Saturday, October 31, 2009


So, I turn 44 in a few hours. Whooooo.

My mother was 44 years old when I was born. I'm so damn tired most days, I have no idea how the hell she dealt with a newborn *and* eight other children at the same time. Okay, so my oldest sister was 20 by then, so maybe you can discount her as a "child" at that point, but still...

Hard to believe I've made it this far with so little to show for it. No marriage or children. No house. A (recent) series of crashed cars and nasty spinal injuries. A job at a place I love, but with the same career trajectory as the little mountain climber in the Price Is Right "Cliffhangers" game.

Figure 1: Merujo

Figure 2: Merujo's career path

Okay, I'm exaggerating, but I honestly thought I'd be a little higher on the food chain by now.


Then again, don't we all? I mean, here I am TWENTY years ago:

Me, on the steps of the Lenin Library, near Red Square, Moscow

Now, that girl was going places! Of course, I killed so many brain cells on cheap vodka and champagne over the course of four years in Mutha Russia, I probably derailed the My Brilliant Career gravy train without ever noticing.

BTW, here is a short list of jobs I've turned down over the years:

1. Moving company manager for all of Mutha Russia (too many foreign business folks found dead in ditches back then to make it attractive)
2. Russian heavy metal lyric translator in London (seriously - that job was offered to me at the bar in the Hard Rock Cafe on my 21st birthday in 1986 by a producer from Island Records - should have taken it, but I think my mother would have killed me for not finishing my college degree)
3. Hooker. (That was in Central Asia. And I'm still not sure if the offer was to really be a hooker or just a third wife or something similiar...)

Ah well. All water under the bridge. (Or flooding it, crushing it, and dragging it down river.) I may not have a very upwardly mobile job these days, but I work with some seriously awesome people at a really amazing place. And we have our own theme music. By Elmer Bernstein, no less! (And yeah, that music still gives me chills like it did when I was a little kid.)

And so, here I am. Still alive. Still kickin'. Kinda. If you count limping and screaming "OW OW OW" as you go "kickin'"...

I'm hoping for a very good birthday tomorrow. No party. No cake. But I am going off the grid for a few days. No Facebook beyond sending a few birthday greetings of my own in the morning, no rampant Twittering. It's Alone Time for Merujo. Hopefully, by the end of the week, I'll have tapped out a good number of words, some of which may lead down a very intriguing path. One I'll tell you about later, if it pans out.

And, if my back (which has caused me a lot of pain and tears this week) decides to cooperate, maybe I'll do a little hiking and archery.

Yes, archery.

Me, with sharp, pointy sticks. Alert the media. And the police. And the paramedics.

Later, gators. See you in a week, more or less.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mama needs to find some airfare to travel this flat earth...

Okay, kids - I need suggestions. I just don't think turning tricks at 14th & K is going to cut it. See, there's this thing coming up in the UK in February of next year, and damn, I'd kill to go. I know my name's on the guest list, if only I could find the moolah to go.

So, short of specialty acts of prostitution or building my own meth lab, how does a girl with a job with quirky deadlines that precludes weekends working the register at Kohl's find a few hundred bucks?

Mama needs a seat on a plane to her old home, London town. I haven't left this country in years, which feels really weird, and I need to commune with my music and my city.

All reasonable suggestions entertained.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Attention, World Bank Employees!

Hello, gentle scholars and economists,

I'm sure you do a lot of good during the workday, fighting corruption, improving infrastructure, and eradicating poverty, one nanny tax payment at a time. You guys have big brains. I know this to be true.

But can you tell me, dear men and women of high education and lofty goals, why you insist on walking through Pennsylvania Avenue against the light, often through the middle of traffic, at the end of the day? Are your beautiful minds simply so overwhelmed with Great Thoughts that the colors red and green lose all meaning? Have you somehow been brainwashed to believe that the big red palm on the traffic light pole means "come forward, my children, no one shall strike you?"

Or, more to the point, are you really that dumb?

