Saturday, December 18, 2010

One of these things is not like the other...

Holiday quiz time, friends!

Guess which twinkle lights are mine?

As a friend said on Facebook, my neighbor's lights look like an EKG gone horribly wrong. I think alcohol *may* have been a factor. Probably a factor. Well, definitely a factor.

Ho ho ho and a bottle of rum, Xmas mateys!

Monday, November 29, 2010

I swear, world - we are not this stupid

Just watched a TV commercial so ridiculous, I had to play it back, freeze it, and take a photograph to share.

I know psoriasis is a horrible condition, and it's a painful and awful thing for anyone who suffers from it. Immune system diseases are evil, evil things.

That said, I would like to address the marketing geniuses and overanxious lawyers behind the TV commercial for the website (which I see is a property of Amgen and Pfizer from my brief visit to verify that I did not hallucinate this ad.) Please, Madison Avenue whiz kids and big pharma peeps: while we may not be the brightest bulbs on the tree, Americans aren't quite this stupid. I hope. Check it out, fresh from my TV:


Apparently, we are supposed to imagine that this is what's going on inside the body of someone suffering from psoriasis, where extra skin cells are being produced due to an immune system malfunction. And holy crap! The extra skin cells are produced by microscopic robots with a conveyor belt. IN. YOUR. BODY!

But wait! What is that mysterious text at the bottom of the screen?!? Aha, kids! You can breathe freely again! There are no robots inside us! This is just a dramatization! Yes, the fine folks behind this miracle of science think we are dumb enough to believe that tiny metal robots are engaging in a small-scale industrial revolution in our flesh, just because they showed it to us - in cartoon form! And to make sure that we are not tripped up by our own remarkable idiocy, they take the time to kindly point out that the wee mechanical men aren't real. "Not an actual representation of the disease process." WOW. THANK YOU!!

My god, what would I have done without that disclaimer?!? I was just about to call my doctor and ask what to do about the small cotton gin in my liver and the army of miniature Chinese sweatshop workers toiling over tiny sewing machines in that sneaker factory in my colon.

Really? Really, people? Is this a disclaimer that needs to be made? At least to people other than those who believe they have "alien implants"???

Congrats, Amgen and Pfizer - y'all are definitely in the running for the Let's Talk Down to the Consumer award. Mazel tov.

Now you'll have to excuse me - I have to go tend to the small dwarf living in my stomach...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

We were on a break!


So, I took some time off.

I wrote a maudlin piece of poetry back here in - jeez, was it September? - and took it down almost immediately. Then, I just walked away for a while. Wasn't feeling the love.

Can't believe it's been over two months since I posted anything. I blame Facebook.

And work. And aches and pains. And a little vacation.

Here's the Reader's Digest condensed version of the last two months:

Work, work, sleep, work, torn rotator cuff, pain, sleep, sleep, work, went to the cabin in west virginia for a few days, walked, walked, slept in big chair down by the river, wrote some bad poetry, sleep, work, work, wonderful thanksgiving, aaaaand we're back!

Guess it's time to dip a big toe back into the pool and get going again.

Made my Christmas wreath the evening before Turkey Day while watching awful holiday made-for-TV movies. (Lifetime: Media Hell for Shut-In Women.) For the past few years, I've had two wreaths for the holidays. A friend whose family is in Maine always sends a big, beautiful evergreen wreath that I put out on the balcony at Chez Merde, along with white twinkle lights that I loop across the length of the balcony and through the wreath itself, so it glistens in the nighttime winter sky. Once I put up the wreath and lights, I leave them on until the first week in January. The twinkles use up a minute bit of power, and there's something so lovely about driving up the block and seeing the lights of home in the distance, growing closer, welcoming you to warmth and comfort and peace. (Well, except when the sorority girls or the drunken cougar are home, too.) When the wind whips up, you can smell the evergreen, too, as the scent wafts down to the sidewalk. It's really very nice.

But I have a second wreath, too - one for the door to Chez Merde. This wreath (crafted from finest fake Canadian pine!) I make myself, with colorful bits and bobs from the crafts store. A new one every year, and my policy is to never spend more than $12 to make it. Through the miracle of coupons and other discounts, I've always been able to meet my self-imposed cheapness goal and still make something pretty cool. At the end of each holiday season, I donate that year's wreath to Salvation Army, so another family can put it aside for the next year and enjoy it.

I think this year's wreath is pretty damn good. I even made my own bow, and I'll admit I went a little over the top: it's possible the bow could be seen from space. I think it looks plenty swanky, and I dig seeing it waiting for me when I walk up the stairs. It certainly improves the institutional mud green of the apartment building hallway:

To all my friends here in the United States, I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving, with good food and good friends, firm in the knowledge that you are loved and appreciated and that there is much to be thankful for in your lives.

And to my friends beyond these borders*, I hope you know you are loved and appreciated, too. I know I don't say it enough, but I am blessed and humbled by my friends, who have seen me through some rough times - and some downright weird times, too.

