Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thoughts on a Chicken Bus

How many times have I done this bouncy painful travel thing in Nicaragua? Countless times, I think. And each time it starts the same. I board a gaily colored chicken bus in good spirits. I try to find a seat, if any are available, and settle in for the ride. I smile at my neighbors, I relax into the bumps and jolts of the bad bad roads. I and my fellow travelers cavort and bounce throughout the brightly colored, rolling landscape for the next several hours. Often we move in slow motion, which provides ample opportunity for gazing out the window, studying the countryside and the towns we pass through. I am occasionally charmed, sometimes I learn something, sometimes I see something sad.

Each time we pause, women in aprons swarm the bus, selling ice cold sodas (ice cold! ha!), chicken, fried pork intestines and cole slaw, water, corn on the cob, you name it. A young, conservatively dressed man stands up from his seat and, perspiring madly from his rigidly buttoned clothing, begins to exhort on-board sinners to repent and be saved lest the eternal hellfires feed themselves on our ill-behaved bodies. The guy behind me (the one with the chicken) starts to sing a praise hymn. It's hard to hear him over the loud pop or religious pop music blaring from the bus speakers. The guy next to me gets corn stuck between his teeth and starts picking with his nails and spitting on the back of the seat in front of us. Most of the pieces land in my lap. He appears not to notice my dirty looks. More and more people pile on, and a girl behind me, sitting on her mother's lap, jabs her elbow in my neck. Corn spitting man falls asleep (HOW?!) and starts to lean on my shoulder. So many people get on the bus, more than seems possible, that before I know it I am in a life-or-death battle to guard not just that amorphous sense of "personal space," but the actual space that my body occupies. If I give in, I will end in a pitiful crying bleeding lump on the bus floor, cuddled up with all the discarded corn cobs and styrofoam plates that smell of fried pork intestines.

The bouncing of the bus becomes not just an inconvenience, but actually painful. The thinly padded seats beat a tattoo onto my sits bones that will leave bruises, and I start to count to 60 over and over and over again, trying to take life one minute at a time. Turns out there's an awful lot of minutes in 3 or 5 hours, and this enrages me. By the time we are 45 minutes overdue for our arrival and still bouncing through the countryside with no town in sight, I am ready to tear the beating wings off of butterflies. I would drop kick a bunny rabbit, scare a baby, fart in public, scream senseless absurdities with my hands slapped over my ears. I would slap the evangelical preacher across the face and spew vile curse words at the dirty kid whose grubby mitts keep pinching the hairs on the back of my neck when he grabs the back of my seat. WHY, OH GOD, WHY DIDN'T I RENT A FREAKING CAR!???

When we finally arrive, however, I am so thrilled, so absolutely delighted to be off the bus that I positively beam upon the world. I am a beatific, I smile, I radiate happiness. I bounce off the bus on spring-loaded moonboots, I wink at taxi cab drivers, cheerfully insult the bus lot attendants when they ask me to come home with them. I go home, take a shower, scrub the dust out of my ears and hair, and sigh in a satisfied manner. See? That wasn't so bad, was it. And look at all the money I saved!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

For The Fairy King and Millions More

I got an email the other day from my fanastic brother The Fairy King. ¨Hey, sis,¨ he said. ¨I was fiddling around on YouTube the other day and I found this video. It was very moving to me (for obvious reasons, which will be revealed when you watch said video) and i was thinking that maybe you might be able to work a blog post around it or something, help get it out there and everything.... Thanks!! Love you, and hope i talk to you soon! Your fiendishly slavishly loving adoring brother, The Fairy King."

With pleasure, my dear. With pleasure.

The following video is moving; I definitely misted up, and I hope you can take a moment to watch this, send it along to a friend, do something to spread familiarity, affection, and care for the thousands of people whose lives are affected by Prop 8 movements out in California. To sum up for those unaware of what's going on here, California legalized same-sex marriage a year or so ago, and thousands of people rushed to the altar to cement what were for many of them relationships of very long standing. Conservative elements, however, were less-than-pleased and put a proposition on the ballot last November (Prop 8) that would reverse the legalization of gay marriage. It passed, and it is now once more illegal for homosexual couples to marry in California. Ken Starr, that morally upright bastion of American culture, is now lobbying to have all the marriages celebrated before Prop 8 passed be automatically "divorced" by the state of California.