Why on earth do you risk not only your lives, but those of the drivers who have to dodge you as you break the laws of DC (and common sense)?

Honestly, if you don't care that much for your own health and safety, at least be courteous enough to think about the rest of us. I *really* don't want to be in a decade of therapy because I accidentally mowed down an errant Ph.D. doing the headless chicken stroll in the fast-falling autumn darkness.

(Insert your own "why did the economist cross the road" joke here.)

Admittedly, it's not only World Bank peeps who pull this crap in downtown DC. And everyone who pulls crap like this is an arrogant menace. But since I have to go through the intersection of Pennsylvania & 18th just about every evening, it's y'all, with your World Bank ID badges fluttering in the breeze, that annoy me the most.

Tonight, I almost killed one of you guys.

This dude was yammering on a cell, mindlessly bolting partway into, partway back, partway into Pennsylvania Avenue, dressed in black, after sunset, in the middle of the damn block. And when I had to slam on my brakes and honk at him, as he continued to chat away with great self-importance and very little self-awareness, he did at least stop momentarily to give me a rude gesture very recognizable to this former Moscow dweller. And, in return, I called him something colorfully naughty in Russian*

Now, what I yelled wasn't very nice, but neither was his gesture - or his efforts to needlessly make himself a moving target in the center of the bloody street! (I do appreciate that he noticed my effort to make a culturally- and linguistically-appropriate response to his stupidity.)

Here are some handy hints (that you are ALL old enough to already know):

1. Walk with the light - this is not brain surgery. If you decide to stroll out into traffic when a Hummer is five feet away from you, the Hummer will win. Without even trying. Or wanting to win.
2. Once you've mastered that red/green shift, cross in the damn crosswalk. They went to the trouble to paint lines for you, the least you can do is use them.
2. If you are Crackberry-addicted, take a break from the pipe. Stop texting long enough to look up and make sure you're walking with the light, Carol Anne.
3. Treat drivers and bicyclists with the same respect you want for yourself - follow the rules small children are taught about crossing the street, eh?**

Now, I believe most World Bank folk to be people with common sense and an awareness of their surroundings. Heck, I count World Bank people among my dearest friends. But to the Penn & 18th dorks I say this: you are smart people. Don't be tools. Knock off the dumb and dangerous stuff.

And stop crossing on the red at H & 18th, too. It's uncool, okay?

*I shall refrain from sharing my crude Russian obscenity of choice here, but it was a goodie, trust me...

**Although I think World Bank employees are exempt from holding hands when crossing the street...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Breathe in, breathe out, scream loudly

Oh, my god, the pain.

The excruciatingly horrible pain.

The pain that makes you wonder just what the hell *really* is deeply wrong with dungeon-dwelling masochists. The pain that makes you want to bolt and run for the door.

But, you don't because, you know, this is goooood for you.



Plus, you can't get up. No, really. You can't get up.

Welcome to Foot Massage Hell.

I've had reflexology before. Many times. My preferred foot-rubbing spot? Elaj Aveda Day Spa in King Farm, up in Rockville. There is a wonderful massage therapist there by the name of Christine, and she is amazing. I don't know what deal she made with otherworldly powers to get those healing hands, but the woman has a gift.

Unfortunately, I can't really afford her services very often. Let's just say this: it's not cheap, and the likelihood I'll be snagging myself a sweet sugar daddy anytime soon (or ever) is somewhere between zero and nil.

So, I save my pennies and go once every blue moon for 30 minutes of pedi-rapture.

Until today.

I cheated on my massage therapist.

The local coupon clipper circular came in the mail, and there was a discount screaming my name. Big bucks off reflexology in a spot just a hop, skip, and a jump from Chez Merde! And let's face it, Ms. Empty Pockets cannot pass up a bargain - especially a bargain that promised happy tootsies and a general sense of well-being.

I mean, after all, that's the feeling I always had leaving my regular-when-I-can-afford-it foot fiesta.

Oh my.

I guess the truth is, I've never really had serious, bad-ass, Chinese sports trainer-style reflexology before. My spa massages were, well, spa-like. Mellow. Gentle.

