Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

It is Christmas morning and I am trapped at my mother's house, waiting for the festivities to begin. In a very un-Christmas-like way, I'm teed off at my older sister, for deciding not to rush her kids and choosing to attend family Christmas nearly one hour later than planned. So, I have to wait for family time for one MORE hour.

As I stew, hopped up on crappy coffee and fake sugar, I realize that I desperately want Christmas magic to still extend to me. Even though I am 37 years old. And, it doesn't. With six children in the family - my sisters' kids - the adult magic gets lost - or at least subjugated until the kids' needs are met. And intellectually I understand this is part of Christmas - the joy children experience. And emotionally I feel aggravated and disappointed.

So what's a girl to do?

Right now, I'm contemplating calling my older sister to apologize for snapping. And then emotionally checking out 100% so I don't have to worry about managing angry or sad feelings. However, if I do this, I won't appreciate the giving or the receiving part when it FINALLY gets started. Maybe I could refuse to come home for Christmas ever again, or at least planning on driving home for Christmas on Christmas day - and arriving at my sister's house at approximately 1:00 so I don't have to do this crappy waiting around for things to get started stuff. Or, maybe I could stay home and be with BMG who doesn't restrict his feelings of adventure and curiosity to all things niece and nephew.

Sigh.

I know my sisters and brother (and my mother) appreciate giving and receiving from one another - this is why Christmas is such a big deal. And I've often said it feels like there is no place for me here because I don't have kids. On Chrismas morning, this is particularly acute. On Christmas morning this is particularly acute.

Sigh.

What's a girl going to do? I'm going to finish drying my hair. Then I'll pour another cup of weak coffee and plaster a smile on my face until it is noon. Then I'll pour myself a drink and get planted in a chair and pretend this is all exactly what I asked Santa to bring me on Christmas.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Santa is phoning it in

We have Secret Santas at the office (separation of church and state - hah!). My Santa is phoning it in. I got three pairs of ladies' trouser socks, coasters with snowflakes on them, and, today, I got what appears to be a leftover mug from a Hickory Farms gift basket. It has six pieces of that strawberry candy that seems to come in all Hickory Farms gift baskets, with mounds of dust in the bottom of the mug.

Sigh.

I actually love finding treats at work - and really love giving them. In my family tradition (at least as I understand them), gift giving is about letting someone know "I understand you as a person and want you to be happy." I know other people don't ascribe to this philosophy of giving, and I feel bad for being ungrateful. But, I don't want a bunch of random crap that I cannot use. If you don't know me (and there is no reason to believe everyone in my office of 15 KNOWS me) then don't buy me personal items for my home. How about things like edible treats (candy, dried fruit) or a box of tea? Is it possible my Secret Santa is so oblivious that s/he doesn't notice I drink Starbucks, eat cookies, or like to pinch candy from others' candy bowls?

My personality is enormous, and I wonder if I am feeling affronted because people (or at least one person) isn't paying enough attention to me to notice these details.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Top 10 ways tater tots are NOT like french fries

I've been munching tater tots today as a mildly unhealthy reaction to way over the limit stress at work. My delight in these yummy potato treats has led me to create this list of the top ten ways Tater Tots are NOT like French Fries. Let's get started.

10. Professors and teachers alike are buoyed by the fact that there is very little confusion about the plural form of tater tots.
9. Tater tots don't make you feel greasy after you eat them.
8 You CAN eat tater tots for breakfast, in their delicious hash brown form.
7. Their handy cylindrical shape is easier to gobble than those dangerous french fry sticks.
6. Tater tots give off the impression of being healthy.
5. Tater tots can be classed up, with recipes like "Savory Tater Tot Casserole" roaming on the Internet.
4. It is almost impossible to lose a tater tot into the mouth of the ketchup bottle when dunking.
3. No chance of making a controversial political statement when eating tater tots.
2. You can microwave a frozen tater tot and its integrity is not compromised.

And the number one way tater tots are not like french fries....
1. Tater tots are neater to stack and count for those binge eaters with obsessive compulsive disorder.

*Special thanks go to BMG for his help with this list. All other contributions are welcome in the comment section.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I surrender!

I've decided to throw in the dishrag at BMG's little cottage. I will no longer be hand washing dishes there.

This is not a decision born out of the traditional female frustration that her "man" doesn't appreciate her, nor is it an act of defiance in reaction to a mounting pile of dishes that only I appear to wash.

In fact, this is a decision driven by the fact that BMG prefers that I NOT wash dishes by hand. Because, in fact, I stink at it. The poor guy. He is constantly fishing dishes out of the sink drainer only to have to resoak them and sanitize them in the dishwasher because I've left large hunks of food on them.

So, I'm embracing my incompetence, reducing my household work load, and hanging up my holster filled with Dawn today.

Crisis = opportunity

Everyone knows the old management adage that the Chinese character for crisis is the same as the character for opportunity.

My office is handling a crisis right now. I work for a public school system and one of our schools had a devastating fire two days ago, early on Sunday morning. As a member of the senior staff team, I have been pulled from all of my regular duties to assist with the response plan. And it is 100% overwhelming. I am managing the media and donations, working on community relations, and trying to reroute grant management at the school. This is all "non-essential" compared to the momentous task for finding new classrooms for these students and preparing said classrooms for teachers to teach and students to learn.

Through it all, I'm watching my boss as he rises to the leadership challenge, I'm watching the Principal of the school as she falters, and listening closely to the experts who are advising us on the next steps to take - at least with the public. Every chance I get I talk with students, to learn their reaction so that I might respond in customer-centered ways. And above all, I'm watching myself. How am I reacting to this crisis? Am I stressing out? Am I being strong yet kind? How do I make decisions?

I am preparing to start a lengthy process of readying myself professionally for the next step in my career. I'm not trained in education and don't have the desire to get the necessary academic credentials to move up in the hierarchy. My job is fascinating and is a dead end for me. So what's next? Private sector philanthropy? Think tank research and development? Higher education? A higher position within the government? Legislative advisor? I'm not sure yet, but I do know that I need to cultivate my projection of myself as a senior staff member, of someone who can take a crisis and make it an opportunity for growth and change.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Bowling alone

BMG and I were lying in bed this morning, talking about why my friends don't ever have parties. I started going through my list of friends and realize that many of them have circles of friends that I have been excluded from - either because they made these friends long before they knew me, or because their separate friends are married with kids and therefore I either don't fit in (I choose neither marriage nor kids) or the friends fear that I cannot relate. I also realize that a handful of my married gal pals use our friendship as an oasis from their suburban lifestyles. Boobra, for example, often wistfully talks about my crappy illegal basement apartment as if I lived in the Bachelorette Taj Mahal.

I then turned to BMG and said, "Your friends never have parties either!" "Yes they do, we just never go." As we went through HIS list of friends who have parties, we reflected on the fact that his family often has get-togethers that we DO attend. BMG lives 1/2 mile from his parents and maybe six miles from one of his brothers and his sister. "If we lived near my family we'd see them every weekend," I countered. Then I stopped. I would love to see my family every weekend. I would love to make cookies with my sisters, share coffee in the morning with my mother, and play Pet Shop Dolls and Playmobile with my nieces and nephew. But, I don't want to live in Syracuse, NY. I don't want to live in Syracuse because there is not enough to do there for me - this childless by choice, eclectic, and hard-to-pigeonhole adult woman. And, if there is not enough for me to do there, I'll get sucked into being a daughter, a sister, and an aunt all of the time. This I cannot do.

I think this is a classic dilemma of wanting what one knows is not good for them. BMG asked if I was sad about the bind I find myself in. "I'm both sad and happy," I replied. Continuing, "Sad because I love and miss my family. Happy because I'm making the choices that are right for me." "Oh, you are melanhappy" he said cleverly, before turning over and falling into lazy and self-satisfied sleep. "Yeah, melanhappy," I thought, feeling the word on my tongue and absorbing the feelings of wistful contentment. "Melanhappy."

