Archive for October, 2008

Louisville is “special” in that from one day to the next, weather can change completely. As in, last March when a massive snowstorm was immediately followed by 70 degree sunshine. As in, a few weeks ago, the high temperatures were close to 90, and now, just a few short weeks later, the lows are in the lower 30s and the highs are only in the 40s. It is cold and wintery now, at least for the past few days.

Unfortunately for my sister, who lives with me, I am really into self-denial. There are a lot of reasons for this, having to do with my neurotic need to save money, the Catholic guilt with which I was raised, and the fact that self-denial makes me more environmentally friendly. So, despite the fact that it’s freezing outside, and cold, very very cold inside my house; despite the fact that I am not even responsible for paying my own gas and electric bill; despite the fact that I walk around the house looking like an idiot because I’m wearing sweatpants and a hooded sweatshirt and slippers and a fluffy robe and a winter hat, I have been unwilling to turn on the heat.

Finally, last night, I gave in. I convinced myself that self-denial was a pointless folly, especially when one’s heating bill is being paid by another party. I told myself that I would keep the thermostat set very low, so that the heat would not kick on often. Admitting defeat, I flipped the switch, and cold air began blowing vigorously out of the vents. Because it seems the pilot light has gone out.

The past few weeks, I have been doing lots of stuff aside from updating this blog. One of the things I have been doing is re-reading the Little House books, because those books have owned me since the second grade. When I was eight or nine, I loved to imagine that Laura Ingalls would show up on my doorstep, straight out of the nineteenth century, and that I would get to show her all of the ways technology has changed since then. (Spoiler alert: In college, I was a really enthusiastic history major.)

I just finished reading The Long Winter, and I’ve realized that compared to Laura Ingalls, I am a total pussy. I think I’m cold? I’m not cold. I’m living in a tropical paradise. She was cold. Also? Practically starving and confined to living in basically three rooms with five other miserable people. Right now, she would not be terribly impressed with my modern technology that does not function, she would be very unimpressed with my inability to fix it myself, and she would be most unimprsesed with all the hot baths I have taken in a whiny, needy attempt to be warm.

Part of me thinks, “I really should ask someone to light that pilot light for me.” The other part of me says, “I wonder how long I can really last without turning the heat on? I mean, how long can I really go?”


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Dear Cute Vet Guy

Dear Cute Vet Guy,

Ever since getting glasses frames that I actually like, I almost never wear my contacts anymore. I really only wear contacts for special occasions.

I wore my contacts today.

I may have forgotten to give my poor, anxiety-ridden dog the prescribed diazepam he needs in order to not freak out during a vet visit, but I did manage to throw on a little make-up this morning. Just a little. You know, a little blush, a lip gloss, some foundation which has resulted in a breakout on my chin.

I appreciated how you greeted my dog with genuine enthusiasm, despite the fact that my crazy dog probably has a giant stamp on his file that says, “CAUTION: THIS DOG MAY BE LITTLE AND CUTE AND FLUFFY, BUT HE IS T-R-O-U-B-L-E.” You said, “Hey there, Mr. Felix!” And you sounded like you were actually glad to see him.

I noted that you were wearing Vans with your scrubs. Checkered Vans. Did I mention that I was wearing lip gloss? To take my dog to the vet?

I saw that you were replacing the toner in one of your printers. Want to hear something funny? We actually have a lot in common, because I have that same printer at my office! I mean, we don’t have that exact same printer, but I’m pretty sure it’s the same brand. Isn’t that a crazy coincidence? I wonder what else we have in common.

Despite the fact that I am almost out of one of my dog’s prescriptions, I admit that I didn’t say anything while I was there today about getting it refilled. I guess I’ll just have to come by the vet again in a week or so, to get it refilled.

