Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Little City State of Mind

My heart will always belong in a big city.  Which big city is up for debate but I feel the most comfortable wrapped in the anonymity that these places provide.  That being said - my heart strings are being tugged, hard, for my little-big hometown right now.

One of the top 5 things Frederick, MD has going for it is the Maryland Ensemble Theater.  Truly, truly one of the most wonderful things that's been part of my life.  Anyway - in my time hanging out at the MET, like a stray hoping for scraps, I got to know Rona.

Rona is just...awesome?  I mean, pick some compliments out of a hat and they all work for her.  In her real life she was a DJ for a local radio station (she was Rona on the Road, if you will).  She's been on the same station for 17 years - up until just a few days ago when she "Left." Which is the PC way of saying the weenies running the show (which has a "new format" and a new "parent company") kicked her to the curb, but said they were sorry.

This is not the story to me though.  People lose jobs all the time - especially in radio (an especially with all that "new format" business), even people who deserve their jobs, who have been doing them forever and are very good at them lose their jobs - losing jobs is just a part of life.

But the outpouring of love and support for Rona is what makes my heart rise up into my throat.  How amazing to have a whole city of people shouting from the rooftops how much they love you.  Especially, this city which is full of people who all seem to spend most of their time complaining about each other (don't believe me?  Spend some quality time reading the reader comments on the Frederick News Post - particularly any article focused on housing developments or helping poor people - two things this town cannot seem to agree on). 

This is one of these things I miss about small town living.  This sense of true community - of knowing the woman who does the traffic on the radio station, of seeing people that you know on the street and not having it be a strange anomaly, but a lovely addition to the day, and to know the people who serve you coffee and work at your bank - and not just know them in those roles, but in their roles as parents and musicians and soccer coaches.

Its almost enough to make me go back to that world.  That love and support cannot truly be replicated in the world of public transit and .  And while I do revel in walking down the street and knowing that no one knows my business, I can see the benefits of the grass on the other side.

And to Rona who deserves whatever the eff she wants - You're a gem.  And you're loved.  No matter what happens tomorrow or the next day, you are truly loved.  I feel like that may be better than a job.

Monday, April 25, 2011

in my idiocy

There are many things I am terrible at - but one of the ones that fills me with the most self-doubt is the fact that I do not know how to dress myself.

I don't know how I missed this particular boat, but I did and so here I am - precariously close the age of 30 without the knowledge of how to make clothes work. 

I will say that I am trying.  In the past few years I have made a concerted effort to try more than I ever have.  I try more now than I did in New York.  New York was over my head and not in my budget.  My poor feeble-minded mind could barely wrap itself around RCN bills - and I once spent $30 on a tank top.  A. Tank top.  Granted, I still own and love it.  But $30 then was a whole week's worth of lunch and dinner.

I have this vivid memory of visiting New York when I was still living in Maryland and seeing a tee-shirt for $29 in Dylan's Candy Store.  My mother and I were aghast.  $29 for a tee-shirt?!  Who would ever pay such a price?  Me (it turns out).

Anyway - I am finally at a point in my life where I not only have some expendable income to put towards my wardrobe, I also have developed a sense of giving a sh*t.  Its weird and I'm trying to embrace it, but man it is a struggle.

Back in the day, my fashion of choice was always a funny tee-shirt and jeans.  Always.  I don't know why I never thought to try any harder than this.  But I was happy in my tee-shirts that were essentially wearable comedy bits.

PS - I still own most of my favorite tee-shirts. I cannot bring myself to get rid of them despite the fact that I am trying extra hard to move onto bigger and better things.  Some day I might become a hobo again and I at least want to be a funny hobo.

Now that I am making a conscious effort to see beyond the tee-shirts, I am running into some problems.  First of all,  I immediately hate everything that doesn't look like it like it came directly out of Grace Kelly's closet.  My "style" can only be described as classic meets impractical meets out of your price range.

