Friday, January 30, 2009

Can I interest you in some cake?

Kitty litter cake.

(February 2003.)

Are you sure you don't want any?

Mmm mmm good.

Me vs. the clock radio.

Halfway between sleep and waking this morning, I heard:

"Crazy Horse, Paris, France/Forgot the names, remember romance" as

"Crazy Horse, Paris, France/Forgot the names, forgot my pants."

With all due respect to
Mötley Crüe, I'm pretty sure my version is better.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Ballad of Mustachioed Middle-Aged Sears Guy.

A couple of Fridays back, I went over to Superior for the night and before our customary Target run, Shannon and I stopped at the mall in Duluth about an hour before closing time. After we'd made all of our usual stops (primarily in stores where ready-to-mock clothing is plentiful--DSW's clearance racks, I'm looking in your direction), the hour was nearly up, so we hurried back toward Sears (where we'd parked the car).

As we approached the store, we could see that there was a Mustachioed Middle-Aged Sears Guy getting ready to pull down the gate to close up shop--my watch read 8:55 at this point, and we were about only 20-30 feet away from the gate so we quickened our pace and waved so he'd see us coming, thinking he'd let us slip in and through the store to the door we'd parked by. Technically, the store closes at 9:00, so he'd have to stand there until 9:00 anyway, right? No skin off his back.

Well, no. Apparently, that's not how Mustachioed Middle-Aged Sears Guy likes to play the game. Instead of doing the reasonable thing, he yanked down the gate, smirked at us, then skulked off into the shadowy regions of the misses' department to rub his mustache all over the tube tops (presumably--I mean, he did have a creeper mustache, so it stands to reason).

This did not set well with us. Because now we had to go out the nearest exit--over by the food court--and walk all the way around almost the entire perimeter of Sears to get back to the car. In the subzero cold. On the icy, inadequately shoveled sidewalks (why would the they shovel them well, since no one in their right mind would normally be walking way the hell over there anyway?). In the dark. Without our coats (which we'd left in the car thinking, "Hey, we're parked right by the door, we won't need them"). Thanks, Mustachioed Middle-Aged Sears Guy. Thanks for being a dick.

As we trudged and shivered and swore and slid our way around the building, we came upon the auto zone entrance (one of those automatic doors that opens sesame whenever something passes in front of it)--as we approached, Shannon said, "Wouldn't it be funny if they forgot to lock the--" and practically before she could even finish her sentence, WHOOSH, it opened.

Well, of course we went inside. The room where the employees clock out must be near that exit, because there were a few of them milling around, putting their coats on. One or two of them glanced our way, but no one asked where we were going or tried to kick us out, so we just kept walking. We made a beeline toward the door we'd parked by (on the opposite side of the building)...which just happened to lead us right past the front gate. And Mustachioed Middle-Aged Sears Guy, still lingering there, probably hoping to jerkily shoo away more customers trying to get out of the damn mall (and probably hoping to get his hands on those fabulous, silky-smooth prom dresses hanging by the front aisle, hubba-hubba).

The expression on his face when he saw us walking through the store? Priceless.

Flustered, he sent one of his lackeys--a pleasant-enough college-aged guy who'd been standing nearby--to "escort" us to our door with a wave of his hand. Shannon and I snickered and rolled our eyes--like, "Oh, thank you, Your Majesty"--and Pleasant-Enough College-Aged Sears Guy laughed. Or, at least, I like to think that he did...on the inside.

I'll bet he's probably got some Mustachioed Middle-Aged Sears Guy stories of his own to tell.

(Time of final exit from Sears: 9:00 P.M.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"You missed a spot!"

I've always been the type who can't blow off commitments, no matter how uninteresting, inconvenient, or unpleasant they may be, for fear of foiling someone else's plans or hurting their feelings. I come from a long line of people with this problem--my parents are gluttons for punishment, never wanting to leave anyone in a lurch no matter how much of a nuisance the task at hand might be--and between nature & nurture, there was no way I was going to grow up & escape the powerful grasp of the Catholic Guilt.

And there was no period in my life when this was more of an issue than during my years in Helena. Deep in the throes of community service, there was virtually no task I'd say no to, no matter how much I might've wanted to.
"You need someone to show up from 8:00 'til 3:00 to hand out frightening brochures about homeland security in the blazing hot sun at the county fair? Right next to the livestock barn? Um, okay, I can do it."

"Well, if it helps the museum to have me back in the kitchen cutting up Rice Krispy bars all night while everyone else boozes it up out front, then I'm happy to help."