I'll raise a glass to you all tonight. And yeah, it's good to be back.

*These TSA-warped-junk-touching-scary-radiation-levels-in-that-body-scanner borders, that is. I think I may have to ask my friend the Sasquatch to guest blog on that point...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

One More Night in a Glamorous Life: the Sleep & Skank Edition

We have new tenants here at Chez Merde. The departure of the nice half-Brazilian, half-Norwegian (Brawegians? Norzilians?) family upstairs has heralded the arrival of the the Sorority Sisters. A pair of young hotties who are are badass night owls, they arrived with a handful of boxes in the back of their banana yellow Chevy Cobalt, a craptacular car festooned with fake floral leis and beach resort stickers on the bumper. (I wonder if I should tell them that the last resident here with a banana yellow car somehow managed to raise the ire of a mentally unstable neighbor on the block who brandished a pistol and left rambling, multi-page manifestos tacked to our lobby message board - all because she hated yellow cars.) Within a week of the duo's arrival, one thing was clear - they weren't used to living in shared housing with working adults.

I swear to God, even when I was a teen or in my early 20s, I could not go out and party every night of the week without turning into an utter zombie. These guys? They're animals. And honestly, I couldn't give a shit if they were the biggest party critters on the face of the earth, save for two things: 1) they're moronically loud when they come home late at night; and 2) they don't seem able to master the challenges of the laundry/trash room. I say this after following a trail of thong underwear (and food trash) down the stairs to the entryway today. Apparently, they don't have a laundry basket or garbage bags - maybe I should buy them some. Unless that would undermine their secret plan to lure hungry, horny elves, fairies, or trolls up to their second-floor lair. Who knows? (This actually was a point of discussion between me and another neighbor this afternoon - we both refrained from picking up the discarded undies.)

If it wasn't for the sudden bursts of late-night noise, I might find them amusing. One had her 21st birthday shortly after their move-in. There was something deliciously awful about watching their flashy-trashy white stretch Hummer limo attempt a u-turn on our narrow dead-end street. Classic! Except that some of their drunk-ass friends were using my car as a place to rest their drinks as they observed the maneuver. That's the only interaction I've actually had with them - yelling to their friends to move their crap off my car.

But I think some fresh interaction may be coming their way - if their downstairs neighbor (with the cute toddler) doesn't beat me to it. It's the nearly nightly arrival home, accompanied by screaming. Last night, it was 2:45 in the morning when Sister #1 got home and made the drunk walk back to the building, announcing herself to us all: "OMIGOD!!! LET ME IN!! I NEED TO PEE!!! WAAAAAAAAAH!" (Keep in mind, there's no lock or access code for the front door of the building. It's just a matter of getting your own damn apartment door open.) Immediately, you could hear and feel the building coming quickly and unhappily back to life. The silence of sleep was shattered, and floors started to creak as we all padded around, trying to sort out our broken rhythm.

For me, it was useless. The specter of insomnia is always lurking over my shoulder, and it was more than happy to envelope me in its misery. I curled up on the sofa and turned on the TV. A friend had alerted me to a freebie HBO/Skinemax weekend for FiOS users, so I flicked through the late night offerings.

There's a reason Skinemax *is* Skinemax: most channels had one form of soft core porn or another. It's a constant parade of lame scripts, bad new age funk elevator music, and enormous fake boobs. All I could think was "God, her back must hurt all the time" or "Oh, Jesus, what happens if one of them pops? Will it just deflate? Will there be a flesh explosion?"

I'm not kidding. You show me cheap Skinemax porn, and that's what I'm thinking.

Well, actually, it's worse than that. I find it so lame, I'm usually looking into the background of the scenes. This time, in one flick, a couple flopped around on a desk in a classroom somewhere in Asia, where a blackboard featured a set of algebraic equations, sans solutions. I love algebra. Things always come out right if you respect the formula, after all. So, there I was, at 3-something in the miserable a.m., mentally completing equations and multiplying out fractions, while some bored "actors" in a tract house in the San Fernando Valley bumped uglies and pretended to be in Bali. I was psyched to finish all the equations before the couple wrapped things up. I may have flunked out of Calculus in high school, but I've still got the basics down, baby! (Oh, and that chick had a heinous tramp stamp for those keeping score on the actual porn content. Seriously, I've seen better porn between fuzzy lines on channels we didn't pay for back in the days of crappy 90s cable.)

Clearly, I'm not the Skinemax target demographic. I actually yelled back at the screen during an improbable kitchen sex scene. The woman was shown burning her hand on the metal handle of a hot pan on the stove (oven mitts, honey) and then, almost immediately, the dude picked her up and plopped her on the stove for what passes for a good rogering in this level of cinematic non-achievement. Of course, my first reaction was: "Jesus! Hot stove! Hot stove! Her ass must be on fire!"

