Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Engrish Subtitles: Say Them Out Loud.

I stole this off another blog (hi, Sam!), so first off, I'd like to say thanks. These are actual English subtitles from movies made in Hong Kong, and this list is probably one of the funniest things I've read in a while. 

To get the full effect, please please PLEASE say each one out loud. If you're at your desk, just whisper them under your breath. It's okay, your office mates already think you're crazy; how much harm could you really do?  Prepare to die laughing.

1. I am damn unsatisfied to be killed in this way.

2. Fatty, you with your thick face have hurt my instep.

3. A normal person wouldn't steal pituitaries.

4. Take my advice, or I'll spank you without pants.

5. Who gave you the nerve to get killed here?

6. Quiet or I'll blow your throat up.

7. You always use violence. I should've ordered glutinous rice chicken.

8. I'll fire aimlessly if you don't come out!

9. I have been scared shitless too much lately.

10. I got knife scars more than the number of your leg's hair!

11. Beware! Your bones are going to be disconnected.

12. The bullets inside are very hot. Why do I feel so cold?

13. This will be of fine service for you, you bag of the scum. I am sure you will not mind that I remove your manhoods and leave them out on the dessert flour for your aunts to eat.

14. Yah-hah, evil spider woman! I have captured you by the short rabbits and can now deliver you violently to your gynecologist for a thorough extermination.

15. Greetings, large black person. Let us not forget to form a team up together and go into the country to inflict the pain of our karate feets on some ass of the giant lizard person.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Amazing Cheastypants Presents: Cookie!!

Welcome to the newest edition of "Good Friends Save Cheasty's Ass As She Studies Ferociously For Comprehensive Exams!!!" A million thanks, and a very special tip of the hat to my sweet and funny Cookie for this hilarious tale of eavesdropping on awkward conversations. Brava, my dear, brava. You are a marvel, a pip, and an all-'round champion of chatter.

Coffee and Conversations

by Cookie McCookerson

Strangers' conversations fascinate me. I find each and every person undeniably interesting in some shape, form, or fashion. Perhaps this is because I developed expert listening skills as an introverted child, always listening in to adults' conversations. I learned to decipher what their mumblings meant.

As an outgoing adult, I still find myself listening to conversations. Some may call it "eavesdropping" but I like to think of it as my personal reality TV show that's commercial free. One evening last week in my neighborhood coffee shop I was diligently researching the interwebs when my ears pricked up as I heard this middle aged couple discuss details about buying a used car. This is ultimately where their conversation wound up.

Woman: This might sound really morbid... but I thought what if Mary dies tomorrow? [long pause] I mean I have nothing to wear.

Man: Yes, that is morbid.

Woman: I mean I have literally nothing to wear, the dress, the shoes. Nothing. I should go shopping soon.

Man: Just wait 'til after.

Woman: But it will take forever. I don't have anything!

A long pause ensues as the man thinks about it. He grabs her hand cradling it in his own.

Man: Ok, well just as long as you get something that's nice enough for me to take you out in.

Woman: Oh, ok. So maybe something navy instead of black?

An Apology, For What It's Worth

A couple of weeks ago on this blog I wrote about being unexpectedly and inexplicably recruited for police duty in Plano, TX. In writing about it, I used the real name of the person with whom I briefly emailed, Ms. Maegan Schmitz. I would like to apologize here, publicly, for doing so.   It was unkind and inconsiderate of me. It didn't occur to me that if somebody googled her name, my blog post would be the first thing that popped up. At the time I thought that I had a readership of anywhere between 5 and 15 people. This turned out to be pretty far from the truth, and a short while later somebody named "Anonymous" took me sternly to task in the comments for deriding Ms. Schmitz. At first I was defensive, but then I tried to read the post as if I had no idea what was in my brain when I wrote it, and I realized Anonymous had a good point. I wasn't trying to be nasty to Ms. Schmitz, but I can see how it could read that way.  I really ought to have known better.  Believe it or not, I generally dislike sarcasm; I think it makes people laugh for the wrong reasons, though I've been known to employ it as a weapon when I get irritated.  But I've also been on the cutting end of that particular type of humor before, and it hurts.  I could have made that post funny without using her real name, and while I'd like to claim thoughtlessness, I really liked her name, the way it sounded, you know?  Sort of spunky and onomatopoetic.  So the truth is I thought about it, and still chose the wrong path. I'm a dumbass.

For clarification, I'd like to say that the point of the post was that I believed a friend had played a practical joke on me, not that Ms. Schmitz had anything to do with it. I never thought that. And honestly, it didn't seem that big a deal to me, just dead funny to get these strange and random emails about being a police officer in a town I'd never even heard of, and mildly annoying to not know who was circulating my email address.

At the end of the day, I posted without considering that my sarcasm might read as a personal insult or attack. I don't know Ms. Schmitz at all, and I have no idea if she ever has or ever will read either one of the two posts I've written about her now, but if she ever does, I'd like to say that I'm sorry. Ms Schmitz, you are most likely a lovely person. It was inappropriate for me to publish your real name on the internet. I hope you'll accept my sincere apology.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Bright Copper Kettles and Warm Woolen Mittens

Today I'm worn down. I'm tired. My head is so crammed with historical information that I can't filter any of it. Ask me a question, right now, and I guarantee you the answer will have nothing to do with whatever it was you asked me about. Here's an example: Hey, Cheasty, what did you have for dinner? Answer: Political liberalism. No, wait! I meant to say nation-building. Yes, that's it. Nation-building. Poor Umulu asked me to gossip and bemoan a particular situation with her and all I could do was stare stupidly and drool. I'm not a good sister. I just want to crawl up in a ball and hide for a while. And then when I come out from hiding I want this all to be over. Poof!

This, however, is not my fantasy life, so I've decided instead to take a few minutes to meditate on the finer things in life. Things that always make me smile, or laugh, or just have a warm fuzzy feeling. I tried uploading some of my favorite photographs to go with it, but Blogger is once again making life difficult by not loading pictures (grrrrrr) so I'm going to go with mental images instead.

Just a Few of the Things That Make Me Happy:

1. The bright and exceptional green of the first leaves of springtime.

2. Really loud burps and farts. It may be juvenile, but I think they're hysterical. Also, I laugh every time somebody says the word "duty."

3. Dancing. One of my favorite places to go dancing in Austin is The Broken Spoke, this run-down old honky-tonk on the South side of town, but I love it all. Country swing, salsa, two-step, waltz, merengue, dancing-crazy-in-my-bedroom dance, whatever. Dancing makes me happy.

4. Mom's homemade mac and cheese. Can't nobody beat it. And I mean NOBODY, so no comments saying "oh, you've never had MY mom's mac and cheese," cause it'd be a dirty lie.

5. My dad sticks his tongue out the side of his mouth whenever he's concentrating.

6. Wine, wine, wine. (num, num, num)

7. Puppies, flowers, kittens, babies, the smell of homemade bread. All those corny things I'm kind of embarrassed to put up there, but hell. Corny or not, they really do make me happy.

8. Old-fashioned bikes, especially when people in snazzy outfits ride them.

9. My Mom's first hug when I walk in the door after being gone for a long time. Wow, that lady loves me.

10. Toe-tapping live music. On a perfect sunny day. While eating corn on the cob. And fresh basil and tomatoes. Wearing a really cute sundress. At a party with all my good friends. After I won a million dollars.