And so I am left just trying on everything, which then becomes trying on nothing because when you go into a Forever 21 or Urban Outfitters, everything can be super overwhelming.  Also, primarily atrocious.  Which is why when things like skinny jeans and leggings started being propagated at these stores - I resisted.  Hard.  These were the people who tried to also get me into bubble skirts and vests.  They were not to be trusted.

Turns out skinny jeans and leggings are both excellent wardrobe staples that should be accepted and appreciated for their value of making your legs look longer and making it so you can still go on the monkey bars in skirts.  If they were right about this, what else were they right about?

I've started trying to find out and its hard.  Example - I need a wide brown leather belt to wear with a few  different dresses I already own.  I've made it past the first step - I know I need the belt, now I have to figure out where the eff to buy it and what it is supposed to look like.

I've developed this idea in my brain of "wide brown leather belt" that may not actually exist in the known universe - and if it does, I'm not sure I'll know it when I see it.

This example can also be used for just about everything - including but not limited to black knee-high boots, button-down shirts, and skirts that fit a bill more varied then "its too hot for pants."

So, I've decided that I either need to start living with girls who will tell me what to wear again, or hire a personal shopper.  Or maybe just go back to the tee-shirts.

Friday, April 22, 2011

birds and the faces

My friend SOB sent me this picture and it completely made my week.

For some reason the caption doesn't come with the picture but here it is:

Fifth-graders react as they watch real photos of a developing fetus inside the uterus while senior health educator Andy Wentling presents "Life Begins," at the Robert Crown Centers for Health Education. (Chuck Berman/Chicago Tribune) (Chuck Berman/Chicago Tribune)

And the article (which you should read because it will make this blog post make a ton more sense)

Well, first of all, Kudos to Mr. Berman.  This is probably the best piece of photojournalism (that hasn't made me so miserable that I want to move to Mars) that I've seen since the picture of President G-Dubs Bush touring Fort Detrick in shoe-covering booties and one of those guests-in-surgery scrub caps (the poofy ones).

And the best part about it is its a total accurate depiction of what I (and the friends that I've polled) felt when we came face to face with sex education.  In some way, this picture is incredibly comforting.  My knowledge of what 5th graders know these days is limited but I am glad to hear they are still shocked/disgusted/mildly entertained by what happens when we all grow up.  

I remember the first time someone explained to me how my body was going to "change," my first thought was, "Old teacher lady says Whaaaaa?" and then my second  was, "me and my body have talked it over and we've decided that all this is NOT going to happen." 

But, you know, it did.  And I've handled it with all the awkwardness and bitterness that you would expect (although thank everything above that I got to learn from Ms. Officer instead of Mr. Boyer, who would wear the shortest of shorts and then put one foot up on a chair... I won't describe the rest, but needless to say he should have been fired...and I'm sure it was a scarring experience for the young gentlemen in my year).  

When Sean sent this article to me, he had it linked from Fox Nation, a website with the tagline - "The Fox Nation is for those opposed to intolerance, excessive government control of our lives, and attempts to monopolize opinion or suppress freedom of thought, expression, and worship."  Which is a statement that has just enough substance for people to use it against each other but not really enough to actually give a real point of view.

Anyway - it gave me the opportunity to read the comments generated by the readership. 

Here's the thing, commenters - you really have no idea what you're talking about.  First of all - everyone gets the "how a baby grows" talk together.  They separate boys v. girls for the "our bodies ourselves" portion.  Boys should have to know what has to happen inside a lady for a baby to come out, because otherwise they would not run to the corner store for ice cream and dino nuggets once they knocked a girl up.

Also, my Mom knew girl whose parents had told her that if she ever let a boy touch her hand she would immediately get pregnant, which is an excellent example of why we don't let parents be in charge of the "how babies are made" discussion.

And the idea that sex ed is making more teenage girls pregnant is laughable.  I'm pretty sure that if you showed every single teenage girl the video they made me watch in 9th grade (the one where the baby actually gets borned), once a month for like a year or so  - we would have exactly No unplanned pregnancies.