See you soon,

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How It Went

My mom got married on Saturday. People keep asking me “how it went,” and I’m not sure how to answer that question. It went fine. It went much like any other wedding goes, except on a much smaller scale. There were moments which were meant to be romantic, there were moments that wound up being awkward. Food and sparkling beverages were consumed, and at the end of the day, two people were married who weren’t at the beginning. My cousin, who I sometimes think would be a better daughter to my mom than I am, flew in from college as a surprise. My other cousin was there with his cute new baby. I made an lame toast, in which I unsuccessfully attempted to mix a humorous, self-absorbed anecdote about aluminum foil with semi-heartfelt good wishes.

The real question on your minds, however, is bound to be the result of the great wedding gift mystery. Would my mom and her new husband already have the stoneware wine cooler, which matches all the other stoneware in their kitchen? Did my sister and I unintentionally get them something they already have, or did we freaking nail that whole wedding gift buying thing?

Of course, the answer could not be so simple. As it turns out, they didn’t have the stoneware wine cooler. As it also turns out, the reason they had so much of that stoneware pattern to begin with was that my mom’s new husband and his ex-wife had purchased it together. So, while we didn’t buy them something they already had, we did buy them something representative of his ex-wife. A particularly lovely reminder for them on their wedding day!

At least I still fit into my dress. My mom’s one explicit instruction to me was to not gain any weight so I could fit into my dress, and that, at least, I managed to do well.

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Before today, I had lived out my twenty-five-and-a-half years as a middle-class American female without ever having had a manicure. I am not an especially girly girl. In my teen years, I was too awkward and shy to be brave enough to try getting the hang of all that stuff, and then I up and went to a women’s college where most days I was lucky if I wore a bra under my t-shirt and hoodie.

These days I am slightly less awkward and a slightly more frequent wearer of undergarments. Now, the main reason I don’t do things like have my eyebrows waxed or get manicures or pedicures is that I am a neurotic miser who obsessively saves money (1) so I can buy a house one day, (2) so I can travel, (3) so I can buy books, and (4) because it just feels so damn good.

I do have fantastic fingernails, though. They’re strong. They grow fast. They in no way look diseased. And since my mom’s wedding is tomorrow, she decided it would be fun and highly appropriate for the two of us to get manicures.

I walked into the spa today knowing that everyone could see the blinking neon sign hanging over my head that read, “SHE DOESN’T BELONG HERE.” And I didn’t. I didn’t know where to go or what I was supposed to do. I somehow missed the little waiting room, and instead sat down to wait in one of the chairs at the drying station. Once I sat down to have my manicure done, I had to stare at the cushion-y thing on the table in front of me for a long moment before realizing that I was supposed to rest my wrists on it.

I nervously told my manicurist that I had never had this done before! I’m totally new to this! I hoped she would take my hint that I had no idea how this worked, and she would maybe give me a sort of play-by-play as the manicure progressed. Like, “Now I’ll be taking your hands and putting random goop on them! This random goop serves the following purpose: _____________. Next, I will scrape your nails with this random tool, which will help this process along by ______________.”

She did no such thing. She was not particularly talkative, and she mostly just grabbed at my fingers and hands and had her way with them. At the most startling point, she reached for my arm and started rubbing lotion all over my hand and arm! I had no idea she was going to be all touchy up on my arm like that! And then she started rubbing my hand! Like some sort of hand massage! How was my hand not warned that it was about to be treated in that way?

My nails actually came out looking very nice, though, and she did tell me that I had perfect nails for a French manicure. It was a vindicating moment for me, as most of my serious attempts at femininity have failed, and sometimes resulted in embarrassing consequences. (Like my senior year of high school when I thought my overalls were really super adorable on me, and I decided to wear them to a meeting of prospective female engineering students at a local university’s engineering school. And oops, why was I dressed like that when everyone else was in sweaters and slacks? And oops, how did I accidentally wind up with the overalls that had a large patch in the ass area?)

While my nails were drying, the fact that my manicurist had hardly said two words to me was more than made up by the talkative woman next to me, who let me know she was a psychotherapist. She told me about her bipolar father, and asked me all about where I went to school, and what was the cold like in Boston, and oh I worked in a library? How was that? And As she was leaving, she gave one last look at my manicured nails and said, “They’re beautiful! Oh, I can just see an engagement ring on that finger!”