So what about y'all?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

New Study Finds That Studying Makes You Stupider.

I have been in school now for a cumulative total of 21 years. Between the ages of 0 and 4, and for a bright period between the ages of 22 and 27, I was school-free, but pretty much the sum total of my 30 years have been spent in the pursuit of knowledge. I would now like to state, categorically and for the record that, in spite of everything my teachers, parents and mentors have urged me to believe, this has not made me any smarter. In fact, the opposite is true. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I offer you exhibit A:

Two days ago, discussing a professor and his preferred writing style, I told a classmate of mine, "We get along great now, but he used to hate the way I writed."

The best part? I didn't even register that I'd made an error until WAY after the fact.

Oh, I hear some skeptics in the back row. Still not convinced, eh? Well, then, let me offer you Exhibit B:

On the phone today with a friend of mine who I haven't talked to in about a year, we'll call her Sarah. "Whoa, Sarah, hi, how are you, it's been like a year, how are your little babies, how's life?!!

"Actually," she says, "not so good. I just found out that my husband has been adfhad wkhrostt skdhw."

"Sorry, what?" I asked? "I lost the last part."

"Oh, sorry, I'm in Barnes & Noble, and I'm trying to be quiet about it. It's Bobbie. He's been asdfs vghasero shfwxeit."


She gets a little louder, sounds a little embarrassed and frustrated. "He's been S-L-E-E-P-I-N-G bouwrfsh!" She grinds out.

"Oh, my God." I said, feeling stunned. "Bobbie's SELLING DRUGS?"

"NO, CHEASTY! SLEEPING. S-L-E-E-P-I-N-G! Sleeping around."

I am unbelievably, embarrassingly, criminally dumb. To be fair, however, I'm not the only one. Sarah is a highly educated woman herself, and she believed that SPELLING IT OUT would somehow hide the truth from passersby. Sarah? Sorry, but you're in a bookstore. Chances are, folks around you know how to spell.

And before you think I'm completely heartless for turning this awful moment in Sarah's life into a joke for general consumption, let me assure you that I'm only trying to make light so that I don't drive the long, long distance to her house, find her husband in whatever wormhole he's crawling around in, and personally make a necktie out of his small intestine. Cheating is awful. But cheating when you've got babies? Man, just keep it zipped. You've got responsibilities bigger than your outsized, ego-driven sex drive. Schmuck.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Reminders of What Really Matters In Life

Today I'm going to tell you about Granddad.  

Granddad is my father's father. He lives in a former mining town in the mountains of West Virginia with Julie, his wife, his soulmate, the switch to his light, the yin to his yang. He is one of my favorite people in the world, one of my best friends, and I don't know what I'd do without him in my life. Now, before you go getting all Norman Rockwell on me, let me assure you he just ain't that kind of grandpa. He isn't gentle and kindly, he doesn't smoke a pipe, he doesn't tell a whole lot of stories about the good old days. He's crotchety and grumpy, opinionated and bossy, completely hilarious, and the person from whom I've inherited both my extreme fiscal caution and my ever-present need to get up and go someplace new. He's brutally honest, startlingly frank, and endlessly interested in the world around him. I could tell you a million stories about him that would have you on the floor with laughter, but I don't have time for that right now.  So for today I'm just going to tell you about how he, more than anybody else, reminds me of what's really important in life.

Like take the other morning. I called him up, and Julie answered the phone.


"Hi Julie, it's me!"

"Oh, hi, dear, we were just talking about you. You got a boyfriend yet?"

"No, not yet. I've been kind of too busy for that, you know?"

"Uh-huh." Uh-huh is Julie's conversational filler. She says it in this sort of sing-songy way, and it can mean a million different things, from "isn't that nice," to "you're an idiot, but i'm not saying a word," to "my mind is a million miles away from here." She's also got a limited shelf life for telephone conversations, and so within a very short time, she was saying, "Well, here's your granddad. I love you, bye now!"  And she hands the phone over to Granddad.

"Hella." Granddad doesn't say "hello" like normal folk, with an O on the end and the emphasis on the second syllable. He says "hella," like it rhymes with "fella." I can't explain this.

"Heya, Grumps, how's it going?" I call him Grumps sometimes. He thinks this is hilarious.

"Well, hey yourself, you old fart! How's things?"

"Oh, not too bad. Lots of work, feeling kind of run down, but all-in-all, okay."

"Run down, huh? You eatin' ok?"

"Yup, always."

"Cause you should maybe start taking this stuff that my Julie takes -HEY JULES! WHAT'S THE NAME OF THAT PRUNE JUICE THAT'S GOT YOU SHITTIN' LIKE CRAZY?"

(me, inwardly cringing, simultaneously laughing)

"Uh, Granddad, I don't think I need any prune juice." (Not that he's listening. He's still trying to track Julie down, and it turns out she's in the bathroom. From here on out, the conversation really has very little to do with me. I'm just listening in and laughing my ass off as the following bits filter through to me.)

"Hey, Jules, what're you doing in there?"


"Holy mackerel!"

and my favorite,

"Man, that stuff works good!"

And so on, and so forth. I hear Julie in the background, saying something and they both start to laugh. A minute or so later, he comes back on the line. He's just coming down off a laughing high, and I can all but see him wiping tears from his eyes, trying to catch his breath again.

"Hey, you still there?"

"Yup, still here, Granddad."

We chat for a moment about the magnitude of what had just passed, the laugh they had about it, their plans for the day, which included a trip to Home Depot, Bible study at church, and how I really needed to stop stressing out and focus on the good life.

"I really hope that one day you find somebody as wonderful as my Julie," he told me, for the eleventy-billionth time.

"Yup, me too, Granddad."

"And make sure you drink plenty of prune juice, ok? Looky here, I'll just tear the label off this bottle and send it to you so you can probably pick it up at one of those whole foods places."

"Ok, I will. Love you, Gramps. Give Julie a big hug and a kiss for me, ok?"

"Oh, don't you worry. She gets all the lovin' she needs. I love you, kid, we both do. So much. Take care."

In light of work and stress and comprehensive exams and achey eyeballs, this is why I love my Granddad. Because in his eyes, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, more worth having than a loving partner, a good sense of humor, and a well-regulated digestive system. And when he puts it that way, I'm hard-pressed to disagree.

Love you, Granddad. Love you, Julie.

My Amazing CheastyParents Are Hipper Than Me. Than I.

Life is so not fair right now.  I'm chained to a desk, my back is cramped up and achey, even my eyeballs hurt from reading so much.  Then I got an email from one of my advisors saying that my first draft of one of my essays was, and I quote, "a disaster," which I can totally take, because a) it's a draft, and I can fix it, and b) after three years of grad school my skin is tough like leather, but still.  Ouch.

So I called my parents so that they could tell me what a genius I am and that they love me, and instead they're all, "Oh, hi, honey!  What's that?  I can't hear you over the LIVE MUSIC!"  

Live music?

My parents are at MerleFest, camping out at a four-day music festival in the North Carolina mountains, grilling out, sleeping in a tent, playing in fields and meadows with my baby brother Bug, and listening to live music by Doc Watson, Old Crow Medicine Show, Tift Merritt, Sam Bush, and Ricky Skaggs.  

And I'm stuck in grad school hell, silently watching my hair turn green with envy.  

Life, for the record, is so not fair.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Amazing Cheastypants Presents: Penata!!