Anyway - its an amazing picture, and the organization that is going out there and making sure kids get all the information they need deserves all the support they need - if anything for making it so that normal parents can have this conversation instead:

Mom - "So uh, I guess I am supposed to have a talk with you about stuff."
Son - "Oh. Uh..."
Mom - "So you know everything you're supposed to know, right?  About everything."
Son - "Yeah.  I'm good."
Mom - "Great.  Good talk then."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cat's meow

I need some serious, serious help.

The love of my early 20's, Hazel Buena has reacquired a habit that needs to get gone.

She has always incredibly vocal in her emotions.  Whether it be love or hate, she really needs to share it with you in that incredibly insistent and yet, totally unintelligible way that cats have.

I'm not going to say she picked up this habit from her adoptive mother, Luna, but they were a pair of noisy felines. Once Luna left for Texas, Hazel continued the ruckus in honor of her bestie moving out.

When Hazel and I moved out of the Brothel of Chaste-ness she traded in the meowing for peeing on everything, which was, despite my boneheaded claims a few months prior, actually way worse than the never ending chatter.

She gave up the peeing, and the crying to a certain degree eventually and in apartment v. 2.1 she was almost quiet, though she did really get a kick out of scratching at the bedroom door at 5:40 on a Sunday morning.

But since the move to the land of Hipster- she has become a vision of her younger, far too vocal self.  It happens sometimes in the morning, but mostly at night in those clutch few hours when humans are wanting absolutely nothing more than to be asleep.

Taking 20 or so minutes to wear her out and eff with her brain with the laser pointer helps occasionally (I am writing this post with one hand, the other is controlling the most elusive and unpredictable prey that a feline has ever come in contact with) but with about as much regularity as standing in front of her and saying, "Shut up, Hazel," in a stern voice.

I need something, short of cutting out her vocal cords with tweezers and a butter knife, that will make all the meowing go away.  The bacon-eating animal lover inside me thinks that water bottle spraying is very cruel, although I've been changing my tune these past few months.

It doesn't really work though because you spray her (and since its night and you want to keep yourself as semi-comatose as possible, you don't turn on any lights and so miss the cat entirely about 65% of the time) and then she just tilts her head with a look of consternation and then meows, "why would you spray me?  That's not very nice," (or something to that affect).  Then shakes off the damp and meows some more.

So, besides the spray bottle and Grey's Anatomy, Animal Planet style --any suggestions??

Monday, April 18, 2011

Book 9.1 - Blackhearts in Battersea

On my 26th birthday, as a treat, I let myself get lost in the book section of the Brown Elephant on Halsted.  I have a wicked thing for used books and, left to my own devices, I will happily walk out with as many as I can carry.  Because they tend to cost about a dollar a piece, its an excellent opportunity to judge things by their covers, or by the fact that you once heard someone say the title, or it has a blurb on it from another person you like, or some other absurd reason. This was an especially amazing used book adventure because I didn't just find new books - I found an old friend.

image via
In my mother's house, somewhere among the Laura Ingalls Wilder and the four copies of Me Talk Pretty One Day we collectively own is a hardback copy of this book.  I don't know if its Mom's or Granny's or someone else's, but nearly all of the pictures have been lovingly colored in (apparently when my Mom was sick as a child, this was a special treat she got, it was, devastatingly, Not passed down to the future generation, probably because she did not trust us to color inside the lines) and its one of my favorite memories of childhood.

I did not even know they had come out in paperback (and on my birthday 11 years ago!  How marvelous!) but this was a nice way of finding out.  I snatched it out of the pile, afraid someone else's hand would get there faster, and clutched it close to my chest.  Its sat on my shelf since, a friendly reminder of childhood.