You know, I've got a lot of dreams about what kind of world I'd like to live in. Some are big ones (peace, an end to domestic violence, adequate health care for all), and some are small (enough bees to make honey, a perfect blend in quantities of ice cream to topping in every pint of ice cream, a resurgence of the great American Chestnut tree). One of the changes I hope to see, one of the changes that will very directly impact people I love more than anything, is to arrive at a place where discussions about whether loving gay couples deserve the same rights as heterosexual couples sound not only antiquated, but also asinine. The Fairy King and Sweet Baby Face are closing in on 10 years together. They own a home, they pay their taxes, they work hard on keeping their relationship strong and stable, and they love each other deeply. Yet they are not allowed to stand up before God and family and the U.S. government and cement that relationship, to offer each other the legal protections any heterosexual couple is allowed. I, on the other hand, by the simple expedient of preferring the opposite sex, could get married tomorrow to a man I met today, divorce him the next day, and marry somebody else next Tuesday. Something is deeply wrong with a system that would not allow my brother and his partner to get married, but would buy me a blender and new silverware for doing the deed with a guy I barely know, and I hope that one day that changes. Please watch the video. And if you're sufficiently moved, click here, and this link will take you to a petition you can sign to defeat the movement to divorce gay couples in California.

Monday, February 23, 2009

National Sister Appreciation Day

I've been feeling the need for some time now to visit Big Bend National Park, one of the most beautiful places in Texas. Granted, that might be sort of like winning the "Prettiest Girl in the Room Full of Only Moderately Attractive Females" contest, but still. Sorry, Texas lovers, but I'm just being honest here. Texas is a lot of things, but gorgeous is not one of them, so when gorgeousness raises its head, I figure it's worth checking out. But I don't want to go alone, I want company. But who? I called up my sister Umulu the other day and mentioned that there were a few empty days between when I get back to the States and when I can move myself into the Elf Palace. Days in which it might be a good time to go check out Big Bend? Bracing myself for an immediate no ("Camping? With you? Are you nuts?"), I floated the idea to Umulu, being careful to include key words like "car camping" and "rum" and "marshmellows," and to my absolute surprise, shock, and delight, she was immediately enthused. "Sure! I can take those days off! I'll put it on my schedule right now!" Oh, I am so happy! After an episode in our shared history that Umulu still refers to as "The Nazi Death March Across Patagonia," I wasn't counting any chickens before they hatched. But it turns out that she's either a) forgotten, or b) forgiven me for the leaky tent, gale-force winds, and insufficient food stores of 2003. I'm going to Big Bend, and I'm going with my sister! Hooray!

In honor of this momentous moment, I would like to declare today, Monday, February 23 the First Annual National Sister Appreciation Day. Because without sisters, I would only have brothers. Because without my sisters, I wouldn't be half the person I am today. Because without sisters, I still wouldn't know how to apply mascara or use a blow dryer. Because without my wise and intelligent sisters, who else would tell me when I was being an ass? Who else would let me know when the guy I'm dating is insufficiently awesome for me? Who else would forgive me for Nazi Death Marches Through Patagonia and bravely sally forth once more?

Umulu and I have a favorite song. Anybody else out there a classic movie fan? Here's "our song" from the wonderful (read: cheesy and terrible and wonderful) Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera Ellen movie "White Christmas." Most times Umulu and I get drunk together the night ends with a rousing rendition of this fantastic little number.

We love the song so much that this Christmas we were impulse shopping at Target (always a tremendous mistake) and we bought these outfits. Not only because they were onesie pajamas, and not only because they matched and how effing cute are we!!! Also, we bought them because they match the dresses from our song. Yes we are that lame. And yes, we have our eyes peeled for large blue ostrich feather fans.

And for all you men out there who are outraged - "Sisters Day? Sisters?! Well I like that, and what are we, chopped liver?" So for my brothers, who are just as awesome in their own ways as my sisters, here's a special song for you. See? Bing and Danny love sisters, too!

Happy National Sister Appreciation Day, Umulu (and all sisters everywhere). Yes, we do look silly. I hope you forgive me for posting these photos on the internet! Though, knowing you, you're probably more annoyed that I just revealed to the world your secret love for a cheesy musical. Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!! No secrets are safe with me!!!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

These Are Like Two Of My Favorite Things

There are few things I love more than ice cream. Yummy creamy, full of toppings, delicious ice cream. Oh, num num num. Ben and Jerry´s, come to mama. Interestingly, there are also few things I love more than excellent mockery of our late great president, Mr. George W. Bush. And, what do you know? Today in my inbox I recieved the following, and I am unspeakably delighted. Ice cream flavors that mock George Bush? This is genius!

Ben &Jerry created "Yes Pecan!" ice cream flavor for Obama. They then asked people to fill in the blank to the following:

For George W. Bush, we should create "_________".