I was also thinking "Christ, that has to be painful - nothing like having the metal grill of a stove burner plate pressed into your rump, full force, over and over again." (I may be an unadventurous party-pooper, but I'm looking out for your ass, pornstress!)

This reminded me of an event I attended in Baltimore a gazillion years ago (oh, I bet you're wondering where this is going - and no, John Waters was *not* involved.) The cast of the brilliant - and wretchedly underappreciated - TV show "Homicide: Life on the Street" did this series of wonderful live events now and then to support the Fells Point Creative Alliance. "Homicide Live" allowed the cast members to stretch their wings, performing theatrical vignettes, poetry, and music for a very appreciative audience. I went one year, and it was a blast. In one piece (culled from a play I sadly cannot identify tonight) actors Peter Gerety (late of "Rubicon") and Ellen McElduff recounted the misery of a sexual encounter up against a wall, including back pain, balance and height challenges, and some horrific wall-based form of rug burn. It was hilarious and awful and always comes to mind when I flip past bad cable porn (and whenever "The English Patient" is on TV.)

What's the point of all this ramble? (Well, other than the fact that I just outed myself for shamefully watching execrable adult fare on cable in a fit of insomnia last night.) I honestly don't have a point this time. It's just another Saturday night here in suburbia, and I spent it at home alone again, spilling out more words about the inherent weirdness of my life. Trails of thongs, screaming sorority girls... Jesus, maybe I'm actually Stephen Tyler. Jury's out on which one of us breaks a hip first.

G'night, kids.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Oh, I think I should feel a little bit bad about this

Some poor soul using a public school system computer in Arizona did a web search for "Dian Fossey discoveries and difficulties" and Google directed him/her to my Interview With a Silverback post.* And, while I am very proud of my fake interview with a gorilla (and wish more people read it), I would hope there is not now a child in Tucson writing a report about great apes using a blog post as research. Especially one featuring a fictional talking silverback discussing his virility and gorilla gas with me via satellite phone.

Then again, part of me hopes it happens.

The same part of me that once told a stoned college student who dialed up the American Embassy in Moscow for help with a paper that Karl Marx was the father of the Marx Brothers and John Lennon was the illegitimate child of Vladimir Lenin.

Good times.

*I checked. "Interview With a Silverback" shows up on Page 8 of the Google search. Hilarious. And a little sad. Apologies to the late Dian Fossey. My gorilla is 100% fake.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Archery of My Middle Ages

So begins a series of occasional posts that I originally wrote as radio commentary for the "Metro Connection" show on WAMU, the public radio station here in the DC area. As that gig has gone belly-up for me, I'll be posting the narratives of my unaired commentary pieces here now and then. This first one is about my pleasant obsession with sharp, pointy things.

Well, here goes. I guess you'll just have to imagine the sweet dulcet tones (snerk, cough, cough) of my voice reading this on air...

Some people hit their forties and have the stereotypical mid-life crisis: buy a fast car, have an affair, bungee jump over a gaping crevasse. My own crisis unfolded over the first half of my forties after a series of car accidents, a pile of broken bones, and partial vision loss. I felt defeated, and I needed some inspiration. But fast cars and affairs aren’t my thing, thanks, and I’m way too chicken to bungee jump. So what did I do?

I took up archery.

Other than paying a few bucks to shoot warped wooden arrows at ye olde Renaissance Faire a few years ago, I hadn’t had a bow in my hands since high school gym class in 1984. Back then, we were handed a few splintery arrows, assigned a beaten-up bow, and pointed in the general direction of some equally beaten-up targets... targets placed directly in front of the faculty parking lot. I always assumed our gym teacher had an axe to grind with her fellow educators as we heard the unmistakable sound of projectiles bouncing off hoods and windshields – and occasionally impaling a tire.

Or maybe she was just a sadist. She usually didn’t hand out protective arm guards until after we’d shot a few arrows and half the girls had walloped their arms with bouncing bow strings. As novice archers shrieked in pain, the teacher would casually point out the bucket of crispy leather straps, stained with years of high schooler sweat. And, faced with the choice of bruises or contact with God-only-knows-what on those diseased pieces of cow skin, most opted for the bruises.

When I recently went with a friend to choose a new recurve bow, I told him about the bruised arm phenomenon back in the day. But I realized I rarely ended up with bruises. (I also never winged a teacher’s car.) Instead, I managed to hit the target with surprising regularity. Turned out, I wasn’t half bad at archery. And when you are a clumsy fat kid in high school, if you find you excel at anything in gym class, you hold on to that. For once, I felt like an equal with the nimble girls who moved in ways I never could. I felt strong. I felt confident and self-assured. And that felt pretty cool.

But like so many things, archery got lost in the haze of college. And then, in work. And work. Aaand work. Over the years, I told incredulous friends how much I’d loved archery. But I never seemed to find the time – or place – for it. Then I hit forty and became a magnet for vehicular disaster. As I thanked my lucky stars to still be alive and mostly in one piece, I started to take stock of what I enjoyed most in this life. And that’s how I ended up happily schlepping a weapon through a Montgomery County park this spring.