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Kitten

I still don't have a kitten, but it is apparently on my mind. "Why?" you inquire with mild curiosity. We got new paper recycling bins in the office today. They are minis, about one-third the size of the standard curbside bin. My reaction? "Oh, this looks like the perfect size for a kitten bed!"

*****

It is fun to recycle at work. I submitted a proposal today and realized my footer had a slight error in it - not one that would make or break the proposal. Rather than tossing the 11 copies (66 pages) into the trash and starting over, I decided to let it go. I can feel myself gearing up for a little internal competition to reduce my paper waste at work. Not at home. But I'll tell you more about that AFTER Christmas.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Best in Food Writing 2007

I recently wrote an ode to my mother's turkey stuffing. I encourage you to read it, and to consider penning your own paean to the foods of the season at jeffcutler.com.
SPOILER ALERT! This post will reveal the truth - as far as I'm concerned - regarding the existence of Santa Claus.

*****

I started to realize that my mom and dad were actually Santa - in fact that Santa did not exist - when I was aged somewhere between four and six. I remember my brother, who I credit with teaching me to snoop, told me had to show me something in the basement. We silently, and without benefit of lights, walked into the dusty and dry cellar. We tip-toed into a corner veiled by shadows, far away from the washer and drier. Todd brought me to a generic and uninteresting white sheet, which he pulled back to reveal an enormous pile of brand new toys. We contemplated the shiny boxes and cellophane, pondering the mystery of all of these toys.

I don't remember saying a word to him then, or anytime afterwards.

What I DO remember is seeing my younger sisters each unwrap Holly Hobbie stuffed baby dolls that Christmas morning. And I remember those toys were labeled as gifts to the girls from Santa.

Sometime later, I remember a conversation that went something like this:
"But, mom, I saw those dolls in our basement?"
"Well, sometimes mommies and daddies store toys to help Santa and his elves out," she replied sensibly.
I didn't buy it. I didn't tell her I didn't buy it, but that was the beginning of the end of the Santa myth for me.

*****

It wasn't the end of Christmas being magical for me. I have vivid recollections of crying when I received a plush version of the Camel with the Wrinkly Knees - a character from the Raggedy Ann and Andy stories by Johnny Gruelle. I cried because I was so happy that someone knew me so well (in this case, my mother) to give me this gift - when I didn't even know that I wanted it. I also cried when I received a doll I named "Angel-y". (By the way, the name I gave the Camel? Camel-y.) Angel-y was a standard pillow-sized, two-dimensional stuffed angel. I cried that time because I had torn through my gifts that Christmas morning as if a tornado were coming to take them away. The Angel, wrapped unceremoniously in a white kitchen garbage bag, had been lost in the melee. When she was found, I was firmly convinced that I had no more presents and no one loved me. Unwrapping Angel provided me with such excitement and joy at a time when I was feeling an unreasonable loss.

*****

What does Christmas mean to me today? Exuberant joy and quiet peace. I find both energies in the lights that illuminate homes, businesses, and the overall landscape during this time of year.

*****

When do you remember realizing there was no Santa? What does the magic of Christmas mean to you? How has this evolved over time?

Are you like a caveman?

While tearing over to the Whole Foods at Alewife at 7:45 tonight - in pursuit of salad bar goodness after a 13-hour day at the office - I was yelled at by a Cambridge cop.

I was on a narrow, two-way street. There was an emergency vehicle blocking 1/2 the incoming lane. I was proceeding slowly in my lane, uncertain if the oncoming traffic was going to go around the ambulance and invade my lane. As I proceeded forward at around 20 miles an hour, I found myself face-to-face with a cop.

It was nearly 8:00 at night. The street was poorly lit. The cop was wearing a cop outfit - navy pants, navy jacket, and even a navy hat with ear flaps and a chin tie.

He screamed at me for "driving into oncoming traffic" while being directed by a cop to stop. I rolled down my window, apologized, and explained that I couldn't see him because it was dark, there were no lights, and he was dressed in navy blue. He continued to scream at me. I apologized again, feeling my heart rate rise and unpleasant and unwise retorts rising in my throat. Aware that I have (a) a broken headlight, (b) two unpaid parking tickets, and (c) a 2009 inspection sticker to put on my license plate, I wisely chose to quickly put my window up and drive away.

*****

What is it about authority figures who yell at us that causes the physiological response characterized by increase heart rate and blood flow - particularly to the extremities? I know this is the "fight or flight" response. Why does it happen?

Researchers at Ohio State University have conducted studies to examine if the fight or flight response was different for anger versus fear. It wasn't in their sample size of ten (10). In fact, it affirmed the symptoms of flight or flight for both situations. I'm intrigued particularly by the increase of blood flow to the limbs. Have you ever felt like you wanted to pound your fists, or run away? Is this because of the increased blood flow to the hands? The legs? Is that the reason for the response?

One online writer trying to explain this reaction writes that "fight or flight" is not rational, but rather hard-wired and primal. Wanting to punch a police officer for yelling at you when in fact he was directing traffic in the dark is not rational. But, should someone find themselves in that type of situation (hypothetically speaking), s/he may want to in fact punch that police officer. There are times when the punching instinct is useful (e.g. defending oneself against an attacker), and others when it is not useful (e.g. punching a police officer who is a poorly lit meglomaniac).

The next time I feel that tingling in my legs or hands or mouth in response to anger or fear, I'll consider what my Neanderthal ancestors are trying to express in me. And then I'll consider what is needed for my own survival in that situation. Shall I take a caveman course of action or the rational/enlightened 21st Century course?

******

Oh! I'm considering writing a letter to the Cambridge Police Department suggesting reflective gear for officers directing traffic at night on poorly lit streets. This would allow me, in this case, to respond in a righteous and smarty-pants kind of way. This is one of my favorite options when I'm consciously choosing not to punch or curse at cops.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Bad book

I can count on one hand the number of novels I have started and chosen not to complete. There is a new one to add to the list, The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta. I've been listening to it on my iPod, a free download from Audible.com. It is being read by Campbell Scott. I cannot tell if the book is poorly written or poorly read. This is what I do know. The lead male character, a drug addict/rocker turned evangelical Christian has no clarity of conviction, and his ambivalence about his religiosity is not remotely convincing. The dialogue between characters is filled with liberal preachiness and insincere stereotypes. And it reads as if Perrotta's editor told him to fill the book with pop culture references that will play well in a screenplay; on the "printed page" (or orally presented "page") they are fatuous. Finally, Perrotta goes off on tangents that seem to have no relationship to the development of the plot or the characters.

I'm already in the third part of the book, and desperately want to be surprised by it. But, I don't think I have the patience to listen any longer so that I might learn if (a) the characters gain more depth, or (b) the plot turn is as unexpected as I hope or as predictable as I fear. Perhaps if I were reading this, rather than listening to it, I could skip the stupid parts and just skim to get the gist of the story? Or maybe the story is really what I think it is - a thinly veiled, one-dimensional diatribe about abstinence education, when in fact it could be a much more interesting and complicated book about authority, ambivalence, attraction, and redemption?

Anyone else read this book, who can convince me Perrotta was not phoning it in on this one?

******

On an unrelated note of irritation, the Starbucks in Nashua, NH might quite possibly be one of the worst I've been to.

******

Hey! This was my 100th episode of "The Collected Works of Clownface"! Woohoo! I'm a centennial blogger!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Junk Mail

I told BMG, who is mildly obsessed with checking the mail at his post office box, that I check my mail only once every three or four days. "I know," he replied righteously. "How can you tell?" I said querulously. "Your box is always full of mail" said he.

