Monday, August 30, 2010

I Am Doing Really Great

Last winter I was at a friend's birthday dinner and struck up a conversation with another friend's charming boyfriend. The birthday girl that evening was turning 25 or 26, something like that, and because a great many of my friends are a wee bit younger than I am (a consequence of taking 5 years off before graduate school, rather than the one or two years more normal among this group), I often sit in on conversations about how OLD and OOOOOLLLLLDDDD and OOOOOLLLLLLDDDDD people feel who are not yet as old as I. This is funny to me, because a) none of us are old, and b) I like getting older. I get better looking every year.

So this man, let's just call him Captain Hilarious because he truly is a very funny man, asked me when my birthday was, and I told him it was in December. "Oh yeah?" He asked. "That's cool. How old did you turn this year?" I told him I'd just turned 32, and whoa nelly. You'd have thought I just told him I was the pope's daughter or something, he was seriously that shocked. Jaw on the ground, eyes bugging out, that kind of shocked. "Well," he blurted, looking me up and down like a State Fair exhibit. "Wow. I-I had no idea. Well." He nodded firmly. "You're doing really, really good." I laughed, thanked him, and told him what I just told you: I get better looking every year.

I'm telling you this story right now because my father just sent me another photo of agonizing awfulness, a photo that caused me to contemplate whether or not people believe me when I say that thing about getting better looking, or whether they think I'm just saying that like how a lot of old ladies develop their birthday-coping-one-liner over time. Blog, let me assure you. Even if that line does become my birthday coping one liner, it is TRUE. Here, look. 1992.

That's me and Superdad. And now, for a sneak peak at 2010:

I'm not saying I'm going to turn around and win any beauty contests any time soon, but given my choice between 1992 and 2010, I'll take today, please. All things considered, I'm doing really, really good.

Friday, August 27, 2010

All At Once, If You Please.

Do you ever have a period in your life when you feel, not necessarily like plod plod plod, but that things are moving along at such a reasonable, manageable pace that maybe you ought to pick things up a bit, lest life get boring? This happens to me, sometimes. It's the consequence of my overweening fear that if I'm not busy and overcommitted, I am clearly missing out on something awesome somewhere cool. So at times like those described above, periods of relative calm, I always over commit myself. Clubs, committees, lessons, activities, projects, I do it all. Needless to say, this almost always backfires on me.

Like right now, for example. A week and a half ago, I decided in the lull before the semester started to reorganize my entire house, a project that always takes 3 times as long as you think it will. And then I started taking piano lessons. Handsome started studying for the GMAT every night. EVERY. NIGHT. And I increased my volunteer hours at the Worker's Defense Project. Then Handsome proposed, and a chaos of squealing phone calls and house visits and dinner invitations ensued. Then I got  rear-ended (poor little Mazdie, she's having a rough go of it). Then the semester started. Then I looked around and realized that our house was becoming filthy and needed a good top-to-bottom scrubbing. Then I realized that if we don't get a venue NOW for the wedding, we will have to get married in the street in front of my house, because apparently 10 months isn't enough time to plan a wedding in Austin (jaw hitting the ground).

Excuse me, but I need to catch my breath.  Oh, yes, and also: write my dissertation.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I Am a Mighty Thrower of Things, Question Mark.

Over the past few days I've had cause to go back and look through some of my old pictures. I'm putting things in frames and puttering about, and finding photos of me and Handsome to put in the previous post, and this journey down memory lane has really taught me a thing or two. First, it taught me that I've got to stop making ridiculous faces when people pull out a camera. I'm not doing myself any favors. Second, it taught me that almost everybody in the universe is 700 feet taller than I am. Third (a related point), I should never ever take a close up picture with somebody over 6 feet tall. It's just two heads, one at the top of the frame, one at the bottom. The tall person usually has the top of their hair cut off, and my chin is in most cases mysteriously vanished.

So I've learned some things, which is good. Also, I've solved a mystery of long standing. I am a relatively athletic, physically competent human being, so it has always been a point of befuddlement that I am a horrific hurler. I can't throw anything to save my life. No matter how hard I try, baseballs, footballs, paper airplanes, rocks... they all get somewhere between 10 and 25 feet and fall kerplunk to the ground.

Then I found this series of pictures, and a light went on over my head. Aha! I thought. A clue! You see, back in May when I went to my friend's wedding in North Carolina, some of us girls went on a hike down by the river. As an inevitable side effect of there being stones, and a river to throw them across, we began a contest to see who could throw them the farthest.