There’s a public archery range at Lake Needwood Park up in Rockville. It’s located in a quiet meadow - safely across the street from the nearest picnic area – and has a handful of hay bales and stone markers noting distance. You have to bring your own targets to hitch onto the hay, but the ones I’d ordered hadn’t arrived yet for that first day. All I had in hand was a six-inch by six-inch piece of sticky paper from. The small square was marked with a single red triangle encompassed by a single black circle. It was ludicrously small for a beginner (especially one with crappy eyesight), but I figured, what the hell - I was here, and this was, after all, just a first attempt.

I picked a target and slapped the sticky paper on the hay. When I’d limped the forty feet back to my bow, that little red triangle looked ridiculously tiny, and I wondered just what the heck I was doing. But as soon as I had that bow in my hand, it felt right. I nocked my first arrow, took a deep breath, and drew back the bow string. And when I heard that arrow zing straight into that little scrap of paper? Man, it was good. It was kinda Zen, even.

The score at the end of my first day? Well, I managed to step on my arrows once. Somewhere along the way I lost a fletching off one of them. (I have no idea where it ended up.) And on one shot, I actually snapped the bow string behind my protective arm guard. (That shot briefly voided my Zen.) But it didn’t matter. I shot sixty arrows and had to retrieve only two that I managed to embed in the hillside. The rest? They all landed true on that tiny target. Not bad for a chick with 1.5 eyes and a numb leg, eh?

Another archer arrived while I was shooting. Older than me, with a fancy compound bow, he shot at another target and occasionally stopped to watch me. We wrapped up at about the same time, and he came over to me. “Don’t know how long you’ve been shooting,” he said. “But you’ve got talent. I hope I see you out here again.” How ‘bout that? I’ve got talent! And a big bruise.

Now, I know I’m never going to be called up for the Olympics - or defeat the French at Agincourt - but I’m hooked. Best. Mid-life crisis. Ever. I found out there are at least two other archery ranges in Montgomery County waiting for me. So, consider this fair warning, hale bales of Maryland! Beware!! I’m armed, I’m ready, and I’m coming to show you who’s boss!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

No More Radio Days

With the departure of my friend/host/producer @ WAMU, it appears that my time as a public radio commentator is apparently over. I am very grateful for the handful of times that I was able to tell stories on-air. It was fun while it lasted, but like all good things, I suppose it had to come to an end.

I guess now I'll just have to come up with my own podcast, eh?

Several weeks ago, I forwarded a few pieces for broadcast consideration, but never heard back on coming in to record them. So, rather than let them languish and grow stale tucked away in a file, I've decided to share the pieces here. Keep in mind, these were written for radio performance - and a 3 minute, 30 second-ish performance at that. The words are sparse and the rhythm specific. These are words edited down to the bare bones of stories to meet a stopwatch countdown. I just figured you might find it interesting to see what the radio script looks like out here.

I'll reformat the first one tomorrow and post it. It's not snarky, for the most part. It's all about how I'm handling what passes for a midlife crisis in a household that operates paycheck-to-paycheck. No electronic toys. No fast car. No international travel. (Hell, not jack shit, really! Not even a savings account these days.) Just something simple and very much to the point.

More tomorrow...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I defy you to not enjoy this

I swear, I've watched the opening musical number from the Emmy Awards like, fifteen times, and it makes me smile like a moron each time. You'd have to be: 1)a heartless puppy snuffer; 2)a hater of pop culture; 3)utterly un-American; and 4)not own a TV to not enjoy the stuffing out of this.

Seriously, what's not to love? My favorite Springsteen song, the Glee kids, John Hamm, Jorge Garcia, Joel McHale, Tina Fey, Jane Lynch, Tim Gunn, Betty White...

What a kick!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Can I Get a Witness?

Leaving work today, I witnessed a nasty car accident from about five feet away. A woman in a Camry swerved across two lanes of traffic directly into the path of a Tahoe which was motoring along in the far left lane of M Street. There was no way the Tahoe driver could possibly have missed the blue bullet in his path.

The impact was intense and in just a split second, the sidewalk in front of me was showered in glass fragments.

I felt my whole body go cold, my stomach started to flip-flop, and, dammit, I immediately had a flashback to last June's collision. And then - what the hell? - to a collision from many, many years ago, when I was hit in my mom's station wagon by a speeding red light runner back in my home town (directly in front of our insurance agent's office.)

When I regained my composure enough to speak (with that shaky shock voice you have when you've just seen something that could have ended a life or two or three) I approached the driver of the Tahoe and offered to be a witness to the accident. Very few people have stopped to be witnesses for me, so I know how important it is to have an independent voice to describe the situation.

I must have been speaking much louder than I thought. The driver of the Camry - amazingly uninjured but trapped by the crushed door of her car - kept yelling over to me, "Oh no, no - I'll take responsibility for this. You don't have to be a witness. You don't have to wait for the police. Really, you don't have to be a witness!"

Hello, lady - I call bullshit on that one.

I found one of my non-day job business cards (the ones that say "freelance writer & blogger") and handed it to the stunned Tahoe driver.

"Look, I've been in several accidents in recent years. If your insurance company or the police need to talk to me, you give them my information, okay?"

Again, the Camry driver yelled her mantra. "You don't need to be a witness! It's okay!"

As I pressed my card into Tahoe guy's hands I said, "As the Russians say, 'Доверяй, но проверяй' - trust, but verify. She may say this now, but stories tend to change overnight. Have them call me."

I've just gotten over that shaky wave of nausea. Took a couple of hours. But I think I'm going to bed early tonight. And I hope this guy's insurance company calls me.

I'm a very good witness.

Folks, if you ever have the misfortune of witnessing an accident, please don't walk away or drive away or just ignore what you saw. You may be the difference between a speedy resolution and months or years of anguish and frustration for some poor sod.

And you'll have some damn good karma on your side.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Yeah, I Live in "Classy Town USA"

I posted this suburban nightmare to my Facebook account a couple of weeks ago, and I realized I never told the tale here. Forgive the presentation of this story - I'm pulling this from my original Facebook post and then my follow-up comments in response to appalled friends.

To be muttered a la Jack Bauer:
the following took place at a strip mall right outside Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, more or less between 6 and 7 p.m., August 9th...

Original Facebook post:
"Gentlemen: no matter how sweaty you get, no matter how pretty you and your clown car of peeps want to make yourselves before going into a local bar & grill... please do not all strip to your skivvies outside your minivan and, uh, cleanse your nether regions with baby wipes in front of all the alfresco diners at Ledo Pizza and the Corner Bakery. I may never shake hands with a 20-something male ever again.

In response to comments of amazed horror:
"It was disgusting. A whole minivan of young dudes - clearly they had been running/biking/working out in some way, but to shuck your clothes in a really full parking lot in front of tons of cafe patrons? Just tacky. And - god help me for writing this - one of them dug into his undies twice with the baby wipes to clean his junk and then - oh god, oh god - he lifted the soiled baby wipe to his face and sniffed it. I sat in my car and dry heaved.

When these guys had all changed clothes, they were in dark jeans or Dockers, with button-down shirts, and all had gov't agency IDs clipped to their belts. These weren't exactly homeless guys. Just... disgusting. People were walking past just staring in shock and amazement. And a little horror.

Gaaaah, now I need more Purell just for writing this!

And later...
I actually called one of my sisters because I couldn't believe it, and - poor thing - she got an earful when I yelled, "OMIGOD, STOP WIPING YOUR JUNK!" That's the point when my sister said, "Oh Jesus, I'm hanging up now." Stay classy, suburban DC!"

Yes, Bethesda. Stay super classy!

And to all, a good night.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


So, in a couple of months I turn 45. Halfway to 90. Halfway to dead, I sometimes joke. Truth is, no one knows how long we get on this planet. Gotta make every moment count as much as you can. Maybe I'll wax on about that later, but not now.

Usually, when folks turn 40, it's a big deal. (At least for those of us who dig birthdays.) My 40th was not exactly a big deal. But some things have happened in the intervening years between 40 and now that make me want to celebrate this number.

I lost a brother.

I lost a sister.

I lost part of my vision, and my parts of my spine were crushed. (Along with a bit of my spirit.)

I found out that I was a little more fragile that I ever figured I would have to admit. And I have a greater respect for the impermanence of life - and the need to squeeze every drop of joy you can from it, circumstances be damned.

And so, I want to mark this date somehow. In the end, it may just be me and a big bottle of cheap Aussie wine (seriously, the Australian wine industry owes me some royalties at this point), but I feel like I should make it count.

If I had any cash like a real adult, I'd invite some folks to be my guests and join me for dinner or BBQ in a park (it'll be a wee bit cold for that, likely, come November) or sit around a fire, telling stories and drinking cider. (Man, I miss the embassy's dachas outside of Moscow sometimes!!)

But, as always, the cupboard is pretty damn bare. Being the hostess with the mostest isn't a possibility, much to my shame.

So, creative thinkers, how would you celebrate a milestone birthday on a shoestring budget? I'm aiming to not just have a tuna sandwich in front of the TV watching the previous night's episode of "Mad Men." (Although, I'll take a hearty slice of John Hamm any old day, thank you very much, even if he's playing an ass like Don Draper.)

Should I rent myself a pile of movies and just hunker down for a day of slugliness? Should I squirrel away enough $$ for a tank of gas to go sit out on the beach for a cold autumn day at the shore?

What would you do? Creative - and reaaaaally inexpensive - ideas welcome.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Hint to DC City Workers

If you're driving a city-owned car (or, as was the case this morning, city-owned tractor!) and you have a sticker on the back window that reads "How's my driving? Call 311 to report problems" DON'T DRIVE THROUGH EVERY RED LIGHT ON CONNECTICUT BETWEEN THE HILTON AND DUPONT CIRCLE.