Well, he is right. I love getting mail, and I hate retrieving my mail. It is an exercise in disappointment. There is rarely anything interesting in the mail. I even find bills interesting at this stage in the game, because they compel some sort of investigation and action on my part. But, by and large the mail is junk. I wish I could realize Kramer's fantasy on Episode Five of the final season of Seinfeld, when he decides to cancel his mail delivery indefinitely.

I wonder what would happen if I put a hold on my mail every week, only to release it once a week? You can put a hold on your mail via USPS.com (which is ANOTHER blog entry - why is a government agency a dot.com and NOT a dot gov?) the web. I just put a hold on my mail for my trip to Florida next week. I think I may experiment with hold and unhold and hold and unhold.

I'll keep you posted on what happens.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Solution

With the help of the lovely Dr. Torre Morgan and Mount Auburn Physicians' Associates, my belly issues have been diagnosed and I'm on my way to feeling better most of the time. I'm not allergic to anything. So, all of you out there who have worried about me starving for lack of dairy or gluten, set your worries aside! I'm going to live! Shall we plan to go out at the Cheesy House of Gluten to celebrate?

Send Bread

Not money, but Pig Bread. I am so happy to report that "When Pigs Fly" is opening a bakery in Somerville, right next door to the overrated (sorry) Kickass Cupcakes in Davis Square.

Whenever I have occasion to head up the Seacoast into NH or ME, I try to swing by the Company Store on Route 1 in Kittery. I have a loaf of sweet apple cinnamon bread in my refrigerator. BMG has a loaf of lemonade blueberry/raspberry bread. Yup, you heard that right. Instead of putting water in with the bread, they put in lemonade. And it is delicious! Mom was visiting over the weekend. She bought two loaves and took them home on Greyhound to freeze and use later for Thanksgiving dinner.

So. If you are in Kittery, go to "When Pigs Fly." If you are in Davis Square on or after December 1, go to "When Pigs Fly" on Highland Avenue.

Yum.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Yellow Brands








I needed to have some preventive maintenance done on my car today, so I took it to one of two national chains in the neighborhood near my office. I went in and boldly asked for the 45-point inspection currently being advertised on television for $29.95. The service rep behind the counter looked at my blankly and said, "I don't know what you are talking about, but we don't offer that." It was 7:15 AM. I looked at him quizzically, and then said, "Darn it! It is the OTHER national auto chain with a yellow sign!" And then I realized, there are three national auto repair chains with logos that are dominated by the color yellow.

What's up with that?

(Work on the car cost $187. I'm hoping it will prevent something that costs $1,870 down the line.)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Down with Freecycle

I've been working on an editorial or letter to the editor or something where I can hop up on a little soap box and rant about Freecycle.

Don't know Freecycle? Go to Yahoogroups and search for "Freecycle insert your town's name here." Chances are there is one in your part of Boston/Massachusetts/New England/America/The World. It is an email exchange group that operates on the principle that "one's man trash is another man's treasure." People subscribe to the group and then get access to a treasure trove of used crap other people are trying to get rid of. For example, say my Aunt Esther is cleaning her closet and realizes she has a half-dozen partially used bottles of lotion samples she picked up at a hotel when she was traveling across Europe by train in 1963. She now has chemical sensitivities and can't use them. So, she sends an email with the "Subject line: OFFER: 1/2 used trial size lotion bottle from Holiday Inns across Europe." Inevitably, someone then sends HER and email message saying, "I have been looking to try lotion from the Holiday Inns across Europe. My fiancee and I will use these to help us decide where to go for our honeymoon. Are they still available?"

(Editorial interjection: This is what makes Freecycle great. Crap I don't want or cannot use doesn't clutter up my closet, nor does it take up space in a landfill. And, you get to find ways to use your stuff that never would have occurred to you. Lotion testing as a way of making vacation decisions?)

The Bride-to-Be has piqued Aunt Esther's interest and she sends an email back saying something like, "The lotion samples are yours. I love knowing someone else can put them to good use." Aunt Esther then proceeds to make pick-up or drop-off arrangements with the person who wants the lotions.

Okay, this is where the system collapses. There are a lot of really stupid or over committed, or indecisive, or timid, or geographically challenged people in the world. I would need more than two hands to count the number of times I've had a Freecycler agree to pick something up at my house, and then find that, a week later, they still haven't picked the thing up. I'll get emails from people saying things like, "I was at your house and didn't see (insert name of unwanted object here) anywhere." I'll go out to the designated pick-up point in my back hall, where the Freecycle item still sits in the same spot where I left it, usually labeled with the person's name or email moniker. I give pretty explicit directions, and instructions on where to find whatever goodie they are picking up - "Come into the back hall located on the (blank) side entrance to the house. The (insert name of unwanted object here) is in a blue bag with your name on it." So, I'll then send a slightly patronizing note back that reads, "Hmmm. Not sure what to say. The bag is still in the hall and still with your name on it. Sorry you wasted your time. I'll put the item in my garage sale pile. Good luck next time." Sometimes I'll get an email back that says, "Oh. I didn't open the door." Or, "Oh, you live in Somerville? I went to the address you gave me in Marshfield. I'll be by later today."

But usually I get silence.

Which is fine with me. I'd rather sell my crap for money than give it away to idiots who haven't figured out the joys of using a map or reading directions carefully, or opening up a door.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Gluteous maximus

So, I have on-going belly issues. I won't describe them in any detail - suffice to say I'm uncomfortable a great deal of the time.

I've been to the doctor twice, and have another appointment with a specialist in about two weeks. We've ruled out lactose intolerance, giardia and other belly bacteria of the particularly nasty sort. BMG wonders if it is a gluten allergy - too much gluten = sore belly.

I hope that isn't it (and the evidence doesn't point to this). Do you have any idea how many products have gluten in them? In my fridge alone there is a frozen burrito and frozen waffles, half a loaf of bed and tortillas. If I threw these things away (or gave them to neighbors with fewer belly problems), I'd be left with applesauce, yogurt and fat-free 1/2 & 1/2.

I'm afraid I'll starve!

Secret

(I'm secretly rooting for the Colorado Rockies to win the World Series. I remember what it felt like to win in Boston in 2004. I want the people of Denver and Colorado to have that same feeling.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fridgewatcher

I do believe that my 15 minutes of fame, my vicarious 15 minutes of fame, has begun. BMG and I spent Friday night sitting across from one another in his bungalow, trolling fascinating websites like Found, and Post Secret. In a fit of artistic inspiration, we submitted photos of his refrigerator for Fridgewatcher.com.

And they are now up on the web! BMG's fridge is the featured icebox on Fridgewatcher.com!

PS: Coop, I know you are going to LOVE this site.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dream #8

I was with a friend at an amusement park - it might have been my high school friend Cindy Scott. Not sure it matters.

Anyhow, we espied the bumper cars, and entered the pavilion to ride. Before we were allowed on the ride, we needed to pass through all of these psychological games moderated by an earth mother type. She wanted us to realize that bumper cars were only a game, and to test us to be sure we were sure we knew what we were getting into, etc.

While I don't remember all of the hoops we had to jump through to get to the ride, what I do remember is the mounting feeling of frustration as new hurdles were presented each time I thought I'd be able to get into the bumper cars. At one point in time, the emcee for this bumper car run-around asked the group if there was anything we wanted to ask. I raised my hand and, when called on said, "When will we ride the bumper cars?" I don't remember her frustration, DO remember feeling pleased with myself, and have no recollection of actually riding the cars in my dream.

*****

BMG and I hosted our SausageFest 2007 today, so no time for dream interpretation. Clearly about meeting frustration en route to pleasure.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ugh

I was just reading a story on the Newsweek website, comparing the Iraq war to the movie Deliverance. (Thank you Mr. Moose Wash, for passing it along.)

As I fiddled with the type size on the website, I noticed a gross ad for Triactive acne solution. In it was a giant picture of a chin with two inflamed pimples on it.

