Monday, November 30, 2009

Ups, Downs, and the Joy of Action Figures

Maybe having a smartphone of some sort isn't such a bad thing.

I had a doctor's appointment this afternoon, and was Internet-free for several hours. Of course - OF COURSE - I miss an e-mail from Imogen Heap that she'd sweetly put me on the guest list for her sold-out show tonight at the historic 6th & I Synagogue (a building with super sweet acoustics that was, as I understand it, largely saved from destruction by the late, generous Abe Pollin.) As I looked at the clock and realized that the concert was likely wrapping up when I discovered the e-mail in my in-box, I just sat here and muttered a few choice obscenities. It's not often that I'm on anyone's guest list, and I bet this was a great gig.

I'll ponder my apology to the lovely Ms. Heap over a glass of warm milk in a few minutes.

Now, the happy yang to my unhappy yin: along with the missed opportunity, my in-box included a set of photos from my sister, the social worker. She had procured a 12" WASP WWII pilot action figure a few months ago when I found them for sale online. And, a few weeks later, she came across a 12" Indiana Jones action figure at a garage sale. Now, my mom had a thing for Harrison Ford. (What warm-blooded woman didn't? At least before he started dating skeletons and visiting Kansas City strip clubs and getting earrings with guys from 60 Minutes, that is.)

My sister took the time to take some action shots of "Mom" and Harrison. Enjoy:

Ahhh, vintage action figure romance!

We can do it!

Know what this is, Harrison? It's a brain eater.
And you know what it's doin'? STARVING!

I think Mom would have approved. And laughed. At the very least, it made me laugh tonight. Now, where's that glass of milk and words to apologize for missing the concert???

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

When Black Friday comes...

I'll be safely at home, not even pondering entering that terrifying frenzy and fray of commercial madness and vehicular hell. No thanks, no way, no how.

However, in honor of the day, a little Steely Dan:

Is it me, or does Donald Fagen increasingly look like some sort of keyboard vampire?

Happy Turkey Day, friends, wherever you are. And seriously, stay home on Friday. Let the nut patrol unleash hell without you. No HDTV or discount iPod is worth living through the Suburban Bataan Death March.

Peace, y'all.

And hand turkeys for everyone!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hey, Subway Sandwich People!

Or, Five Dollar Fur-Long.

(Please see UPDATE at end of post.)

After running a few errands tonight, I figured I'd do the Jared thing and get a healthy sub at the new Subway shop at White Flint Plaza on Nicholson Lane in North Bethesda. Get a five-dollah footlong with lots of veggie-tastic goodness, and have lunch set for tomorrow, too.

Except when I walked into the very, very small shop, there was a woman with a poofy Pomeranian type dog (except bulkier, bigger) on one of the few tables in the shop, just a few feet from the meats, cheeses, fixin's, and such. Gross.

Sincere regrets to any of my friends who think it's perfectly fine to bring pooches into restaurants. I'm *really* pretty firm on this one. You bring a long-haired dog into a tiny deli and have it up on the table in spitting distance of the food? That's nasty. Dogs don't always cotton to strangers, and they don't always have perfect control of their excretory processes, either.

Let's be very clear - this was not a seeing eye dog. Not an assistance dog. This was a ball of hair getting "wuzzy wuzzy woo woo" kisses from the woman holding onto it. And one that made a nasty, aggressive, yappy bark as customers walked in. Uncool.

Look, I love critters. But I don't think I need to encounter anyone else's pet when I'm buying human food. Hell, I saw some Juicy-butted woman in slippers take her dog into Harris Teeter the other day. She got the big hairy eyeball from a manager and departed. (Hooray, management with cojones!) I may be an uptight frump, but the tiny indoor dining & food preparatin area of a Subway shop in suburban Maryland ain't an outdoor cafe in Paris. And I don't know about you, but I don't care for Pomeranian fur in my sammich.

I asked the male clerk why there was a dog in Subway. He shrugged. "I dunno. I don't care." I told him it wasn't sanitary to have a dog up on a dining table a few feet from where the sandwich components were laid out in the open air. Could he ask the patron to take the dog outside? He wouldn't look up at me. Instead, he pointed at the food and said, "The dog isn't right here. It doesn't matter."

Bubba, it does matter. It matters when a customer points out an unsanitary situation four feet from the cash register. (And it makes you wonder what the rest of their standards are.) The customer ahead of me nodded and smiled, but didn't say anything. (Of course, leave it to me to be the one to say something.) The clerk blew me off completely at that point and just asked the other customer what sub he wanted.

I know it may be stupid, but this Subway - a pretty new location, by the way - just lost me as a customer. I told them this as I left. And I also stopped at the table with the dog and said, "Hey, that's really unsanitary that you have your dog in here. Especially up on a table where other customers will be eating."