This is a picture of JM throwing. She won the competition. Notice the length, the extention, the sheer athleticism of her movement!

This is H-SPO throwing. She did not win the competition, but still distinguished herself with a mighty effort. See also, extension, concentration of expression, and use of lower arm as a catapult-like thingy.

This is Pony throwing. She came in second. Roger Clemens could take notes from this pitching dynamo.

And now, for the piêce de resistance, I humbly submit for your perusal, The World-Famous Amazing Cheastypants Throwing Technique.

So. Any further questions?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ding, Dong, the Bells Are Gonna Chime!

Really, I should've suspected something was up. For the past few weeks Handsome has been unusually frisky and high-spirited. He's been charming and smiley (even more so than normal), affectionate and thoughtful (even more so than normal), and just plain sweet (even more so than normal). Last Saturday he disappeared for two and a half hours with no explanation whatsoever about where he'd been or what he'd been doing. Under intense interrogation he would reveal nothing except to reassure me it had absolutely nothing to do with Russian mail-order brides. Maybe, he hinted, it had something to do with bikes. Ah, yes, of course. Bikes. We just got bikes! And because I wanted so badly to believe that he was out ring shopping, I refused to let myself even consider that as an option, and let it go. Back of the mind, out of sight, adios, door closed. Silly, silly Cheasty.

On Friday he came home from work and said, "Hey guess what. I did some searching on the internets, and I found a restaurant that has a dessert you can actually eat on this cleanse diet thing." (Oh, how this stupid cleanse diet will haunt the rest of my life!)
"Really?" I asked, full of dubiosity. "What is it, a fruit plate?"
"No," he said, "It's a secret surprise. Go on and get dressed!"

I was excited, but completely befuddled. Thinking he might be taking me to a berry patch or a watermelon field, I inquired about wearing my overalls, and should I bring mosquito repellent? Nah, he said. Just wear something cute and comfortable, you'll be fine. So off we drove into the sunset, me still blissfully ignorant. So ignorant I didn't even put on mascara or wear nice shoes or any jewelry. Cause whatevs, you know? It's just dessert at some random place that I still secretly suspected was a watermelon patch.

"You're going to laugh when you see the place I'm taking you," Han said as we drove towards south Austin (cleverly covering his bases).
"Why," I asked. "Is it that epically bad diner we went to a few months ago?"
"You'll see," was all Captain Mysterious would tell me.

I did start to laugh when he pulled in the parking lot of our destination: Paggi House, the restaurant where we'd had our first date, where we'd first clapped eyes on one another. 'Funny,' I thought to myself as we climbed the stairs to their outdoor treehousey patio deck. 'I didn't think he'd bring me here again until he was going to propose. Hmmm. Well, whatever. I wonder what that dessert is?'

We got to the deck and sat down in a semi-private little couchey nook on a wicker sofa, and when the waitress came up to us, Han asked for the dessert menu. She gave us some glasses of water and walked away. I looked at Handsome, and for the first time wondered what was up. Why did he look so jumpy, so tense, so... nervous?

"I have a confession to make," he said then, clearing his throat. "There is no dessert. I made up the dessert because I wanted to get you here, where we first met." And then, dropping to one knee, he took a ring box out of his pocket, opened it, offered it to me, and said, "I wanted to bring you here to ask you if you would please marry me, Cheasty."

I don't really remember a clear sequence of events after that. I know my eyes teared up, I know my hands were trembling with excitement, I know the waitress walked up and almost interrupted Han before she realized what was going on, and backed away slowly, mouthing, "Oh. My. God." I know I kissed him and hugged him and kissed him and hugged him again, I know I said "yes, yes, yes, of course!" and I know people around us figured out what was happening and started applauding. I know the waitress came back with two glasses of champagne on the house and I know I broke the hell out of my diet by drinking the whole thing. I know there was a table full of 20-something girls having drinks nearby and one of them took pictures with her cell phone and mailed me the photos right then and there, so now I have 3 wonderful blurry pictures of right after Handsome popped the question.

I'm getting married this spring to the most wonderful man ever to live on this planet, and I'm the luckiest woman in the world.

P.S. 500 points to anybody who a) recognizes the song from which I took the title of this post, and b) sings the whole thing out loud, right now, wherever you are.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Childhood Picture. Category: Embarrassing.