Here are some of their favorite responses:

1. Grape Depression
2. Abu Grape
3. Cluster Fudge
4. Nut'n Accomplished
5. Iraqi Road
6. Chock 'n Awe
7. WireTapioca
8. Impeach Cobbler
9. Guantanmallow
10. imPeachmint
11. Good Riddance You Lousy Motherfucker. Swirl
12. Heck of a Job, Brownie!
13. Neocon Politan
14. RockyRoad to Fascism
15. The Reese's-cession
16. Cookie D'oh!
17. The Housing Crunch
18. Nougalar Proliferation
19. Death by Chocolate. and Torture
20. Credit Crunch
21. Country Pumpkin
22. Chunky Monkey in Chief
23. George Bush Doesn't Care About Dark Chocolate
24. WM Delicious
25. Chocolate Chimp
26. Bloody Sundae
27. Caramel Preemptive Stripe
28. I broke the law and am responsible for the deaths of thousands - with nuts.

Honestly, I laughed so hard at so many of these that I´m hard-pressed to pick a personal favorite, though I think 9, 11, and 19 are right up there at the top. So what do you think? Which one wins? Do you have any contributions of your own?

So All That Was To Say...

Well clearly I do not have a budding career in Quarterly Report production. Sad, really, as that was my Plan B. In sum, this is what I meant to communicate yesterday.

A) Life is pretty good. In spite of crazy busy-ness, chronic back pain, cold showers, and having to HAND-WASH MY LAUNDRY (ack! noooooo!!!) I´m still having fun. When I´m not running about madly, recording device in hand, I have been hanging out with Dutch people, of whom there are an inordinate amount in Nicaragua, and no, I do not know why, but yes, it´s a little odd. Also, I´ve been spending a lot of time with a very nice 76 year old woman who is currently my housemate. She came down here to study Spanish for a month, and her rigorous study habits make a joke of my academic ambitions.

B) Um... what came next? Oh, yeah. Travel. Well in keeping with my inability to stay in one place longer than a few weeks, it´s once again time for me to be off. On Monday I leave for a town called Mulukukú, some 7 hours by bus into the mountains from Matagalpa (ow, it hurts). I´ll be there for a while, then back in Matagalpa for the weekend, and then I take off the following Tuesday for another town, this time La Dahlia, where I´ll stay for about 4 or 5 days to collect some interviews there, as well. After that, I might chill in Matagalpa for a week, but then again, I also have to go to Jinotega, Matagalpa´s near neighbor and friendly rival city. At the end of all this I´ll only have a week and change to hang out and get my last minute work done before heading back to the good ol´USA. I feel pleased with this schedule, though I will be glad when I never again have to get on another Nicaraguan chicken bus to bounce over horrible roads for hours at a time on uncomfortable, overcrowded seats. I imagine there is internet out there in the campo, but i´m not making any promises as to how frequently I can update. Of course, every time I´ve said that in the past I´ve ended up with buckets of free time and posted like mad, so who knows...

C) I´ve had some fun too. A weekend at the Laguna de Apoyo with my friend Lolita, from Austin. It was wonderful. And in between trips to Mulukukú and La Dahlia, Doc, my (ahem!) will be up here for a couple of days to hang out. Hooray! Fun!

OK, I think that was all, and really who cares, but still. For those who do care, there you have it. The broad details of my current life plans. Now I´ll post something that´s actually interesting.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Comprehensive Quarterly Report, Numero Uno

All right, so this isn´t really a comprehensive quarterly update, but what the hell. I´ve got quarterly updates on the mind since I listened to a This American Life podcast in which a gay couple produced business-style Quarterly Reports on Status of Relationship With Significant Other in an attempt to stave off unpredictable emotional breakdowns when one member of the parternship was dissatisfied with the relationship. Their conclusion was that it was an ineffective coping mechanism. Nonetheless, I am delighted by this idea, and am trying to figure out how I might appropriate it for my own life. Suggestions are welcome.

So here is my first ever Comprehensive Quarterly Report, though I predict that future Quarterly Reports will be neither Quarterly nor Comprehensive (discuss). In the style of businessy-like documents, of which I have read precious few in my lifetime, I will use small words where big ones are needed, and big words where small ones would suffice. Also, I will attempt to refer to things that are really obviously named by obtuse verbage. Or nounage, as the case may be. For example, in lieu of saying ¨I,¨ I will instead refer to myself as ¨the product.¨ Also, should I break this thing down into sections? Subheadings? Addenda? Who knows what surprises the future will bring... This Comprehensive Quarterly Report is my oyster.

Section the First: General Assessment of Product Popularity

The product, while subject to standard market fluctuations, remains relatively stable, in that consumers continue to value the product, as evidenced by loving family unit, and effuse communique from the product´s youngest sibling of the female persuasion, currently in Australia. Significantly, the product continues to reach new markets, as evidenced by current product pairing with very nice 76 year old woman, who is currently housed in the same storage unit. We, the directorate, also see new opportunities for expansion in expatriate communities of Dutch citizens, as the product seems to be an especial hit with this demographic, particularly when the product is paired with an alcoholic beverage, particularly beer and rum. As the Dutch demographic abounds in Nicaragua, the directorate sees ample room for the product´s expansion.