This ad did not inspire me to consider my own potentially pathological acne problem. Nor did it do Newsweek any favors. I immediately shut down the screen tab because I was so grossed out.

Bad decision-making to both the makers of Triactive (whoever they are) and the apparently desperate marketing people at Newsweek.com.

Dream 7

I had two doomsday dreams last night. The one I remember involved being at Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots play. I was there with the President of the U.S., only it wasn't the current U.S. President. It was a kindly man in a motorized wheelchair. While we were watching the game, I noticed enemy aircraft circling overhead. It was ominous and I started to feel nervous. I mentioned this to the President, out of concern, and he said not to worry.

At some point we left the Stadium, because we were bored. We took a walk in the opposite direction from our parking spot. I felt uncertain of this because I was still nervous about the enemy aircraft. The president was rolling along on the sidewalk, and the sky was becoming increasingly thick with black airplanes of all shapes and sizes. I started feeling anxious and scared. The President remained non-plussed.

The sidewalk ended at a physician's office, and we went in. We made it all the way to the end of the offices and exam rooms, and there was no place else to go. So we turned around and proceeded to head back the way we came - first through the building and then out the street. The street looked more unkempt than it was when we first entered the medical office building, with frost heaves and strong weeds that made it seem dangerous to a wheelchair. As I stepped outside, I looked up and realized that the atmosphere was completely obstructed by the dark airplanes.

At that point, my nervousness reached its apex. I don't think I realized it at the time, but writing now I realized that I felt like I couldn't protect the President any longer, and he seemed to not care. So I pulled out my cell phone to call 911 so I could ask the police to come get us.

I don't remember the other dream. It involved trying to rescue a woman in Pakistan who was seriously injured in a war. Hmmmm.

****

BMG had no interpretation for this one.

Overload

I've often joked about needing to join L&OA - Law and Order Anonymous - for my obsessive and repetitious watching of reruns on USA and TNT. I just googled L&O Anonymous. One meeting referenced - not sure if it is a joke or not. No other references to meetings.

I told BMG last night that I was afraid I was becoming an alcoholic. He reminded me that alcoholics don't know when to stop.

I don't think I'm addicted to L&O. Why? I'm becoming bored with it. I've seen all the SVUs, and it is on ALL the time, and Sam Waterston has become whiny, and I think Vincent D'Onfrio is a weirdo. The writing on CI is a little exaggerated, as if they are writing for a stupid audience, and the acting is often too hammy for me.

I've turned my obsessive attentions to CSI, which aired its pilot episode in 2000. I now have six years of episodes to catch up on. I like CSI, CSI NY. CSI Miami has the same problems as L&O CI - too hammy. No one should ever hire David Caruso ever. He is a bad bad bad actor.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sweetest Day

I just received an email from the team at Edible Arrangements, exhorting me to buy chocolate dipped fruit for Sweetest Day. "Sweetest Day? What IS that exactly?" I wondered. So, I turned to our friends at Google who immediately took me to our friends at Wikipedia, and found out it is essentially a celebration of candy. Seriously. A celebration of candy. And, it is taking place on Saturday, October 20th.

What candy would you celebrate?

I think I will celebrate the Reggie Bar, which was essentially a giant turtle made with peanuts - peanuts, caramel and chocolate. Yum! I learned the candy bar was retired when Reggie Jackson (the namesake) was retired, and then reintroduced when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Reintroduced briefly I'd say. I miss that candy bar.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Saving the environment, one blog at a time

Today is National Blog Action Day in support of the environment. Special thanks to Jeff Cutler for letting his readership know about this national, blog-a-licious holiday.

I will make a contribution to saving the environment by walking to Starbucks to get a paper cup laden with a delicious venti decaf non-fat no whip mocha, rather than driving there.

No need to stand up to thank me. Just do your part on this auspicious day by contributing to a groovy environmental charity, like Trustees of the Reservation or Groundwork Somerville.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Toothbrushes!

Breast cancer toothbrushes. Fabulous!

Dream #6

I dreamt that I was part of the security detail for my childhood best friend, now grown up (Cindy Scott). We were in a high rise hotel and heard there was going to be a gangland-style attack on her. As the security team was organizing to protect her, I realized that both of my guns were unarmed. Someone handed me a bottle of hairspray to use as a fake weapon. This led to a crisis of confidence - do I use the hairspray, knowing I was 100% vulnerable, or do I skip my role in the security detail in order to save my life? I didn't resolve it in the dream.

*****

BMG says the dream represents the dilemma I feel over having to be good all the time, to the detriment of myself.

Monkey?

Jacked up on coffee on Friday, I was startled almost off the road when I noticed a baboon standing in a neighbor's front yard. As I whizzed by, I took a second look. Not a baboon. A fake scarecrow. D'oh!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Dream #5

I dreamt last night I was eating animal crackers. There was an enormous amount of activity swirling around me, and the dominant part of the dream was my methodical amputation of each animal cracker. I would then use my teeth to gently pry the cookie animal in half laterally, slicing with my front teeth at the vulnerable part where the legs were once attached. Once the cookie was halved, I would then let each side disintegrate into my mouth.

****

I think the dream was about my little self being soothed in the midst of the wackiness of my adult life. (I used food when I was a kid to comfort myself.) Not sure why I needed soothing, but the dream was a little insight into one reason for eating when I am not hungry.

Cybershot

Before I owned my Sony Cybershot camera, I had a Kodak Disk camera. I got it for my 15th or 16th birthday, and owned it through college. I have no idea what happened to the camera, but I was wondering if it would still be possible to get Disk film. I checked on eBay tonight - nothing. A google search also turned up nada. I did find an article that indicated Kodak stopped making the film in 1998.

I wish I still had that camera. I bet it would be worth something. Oh, no, wait a minute! I saw the camera on eBay, selling for around $3.99. Oy, for whom is that worth it - to either sell or buy?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Creativity boosts

Writer Jeff Cutler continues to post creativity exercises on his website. Good writing takes time and discipline. The exercises created by Jeff Cutler provide a quick (under a hour) exercise to get your creative juices flowing - whether you are a writer, a painter, a sculptor, a story teller or movie maker. I recommend them. And I write on the site, so if you visit, you get more of me me me.

And who doesn't want that?

What goes around, comes around

I excitedly knocked off one of the items in the "Things I MUST do" list kept here in this blog. I finally sorted and filed more than 12 months of bills, mementos, photos and correspondence. The mound of paper, once tossed in a decorative basket hung on the wall, had long ago collapsed onto the floor, leaving a small gash in the wall where the tack that served as its anchor groaned its way to the ground.

In the process, I cleared out my filing cabinet. I tossed the cell phone bills from a service I cancelled more than one year ago, shredded the electricity bills in my ex-boyfriend's name from the first of two apartments we shared, and threw away the quarterly prospectuses (prospecti?) from my two teeny tiny mutual funds.

It is so satisfying to me, to complete a project that has been on my "to do" list for more than six months.

Like the item, "Take plastic off windows." The Collected Works of Clownface, launched in February 2007, has had this on the "Things I MUST Do" list from the beginning. I live in an enormously drafty basement apartment with poorly sealed casement windows. The quality of the air is questionable, and the heating situation is sketchy. Plastic on the windows in the New England winter is essential. And I hate the way it looks, like I'm living in a jet stream trailer in post-Katrina Alabama.

So, in the glow of my having completed the "Clear pile of paper off floor" item, I looked ambitiously at "Take plastic off windows." And I realized it is nearly October. Fall starts in one day. I no longer need to take the plastic off, but instead need to check the plastic to make sure the seals are tight, and I'll be safe and cozy through Fall, Winter, and early Spring.