Screw that today.

My reflexologist met me at the door, and before he'd even ushered me to the big comfy recliner, he'd offered to come do any future appointments at my home. "You take a hot shower, you stretch out, we do full body massage and reflexology. Then, you sleep." I just smiled and made one of those noncommittal mumbles we all do when faced with friendly uncertainty and the desire to not be openly rude. ("Oh, Merujo, we just love your company! I'm making a headcheese coffee cake next Saturday. Never had one? Oh, well you'll adore it! You *must* come!" Mumble smile mumble.)

Today was just gonna be a shake down cruise. We'd see how the first session went. The price could not be beat, that much was certain.

The lights were turned off, and just the ambient light filtered through the windows. Chinese pan flute muzak played from a small boombox - I couldn't tell after a while if it was just one continuous track or actual separate songs. Soon, though, you'll understand why I couldn't give a crap.

He started by massaging my face. I told him I had pain in my shoulder and wrist from a car accident, but I think he didn't understand me. What he got out of what I said was, apparently, please dig your fingers deep into my left shoulder and right wrist until I shriek in agony.

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.

He managed to dip his thumb directly into the hollow of my right wrist, just at the point where the bone had snapped and, despite the high loft ceilings, I made one hell of a leap toward the rafters.


That hurt. A lot.

Small tears drifted down my face.

"It's good, yeah? How you feeling?"

"I think that's enough on my hands and shoulders, thank you," I told him, gulping for air. "Please, you must be gentle. Car accident injuries." Then I pointed out the rusty nail injury to my left foot, the result of a No Good Deed Goes Unpunished moment when I stepped onto a remarkably long, rusty nail while on a healthy morning walk a few weeks ago. "You have to work around that," I said. "Don't touch that area, please!"


What the hell was I thinking?

What proceeded to happen was thirty minutes of paralyzing pain, percussive hits to feet, legs, and knees (yes, god, knees!), and something that went far beyond deep tissue massage into the realm of instrument-free surgery. My legs had locked up and my glutes were clenched like I'd been trapped in some Rube Goldberg mix of bear trap and ThighMaster. Literally, I couldn't catch my breath enough to complain.

I had started out with my deep breathing work before his hands hit my body, but soon, those deep breaths would turn ragged, and eventually turn into something rhythmic that would make any Lamaze instructor proud. Seriously, I went from "deep cleansing breaths" to "hee hee hooo, hee hee hooooooo" and thoughts ran through my head that this was probably fairly close to what labor felt like, just a few inches to the north.

It's kinda, sorta funny now, but then the words "women go through labor every day all around the planet, I can hack this" went through my skull over and over and over again, all while that goddamn Zamfir-meets-Crouching-Tiger bullshit calming music played like a sick joke in the background. I was nearing some sort of out of body state when I suddenly realized he had stopped the assault on my limbs and had started clipping my toenails.


"What are you doing?!?" I wheezed at him.

"Pedicure now?" He smiled from what felt like a thousand miles away.

"Jesus, no," I panted. "No pedicure. We're done, right?"

He stopped and said, "Okay, how you feeling?"

I didn't have words. I mean, literally, I didn't have words. And, for the love of Pete, all of you know that's about as rare as an albino panda.

I just wanted the room to stop spinning, my hand to stop throbbing, and the linguini that used to be my legs and feet to regain solidity.

As I regained my senses, the guy told me in broken English that he had been a trainer with a national sports team in China. And before that, he was a doctor.

A doctor.


And yet, here he was, sitting at the feet of some random fat broad in the DC suburbs, downstairs from a nail salon.

He did this to support his daughter and her dreams in America. That's dedication. And love. And, despite the pain he'd just unloaded on me, inspiring.

But, dear lord, I wish he and I could have understood each other a little better. My right wrist is still screaming at me 12 hours later, my left shoulder would leave town if it could, and my previously rusty-nail injured foot has won Most Likely to Keep Merujo Awake Tonight.