I gave her a sidelong glance and said, “Uhhh… you know, thank you! But I don’t see that happening any time soon!”

“You never know,” she responded. “Anything can happen, at any time! You just never know! Now that I’ve put that out there into the universe, anything could happen!”

She left and I continued to sit awkwardly with my hands under the dryer. It seemed like my fingernails were probably mostly dry. Was I supposed to wait for my manicurist to come back and tell me it was okay to get up, like when I go to get my hair highlighted and my hairdresser comes to check on me when I’m sitting under the heater? The psycho (psychic?) therapist just got up and left. Was I supposed to just get up and leave, whenever I was ready? My manicurist was already starting on the next client. I didn’t want to sit there awkwardly under in the chair having my fingernails dried forever.

So, I waited until my manicurist had her back turned, and I sneaked out of the room.

After the manicure, my mom and I went shopping my mom bought me make-up. I use make-up so infrequently that the only make-up I had was, uh, about five years old. Some of it was from when I was in the musical Kismet my senior year of high school. Which was closer to eight years ago.

I stood mesmerized by my bizarrely shiny nails while my mom picked out make-up she thought would work for me. She would turn to me to ask my opinion on something, and I’d look up from my nails for long enough to say, “I have genuinely no idea about anything make-up related. I trust your judgment.”

Living up to a standard of American female beauty is not something at which I think I will ever necessarily excel, and not something at which I necessarily want to excel. And somehow, despite it having been put out into the universe by the kind psychictherapist, I think that engagement ring is going to be a while longer. Which, honestly, is perfectly fine with me. Besides the fact that I’d first have to meet someone from whom I would want an engagement ring and who would not mind the fact that I am not always very successful at being a girl, I would then have to figure out a way to get the ring on my finger without chipping my shiny, glossy nails.

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“How’s your book,” my sister asked as I sat reading The Wordy Shipmates.

“Um, awesome. I think Sarah Vowell may be… the best person alive.”

“Well, goodness,” she responded. “How… outstanding.”

Sarah Vowell’s writing, much like “Pushing Daisies,” Amelie, the Stars album “Set Yourself on Fire,” This American Life, and barbecued chicken pizza, is something I love so fervently that, when combined with my personal brand of narcissism, it makes me feel like it was created just for my own special snowflake self. Sure, there might be millions of other people who enjoy the works of Sarah Vowell, but clearly their purpose is for my own benefit, because really–of those millions of people, who could love her like I do? Oh, hi there, no one.

Naturally, it was with great eagerness that I ran out to my nearest Borders, 30% off coupon stowed in my purse, to buy Sarah Vowell’s new book today.

Her books are funny and smart, and best of all, make American history enjoyable and accessible and even more fun than it is just by itself. That says something significant, because I find American history to be really fun. Some might say absurdly fun. Like, any time you want to talk about the role of honor in the nineteenth century American South, I will put my party hat on and be ready to go.

Sarah Vowell’s books make me both giddy and frustrated, because as I read them, I find myself either delighting in what she has to say, or getting frustrated because, um, she has sort of written the books I would really like to have written. I get that the limitations of physics, and some silly moral qualms, prevent me from actually being Sarah Vowell. I can’t actually be her, and I can’t write her books.

Thus, I propose to the universe a compromise: maybe I could just be her friend? We could talk about history and politics and television and music. I could drive her to all her relevant historical sites. I know she hates driving (see: “Drive Through Please” from Take the Cannoli), and I am a great driver. I have never even gotten a ticket. (Okay, I’ve gotten one parking ticket, but I really feel like that shouldn’t stand in my way.)

If I can’t be her, being awesome by association seems like it would be so much easier than trying to be awesome all on my own.

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I spent the weekend with friends whose political leanings and senses of humor are decidedly similar to my own. Given that the vice presidential debate took place on Thursday evening, and given our shared disgust and disbelief at the reality that is Sarah Palin, we spent a huge amount of time this weekend making fun of her.