The newest installation of good friends who are saving me from the hell of comprehensive exams. Thanks for this, Penata. You are the roommate of my heart and soul.  That does not, however, mean I'll easily forgive you for making me confess to the world my shameful love affair with D-list celebrities and their flirtations with ballroom dance.  I'm off to write another exam essay.  One down, two to go.  Go, Cheasty, go Cheasty, go Cheasty, GO!

Hi, everybody, this is Penata. As some of you may know, the Amazing Cheastypants and I are roommate-soulmates. We have the same routines, the same taste in food, the same jeans and shoe size for crying out loud. But even the best of relationships sometimes lose their spark. So, you may be wondering, what do Cheastypants and Penata do to keep the roommate romance alive? .....We watch Dancing With the Stars together! We started watching three seasons ago, when we heard that there was going to be a one-legged star on the show (who could resist?), and we've been hooked ever since. We have spent untold hours dissecting dances, costumes, and "showmances" (Apolo and Julianne? Derek and Shannon?). Last season we even voted. Yes, it's true, don't knock the democratic process.

I can't think of a better break from the grad school grind than 2 hours a week spent watching one of the silliest shows ever with Ms. Cheastypants.

Hi, everybody, Cheasty here again.  Here are a couple of our favorite dances from our favorite dancing couples.  Sit back, relax, and strap a napkin under your chin, cause this is gonna make you want to drool. :)

Sabrina and Mark, Cha-Cha. Ai, por dios.  So this is what love at first sight looks like.

Apolo and Juliane, Rumba. Get a room!

Mel B and Maks, Paso Doble. Holy moly.  I repeat.  Holy.  Moly.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Worst Album Covers Ever. And I Do Mean EVER.

I don't remember where I actually got these pictures (some random email forward, I think), but I saved the pdf and every now and then I go back and look again, just to have a laugh when I really need one.  Right now what I need is A) a good laugh, and B) a quick and easy blog post so that I can keep working on my comps.  So here you go, my friends.  Some of the worst album covers ever created in the human universe.  And, of course, my commentary.

Yes you can, you sexy devil.  You can borrow some L-O-V-E, and then give it right back to me.

Geraldine knows this because Ricky told her so.  And Ricky speaks only the truth.

I can say nothing to make this funnier.

"Don't worry, sweetheart.  Nobody will know you're pregnant for at least another couple of months.  By that time I'll have sold all my beaver skins and made us a nice tidy fortune to live on.  Now be a good girl and quit crying so I can finish my beer."

Ah, the McKeithens.  In case of musical emergency, Mrs. McKeithen keeps an accordion in her beehive.  (Grammar geeks of the world, spot that horrifyingly misplaced punctuation!)

Ummmmm...  And all these years I thought all you could see in a crystal ball was the future.

It's like gay porn, but even gayer! (This one's for you, Fairy King. ;)

No, Jasper, I think God wants you to wear the EXTRA small sweatervest.

No, really.  That's him right behind us.

Now performing live at the Palladium with her equally miraculous co-stars, the Great Footless Tapdancer, and the Amazing Lipless Harmonica Player!  

My favorite songs are "Blinded By the Light," "I Can See Clearly Now the Rain Is Gone," and "Tell Me Have You Seen Her?"  (Yes, I'm going to hell for that one.)

Ew.  Words escape me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Thoughts on Oblivion, and Its Occasionally Dire Consequences

Hi, my name is Amazing Cheastypants. I am, of course, wildly glamorous, utterly gorgeous, and effortlessly sophisticated, but I also have a few other defining characteristics that my mother (oh, hell, who am I kidding) that the whole freaking world likes to "bring to my attention." And by "bring to my attention" what I mean to say is, "mock without mercy." These are, in no particular order:

1. An almost dangerous obsession with saving money by turning things off.
2. An inexplicable inattention to the world around me.
3. A terrifying faith in the magical powers of refrigeration.

This week, in what one might call "the perfect storm of character flaws," I got to explore each one of the aforementioned failings in intimate detail. Why? Well I counsel you with patience, my poppets. Patience.

Let's take them one by one, shall we?

Number One. I am my father's daughter. There isn't a lightbulb in my house that I don't want to switch off, a ceiling fan I don't think about stopping in its spin, an air conditioning unit whose very existence doesn't make my skin break out in hives. In my more self-delusional moments I like to think that this obsession is because I'm a model global citizen, striving with every heartbeat of my life to leave the world a cleaner, more efficient place. This, I ought to point out, is not true. Oh, I recycle, and ride my bike, and in my daydreams I even compost. But really, truly, I do this because I am cheap. As my beloved and eminently quotable Grandfather would say, when it comes to squeezing a nickel, I'm "tighter than a bull's ass at fly time."

Number Two. I am oblivious. Want to know one of my mother's favorite parlor games? It's that perennial favorite, a real gut-buster, called "Hey, quick, Cheasty. Tell me what color the walls in the dining room are." Or sometimes, "Hey, quick, Cheasty, what does the painting that hangs over the fireplace look like?" My standard responses to these questions are, "I don't know," and "There's a painting hanging over the fireplace?"
I don't notice people, either. On campus the other day I almost ran over a friend of mine who was just walking too damn slow, and boy was I in a hurry. As I brushed past him, almost knocking him over (on accident, I swear!), I heard him say, "Cheasty? Everything OK?" "Oh, um, hi, there! Didn't see you, Bob!" "Really? That's odd, cause you almost WALKED ON TOP OF ME."

Number Three. This one really REALLY grosses my sister out. But I used to be a professional backpacker, and we'd be out in the field with butter and vegetables and cheese and bacon, all of which spent many many days in hot backpacks, baking under the sun, before it ever got close to eatin' time. And while I'll admit that the broccoli sometimes smelled a little off, for the most part, the food was just fine, dammit. So refrigeration, in my opinion, is a) largely unnecessary, and b) capable of prolonging the natural shelf life of any food product beyond my wildest imaginings. I know this is untrue, and probably gross. Go ahead and vomit, I can't help how my brain works.

And these characteristics of mine, for all the ribbing I endure, never really bother me. Because honestly, who am I hurting? Except Bob, of course, whom I sincerely apologize to for knocking him over. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I'll tell you who I'm hurting. Me.

Let me tell you about a little episode from yesterday that I'm calling "the mysterious case of tabouleh as the sun went down." It was evening, I was hungry. But I've been so busy lately that I haven't had time to go to the grocery store. Just as I'm debating the relative merits of eating takeout (ick) or starving to death (ouch), I remembered. I have hummus and tablouleh! Oh, joy, oh bliss! I'd had it for a little while, but I was sure it was still fine. So I toasted up a pita bread, busted out the little containers, walked into the dimly lit living room, plopped down on the couch and flipped on the TV to watch the Simpsons while I ate to the light of the gently setting sun.

So there I am, muching away on the hummus, oh yum, and then I take my first bite of tabouleh and think, "Gah, that's bitter!" Munch, munch, munch. Yummy hummus. Another bite of tabouleh. I think, "Gah, that's bitter!" Another bite, and I think, "Gah, that's bitter!" Through the fog of my oblivion, it begins to dawn on me that maybe I'd better take a closer look at whatever it is that's making me think "Gah, that's bitter!" every time I take a bite. But that would mean turning on a light, which we already know I'm loathe to do. It takes me another minute to decide, but I finally do get off my ass and flip on the lamp. I take a closer look at the tabouleh and promptly vomit so hard that my toenails shoot out my nose. It was beautiful, actually. A colony of mold had taken over, and the entire surface of my food was decorated with extravagantly lovely, delicately constructed fungal arrangements. Shudder, shudder, gag, choke.