Section the Second: Professional Development

The product experienced a brief crisis earlier this quarter when discovery was made of a potential patent violation vis-a-vis production of the product´s dissertation. The management managed to avoid crisis however, by expert application of a team of highly specialized consultants, none of whom were paid a nominal fee, as such work in this field is typically performed pro-bono. At time of publication, the product was happily working away on said dissertation, confident that though the way remain murkily lit, it was lit nonetheless, and the product felt confident of eventual arrival at professional destination.

Section the Second: Expanding Markets

The product is currently set to launch in new markets this coming week. On Monday, our directorate will launch the product in a small town called Mulukukú, a 7 hour bus-ride from the product´s current base in Matagalpa. The product will attempt professional development in said location, and report back to HQ upon completion of one week in new market. The product is quite well-disposed to begin work in this area. Upon completion of one week in Mulukukú, the product will once again breach new ground, this time in a town called La Dahlia. The directorate feels comfortable that ample groundwork has been laid in both locations for the product to land comfortably on its feet, and access these new markets with some degree of facility. The last new market to be accessed in the coming quarter is a city called Jinotega, a city that has a somewhat competitive relationship with Matagalpa such that some of our marketing consultants have compared it to a ¨red-headed stepchild.¨ We at the directorate anxiously await news of what that might actually mean. In sum, the product will be traveling extensively in this mountainous region over the next few weeks. All told, the product will withdraw from Nicaragua on March 24, a mere month away, more or less, making the product realize just exactly how badly she needs to ¨ponerse las pilas.¨ (put in her batteries)

Section the Fourth: Upcoming Company Events

All work and no play makes the product a dull girl, thus the directorate has in the past made serious efforts to enliven the social calendar for our product and product affiliates. Reports of the last Company Picnic, held last weekend at the Laguna de Apoyo, are replete with tales of relaxation, swimming, and fun with an affliate company, Lolita of Austin. Additionally, in between marketing incursions in Mulukukú and La Dahlia, we will hold a joint corporate retreat here in Matagalpa with a company called Doc of León, and all reports are that both the product and Doc are looking foward to said corporate retreat. Due to budget cuts, and in light of the economic crisis, the directorate has summarily jettisoned ideas to fly Doc in on a private jet. Other than these two retreats, however, the product is dedicated solely to her professional development, so it´s a good think she enjoys her work. (Author´s note: have I crossed the line from illogical to unitelligible? Have I spelled unintelligible incorrectly?)

Conclusion: A Conclusion

All in all, it´s been a good little while up here in Matagalpa, and while I´m looking forward to my upcoming travels, I am DESPERATELY happy to know that in just a little over a month, I´ll be on my way back home. Of course, once I get there I´ll hit the road almost immediately again, but still. It´s symbolic, I guess. Hot water and washing machines... mmmm. The very thought makes me weak at the knees.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

It's Gonna Be A Bright, Bright, Bright, Bright Sunshiny Day

I can see clearly now, the pain is gone.
All of those bad headaches will go away.
The eye doctor said I needed help to read,
It's gonna be a bright, bright, bright sunshiny day.
It's gonna be a bright, bright, bright sunshiny day.

I look all around, it's nothing but a clear page.
I look all around, it's nothing but a clear page!

I can see clearly now, these glasses rock,
And I look dead sexy in these frames
They were so cheap I didn't even cry.
It's gonna be a bright, bright, bright sunshiny day.
It's gonna be a bright, bright, bright sunshiny day.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Please, God, Let THIS One Work!

Hi, hello, and I´m very sorry to have left you in the lurch! This week has been epic. Rolling power outages at outrageously inconvenient times, and upwards of 7 and 8 interviews a day. I´m working like a dog and am completely exhausted by the end of the day. The power keeps going out at weird times and i´ve had TWO blog posts disappear in a puff of smoke, which is SUCH a bummer. But onward and upward, and so on. Last night I couldn´t sleep because the family next door was having some sort of wild drama and the woman in the house, who by the quality of her lungs i´m guessing is kind of young, was shrieking like a fucking banshee. No words, just the same sort of sound you would make if you stuck your face in a bear trap and then had to cut your head off to escape. She did it for at least 40 minutes, pausing only to draw breath and, in doing so, infuse my bruised soul with the futile hope that this time it might be over.