If Sarah Palin possesses one positive quality, it is this: making fun of her never stops being funny. I would not begin to be able to count the number of times my friends and I said the word “maverick” this weekend, but it was probably almost as many times as Sarah Palin herself said it on Thursday night.

(If Sarah Palin possesses one additional positive quality, it is that her existence allows for Tina Fey’s brilliant parody of her. Really, Tina Fey almost makes it all worth it.)

Today, two of my good friends and I went out with one of my friend’s parents to a nearby farm to pick apples. During the car ride to the farm, my friend’s parents politely tolerated our occasional, “You betcha!” and “I’d like to phone a friend,” and “I can see Russia from my house!”

On the way back from the farm, we stopped by my friend’s parents’ new high-rise condo to look at their incredible view. When we were leaving the condo, we wound up waiting for the elevator with a man holding a McCain-Palin sticker.

“I’m going down to put this on my car!” he said.

“Ahh,” said my friend’s father. “These girls hate Sarah Palin!”

Bumper Sticker Man looked at us and said what John McCain had undoubtedly also assumed: “Really? I thought all you girls stick together.”

The three of us stared at him in disbelief. I finally said, “Uh… no.”

He scoffed, “You’ll pay taxes one day. Then you’ll understand.”

Funny thing, actually. It so happens that I pay taxes now. Probably not as much as high rise condo-living, bumper sticker man, but I do pay some. And interestingly, I have found that paying taxes in no way has made me less tolerant of incompetency, particularly when that incompetency is found within the very persons who could one day be in charge of the government which collects those taxes.

And then comes the moment when Sarah Palin finally stops being funny–when I remember that John McCain is a seventy-two year old man running for the United States presidency, and that the life expectancy for an American man is something like seventy-five years, leaving a frighteningly good chance that, if John McCain were elected, Sarah Palin would become president.

Terrifying? You betcha.

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I don’t think I am wholly a bad person.  I genuinely do not want people to suffer, to struggle unnecessarily, or to experience profoundly bad luck.  I don’t wish that on anyone.  But sometimes… when bad things happen… they’re kind of interesting, aren’t they? Just a little bit?

In March of this year, my city had a massive snowstorm. It was followed almost immediately by warm, spring-like weather and a massive rainstorm. As a result, the Ohio River flooded, and it flooded a lot. It rose to something like 10 feet above flood level. And my city, which is built right up in the Ohio River’s grill, flooded along with it. Roads, including one that I take to work every day, were completely under water. People whose houses were built right along the Ohio River were, naturally, flooded. There was nothing we could do but wait for the water to go down, and I found this whole situation to be rather….entertaining? I walked around downtown and marveled at the high water. I took pictures. It was so out of the norm! How interesting!

Likewise with when the winds from Hurricane Ike blew through my city a few weeks ago. I wasn’t happy about all the damage that it caused. It destroyed people’s homes and lives and cars. It left most of the city without power for a week. It was a decidedly bad thing. But wow, it certainly did provide an interesting change of pace! And it was so windy! It’s never that windy here!

On Monday, when I happened to check the news, I saw that the bailout bill had failed in the House, because of those cuh-razy House Republicans. And then the stock market went and dropped 777 points! Eeek! I mean, I like money. I am flat-out neurotic about money. I don’t want nice, hard-working people to lose their investments. But 777 points! The biggest point drop in one day, ever! How interesting! How historic!

Even people like Sarah Palin and George W. Bush, people who inspire negativity within me beyond any sort of reason, are terribly interesting when one thinks about how they will be remembered by history. Every time Sarah Palin opens her mouth and makes one of her absurd, ill-informed statements, part of me thinks, “What a sham, what a terribly frightening travesty,” but another part of me thinks, “This is great material for The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live,” and, “God, it is fascinating that John McCain had the balls to pick someone like her.”

It’s history happening right now. People who are extremely interested in history, though, are perhaps fondly called “academic” or a “buff.” There is something about being fascinated by the historic quality of the present that ultimately feels sort of sick and twisted.

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