"Sure, I'll go to that Toastmasters meeting with you."
You know you've crossed a line into doormat territory when the other VISTAs start making fun of you for all the crap jobs you agree to take on.

I was a full-time volunteer for the first two years I lived there; I
liked volunteering. I liked getting out and meeting new people in town, and volunteering was a good way to do that. What's more, I spent most of my time coordinating other volunteers--so I knew how hard it was to get people to show up for stuff. I wasn't gonna be one of those fly-by-night volunteers, no sir--I was supposed to be setting an example for the people I worked with, so by gum, if I said I'd be there, I'd be there.

And then along came Martin Luther King Day 2003.

That January, I was running on fumes--we'd just brought on a fresh crop of VISTAs to our project, which was always time-consuming, plus I was up to my eyeballs in organizing a statewide youth service week to be held later that spring. On top of that, I was spearheading a Helena-specific youth service day project, primarily because I was a VISTA Leader, but also because no one else stepped up and took the reins. By the time I remembered MLK Day, I didn't have any room left on my plate to plan something else--but I wanted to do
something, since it was a big deal in the AmeriCorps universe, so I rallied the other VISTAs to see if anyone had any ideas. The only person who came up with anything was this non-traditional retiree VISTA who was renting a room at the YWCA that year.

"Oh, we have all kinds of projects that need attention at the YWCA," she said. When asked to elaborate about what kinds of work needed to be done, she said she'd get back to me. This should've been Red Flag #1.

Since no one else came up with a better option, the rest of the dozen or so VISTAs in town agreed to show up on the morning of MLK Day to help out for a few hours with whatever projects Non-Traditional Retiree VISTA lined up.

And you guessed it: I was the only one who showed up. (Red Flag #2.)

For the first hour or so, I cleaned the kitchen while the boarders went in & out, making their breakfasts. Next, I mopped a staircase while Non-Traditional Retiree VISTA went out to "get something." (Red Flag #3.) She came back lugging...a carpet shampooer. (Red Flag #4.)

Yes, that's right: I spent the day performing the incredibly crucial and meaningful community service...of shampooing a rug.

(Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember clean carpets meriting a mention in the "I Have a Dream" speech.)

As I wrestled that heavy damn carpet shampooer around the first floor, the women sitting around watching soap operas variously scolded that I was "making too much noise," "leaving too many streaks on the floor," and that I "missed a spot." To her credit, Non-Traditional Retiree VISTA was takin' care of business, too, and told the other women to cool it. And to my credit, I didn't heave that damn carpet shampooer through the TV set.

Was it a terribly fruitful day of service? Well, not really. Did I feel like I helped someone out who needed it? Hmm--that carpet was in need of a cleaning, but it seemed kind of silly that I was doing it while there was a couch full of able-bodied people sitting there watching me do it.

Did it turn me off of volunteering? No...but by the same token, I learned something that day. It's okay to say "no" to other people. It's okay to be more discriminating when people ask me for a favor. And that maybe, when it comes to community service, it all comes down to quality, not quantity.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

"Bozo, you are NOT the father."

A baby featured on Maury on Friday night who has the unfortunate distinction of (A.) not knowing who her father is, (B.) being a black albino, and (C.) having clown hair.

Bozo Baby.

Bozo was relieved when Maury revealed the results of his DNA test.

"Bozo, you are NOT the father."

Krusty, on the other hand, didn't get off the hook quite so easily...

Hmm, I think I see a resemblance around the, uh, hairline...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Back in MY day...

...they didn't cancel school every time it got down around -20. Oh, no. In fact, the only time I ever remember school being canceled due to cold was in 1996--right around the time the records for coldest temperatures ever recorded in Minnesota (Tower, -60) and Wisconsin (Couderay, -55) were broken. It didn't get quite that cold in Ashland that week, but we still got down around -37 during the day--unlike what's being predicted for Ashland tomorrow: -20 in the early morning, and up around zero in the afternoon. Hell, it might be warmer than it was today, so I don't know what everyone's freaking out about.

Is it cold outside? Well, yeah! Newsflash: it's JANUARY. It's SUPPOSED TO BE COLD. When did this become a crisis situation?

And don't even get me started on this wind chill nonsense:
"The weathermen trot out these arctic, pumped-down numbers to put an exclamation point on the banality of winter. Wind chill readings make excitement out of mere inconvenience; they imbue a miserable day with the air of epic calamity. A temperature of 5 degrees is unpleasant. A wind chill of 20 below—well, that's something to talk about."
Back in my day, we were hearty! We were stoic! We were freezing! But dammit, we went to school!