On Friday at work, I was talking with one of our tutors, who is about the same age as my Mom and as wonderfully well versed in the best books of childhood.  She was positively glee-ful to discover that my mother had taken the time to introduce me to all the classics.  I brought up Wolves of Willoughby Chase and she talked about how much she had loved it.  I mentioned Blackhearts in Battersea and how excited I had been to find a copy and it drew a blank stare.  
"You never read the sequel to Wolves of Willoughby Chase?"
"There's a sequel?"
I am beyond delighted to have the opportunity to share this book with her, as there is nothing quite as good as sharing a book with someone you know will enjoy it immensely.  I put it in my bookbag when I got home on Friday so I wouldn't forget it come Monday morning, but of course, since it was there, I took the opportunity to get reacquainted with Simon and Sophie and little Dido Twite on my bus rides and stolen moments waiting in line for things.   
Its really good still.  Its obviously more of a child's book than anything else, and so is the easiest of reads, but it is also full of danger and intrigue and phonetically-spelled cockney dialogue full of the jargon of the day.  I wish words like "tosser" and "naffy" would come back into popularity and we could all talk with English accents without sounding ridiculous.  
Its one of those great children's books that can draw in both boys and girls.  Naturally having a male and female protagonist will help, but the girls in this book do just as much rescuing as the boys and they're just as smart and they get to wear gorgeous dresses that are described in just enough detail to let your imagination lose.  
Naturally, if you've never read this Joan Aiken series, you must start with Wolves (which is every bit as good, though geared slightly more towards girls although there are some pretty vicious wolves that might pique the boys' interest) then read this one.  It's a real hum-dinger.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Book 9 - Waiter Rant

I got half way through this book and had a moment of paralyzing fear, Why did Boyfriend get me this book for Christmas?

image via

Because here's the thing.  This book is not very kind to people who eat in restaurants (a label which I happily give myself as much as possible).  He tends to make broad generalizations and then rationalizes them with, "most people are not like this." There are some heart warming stories about very rich people who help him out or very poor people that he helps out (because being a waiter in a fancy restaurant is kind of like being the messiah) - but, obviously, there are not very many stories about just normal people who come in, eat, leave a 20% tip and then go home.  Which makes sense because we're a fairly boring bunch, but he complains SO much about jerks that you kind of feel like he thinks we're all jerks and every now and then, someone surprises him.

Anyway, turns out Boyfriend does not think I am a terrible person who does not deserve to eat in a restaurant, he just thought that the book might be kind of like David Sedaris and knew I liked him, so went for it. 

And it is like David Sedaris, in that there are many short stories, although he spends much more time finding meaning in the stories than David Sedaris every does.  While David Sedaris does eventually find meaning - the meat of the story is the story itself.  I wish this book was more like that.  I get that being a waiter is shitty.  But most jobs are pretty shitty.  I can't think of a single job where you aren't dealing with jerks and annoying people all day long.  Apparently this planet is overrun with terrible people. Bummer. 

My favorite part of this book was the descriptions of all the people.  Obviously.  The best part is the story.  And so, if this was truly a David Sedaris-esque book it would be all story, with space left for the reader to figure out that we're all terrible people and we should tip better.

It did give me pause, to be perfectly honest.  There are some habits of mine, that now seen from the other perspective make me feel a bit guilty.  Although I still do not understand the assigned seating in a completely empty restaurant bit.  Maybe it depends on the place or the day, but if its a Sunday morning and there is no one there - why can't I just sit wherever I want??  I am paying for this experience right?  I should not be judged for wanting a table near the window.  Right??  Sorry to be a dick, maybe there is something I'm just not getting about this whole thing...

But more stories about crazy people!  That's what I want!  I want to hear more about the stupid people who insist that everything on their plate be cooked in peanut oil and the men who come in with hookers and all that good stuff.  That was by far the most enjoyable part of the book.  Some of it kind of felt like I had done something wrong and was being lectured. 

Also, this guy made a book out of a blog, I have to give that kind of thing uber-props.  As someone who can barely force herself to type more than four or five sentences of pure drivel on any given day - this guy put in the work and it paid off well.  So, kudos for that...but I still want to hear more gossipy stories about strangers. 

Thursday, April 07, 2011

It's cool Argentina.

Last night, Boyfriend and I went and saw Black Watch.  It was pretty much just as amazing as everyone told me it would be.  I would recommend it if you aren't afraid of a little loud noise, men dancing and singing, and the grim reality of how dumb those in charge of America can be sometimes.

A week ago we also took in The Wizard of Oz as envisioned by Bell Elementary school.  One of the youth from the organization I work for was in the cast and his Mom gave us tickets.  It was a feat of theatrical amazingness for totally different reasons.  I find getting elementary school students to do anything to be akin to getting a shark to abandon a bloody carcass.  Nearly impossible.  Particularly when they are in a large group.  This cast had over 100 kids in it.  Ages 7 - 12.  And an actual dog. Good lord.  And they pulled it off.  I could get on my soap box about how kids today are coddled and they all have body mics and back in my day you learned how to project or you Got Off The Stage, but I won't.  Not right now.

Anyway,  in both of these shows, just like in most theatrical productions I've seen in the past 15 years, when it came time for the curtain call I found myself thisclose to bawling my eyes out.  I have no idea what is wrong with me (although, I am a girl, so bawling my eyes out in public is practically acceptable, if not encouraged).

Live theater has always been my number one Boo.  Watching and performing.  And I get it, its not what I'll make all my dollars doing- but that does not take away from the fact that it is my most.favorite.  And something about curtain call just gets me all riled up and full of emotion.  Its so ridiculous.

I think part of it is just being aware of how much work goes into putting up a show.  You can't know until you've done it.  Until you've sewed costumes through the early morning hours, and done the same four steps an uncountable number of times.  You've gotten high off of paint fumes - and not the fun kind of high, but the kind where it makes all your food taste like rubbing alcohol, you've folded programs and risked your life changing the gels in the hardest to reach lights even though you've thought to yourself that there are probably less than two people in the audience who will Even Notice. 

But you do it, because you love it.  And you don't even think about it, you cry in dark stairwells and over cigarettes just outside propped open emergency exit doors.  The curtain call is that first breath you get after weeks of holding it in.  Its weird to do something and have the end result be based almost entirely on the reaction of a whole bunch of random people.  And I empathize with that first breath.  Because I've been there too.

It'd be one thing if you hired to design a building, or build a computer program, or fix a car - and there is a constant dialogue between you and the customer, "I like this, change this, do this," and an invoice of how much time and thought and energy went into it.  Although, truth be told, if engineers and architects wanted to take curtain calls in front of their customers, I would have no problem with that.

Because here's the thing - its awesome to take a curtain call.  PS- I think its totally bogus that backstage people don't get to take one (at Bell every single student who was part of the production took a bow, all the lights/make up/choreography people - it was kind of awesome).  Being applauded for doing something well is an incredible feeling and one that I think inspires more creation.

Also theater is an incredibly powerful medium and perhaps I drank a bit too much of the Kool-Aid, but the message of whatever they are saying ("War is terrible and dumb," "Love your family and your friends,") can come across so strongly in a play and the curtain call is that moment where I find it all sinking in and my emotions getting the better of me.  

Anyway - so that's my really guilty secret for the week.  I cry at curtain calls.  I'm a weenie.  But seriously, go see Black Watch.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Book 8 - The Perks of Being Wallflower

Before you start with me, No, I have never read this book before.  Never.  Is that crazy?  Some people think its totally crazy - apparently its a staple of many pre-adolescences.  I some how coasted over it, probably because I spent most of those formative years reading as much Margaret Atwood as humanly possible (and just as much time pretending like I understood it).

Anyway, I can cross it off the list, I've now read Perks of Being a Wallflower.

So when I was lacking a book for my train ride home I picked it up off the bookshelf in the tutoring room at work.  Thinking that a whole bunch of people have it listed as one of their favorites on the Facebook.  It was worth a shot.

I read the first 10 or 15 pages on the way home and then abandoned it for a current New Yorker.  I was not getting the big whoop as of yet.  Then on Sunday night, after hearing my friend rave about it - I decided to give it another go.

Sunday night bath is one of my most favorite new traditions.  Its not quite an every week thing, but it happens enough to be more than just a passing fad.  I took Wallflower with me and started back up and read straight through from page 12 or whatever - until the very end.  It took an hour and a half or so (I take pretty warm baths so I'm not running the risk of catching hypothermia or anything) and when it was over I was prune-y and thoughtful.

I thought it was good, to be sure but I am not quite sure why all my friends think its so amazing.  Without giving too much away, it bills itself as being a book about a typical high school experience but uh - its not.  There are parts of it that (I hope) are anything but typical.

I related with Charlie to be sure, especially there were a few lines that just echoed in my head, knocking around like unfamiliar memories, I wasn't sure how he had known exactly how I felt.

This all came to a screeching halt with the final reveal which made me reevaluate everything I thought before.  Am I really like this character who I am realizing, is so not like me?!  Yikes, Stripes.

Also, the fact that Charlie was a boy.  As with any book written about adolescents, I want to hear the same story but if it was a girl - how does that change his/her feelings and actions.  I don't know why - perhaps femenocentricism is to blame, but, Lord of the Flies, A Separate Peace...what it would be like if they were about girls? (I can tell you one thing - probably a lot fewer people would have died).  These are the things I think about when I am reading.

Anyway - if you're a teenager and you're very angsty, you should probably read this book.  If you are a grown up and want to feel nostalgic about how amazing high school was then, I hate you and everything you stand for - and you probably will feel like you empathize with this book.  If you feel like high school is best left in the past and don't need anything else to bring you down in this world of sadness - read Harry Potter, because its about angsty kids, but there's Magic!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Book 7 - Neverwhere

I hate that this is becoming the all books blog - but my brain has been spinning at about 100 miles an hour most of the time - and when I am home, not working, I try to stay away from the computer.  Which means a total lack of blog posts.  But it does mean a lot of snuggling up with a blanket and reading.  I've finished two books in the past couple weeks, and at first I thought this post was going to be for both of them, but I write too much and so I had to split it into two (you're welcome).

First off - Neverwhere.

image (via)

It's been on my shelf for a while now and then I randomly picked it up, only to discover (Thanks to a random guy on the Lawrence bus) that it is currently the One Book, One Chicago...book (also known as the One City, One Book Book).  This is one of those totally corny things that I absolutely lose my sh*t over.  A whole city reading the same book!!!?  Squeeeeeee, how harmonious!  No guns! Only books!  I got so jacked about it I suggested my book club read it too so that we could be one with the city (it lost out to Public Enemies - the John Dillinger book, which is poetic, Chicagoian democracy at its finest).

This is also wonderful because Neil Gaiman (himself) will be here to talk about it.  I love listening to authors talk and rubbing off some of their being-published aura.  So I'm excited because its really quite lovely when timing works out just right.

As for the book.  Well.  I cannot bring myself to think anything beyond, "yeaaah, its good."  I mean, it is crazy imaginative and vividly written (to the point where there were moments that I forgot it was a fantasy book.  I totally bought into this world because sometimes I'm an idiot).  But at the same time, I didn't really jam out with any of the main characters.  So much energy was spent on the world, that I felt completely ambivalent on whether Door or Richard or any of them made it out of this place alive (except the two bad guys - they were deliciously bad).

I don't think that this is a problem, necessarily - it was a pretty quick read and accessible for the masses (as the One City One Book...book should be).  I am excited to read his other stuff and also listen to him talk, as I have heard he is funny fellow.

Monday, April 04, 2011

spare change

Here are some of the reasons I will always be poor:

1- I don't really have any "marketable" skills.  ie - I cannot program a computer, fight a legal battle, repair a heart, talk to you about your feelings, or fill prescriptions at your local pharmacy.  Which means I will always make $20,000 less than my brain is truly worth.

2- I like it when other people cook and do the dishes.

3- I have a hard time saying no to adventures.

4- Not having enough money is never a good enough excuse not to go see a play, concert or ballet when the opportunity arises. 

5- I find beer to be delicious.  The fancier/more plentiful the better.

6- I like buying shoes.  And bags. And shirts. And jeans.

7- I can't do things by myself and so, to entice others to hang out with me, I tend to buy. 

8- I like giving presents - especially when they're least expected.

9- Groupon.

10- I tend to choose "play more," over "work more."

She's pint-sized and amazing.