But, as with all good stories, there are a few redeeming lessons I've learned from this episode.

Number one, I hereby vow to try to pay more attention, and to moderate my faith in the magical powers of refrigeration.
Number two, I formally swear that from now on I will closely examine any food that has been in my refrigerator for longer than 4 days before I put it in my mouth.
And number three, I can now report with precision and accuracy exactly how long it takes for my metabolism to process moldy tabouleh. That is, 17 hours. Now if you'll excuse me, I believe my metabolism needs to go do some more processing.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Hello Out There!

I just found out about this thing called Site Meter that you can set up on your blog to monitor how many people come to your website, and I am now kind of obsessed with it.  When I was talking to my friend about setting it up, I joked that I was taking bets on whether 5 or 15 people came and checked this page out every day.  But guess what.  I get around 60 visits a day! [UPDATE: Monday evening. I just checked, and it turns out on weekdays I get closer to 120. Wow.] Who knew? I know, it's nothing huge, but it's kind of funny to think about people I've never met reading what I write. What's even cooler is that I can tell where people check from (city, state, country, but no names, birthdates, or social security numbers) and what google searches send them to me.  

So I'd like to say hello to all the people out there that read my stories. I don't know who you are, but thanks for stopping by from Colorado Springs, CO, Simpson, NC,  San Diego, CA,  Santa Fe, NM, Philadelphia, PA,  Orem, UT,  Lithonia, GA,  Irving, TX,  San Antonio, TX,  Dayton, OH, Monroe, NY, Winnipeg, Manitoba,  Virginia Beach, VA, Oklahoma City, OK, and, of course, Austin, TX and Raleigh/Durham, NC. Feel free to say hello, or keep quiet, that's fine, too.  Either way, it's kind of cool that you're out there reading.  

The funniest part is the google searches that send folks to my site on accident.  My recent favorites are "Leslie butt," "rear and plunge," and "riding a texas jackrabbit."  I wonder what they were really looking for?

All right, this is the end of my truncated Monday morning post.  I'm seriously under the gun for writing my comps essays, so off I go.  But just cause I love you all, my friends, I'll leave you with a little of my favorite dude, Mr. Bill Cosby.  I've been getting myself psyched up for an upcoming visit I've got to make to the dentist's office (which I HATE, thank you very much) and listening to this routine always makes me feel a little better about the whole process. It's a 7 minute video, just fyi, and the part where he talks like his lips are numb makes me wet myself every time.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Love Letter to Sheba

Dear Sheba,

I remember the day my mother brought you home in 1992, a long-legged, totally disoriented puppy with curly black hair and bright button eyes. She was completely head-over-heels in love with you. You peed in her car on the way home that day, and she fiercely defended you against our father and little sister (upon whose lap you had peed). You barfed in her lap and she felt bad for giving you the wrong food. When your spectacular levels of un-coordination became obvious, Mom spent hours and hours for days and days teaching you to climb stairs. One foot up, two feet up, three feet up, four! Good girl! Then it was time to teach you to go downstairs, which proved altogether impossible. I still remember you hovering uncertainly at the top, gathering your courage for the journey down. And inevitably, you'd get one step, two steps, three, then your legs would tie themselves in a pretzel and you'd tumble tip over tail to the bottom of the stairs, crashing head-first into the front door. Every day for months. I don't remember the first time you did it right, all I remember is eventually I became totally desensitized to the sound of whomp-whomp-whomp-whomp-CRASH. But you never gave up, cause upstairs was where Mom was, and where Mom was, you were. Always.

You were really lucky to find my Mom, you know that? Where other people saw a goofy, clumsy, less-than-intelligent, and overbred standard poodle, Mom saw elegance, grace, and charm. When the kids wanted to name you "Dumbo" or "Poofball," our mother told us we were overbred and less-than-intelligent, and named you The Queen of Sheba. For the next 16 years you did you best to live up to her fantasy life, and she steadfastly ignored your imperfections.

When we discovered your food allergies and unfortunate tendency to projectile vomit, Mom cleaned up your messes without a word. When your intestines started spontaneously herniating, Mom took you to the vet and sat with you, petting your head when you were feeling miserable. When you got chronic ear infections, Mom was there for you, pulling hair out of your hairy poodle ears, treating you with drops and pills and other forms of medical torture. You rewarded this care with slavish devotion. Mom, as far as you were concerned, was the only thing in the world that mattered. Kids? Who cared. Dad? Oh, are you still there? Other dogs? Occasionally fun to play with, but only if you were in the mood. Mom was your alpha and omega. Your Person. You'd sit at the window for hours every day, waiting for her to come screaming down the driveway in whatever danger-mobile she was driving at the time. When she went to work, you often went with her and sat by her side in the church office. Thank you for that, Sheba. In some of the neighborhoods she worked in, I was glad she had you there to protect her.

It's kind of funny, actually, that you turned out to be, if not a guard dog, at least an effective alarm bell, because for two years, you never made a noise. I think Dad was happy with this, but we kids tried with admirable determination to make you bark. When one day somebody rang the front doorbell (a rare day, indeed, in our house of open doors) and you, wriggling, and jumping, and spazzing out finally, FINALLY let loose your first wimpy "woof!" you'd have thought you'd just published your first novel for all the fuss we made over you. This was a moment we would come to regret, because it turns out that once you got used to the idea, you found barking to be quite a lot of fun. And holy shitballs, were you loud. In our home, there were three things that topped the "Most Frequently Said" list. Those three things were 1) Who turned the freaking [AC/heat] on again?! 2) Because I said so, that's why. And 3) SHEBA! SHUT! UP!

As a young dog, you were frantically energetic, and sadly, supremely unaware of how your body moved through space. I've actually never seen a dog capable of such athletic feats -- you could, from a complete stand-still, leap a solid 4 feet straight up in the air. I never would've believed it if I hadn't seen it. ( I ought to pause and thank you here, Sheba, for providing me the opportunity to pull off one of the finest practical jokes I've ever managed -- the day I convinced my admittedly gullible cousin that you weren't just an ordinary poodle, you were an unusual hybrid from Australia called a Kanga-Poo.) Sadly, this athletic talent did not translate into trainability, or even reliable spatial recognition of your immediate environment. You routinely walked into walls and coffeetables, and I don't think you ever learned a trick beyond "sit," but we loved you anyway.

As you got older your eyes clouded over and your joints got arthritic, and gradually you found it harder and harder to move around. You spend most days sitting on the porch just kind of hanging out and waiting for Mom to show up. When you wanted to be petted you'd deploy your patented "breathe stanky dog breath heavily in the face of the person you want to pet you" technique and generously allow us to rub your head or massage your achy back for a while.

But yesterday morning your wonderful creaky old body finally wore itself out. Your kidneys stopped working and you laid there, unable to move, waiting for my mom to get home from running errands. When she found you like that, you lifted your head a little and thumped your tail once, as if to say, "hey, I'm sorry I peed on the floor, Mom, but I'm really glad you're here now." I'm glad you went fast, and without any pain, Sheba, but I'm really sad that you had to go. I hope you knew that Mom and brother were there with you the whole time, and that Umulu, Crasey, and I were thinking about you and crying for you from hundreds of miles away. I can't believe you won't be there the next time I go home. I can't even believe I'm writing this, and I'm crying so that I can't really see the keyboard that well. I want you to know that we'll miss you so much, all of us will. But especially my mom, so you stay close by, ok?