I'll try again next year.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fascination Street

I cannot explain it, but I am fascinated with the history of the Mormon Church. Er, what I mean is the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints. Sorry. Some people are obsessed with the Manson family (and who can blame them). Others with Elvis or Paris Hilton or Stephen Hawking. You know what your dirty and guilty pleasures are.

Mine is Mormonism. Maybe it is because I once lived with someone who started his own religion. Or maybe it is a Central New York thing (you know this is where Mormonism was founded)?

Regardless of the reason, I'm now riveted by the trial of fundamentalist Warren Jeffs for child rape. What will happen? Will the jury find him guilty? Will the polygamist movement go underground? How will it affect Mitt's run for the Presidency (Why is NO ONE talking about the fact that this candidate is an elder in a group of crazy people!!!!)? Who will play Jeff's in the Made For TV Movie? And is it in production yet? I know that when it DOES come out, I'll watch it with gross fascination. Until then, I need to settle for stories in The Boston Globe that I read online at home, while sitting in my bathrobe, without even one husband to share my outrage with. Sigh.

Falling in love

I heard last night, an anti-war activist complaining about Americans who "love their cars." This statement, which gets tossed around for all manner of environmental causes, is not true for me. I don't love my car. It is a metal and plastic box, filled with the inevitable scratches that come from urban living. It has coffee and breakfast crumbs glued to the inside, and it costs money to make it work. What is there to love? It is just a thing.

What I DO love, however, is the freedom my car represents. When I am driving, I have control over my life. I can come and go when I please, I can take a detour whenever I want, and I can go as far as I want to go.

I used to live in a hippie cooperative house, a commune to the untrained eye, where we ate flax seeds and sang Kumbaya with a group of friends after potluck supper every two weeks. We composted, grew our own vegetables, and tried to re-use as much grey water as possible. I've lived in the urban simplicity movement. It is ingrained in a a part of me.

One of the things I struggled with in the voluntary simplicity lifestyle is the interdependence on steroids aspect of it. When I lived in the commune, no decision could be made without calling a house meeting. When I lived simply with just one other person, the guilt associated tossing one bottle in the trash, rather than rinsing it and putting it in the recycling, could be gut wrenching. Mindlessness is not tolerated when one is living with intention.

Living one's values is hard work. So what did I do? I re-examined my values. And I realized that freedom is more important to me than almost any other value. And then I bought a car. And I love it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

I'm a star!

I've started co-hosting a TV program on local cable access television. NOT because I'm a free airwaves kind of freak, but because I have to for my job. My boss and I cohost a talk show about public education in our little town - kind of like "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee" for the municipal junkie set.

This is what I've learned so far, in my short TV production career.
1. People actually watch cable access television. I've had probably a dozen colleagues make amused references to my being a "tv star" and wanting to TiVo my next episode. Not just the municipal junkies, but real people - ranging in age from under 30 to over 70.
2. TV shows can be enormously complicated to arrange. I have 14 guests coming on to this little 1 hour program. I'm so stressed out about timing, that I asked an admin if she could play Stage Manager for us.
3. It is hard to watch myself on TV. BMG and I were channel surfing the other night. He heard my laugh come through the speakers and wanted to hold it on the local Education Channel. I said "No." Because I think I look fat and ugly and need a real hairstyle.
4. The sphere of influence in people's lives can be really narrow - so narrow that they take cable access as seriously as if they are appearing on CNN or The Today Show. I've had potential interviewees say no, because they are too anxious about it. Other interviewees have called repeatedly asking for help preparing what to say, what to wear, how to act naturally.

I'm going to learn how to ask for help, how to handle my event manager stress, how to interview people, and how to web stream video on my blog, so you can all watch the show.

Won't that be fun?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Microwave popcorn

I incinerated a bag of microwave popcorn in the office kitchen so intensely that they had the throw the microwave away. It was irreparably damaged. That's good work.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Jeff Cutler's writing assignments

Freelance writer, Jeff Cutler, has started promoting his business with a series of creative and provocative writing assignments on his website that are reminiscent of the type of writing exercise one might find in a creativity self-help book. This is my response to his latest assignment.

"You are such an oaf. Why are you using ME to shovel these elegant, chick pea-stuffed ravioli into your mouth? You, who professes to want an elegant life? You who craves a graceful, lush life? I suppose I should have known the minute you poured this pasta into a cereal bowl - a cereal bowl - that there was no savoring to be had with this meal. You even went to the trouble of stopping at the nearby gourmet market to buy fresh and locally grown zucchini and a nice goat cheese. What is wrong with you?

Sigh. What is my function tonight? To make sure you don’t injure your gums by accidentally stabbing them with the tine of a fork as you gobble this lovely meal, and to prevent you from spilling goat cheese/caper/tomato down the front of your fitted, Ann Taylor t-shirt so you don’t embarrass yourself later when you have to give an impromptu speech at a televised School Committee. Let the record show that I’m embarrassed for you because of your eating habits. And, I’m proud enough of my role in the silverware drawer to not let you down."

Congratulations are in order

Shout outs to the following people for achieving important milestones for those of us human types living in modern Western civilization. In no particular order:
*Coop and Rob on their engagement
*Heather and David on their close to completion pregnancy
*Ben and kloalljidskatiespooaslma on their engagement
*Sitboaf for reasons I'm not supposed to know ANYTHING about.
I'm looking forward to sharing shout outs to those of you trying to get pregnant, trying to sell your homes, hoping to win a free scooter, and working towards new careers.

Victory!

Hooray! I did it! With almost no training, I biked 102.6 miles in just under 8 hours this weekend (that's an average of a 13.25 miles per hour). I accomplished this century ride , along with 1,999 other riders supported by the Narrangansett Bay Wheelmen on Sunday, September 9th.

I woke up at 4:30 AM on Sunday, expecting to leave BMG's 984 square foot slice of paradise by 5:00 AM, so I'd be at the starting point by 6:30 AM. I was expecting the worst - a 10 hour sojourn on my bike. (How long was my longest training ride you ask? 47 short short miles. Boy was I unprepared for this!) Imagine my disappointment when I noticed bright flashes of lightning in the sky, hardy rolls of thunder, and the sprinkle of warm summer rain moistening the deck. I love to bike, and I am a fair weather biker. The forecast did not predict rain in coastal Southeastern Massachusetts, and I decide to wait out the rain a little bit.

At 5:52 AM, I decided to hit the road, the rain had only gotten more persistent. But, I didn't want to doubly disappoint myself by (a) training poorly, and (b) punking out. So, I folded my bike into my car and hit the road. Worst case scenario? I'd have a groggy drive to UMass Dartmouth, and I'd merely turn around and play video games at BMG's all day.

The weather did clear up just south of Brockton, and my spirits were buoyed as I whizzed past each on ramp to the highway, which dropped increasing numbers of cars stuffed with bikes and spandex-clad people onto my southerly route. After my nervous check-in, I hit the road through flat farm land along the Massachusetts/Rhode Island border.

Biking for me is a solitary sport. I get into a space where I am thinking about nothing but my legs spinning. I watch and listen to the scenery. I saw cows (dairy and beef), sheep, goats, horses, and myriad egrets, cranes and herons. One of the first birds I saw was an ominous hawk slowly circling overhead right after the start of the ride. "Waiting for the first biker to fall?" I wondered as I reverently biked out of the raptor's field of vision.

I was reminded that biking is a team sport by the well-organized pace lines that whizzed by me early in the ride. They apparently assign one person to scream the contents of road signs out for the entire team. I got one scary earful by a petite, middle-aged woman yelling "TRACKS" as we bumped over a railroad crossing. So loud was she that I jumped and yelled "Jeez! I can read the sign too." At which point she apologized, and I later gave her annoyed looks when I espied her at rest areas. "Who is biking at 20-25 miles per hour and needs someone to read street signs to them?" I wondered to myself. These same pace lines also use simple hand signals to point out road hazards. The same query applies. "If I am paying enough attention to watch your hand signals, I'd rather just pay attention to the road." Who needs the screaming middle man?