Amazed people like me will actually call 311 and complain. (And, for the record, I spoke to a lovely, uber professional person at DC's 311 line who took my complaint, confirmed that this was a city worker, and gave me a complaint confirmation number.)

The same goes for federal workers driving cars with USG plates. You're driving on our dime. And you have federal license plates. You're easy to report when you're swerving between lanes in morning rush hour like a Friday night drunk.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Coffee Crank

Snagged a parking space this evening directly in front of the Caribou Coffee @ 17th & Penn NW - kitty corner from the White House. Tourist/Washington Helmet-Headed Bird Woman*/Wonk Central. Got the cheapest iced coffee the 'Bou offers while I waited briefly for the Sasquatch to wrap up his workday down the street. WTOP had just announced the wretched temperature before I exited the Crapmobile - still 90F at 6 p.m. with a heat index of 100 hellish degrees.

I was nursing a bad headache and wasn't up to hipster muzak and blasting A/C inside, so I snagged a shaded table right on the street. A few other customers dotted the remaining outdoor tables in the muggy air. I saw a family studying a fold-up tourist map of the city just past the tables. Usually, I offer to help folks, but my brain was getting close to shutting down for the day. Not American, I thought. European?

Then I heard their voices as they spoke loudly over rush hour traffic: Londoners. East End. (I have - or at least had - a good ear for UK accents. Some of my friends at the LSE used to make a game out of testing my ability to place people in cities and regions by voice.) Mum and Dad, teenage son, married daughter and son-in-law. Daughter was oddly dressed in two heavy layers of autumn knitwear; I could only imagine she was slow-cooking in her clothes like a human stew. She was clearly irritated as her husband tried to map their way to Georgetown.

As she waited, arms crossed, she turned toward the Caribou and frowned at the alfresco drinkers. "FUCKIN' 'ELL!" That got everyone's attention. "What kind of crazy bastards drink coffee in this heat?!? Fuckin' 'ell!" Even as the whole family squished into a taxi, she continued to rant in disproportionate response to our summer beverage choices. "My god, that would make me sick! Crazy bastards!"

As they drove away, I exchanged raised eyebrows with the woman at the next table. "Jeez! She needs to relax," the other woman laughed.

I looked at my sweaty cup of lovely iced coffee and just smiled.

Hello, I'm a crazy bastard. And this iced coffee? Very refreshing.

*You know the "Washington Helmet Headed Bird Woman," right? So thin as to have sold her soul to Satan (or Benson & Hedges), courting osteoporosis, clad in an old school Chanel-ish suit, sensible heels, with AquaNetted hair in a helmet halo that a 1960s Betty Crocker would have been proud to sport. Likely has an upper management role at a federal agency or some nonprofit. Mostly humorless. C'mon, DC - we *all* know these women.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

The cicadas know...

...that the temperature is going to start to skyrocket again tomorrow. They're like a living, chattering weather station, whirring with increasing intensity as the mercury climbs. Right now, they're engaged in a sunset call and response battle with the field crickets, who rise to supremacy when the moonlight glows and the cicadas diminish.

Sometimes, it's hard to believe how close I live to a major commuter road when all I can hear is this symphony of clicks, the levels rising and falling like a wave off the beach. When the cicadas settle in silence for the night, the crickets will be quiet enough that I"ll be able to hear the freight trains clacking down the road and the strange, rounded sound of brakes being applied on the Metro trains as they pull into Grosvenor Station.

And in the quiet, I'll hear the last planes of the night, on approach to National and Dulles. Bringing loved ones home to waiting family and freshly made beds. Bringing businessmen in to airport hotels to prepare for Monday meetings and far too many paper cups of bad, strong coffee. And soon, bringing my friend back.

So many words, so many ideas, unspoken, unheard, for so long.

Just the crickets and cicadas to hear me. And they rarely find my thoughts enlightening or entertaining.

After all, it's all just chirps and whirs and chattering of another organic sort. Understandable, translatable by only that few we choose ourselves.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Why, sure you can pay me to buy that swanky printer paper

I love stuff like this.

I ran out of my crappy cheap printer paper for home use. Went to Staples today - they had a deal where you could buy *any* ream of paper -max of two reams for this deal, any brand/type - and you get the cost back 100% in Staples Rewards. Nice. Really nice. I don't mind waiting a month to get paid back.

But then I noticed that the swanky Hammermill Ultra Premium inkjet paper also had an online rebate of $3 a ream. So, I bought two reams, and in the end, Staples will be paying me $6 for having bought the nice paper.

It pays to be a savvy customer. Also pays to just walk into a deal like that by accident. Which is pretty much what happened here...

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Tell me all the things you would change

Lots on my mind right now. Lots and lots.