My father sent this to me the other day - one of many vintage family reunion pics of me and my sister. I particularly love how this photo captures us right in that full blown moment when half of your body is in childhood and the other half is experimenting with adolescence.

Cruel, Dad. Just cruel.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Little Boxes Full of Ticky-Tacky

This week I am undertaking a monumental task, a task that challenges me to the very core of who I am. It is forcing me to become something I have never been, not ever before. Why, Cheastypants, I hear you murmur, whatever could this be? Are you not the very ideal of the Renaissance woman? Can you not leap tall buildings in a single bound and cook gourmet meals with one hand tied behind your back? Well, yes, naturally, all of that is true, but there is, it turns out, always room for growth. For example, it goes without saying that I am glamorous, sophisticated, unspeakably beautiful, and above all, always well dressed. But did you know that I am also an organizational maestro, a neat-freak par excellence? No? Well join the club. Neither did I.

That's not to say I don't enjoy a well organized room, or an exceptionally well planned schedule. I do, very much. And I will be right up front and say that I really don't like filth. A dirty anything will drive me straight to bedlam, dusty surfaces give me imaginary hives. Admittedly, I don't always jump right up and clean the minute I notice toothpaste buildup in the sink. Who's got time for that when there's work to be done and fun to be had? Instead, I schedule a top-to-bottom house cleaning every other week, and try to stay on top of it that way. And this works. It keeps me calm and balanced, and stops me from making other people insane.

Clutter, on the other hand, has never really bothered me all that much. Not a lot of clutter, but some. I tend to leave little nests of shoes all over the house, and my books inevitably take up large percentages of available flat spaces. My reading glasses are rarely where I think they are (Handsome found one of them in the laundry yesterday). My papers sit in stacks, and I forget to put them back in the filing cabinet. To combat this, I've always been something of a congenital thrower-away-er of things so that my habits of clutter don't turn into something more nefarious and scary. Ugh, hoarding. Gives me shivers.

So it is somewhat to my surprise to find that when it comes to Handsome and me, I am the person to whom the role of Designated Organizer and Neat Freak has fallen. I never ever EVER thought that would happen. Throughout my life I always chose roommates who were organizers, knowing that I would drift toward their magnetic north and be happier that way. Yet here I am, living with the man I love, and I find myself having mini heart attacks on a twice weekly basis over the boxes that are still unpacked in the study. Now I know, as the well educated daughter of a minister and graduate of countless Vacation Bible Camps, that love is patient and kind, but boy howdy. Paul never lived with somebody who has three big boxes full of papers. PAPERS. And photographs, and baseball cards and wristbands from concerts and busted hats and pay stubs from his high school summer job. Need I go on.

We've lived here in this house now for almost 5 months, and I'd started feeling like we'd only moved in maybe 95%, and then we'd stopped. What's more, I was becoming increasingly convinced that we'd initially made poor decisions about use of space and location of furniture in the home. I knew, I just knew, that if I reorganized the study, moved some shelves out, moved some other ones in, took apart the disorganized bookshelf in the living room and switched some other things from here to there, and installed the bigger shelving unit in the kitchen, that we'd magically have a super-duper house that was 20 times more space efficient and livable and pleasant than the one we've been occupying.

Thus began my Epic Never-Ending Odyssey Down the Tunnel of Doom With Teeny Tiny Light At End of Said Tunnel. The good news is that the Teeny Tiny Light gets bigger and bigger as I get closer to it. Initially, I thought I'd really feeped it up big time. I looked around after the first day's work, at the piles and piles of stuff strewn about in wild abandon and almost had an aneurism. But then I remembered that what looked like an exercise in delirious chaoticism was actually kind-of-sort of organized, and took a deep breath. Day Two, if anything, was a little worse, at least until Handsome got home that evening and put his gorgeous muscles to use by moving furniture about. Day three, Handsome sat down with one of his boxes and sorted through some stuff, and I sorted through my old files, and we threw out buckets of stuff. I anticipate great things in the future.

Today is Day Four and when I looked around this morning, I saw that the Teeny Tiny Light at the End of the Tunnel is considerably larger. Maybe even as large as our house, if I can squeeze it through. Wish me luck, world. Amazing Cheastypants, Organizer Extraordinaire, is on the job.

