Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sometimes PostSecret hits too close to home

I'm very late today in getting my weekly PostSecret fix. I've been taking it easy most of the weekend because the spine has been hurting so very badly. There's been a lot of extra power lounging the past two days, despite me having a good amount of stuff to get through. Finally did laundry today (and I'm sure my coworkers will be happy to know that) and got the dishes done. I still have a bag of cherries in the fridge, dying to be turned into another clafoutis, and we'll see if I have the oomph to get one done this evening.

But, as usual, I digress...

I went to visit PostSecret, and among the postcards Frank put up today was this one:

I actually said "awww, no" out loud and then, I nearly cried. With a little editing, that could have been me writing the card.

Longtime readers of my blog know that I had a very... challenging... relationship with my father. Put simply, he didn't like me much. When I left for college, I was sad to leave my mother behind, but relieved to no longer be living with my father, someone who disliked my presence quite a bit. Even though it probably wasn't possible, I still wanted this man to - if not love me - at least like me. It left me with a lingering, almost perverse, desire to please people - a desire I'm still fighting to leave behind today. Approval, affection... things I craved as a child and still wish for today.

My first semester in college I heard about an Irish import store near downtown St. Paul, Minnesota. My father was mildly obsessed with his Irish and Scottish heritage and listened to Celtic music all the time. He even had a multi-LP set of bagpipe music. Who buys a SET of bagpipe LPs? My father did.

Now, my arrival at college coincided with the popularity of the music of Clannad hitting American shores. As soon as you heard the ethereal sound of Maire Brennan (Enya's sister), you knew eventually you'd be hearing the group on "A Prairie Home Companion" and seeing them in concert on years and years of PBS fundraising drives. And my father really dug the first cassette of theirs he'd found in a local music shop. At this point, my hometown of Moline, Illinois wasn't exactly a music mecca (it didn't have the Mark of the Quad Cities - now known as the "i wireless Center", apparently - back then) and you had to special order more obscure music that wasn't on Casey Kasem's radar or being played on our local NPR station. I can't think of a single used music store in the area back then, come to think of it.

Yeah, in the 70s and 80s, I lived under a rock.

So, when I got to the Twin Cities in 1984, I felt like I'd reached musical Nirvana. I nearly lived at the Cheapo's record store down the street from Macalester. I went from, if not zero, ten to sixty in a very short time. It helped that I had friends whose musical boundaries were already much wider than mine. Seriously, I came to college with a cassette of Alan Parsons Project's "Turn of a Friendly Card" (store-bought) and another of Thomas Dolby's "Golden Age of Wireless" with some Michael Praetorius on the flip side (taped for me from LP by my friend HoyaMeb).

Michael Praetorius. (Not Thomas Dolby.)

So, when I heard there was this little Irish gift shop down Grand Avenue a few bus stops from the college, I decided I should take a trek there and see if they had any other Clannad music to send back home. Yet another step on my flat-footed journey to fatherly approval.

I was thrilled to death to find they had two Clannad cassettes my father didn't own. They looked pretty crappy in a "our band produced these in the basement of the family home in County Donegal and our cousin made the cover inserts on a color copier" way - these recordings clearly pre-dated Clannad's success, riding the crest of the Irish music wave in the 'States. I bought them both and took them back to my dorm room. I remember agonizing over the letter I wrote with the two cassettes. I hoped Dad would enjoy them. Maybe Dad would call me and let me know what he thought. Maybe I could go see the Chieftans with Dad if they were playing in town the next time I came home.

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

I rubberbanded my letter around the two cassettes and sent off the little parcel.

I never heard from him.

Mom said the package had arrived.

But that was it.

A few years later, after Dad died, I was going through a junk box in the basement. In the middle of some flood damaged papers I found the parcel I'd sent to my father. The letter was still rubberbanded to the cassettes. It had never been taken out of its envelope. I broke off the yellowed, brittle band and saw that the cassettes were still wrapped in their factory cellophane. He'd never listened to them. Never opened the letter. Just tossed it aside.

I threw it all out.

I wonder if he would have tossed it aside had I handed to him in person. Would he have given it back to me, unopened, like the girl in today's PostSecret?

I don't know.

But I know that familiar feeling of loss. That familiar belief that I'm not worthy. When I think of my father, I often hear a song in my head. It's Morrissey, singing "I know I'm unloveable. You don't have to tell me." It's hard to not feel that way - as a little girl, as a teenager, as an adult woman - when the first man in your life, your father, finds you so unpleasant.

It would be good to feel loveable in this life. I'm still looking for someone who sees me that way. Someone who will tell me that.

I don't have much in my life. But take it, it's yours.

I hope that girl found someone who took that mix tape and listened to it.

We all need someone like that.

Monday, May 25, 2009


Clafoutis Time!!

Yeah, I've been absent for several days. Trust me, I know. Friends have reminded me. The nice people at BlogHer Ads reminded me. But I was mentally and physically out of touch.

