:

1. How To Count To Ten In Nascar: "One, two, Dale, four, five, six, seven, Dale Jr., nine, ten." Somebody who's number is 24 or 25 is "Satan."

2. It is better to live in a $300,000 triple-wide, than in a house of equal value. One of the guys tonight suggested that "triple-wide" was thinking small. If he were a Nascar millionaire, he'd live in a dodeca-doublewide. Imagine it. Twenty-four dimensions of living space.

3. Nascar (the corporation) is "bitchier than the NFL with licensing and all that shit." Since I don't know anything about professional football corporations, either, this comparison is relatively meaningless to me, but it sounded tough.

4. People LOVE Dale Earnhart. One guy's neighbor took off work to grieve when he died, and people in Charlotte held candle light vigils for weeks. I'm amazed that this dude inspired such fervent admiration. How'd he do it? What's his deal?

5. The Nascar corporation has re-designed (what does that even mean?) Dale Earnhart's number three times so that they can somehow make even more money off of it. I'm unclear on the business side of this, but I believe it has something to do with licensing (see #3). I have a question. Do people with Dale's #3 tattooed on their body (and I think they're out there) have to get the tattoo re-done with new licensing? I have this funny image of some biker dude with two #3 tattoos crossed off on his arm, and a third one underneath.

So that's what I learned tonight. Are these things true? How did I miss out on all this, living in the Nascar belt as I did? Should I know anything else of note about Nascar or Nascar culture? Inquiring minds want to know.

Thank You Very Much, I'm Still Alive

(I wrote this Saturday night, but I guess I forgot to hit the Publish button.)

I'm aware that those of you who know me well are entirely entitled to disbelieve me when I say to you that today, I almost died. Normally I throw phrases like that for dramatic effect, for laughs, for shits and giggles. But like the tyro that overuses test message smiley faces :) when they first discover them, I am coming to see the error of my ways. Because today, when I tell you that I almost died today (or at the very least almost sustained crippling injury), I really do want you to be shocked, surprised, horrified. "Oh my God!" I want you to exclaim. "What happened?! Are you okay?" Instead, I'm aware that most of you will have snorted in disbelief, and said something in your own mind that either approximates or rhymes with "oh, please. what now? did she get a splinter in her foot?" But for once, I'm telling the truth.

I was driving down a curvy 4-lane road in on the west side of Austin this afternoon, and it was raining. It had been raining all day, and there was a lot of water standing on the road. I wasn't going that fast, only 35 mph, but sometimes you just can't see what's coming around the next bend in the road. Especially when what's around the next bend in the road is a Mitsubishi Mirage parked perpendicular to the lanes of oncoming traffic. I hit my brakes and felt the car kind of slide a bit, but everything was ok. I was on schedule to stop in time. But the huge red truck next to me wasn't, and he jerked his car into my lane to try and avoid hitting the Mirage. As he swerved into my front right tire, I slammed the brake a little harder to avoid getting hit, and I hydroplaned. I hydroplaned right off the road. The road was curving to the right, and my car kept going straight, jumped the median in the road and skidded right into oncoming traffic. I don't know how I didn't get slammed on all sides. All I know are two things. One, when my car and the two oncoming cars finally came to a stop, our bumpers were maybe two or three feet apart from each other, and we were all staring at each other, eyes popped wide open, like "holy shit!!! I can't believe we avoided death!" And two, if I had died today, my last words would've been "fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck."

The rest of the story is sort of anti-climactic. In the absence of any true emergency, all I could do was mouth "I'm so sorry!" to the other drivers, back my car up a little, climb back over the median, get back into my lane, and keep driving. I probably should have pulled over to calm down a little, but it honestly didn't occur to me. I just kept driving, thought my adrenaline was pumping so hard that I got a hot flash that fogged up the windows of my car. Seriously. I had to turn on the de-fogger.

Anyway, thought you'd all like to know that I'm still alive today. I'm going to bed now.

Friday, February 15, 2008

My New Study Plan (Alternate Title: Self-Deception)

Last weekend at Chicken Man's fabulous barbecue party, our friend Books was slavishly devoted to finishing her reading for the week. I really have to take my hat off to her -- most graduate students perpetually invent ways to postpone doing their work (exhibit A: this blog), but Books will let nothing stop her. Not sunshine, not puppies, not good friends, not perpetual harassment, not food, not beer. I was fascinated by her dedication, and snapped a few pictures of Books as she buried herself in dusty tomes of history. This is my favorite one, and it is providing a modicum of inspiration for me today.