The moment I woke up today, I had Crowded House music in my head. The words, the melodies - all comforting to me. And the songs kept me focused today, despite feeling unsettled, unsure. A line from "Distant Sun" - the song in the video below - has been my mantra all day: I am not afraid of the dark.

I am not afraid of the dark.

Don't ever be afraid of the dark, friends. Never, ever.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Well, this doesn't look good

Just heard a weatherdude say this storm looks pretty much like the one that kicked our collective butt two weekends back. Heads up, PEPCO: thanks to my growing lack of trust in you, I still haven't bought new groceries - I don't have jack squat in my kitchen for you to ruin, bwah hah hah hah!

Frak - I need more batteries...

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

I Suck at Poetry: the Lydia Deetz Edition

(Ten points to Gryffindor if you got the Beetlejuice reference.) And yeah, I still suck at poetry.


The bookmark girl in isolation
Awaits his hand upon the shelf
The fleeting seconds when his fingers
Brush her worn out leather soul

A faithful dog who stays at doors
And windows, like a matchgirl watches
Banquets of his life, so glad
For scraps that slip from plates

She swallows her own phosphorus
But no one sees the glow inside
Like fireflies she feels when
He passes her in flight

Breathless for the moments granted
In his presence and his eyes
Before the bookmark is replaced
And she is shelved again

To hope

Facebook recommends...

From my Facebook page just now:

I'll give a nickel to the person who comes up with the best fake status update for either one of these guys. Go!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Radio Hack

Know what Radio Shack wanted for two replacement batteries for my two cordless phones at home? $42. Yeah! For real! Forty-two dollars. I can pretty much buy a whole new set of cordless phones for that at Sam's Club.

Advice: if you live on the 355 corridor in MoCo, go to Batteries Plus, just south of Rockville Town Center (and the grave of F. Scott Fitzgerald.) The really nice guys there identified the battery I needed, and, when they discovered they only had one in stock, they upgraded me to the more expensive long-life version, but at the cheaper battery's price. I was in and out for $20 and felt like they went out of their way to keep me a happy customer. Neat!

I know, it's pretty mundane, but some days are like that. I'm grateful for the occasional boring day. Puts the rest of My Weird Life in perspective. I went to the post office, bought batteries, and now it's time to suit up to haul away the beef and pork bodies in my kitchen morgue. Pray for me.

BTW, less mundane: my encounter the other day with the insane young Middle Eastern dude driving a Caddy like he was high and then engaging in some of the most racist behavior I've ever seen. More on this later. Now, the scouring of the kitchen...

Saturday, July 31, 2010

There's nothing quite like...

...cleansing laughter, entertaining TV, some nice wine, and a nearly orgasmic piece of fine Omaha steak to swing a positive end to a fairly awful week. My mood is tremendously improved, and I fully intend to sleep like a baby tonight.

Tomorrow, I exorcise the demons of the Power Outage Fridge. God help me. But the condemned woman did have a fine last meal before opening Pandora's box of stink meat.

(Some may ask, Merujo, why wait until now to clean out the diseased refrigerator and freezer? Well, here's the deal: 1) I was just too damn tired from sleeping a couple of hours each night and then going into work at 4:30 or 5 in the morning to escape the heat; 2) I wanted to wait until my apartment cooled down again before beginning the kitchen purge; and 3) I *really* wanted to wait until whatever bacteria got stirred up in the unintentional hotbox had been reduced to slow and sluggish bugs by the cooling process before starting the crime scene clean up. Also, I didn't want to open the freezer and have everything run like a river of blood at an abattoir.)

I still haven't bought new groceries. After hearing we might get more thunderstorms this weekend, I didn't want to invest in new food only to have it go bad. Again. For the fourth time this year.

Time to brush teeth and hit the hay. Sweet dreams, friends!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Just sayin'...

If the power isn't back on in my 'hood by, oh, midnight tonight, I think dumping the rotten contents of my fridge and freezer in front of PEPCO's corporate office sounds like a good idea. Old school protest style - my Macalester grass roots are showing.

Another note for PEPCO: don't tout a phone number where folks can call and talk to an actual human to get restoration times if people are going to call in and be told, "Oh, we have no restoration time for your area. CLICK."


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Screw you, PEPCO

To the Management of the glorious Potomac Electric Power Company:

A few requests...

I'd like you to cover the cost of my fridge & freezer full of spoiled food (third time this year.)

I'd like you to spend the next few nights, tossing and turning on my sofa as the temperatures soar again.

I'd also like your reps to not make ridiculous comments on the radio, suggesting that people WITHOUT ANY POWER go check your website for updates and to see the outage map (oh, the bitter laughter in my car over that one!)

Most of all, I'd like you to turn the frigging power back on.

Don't feel like being nice at this point. This crap happens far too often. Friday is when you expect the power to come back on for everyone? I wonder how many elderly or ill people will suffer health crises in the next few days after being stuck in stifling conditions. And how many folks, including me, will be struggling to figure out where to get the money to replace the ruined food.