P.S. If anybody wants to come over and tell me what to do á la slave driver, you are more than welcome. As you can see by this blog post, I'm not exactly chomping at the bit to get started.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What, What, What Are You Doing?

I have honestly never seen anything this creatively hilarious, not in a million years. The comedy group at Second City has started producing a series of videos called Sassy Gay Friend. In these little movies they take works of literature in which famous heroines meet an unfortunate end. Only in these videos, instead of meeting that unfortunate end, the heroines are saved by timely advice from a sassy gay friend. The sassy gay friend convinces Desdemona to flee before Othello can murder her, he stops Ophelia from drowning herself, and Eve from biting into the apple. There's one with The Giving Tree that is so surreally amazing I can't even describe it, and another with Juliet, wherein the sassy gay friend takes a moment to congratulate our heroine for having slept with Romeo before he convinces her not to kill herself. So those are the brief plot descriptions, but it can't do the things justice, not in the slightest. No, you're really going to have to watch them yourself, and then you too can start calling everybody a "stupid, stupid bitch." And you'll laugh.

Here's two. Go to You Tube for the rest, you stupid, stupid bitch.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Quandary of Epic Proportions

I think I mentioned a few posts ago that I'm doing a three week food sensitivity elimination diet on doctor's orders, right? Well I am, and so far have survived. I am allowed to eat the following things: rice, vegetables (but no tomatoes) and fruit. I can eat fish and chicken and 'game' meats during weeks one and three, but not during week two. I am not allowed any alcohol or caffeine. No soy product or gluten of any kind, no legumes, no dairy. Also, no fun. I have however, lost 5 pounds, which sort of makes up for the hassle.

It's been a little bit of a slog at times. Gone are the staples of my diet. (Alas, poor yogurt, I knew him well. Oh, oatmeal, how I miss you so. Lentils! I am having a hard time living without you. And wine, dear dear wine... there are no words.) But all in all, the great surprise of this diet is not how hard it has been to stick to it, but how good I've felt while on it, and how easy that has made this process seem. No doubt, the first few days were an agony of self-denial, especially when I went to a potluck dinner where people had outdone themselves. The orgiastic moans coming from everybody's faces as they ate nearly killed me as I sipped my water and nibbled on a rice cake. Nonetheless, it turns out that, yet once again, my mother was right. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, she always told me, and it's true. Making it through that potluck was tough, but it forged my steel, and I've managed quite well ever since.

Today is day 13 of the diet, and as I sit here eating my breakfast (half a papaya), I am reflecting on a few things I've learned and observed and wondered about.

1. No gluten, just glutton. First of all, good god, I can eat a hell of a lot more food this way. I never realized how much space breads and beans and tofu take up. I am hungry all the time. Yesterday for lunch I had a bowl of gluten-free oatmeal (mushy, slimy) and then a bowl of rice and vegetable stir-fry (yum!). This amount of food is mind-boggling for me. Normally I'd have a hard time just making it to the bottom of one bowl of normal oatmeal, but two bowls of food? TWO?? And the weirdest part - I was hungry four hours later. Really, really hungry. Last week I ate an entire quarter of a watermelon, by myself. For a snack.

2. Quitcher bellyaching. The other day Handsome and I were lounging around and he went to put his head on my tummy. I immediately tensed up because, ow, that always hurts. Except, you know what? It didn't hurt. It didn't hurt AT ALL. This was something of a revolutionary moment for me, the moment in which I went from resenting the hell out of this diet to thinking, hey, maybe there's something to all this! Because my belly is always sore. Not hugely sore, not even painful - just tender feeling in a not-so-good way. But no more! My tummy feels lovely, thank you very much, and Handsome may rest his lovely head upon it any time he wants.

3. Summer here, summer not. Thank God I'm doing this in August, and not in the dead middle of February. If my only options were winter vegetables and frozen fruits, I'd be much much much grumpier. As it is, I'm eating my weight in plums and papaya and watermelon and strawberries and peaches. The Hatch green chile festival is around the corner (yes, I'm counting the days), and the summer greens are robust and delicious. "Oh, how I suffer!" I moan while watermelon juice dribbles down my chin. "How I long for pound cake," I cry out, stuffing handfuls of sweet blueberries and raspberries into my mouth. I try to beg Handsome for some ice cream, but he can't understand me through the mouthful of fresh cherries. Oh well, I shrug, and reach for the bucket of sweet peas by my side, fresh from the garden.