(Of course, I would be willing to drop this argument entirely if my boss were to give me the day off tomorrow.)

It's official:

My mother has a crush on Chuck Todd.

My mom's (not so super-secret) crush.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Row! *bang* Row! *bang*

March 1997:

I don't remember exactly why we decided to stay up all night the night before the marching band left for Florida, but I think the reasoning went something like "if we don't sleep now, we'll sleep better on the bus." Which was clearly ridiculous--like we were going to get any sleep on the bus!--but we were teenagers and it didn't take much to convince us to pull an all-nighter at that age. So me, Jake and Joe (who wasn't even in the band--which made him a marching band groupie, I guess?) hopped in my '78 Oldsmobile, rented some movies, got some snacks at the grocery store, and headed out to my house to watch the hours fly by.

As we approached the last stretch of paved road before the turnoff to my house, one of them--Joe or Jake, I can't remember which--said, "Hey, take your foot off the gas, and let's see how far this baby can coast!" Well, who could say no to that?

Thanks mostly to the slope of the road (and the sheer heft of my car), we made it to my side road lickity-split, and after negotiating the turn, started rolling slowly toward my driveway about halfway up the road. But this time, the slope was working against us (and the gravel, too), and about halfway there, we finally ground to a halt.

Just as I was about to admit defeat and touch my foot to the gas pedal, the boys shouted "NO!" and jumped out of the car--they each grabbed a door, and started pushing the car up the road. And not pushing the car like when I've pushed cars, like when they've gone in the ditch or run out of gas (something that very same '78 Oldsmobile was known for)--they pushed it with the kind of gusto and manic surging energy that only two teenage boys hopped up on Mountain Dew and Pixy Stix can bring to a job like that. I tried to get out of the car to help, but was instructed to stay in the driver's seat to steer, and to "crank up that song!"

So there we were, lurching up the road with me & the Pulp Fiction soundtrack acting as the modern equivalent of the guy beating the drum at the front of the Viking ship, while Jake and Joe made like oarmen and shoved that beast all the way into my yard, the full moon shining down and giving our neighbors a good view of the action, no doubt--although really, I doubt they would've figured out what was going on even if they were looking.

Although I guess we could've blamed it on the full moon if they had asked. That brings out the crazies, right?

Thursday, January 08, 2009



I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence
by Amy Sedaris.
This is one of the most wonderfully random things I've read in a long time--it's billed as a cookbook/hospitality guide, but it wanders all over the place. Seriously. I mean, so far, my favorite parts have been about rabbit care, and how to put on pantyhose. The pages are covered in illustrations that veer from the kitschy to the creepy, and all manner of stuff between. Portraits made out of beans...peanuts with googily eyes glued on. I'llbe getting a lot of jollies out of this one.

I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was by Barbara Sher.
I have a low tolerance for self-help books, but a friend recently recommended this when we were jabbering about my long-term career plans. Or lack thereof. I haven't made my mind up about this yet, but eh, it certainly can't hurt.


It's that time of year when I hurry to play catch-up with all the movies I missed in the past year, so when I watch the Oscars I'll have some vague idea of what's going on. A smattering:

Son of Rambow - Sweetly eccentric without being off-puttingly so.
The Bank Job - Suspenseful and well-written, and reasonably funny, too.
Married Life - I found the costumes and sets more interesting than the plot, but it wasn't bad, just a little too soap opera-y for my tastes.
The Visitor - It's somber and bittersweet, but strangely hopeful, too.
27 Dresses - Better than I was expecting, really--inoffensively fluffy.

Also: I'm working through a new Mystery Science Theater 3000 boxed set I got for Christmas, and I couldn't be happier to finally have the following available to me in DVD form:


Baby blankets.
Loads of 'em. Because sifting through my address book lately, it seems like every fifth name in there has an impending bambino associated with it. Luckily, between what's in my yarn stash and the sale rack stuff I scored on a Duluth run last weekend, my reserves should be able to hold out through Babyboom '08.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

To-Do List, 2009 Edition:

1. Travel more.

2. Make more stuff.

3. Finish more stuff.

4. Start taking accordion lessons. (Really.)

5. I want to come up with a really good Halloween costume for once. It seems like throughout the other 11 months of the year, I'm frequently noticing things that I think would be hilarious Halloween costumes, but then when October rolls around, I either can't think of anything or I wait until the last minute to put it together and it turns out sucky. This is the year I start writing things down ahead of time, dammit.