She had the good grace to take her dog outside at that point. But I should NOT have been the one to tell her. There were at least THREE staff members in this little Subway, and none of them had the balls to tell this woman - who wasn't even eating there (her husband and kid were - each one took his/her own table) - to take her fluffy baby outside.

Now, I know I will piss off a handful of folks who see their dogs as children and believe they should be allowed everywhere. I'm not one of those folks. We took our dog, the late, great Termite all over creation in the car, but we didn't take her inside places that generally require opposable thumbs, the use of a napkin, and the ability to indicate "no tomatoes, please."

I'm going to check with the county tomorrow about non-assistance pets in restaurants in MoCo. And I'm calling Subway's consumer hotline. Theoretically, it operates 24/7. Of course, when I called, I got a message telling me there is a "system error." That's a convenient way to avoid taking calls, no?


The cranky biyotch who ended up with chili and a baked potato from Wendy's. (Yeah, I got attacked by a squirrel at that Wendy's, but I was in the parking lot and clearly on that squirrel's turf.)

UPDATE: A call to the Subway corporate number this morning yielded a fast response. My complaint was forwarded to the regional management and the store owner. Store owner verified my story with his store staff and then with me by phone. He was pissed that his staff not only didn't do anything, but also ignored me. He's instituting some changes, some education, and putting up a NO PETS sign on the door.

Well done.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Childhood Memories of a Weirdness Magnet

Installment #1 in a series of posts to prove my talent for attracting strangeness is not a recent development. Exhibit A:

This is me, circa 1978-ish, returning a runaway lion cub to the neighbors across the street from my parents' house. The lioness at our local zoo (Niabi Zoo) had three cubs and she rejected them. Teske's, the local seed and feed (now a "pet and garden center") offered to keep the cubs until Jim "Wild Kingdom" Fowler could come to pick them up for resettlement in another zoo.

One of our neighbors worked at Teske's and she was assigned to bring one of the cubs home when the store was closed, so it could be fed and tended to properly. Except this was one fast little sucker, and he escaped. I remember looking out our front window and saying, "Hey, Mom, there's a lion in the yard." Mom, knowing me to be a total BS artist who liked to prank her with silly stuff, completely ignored me and continued to read a copy of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

Until I went outside and returned with a lion cub that I plopped down in her lap. He was very happy to have a cozy lap and a fireplace. Mom was thrilled until he decided to relax by stretching his limbs and extending his massive kitten claws into all parts of her body.

That photo was snapped by our neighbor when I brought the runaway back home. I enjoy the composition of this photo, btw, wherein I appear to be growing a very large tree from the top of my cranium.

Ah, memories!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Сегодня, я - ударница!

Back in the heyday of the Soviet Union, an "udarnik"* (or "shock worker") was the ultimate proletarian factory dude who overfilled his quotas. He was, quite simply, the uber-worker. "Udarnitsa" is the cute feminine version of that work.

And right now, my friends, I'm definitely in udarnitsa territory. I worked all weekend, much to my spine's dismay, and now, I can't sleep. Slept like crap last night (a few minutes here and there) and now I'm overtired.

Have to be up at 6 to go to physical therapy. Then, it's Hell Week for me until 5 p.m. on Thursday, the deadline for submitting a small, but frustrating pile of hefty guv'ment grant proposals. Now, I don't mind working without a day off every once in a while, but with the back right now, it's not a good deal.

I regret that I am humorless, evil, and gimpy.

I'm looking forward to smiling again Friday.

*Believe it or not, "udarnik" was one of the very first Russian words I learned in college. First sentence of the Russian textbook we used at Macalester? "Как живут ударники? Ударники живут очень хорошо." ("How do shockworkers live? Shockworkers live very well.") I swear to god.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Some night are just this way

I know intense back pain brings on depression. It messes with your head. I've been unbearably cranky and generally unpleasant to be around. (And I'm sorry if you've had to cross paths with me in recent days.)

And to cap it off, I had one of those really lousy, stinking, awful moments just now. Something crossed my mind and I thought, "I need to call Mom and tell her about that."


Just... crap.

I'd say things would be better in the morning, but I have to work all weekend. I'm going to play music at a high volume in the office. Just a heads-up for anyone else planning on being in my corridor tomorrow.

Hoping you are spending this Friday evening with someone you love tonight, be it a partner or child or a parent or just a wonderful friend.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Veteran's Day

Mom, Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas, 1943.

Thank you to all those who have served, and to those who serve today to protect and defend this nation. Thank you so very much.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

A handful of lay-cation photos

So, I took a brief vacation this past week. With the help of a dear friend, I reserved a cabin out in the wilds of West Virginia, just past the small town of Petersburg, right on the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River. The North Fork is a relatively modest stream, stocked with the locally-raised "golden trout." I never saw one of these critters the whole time I was there, but there is a fishery nearby I'd planned on visiting and snapping fishy photos.