Thanks for 16 years of loving my Mom. She'll never have another dog like you. Play like a puppy again, wherever you are.

Love you so much.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Amazing Cheastypants Presents: Schwupna!!

The first in my new series of blogalicious backup.  A million thanks to my good friend Schwupna for submitting this contribution.

Well, Girl Potato and Boy Potato had eyes for each other, and
finally they got married, and had a little sweet potato, which they
called 'Yam.'  Of course, they wanted the best for Yam.
When it was time, they told her about the facts of life.
They warned her about going out  and getting half-baked so she wouldn't
get accidentally mashed, get a bad name for herself like '
Hot Potato,'
and end up with a bunch of Tater Tots.
Yam said not to worry, no Spud would get her into the sack
and make a rotten potato out of her.  But on the other hand she wouldn't
stay home and become a Couch Potato either.  She would get plenty of
exercise so as not to be skinny like her Shoestring cousins.
When she went off to 
Europe , Mr. and Mrs. Potato told Yam to
watch out for the hard-boiled guys from 
Ireland , and the greasy guys
France called the French Fries. When she went out west, they told
her to watch out for the Indians so she wouldn't get scalloped.
Yam said she would stay on the straight and narrow and
wouldn't associate with those high class Yukon Golds, or the ones from the
other side of the tracks who advertise their trade on all the trucks that
say, 'Frito Lay.'
Mr. And Mrs. Potato sent Yam to 
Idaho P.U. (that's Potato
University ) so that when she graduated she'd really be in the Chips.
But in spite of all they did for her, one-day Yam came home
and announced she was going to marry 
Tom Brokaw.
Tom Brokaw!?
Mr. and Mrs. Potato were very upset.  They told Yam she
couldn't possibly marry 
Tom Brokaw because he's just.......
Are you ready for this??
Are you sure??
OK! Here it is!?


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Everything's Bigger in Texas

You know how people say that everything is bigger in Texas? Well, that's mostly true. For example, jackrabbits are the size of dogs, as demonstrated on this blog just the other day.  Our state capitol building was supposed to be bigger than the U.S. Capitol, but near the end of construction they measured it, and oops!  Hang on, let's throw a statue on top of the dome, and ok, NOW it's bigger than the U.S. Capitol building.  This "bigger is better" mentality is probably because Texas itself is so enormous that it has to make things huger so everything doesn't look strangely tiny, like a teeny little head on an enormous basketball player. Strange. But every now and then, Texas likes to show the world, "Hey world, look at me. I can make things that are small, too!" Take for example, this little fellow:

I know, you can hardly see him. Look up near the fingernail. That, my friends, is a teensy-tinsy, itsy-bitsy, ittle-wittle worm. Do not be deceived, however, by his ittle-wittle cuteness. This dude is trying very very hard to take a chunk out of my friend Ish's finger. He uses the old "rear and plunge" technique. It's time-tested, trial-approved, but in this case his ittle-wittle pincers are too ittle-wittle to get a hang on Ish's skin. hehe. ittle-wittle. Why on earth would I use a word like that? Is that even a word?

But what if I'm deliberately deceiving you? What if the very idea of "little" is anathema to the Texas zeitgeist? What if, instead of this worm being little, what if, in Texas, we have really, really....





HAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!! Oh, gasp, weep, heee heeeee heeeee, hooo hooo hooooooo. 

God, I'm funny.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Call For Blogalicious Backup

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. (quick, name that play! winner gets a free hug and kiss.)

So, as many of you may or may not be aware, I'm coming up on COMPS. To each lawyer, his bar exam. To each doctor, her whatever the hell that big test is called. To each historian, the all-powerful, ever-dreaded, comprehensive qualifying examination and oral defense. Otherwise known, of course, as COMPS. It's a nice onomatopoetic term, actually, since it sounds like CHOMP, and that's what it's taking out of my soul.

Mine are looming close before me now, with my essays due on May 10, and my oral defense coming on the 27th of May. Which brings me to my point. Blogging is fun. I love the challenge and joy of writing something every day, sharing my stories, pictures, joys and public humiliations. But I need help.

Some days, I just ain't got the time, and it's only going to get worse from here on out. On most days, I can swing it, but there are those times when I'd love to just copy, paste, and post. So here's your big chance. Got a joke you've been longing to tell? A photograph you'd like to show people? A funny story about this one time, at band camp? A bomb-proof potluck recipe? A favorite memory? A poem you wrote? A cool factoid you wish more people knew? Somebody you're proud of that you think deserves a shout-out? An anecdote that will cause me much personal embarrassment?

Email them to me, and some morning soon, when I'm staring at the 12 books I need to read that day, I'll copy, paste, and post. You'll be doing me a huge favor, and brightening the day of the silly cats who actually read this blog that day. And that, of course, is the main goal of this blog enterprise. Brightening days, making people laugh. Or sniffle. Or burp.

So my apologies for the mundane and (dare I say it?) boring nature of this post. To make it up to you, here's a funny picture.

Cookie, Schwupna: don't hate me cause you're beautiful.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Crazy Thing About Riding in Texas

Usually Texas only has about 3 days of spring before doing a fantastic swan dive into summer, but this year the nirvana never ends. I have no idea why, but I'm not asking any questions, just in case whoever's in charge up there is just letting things slide.

On Sunday morning I went for a bike ride with some buddies and my trusty faithful Stormtrooper of Love.
Isn't he a handsome bike?

My riding buddies: (Hi, "m," hi, maryland.)


This ride was superlative in a number of ways. One, it was absolutely gorgeous. Rolling Texas farmlands, verdant meadows, fields of wildflowers, and all other sorts of wonderful springy-ness.

The other reason it was superlative is because we saw THE CRAZIEST SHIT EVER. And I do mean EVER. Have you ever heard about how Texas has game reserves where people can go hunting? Well they do. In various ranches around Texas you can find herds of zebra, buffalo, ibix, antelope, ostriches, and more. They have normal game, too, like these handsome fellows:

There were herds of them all over:

I mean, oh my god, look at those fields. Now imagine yourself there. It's 75 degrees, a gentle breeze is blowing through your hair, the sun is warm on your head and it smells like flowers, earth, and sunshine. Then this little (NOT little) guy runs by.

That, my friends, is a Texas jackrabbit, fuzzy cause of the speed with which he bounded by behind a nearby fence. He is huge. Seriously. A rabbit the size of a dog. Everything is bigger in Texas.

I also saw some strange beasts that looked way out of place. For example, who knew that Texas had lions?

And excuse me, but does anybody know what this thing is?

I finally stopped taking pictures cause I was afraid my riding buddies would kill me if I stopped one more time, but it was lovely. Just lovely. Wish you all could've been there.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hello, Bug.

You want to meet the most charming, funny, and totally awesome little dude in the world? Let me introduce you to my little brother Bug.

Get him while he's still single, ladies. Actually, he's only 4 years old, so never mind. Just hold your freakin' horses, okay? Let the handsome little devil be a kid for another 15 or 20 years.