I had a couple of minor mishaps. One flat tire (predicted by the brilliant and helpful BMG), which was changed with the assistance of Eric and Val from just outside of Providence. Volunteer mechanics from East Providence Cycle gave mechanical support during the ride, and fixed a loose rear derailleur (the mechanism that controls the gear shifting). This helped me smoothly glide into the easy gears as I became progressively more tired along the way.

I talked myself encouragingly through the last 30 miles. "You can bike another 5 miles, come on CF!" and later "You can bike 1 more mile, come on CF!" When I realized I was going to make it, I started to cry. And I was a little worried. Because I did it without training. I struggle so much with my motivation to reach physical goals. Finishing this 102 ride represented the achievement of a goal I had set for myself, and it also represented achievement without much work (except on the day of said goal accomplishment). I lamented this fact to BMG later, as he kindly fed me candy bars and murmured words of congratulations to me in my tired haze. His wise response? "If you trained, you would not be as tired. If you trained, you would have been able to keep up with the pace lines (if I wanted to, which I don't). If you trained, you'd feel even better about what you did today." He's right, and I feel great.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Take that, skinny people!


"For all those people out in Somerville complaining against fat people, you are just jealous. Fat people are hard to kidnap."

*****
(Read in my local paper today, The Somerville Journal, in a section dedicated to transcribing the voice mail rants of local residents.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Department of Mysteries Part 1

As I drove down Route 2 from Arlington to Cambridge tonight, en route back to Somerville from Trader Joe's, I was met with the sight of a small group of people standing on an overpass, holding unreadable poster board signs and waving rainbow flags. I sped by at 60 miles per hour and wondered to myself, "What kind of statement was THAT?"

Who decides to call up a group of friends, or maybe use a service like Meetup, to encourage a group of people to gather on a bridge to hold homemade signs and wave at cars? And who is sitting at home when they get that call and says, "Yeah. That sounds like a good idea. I just happen to have some poster board here. I'll be right over."

What change were they trying to encourage? What solidarity were they trying to build? What point were they trying to make? I just don't understand.

*****

This brings me to another uniquely Massachusetts (New England maybe?) gig that I have never understood. People standing in groups on street corners and outside of subway stops holding signs for their candidates. How is this supposed to make me want to vote for anyone? Maybe it is supposed to inspire the following inner dialogue: "Oh, that candidate has a really attractive man holding a sign. He must be the candidate for beautiful people. I'm a beautiful person, so I'll vote for him!"

When I first moved to Boston, I actually did this for a Latina who was running for Mayor back in 1993. I thought it would be a good way to meet like-minded people. It was the dumbest, most isolating thing I've ever done. After calling the campaign office to volunteer, I was invited to join a group of people on a street corner somewhere in Boston (I don't remember where). When I arrived, I was given a sign to hold. That's it. No introductions to the people, no instructions on what to do or not to when interacting with drivers and passers-by, nothing. And then I stood there. Shy. Not talking to anyone. The other groupies who were also there largely talked to the other people they knew. And no one talked to the people on the street who we were allegedly trying to reach with our "Vote for Rosaria" message.

I have a friend whose husband is running for City Council in Cambridge. I think I'll ask her for her opinion on this curious practice.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Overheard

Two adolescent boys sitting in the stands at the Pawtucket Red Sox game last Tuesday. I sure wish I had heard the preamble that led to this:

"So, you said you've been getting panic attacks? What is that like? Is it, like, right before you go to sleep?"

"Nah, it happens right before I have to go to (football) practice. I can't explain, it is too complicated."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Time

Is there anyone out there in the Blogosphere who is selfish in her/his use of time? Is there anyone out there who can teach me to put ME first - more consistently than I do? Please? I don't even begin to understand how or why dropping my car to get fixed this morning is stressing me out so much.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Anti-Anti Defamation League

The Boston Globe is reporting today on a controversy involving the well-respected Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Apparently, the Armenian community in the United States is angry that the ADL refuses to acknowledge mass killings near the turn of the last century as a genocide. As reported in the paper, ADL Executive Director, when asked if the killings were genocide, replied "I don't know."

I actually respect that response. This is a highly charged geopolitical topic. And I get the argument that vacillating does enormous harm. I understand what is happening in Darfur is terrible and horrifying. BUT, this issue is about a horrible thing that happened almost 100 years ago. It isn't happening right now. Armenian lives aren't at risk while leaders have intellectual and cowardly debates about the definition of genocide. And I think it is unreasonable for the Armenian community to organize against the ADL's meaningful No Place for Hate program because of the organization's ambivalence. Calling a "I don't know" response "Genocide denial" puts the issue in a black/white realm, when it really is shades of gray.

Who defines what a genocide is? Every one of the entries at Dictionary.com call it "The systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political, or ethnic group." But, what makes something an "official" genocide worthy of coordinated intervention? And, what are the sociopolitical and economic implications of calling something merely "mass killings" when someone else wants to call it "genocide?" What about the sociopolitical and economic implications of the "mass killing" versus "genocide" discussion on something that happened over a 15-year period almost 100 years ago? This is the nuanced conversation I'd like to see reported.

Want to read the story yourself? Visit this link.

Huckleberry

Huckleberry is the name of my cat. Shelley is the name of my turtle. And Gobbler is the name of my dog, an adorable black pug.

Okay. I don't have a cat. Or a turtle. Or an adorable black pug.

But I DO love picking out pet names. This hasn't always been the case. I got ownership of my first cat when I was around 4 years old. Handicapped by the pressure to pick the "right" name, the cat became affectionately known as "Blankety-Blank." My next cat, a white bruiser, was named "Coconut." Cute, right? I was probably around 7. (I got a new cat after I discovered Blankety-Blank's rotting carcass in the bushes at the home of one of our neighbors; he had clearly been hit by a car, or maybe mauled by Sasquatch.)

I think the seeds of my affection for clever and ironic pet names can be traced to my dad. While my people were primarily cat people (with a rotating cast of hamsters, guinea pigs and bunnies), my dad once brought home a three-legged dog he found by the side of the road. We called it "Tripod." A dog we got while on a camping vacation was named "Wimpy" because it cried whenever I locked it inside the family tent. And, my childhood best friend's brother's friend once had a dog named "Deeohgee" (say it aloud -- you'll get it.)

BMG and I are getting a kitten, and he will be named "Huckleberry." I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

KFC

My sister, E, and I spent a summer working at a YMCA camp in Penn Yan, NY. On a night off, we drove to an area summer concert venue for a Peter, Paul and Mary concert. We had lawn seats, and picked up KFC for our dinner picnic. (This was no Tanglewood!) When we settled into our lawn seats, we realized we had not been given plastic sporks* with which to eat our mashed potatoes and cole slaw.

Hmmm. What to do?

We ate the mashed potatoes using drumstick bones as utensils.

Classy.

*For a brief history on sporks, which BMG claims were invented by KFC (not true, although they did popularize them), visit this link.

A love note

My darling blog,

We have been apart for nearly three weeks now and I miss you desperately. Since we've been apart I have struggled to stay grounded. Our relationship helps me remember who I am and what is important to me. You encourage me to stop and breathe. When we are together, I stop to consider what has happened to me during the day, and to set goals and intentions for the type of life, day, hour I want to have. When I rant about the news, I get in touch with feelings I normally consider taboo. Remember when I expressed my sadness about my niece's cerebral palsy? Being able to say I'm angry or sad helps me be a whole person.

Clearly the time between us reveals that I am not dependent on you, Dear Blog. But I miss you. I want you to be more a part of me and my routine. I pledge my connection with you will be stronger. I hope you will be patient with me as a I work through the issues that have created this distance, so we can be together forever.

Love,
Clownface

Saturday, July 28, 2007

They call this art?