4. Ze Qvandary. For the first half of this 21-day epic food journey, I couldn't even let myself think about the end, for fear I would break down and cry. Now, however, I'm over the hump. I'm on day 13, which means....(doing complicated mathematical equations in my head)... 8 more days! In 8 more days I am to begin the process of reintegration and elimination, and believe it or not, I've worked myself up into quite a tizzy over the prospect.

This is how it's supposed to work. On day 22 I pick one food substance I've eliminated it and aggressively reintegrate it into my diet. Say I choose tomatoes, then I would eat tomatoes for breakfast, tomatoes at lunch, tomatoes with my dinner. I do this for two days, and if I notice absolutely no difference in how I feel, then I move forward onto item two, whatever that might be.

However. (There's always a however.) If the food item does cause me problems of any kind (stomach ache, headache, rash, hives, or, I don't know, tuberculosis, for example) then I have to go back on the diet until I feel clear and easy again. Normally three days, and then I tackle the next food item. As you might imagine, this is causing me some level of anxiety. What do I want to integrate first? Because I don't want to have to go back on the diet for three days, I just want to chuckle through this list, leaving the irritants for last. On the other hand, how great would it be to dive face-first into a huge bowl of ice cream on day 22. Then again, don't I want to choose things that, if I am not sensitive to them, will greatly expand my current menu selections? Should I choose soy? I do love some tofu with my stir fry. Or bread? How about breads?! Spaghetti!!

Oh, sigh. At least I still have 7 days, 13 hours, and 6 minutes to think about it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

It's a Difficult Stage

When I first laid eyes on L'il Mazdie back in October of 2003, I was dubious. I had never wanted a blue car, much less a blue car with black leather seats, much less a blue car with black leather seats and an automatic transmission. Automatic? Only soccer moms drive those. Black leather seats? What do I look like, a Wall Street tycoon? Blue? Only accountants and insurance agents drive blue cars.

I knew what I wanted. I wanted a convertible hybrid El Camino in cherry red with camel-colored leather seats. Sadly, I am still awaiting the moment a visionary automobile designer over at GM gets a whiff of inspiration and decides to market this highly sexy idea for a car. Until that time, I decided, I would look for the next best thing. I wanted the perfect combination of sporty, sexy, utility, eco-friendly, and fun. Oh, and cheap. Did I mention I was looking for cheap? As you might imagine, that last factor limited my search considerably.

Nonetheless, I sallied forth with pizzaz, determined to find the greatest car out there for the money. I looked high and low, and after being patronized at the Honda dealership and condescended to at the Toyota place, I ended up in the Mazda showroom, determined to slice the throat of the next salesman who asked me "where'd that pretty smile go?" when I sat down to discuss numbers, or looked around after shaking my hand and wondered, "are you here with... your husband? your father?" Grrrr.

Thankfully for the car industry (and for me and L'il Mazdie), I encountered no such road bumps, and very quickly was sold on a bright red Mazda Protegé 5 with tan leather interior and a manual transmission. Only... it was a little more than I could afford. Enter: L'il Mazdie, showroom floor model. See, it was the end of the model year, and what's more, Mazda was discontinuing the Protegé line. Mazdie had a few miles on her. Not too many, but still. You can always get a good deal on an aging floor model.

I smelled a good deal. So with a pang of regret I said farewell to my lovely red sporty sexy car, and said hello to L'il Mazdie at an unbelievable discount. My black and blue automatic un-dream car. It was a bitter pill to swallow, and for a while I resented her. I told her that her nose was too pointy, and her butt was too big. I mocked her behind her back to my friends. I even tried to name her Quincy. (I can hear you gasping out loud.)

But slowly, ever so slowly, L'il Mazdie started to grow on me. Her steadfast perseverance in the face of my animosity impressed me. Her capacious trunk, fold-down-able seats, great sound system, and sunroof started chalking up bonus points. By the time I packed her completely to the gills with everything I owned and moved to New Mexico with her, I was hooked. I quit pretending her name was Quincy. I bought her some beautiful red floral seat covers, hung some mementos from her rear view mirror, and put a University of North Carolina sticker on her rear window. We were in love.

And in love we have remained, through several cross-country moves, long road trips, grocery store runs, trips to the airport, and joyrides with friends. She eventually switched out her threadbare red seat covers for some hot pink ones, and let her flag fly. "What a fun little car I am!" she proclaimed to the world. For six long years, we were so happy together.