My back has been spasming up, too, which TOTALLY sucks and it hurts hurts hurts, but hopefully by sunday my endless days of interviews will be wrapping up at least for a day and then i can lie down on a block of ice and OD on muscle relaxants and painkillers, both of which you can buy in startling quantities and strength over the counter here.

The good news is that in a flash of startling brilliance, I think I´ve figured out a way to resolve my current dissertation dilemma that hopefully does not involve another extended research trip in Nicaragua, nor does it mandate faking my own death to collect the insurance and live a life on the lam, unable to face the humiliation of *almost* doing a PhD. Still in nascent stages, but I´m working on it, and that alone is a tremendous relief.

I am completely convinced that the power will go out and I´ll lose this post, too, in 5, 4, 3, 2....

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sorry! Be Back Soon!

The power has been out for the past several days. It's just now back on, but I'm completely slammed with interviews and running around to plan an upcoming trip to a delightfully-named little town called Mulukuku. I promise I'll be back soon with stories, updates and all sorts of good fun. Just don't desert me in the interim!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Vast Conspiracy of Epic Proportions

That´s it, it´s official. Somewhere out there, somebody is out to get me. As I discussed last year right around March Madness, I am a Carolina Basketball fan. A drooling, slobbering, fanatically devoted fan. Don´t overestimate me, now. I am in no way a sophisticated fan. I can´t identify a travel if it hits me between the eyes, and 90% of the gestures made by the referees go right over my head. I never know who fouled whom, and I´m never sure how people know whether you get one foul shot, or one and one, or two. Basically, I just cheer when my team is ahead and bellow when they´re down, and every now and then I memorize a fun fact or smart comment to repeat to whomever I meet, as in, ¨Boy, Ellington´s having a great year, isn´t he? He´s come a long way since last season.¨ I´m not proud, but it´s true, and it´s who I am.

Last night was one of only a few truly critical games in my life as a grossly under-informed UNC Tarheel Fan. See, there´s this smelly awful stinky little team called Duke just about 8 miles down the road from Carolina, and every year we play each other twice, once at home in the Dean Dome, once at Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Maybe you´ve heard of this rivalry? It´s fantastic. These games are nothing short of electrifying. Why, even if you hated sports categorically, you´d have to be half dead not to get a thrill out of a UNC-Duke game. So last night was the first UNC-Duke game of 2009, at Cameron Stadium. While it´s always a pleasure to beat Duke, to do so at Cameron is a particularly luscious pleasure, and last night I thought we stood a pretty good chance of winning.

I looked online. What channel would broadcast the match, I wondered. Why, it´s ESPN! Hooray! We have ESPN on the cable network down here in Nicaragua! All I have to do is find a place with cable TV, and wa-la! I can watch a UNC-Duke game down here in Matagalpa! Oh joy, oh bliss! I trotted over to a local sports bar the day before the game to make sure they´d be willing to show the game for me, and the very nice gentleman bartender told me no problem, they´d be happy to. Oh, huzzah! I´m walking on sunshine!

Yesterday, the day of the game, I organized my life just so, everything in order, all loose ends tied up so that at 8pm I could be sitting in the sports bar, beer in hand, ready to cheer my brave boys on to victory over the hated dookies. I wrapped up my interviews, put away my books. I joined some friends for dinner, but didn´t dawdle afterwards. At 7:45 I strolled over to the sportsbar. By 7:55 I had a good seat right in front of the television and my beer was on its way. And then, at 7:59pm, the power went out in Matagalpa.

Why, God. Why. Don´t you care at all about my happiness? Today I looked online and not only did we win, but we absolutely slaughtered Duke. Vanquished them, left them weeping in small puddles on the court floor. Do you know how often that happens? ALMOST NEVER!!! Sure, we win. This in fact, was our FOURTH consecutive victory over the Blue Devils, and we beat them 101-87!! One hundred and one! The Dookies haven´t given up that many points in nine years, and the last time we had a Duke-UNC game in tripe digits was the 1995 game we won in double overtime, 102-100. (Yes, I just got that off the internet, but I do remember that game.) To have missed this game wasn´t just a bummer, it was primordially insulting. So to whomever it is out there fucking with me, this is your 30 second warning. Show yourself and fight like a man, you lilly-livered, yellow-bellied, floor-licking coward. I WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS ANY MORE!!!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Dissertation Scoop

OK, here´s a little more detailed account of my current problem. This book I found is essentially one version of what I was planning to write as my dissertation. It varies structurally, but in terms of the information I was planning to discuss, it´s all there. It´s a public health study, which is good for me, cause I´ll be studying this from an historical perspective, which in academia is substantially different, but this still poses a significant set-back for me.