Bug is the greatest thing to happen to our family in forever. And you want to know who made sure he happened to us? My amazing Captain Mommypants. I'm going to write a book about my mom one day, and I'm going to call it The Collector of Living Things, because there is no better way to describe my mama. She gathers in people and animals that need a place to rest.

About three years ago, my mom (who is a minister) was working with a bunch of "A" groups (AA, NA, etc.) at her church. Mom has adopted many many MANY people over the years, but three years ago, she met a woman with a little baby boy. The woman was "in recovery" from a number of different addictions. Mom thought she was nice and wanted to help her out, so when she had to leave the halfway house she was staying at, Mom invited her to come stay with us for a while. This is pretty standard operating procedure for my mother, and we're all kind of used to it. Hey Mom, who's the strange lady staying in the guest room upstairs? Oh, she's a woman I met through church, she's down on her luck, and have you seen her little boy? The cutest thing ever. Cool, Mom. What's for dinner?

Bug really was the cutest thing ever. Big brown eyes, soft hair, adorable smile. When he smiled, that is. In her previous life of drug-induced excesses, his mother had apparently left him alone a lot. A lot. So when Bug first came to our house, he wouldn't ever make eye contact with anybody, resisted being held or hugged, and never cried, even when he was hungry and dirty. I believe that during the first 8 months of his life he spent a huge amount of time strapped into a baby car seat, parked in front of a television while his mom did her thing. My mother is a baby magnet, however, and a love blanket, and a hug machine, and Bug couldn't resist her for long. Here's a picture taken after he'd been with us for a couple of months.

To make a long, complicated, and highly emotional story a little shorter, I'll say this. Bug's birth mother was not the best woman, and before long, she'd been arrested again and had to go back to jail. Mom and Dad had a choice: send Bug off to the foster care system, or take temporary custody of him themselves. For Mom, there was no choice. He stayed. His mother never really got out of jail again (she's bounce out for a little bit, bounce back in, bounce out, bounce in) and she never reclaimed custody. Meanwhile, time was passing and my family was getting used to having Bug around.

After about a year and a half, my family had permanent custody of Bug, which is a legal term meaning that as long as we don't ask them to move him, and as long as his birth mother doesn't fulfill the requirements asked of her (sobriety, job, home, etc), the social service department would never move him. It's really sort of a legal limbo, because really, the mother isn't going to come back at that point. Bug's mother had already lost custody of three other sons over the years, and it didn't seem like she'd turn over a new leaf now. But in this legal limbo, Bug is ineligible for adoption. Fundamentally, it kind of sucks, because until he's 18, his life would have no legal bedrock. If, in 15 years, his mother came back and wanted to take him, she could, case closed, even if she hadn't laid eyes on him during those 15 years and he was deeply attached to another family.

At this point, much intra-family wrangling broke out. Aunts and brothers and sisters chimed in, my Dad hemmed and hawed, we kids worried about the whole situation. I mean, my parents were 55 years old. That's when you become grandparents, not parents of a toddler again, right? My mother stood firm against all nay-sayers. I love him as my own son, she said, and I will not give him up. And my Dad, a logical, rational, cautious dude, agreed to sue for termination of parental rights, a legal distinction that would make Bug adoptable.

But despite all this, the case wasn't closed. Were we suing so that somebody else could adopt him? Mom put out half-hearted feelers, but because of Bug's drug history (well, his mother's drug history, which by default was his drug history, given conditions in the uterus), there wasn't a whole lot of serious interest. People like to think they know what they're getting, you know? And honestly, who can blame them. Before Bug, I'd have said the same thing.

Then something great happened. My mom had to undergo double knee replacement surgery (which isn't great), and was mostly confined to her bed for several months during the recovery period. By default, Dad became the primary caretaker for Bug, and in spite of his best efforts to maintain some emotional distance, he fell in love. Bug worshipped Dad. Followed him around like a little puppy, cried when he left, wanted to be picked up and tossed around all the time, climbed up on the tractor and the riding mower with Dad when he went out to mow the field, sat on his lap while Dad futsed around on the computer. I don't care how much you want to stay somewhat aloof from a little kid -- when they look at you like you hung the moon, you're cooked.

I wish I had a shot of what they looked like on the tractor. Dad used to smoke a cigar, and he'd put on his funny-looking hat, puff away on a stogie, and chug around the farm with Bug perched on his knee, happy as clam. I'm glad he stopped smoking (Bug, we owe you big-time for that one!), but that image is permanently fixed in my brain. Here they are on the riding mower.

Isn't the look on his face funny? He's all, "listen, lady, hurry up, cause we've got business here."

Over the past year or two, Bug has gotten unbelievably huge, and so much healthier. He's demanding and funny and precious and getting better coordinated and more well spoken by the day. Mom walked in his room the other day to wake him up from his nap only to discover that he'd colored the walls and doors with magic marker. When she shrieked in horror, Bug looked at her with that "uh-oh, busted" look and held out his arms to her. "Wuv you, Mama. Hug?" What a stinker, right?

He's only 4 but weighs about 55 pounds, and he's I don't know how tall, but he can rest his chin on the top of a pool table. He can count, and add, and spell, and he loves cars. He loves the woods and dogs, he loves running, and playing outside. Mostly he loves the water. Here he is playing out by the pool.

I love this little guy. I wish I lived closer to home so I could be more a part of his life. It feels weird to have a baby brother I only see a few times a year, but there's not much I can do about it. Still, it's sad and frustrating for me. Up until this Christmas, actually, I didn't think he knew my name. Then one night I was taking care of him so Mom and Papa could go out for a hot date. I put him down to watch his favorite show (Sprout), and went back to the kitchen to finish the dishes. I was chatting with Crasey when all the sudden I heard somebody shrieking my name at the top of his lungs. I'd forgotten to press play, and it turns out Bug definitely knows my name. I was so happy I actually cried.

I Love This Joke, Three.

This one from my dear, sweet, wonderful friend Blue Dragonfly. I have to warn you first, however. What follows is a TERRIBLE joke. I’m a universal lover of all jokes, no matter how bad. An equal-opportunity laugh maniac, if you will. Now I’m not saying i didn’t laugh at this joke (i totally did), but objectively, scientifically, i have to warn you before you read any further. What follows is the worst joke in the world.

Having prepared you for the horrors to come, let us proceed.

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful melon, and this melon was madly, deeply in love with her boyfriend.

The problem was, her daddy thought this guy was bad news, and he forbade his daughter the melon from seeing him.

Never one to allow meddlesome parents to stand in the way of true love, the melon and her boyfriend decided to run away and get married.

On the appointed day, at the appointed time, the melon's boyfriend arrived at her house in the darkness of night. She leaned out the window as he propped a ladder up against the side of the house and made kissy noises at him to demonstrate her love.

Then they heard a noise that wasn't like kissy noises at all. In fact, it sounded distinctly like a window sash opening. The melon’s father, who slept in the next room over, had overheard the ruckus. Looking out he saw what was happening and shouted in fury, “No! You can’t elope!”

Isn't this where the shepherd's crook reaches out from behind the curtains and yanks me off stage?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

All Right, Confess. Who Did It?

Apparently I'm about to become a police officer. In Plano, Texas. Where the f&ck is Plano? This, I never saw coming. All day long I've been getting emails from somebody named Maegan Schmitz. I kid you not. Her last name really is Schmitz. Say it out loud. Schmitz! I love it.