I had a lot of plans for the week -- most of them involved brisk walking in the Spruce Knob National Recreation Area (using my spiffy Nordic walking poles!), shooting some arrows at a local archery range, and writing. Lots and lots of writing.

However, a few days before leaving for the cabin, while recovering from bronchitis, I coughed or sneezed and utterly screwed up something in my lower back, still unhealed from June's car accident. Overnight I went from Relatively Mobile Merujo to Weeping, Gasping, Crippled Merujo (also known by my Native American name, She Who Walks and Grunts Like Yoda.) My physical therapy doc told me I shouldn't be traveling ANYWHERE and handed me a Disability Certificate for work, with the box for "Totally Incapacitated" checked. Ugh. Not good.

But I was committed to going away for a few days, and I refused to let the spine get in the way of an escape from DC. You have to understand, I haven't taken any vacation since 1997 that wasn't connected to a family illness, death, or had at least one sibling in tow. (And I loved the trips with siblings -- I just needed Alone Time in a big way.)

The Sasquatch loaned me a tripod for this trip, so I could try to take some non-wobbly nature photos with my point-and-shoot camera. Alas, my back radiated so much agony, I couldn't have picked up the tripod from the car to set up the whole damn week. Most of the week was a "lay-cation." Not a stay-cation, since I did travel a whole three hours away from This Nation's Capital. But there sure was a lot of lying around like a big, mellow slug in front of a fireplace, watching DVDs of "Battlestar Galactica" and drinking wine.

Courtesy of being remarkably crippled with pain, the only photos I have to share with you are almost all taken from the relative comfort and safety of a parked car or from the porch or sofa in the cabin. The full story of the week? That will have to wait a bit. It may take a different form, in a different venue. More on that as developments happen.

Right now, I have to keep my online time to work hours and a few minutes here and there, stolen from the sofa. It's hard to blog from the laptop when you are curled up like a human pretzel. So, for now, I'll leave you with these images, fuzzy and shaky - much like the photographer...

One of the wonderful Arts & Crafts style lanterns at the entrance to the cabin property...

A quiet spot on the North Fork, just as you enter the cabin property...

The bridge over the North Fork out to the remote cabins where I stayed...

Home Sweet Temporary Home: Cabin 11...

The fire circle outside the cabin, overlooking the North Fork...

Trout? I don't see no stinkin' trout!
(But I did see a lot of fisherman in waders!)

Me, chewing on my lower lip, trying not to grimace
after my one and only nature walk all week.

Those are my Nordic walking poles in my hand.
They work great. As long as you can walk...

The view from the sofa...

The sun dropping from the sky over the North Fork...

The cabin is located in the Monongahela National Forest.
I love the font they use to spell out "National Forest."
I've asked a web guy at the Forest Service to tell me what the font is called.
It immediately takes me back to camping with my family as a kid...

Just some mailboxes across the road from the Ranger Station...

Ah, paintball. At least it's not bullet holes, eh?

Smoke Hole Caverns
Just a couple of miles down the road from the cabin.
It retains that fabulous 1960s/1970s feel with the signage. Love it!

UPDATE: Very sadly, only four days after I took these photos, a fire has destroyed the gift shop/restaurant at the caverns on 11/10/09. I'm glad I got to see at least the exterior in all its wonderful kitschy glory. Fire officials call the blaze suspicious. Not good.

The gift shop at the caverns has everything you expect from one of these spots.
I didn't go in, but I bet they had stick candy and jackalope piggy banks.
(This is the building that burned down.) :(

Even the caverns had golden trout, somewhere behind this decaying fence.
I'm pretty sure there's no coral occurring naturally in the Monongahela Forest...

Old barn across the road from the cabin property,
at the start of the road up to Dolly Sods...

Small cemetery in Petersburg. The town was founded in 1745,
and there are some lovely old headstones...

Sallie here died in 1859. Hers was the oldest headstone I could read.
The bottom text is the Psalm 73:26...

This interesting roofing style is found throughout the town of Petersburg.
Not sure of the significance, but it's lovely...

Outside the local grocery store. I saw these posters all over the place.
"After all - if you're gun's loaded, shouldn't you be, too?"

Still only twenty-five cents! Ride 'em, cowboy!!

I like how it looks as if he's racing his own shadow...

A view of a raging autumn mountainside in Dolly Sods...

That same hillside, only 30 seconds later, as the sun dropped suddenly from the sky.
Seriously, the sun doesn't set out here, it plummets!

I made it down the cabin steps without screaming in agony!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Country Roads

Just got back to suburbia yesterday afternoon, after a few much-needed days off in rural West Virginia. I'll write about it later, but here's a little visual taste of the week:

Off to celebrate a friend's birthday. More words and better pictures later...