So I´m not a total idiot, it wasn´t like I just didn´t know this book existed before I started. I´d found a copy of his early manuscript and read it, but this book was initially published in 1985, which is 6 years prior to the end of the period I am studying. Clearly, this early version was more of an aid than a hindrance to my study. So that was the version I read, the 1985 version. Having read it and made notes, I went ahead and purchased the book online to have as a reference. I picked the book up when I was back in the States last month, and now here in Matagalpa I started re-reading it just to refresh my mind about some of the early MINSA (Ministry of Health) policy adjustments. That was when I realized that the authors had re-published, having done additional research, in 1992, and that was the version I purchased, unknowingly, online. This version of the book was much better, more complete, and they had also done some oral history interviews, which sort of steals my thunder as well, since that´s a large part of my research.

So this is totally my fault, just sloppy preliminary work on my part. I should´ve looked much more carefully into this book and potential re-publishings, and I´m kicking myself hard in the face (which, while difficult, I´ve discovered is entirely possible) for not seeing this coming. Argh.

Nonetheless, I know I can work around this, I can re-direct and do additional research, pose new and interesting questions. I feel a little cut off from my support network of super-intelligent history collaborators back home in Austin. (Drea, Spaceman Spiff, Mutt, Penata, Scrubs, Books, where are you when I need you?!) I´m well into an oral history project up here, and I really feel like I just want to slam on the brakes to re-think this for a while, discover which re-directs I want to take, which new angles I want to explore. Not feasible, however, so I guess I´m just going to keep going, and see what I see. All is not lost, I just feel flummoxed and frustrated and a little like a little kid playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Lucky for me I´ve been feeling so absolutely chipper lately, as I feel like in spite of all the metaphorical dizziness, I´m taking this pretty much in stride.

Thanks for all your comments yesterday, and I´ll start posting about stuff of more charm, elegance, and sparkle very shortly now. Ta-ta-ta-RAAAAAAAA!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Oh, Sheetballs, Batman.

Dear Dissertation,

First of all, let me say that I'm proud of you, and I think you've accomplished some wonderful things in the past few months. I just wanted you to know that before I give you the following news: you're axed, baby. Fired, canned, disowned, let go, and deep-sixed. Turns out somebody already wrote a book about you, only your silly researcher never found that book until just this month.

Don't fear, Dissertation. I know you won't be unemployed for long. I have convened a special council of advisors, and we are rapidly formulating a re-training program, so hopefully with your newly acquired skills and focus you'll be back to work in no time. I mean, that, I really do. Just consider this a temporary setback. A mini-break, if you will.

Hasta la victoria siempre!


Friday, February 6, 2009

A Visual Aid: Matagalpa!

You want to know how good life is right now? It's beyond wonderful; it's practically hallucinogenic. It's so good that my friend Doc compared my recent life experiences to the early signs of schizophrenia. I'm going to pretend he was kidding. Sadly, I don't have photographs of the absolutely best things, but here's a couple to at least put you in the right frame of mind.

Last weekend I went hiking with a Dutch woman who also works up here, and oh my sweet lord. To live in a place where I can, in 15 minutes walking, be out of the city and up in the hills... God, I am SO not a city girl. So here's me, up in some of the grasslands above the city. Please ignore the very attractive muffin-top poking over the waistband of my yoga pants. It's just a figment of your imagination, anyway. Are you schizophrenic?

This hiking trip got a little more exciting when we realized that a small yet significant portion of these gorgeous grasslands were on fire. And furthermore, that fire was spreading and would in a matter of minutes be directly in our path. Ah, the joys of trekking about in a place with no forest service rangers! This picture didn't come out too well, mostly because once we'd identified that strange crackling sound and smoky smell we just ran like hell for quite a while, and I took this photo from a safe distance.

See what I brave for you, my poppets? Wild grass fires at high altitude, all to snap a nice picture of the city from up on the surrounding mountains. Well I hope you're satisfied, because I ALMOST DIED, and if that had happened wouldn't you be sad now. [Surgeon General's Warning: Egregious Exaggeration May Be Dangerous To Your Health, But Still Is Damn Good Story-Telling Technique]

So here you have it: my new city, as seen from above.

I'm kind of sad that this is the only picture I have to share with you, as the other night I saw what was, categorically and in no uncertain terms, the most breathtaking sunset-with-double-rainbows I have ever seen in my life. I'd gone up to have dinner with my friend who owns the chocolate factory, El Castillo de Cacao, which sits on a hillside overlooking Matagalpa, to the right in that picture up above. From the turrets above the castle (the factory is built to look like a castle) we stood there drinking beer and watching the sunset. A strong wind blew in at our backs, from the east, and with it came a fine mist of precipitation. As the wind blew the particles of moisture down into the valley they collided with the rays of a setting sun and created a double rainbow that was so clear, so bright, so perfectly arched... Well, it just took my breath away. The sunlight was that perfect goldy-orangey color and the hills upon which Matagalpa lies draped seemed to take on a life of their own, undulating and perfect, and crystal clear.

In a way, I'm actually glad I didn't have my camera because if I had I would've likely wasted that time trying desperately for the perfect shot to capture the moment. In the end, I don't have a picture, but I'll carry this memory with me forever. So there you have it. Matagalpa, my posies.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

THIS Is What Makes Me Fear the Dentist

I would like to take my hat off to the lovely, talented, and completely original Prunella de Ville, who just posted the following video over on her blog. I recommend going there as well as watching it here, because her commentary is worth a chuckle or twelve. Also, once you're there do yourself a favor and keep reading, because she's just generally hilarious.

The following home video is of a young boy who's just had oral surgery of some sort, and is SO FUCKING HIGH he's in another stratosphere. I agree with Pru when she said how she loved the part where he says, "Is this real life?" but I would also point out another favorite of mine, which is when he sits up high in his seat and ROARS LIKE A LION. This after claiming that he only had two fingers. No, four. No, two. Either way, enjoy.

For the record, if that were me sitting there stoned off my keister after a trip to the dentist, I would probably be talking about masturbation. And then the video would go up on YouTube and I would die of mortification.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Crasey Turns Twenty-three!

One year ago today, I posted about my little sister Crasey's birthday, so I won't re-hash all the wonderful things I had to say about her right now. If you click on that highlighted text, you can read it for the first time all over again. Happy birthday, Crasey!!! Let me sum up by saying that I luuuuuurve her madly, deeply, and occasionally inexplicably. Also, she is in Australia right now, for which I am about to never forgive her. Apparently SOMEBODY never got the memo about travel in the AmazingPants family. Just for you, Crase, let me sum it all up for you.

Item One: Nobody but ME is allowed to travel.
Item Two: All other members of the AmazingPants family are to remain at home, preferably seated at the kitchen table, waiting for me to come home.
Item Three: If travel must happen, it is to be for periods of time up to, but no longer than, 3 weeks.

Crasey, I hate to tell you this, but you're breaking ALL THREE clauses of the AmazingPants Travel Memo. What are you thinking, disappearing Down Under for a YEAR?! Are you absolutely CRAZY? How am I going to see you when I go home for a visit? How am I going to call you on your cell phone 15 times in a row until you finally answer? Who else will go drunk skinny-dipping with me? WHO?

And now it's your BIRTHDAY, you dumbass, and I can't even call you to yodel the birthday song in your ear, and even though I am usually off-key and a little too loud, I know you love it. And you know what's even WORSE? It's only your-birthday-to-me and your-birthday-to-you for a measly EIGHT HOURS!! Stupid 14 hour time difference, or however much it is.

Here, let me help you out. See, I worked in Sydney, too, and I can sum it all up for you. The Rocks are cool, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge are prettier from far away than they are up close, the Botanical Gardens are sweet, the bars along Oxford Street rock, Australians are nice, and Aussie Rules Football is one of the coolest sports I've ever watched anybody play. Also, I like Manly Beach better than Bondi, but the cliff walk from Bondi to that town just south is wonderful. So fine, stick around for a few weeks. Meet some people, soak up the sights, and then just come home, ok? Please? Hello?

Oh, fine. Stay. Who cares anyway. Jeez, what's the point of being the big sister if you can't boss anybody around? Am I nothing more than a Crash Test Dummy, sent from God to break in our parents and get wrinkles and gray hair before any of the rest of my siblings? This is so not fair.

Monday, February 2, 2009

All That A Bag Should Be

GE Financial Assurance Bag, can we talk? After 10 years I feel I can say this to you. I love you, GE Financial Assurance Bag, with all my heart and soul, but I think it's time for us to start seeing other people. No, please, don't cry. You know I can't stand it when you cry.

What's that? Remember the good times? Well of course I remember the good times, GE Financial Assurance Bag. Peru was a blast, way back in 1998. That was the first time I really realized how handy and capable you really are. Some people base their attraction to a bag on sheer good looks, but seriously, you know I'm not that shallow. No, what really drew me in was your immense versatility. I mean, just look at you. White canvas, which is handily machine washable, and sporty blue straps. So cute, so handy, so bomb-proof!

As we trotted across the globe together I only became more enamored of your special skills. Remember that one night in Australia? No, don't blush. I'd just never seen a bag fit that much stuff inside it. Yeah, I think that's when I realized that my feelings for you went beyond mere admiration. I began to suspect that I was in love.