Ms. Schmitz is a terse and taciturn type (pause here for celebratory Dance of Alliteration) who began sending me emails around 8am yesterday with alarmist subject headings like "DEADLINE TO REGISTER TOMORROW @ 5PM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" (18 exclamation points. I counted.) and inspirational photographs like the following:

This, plus the photograph, is the the entire text of the first email:

Registration packet is attached!!!!

So I wrote back to Maegan. "Dear Ms. Schmitz," I wrote. "I seem to have been placed on an email list accidentally. I am not interested in applying to be a Plano Police Officer. Could you please remove my name from whatever list you are using for recruitment? Thanks so much."

She wrote back: "Your email has been removed."

Simple, right? No, not at all. I continued to receive emails, so I wrote to Maegan again. Over the intervening hours, I'd become curious as to how Plano had gotten my email. I won't go into details, but it's not an easy email address to mix up, you know? I mean, for one thing, it's a compound word, and for another, IT HAS THE NAME CHEASTY IN IT. Cheasty. A name whose pronunciation and spelling have been happily confounding people for a couple of centuries in both Ireland and the United States. If my address was, say,, I would understand, but Cheasty? I became curious, so I inquired:

-----Original Message-----
From: Kristin Cheasty Miller [mailto:]
Sent: Tuesday, April 08, 2008 7:34 PM
To: Maegan Schmitz
Subject: Re: DEADLINE TO REGISTER TOMORROW @ 5PM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

dear ms. schmitz,

could you take my name off again? I'm still getting
emails. thanks!

and if possible, could you let me know how you got my
email? this is really unusual. I've never even been
to Plano, so if somebody is handing out my address,
I'd like to know who and why.

much appreciated,


This is the entirety of her response to my inquiry:

It has been removed. Your email address was submitted to our website.

Maegan Schmitz
Professional Standards Unit
Plano Police Department
Phone: 555-555-5555
Fax: 555-555-5555

Her clever use of the passive voice intrigues me. Is she categorically unable to make a simple declarative statement? Is she protecting somebody? Why so terse?

'Fess up, my poppets. I smell skulduggery, perhaps even shenanigans. Who wants me to move to Plano? Who wants me to leave Austin? Who thought this would be the funniest joke ever?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Penata Is Amazing at Studying

My roommate, classmate, and very good friend Penata is perhaps not my exact opposite, but there are significant differences to the way we approach life and work. I'm loud and assertive, while she's quiet and mild-mannered. Many people confuse this with meekness, but they are easily fooled. Penata has a will of steel, and always gets what she sets her mind to getting. It doesn't have to happen immediately -- she's been known to keep her eye on the prize for periods of time that stagger me.

I am Amazing Cheastypants, the Queen of Instant Gratification and Furious Bursts of Productivity.
She is Penata, Supreme Empress of Never Ever Giving Up and Working Steadily to Achieve Her Goals.

In her work habits, she astonishes me. I have been known to churn out 25 page papers in 24 hours. It's not fun, but I do it, and I do it well, so whatever. It works for me. Penata would rather cut off her eyelids than do work the way I do it. For me, it's all about sprinting. Penata, however, has a marathoners mentality. Just chip away at it day by day, and the work will do itself. I am amazed that she has the willpower to read a 25-pound history book on a beautiful spring day, and that she has complete drafts of her papers written days, sometimes weeks, ahead of time. She's a trooper, and I take my hat off to her. Metaphorically, of course. I'm not actually wearing a hat.

So you know what's funny? It's a beautiful day, the windows are open, the ceiling fan whirring overhead, and I'm sitting here working (well, I was, until I got the idea that I should blog). You know what Penata's doing?

She's passed out in the easy chair, book open on her lap, her feet and hands twitching every now and then as she chases rabbits in her sleep. I'll let you know if she starts to snore.

Monday, April 7, 2008

I Love This Joke, Too.

Crasey sent me this joke. She said it's one of her favorites, but 90% of the people she tells it to either don't get it, or think it's totally dumb. Clearly, I'm in the 10% that think it's hilarious.

A guy was out walking his dog one hot afternoon, when he passed by a bar and decided to stop for a drink. He and his dog walked in and the bartender said, "Hey, no dogs allowed, buddy."

Thinking fast, the man responded, "But this is my seeing eye dog!"

"That's not a seeing eye dog," said the bartender. "How dumb do you think I am? That's a chihuahua."

"Wait a minute," said the guy. "Are you saying they gave me a goddamn CHIHUAHUA?!?"

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Smooth Pickup Line of the Day

Penata and I were driving down Lamar yesterday, on our way to meet friends to watch the UNC Final Four game. (Excuse me while I pause for a moment to weep bitter tears. Bitter, bitter tears. Ok, back to the story.) It was sunny, breezy, beautiful and warm outside, so we had the music on and the windows rolled down. Yeah, baby. Hot chicks in a nondescript red sedan. Grrrrr!

We passed an awesome classic car, a Studebaker Cruiser, all red and beautiful, a mustachioed dude in his 40s behind the wheel in a muscle-man t-shirt and ponytail. Here's a picture of another car, same make and model, but it's blue. Sorry it's really tiny, but this interweb is still confusing to me, and it's the best I can do right now.


Cool, right? As we passed this fine automobile I was pretty obviously ogling it, so the driver looked at me, and smiled. I smiled back.

"Nice car!" I shouted over at him. He smiled back and winked at me.

"What year is it?" I asked.

"Sixty-five," he shouted back. "What about you?"

Friday, April 4, 2008

Pitter Patter, Pitter Patter, CLUNK CLUNK CLUNK.

This morning I awoke to the gentle sound of rain pattering down on my tin roof. Ahhh, sigh, stretch, smile, roll over, yawn, rub my eyes. I looked out the open window at the back yard and smelled the wonderful smell of wet earth. I smiled some more, idly watched the ceiling fan spinning above me, and thought to myself, what a wonderful way to wake up gently.

Then a tree fell on the roof. Then an elephant. Next, a short series of bowling balls dropped from a low-flying airplane. A couch, a microwave, a 1982 VW bug, several wheelbarrows, a bicycle, a desk, a tractor, and a hippopotamus. I'd heard about Texas hail, but in three years this was the first time it's actually happened in front of my face. Or should I say, over my head? And oh, shit, my garden! And oh, shit, my CAR!! I leapt from my bed and ran to the front door. I fumbled with the lock and yanked the door open under the mistaken impression that I could, i don't know, maybe run out and save my car? Dingbat.

I stared outside at the rain and watched hailstones the size of cottonballs dump from the sky and ricochet off every available surface. They fell so hard it looked like somebody was shooting them from a machine gun, and strangely, I felt my alarm melt away. If my car was getting hammered it was just, as my very wise aunt would say, "yet another problem that I didn't cause and I can't fix." Instead, I just admired the view. My roomie joined me a minute later, and we stood there in the open door watching the hailstorm in stunned, delighted disbelief, shivering in our nighties at the blasts of cool air that cut through the humid warmth of a rainy Texas morning in the springtime.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

My Father's Name is Inigo Montoya

Here's a story about my Dad. As well as being a successful international business dude, a beekeeper, and a totally handsome devil, Dad is a prankster. He has a sense of humor that ranges across dry punditry, wry wit, slapstick, clever word plays, and whimsical silliness. On Christmas he gives himself gifts from women named "Eva," "Suzette," or sometimes "your girls at the Copa Cabana." (To be fair, he's invented a secret lover named "Fred" for my mom. He gives her presents from Fred and then pretends to be outraged.) He has recently hatched a plan to place small statues of Jesus throughout the woods on his land so that people going for walks or trail rides can "find God in the wilderness." Har dee har.