I should've been forewarned last month when she took off the pink duds and dressed herself up in.. (oh, I can barely stand to say it...) black and white zebra stripes. Zebra stripes? Really? What's next, L'il Mazdie, tattoos? She started throwing little screaming fits. Just in the mornings, only when I started her up, but still. And then she didn't like the battery she'd been perfectly happy with for the past several years, she wanted a new battery. I suppose all the other cars are getting them, hmmm? So I took her to the car doctor and he changed her belts and her oil, I gave her that new battery she'd been wanting, and I thought that would be the end of it.

But no. I'm afraid that L'il Mazdie, just two months shy of our 7th anniversary together, has gotten a good case of the Seven Year Itch. Two days ago, right before a rainstorm, OF COURSE, I rolled down her driver's side window and heard a loud SNAP! And then her window wouldn't go up any more. Permanently stuck in the down position, and at 102 degrees outside. Thanks, Mazdie. Thanks a lot. It started raining, so I drove over to the car doctor, and left her there with him. $250 later, she is in good working order, but my faith in her is rattled. This is the first time in all our years together that she ever broke anything on purpose, and I'm worried about what it might mean for our relationship.

L'il Mazdie, please settle down. I love you, and I was so looking forward to growing old with you. I hope you can work whatever it is that is bothering you out of your system soon. Can we snuggle?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I, Too, Deserve My Own Canadian.

This post is dedicated to my marvelous brother The Fairy King, and his wonderful partner Sweet Babyface. I have no idea who Nancy Mallette is, or why she posted the following on her Facebook page, but dear lord, I'd like to thank her, from the bottom of my heart. Also from the bottom of my heart, everlasting and eternal devotion to the man who wrote the letter Ms. Mallette cites, James M. Kauffman, Ed.D. Professor Emeritus, Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education, University of Virginia. As the daughter of a kick-ass minister (and rather formidable biblical scholar) who I know would agree with every word Dr. Kauffman wrote, I just want to say hurrah. Hurrah for ending the abuse of Christian and Judaic texts in order to suppress the liberties of millions of people the world over who want nothing more than the same rights any heterosexual enjoys - to live, to love, to be free. And, of course, to enslave Canadians. But can you blame them? Who wouldn't want their own personal Canadian?


In her radio show, Dr Laura Schlesinger said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance.

The following response is an open letter to Dr. Laura, written by a U.S. man, and posted on the Internet. It's funny, as well as informative:

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination ... End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of Menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than
homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading
glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14) I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I'm confident you can help.
Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan.

James M. Kauffman, Ed.D. Professor Emeritus,
Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education
University of Virginia

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Why I Love Austin: #1

It's no secret that Austin is one of the more amazing places on earth. Blues on the Green, Barton Springs, the Broken Spoke, Zilker Park, bicyclists abounding, dancing and eating outside under enormous live oaks bedecked with white christmas tree lights... it's mighty nice. And Donn's Depot. Can I tell you about Donn's Depot, please? Because I love it.

Hmm. Now that I've said I want to tell you about Donn's, I'm not really even sure where to start. Well, how about this. Imagine, if you will, the following things: red shag carpets, railroad cars, pendulous cobwebs, a house band called Donn and his Station Masters, a free popcorn machine, a stripper pole (in the ladies' room), and an itty bitty dance floor, about which trot an enthusiastic assortment of smooth movers from 21 to 97 years old.

I'm not kidding about the 97 year old. He told me he was, right before he dipped me so low my hair touched the floor.

I love Donn's Depot. I love Donn and his Station Master's, I love that they play reliably good covers of classic country tunes like "Waltz Across Texas," "All My Exes Live in Texas," and "He Stopped Loving Her Today." I love that it's one of the rare places I've ever been where hipsters, yuppies, middle agers, and the geriatric crowd all gather in the same place, enjoying and participating in the same event. I love that they ask everybody for ID at the front door. And I mean EVERYBODY, even the silverbacks. I love that the drinks are cheap, the popcorn is salty and free, and the shag carpeting is the lurid red of a 19th century bordello. I love that at least half of the cobbled-together building is made from old railroad cars, and I love that when you look up at the ceiling you immediately look down, determined to never ever look up again, for fear of what might fall in your eyes.