What's that? Your single best feature? Oh, well there's no contest, GE Financial Assurance Bag. From the moment my father introduced us over a decade ago, I was most attracted to your zipper. No, I know. Most women love little pockets or leather tassels. What can I say. I'm a substance-over-style kind of gal. If you ask me, every bag should have a handy zipper like this. It is the feature that takes you out of the realm of sturdy and practical (though you do inhabit that world quite ably) and sends you shooting into the stratosphere of Damn Near Perfect.

Oh, come on, bag. Haven't we had this conversation before? No bag is perfect, my darling, but Near Perfect is a pretty good start. No, I will not have this conversation right now. What's that? Oh, you hate the way I wear you like a backpack with one strap over each shoulder? Now there is absolutely no need to take that tone with me. Sometimes it's just easier to wear you that way, that's why. What's that? Oh, for crying out loud. Fine. Because SOMETIMES YOUR STUPID SKINNY STRAPS HURT MY SHOULDERS WHEN YOUR'E REALLY HEAVY, OKAY? THAT'S WHY. ARE YOU SATISFIED NOW?

Oh, shit. No, no, please, stop crying. I love you bag, I really do. Look, here, see this picture? Don't we look happy and handsome together? See? No, I know, baby. Yes, I love you too. Here, just look at the picture.

Here, have a tissue, dear. Yes, you're right, we have had a lot of fun in Nicaragua together, that's true. Remember Greece? Oh, that was fun. What's that? Italy? Oh, yeah! Remember that time we were in Napoli and the pizza guy did that crazy stunt with the red wine and then you... yeah, you do remember? God that was fun. I still can't believe you got so clean afterward! I'm glad I have you to reminisce with, GE Financial Assurance Bag. So often you were my only company on the road. I couldn't have asked for a better companion, really.

What other bags? Oh, jeez. Come on, honey. You know those other bags don't mean anything to me. They're just something to, you know, spice up an outfit or something. You're always first in my heart. Yes, I like you better than Olive Green Leather Purse. Yes, and Straw Purse, too, but don't tell Sweet BabyFace and The Fairy King, because Straw Bag was a special gift from them and I don't want to hurt their feelings.

Oh, come on. GE Financial Assurance Bag, you can't keep me on such a tight leash. Yes, you're first in my heart, and I'll take you with me always, everywhere. But you know what they say. If you love something, let it go.

What you do mean, absolute twaddle?! That's not absolute twaddle, that's something very wise I heard once in a movi-- COME BACK IN HERE YOU RIDICULOUS BAG, DON'T YOU WALK OUT ON ME!!!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Ahoy, Matey! Arrrrrrrr.

Matagalpa, while it is all that is fine and good in this world, runs a little short on forms of evening entertainment. Now, don't get me wrong, it isn't completely dead. After all, we have a bar, and that bar is actually pretty awesome, but still. No movie theater, limited live music performances, and whatnot. So you want to know what we do for fun? We hang out with pirates. Yes, it's true. Pirates roam these narrow hilly streets, head bandanas, golden earrings, and parrots on their shoulder. There's even one or two with peg legs. Arrrrrr, matey! Where's my ship, ye scurvy landlubbers?

Ok, I'm totally lying. Did you even suspect? Probably not, since I'm a devilishly good liar. So while I know you would love to believe that real live pirates abound in my wee mountain town, sadly, it's not true, unless you count pirated movie salesmen, which there really are a million of, and THAT is what we do for fun.

You can buy these movies on the street for a dollar, and they are an endless source of amusement for me. If they're good, then yay! You get to watch a good movie. But often the copies are often pretty terrible. Have you seen movies like this before? The ones where they sneak a video camera into a movie theater and film it in the dark? It's a pretty hilarious experience, all told, especially when whoever subtitles the damn things doesn't have an able command of the English language.

Like take the movie Australia, for exampe. In honor of my little sister Crasey, who just up and moved to Australia for the next year, the other night I watched this recent Hugh Jackman (drooooools) and Nicole Kidman (I'd like to move my facial muscles, but they're frozen!) movie. How can I describe what this was like? It was sort of the perfect storm of bad pirated movie flaws. First off, it was filmed in the theater, so I could hear people laughing, coughing, and one guy in front of me kept getting up to use the bathroom. The resolution was so bad that even in the brightly lit scenes it was hard to clearly see anything, and the night time scenes were just a heavily pixelated black screen. Oh! I totally forgot about the subtitles! Whoever did the translations might have been a muppet. Or Dan Quayle, to rehash a joke from the early 90s. They were beyond horrible. Here's an example:

Nicole: What do you think?
Hugh: I couldn't really say.

This is the translation:

Nicole: What do you think?
Hugh: Can I really stay?

Or how about this one:

Barman: Oy, she's a lively filly.


Barman: Why's alive a feeling?

If I weren't a native English speaker I would've thought the movie was completely existential.