Will I go back for more? Oh, hell no! Right now, I need gentle. Nothing world-class. Just something soothing, please. When my penny pile rises to the level that I can visit my sweet-handed masseuse in Rockville, I'll be there.

Now, here's the deal: had I known I would be getting pretty much an Olympic-class sports massage, I would have been mentally prepared for it. When I traveled in Central Asia on business, I often stopped at the national sports stadiums in the capital cities. Many of the trainers had previously worked for various Soviet Olympic teams, and they were thrown to the wolves when the Soviet Union collapsed. For a ridiculously low fee (but one that was more than a month's salary there), you could get a fantastic sports massage designed for a world class athlete.

But this morning, all Ms. Wimptastica wanted was a gentle, toxin-cleansing foot rub. I was not mentally prepared to be twisted into a bloated pretzel in an overstuffed armchair.

If any of you are looking for a really fierce, skin-twisting massage (or you're just into pain), let me know, and I'll give you the specifics of this morning's location. But you won't find me there, gorked out on a bizarre high of some shaman-ish elemental pain.

I'll be drinking tea and listening to seagulls at the spa, thanks.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Can I get that "Biggie" size?

It never fails. I know better than to linger in a Wendy's parking lot.

You may remember my previous encounters: chili-crazed squirrel attack, hot steamy Latin luvin', the rat perched on the ordering screen...

Yeah, you know I know better.

All I wanted was a Coke Zero. A big, icy cold cup of (probably) kidney-killing diet crack. And I wanted to read over the ads in the Sunday Washington Post. (I read the Post online, but I buy the big Sunday bundle for coupons and to read Date Lab. Oh, and Date Lab? That requires a whole blog post unto itself. As in, what should you think when a co-worker appears in Date Lab and expresses a dislike for people who look like you? As in, how do you interact with someone who has given a "no fat chicks" statement to a newspaper he has to know most of the Metro area is going to see? Like I said, that requires a lot more words than a mere parenthetical aside.)

So, there I was, diggin' the sweet, sweet breeze in the Wendy's lot, sippin' on my Zero, flipping through the Target circular, lovin' autumn, when a spoileriffic Honda zips in a couple of spaces down from me. The lot was completely empty, by the way, when I pulled in. The Fast-and-Furious, pimped out, street racer-ish Honda just had to Tokyo drift itself into the only row with anyone in it.

Of course.

As the car doors opened, I noticed the driver was Ed Hardy-garbed from head to toe - a young Latino guy sporting the Jon "early middle-age crisis" Gosselin look - and the chica who slid from passenger seat was in jeans painted on so tightly, I was astounded she could move (or had circulation in) her legs. A couple of minutes passed as I glossed through the opinion section of the paper (was the Nobel Prize selection committee smoking crack? did they bring enough to share?) and I realized the Honda duo hadn't managed to leave the lot. They were caught in up a passionate clinch that had apparently bypassed G, PG, and most of R on the way to letters way up in the alphabet.


The breeze had picked up. Maybe they'd just found a good way to raise internal body temperatures.

There was much giggling, and then it seemed they were leaving. And the Hardy Boy was letting the little lady get behind the wheel.

Putting down the Style Section after a few minutes, I realized the couple hadn't left. Both the driver and passenger doors were open, and the dude lolled back in the passenger seat, one leg stretched out to the ground.

But the chiquita? She was driving, all right. And apparently, she knew how to drive manual.

Really well.

She was, uh, working the stick.

Polishing the gear shift knob.

Upsizing his combo.

Getting him a triple beef patty.

With everything on it.

And I really, really, REALLY didn't need to see the beef in question.

But I did.

And it will be the stuff of nightmares for many nights to come.

Guys, seriously - hand jobs, blow jobs, and just about any other job of an intimate nature in a fast food parking lot at 4 in the afternoon? {{{shudder}}} JUST. SAY. NOOOOOOOOO!

All I can say is this - I think I'll be avoiding any beef products at Wendy's for a while.

Somebody, hand me the TUMS...