I call it goofing around. By Picasso, I grant you, but goofing around nevertheless. The Picasso Museum in Paris received its collection in lieu of estate taxes. I think Picasso got one over on the Republic. While there are some very beautiful pieces of art in the museum, which is housed in one of the grander mansions in Arrondissemont 4 in Paris. How so? By giving them a lot of his studies and experiments in form and composition, rather than final pieces. Please don't get me wrong - I think it is all fascinating. But, the studies are interesting not as art per se, but as windows into the evolution of master works. And, I wish the interpretive material (which, at the Picasso Museum, was in English) called this what it is - formative work rather than summative.

C'est la vie!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Banania


Product names here in Paris are a stitch. BMG and I have discovered cheap crackers called "Snacky," and ready to eat pudding called "Flanby." Oh, and who could forget the chocolate/banana breakfast cereal called Banania with the picture of Little Black Sambo on the box. ("Is this legal? Is this legal?" I cried to BMG as I chased him around the supermarche tonight.)

We head to Brussels tomorrow. I'll investigate the grocery stores there to learn if they are similarly laugh inducing.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sky diving!


While wandering between the New Hampshire and Massachusetts border, en route to a wedding last weekend, BMG and I found a sky diving center. We saw the prop plane take off, and were just about ready to leave because we both got bored waiting for the jumpers to emerge from the sky, when the jumpers emerged from the sky. They first looked like two or three large birds, and as their colorful parachutes slowly opened up and the sky became filled with 20 or so floating rainbows zipping and twirling their way to the ground, they looked thrilling and beautiful. It made me want to sky dive. And it made me glad that we had extra time on our hands to take a few moments to watch, and wait and be amazed.

(By the way, the Grandview Flea Market in Derry may be the worst flea market ever. UNLESS you are in the market for a faux designer handbag. Then it is the best.)

Breast cancer paraphenalia

License plates too. Oy!

Thwarted!


I was 38 miles into my 46 mile bike ride today, feeling exhausted and jubilant that I was going to meet my goal of cycling 45 miles before heading to France. I had increased my average speed per hour, and was in the home stretch. Then. POP! My rear wheel had a blow out. Luckily, I had just picked up a new tube at REI, along with a new tire pump. With a little phone coaching from BMG, I started to change the tire. I took the new tube out of my Camelbak. And I realized it was a Schrader valve, not a Presta valve. It was useless to me.

Now, I'm stranded in Middleton, about 7 miles from my car. Ergh. Second bout of luckiness ensued. I had my travel club card with me. And, I pay an extra $10/month for bike roadside assistance. So, I called. (The company, by the way, is Better World Travel and they ROCK!) And, they arranged for a tow. Of me and my bike.

When Doug and his girlfriend, Dina, found me they started laughing their butts off. They were expecting a motorcycle, not a pedal bike. Doug must have called every one of his friends to tell them what he was doing. He kept saying "A pedal bike. I've never heard of anyone towing a pedal bike." As we drove through the suburbs I regaled Doug and Dina with stories about my having been caught in a bike sting operation set up to keep bicyclists from blowing through red lights in Cambridge, and my experience having my bike towed for being parked illegally. Yes, I had to go to a bike tow lot and pay a fine before my bike was released to me. (Who knew Cambridge had a 24-hour bike parking rule?) They giggled and shook their heads.

When I got back to my car, conveniently parked at REI, I returned $25 worth of bike equipment in a self-satisfied snit. Grabbed an Iced Venti Decaf Nonfat Vanilla Latte at the closest Starbucks, and made it home.

Phew.

I still haven't biked 45 miles. But I know I can. When I get back from Paris, I'll do another 45 mile ride (once BMG helps me put my bike together again). I'll then pump it up to 50-54 miles (a 10-20% distance increase) and am certain I'll be ready to do 100 with the Narranganset Bay Wheelmen on September 9th. Hooray!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Almost 45

I did 36.5 miles on my bike today. I'm slow, but working on my muscle endurance right now, rather than speed. I'm registered for the Flattest Century of the East ride on September 9th. My goal is to get to 45 miles by the time I leave for France in one week. I'm almost there, and believe I can do it.

*****

About 1/2 way through my ride today, I realized the Tour de France started today. It was fun to be speeding along imagining I was one of the racers.

Gift registries

BMG and I are heading to a wedding today. The bride is a friend of his and the groom is someone we have both talked politely with at parties. Last night, even though BMG insisted that he would take care of the gift, I grilled him long enough to find out the bride's last name and where she is registered so I could peek at the gift list.

I had no intention of buying a gift. I just wanted to see what was on it.

Gift registries are delightfully voyeuristic. They give you a window into a person (or a couple's) unique style and desires. I once had a friend ask for a personal computer as part of her wedding registry. "Practical and a little boring," I remember thinking. (I bought them a silver plated ice cream scoop instead.) My cousin recently registered for a set of towels - two bath sheets and washcloths - that cost over $100. "Luxurious lifestyle or aspirations," says me. What would your wish list say about you?

I think I also like gift registries because they are a socially acceptable way to put your desires out there for your universe of loved ones to fulfill. I'm not the kind of gal who has Cinderella fantasies, but I do think about getting married and setting up a home with someone I love, and being able to ask for whatever I want in the process.

A friend who was married three years ago used an online service called My Registry as her wedding wish list. This service allows people to shop for anything they want online - and to compile a registry from myriad online vendors - a little LLBean, a little Crate and Barrel online, a little Target if that's the way you lean. If it can be sold online, it can be put into your online registry. As a veteran online shopper, I compiled one for myself. Check it out. You can learn a little about the lifestyle I desire. And, if you buy me a gift, I certainly won't turn it away!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Tour de France

BMG and I head to France in eleven days for our two-week sojourn in Paris to play, read, eat and watch the Tour de France. You can stay on top of our travels and the tour by reading BMG's blog. I'll post pictures and stories when we return!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Huckleberry Cutler


I've been thinking about getting a cat. I really want a dog, but I don't think I have the patience or lifestyle to own a dog. So, I've moved on to cats, kittens specifically. I've looked at breeder sites, and think that I'd get a Russian Blue, if I were inclined to get a purebred. And, if I got a blue cat, I'd name it Huckleberry Cutler. If I don't get a purebred, I think I want a fluffy grey cat.

*****

BMG and I were looking at this weird website where people caption photos of their cats in odd positions or situations. It is pretty funny, and I think the gangster-speek afforded the cats is really odd.

*****

Speaking of odd, have you ever seen dancing with cats, or variations thereof? There are actually people who take dance lessons. With their cats. And, I once had a roommate, and two kittens. The roommate would carry the kittens around the apartment by the nape of their neck. With the furry nape - IN HIS MOUTH. "Uhm, J, why do you have the kitten in your mouth?" I would ask. "This is how the kittens mother carried it around." "Hmmm," thought me, "You are NOT the kitten's mother."

Dream 5


BMG called this one a "helplessness" dream when I gave him the thumbnail sketch when he FINALLY got out of bed this morning at 10:30.

I was in a city somewhere - obviously at work (there were some office characters there), when, in a Space Balls-esque move, a giant black atomic thumb-shaped fighter planes appeared in the sky. They began dropping precision bombs onto the high rise buildings, and the structure in which I was having a meeting was evacuated. As I was running down the stairs, I could see fleets of white planes descending, like locusts, upon the city. Terrified, I fled the building, leaving my purse and my cell phone behind.