See, this is my problem. I think of studying as "work." And by work, I mean something truly horrible. Cleaning out foul and smelly chamberpots in dank, dark, dungeons, where slimy mold grows on the cold stone walls, water drips and echoes in a cavernous silence and all I have to wear is a threadbare piece of burlap sacking, and rats nibble on my toes. Also, I'm hungry, and haven't bathed in a week. That charming scenario is what I call "going to the library."

But look at that picture of Books again. See, this could work for me. She's in a hammock, sunshine falls gently upon her, warming her hands and face. A gentle breeze rocks her back and forth, the smell of grilling meat wafts past her nose, the delightful sound of friends laughing burbles up around her ears, soothing all of her senses.  Best of all, she's wearing fabulous red shoes. I have a serious weakness for fabulous red shoes.  This seems a much better alternative to me than "going to the library," and so I'm implementing Phase I of (drum roll....) Cheasty's Highly Effective New Study Plan.

As I work my way through the approximately 9 million books I have to read by mid-April, I will start each day with a brief, yet highly effective visualization exercise, in which I mentally run through the list of books I plan to read that day, and associate each of them with feelings of peace, happiness, and intense erudition.  Then I will meditate on words like "fast," "fun," "sunshine," and, of course, "highly effective."  Preliminary research indicates that this Highly Effective New Study Plan will increase my scholastic efficacy by 79% (with a +/- 3pt. margin of error), and I will be on my way to academic stardom in no time at all.  Best of all, by the time I get there, I will not be wan, haggard, baggy-eyed, and dirty.  Instead, I will be resplendent.  I will glow with youthful vitality.  I will be firm and bouncy and, best of all, tan.  

Yes, I like this plan.  Thank you, Books, for showing me the way.

"These Are But Wild and Whirling Words"

Hey, I just wanted to say thank you to all the people who either commented on yesterday's post, or who called me up to tell me how much it impacted them. I am touched and thankful.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

For Valentine's Day, A Love Story

This isn't your typical love story. It isn't about a boy and a girl, or a boy and a boy, or a girl and a girl. It isn't even about a person who is still alive. But it is a good love story, nonetheless, in which wrongs are forgiven, and love is forever. This story is about my Aunt Karen, my Granddad, and me.

My father's youngest sister was fantastic. She was tall, and loud, and funny, and always had big earrings and crazy haircuts. As an almost terminally shy little girl, there were few people in my life that could make me feel at ease around them. My mom of course, and my dad, and then there was my Aunt Karen. She was one of the only adults I knew who treated me like I was cool, like I was as much a buddy as I was a niece. With my frizzy hair, clumsy gawkishness, big glasses, and braces, I didn't feel that way very much, and I treasured every moment when I did. Because we lived so far away, I didn't get to see her that often, but I thought Aunt Karen hung the moon.

Karen got brain cancer in 2002, suddenly and inexplicably. After a rigorous treatment, the cancer went into remission, and our family breathed a sigh of relief. But then in 2003, as my sister Umulu and I were traveling together in South America, it came back. Somewhere in the Brazilian rainforest we found an internet cafe and logged on to read a note from my father saying that the cancer had come back, and it had come back hard. Doctors didn't expect her to last more than a few more days. Umulu and I, deep into our trip, had to choose whether to return to the States to say goodbye, or to keep traveling. We went back and forth for a while, but ultimately, at our family's urging, we decided to keep traveling. Without going into too much detail, the decision made logical sense at the time, but I've never felt worse about making a rational choice. She died while we were still in Brazil, and I felt guilty for years for not being there to say goodbye, to thank her, to kiss her, and tell her how much I would miss her. I don't mean guilty like a little guilty. I mean gut-churning, hot-in-the-face, I-feel-nauseated guilty for my selfishness. I didn't want to leave Brazil, you see. It was Carnaval, and a million and one other excuses. Ugh.

So here's where the love story part comes in. (Sorry for bringing it down, but this is where it gets kind of cool.) About two years after she died, I had a dream one night. I hadn't thought about Karen, or my guilty secret, in a long time, and there was no reason for me to dream this when I did. I don't really know what I believe about God, an afterlife, ghosts, etc. In fact, on most days, I'd say I don't really believe in anything except maybe some karmic energy recycling program that tries to balance out good and bad in the universe. This dream, however... it makes me wonder.

Karen's death was really bad for my Granddad. In some ways, he just sort of refused to acknowledge that she'd passed on, except for the fact that she wasn't here anymore. He talks about her frequently in the present tense, and in so doing, keeps her alive in his mind. In my dream, my Granddad and I were walking down a beach at the foot of the White Cliffs of Dover (no idea why there). It was late afternoon, the sunlight was golden, the breeze was warm and delicious, and we strolled along holding hands. I told him about how guilty I felt about staying in Brazil when Karen died, and he looked at me and said, "I know, honey. That's why we're taking this walk." I was confused, but then at the end of the beach I saw this beautiful round sandstone tower. He pointed to it and said, "There's someone in there that wants to talk to you." Magically, we were inside the tower, then, standing outside a door. I got really scared, and I was begging him not to make me go in there, but he opened the door and pushed me into this clean white room with high ceilings and big windows that opened onto the outside of the tower, looking out over the sea. In the middle of the room, sitting in a ladder-back chair, was my Aunt Karen, somehow much larger than life. She wore a hospital gown, and her hair was gone, and she looked like she looked in the pictures I'd seen from her last days. She looked terrible and wonderful at the same time. I started to cry when I saw her, and she smiled at me, held out her arms, and said, "Come here." I went running over to her, and crawled up into her lap, sobbing, telling her how sorry I was, and she just held me and smiled, and told me that it was all right, that she knew, and she forgave me, and she wished I'd stop feeling so bad. A sense of peace and warmth and light filled me up like I'd never felt before, and have never felt since. It felt like what I imagine heaven feels like, if there is a heaven. I took deep breaths of that peaceful feeling, and felt my guilt sliding away.

My grandfather took my arm after a little while, and said, "OK, it's time for you to go." So I went over to the window and started to climb out so I could rock climb down the stone tower wall (hey, it's a dream. I didn't say it would make sense). But then I noticed that Graddad wasn't coming with me, and I started to panic. "Hey! You've got to come, too! If I've got to go, you have to go. You can't stay!" He smiled and said, "It's okay. I'll come along in a little bit. I'm just going to spend a little time with her here before I go." And that's the end of the dream. I climbed down the tower, and then I woke up.

I know some folks will say that it was just my subconscious's way of resolving my guilt. My brain might even agree. But in my heart, which is, after all, what Valentine's Day is all about, I know that my Aunt Karen came back to tell me that I was loved, and I was forgiven. And in my heart I know that she and my Granddad still hang out in a beautiful tower by the sea, while everybody else is sleeping.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

When A Cute Boy Rides By On His Bike

I really don't have much to add here. I took this picture last spring in the Netherlands when my friends Cookie, Supenheimer, and I were visiting our sweet Moxita. We went for a walk, a cute boy rode by on his bike, and I snapped this perfectly timed picture. Ah, l'amour. Glandular attraction is the very best kind.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Puppy Love (Alternate Title: I'm Having an Affair)

I am in love with another man's dog.  I know, this sounds like a rash statement.  After all, there are lots of dogs in the world, and it's not like there's only one dog that would meet every single one of my doggish desires.  Normally, I'd agree, but in this one instance, I just can't. I'd like you to meet Junebug.   

That's her on the far right, chilling on the porch with my friends Books (left) and Scrubster (center). This dog is epically amazing, although I'm hard-pressed to tell you why. Maybe it's her exuberance? Her cute pink tongue? Her boundless energy? All I can say is that for the first time in my life, I understand why people cheat. Sometimes the urge to pick her up, tuck her under my jacket and quietly sneak out the back door is almost overwhelming. Lucky for my friend Chicken Man, I'm a morally upright sort of girl, and would never do that. But, oh, the sweet sting of forbidden love! (gasp, sob!) The best, perhaps most tragic, part of this tangled puppy love triangle is that she loves me, too. Don't get me wrong -- she loves her daddy. Who wouldn't? He's a great guy. He feeds her treats. He plays with her all the time. He has chickens. What more could a dog want out of life? But me and Junebug, man... we've got a mystical connection.

Look at that face. Honestly, it kills me. This whole sordid tale of puppy love started when she stayed with me while Chicken Man was off running a marathon in New York CIty. After that, whenever I came over to her house to visit her parents, she went absolutely berserk with happiness. She tried to leave with me. I saw her out at barbecues and picnics, fireworks of excitement. Once she ran away from home and Chicken Man couldn't find her anywhere until he got a phone call saying that his little dog was hanging out at my address. I'm sorry, Chicken Man!! I think you rock and secretly you're one of my personal heroes, and I will never EVER try to take your dog, but I love her so much!

I took the pictures above at Chicken Man's house this weekend, where he hosted a truly fantastic party. I can't say what kind of party exactly, but here's a hint: large amounts of beer and duct tape were involved. Lucky for those of us who prefer to imbibe with a touch more moderation, there was also music, barbecuing, copious amounts of prematurely, gloriously warm sunshine, and a cornucopia of fabulous friends to sit around and gab with. I love sunny Saturday afternoons.

Monday, February 11, 2008

On Eggs and Other Deviations from the Status Quo

A good friend (and, happily, neighbor) of mine keeps chickens in his back yard, which I've decided is about the coolest thing a person living in urban environs could possibly do. One, because it's a great conversation starter, but two, because you then get to eat eggs that look like this:

I hardly know what to say to properly eulogize the egg I had for breakfast yesterday (see above). I have become so accustomed to the pale yellow, anemic looking yolks from eggs you get in the grocery store here in the States. Look at that yolk!  Practically orange, so full of iron and protein and yummy fatty goodness...  I forgotten how much more rich and delicious a free-range, organic, right-out-of-the-chicken's-butt huevo is than the watered down, hormone-full sad-excuse-for-an-ovum that passes for an egg in this country.  I remember the first time I ate an egg outside of the USA.  I was in Peru, I was 19, and when I told the woman I was staying with that I wanted an egg, she went outside, found some craftily-located roost, took an egg out of the nest, and served it sunny-side up.  I thought I'd found nirvana.  Let us pause for a moment of sacred silence, because in terms of the simple joys of eating good food, it doesn't get much better than this.

And speaking of simple joys, I want to celebrate a signal event in my life, coming up on March 4.  I am a registered Democrat, but I have lived all of my adult life in the U.S. in Republican states.  North Carolina, Utah, New Mexico, and now, Texas.  Which is to say that, because of this cursed system of the Electoral College (oh, how I hate it), my vote has never once "counted" in a presidential election.  Not that this has stopped me from voting, but when I do so it is with a sad sense of resignation -- the only time I remember being at all hopeful was in the 2004 election, when I lived in New Mexico, but that, as I'm sure you all remember, was a bust.  But now!  On March 4 when I vote, when I caucus, oh my goodness.  My vote will COUNT!!  I know it's "counted" in primaries before, but I've never been in a Super Tuesday state, not to mention Iowa, New Hampshire, and their ilk.  The race was all sewn up by the time it got around to where I was. For the first time in my life I feel like a true part of a participatory democracy, and it is both energizing and fantastic.  The class I T.A. for is studying the American Revolution right now and I was just reading about Boston and all those town hall meetings when for the first time in Anglo-Saxon history the property requirement was dropped for all men to participate, and the working class flooded the streets and the meeting halls.  I got so excited as I read it, because for once, I knew almost exactly how they might have felt.  I'm not saying I'm going to go dump tea in Lake Travis, or tar and feather Republican congressmen, but it's exciting nonetheless.

Friday, February 8, 2008

I'm a Lyricist. hehe.

Yesteday at my guitar lesson my teacher (dreamy boy) says, "hey, do you ever write your own songs?" I laughed so hard milk came out my nose. And it's been years since i drank milk, so figure on that, if you're bored. To sum up, I said no. He said, "wow. well, you should try." I laughed nervously and glanced at him askance. "No, really!" he enthused. "This week, why don't you write some lyrics and then I'll help you make them into a song?" I said OK. OK?! OK?!!!! What was I thinking.

So I need help. We're going to write a song before Thursday. I've been doing some thinking, and this is what we need to come up with:

Item one: topic.
Item two: catchy phrase I can sing repeatedly.
Item three: other words.

Ready? Go.

God Hates Me

That is the only explanation for why it is getting so epically, wonderfully, stunningly beautiful outside just when I have a conference paper to write, grant applications to submit, and hundreds of books to memorize for my comprehensive exams. God already knows that I have a serious problem with deadlines and self-motivation. Why, then, would he orchestrate a situation where just as I get good and determined to knock out some serious work, my friend calls me up and invites me to go for a walk around town lake? I say no, but she senses my lack of conviction. She pushes me. Oh, come on, before you know it, it'll be too hot to enjoy the sun, and it is still February, so by tomorrow it might be cold, damp, and miserable again. Do you REALLY want to miss being outside on a day like this? Eh?

I am weak.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

I'm Gonna Kick His Ask!

When Umulu and I were really little, our Dad took us to see Bambi at the movie theater. I know what you're thinking: Isn't that a lovely little Father/daughter outing! No. It was not. It was so horrible that we both need therapy. Well, you think, it must be because Bambi's mother dies. Nope. Surprisingly enough, Ums and I took that piece of bad news right in stride. You know what cooked it for us? The previews. Keep in mind that we were extremely sheltered. Mom wouldn't let us watch anything that didn't involve hugging, learning, magic books, cute ponies, squeezable rainbow-colored bears, Bert, Ernie, Bill Cosby, or Mr. Rogers. Transformers? Nope. He-Man? Don't even joke. Thundercats? Jeez, that looked scary.

Then, after 5 or 6 years of carefully monitoring every image that entered our tender minds, we sat down in the movie theater and watched The Incredible Hulk, huge, menacing, scary looking, and GREEN, doing this very creepy 3-D thing that made it look like he was walking right down the aisle of the movie theater like he was COMING TO GET US. I remember it vividly -- there were continually reducing yellow and green concentric circles behind him, and the music was, in a word, terrifying. Kettle drums, I'm sure. I almost fainted. Umulu screamed, and Dad had to rush us out of the theater before we spontaneously combusted. It was another 10 or 11 years before Umulu would sit through previews in a movie theater (that's a 13 or 14 year old girl loitering in the hallway on account of the monsters that might jump out of the movie screen). That, my friends, is trauma.

So I'd like to share with you a little girl who is my personal hero. What will she do, her mother asks her, if a monster jumps out of the movie and approaches her? Well, she says, "I'll kick his ask!" Watch this video to see the most awesome kid in the world.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Help Me Rhonda, Help, Help Me, Rhonda!

Well, my friends, I seem to have done it again. I completed ALMOST an entire New York Times crossword puzzle. If you look closely, you will see that I am missing ONE FREAKING LETTER to complete the entire puzzle, and I refuse to surrender.

Here's a closer look:

The clues are as follows:

60 Down: Opposite of "naw." This is confusing because it could be "yep" or "yup."
64 Across: Israel's Abba. This is confusing because I have absolutely no idea what they are referring to. Is it Abba like the singing group? Or somewhere in the back of my mind I remember something about how Jesus said "Father, why have you forsaken me," and wasn't the Hebrew word for Father something like Abba?

I'm clearly a borderline idiot for getting stuck on something this teeny, but there you have it. I know I could look it up on the Internet, but in my mind that is cheating. Asking friends for help, not cheating. If you, my friends, look up the answer on the internet, please don't tell me how you got it, as it would throw me into a moral vortex from which I may never emerge. Oh, what a tangled web we weave. Help?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I Might Go Cry In My Pillow

While Umulu and I were boozing it up last night we took a trip down memory lane.  This is the somewhat predictable result.  

Click here to listen as we yodel the most pathetic Irish folk song of all time at the top of our lungs.  
Click here to hear us dedicate a performance of the song that was, and still is, our favorite song that Mom used to sing to us.
Click here to hear the song.

Warning:  we were drunk.  You may feel free to mock us.  Trust me, we're cringing in our britches.
I'm not sure what is the most embarrassing.  Is it our bizarre attempt to pronounce the word 'macabre?'  Is it our endearing, if sadly uninspired, attempt to sing on key? You choose.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Things I Do When I'm Drunk

Umulu and I are drinking to excess.  Both a bottle deep tonight.  Her sober boyfreind walked in, and wants it to be broadcast about the planet that he IS A DRAG.  We disagree stridently, but, as Umulu would say, "whatevs, yo."  and "bitches."

Here are the things that Umulu and I have learned about men, love, and the meaning of life from romance novels.  P.S., don't tell anybody we admitted to reading romance novels, ok? Unless you count Paradise, by Judith McNaught, the greatest romance novel ever, except for maybe Julia Quinn. When He Was Wicked. That's all we've got to say about that.

OK.  Here it goes.  Ten things we've learned about life from romance novels.

1.  "Laving" of the nipple apparently feels REALLY good.  We do not know why "to lave" is not a more commonly used verb in the English language.  But then again, romance novels are where excellent and underused vocabulary goes to die.  Counterpane?  Barouche? Gone, except for in romance novels.  But laving really ought to be reincorporated, as it's been known to induce orgasm.
2.  Kidnapping is the most romantic of the modes of courtship.  Like laving of the nipples, kidnapping can, in appropriate circumstances, induce orgasm.
3.  Good-looking Englishmen abound in the aristocracy.  Surprisingly, most are Dukes. Occasionally an earl, but regardless, they are all very tan.  And virile.  And have killed multiple men in duels.
4.  Right before a heroine is about to be murdered by a Bad Guy, the Bad Guy usually wastes about 15 minutes explaining what he did, why he did it, and what he's about to do.  This annoying habit of logorrhea inevitably allows for the hero to arrive on the scene just in time to save the day.  In unusual cases, the heroine is exceptionally brave and takes a bullet (which always misses bones and major organs) for the hero, thus proving her love, loyalty, and devotion.  This is an exceptionally useful way of cementing a budding romance.
5. Extensive sexual activity with women of ill repute does not necessarily lead to  venereal disease unless you are the Bad Guy in the romance novel, in which case, you are riddled with the pox.
6.Women only have "nests of curls at the apex of their thighs," and never have to shave their legs to achieve that silky smooth feeling.  Bitches.
7. Pirates, without fail, are either a) fabulously weathly, or b) of noble birth.  In the best of circumstances, they combine the two.  Unless of course, they are the Bad Guy, in which case, they are largely Spanish.
8. No nobleman ever shirked his duty to the Crown (unless he was a Bad Guy).  If truth be told, every nobleman in England was actually a spy in France against the Napoleonic horde.  Many were tortured.  Most retained their good looks.
9. Shy women, when paired with the right man (usually domineering, charasmatic, and in possession of a grand fortune) inevitably turn into tigers in the bedroom.  Claw marks down the back are not unheard of, surprising all involved, not least, the heroine.
10. Reformed rakes make the best husbands.

This Is My Guitar

This is my guitar.  My mom gave it to me for my birthday last year, and I'm learning how to play.  I'm learning slowly, but I'm learning.  It's all part of my plan to slowly absorb the unique talents of my parents.  My dad is a beekeeper, so one day I guess I'll do that, too, but in graduate school, practicing my scales is way more manageable than large-scale apiculture.  

So far I've learned a few songs off of the Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris album Trio (a staple of my childhood), and Lyle Lovett's fabulous "Skinny Legs."  Also, I've learned the C Major, C Pentatonic, G Major and G Pentatonic scales.  Watch out, Eric Clapton, here comes Amazing Cheastypants.

My mom only had three tapes when I was a kid.  She kept them in our Dodge Caravan (and later, the Plymouth Voyager, which, for expediency we still called "the Caravan") and that's all we listened to.  This is what they were:

1. The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem (Irish folk songs.  Once I was in a bar in London with Octavia - good trip! -- and this guy was up on stage singing Irish folk songs.  I was in the freaking UK, and I was the only person who knew all the words.  ALL of them.  To EVERY song.  And believe you me, after 7 or 8 flavored vodka shots  - oh, shudder - I sang very loud. Come on, Umulu, Crasey, Fairy King!  Sing with me.  "There was a wild colonial boy, jack duggin was his name..."  Or how about "I had threeeeeee greeeeeen fieeeeeelds, eeeeeach of them a je-wel...."  And my all time favorite, "To HELL with yer English permit, we want your motor car!")

2. The soundtrack to My Fair Lady.  (Mom always fast-forwarded through the part where Henry Higgins says "Damn, damn, damn, damn!" right before he sings "I've grown accustomed to her face."  I always thought that was a funny thing to do, considering we knew what he was saying anyways, because we watched the movie ALL THE TIME.  Movies we watched all the time, coming soon on this website.  I've got one word for you, kidlets: Gnome-mobile.)

3. Trio.  (A truly wonderful album, featuring songs about death, bereavement, and maudlin sentiments of lost love.  "Little Rosewood Casket" was always a favorite of mine, followed closely by "Oh, the Pain of Loving You." Nothing like crying your eyes out to the mournful wail of a mandolin to clear your chakras.)

And people marvel at how limited my understanding of contemporary popular culture is. Go figure.

Hawaii Chair (alternate title: What the F&^%?)

I'm putting this up here mostly so that I have a place to always find it whenever I need to laugh so hard I cry.  Who's ever heard of the Hawaii Chair?  "It feels great on my abs!"

Sunday, February 3, 2008

My Baby Sister Crasey (Happy Birthday)

If you've been reading recent posts, you could easily come to the conclusion that every single person I know was born within a week of each other. Namely, this week. This is not true, but I can't prove that right now. You're just going to have to trust me.

Today is the birthday of one of the top five people in the world: My baby sister Crasey.

She is wonderful. How wonderful? Well, let me tell you.

Crasey was born 22 years ago today, and was, like all of the children in my family (all FIVE of us) an less-than-fully-planned-for blessing. Otherwise known as an accident, but it's a semantic distinction that pleases my mother, so we'll go with that for now. I'm a little unclear on the details, and my memory is notoriously faulty but this is what I know about the situation. Here's how it goes. Near the end of the first trimester, the doctors found indicators of breast cancer in my mother -- during the "waiting for results" period, they strongly recommended she consider terminating the pregnancy so that if it were malignant, she could undergo aggressive treatment. I can't even imagine what Mom and Dad went through during that week or so of waiting, but in the end, they decided to keep the baby, and Dad would raise all four of us alone if it came to that. Holy shit. I can't even imagine having a conversation like that. Just the thought of it makes the hair on my head stand up and the bottom of my belly fall out. In the end, everything was fine, the pregnancy proceeded as normal, and when Crasey popped out at the end of 9 months, she turned out to be one of the most thoroughly charming, ebullient, forthright, and loving little persons ever placed upon the earth.

(Please forgive the super-retardo expression on my face. I was well on my way to winning the Annual Thanksgiving Drunk Crown that year. It was a memorable performance on my part, and Crasey only egged me on.)

As a child, she only wore dresses. And the only way she really liked to wear dresses was over her head. There may not be a single soul who was alive in central North Carolina during the late 1980s that didn't see my little sister running naked through a grocery store. She also loved to chew gum. Her favorite kind of gum was the kind you scrape off the bottom of chairs in schools and libraries. Consequently, she's immune to every disease known to man.

She loves an underdog. Her favorite stuffed animal as a child was called Ugly Dog. She picked him off a table of stuffed animals for the single reason that he was the ugliest stuffed animal in the whole collection. She is a ferocious defender of people she loves, one of the most gifted and funniest story tellers I know, and fiercely protective of her gum. If her stash is running low, don't even ask her to share.

She used to be wonderfully gullible. Our brother the Fairy King once convinced her, upon discovering that she'd put salt in his milk, that this was like poison, and he would die shortly. To assuage her guilt, he graciously allowed her to do all of his chores until he passed away. Eventually she became sufficiently suspicious of his continued good health, and asked Mom just exactly how long it took to die from salted milk? She learned a valuable lesson, there. As a result, she is one of the most excellent judges of character I've ever known. This is great for me, since I seem to be less than gifted in that arena.

I could write a book about how much I love my sister Crasey, and another about all the fantastically wonderful trouble we get into when left to our own devices, but I suspect it might be better never to post stories like that on the Interweb. I love you, Crase. Probably not as much as you love a well-balanced meal of chicken, rice, and vegetable, but all things considered, it's still quite a lot of love. Happy birthday.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

And.... another birthday!

Once a poet from North Carolina
Was so lovely I think she could blind ya.
When she turned thirty one
Tears fell from the sun
Who cried, "Now I'll never outshine ya!"

Happy birthday, Pony. I know I said I'd write you a haiku, but a limerick is what wanted to come out. Celebrate madly.

I'm taking the liberty of spreading the word of your genius, my dear. I hope you don't mind. Please, friends, family, and whatever strangers happen upon this blog, check out this marvel and these marvels.