In advance of three days of leave, with company en route, high season kicked in for my job. I could easily stay at work for 12 or 14 hours a day and still not clear the decks. My sense of humor pretty much checked out as I was trying to pound through projects at work and engage in marathon apartment cleaning before my brother and brother-in-law arrived from Germany. I knew, of course, that these guys would make every effort to fix anything that needed fixing in the place (despite me just being a renter). And I'm always incredibly grateful not only for their presence here and their love, but that they understand how limiting back injuries can be. All the dumb stuff I've been too tired to do in ages (clean the balcony windows, rearrange shelves, cook) they dispatched in mere days. And these guys are both in their 60s! Talk about making me feel like a total wuss!

Figure 1. Slug, aka Merujo

I miss 'em already (and homecooked meals... and lots of Australian wine...) now that they've headed north to spend time with nieces and nephews in New Jersey. But even welcome and wonderful visits are exhausting, and I've been too wiped to type more than random phrases on Twitter. That said, I'm trying to catch up on naps and get my head wrapped back around the thought of work again tomorrow.

So far, the score is: Naps, 1 - Mental prep for work, 0.

Go figure.

I got the pleasure of enjoying a couple of hours of grilling time yesterday with the Sasquatch up at Seneca Creek State Park, where lovely steaks were cooked and consumed, along with grilled plantains and cherries. Raising eyebrows at grilled cherries? Seriously, they're yummy! Take some sweet cherries, pit them, then either skewer them or wrap them in foil, and leave them over the coals for a few minutes. You end up with soft cherries so sweet they taste like the center of a homemade pie.

I was very pleased that the rain gods held off for yesterday's festivities. We snagged the same cook site we had last year in one of the park's many wooded day use points. We're not sure why, but just like last year, none of the later arrivals wanted to be on the same side of the parking lot as us. My theory is that I frighten the small children. Cool by us - we get a sweet, quiet spot where we can listen to oldies radio and be as snarky as we wanna be. At moments like that, life is good.

Last night, though, my back started up with the stabbing pains again. I had two Redbox movies to return - one very good (Benjamin Button), and one truly, sincerely awful (Bride Wars) - and when I got to the grocery store to pop them back in the machine, one of the clerks asked if I wanted a wheelchair. I was hobbling like Yoda with a double hip replacement. Not great.

Today, my plan was to get up early, do some writing, get laundry done, and make a clafoutis with some of the cherries not consumed at the park yesterday. Instead, I've taken two showers to relieve some of the pain and lounged on the sofa for hours at a time.

I feel old.

I have to say, I'm not looking forward to being at my desk all day tomorrow, but I'm hoping things will ease up a bit. I'm pretty sure there's enough piled on my desk and in my e-mail inbox that I'll have plenty to focus on. Nothing like stress to take your mind off of pain, right?

I have clean clothes for work and I *am* writing now, so I guess I can count that as a victory for the day, no? And I think I'll still make a clafoutis! I can pit cherries from the comfort of the sofa, especially now that I possess a fabulous Oxo Good Grips cherry pitter. Oh, wait - don't know what clafoutis is?

I learned about these suckers from an episode of "Good Eats" on the Food Network. Gawd bless Alton Brown and his quirky TV cookery!

Clafoutis is an old French dessert - it's just fresh fruit (usually cherries) baked in a kinda-sorta custardy batter. Traditionally, the cherries aren't pitted when you bake this, but being the kind of woman whose luck runs to chipped teeth, I pit mine, thank you. Once you've washed and pitted the cherries, it's seriously a five-minute process to make this dish. I'm not kidding. I suck at baking, but clafoutis is pretty much fool-proof. And damn tasty, too!

You're supposed to eat it hot, and it's good with creme, half and half, ice cream, or just plain old nekkid. I found a recipe for a less dessert-ish, more breakfast-ish version on The Joy of Baking website, and I'm torn about which version to make. Ponder, ponder, ponder...

Eh, you know what? It's 7 at night. I'll go with the Alton Brown version. Just wish some of you could be here to share it with me!

Another time, eh?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fun with Signage: Bethesda Safeway Edition

Bar soap... oral care... shaving needs... whaaaa?

Check out what (or who) is available in Aisle One at the Safeway on the corner of Bradley and Arlington Roads:

You know... come to think of it, I did pretty much miss out on the grandparent experience. Do you think they could find me with a jovial, old gent who's comfortable and self-assured in Depends and likes to shower people with affection (and twenties and fifties)?

So many questions... What is the return policy? Is the expiration date stamped on the bottom? Is it even appropriate to check? Do they ever run "BOGO" sales? I think it would be nice to have a set.

Somehow, I doubt the Safeway manager would find my line of query amusing...

Monday, May 04, 2009


Hey, I'm getting a planeload of kneejerk hate from Consumerist commenters today. In response to a post today, I said that folks who are sick shouldn't get on commercial aircraft and risk spreading their cough and cold germs to others. Apparently, this makes me a totally selfish jerk in the eyes of many judgmental and fired up Consumerist readers.

So be it. I shall wear my Selfish Jerk crown proudly today.

And welcome, heap of Consumerist readers dropping by to visit. May I recommend you start with the post about my mother, a link featured on the left side of your screen. It will be more enlightening than rants from strangers about how much I suck for not wanting to share recirculated air with people hacking and coughing.


Selfish Travel Weasel