I now find myself apparently trapped on an industrial-looking platform with a river on three sides and a 30+ foot high cliff on the fourth. I am surrounded by chain link fence and there is a metal platform above me. For some reason I am with my sister, E. The idea, I think, was to hide here until the confrontation is over, thinking this remote and secluded spot was safe. I come to realize that this hiding place is actually the largest hydro power plant in the area. I quickly become fearful that, contrary to the notion that we are safe in this tucked away part of the world, we are actually in grave danger; because our dream enemies are likely to bomb power sources next. (I read the news, I know what the U.S. did in Iraq.) So, E and I start to scale the chain link fence on the cliff side of the enclosure, hoping at the top we can find certain ground. The platform and the top of the fence meet neatly, except in one spot. After considerable panic and attempts at problem-solving, E and I roll out and find ourselves in barren country, with the smouldering city on the horizon.

We begin to run to find some place where we can borrow a telephone. I know I need to call BMG, who is likely very worried about me. E and I come upon a YMCA and we go in an ask to use the phone. We're told we have to ask Shane, the program director. He is easy to find because he is a good looking Canadian with nice hair. While I'm trying to figure out what makes a Canadian look different from an American, I'm also panicked trying to remember BMG's phone number. (I won't be able to press "2" and get him on the line. I'll need to dial a real, 10-digit phone number.) So, we do find Shane and he does let us borrow a phone. As this happens, I remember BMG's phone number, and triumphantly dial, knowing I will be safe.

*****

A helplessness dream about work, with comfort and confidence with family and safety with BMG. A good dream. And, BMG and I agree that "Atomic Thumb" would be a great name for a band.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ea-gle!

I read a story in The Boston Globe this morning about bald eagles having been brought back from extinction. It makes me think of the theory of survival of the fittest and the role human beings play as interventionists.

I often wonder if the work our species does to decimate the earth is part of our own survival pattern and shouldn't be worried about. Or, alternately, if the actions of homo sapiens should be worried about and active interventions sought. The work to restore bald eagles so they are plentiful enough on this planet to be no longer considered endangered (an arbitrary designation made up by people) fills my heart with gladness, and I worry a little about playing god. Is there a plan for people, or bald eagles, or pepper grass for that matter? And, if there is, are we messing around with it - or is this it? And, if there isn't a plan, why don't we just descend into the bacchanal that is life and enjoy?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Salad days

I've had it with creative interpretations of Caesar Salad. When I go out to eat and order a Caesar Salad, I'm seeking the classic romaine lettuce with croutons, Parmesan and Caesar dressing. Sometimes I ask for anchovies.

That's it. Fin. Period. The end.

No red onion. No cucumbers. No bacon bits. And certainly no tomatoes, deadly nightshades that they are.

There are some sectors of our society who are anti-globalization, people who believe one shouldn't be able to get McDonald's while in India or Starbucks in Tokyo. But, there are times when one seeks something familiar, something known, something comforting to the body or the mind. For example, when I order chocolate ice cream, I'm expecting something that vaguely resembles chocolate ice cream. Not chocolate ice cream with tomatoes in it. The same is true for a Caesar Salad. I want what I expect to receive when I order something with a fairly straightforward recipe.

I know the legend of the Caesar Salad is that it was born out of necessity in a restaurant kitchen at a time when a salad emergency was called for. But, if a restaurant is going to experiment then they should name the salad something else simply to give their customers a heads up that they don't serve the now classic Caesar. A Caesar with tomatoes? How about calling it a "Red Caesar?" A Caesar with carrots and red onions and bacon bits? Let's call it "Caesar Nouveau" or "Veggie Caesar." Please just warn me somehow, so I can adjust accordingly.

Let me also say, for the record, that the best Caesar Salad I ever had was at Skipjack's in downtown Boston more than 12 years ago. Seriously. I've never forgotten it.

The worst? At Triple Play Cafe in Cooperstown, NY. If you ever have a chicken Caesar craving while visiting the baseball hall of fame stay far far away from this hole in the wall restaurant almost directly across from the entrance to the museum. And, if you have a favorite place where you can get a Caesar Salad, please let me know about it!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Restaurant idea


Nosey's PeekEasy. It is a concept bar/restaurant with seating in two parallel rows. One side of the restaurant has a a one-way mirror running the length of the dining room. This will allow diners on one side to watch the diners on the OTHER side without fear of being noticed. When someone calls for a reservation, they will be asked, "Which side would you prefer your table be on? Voyeur or Exhibitionist?"

Dead kitty

The kitty who lived with me at 216 Brookline until I moved to the hippie-dippie Somerville co-op died this week. He was an old cat with gnarly fur. He was Italian and his name was Grizwaldi Schacht-Lambiaso. (Grizz for short.)

He was first "owned" by an Australian couple, then a woman with a dog (1 year), then my friend Dan and me (3 years), and then just me (1 year).

His most recent facilitator in this world was my friend Barb, who ardently fought for Grizz's affections with her now husband (Eric) when Grizz and I lived in Cambridge.

Barb is sad, and her husband and two children are nonchalant.

C'est la vie.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

City Slickers rocks!


So does my friend Heather. Heather called at 1:00 today and said, "Hey! I'm in Somerville and I want a milkshake. Can you get away from the office and meet me?" I'm stressed to the gills, and promised myself today that I wouldn't let my work get the best of me today. So, even though I didn't FEEL like I had the time, I said yes.

And we met at City Slickers. This is a new restaurant that opened at 558 Somerville Avenue. And their food is AMAZING and the owner is kind.

Heather and I walked in and noticed immediately they had ice cream. So, Heather asked if she could get a milkshake. ("She's having a pregnancy craving," I mentioned parenthetically.) The counter staff - who is also the owner - said no. He didn't even have milk he could sell Heather to mix up with her ice cream. Disappointed, we each settle for a slice of pizza. (Heather paid.)

As we are seated, chatting, the owner brings us each a scoop of extra creamy vanilla ice cream. With his apologies. For not having milkshakes. City Slickers rocks!

I went back later in the day and picked up dinner: garlic steak tips with wilted spinach. It was delicious. So, City Slickers does not have milkshakes, but they have great pizza and delicious and convenient comfort food.

And, Heather is fantastic for being there at the right moment, to pull me out of my work-related funk-a-liciou-ness. Thanks Heather.

Up all night

One of the ways I cope with stress is by singing to myself. It is a self-soothing mechanism. As I type the title to this post, the first in nearly three weeks, I find myself singing the Boomtown Rats song by the same title. As I start this, it is 1:54 AM and I've tried going to sleep once already tonight. I am too keyed up to sleep, unable to quiet what practitioners of Buddhist mediation call the "monkey mind."
  • "Will I be able to pull off staff orientation for my summer interns next Tuesday?"
  • "Will I be able to get the Mayor and the Police Chief to sign off on the Memorandum of Understanding to accompany the $6 million proposal I'm coordinating?"
  • "How am I going to explain that I didn't use the poster presentation the admin team in my office prepared for two days because I am not going to that conference tomorrow morning?"
  • "When will I make it to the bank to get cash for the week?"
  • "Will I remember to make an appointment to get my eyes checked, teeth cleaned, and hair done before I leave for Paris?"
  • "How am I going to get everything done that needs to be done at work before I leave for Paris?"
It has been more than a month of non-stop stress and pressure in the workplace. I used to laugh. Now, I am pining for quiet in my work life. I crave long stretches of time to ride my bike. I crave time to cook and eat healthfully. I crave the space to take care of the package that is my body, and the soul this body encases. I don't know how to do this and manage the pressure I feel - and experience - in my job. I keep reminding myself that this is temporary, that the pressure will let up after next Friday, but I feel myself starting to crack.

I don't like this feeling, this ride down the slippery slope.

To be certain, I am privileged. I am worrying about going to Paris. I am not worrying about putting food on the table. But, worry is worry. As I count my blessings and try to stay grounded in what I know is right and good (listening, being honest, loving, kind and strong) there is a brief pause in the stress. And then it overtakes me again. This is what feels so difficult, as the stress is so much more powerful than the blessings.

When life calms down, the goal will be to find strategies for developing power in the blessings, so they can keep the stress in check. Maybe now I can get some sleep?