A couple of years ago, Dad was out on the tractor cutting the grass in the field. As he usually does, he'd pushed his glasses up on his forehead when he started to get sweaty. And, as has happened before, he completely forgot about them until much later when he went back up to the house and noticed they were gone. He went back out and looked all over, kicking around under trees where he thought maybe they'd gotten scraped off his head, walking the land, trying to find his glasses, all to no avail. They were gone. He got a new pair, but he never really stopped thinking about where in the heck those lost glasses had got off to.

Then one day a few months later, I got a phone call.

"Hey there, how's it going?"
"Oh, fine. What's up with you, Pops?"
"Well, I've got the funniest story to tell you. Remember those glasses I lost last summer?"
"The ones you lost while you were mowing the grass?"
"Yeah. Well, last night I had a dream about them, and in my dream I saw exactly where they were."
"Whoa, weird! What'd you do?"
"Well, I went down there this morning and looked around. I'd looked there a million times, but in my dream I saw them there, right near that tree by the pond."
"Did you find them?"
"Not initially, but after I'd looked around for a minute I thought, you know, I just KNOW they're here! So I did what Inigo Montoya did in The Princess Bride."
"You know, how he looks for the door to the Pit of Despair? I used my walking stick and held it up, closed my eyes, and said, 'Father, guide my sword!'"
I start laughing. "So what happened, Dad?"
"Well, it's the funniest thing, I walked around a couple of steps and opened my eyes, and there were my glasses, right at my feet!"
"You're shitting me."
"No, really! I couldn't believe it, either. I guess I'd mowed over them and they were really busted up. The lenses were shattered and the arms were all broken and twisted."
"So what'd you do with them?"
"Well, I took 'em back to Lenscrafters, cause they were still under warranty."
"WHAT?! Dad, you MOWED OVER THEM. I think that voids your warranty."
"Actually," he giggled (my dad only giggles when he's about to pull a fast one on somebody), "I guess it didn't. I just walked in and handed them to the lady and I said, 'These broke.'"
"What'd she say?"
"Nothing. She looked at me kind of funny, but they gave me a new pair."

I love my Dad.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Magical Realism? Or Just Plain Weird...

Has anybody ever read Louis de Bernieres' trilogy about an unnamed Latin American country and its people? I can't remember which book it's in. Maybe The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts? Anyway, there's this character in the book who has a magical hammock. Every time somebody in the community loses something (glasses, a rosary, a baby, etc.) it turns up in this hammock. That is my house. If you've lost anything recently, it's at my house.

These are the weird things that have recently turned up in my house. If they're yours, please come get them.

1. a brown sweater
2. a brown puffy down jacket from Old Navy (M)
3. a little motor.
4. a book called The United States and Latin America: A New Agenda.

Conversely, several things have inexplicably disappeared from the house. Does somebody else have a mysterious and magical hammock house? Could all of these things have magically teleported over there?

1. my checkbook. I'm not saying i don't frequently misplace things, but this is beyond the pale. It's been gone for weeks.
2. my roommate's medicine. This is especially weird. my roommate NEVER loses things. it's against her religion.
3. my sister's little black dress.
4. a movie with Richard Gere and Diane Lane, although I can never remember the name. Infidelity? Unfaithful? Something tawdry like that. At this point, maybe I should just call it Gone With the Wind.

All tales of lost and found aside, if you haven't read those books, you certainly should. They are, in order, as follows:

1. The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts
2. SeƱor Vivo and the Coca Lord
3. The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman

Absolutely fantastic books.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

My Illustrious Baseball Coaching Career (Alternate Title: Misty Water-Colored Meeeeemorieeeeeeess)

Long, long ago, I used to be a schoolteacher in Santiago, Chile. So, so, so long ago. It was 2002, before the invention of the iPod. I left and had never heard of such a thing. I return one year later, and everybody I see has these strange white box-like things plugged into their heads. These are the perils of leaving home. (I should add, however, that not everything changes. The week I left for Chile, Brad, Jen, and Angelina were on the cover of People. The week I came back, 15 months later, Brad, Jen, and Angelina were on the cover of People.)

I loved my job in Santiago, where I taught English in an all-girls private Catholic day school. The teachers were awesome (by and large) and the students thought I hung the moon (go figure), so I had it pretty sweet. My favorite class to teach was the 10th grade class because they were super advanced English speakers, and I could avoid endless repetition of verb conjugations. (I go, you go, s/he goes, we go, they go. I die, you die, s/he dies, we die, they die.) I longed for something different, and then one day it happened.

We were doing a unit on American hobbies, obsessions, and sports. In keeping with my 10th graders' dazzling collective intellect, we finished way ahead of the other classes, and ended up with time in which to twiddle our thumbs. I brought in some old Cosmo, Elle, and Vanity Fairs, and somehow as my students flipped through the pages, the subject of baseball came up, and how they had no idea how it even worked.

What?! Not understanding how baseball worked seemed like, well, er... I was going to say un-American, but then again, I was in Chile. It seems quite natural, in that light. But for some reason, this still stunned me, probably because it all seems so simple. First, Second, Third, Home. Pitcher, Catcher, Batter. Shortstop. Outfield. Three strikes you're out, three outs, change sides. What the heck is complicated about that?

Feeling quite sure of myself, I proceeded to make up some nifty worksheets with cute stick-figure illustrations, explained the rules in what I was sure was a clear and concise fashion, and borrowed a ball and bat from a student who'd recently been to the United States. Well armed with equipment, materials, informational worksheet, and a sunny day, we sallied forth into the grassy field next to the school, set on learning a new sport.

Ah, vanity, ah, folly, ah, mirth! Babe Ruth would have rolled over in his grave. By the end of the hour I was on the ground, crying with laughter, praying I didn't lose control of my bladder and drop my contents. There really is no other way to describe what happened other than to say it was mass hysteria. A runner rounding first sees somebody throw the ball to second. Well, duh, she thinks. If I go to second, I'll get out for sure, so she bowls over the pitchers mound in a dead sprint to third. Her team, naturally, was delighted, and if you think I should've enforced the rules more carefully, you've never gone up against 13 lunatic girls who REALLY want to win.

One pitcher was so markedly lacking in talent that the girls started wrapping their sweaters around their heads turban-style to prevent any permanent brain damage. And that was the good pitcher. An outfielder saw perfect logic in throwing the ball to home plate every time, even when a runner was on her way to first. That way it's absolutely for sure that they're out, right? I mean, they can't cross home without getting out. Another girl was an absolute terror with the baseball bat. Not only would she knock the stuffing out of the ball when she was at bat, but then she would launch the bat itself into orbit, nearly breaking plate glass windows and, in one memorable and particularly dangerous instance, a passerby's face. All of this was merely backdrop for the mosh pit of shrieking, laughing girls who all abandoned their positions at every hit in a misguided attempt to catch the ball amoeba-style. Near the end of the hour I looked up at the school building and on all three floors every window was full of faces, the other students and teachers having abandoned even a pretense of learning anything in their classes, and thoroughly enjoying the show we were putting on down below.

The game ended well, Yankees 4, Mets 176.