And I love that, no matter how reliable the above-mentioned delights might be, every now and then, Donn's still manages to surprise me. The other night, for example, Handsome and I went there with our friends Bake and Toto for a wild night of dominoes, drinking, and dancing. I always love a good two-step, and the waltz... well, that goes without saying. I've loved the waltz since I taught myself to dance it by watching the "I Know You, I've Walked With You Once Upon A Dream" scene in Sleeping Beauty twenty million times on repeat.

But as the four of us sat there chatting and laughing and playing dominoes the other evening, I noticed something. The music was out of control. Where was my George Strait? My Porter Wagoner? My Glen Campbell, and Johnny Cash? Instead, Donn and the Stationmasters were leaning heavily on the synthesizer and playing a bizarre series of songs that included all of the following:

1. The Rose. (The Rose? Seriously? They wanted to channel Bette Midler's maudlin tune?)

2. The Girl From Ipanema. (Ha ha. They're kidding, right? No? Well... just... wow.)

3. Can't Keep My Eyes Off Of You. (doo dee doo dee doo dee dah doo, dee doo dee doo dee doooooo... I LOVE YOU BAAABY, AND IF IT'S QUITE ALL RIGHT I NEED YOU BAAAABY FOR ALL THOSE LONELY NIGHTS.....)

4. Suspicious Minds. (Ladies and Gentlemen, Elvis has left the building. LEFT. THE. BUILDING.)

5. Smooth Operator. (You know when Tweety Bird clocks Sylvester the Cat upside the head with a 20 pound hammer and Sylvester's eyes turn into spinning circley things and bells and birds clang all around his head? Yes? OK, that. That's my reaction.)

All I have to say is that the hipsters have something to learn about irony and counter culture if they think a weird haircut, multiple tattoos, and some skinny jeans are going to cut it. Let them first stand upon a stage and croon the words to "Smooth Operator" with nary a blush or giggle. Furthermore, let them do it as a grey haired middle aged man with a slight potbelly. And then, let them partner up and glide across the dance floor, executing flawless spins, graceful steps, and exhibiting a total enjoyment in the moment. That, my friends, is counter-culture cool.

As Handsome and I were dancing later that evening, he said, "Do you you ever feel, sometimes, like when you're in here, you've stepped into some parallel universe, like maybe a little piece of small-town Texas from 1984 got picked up in a vortex and splashed down on 5th street in Austin?"

I said yes. And I love it.

Here's a YouFace video of Donn singing one of my favorite songs of all time. The video quality is pretty bad, but it's a glimmer, at least, of Donn and his glories.

Monday, August 9, 2010

For Superdad and the Fairy King

It has recently been brought to my attention that I am letting the blog lapse. In fact, Superdad called me from an airport in Brazil (what else, from an International Man of Mystery?) to let me know it had been two months, that is TWO. MONTHS. since my last post. My apologies. I fully intend to remedy this situation. I've been trying very hard lately to be disciplined, that is, DISCIPLINED!! about writing my dissertation from 9-5 each day. This attempt, naturally has met with greater and lesser degrees of success, but each time I considered writing a blog post, a Pavlovian reflex went off in my head, reminding me just how much time that would take, and how little actual, real, important writing would get done during the time I was doodling about in Blogolandia. But now, here I am, typing away in the little text window on my Blogger home page, and my, this feels nice. If I were an alcoholic, and writing this blog were beer, I would be slowly feeling the DTs drift away on a gentle breeze. Ahhhh.

So these are the things that have happened in the one and a half months since last I wrote.

1. I went on a two week trip to Nicaragua. It was productive, and a pleasant surprise. More later.
2. I went to New York City for a week. It was fun. FUN!!
3. I did not go to Cuba. Gnashing of teeth, cursing of infernal bureaucracy and its terminal incompetence. More later.
4. I have gone to many parties and seen some darn good movies. Thanks, Netflix online!
5. My parents sent photos you would not believe of the vegetables growing in their garden. 15" zucchini.
6. I have accumulated a million funny stories and weird happenings to tell you about.
7. I have undertaken a three week cleansing diet for food allergy elimination that is utterly unbelievable. Basically, I can eat rice, fruit, green veggies, and air. This is still in process. I have lost 4 pounds this week, if my scale is to believed. More news on this later, if I don't disintegrate into a puff of glittery dust before next we speak.

I have many stories, pictures, even video (!!) to post and share. I will do so. Sorry, Dad. Sorry, FK. I'm on it. To tide you over until that time, from my parents' garden, check out 'dem apples: