Sunday, December 31, 2006

Bring it on

I'm so ready for 2007.

Bring. It. On.

I wish you all a very happy new year - may you all be happy, healthy, and prosperous. I think the whole planet could use a little peace and contentment.

For my part, I will spend my last night of 2006 in relative quiet. Watch an old movie. Ponder the past year a little bit. Think about where I want to go in the next. I think my catchphrase has to be "no place to go but up!" I can live with that.

By the way, I have a new radio commentary that will be broadcast on WAMU's Metro Connection show on Friday, January 5th. You can listen on your radio, listen online live, or listen to the show archive at your leisure, as usual. This piece reflects on all the cosmic dung I slogged through in 2006. Writing this was a way of shaking off the bad ju-ju of this annus horribilis. I hope to be back to funny in 2007. Dear god, I really hope so!!

While I was back in Illinois for Christmas, I wrote and recorded three more commentaries for WVIK, the public radio station at Augustana College in Rock Island. These three are focused on books and reading (and one of them is pretty funny.) I will see how I can make them available for you to hear. (If I can't, I will share the text of the pieces out here.)

I feel I should note that I wrote the last commentary (the funny one) at midnight after watching Jackass Two.

With my 55-year-old sister.

With us both laughing (and dry heaving) like 12-year-old idiots.

Previously, I'd never thought of Johnny Knoxville and Bam Margera as muses for public radio writing, but, hey, it worked for me. Apparently, men wrestling with (and getting bitten by) anacondas in a kiddie ball pit is all I need for the words to pour forth. Go figure.

Anyway, I'm wishing you all a happy new year. May 2007 be a very good year, indeed. A very, very good year.

Oh, and before I go... am I the only person who is wondering what South Park will be offering us now that Satan is permanently stuck with his on-again off-again love interest??? Matt and Trey must be working overtime on this sucker...

But I digress... have a good one, y'all. I'll raise a fine glass of vintage 2006 Chateau d' Coke Zero to you tonight. Cheers!

Just another dork in a wreath...

Monday, December 25, 2006

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Things have been a blur today. Such a blur that I didn't notice that I had my 50,000th hit at 2:01 this morning.

And, as it should be, my 50,000th visitor was the Sasquatch, who had just returned home after an evening of Dolby music with me and Gonzomantis at Sonar in Baltimore.

More on that later. Right now, I'm totally beat. Wiped out. Zonked.

More soon, although my posts will be spotty until the New Year.

Monday, December 18, 2006

More Adventures in the Bad Date Zone!

Dear God,

I know I've not been a very good Christian. Or much of anything, for that matter. Yeah, I stopped going to church back in college. And I have many, many dark thoughts these days - mostly directed at other commuters here in DC. (And the White House.) And now, you're punishing me, aren't you? You're being all Catholic God and vengeful and pissed that it's been, like, 34 years or so since my last (and only) Confession, right?

How about this - I'll go to Midnight Mass this year for Christmas. I'll sing and pray and kneel and all that. But, God? Just one thing, okay?

Please, oh please, oh please, let this year end now!!

Here at the Radio Ranch, I'm still feeling sick, I'm still feeling wobbly, my eyeglasses are still clogging the toilet (despite the $15 I spent on a toilet auger tonight), and I just about started to sob when I looked around and realized how much I have to do before Friday. I will feel better about the world once I'm feeling better physically, but for now, I feel a little defeated.

I'm waiting for my laundry to finish up and figured I should check my e-mail.

Big mistake. Biiiiiig freaking mistake.

I just got a "wink" from some guy on this dumb dating site I signed up on ages ago, mostly for my amusement. A "wink" is a way for members to express their interest in you. The only date I went on with anyone from the site was a year ago. The guy showed up for coffee, told me he was an alcoholic ("but I only drink a coupla times a week!"), taking a couple of anti-depressants and an anti-anxiety drug, and had an ex-wife with a hording disorder. That was the first five minutes. He then went off to the bathroom, came back and said, "Oh, I figured you would have left after I told you all that. Hahahah..." Eek.

So, from the same place that offered me that option, I present the "wink" message I received tonight, unedited for your horror and amusement:

"I am 6'-0" tall and I weigh 190 lbs. I have a short haircut for job safety reasons, and I have 5 tattoos and no piercings. I am a crematory operator, so I spend most of my day with the dead. I am a very passionate, if not neurotic, nerdy guy. When I am not burning dead bodies, I am making leather and sewing costuming stuff for the Medieval and Renfaire and Fetish folks. I have a suit of EPIII Clone Trooper armor and an officer's uniform from SW as well. I had a vasectomy at age 19. I never want children. Or anybody else's. Ever."

Ahhh, classic TMI, TMI, TMI. But he's right up there with the guy who showed up for our one date ever with red splotches all over his pants. He'd told me was a detective with a local police force.

Not quite.

Turns out, he picked up bodies for a coroner's office in Southern Maryland. He bagged, tagged, and lugged the dead for the police. But he had a fake police badge! (Nice.) Charmingly, he hadn't changed clothes after dealing with a car crash before driving up to DC to meet me at some happy hour-ish place at Dupont. He simply told me as I stared at his stains, "Oh, this? Eh, it's corpse blood. If ya date me, you'll get used to it! I washed my hands, so it's cool." When I went to the bathroom to dry heave, he started to hit on other women in the bar. I came out, told the ladies to be sure to ask him about the "corpse blood" and I left.

I think it's clear. I'm never going on a date ever again.

Somebody buy me a nice friendly cat - STAT!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

That did NOT just happen

Oh my f-ing god. I was feeling lightheaded, wobbled over the bathroom, started to pass out toward the toilet, and - I cannot believe this - my fabulous little black eyeglasses fell off my head, into the can, and reaching out to steady myself, I flushed the goddamn glasses down the john.

RIP, fabulous little black eyeglasses.

Damn you, damn you, foul evil stomach bug!

My driving glasses are in the car. I'm now wearing some vintage giant owl-eye glasses I dug out of my crafty girl art box.


As I just wrote to a friend, is there a prize for "Worst Freaking Year Ever"?

My coworkers are right, I just need to travel around in a giant bubble.

Stomach bug from hell

So much for me attending the one and only holiday party I was invited to this year. Feh!

Instead, whatever evil lurks in my GI tract is keeping me pinned down to my apartment and feeling like death on a cracker. I'm being genteel here and calling it a stomach bug, but it's worse than that. I'll just leave it there.

I called my fine hostess, begged off - probably all the better for her guests, honestly - and am now hunched over the keyboard, hoping that the demon in my guts will stop dancing soon. I've been sick since Thursday, and fortunately I have a doctor's appointment on Tuesday afternoon, in case this is still vexing me. Nothing says "Happy Holidays" like abject intestinal misery.

But, enough about me.

How the hell are you guys doing? Since I can't go anywhere, I'm going to address Xmas cards tonight. Want to exchange Christmakwanzakkuh cards? Let me know. I love holiday cards. Total sucker for it. And it's about all I can afford this year, so I hope everyone likes paper!!!


Slightly delirious,


Friday, December 15, 2006

And brilliant stars do shine

My hands smell of evergreen sap now.

I've spent the past fifteen minutes affixing plastic-stemmed pine cones to a magnificent balsam fir wreath. The wreath arrived, amazingly enough, the day after I discovered my artificial wreath missing. I came home from work to find a large white box in front of my door, and in it, a grand, old-fashioned wreath made of thick evergreen branches from Maine. My friend Heather, now in Moscow, toiling away at the place where we first met (and where she once was my boss), had it sent from a small company near her parents' home in Maine. I opened the box immediately and unwrapped the great Victorian circle from its plastic wrap and breathed in the gorgeous scent.

I meant to put the wreath on my balcony a couple of nights ago, but the heady smell of balsam has been intoxicating, and I like coming home to that flood of fresh tree when I open the door. Tonight I finally added the bits and bobs to the wreath, and I will put it on the balcony in the morning, so I can see it each night as I arrive home. A welcoming sight. A homecoming.

I will try to call Heather tomorrow in Russia and tell her how much this meant this year.

It has been an emotional week, and the coming week will be full of small sparks and moments, too. I've been very grateful to the Sasquatch and the lovely Scandahoovian for sharing some of their very precious limited time with me in recent days. They are a pretty damn great couple. Although she will be slightly annoyed, I will say it was the lovely Scandahoovian's birthday this week. And I hope she had a very fine one, indeed, in the company of my dear arboreal friend. The Sasquatch and the Scandahoovian have been generous and kind and supportive of me in so many ways, and there is no way I can adequately express my gratitude here. I'll just have to offer up a virtual hug to them both and hope they know how much it all means to me.

On Wednesday, I was feeling fairly down and lonely (and quite possibly coming down with the stomach bug that's vexing me today), and I stayed at work until 8:30, just trying to focus on papers, papers, papers to keep my mind off my singular sense of aloneness. I left the office to find the city in a fog, and with my impaired night driving, I slowly crept home to Bethesda, slightly jumpy at every turn. I found myself pulling up to my favorite tiny Thai joint at 9 o'clock and stopping in for a plate of spicy noodles. I was the only customer, and they brought me a Thai iced tea on the house, probably because I greeted them in Thai with a wai and chatted with the bored waiters for a few minutes. But in the end, I wasn't really hungry. I was just lonely. I took my food home for lunch the following day.

My building was bathed in fog when I arrived home. But still, in the hanging mist, at the top of the stairs, I could see an enormous box leaning against my apartment door. I was baffled. This thig was humungous. Ginormous. It was, simply, pretty awesomely huge. And it had a UPS tag. It had been mailed from Colorado.

And then, my brain started to put two and two together.

And I cried.

A couple of months back, I started to put some things up for auction on eBay in order to help finance my ongoing eye injections. (And let me tell you, it's a laugh riot. Bring on those needles! Whoo-hoo!) I parted ways with two vintage Thomas Dolby posters, from the days when he was my big crush - that blond Englishman with the great little glasses and the fabulous electronic pop hooks and... and... swoon. The crush is over, but I still adore him. And it was painful and sad to divest myself of these things. But you can't look at posters if you're blind. So, eBay it was.

A bidding war ensued over one of the posters - a stranger bidding against my friend Beth in Colorado. In the end, Beth was victorious, and I was delighted the poster would go to such a lovely person. Through a Thomas Dolby mailing list, I've known Beth for more than a decade now. We've met in person once in all that time, but e-mail has a way of compressing space and time, and I've watched her kids grow in Christmas photos that make me wonder just how much older I've grown, myself. I sent the poster to Beth with every good wish and all the gratitude in the world, and told her she should take it to an upcoming Dolby concert (two, actually) in Colorado for him to autograph for her. I even sent Dolby e-mail mentioning she'd likely be there poster in hand.

But what I didn't know, what I could not have known, was that Beth had Dolby sign the poster to her...

...and to me.

The box outside my door? It was my lovely old poster, signed, with love, from Thomas, and beautifully, magnificently matted and framed. I bawled like a baby. I stood in the entryway of my apartment, in a sea of packing peanuts, looking at this lovely thing, reading the lovely letter Beth wrote to go with it, and I just cried until I couldn't make any sound.

What good fortune I have. What wonderful friends around me! I find words failing me more and more lately. I just know I am lucky.

My friend Cynicsgirl has been hunting down geneaology of my mother's family this week, too. Each time I open my e-mail, there is another gem of information and names, some hazy in my memory, some unknown, that appear to delight me. What a Christmas gift this has been!

And this coming week, I will go to Baltimore with the Sasquatch and our dear friend Gonzomantis - my favorite Nebraskans - and we will see the lovely Lunesse and Thomas, and I will give them both big hugs of gratitude and appreciation. And I hope Beth will know those hugs are for her, too.

Today, I saw a magnificent photo of the Northern Lights over Oslo, snapped by Rarity, a very talented woman in Norway, over on the blog of another very talented Norwegian friend, Scholiast. The timing was marvelous. I had been talking to the Sasquatch and the Scandahoovian about seeing the Northern Lights on my polar route flights from New York to Moscow years ago - how unearthly they looked outside the window of a jumbo jet. I remembered how the stars were so magnificent shining through the shimmering, shifting curtain of the Aurora Borealis.

And I have been thinking of those stars tonight. My friends are like those stars in my life, which is shifting now, shimmering and unpredictable, with dark spots and sudden bursts of light.

You are my brilliant stars. I thank you all.

My wonderful friend Dariush told me today is blog crush day - where you write about the bloggers you have a crush on (for their blogging, mind you!) And while I haven't written about any blog crushes, I hope my friends see this as a love letter to you all.

And to my friend and benefactress, the good Dr. B in California? I'll give you a hug in your own time zone early next year!

My hands still smell of balsam sap. I think that's a lovely bit of aromatherapy for sleeping tonight.

Sleep - and the last few minutes of the Return of the King on TNT - calls.


Holy shit, Batman!

Toronto scientists have cured diabetes in mice. As in, over-freaking-night!

What this means for humans? Who knows, but jeezus. Just imagine...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Puttin' on the ritz, one last time

RIP, Peter Boyle. Rest well. I didn't know he was a monk before making his way to the big screen (and the little screen, too.) What an interesting life to have lived!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Wreath Thief

Someone stole my nice Christmas wreath from the storage room.

Frankly, that sucks.

I discovered the theft tonight, when I finally decided it was time to take down the autumn leaf wreath I've had on the door for a couple of months. I am, at heart, a crafty girl (yes, it's a bad "fat middle-aged woman" kind of stereotype) and I make most of my own greeting cards, decorate my own wreaths, and on the spur of the moment can put together a pretty darn nice homemade gift.

A few years ago, I started decorating my own wreaths, using basic fake fir guys or the bent wood ones from Michaels (on the weeks when they're ridiculously cheap) and "picks" - the wee bits of seasonal decoration designed to be wrapped around and tucked into the wreath frames. The Sasquatch still has the Christmas one I made for him years ago (and it makes me happy to know he still uses it each year.) I made a couple for my old office, Job X, and I took one of them when I left, which has been tucked away in the basement since March 2005. It was a more basic wreath, without all the bells and whistles I put onto the one I made for my own apartment door. My home wreath had berries and funky leaves and pine cones, a handful of tiny bells, and a great red velvet bow. It was, if I say so myself, a pretty nifty number.

But it's gone now. Such a stupid thing to steal. It's not as if anyone could hang it on their door here in the building. (That would require a rather un-seasonal asskicking from yours truly.) I can only assume it's either hanging in someone's office somewhere, or it was maliciously tossed out by someone. Regardless, it made me sad to see it gone.

I dug through my dusty boxes and found the simple wreath from Job X to hang on my door. It's just got holly berries and a little gold and a big plaid bow. Nothing special. And yet, perhaps in putting it on the door, I'm reclaiming a little more of myself. It's an inanimate object, after all, not some dark talisman reminding me of how little those people thought of me. It's something I made. Time to take it back.

It's on my door now, and at the very heart of it is the small copper kokopelli figure I bought in Riverside, Iowa last year, on my trek with my brother's ashes. Having that little guy around is a reminder of my brother, and he's been on my door since I came back from that trip. First, he was alone, and then, he swayed in the center of my autumn wreath. Now, he's in my Christmas wreath. My nondescript Christmas wreath, made for a place where I was not wanted.

I hope that whoever stole my nice wreath finds pleasure in it. I hope that other people see it and find it festive and beautiful. I will take solace in that thought.

For now, I'll enjoy the simple wreath at home. In a way, it speaks to this whole year for me. A time of change, a time of adaptation, a time of downsizing, needing and wanting less, but hoping for more.

For hope really is a very good thing.

I think the Bataan Death March would have been more enjoyable...

I've just seen the worst romantic comedy I've suffered through in a very, very, very long time. Omigod, it blew, it sucked, and I kept checking my wrist, despite knowing I hadn't worn a watch. Guys, I'm giving you a heads-up here: if your woman wants to see this, pass! PASS! PASS, I TELL YOU!!! Tell her it sounds like "a great movie for you and your friends to see!" You, on the other hand, might go blind, as you put your thumbs through your eye sockets, somewhere in Hour Two of this shite. I have "guys taste" in interior design and movies, trust me.

So much dripping sugar and saccharine enveloped this wretched piece of cinema, I wasn't sure if I was going to go into a diabetic coma or die like a Canadian lab rat. In fact, I may have to find an episode of "Hitler's War Machines" or "Monster Garage" or one of the tattoo shows just to cleanse my palate of sweetness.

Look, I'm a single woman, and, even if I am a horrid, horrid failure at relationships, love, and all that good stuff, I still have to find a little romance in my life, right? This afternoon, I tried by taking myself to see "The Holiday." Jeezus Christmas, it was a stinker. At one point in the treaclefest, I actually said out loud, "Oh god, stop the cuteness!" and some guy two rows back sniggered loudly. At least I wasn't alone in my pain.

Here's the deal: Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet play women who have just gotten out of bad relationships and switch houses (a huge LA monster pad and a modest, cutesy Suffolk cottage) for Christmas. Being a practical woman - and unable to willingly suspend my disbelief for this load of crap, I was astounded that Winslet's character, who writes the wedding announcements for a London paper, was able to cough up the cash for a last minute flight from London to L.A. for this trip. Must be a helluva nice paper to offer that kind of salary!

Cameron Diaz plays a producer of movie trailers in L.A. To be kind, I'll simply say, Ms. Diaz ain't exactly believable in this role.

Really not believable.

Throughout the movie, she hears her life played out in her head, complete with movie trailer announcer guy voiceovers, like a GEICO commercial. Within six hours of arriving at this quaint English cottage, she screws Winslet's drunk brother, played by Jude Law, who phones this performance in like he's on a bad cell connection. Jack Black plays Winslet's unlikely romance in Los Angeles, and, while I loves me some Jack, good god, is he ever miscast.

But, seriously, the worst part of this nightmare (besides the $7.50 matinee ticket price and the 2-hour+ length!!!) was the inane dialog. Honest to god, a stoned chimp with a headcold and only one typewriter could have written better, less schmaltzy stuff.

Guess you can tell I didn't dig this, huh?

I love movies. I really do. But I'm not a sophisticated moviegoer. I'm not likely to go to a festival of obscure foreign film just because it will expand my mind...

"Ahhhh, the lingonberries are ripe."

"Yes. Ripe. Ripe. Ripe with life."

"The lingonberries burst with life!"

"And death."

I just love adventure films, comedies, sci-fi, good drama, and really good romance.

"The Holiday" does not fit that last category. This is, I'm pretty certain, the worst romance I've seen since "Autumn in New York" (on cable) or "Sweet November" (which I only went to see because my friend Heather had the hots for Jason Isaacs and I'd had two HUGE margaritas...)

Actually, a really huge margarita might help now. And something on the History Channel... It's Sunday afternoon - I'm sure WWII is in full swing right about now...

Non-RFID passports - am I too late to get one now?

Can any of my tech-savvy friends (or State Department friends) tell me - have I missed the period when I could still get a new passport without an RFID chip? Not that I have any international travel planned in the near future (that would require funds and a destination), but it would suck to get a new passport, finally travel overseas again, and have my information snarfed by some criminal-type person.

Anyone have solid info on this for me? I should have done it months ago, but it hasn't been possible...

Thanks, kids!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Death of a Tape Deck

My dual cassette tape deck just died. At 2:58 Eastern time, I declared the Teac dead. It woke me from a sound sleep with a horrible shriek from the living room. As it's death rattle vibrated along with the noises from the mechanical closet, I initially thought my furnace was dying, which, of course, set me into a "I'M WIDE AWAKE, NOW, THANKS!" kind of panic.

But then I realized, it was coming from the stereo shelf. Rattling away, thrumming with an awful high pitched whine, and strangely warm to the touch, was my old trusty Teac, maker of quality mix tapes since 1988. Frankly, I didn't even know she was still turning on and off along with the rest of my equipment. I guess I've just grown used to the small row of green lights from the top of the unit. I haven't actually used the Teac in, probably, 6 or 7 years. Although my car only has a tape player in it, I haven't made a mix tape for ages. I used to buy the 3 for $10 cassettes at Tower Records (generally my only purchase from that massively overpriced, dying retailer) or just use a portable Discman-type critter in the days before MP3 players.

Yeah, I've just ignored the Teac for too long, I guess. And tonight, she died of old age and neglect. The Teac was purchased off a clearance shelf at a stereo store in Moline, Illinois. I was quite excited by the buy back in '88. She made dozens and dozens of mix tapes over the years, including many in Moscow, where she provided endless entertainment for me, spitting out music I played in U.S. embassy vehicles, driving way too fast on craptacular Soviet roads. I had the "motorcade mix" tape, which I played when I had to drive in police-escorted caravans out to the airport for the arrival of dignitaries, and a different mix for the departures, which almost always started with Erasure's "Star": We go waiting for the stars/to come showering down/from Moscow to Mars/universe falling down... it required speed, and a feeling of release.

But time moves on. The Teac got horribly dented and abused on the return trip from Moscow, and her black paint job was scraped and peeling on the top. Yet she still produced fine entertainment. I made tapes for the Sasquatch, I made tapes for myself. I made tapes for friends for birthdays and holidays and as peace offerings and quiet signs of love, just like any good schmaltzy American who grew up with John Cusack movies and John Hughes movies and believes that a good mix of music can sway anyone's heart. Christ, I am stuck in the 80s, huh?

By the way:

Which John Cusack Are You?

That result did not surprise me.

But I digress...

I hit the off switch on the Teac a half hour ago. I turned off the life support. Frankly, I didn't want to wake up with the apartment on fire.

But I felt awful about it. It is the end of an era. I carry an iPod with me everywhere. I haven't bought a blank cassette tape in so long, I'm not even sure where they're still sold. Staples, maybe?

I'll take the Teac down to the trash room tomorrow. Or maybe to Salvation Army. Perhaps there's a kid out there who can revive her, stop her from shrieking and shuddering (and getting frighteningly warm.) Regardless I know her days of service to me are over.

And Sasquatch? I guess this means you'll never have to gently complain about my inability to get recording levels right - or the old, long spaces between my songs - ever again. But I hope, somewhere in your car, you have a little bit of my musical affection still floating around in a plastic case with my awkward handwriting spilled out on a tiny piece of cardboard wrapping.

(I still have tapes that this nice kid from Nebraska made for me in 1985 or 86. And I smile whenever I see his handwriting, which hasn't changed at all over the years...)

So, goodbye tape deck. May you rest well in the great stereo afterlife.

Thanks for all the memories.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Bears for Dariush

Yesterday, we had a Guinness World Record certified and awarded at work. The record was for the most plush stuffed animals collected in one place - 2,304 critters, all of which will find new homes for Christmas through the US Marines' Toys For Tots program.

My friend Dariush of American Twentysomething asked me to take a picture of a critter for him - a bear specifically. As Madame Bonehead forgot to bring her camera to work yesterday, I took photos with my phone and e-mailed them to myself for the very first time. The quality ain't great, but the ability to take spur of the moment shots like this is pretty cool.

So, Dariush, just for you - enjoy some of the critters that kept us company in our cafeteria yesterday.

Feelin' pretty warm and fuzzy,


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

What happens to a low-traffic blog...

...when you get linked on DC Blogs and Wonkette on the same day:

Tuesday, 6:30 a.m. Ha. It will fade in a day or two. Makes me wish I'd spelled Wilford Brimley's name right the first time in that John Bolton post, though!

Amusing update - lunchtime and 555 hits today. Damn! And among those, much to my amazement - one from Macalester College, my alma mater, and another from the London School of Economics, where I once studied 1980s nightclub life and sweet ciders of England (in the guise of a Soviet Studies program...) I don't think anyone from Mac or the LSE has ever been here before.

Monday, December 04, 2006

John Bolton, We Hardly Knew Ye

I've just read that Dubya has accepted the resignation of porn star-mustachioed UN Ambassador John Bolton. All America weeps, surely.

In honor of the occasion, I'm dredging up my ode to famous Boltons from May of last year, the Bolton Files.

God bless us, everyone.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Spinning the dial

The odometer here at Church of the Big Sky just flipped over to 48,000. (And g'day to the visitor from Sydney who was customer 48K, whoever you are!) I know my numbers are small potatoes for big time bloggers, but it's a little triumph over here, where I'm amazed folks continue to drop by.

I'll have to devise some interesting prize for visitor 50,000.

Later, gators!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Another night in suburbia, and the radio calls...

The fine people at WAMU have asked me to do a new piece of commentary, likely to be broadcast the Friday before Christmas. Unfortunately, I am finding the words difficult to put together this weekend. Not completely sure what my problem is, but I'll sort it out.

I'm lacking the holiday spirit this year, and I tried to jump start it this afternoon by compiling an iTunes playlist of appropriate tuneage. A lot of old stuff, a little new stuff, a handful of kids' show tunes... Then, I took a drive up the Pike tonight to listen to it. I still didn't feel the feeling, no matter how plaintively Judy Garland pleaded for me to have myself a merry little Christmas. Not even Burl Ives could kickstart my holly jollies. Feh. It'll come eventually, I hope.

I sat in the parking lot at Target for a while, just listening to music, not eager to go in and spend money. But life without toilet paper and laundry detergent is simply not worth living. Trust me.

I dragged my carcass into the Target entrance and immediately felt that sensation of "Mall Head", as if I'd already been there too long and needed out. I stood, nose to the wall, reading the posted weekly circular in what has become my normal stance for reading text. A woman came up next to me, laughing. She said, "I've got the opposite problem, I have to stand back to read 'em." There we stood, doing this squinty review of the ad. I told her with a chuckle, "Last year my eye doctor told me that my vision would start changing around 40 and I'd be holding things at arm's length to read 'em. And then, I end up going partially blind this year, and BAM. It's the exact opposite." I was wearing my new driving glasses. I smiled again, "Hence the jumbo frames here."

My presbyopic compatriot smiled and said, "Actually, I think those glasses make you look quite lovely. Very striking."

I'll be damned.

I wished her luck and headed for the cleaning supplies area, feeling a little better about the world. Still, I wanted out. I hit the check-out as quickly as possible, where a young skinny guy clerked and joked, and tried his hardest to be a modern day Duckie, channeling Jon Cryer with modest success. As I unloaded my Tide and Scrubbing Bubbles, I realized my wallet was sitting in my locked car, fortunately just two spaces away from the door. "No problemoooo!" chirped Duckie Jr. "If you write a check, sometimes it doesn't ask me for ID." Of course, this time, it did.

I turned to the woman behind me and apologized. I quickly explained that I was rather night blind and didn't see that my small black wallet was left on the car seat. I'd be right back. She rolled her eyes, clucked her tongue and sighed. I apologized again and asked the clerk if he could clear my transaction for her. Again he said, "No problemoooo - I'll just suspend it."

I headed for my car, and as the automatic doors whooshed open, I heard the woman say to the clerk, "Her ass is so fat, it's gonna take her ten minutes to get to her damn car." "Oh, yeaaaaah. No kidding!" said the chirpy twerp in response. I clocked myself on my wrist. 1 minute, 15 seconds. I was back before they'd finished their tacky chatter at my expense.

"Was that fast enough for you?" I said to the woman, who was studiously ignoring me. "Excuse me?" She said it in that way people do when they've been caught at something and are embarrassed.

"Did I move my fat ass fast enough for you?" I spoke sweetly, like a southern woman asking if she'd like another mint julep. She fixed her jaw and avoided my eye. I looked at the clerk and said, "Here's my ID." He looked at me and jerked his chin. "Soooo sorry. You'll have to go to the end of the line-o." The line-o was one guy-o. I considered just leaving my goods there and going to the Giant store around the corner, but I was tired. I just replied "Fine-o. I will-o wait-o." Duckie cast a baleful stare my direction. The guy behind the cranky broad chuckled.

When I took my place behind him, he turned to me and said, "It's amazing, isn't it? People feel like they can be assholes and no one will call them on it." I nodded quietly and half-smiled. I've been feeling tired and worn down lately. I just didn't want to cry in Target of all places. He then addressed the woman in front of us, who was juggling her ringing cell phone and $60 worth of holiday party supplies: "Excuse me, but can you move your fat ass a little faster? I think it's gonna take you ten minutes to get out of my way, huh?" She looked shocked.


The man spoke again. "You can dish it but can't take it?" Clearly she was rattled.

"Screw you," she hissed, grabbing her bags and throwing them into the cart. She fled to the door, but had to return to the counter, where she'd left her credit card hanging out of the scanner. The man half-bowed to her and said, "Your credit card, madame." There was almost visible steam coming out of her ears at this point. My volunteer supporter finished his transaction, turned to me and said, "You have a nice evening, ma'am." He smiled and left.

I looked at the clerk, who wasn't really looking at me. "Here's my check-o, ID-o, and I'd just like to go-o."

"Heh, uh heh heh, yeah," the clerk was nervous. I'm sure he wondered if I was going to complain about him agreeing with the customer about the velocity of my fat ass. He tried to joke as he awkwardly ran the check through the machine. "Heh, uh heh heh... check, check, check... check... republic... uh heh heh heh heh." My receipt appeared and he thrust it at me, but never met my eye.

I took the paper from him and offered a barely audible "Thank you." And I left.

Some people really do feel empowered to be mean and callous and rotten and some others are just cowed into playing along. And yet, for every jerk, there are, I hope and believe, at least two to counter them.

And blessings upon them and their parents for raising them well. Job well done, Mom and Dad.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Driving Glasses (yeesh)

Yep. It's come to that. I now have driving glasses. I think that's pretty much when you turn in your youth card.

While the eyeball injections are helping me rather amazingly well, my vision will never be the same. Everyone looks like an alien with a bulbous, misshapen kidney bean head. Text floats like the 3D credits in Parasite. (And yes, sadly, I saw that in a theater. On a date.)

Most frighteningly, I have real trouble with street lights and glare, especially at night or in inclement weather. Images smear, one set of red lights becomes two or three. Distances are altered. I get quietly freaked out.

Knowing this could become a real safety issue, I finally caved and scratched together the cash for a pair of driving glasses. I realized I would have to be less funky and stylish in order to give myself a wider field of vision, and I'd have to cough up bigger bucks for good lenses. (In the old days, I just bought the cheapest stuff around.) So, I now own a big pair of clunky tortoise shell rectangles with Teflon lenses. Not very fashion-forward, I'm the first to admit, but it's like having a Cinemascope screen for viewing the world.

Driving home from the optician today in overcast skies and dribbling rain (and massive wind gusts), I could see so clearly, and the large lenses allowed me to see my mirrors without problem. It was pretty flippin' beautiful.


So, hello, Buddy Holly! No glamour behind the wheel, but a lot more confidence. And that, as my favorite ex-con would say, is a Good Thing.

I guess they could be worse, eh?
(And, helloooo humidity hair!!)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Radio Silence

Ever have one of those days when, no matter what you say, you stick your foot in your mouth so many times you're surprised it hasn't come through the back of your head?

That's the way I feel tonight. And I'm confused and really bummed out about it because I deal in words all day. Usually I'm pretty good at it.

But not today. I started to cry in the office around 7:30 tonight, but had to pull it together to go home. Sometimes, when the words are broken, I wish I could just mindmeld with people so they could get a better feel for what I'm experiencing. But I can't, regrettably. Not being Vulcan. Or an old guy who likes to take photos of nude chicks. (And those last two words, Mr. Wizard, are why this entry will pop up on Google searches by young, horny guys the world 'round for the next six months.)

So, what do I do tonight?

I cried again when I got home, just kinda flipping out over the lack of control I currently feel in my life. I stopped myself from welling up, and just tried to breathe. Now, my entire body hurts and I feel nauseated: eye + stress + frustration = Mr. Toad's Wild Nausea Ride. I would give just about anything to feel more together right now.

What do I do?

I'm spending tonight in silence. I feel like it will benefit me just to be calm and quiet. No TV, no radio. Simply me and the dishes in the kitchen. And then bed. Maybe I'll try to read myself to sleep - something I haven't attempted since the eye went all wonky.

Perhaps, tomorrow, my words will return in a way that won't cause me or anyone else any stress or grief. It's so frustrating to not be understood clearly.

I should be better at This Thing Called Life.

I just feel like a total flop tonight.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

If you buy yourself one Xmas track on iTunes this year...

...make it "Mr. Heat Miser" by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. If you're down in the dumps, suffering from early holiday overload, if you just need to cheer up a little, this is the song to turn things around. Quite possibly the best cover of a Rank & Bass holiday kids show tune ever.

I defy you to not dance around once you've downloaded this sucker.

"I'm too much!"

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Care for some gravy with that stuffin'?

I knew today was going to be a non-traditional Thanksgiving here at Chez Merde. No one was around to cook for. My closest family is a good 4.5 hours away in good weather and non-holiday traffic, and today it was still very chilly and drizzly. I'm not great driving in "weather" now, considering my depth perception/double vision driving paranoia, anyway.

So, I'd determined a few days ago that I would hunt for food out and about and catch a movie.

But it was sooo warm and nice in bed today, I just couldn't get motivated. Cold outside, warm in bed. Screw getting up and going out. I made a vaguely continental brunch of Black Forest ham and cheddar cheese, with some wee little mini dill pickles and a glass of milk. Yeah, it's a weird combo. So sue me.

I watched a couple of episodes of "The Closer" on TNT and pondered my dwindling options for the day. Stay at home? Do some writing? Or hit the road? I was completely weighed down with indecision.

But then, Angry Indian Doctor and Submissive Girl very helpfully made up my mind for me.

Around 2 p.m., my fine upstairs neighbors decided to embark on a new holiday tradition... the, uh, stuffing of her cavity with his giblets... on the living room floor. As Kyra Sedgwick "Thank yew'ed" her way through some Los Angeles crime, the neighbors got it on above, no holds barred. Yes, there's nothing that says "wholesome Norman Rockwell family holiday" like people going at it like rabid bunnies overhead. As usual, Submissive Girl began to wail and bark just as the, uh, Reddi-Wip* hit the pumpkin pie...

Things quieted down, as things tend to do, but, after a relatively brief pause, our revelers went back for seconds. Determined to make an escape before things really started to rock, I headed for the door. Alas, the shrieking had already begun by the time I hit the hallway. There, stock still like deer in headlights, stood the elderly parents of another neighbor. Dad stood poised to knock on a door, hand stuck in mid-air. Mom just looked horrified, her faced turned toward the stairwell, from whence came the cries of our panting Pilgrims, at least one of whom uttered a twisted Thanksgiving grace: "OH GOOOOD! OH MY GOOOOOD! OH JESUS! YES, GOD!"

(Well, hey, at least they had not forgotten their Lord and Savior before digging in for another heapin' helpin' of lovin'.)

The smell of turkey floating through the corridor couldn't shake the creepy feeling that we were unwilling voyeurs. I wished the old folks a happy holiday and split.

I ended up driving in the rain, listening to music on my iPod, reading the Washington Post outside the Hellmouth 7-11 (yes, I know better than to go there), and then taking in a showing of "Stranger Than Fiction." I read a review tonight on Rotten Tomatoes that sums up my feelings about it: "Finally, a Charlie Kaufman movie for people who are too stupid to understand Charlie Kaufman movies." Yep, that about does it. Not bad, really, but not particularly good, either.

By the time I got out of the theater, virtually everything was closed except for one Chinese restaurant. So, I slapped down a little cash for some carryout, and headed home to watch "Ugly Betty" and eat my lo mein in blissful silence. I think that Angry Doc got enough breasts and thighs for today before I got back to my place. And for that, I am truly thankful this evening.

Dear god, what happens if the people upstairs want leftovers tomorrow? They do say that those Thankgiving goodies are always better the second day.

Think I'll hit the coffee shop tomorrow a.m. and never look back...

*For my friends outside of the United States, Reddi-wip is a spray whipped cream generally only seen on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Girls Gone Wild videos...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Cold Turkey

A coastal storm, coming in from the Atlantic, has covered us in a bone-chilling rain today. I'm not fond of cold downpours - I have trouble staying warm in this weather, and, hours after being out and about, my hands and feet are still icy. But it was worth heading out today. I had a very nice lunch hour, indeed, with the Lovely Scandahoovian, right hand woman of the Sasquatch. After a brief stop at the Royal Norwegian Embassy (right across from the U.S. Naval Observatory, temporary home of Satan's Little Minion), we had an excellent late lunch at 2 Amys. If you haven't tried 2 Amys, you should. The Neopolitan-style pizza is damn tasty, with wonderful chewy crust. I had the "Norcia" pizza with thin slices of salami, sweet red pepper and yummy mozzarella. Nice. We split this wonderful appetizer called suppli a telefono - deep fried risotto balls filled with fresh buffalo mozzarella. Mighty fine on a cold November afternoon.

Along with treating me to this lovely lunch - and some fine conversation - my Norwegian connection gave me a rockin' gift - a live Röyksopp CD, fresh off the plane from Norway, complete with a really funky version of "Remind Me" (aka, the GEICO Caveman Song - and, holy crow, I get a pile of hits every day lately with folks looking for that tune! I think I know just about every variation of search for it at this point.)

Röyksopp in da house! Yeah, we bad!
Straight outta Bergen, yo!

And now, it's already 1:15 in the morning on Thanksgiving. I have no plans for the holiday, other than maybe taking in a movie. There is no turkey in the fridge, no stuffing or green bean casserole to be cooked. I will see what reasonably priced cafes might be open along the Pike and find a quiet meal for myself. But that stuff really doesn't matter in the big picture.

What matters is that I am grateful this year.

Grateful for continued vision.

Grateful to be employed.

Grateful for the support of family.

Grateful for the love of friends.

Grateful for each and every one of you out here.

I cannot but with good thoughts and warmth repay you all for your kind words and contributions and bolstering through a difficult season.

I am, simply, grateful.

May you have a fine holiday.

And, because I am a massive juvenile at heart... have a hand turkey:

Peace out.

I'll be a total laugh riot when I'm old

Sometimes, the Big Bad Eye brings entertainment value to the table. Like yesterday, when I stopped at the Caribou Coffee by my office. (I know - heresy for a Mayorga Coffee drinker - but there is no Mayorga downtown, dammit!)

As I waited for my mocha latte, I pondered a sign advertising holiday drinks. For nearly a minute I wondered why the hell they were selling a "Ho Chi Minh Latte" for Christmas.

Then I realized it read "Ho Ho Mint."

I'd say I need my eyes checked, but... well, you know the drill...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Crack on Tap!

Dear god, Wendy's now has Coke Zero available as a fountain drink. Screw you, tasteless Diet Coke! No-calorie nirvana has reached fast food land! Sugar-free smack on lovely, lovely ice to chase down your buck-ninety-nine chili.

Hell, yeah.

Wendy, you little red-braided freak child, I love you.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Nymph, nymph, what are your beads?

When I was in grade school, my sister Nurse Rachet handcrafted a gorgeous, fully illustrated book of 20th Century poetry. One of the poems was "Overheard On a Saltmarsh" by British poet Harold Monro:

Nymph, nymph, what are your beads?

Green glass, goblin. Why do you stare at them?

Give them me.

Give them me. Give them me.

Then I will howl all night in the reeds,
Lie in the mud and howl for them.

Goblin, why do you love them so?

They are better than stars or water,
Better than voices of winds that sing,
Better than any man's fair daughter,
Your green glass beads on a silver ring.

Hush, I stole them out of the moon.

Give me your beads, I want them.

I will howl in the deep lagoon
For your green glass beads, I love them so.
Give them me. Give them.

I read the poems my sister illustrated over and over again. This is one of my favorites, and I loved the grotesque and envious goblin she drew, eyeing the nymph's moon beads with avarice.

Give me your beads, I want them.

This poem came to mind today as I was looking at my friend Lunesse's website, juiceglass. Lunesse is a very talented glass artist, crafting unique glass beads and jewelry that she sells on her site (and a growing number of locations worldwide.) She's also a gifted writer, as well as Thomas Dolby's webmistress and tour manager, so look for her along the road over the next month if you're going to one of the gigs!

When she's not behind the scenes of the great music machine, Lunesse also entertains commissions for one-of-a-kind glass pieces. One of my friends received an exquisite piece of Lunesse's work earlier this year as a Mother's Day gift, and she adores it.

Today, while pondering the gorgeous jewelry that Lunesse creates, I couldn't help but feel like that goblin, wanting all the lovely things.

They are better than stars or water,
Better than voices of winds that sing,
Better than any man's fair daughter,
Your green glass beads on a silver ring.

There's something about glass that has been carefully manipulated by design at the hands of an expert. Smooth and cool and utterly unique in its finished form, but born of fire and the vision of the artist who can see how the swirls and dots and colors will mesh together before the cooling chemistry decrees that movement must stop.

That's pretty damn amazing. In an old school, ancient world, real-deal artisan kind of way.

If you have a chance, visit Lunesse's site. The woman has got some major talent, seriously. When my finances are healthy again, I'll be adding some of her lovely glass to my jewelry box, no doubt there! I've added juiceglass to a new category on the right side of my blog - links to things material and cultural and healthful (and caffeinated) that I recommend, both in the DC area and online.

It's so very cool to have friends who are able to make their way in this world doing Things Creative. It's a genuine inspiration. I hope to take that path someday, too.

Until then, I will be an appreciative goblin, eyeing the nymph's beads with envy...

Rupert Murdoch has a soul, after all

Astoundingly, Uncle Rupert has demonstrated a measure of good sense, if after the fact: the utterly tasteless O.J. Simpson book and TV special have been cancelled by News Corp. About flippin' time.

I guarantee you, press copies of that damn book will be up on eBay in minutes...

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Support PostSecret

Frank Warren of PostSecret is calling on folks for support - buy one of his PostSecret books to keep the website free of advertising. Every Sunday, there's at least one postcard that grabs me in a significant way. Today, this is the one:

I know this feeling. I really, really do.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Seen the Doctor

Yesterday was Festival of Medical Care Day - dentist, eye guy, pick up repaired eyeglasses, drink a ton of water to wash out the dye from my system... (The dye they inject to do photos of my eye is very hard on the kidneys, and it makes you pee neon colors for days. This morning, I have achy kidneys. Yuck. Ouch.)

The technician at the eye clinic burned me a disc of photos of my eye. Unfortunately, he saved them in "standard format" which he thought was .jpg, but, in fact, is some proprietory software format that can only be opened if you have the uber expensive program they use at the clinic. :-( So much for that!

However, I did find someone else's photo online that really does a very good job of showing you what my eye looks like:
"CNV" stands for "choroidal neovascularization" which is the problem I have. See that black, cloudy space in the eye? That's the center of vision. The white spot in it with the bright outline? That's a clump of weedlike blood vessels, strangling the center of vision, cutting off sight. And that is pretty much what my eye photos look like, except that my clump of blood vessels have a strange tear drop shape in the middle.

Funky, huh?

My doctor says I'm doing really well. He called me a "superstar" with this drug treatment. Best results he's ever seen. And that's a Good Thing.

So, I'll keep stumbling forward, folks!

Oh - and America? I beg of you - please, oh please, oh please - do not watch that wretched OJ thing. Do not buy the book. Do not put another penny in that guy's pocket. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Javi alert!

Tonight is the season premiere of "Medium" on NBC. My friend, the incredibly talented, very funny, and generally just really decent human being (and Geek God) Javier Grillo-Marxuach, co-wrote tonight's episode with Glenn Gordon Caron. Javi has moved from "Lost" to "Medium", and it'll be a real pleasure to see how his unique voice will bring innovation to this third season of his new TV home.

Via Javi's LiveJournal, I think we already have an inkling of what he's bringing to the table:

Who is that dashing, skinny, bespectacled dude??

You'll have to watch tonight to understand where the grinning monkeys come in. Yep. Primetime NBC drama... with animated monkeys!!

Does it get any better than that?

By the way, along with being an awfully talented TV scribe/producer type, Javi is also a comic book super genius. Along with his own (very cool) creation, Viper Comics' The Middleman, Javi's penned a very well-received Super-Skrull mini-series for Marvel and - ready for this - a classic Battlestar Galactica series. Old school Battlestar Galactica! Look for that in February 2007.

Man, that takes me back. Waaay back to Sunday nights in 1978, watchin' Richard Hatch and Dirk Benedict on my parents' Curtis Mathes with my friend Linnea... Junior high geek girls in paradise... Ahhhh...

But I digress (as usual.)

Watch "Medium" tonight! Enjoy your Grillo-Marxuach content. (It's like "Canadian content": good, and good for you!) And if you want more Javi goodness, start reading The Middleman, available at fine comics vendors everywhere.

Except that really snooty, obnoxious place in downtown Bethesda. (Screw them.)


Your mileage may vary, but in my book, this guy's just a big turd.

His kids are going to be in therapy for decades...

Not quite orgasmic, but pretty damn good banana bread

Pretty Damn Good Banana Bread

(modified from an recipe, which came from an old 4H recipe from the 1950s…)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs (the original recipe calls for 1 egg, but comments suggested two to keep the loaf from crumbling - I doubled this recipe, and used 3 eggs for the double batch – your mileage may vary…)
  • 5 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or just nutmeg – your choice)
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (more or less two good-sized overripe bananas)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon sugar mixed (optional)

  1. Mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice.
  2. In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter or margarine (I used sweet cream butter and I melted it before mixing it in.) Beat the egg slightly, and mix into the creamed mixture with the bananas. Mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Stir in milk.
  3. If you are feeling really decadent, you can add nuts or chocolate chips. Frankly, I’d make it plain once, first, to see how you dig it.
  4. Spread batter into one greased and floured 9x5 inch loaf pan (or just pour it straight into one of those fabulous silicone baking pans – man, they rock!)
  5. Again, if you’re feeling decadent and want to raise your sugar high, take a tiny mix of cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle over the top of the batter in the pan.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 45 minutes, until a knife inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. (The top should be brown with cracks along the top.)
  7. When done, take from oven and let it cool for a couple of minutes, then flip loaf out onto rack.
  8. Eat. Plain. Hot. Cold. With butter. With Nutella. With ice cream. With coffee. With a big, ice-cold glass of milk. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What Would Jesus Do(nate)?

Hi-diddley-ho, neighbors! This is what happens when Ned Flanders decides to donate to Toys for Tots.


Monday, November 13, 2006

The hungry pavement & the mourning tracks

I live on a back street in what I've long thought of as "Barely Bethesda." It's a downwardly mobile corner of one of the nation's wealthiest enclaves. The apartment I rent is in an aging condo community with thin walls and crappy insulation that drives me crazy with the neighbors' noise and drives me to sleep in the living room in winter, when the bedroom turns into an ice palace.

I slept on my sofa for months and months after I broke my leg a couple of years back. I slipped in oil on the floor of the parking garage of my old job, and, as I turned and fell, I heard my fibula snap like a flimsy chicken bone. Because the break was so close to the knee, it could not be cast, and I was a virtual prisoner in my home for weeks. Late at night, when I turned even the slightest bit, I could hear the broken ends of bone tap against each other deep in my leg. I would try to focus on other noises - the neighbor's yippy dogs, the fox that barked under the crabapple tree by my balcony, snowplows coming to dig out the street filled with late winter snow.

And the trains.

I grew up in Moline, Illinois, next door to Rock Island, home of the Rock Island Lines, the venerable rail system - now mostly defunct - that carried freight across the country on our sadly neglected train tracks. Late at night, I would fall asleep to the sound of train cars coupling and uncoupling in the Rock Island Lines freight yard. I could hear trains clacking along their steady path, and the sorrowful whistle of engines, dopplering from downtown a couple of miles away, along the Mississippi River. It's a peaceful sound to me, and when I go back to Illinois, it's still a lullaby that quiets my mind and my heart and sends me to sleep with such ease.

Before they became a nexus of violent crime and shameless thievery (for Western foreigners, at the very least), I loved traveling by overnight train in Russia. The smell of the expended fuel - which reminded me of roasted chestnuts on winter London streets, the hot tea provided by the dezhurnaya, and the rumbling bunks that rocked you to sleep. And throughout, the whistle, calling you to rest.

But then, I moved to Barely Bethesda.

Just three-tenths of a mile past my crackerbox apartment lie the train tracks. Amtrak, CSX, people, freight, commuters and commodities... they all pass by my home. And when the night is quiet, and there are no trucks humming along the Beltway just a mile to the south, I can hear the click and clack of the night trains and the whistles that announce and farewell them. The trains run through the tiny town of Garrett Park, a mix of small post-war brick box houses, colorful Victorians, bungalows, and the occasional House Beautiful creation, like the rambling manse next door to my building, home to the Stupid Rich Neighbors.

A few years ago, an odd phenomenon began down at the tracks where they cross Montrose Road, a modest commuter street just past my place a few more blocks: people began using the tracks as a suicide spot. It wasn't just one case. It happened again, and again, and again. It was mostly women, mostly Latinas, mostly illegal immigrants. And most of them carried this out with children in tow. Onlookers, waiting behind crossing bars for the approaching train, initially did not know what the women intended. They would wander along the tracks, seemingly lost in though, somewhat confused. By the time the witnesses knew what was afoot, it was too late. Most of the women quietly knelt on the tracks, sometimes gathering children to them, just as the freight engines bore down upon them.

I would come home to the news of a suicide on the tracks and the strange silence from down the road. No click. No clack. Just silence. Trains were diverted. The track was a crime scene. The track was a gravesite.

And then, a couple of days later, I would hear a train whistle again. But then, the whistle did not seem peaceful to me. It screamed. It cried. It wept as it passed by. I know it may sound foolish, but it would raise goosebumps on my arms, and I would not be able to sleep until the train passed by and the banshee cries ceased.

Over the years, the tracks - and the pavement on Montrose Road - has soaked up more than its fair share of blood. I cannot help but thing of it as somewhat unhallowed ground. Too many years of reading Stephen King books, I guess. But it feels like the pavement is hungry.

Tonight, I came home to silence again. It was palpable - cut only by the lousy louts upstairs, pounding around and yelling to each other. I watched "Heroes" and then turned on the local news. Just behind my apartment, on the dark street between me and the train tracks, a twelve-year-old boy bolted out into traffic between cars. He was struck and killed. One of our local TV stations reported that neighbors can't help but wonder if the boy would still be alive had PEPCO and the Maryland State Highway Administration resolved a dispute that has kept the streetlights dark on Strathmore Avenue.

I heard police cars for a while. And still, the accident investigation goes on, three plus hours after the death. But the neighbors are shuttered indoors, on a rainy, tragic Monday night. No one is out walking. Even the Stupid Rich Neighbors have brought the dogs in. No cars out. No trains.


But they'll come.

The hungry pavement behind my home took another portion tonight. Another loss that will bring the weeping trains. It's so quiet now. I know the trains will come, and I won't sleep until they pass.

Come. Cry. And let me sleep.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

If only this blog were scratch and sniff!

I've just made a big batch of banana bread - it's in the oven right now, and holy crow, does it ever smell fabulous. It's chilly, windy, and rainy out, and I had four big, overripe 'nanners, so it seemed like the right thing to do.

I couldn't find my family recipe, so I modified one I found on - this one has milk in it, to make the bread more moist. I added pumpkin pie spice and another good shake of cinnamon, as well as vanilla. Honest, this smells fabulous. If it's good, I'll put my modified recipe up here for y'all.

I said "screw the carbs, screw all that!" and this baby is made with real sugar.

Sometimes, real, honest food is the Right Thing To Do.

Later today, once the laundry is perking and I feel a bit better about the budget work I brought home, I'm making a chicken casserole to eat/freeze, too.

Damn. I'm just Dolly Domestic today! If only this virtuous feeling would last!

(Also, being Dolly Domestic = not buying lunch at work, which also = saving that confederate money!)

Mmmm... bananas...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

It's, ummm, like, too much

I'm more human today than I've been in many days. I got a decent night's sleep, my hair loss seems to have slowed, I finally got my hair trimmed (thank god), it's 75 degrees outside, and I'm in the coffee shop with a killer iced mocha latte (thank you, customer loyalty point freebies!) and free wifi.

All is - for one brief shining moment - good.

Except for the Gen-X/Y/Z valley girl behind me. "Ummm, like, my dad was all, 'You can't go out dressed like that.' And I was, ummm like, all 'You, like, totally suck, Dad.' And, ummm like, he was all in my face. And - ewww, like, your ringtone, like, it sucks. What is that? Rap? Ummm, like rap sucks!"

She's a tiny thing in the tightest black jeans I've ever seen in my whole life and a red spandex belly tank top, decorated in glitter and the word "Hottt." It's possible that her clothing is so tight it's squeezing all other words out of her vocabulary while giving her a full-body yeast infection at the same time.

Okay. That was mean. Sorry.

Oh hell, wait. I'm on a roll. For the record, "Hottt" isn't a word, unless you are Paris Hilton. And, since no genitalia has been exposed yet here in Fab Java Central, I doubt that, ummm like, this chick is Paris Hilton. (And I'm grateful for that - I think there's a requirement to close down and spray the place after an infestation of Hilton.)

I may never use the word "like" ever again after today. I may no longer be able to say, "I like that." I will have to say things akin to "that pleases me" or "I enjoy your company" just to avoid using "like."

Ummm, like, I'm just kidding. But seriously, could someone come duct tape this chickie's mouth shut? I think she's making the milk in my latte curdle.

I think I'm channeling the anti-Mary Tyler Moore today:

She can shut your world down with a sneer
She can take an upbeat place, and suddenly fill it with real fear
And it's you girl, and you should know it
With your "ummm likes" and little belly red shirt you show it
Loathing's all around, no need to fake it
You're making me go nuts, my sanity - you take it
I wish you'd leave here, after all
You're gonna make me crawl the wall

(And if you're old enough to be able to put the music to those words, I applaud you!)

I think I need a coffee refill. That will fix things.

And earphones. Yep. That'll do it...

Apparently, is in on the joke

This is the title of an auto-bot message I received from this morning:

" recommends Easy Spanish Phrase Book: Over 770 Basic Phrases for Everyday Use (Dover Easy Phrase) and more"

I'm starting to think this is a message from the Great Beyond...

Friday, November 10, 2006

Update to Caveman Tuneage

If you, like me, now find that dang Norsk beat stuck in your head, here's the scoop - the original, slower, mellower version of "Remind Me" as heard in the caveman ad is available on iTunes as "Remind Me (Radio Edit)" and that cool, faster, synth-y version is also out there as "Remind Me (Someone Else's Radio Edit)". They both appeal to me. Ka-ching, iTunes store credit!

Ah yes, iTunes gift cards: a little delight for music freaks with empty pockets. :-)

Anyone else diggin' the "caveman music"?

I love the GEICO "caveman" commercials. There's a new one running now, where one of the cavemen is on a moving walkway in an airport. He's just headed for his plane, checkin' his ticket, his tennis racket in his carry-on bag... As he moves along, he passes a GEICO ad on the wall, proclaiming, "So easy a caveman can do it." (See the commercial here.)

I've been diggin' on the music in the background, and, courtesy of the GEICO website, I now know it's "Remind Me" by Norway's Röyksopp. There's a link to the video for the song on the GEICO site here. Guess I will be using some of my iTunes credit that the Sasquatch gave me for my birthday (thanks, Squatch-dude!) and download some Norwegian musical goodness.

And if you haven't seen the GEICO caveman commercials, you can find them out on YouTube, including some weird fake movie trailer that cracks me up with how strangely serious it is.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Go, Norge!

Congratulations to my friends in Norway. Per the UN, you continue to live in the best spot on the planet. So, gratulerer, kids! Someday, I will get to see Norway with my own eyes. (Well, at least with one eye!)

Until then, I will just have to imagine Norway this way: the world's most magnificent (and livable!) refrigerator magnet.

(God bless Google - I'd never seen a Norwegian refrigerator magnet before today...)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Holy crap, my mother was right!

Leaving work this evening, I encountered a dapper Latino man at the corner of 16th and M. I could see he was a bit lost. He kept looking down toward the White House, three blocks away, and then would look at an envelope in his hands. Just as I was about to cross the street, he spoke to me in heavily accented English: "Excuse me, where is Madison Hotel?"

He showed me the envelope that was marked MADISON HOTEL - 15th and M Streets, NW.

"Oh," I said cheerfully, "That's just a block down this way." He smiled and said, "No English." Then he pointed down to the White House. He pointed at his chest. "From Mexico. My presidente, Felipe Calderón, at White House. I..." He struggled for a moment, "Official photographer for my presidente." Cool.

I said, "C'mon on, I'll show you to the hotel." It was just half a block past my parking garage. He smiled and said again, "No English." Crap. As someone who does speak a second language, I find it utterly frustrating to meet someone in need with whom I cannot communicate. I didn't think my photographer friend would be amused or interested to know that the only Spanish I know is: 1)about dangerous Peruvian llamas; 2)a request for cold water; or 3)pretty obscene. Surely frustrated, the Mexican gentleman rattled off an extremely speedy set of sentences en español, and I was clueless.

I patted him on the wrist and gestured for him to come with me. Foreign cities can be pretty freaky, no matter what. And when it's dark and rainy and you don't speak the language, that increases the scary factor exponentially. I'm always happy to help someone out in unfamiliar surroundings.

15th Street - and the Madison Hotel - spotted, the presidente's photographer gave me a big "¡Gracias!" and headed for his temporary home. As we parted ways, a linguist with whom I'd been working all day caught up to me on the street. He and I have a common second tongue, Russian, and I told him about my encounter and how troubling it was to not be able to adequately help a visitor because I didn't speak his language.

And then, I remembered that damn dream from a few nights ago.

I could see my mother again, chiding me, "See? I told you, you should have taken Spanish."

I could only laugh. She was right. :-)

Halfway to 80!

No, that's not the lesser-known follow-up to "Stairway To Heaven"... Rather, it is the age of my friend the Atomic Editor, who joins the "Not Quite Ready for the Early Bird Dinner Club" today by turning 40.

Lucky man. Now you are a distinguished journalist. (Not that you weren't one before, but now you have the years to back it all up.)

I hope you are having a splendid day (hopefully with no pressing magazine deadlines) and that you and Mrs. Atomic Editor have a lovely time together.

10,000 years to the Editor!

Have a good one, my friend.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Just do it.

If you don't, then you really have no right to complain.

When really big hypocrites fall...

...move out of the way.

Cast a big shadow, crush a lot of folks on the way down.

Shame Ted Haggard never figured out it was okay to be gay... He might have been able to use his charisma to open some hearts and minds to decency and equality.


Oh well.

For very interesting coverage of the Haggard situation - and the impending U.S. elections - visit Andrew Sullivan's blog. I'm not particularly political, but I find his blog fascinating. A gay, emigre Republican urging Americans to vote for Democrats to save the country.

Meanwhile, you'll find me (if you want me), left of center, off of the strip,

Merujo (with apologies to Suzanne Vega for the cribbed lyrics...)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Russkaya Kukhnya!

It's a quiet Sunday evening, I'm home after being out in the chilly air, and it's time to make a pot of borscht. Yum.

I got my mom hooked on borscht, and I haven't made it since she passed away in 2001. I guess it's about time, eh? If you're broke (like me) and in need of a good, hot inexpensive meal, this is a killer soup - and damn easy to make. So, I'm off to get that distinctively Russian smell going in my kitchen. Beets and onions and and cabbage and carrots and $2.19 worth of beef stew meat. (And some light sour cream to top the bowl.)

That will keep me warm tonight - and for a few more nights to come...

Yum, indeed.


To folks who sent me comments in recent days but never saw them posted here. Looks like Blogger had a hiccup somewhere along the line, and about 10 comments were never mailed to me to moderate. Hmmm. (And I never bothered to go to the moderation page and check, for I assumed everything was coming to my Gmail inbox...) I'll be more vigilant in future.

Again, sorry to anyone who might have thought I was blowing them off! (Embarrassingly, this included birthday greetings from some of my dearest friends. Oopsie.)

Do you think Blogger actually pays its staff?

Priorities, priorities

This is a good time to remind you fine folks that Frank "PostSecret" Warren has published a second book of postcard confessions. The new book, "My Secret" features postcards from young people. I think I mentioned this before, but when I went to one of Frank's talks at the Barnes & Noble in Rockville, Maryland, the majority of folks there were teens. And they treated Frank like he was a rock star. Some of these kids were so nervous their hands shook as they approached him. PostSecret may very well save some fragile teenage lives - if sending a postcard to a stranger stops a kid from considering suicide, that's an amazing thing. Absolutely amazing.

I just went for my weekly PostSecret fix, and my jaw hit the floor when I saw this one:

Now, there's one for the Lost writers' room wall...

(Damn smoke monster.)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Very Nice Evening

I'll let the Sasquatch wax over in his blog about just how good the gig was last night. I'll just say - it was great.

In case you're not familiar with The Beautiful South, here's a little introduction - the video for their very first single (and one of their biggest UK chart hits) back in 1990. I love this one. These guys deserve a bigger following in the United States.

There's a BBC documentary about The Beautiful South out on YouTube, too. The band is remarkably popular in the UK. As the narrator in the documentary says, Paul Heaton & The Beautiful South have sold as many CDs in the UK as Noel Gallagher - people know Oasis in the U.S., but just about no one knows The Beautiful South. Yet, 1 in 5 homes in Britain has a copy of their greatest hits. That's quite something.

Doing my part to increase musical literacy. One blog entry at a time. ;-)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Beautiful Barenaked South

Tonight, I'm going to go hear The Beautiful South with the Sasquatch. TBS is one of Mr. Squatch's favorite bands ever, and I'm a fan, too. My fondness for the tuneage goes back to the pre-Beautiful South days of The Housemartins, whose UK rise to fame happened while I was a student at the LSE. I even got to see them perform at the taping of a TV show one evening. Loved it.

The Beautiful South is largely unknown in the United States, but is one of the best-selling bands ever in Great Britain. TBS has a fondness for Barenaked Ladies and vice versa. The Ladies aren't as popular in the UK as they are in North America, and so, when TBS toured the UK a few years ago, BNL opened for them. When BNL toured the US later that same year, TBS opened for them. Neat arrangement, eh?

So, tonight The Beautiful South plays the 9:30 Club here in DC. Interestingly, BNL is on tour and tonight is their night off before playing a DC-area concert tomorrow evening. See what I'm thinking/hoping, here? I would LOVE to see BNL drop in on TBS tonight. That would be quite mahvelous.

Here's hoping!

Thank you!

To everyone who sent me birthday wishes and greetings. I appreciate every one of your lovely messages. There are some truly cool people out here, and I'm grateful to have met you all, if even only in the ether. Here's to meeting in the flesh someday!

And if I could, I'd give you all a nice chocolate thank you.
And a hug or two or three. :-)

Waaaah, waaaaah, waaaaah!

Diaper change for Kanye West, please!

This just in from the AP:

"Rap star Kanye West was named Best Hip Hop artist but still came off as a sore loser at the MTV Europe Music Awards.

Kanye apparently was so disappointed at not winning for Best Video that he crashed the stage Thursday in Copenhagen when the award was being presented to Justice and Simian for "We Are Your Friends."

In a tirade riddled with expletives, Kanye said he should have won the prize for his video "Touch The Sky," because it 'cost a million dollars, Pamela Anderson was in it. I was jumping across canyons.'

'If I don't win, the awards show loses credibility,' Kanye said."

Puh-leeze. It's MTV. MTV lost any form of credibility it had when it pretty much stopped showing music videos. I mean, an award given out by a network that features a show of "Yo Mamma" jokes? Unless this was a joke, Kanye wins this week's Big Damn Baby award. How about that for credibility?

In other news, the actual world continues to spin on its axis...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Pirate Twin Birthdays

Today is my birthday (#41) and it's also the birthday of my friend E, The Desert Dweller. E and I met via the old Thomas Dolby mailing list Alloy over ten years ago. (Let's hear it for the Internet, eh?) Turns out, at the time we first "met" online, we were living not only in the same time zone, but also working in the same metropolitan area, here in DC. But, alas, we didn't actually become friends until she had moved with her husband to a spot thousands of miles away. And then it was one of those Homer Simpson "D'oh!" moments.

"Wait? You mean you were just a few miles away?"


We found out we shared a birthday and started to quietly refer to ourselves as the "Pirate Twins", a reference to the Dolby song "Europa and the Pirate Twins." Silly? Sure. But pretty amusing to two relatively quiet women who forged a friendship on a music mailing list.

Over the years, we've managed to meet up a couple of times. Once, we took her kids to Disneyland when I was swinging through California on a short trip, and another time we met up at a bookstore out here when she was swinging through the East Coast. I think the bookstore was actually our first meeting - a big hug in the parking lot of the local Barnes & Noble and a few minutes to chat before having to race away.

When we were at Disneyland, we had pirate hats embroidered with the words "Pirate Twin" and took a very silly photo (which I can't find, dang it.) Most recently, we met up for one of Thomas Dolby's concerts in Los Angeles in January - an appropriate meeting spot for the Pirate Twins. We were even able to engineer a Chesapeake Bay sailing outing for Dolby in Annapolis during his spring tour earlier this year, via e-mail and E's wonderful network of friends along the ocean. Pretty cool, eh?

She's incredibly busy with her family, and I've been sucked up into my bad "Lifetime Television for Women" personal drama, so we haven't been in touch much over the past few months. I think it's all part of the ebb and flow of life - kids, health, money, family, general chaos - and things will eventually get back to their karmic center.

So, Happy Birthday, E. - one Pirate Twin to the other. :-)