Screw you, PEPCO. You need to have a "come to Jesus" moment about your infrastructure and your ability to respond to emergencies.

For the record, I appreciate everything the guys in the trucks and on the ground are doing; my big middle finger is for the management of PEPCO.

You're doing this wrong.

This post inaugurates a new label for blog entries: "PEPCO." Why? Because I see a theme developing.


Monday, July 26, 2010

I would have sucked at living in the 1800s

Nothing like a ice-cold shower to wake you up at 5:45 in the morning. And a short shower at that, since we're under mandatory water restrictions.

Power's been out at home since a killer storm turned the sky pitch black yesterday afternoon and wiped out electricity to about 300,000 PEPCO customers in my county alone. Of course, I'd just gone grocery shopping for the week the day before.

And all my summer work clothes were in the washers in the basement.

Aaand I had a crock pot bubbling away.

Embarrassingly, I also had a Twilight movie from Redbox in my DVD player. You know, I don't mind spending an extra buck or two on a Redbox movie when it's a good movie, but Twilight: New Moon? Yeesh. It's still stuck in my DVD player.

Got up to about 85F in the apartment overnight. I listened to old time radio on NPR until I finally fell asleep in a sweaty heap on the sofa (so I could be near the open balcony door.) I did love the sound of silence, save for the birds, crickets, and cicadas.

Well, I loved it until one of my neighbors got the brilliant idea to sleep in his car overnight, running the engine so he could use the A/C all night. Nothing like having some dumbass idling his car directly outside your window to make a challenging - and sweaty - situation more challenging. My upstairs neighbor had started pacing around when this guy decided to add to the problem by cranking up his radio high enough that his car was vibrating. I felt like a cop when I finally wandered outside around 1 in the morning, and tapped on his window with my Maglite. "Uhhh, dude, you know you're keeping this whole building awake?" He drove off to go sleep somewhere else. Go with god, car dude. Just go with God on another street.

Food in my fridge is ruined. My laundry is soaking wet. Power likely won't be restored until sometime Tuesday, at the earliest. I'll have to see if I can find some fresh ice somewhere tonight to save the stuff I was able to fit into my cooler. (Giant had a back-up generator running and was selling half-thawed bags of ice yesterday. Took over an hour to get a mile up the road, buy ice, and get back home.)

I know, whine, whine, whine. Things could be MUCH worse. This is true. Try imagine no electricity 24/7, all while wearing wool and/or layers of petticoats. I'm barely cut out for the 21st century. I wouldn't have lasted a week here on the swamp back in the day.

Now, you'll have to excuse me. I need to go swoon.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Eh, screw it!

I was going to hit the AMC Theatres @ White Flint for a 9:10 a.m. showing of "Inception" tomorrow (well, hell - it's 1:44 in the morning, so make that today) but I think the phrase that pays right now is fuhgettaboutit! I got four movies from Redbox and I'll have a leisurely day of doing laundry, dishes, and making a crock pot of sirloin tips in fresh mushroom sauce (to be served over zucchini - guest starring in the role of pasta.) I can see "Inception" later. I just realized that, even at the ungodly flick-viewing hour of 9 ayem, there will likely be a ton of peeps looking for a place with blasting A/C to shelter from Mutha Nature's major thermostatic malfunction.

Okay. Alarm turned off. It's sack time! Tomorrow, a little Scandahooligan subtitle magic and "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Is Giles available in sugar-free?

Jones Soda, the people who brought us the disgusting Turkey & Gravy soda (and, as of last year, dear god, Tofurky & Gravy soda) now have flavors - in limited edition bottles - celebrating the comic book series Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight.

I haven't had sugared soda in a looong, looong time, and I won't be consuming these, thanks. But I do like the thought of a tall glass of Giles. Or Xander.

A tall glass, indeed.

You know, something cool to slowly, seductively sip out on the veranda when it's ONE HUNDRED FIFTEEN degrees outside tomorrow. Then again, screw the slow seductive sip - might as well just shotgun that drink in the hopes of keeping your innards from igniting.

Guess I'll just have to settle for ice water with lime slices (and cowering in the cool, cool dark) all weekend. But if they do ever make Sugar-Free Giles (or Diet Xander), sign me up, babe! Englishmen and cute dudes with eyepatches? You just can't go wrong!

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Swift Kick to the Ego

One should never look at the London School of Economics alumni magazine, unless one is prepared to see that folks with whom one studied are now "Minister of This" or "Minister of That" in their home countries.

(And then have to look in the fridge to see if there's enough Miracle Whip Light to make a tuna salad sandwich.)

I think dinner may simply be a large glass of cheap Australian red.

Consumed while wearing my tin crown labeled "Queen of the Universe."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Are we hurtling rapidly toward the sun?

I think, on a whole, I'd prefer to be in San Diego at Comic Con this weekend. Big time.

Welcome to the Hellmouth, kids:

Level 42

Friends, after years of saying "One day, I have to see Mark King play the bass live," I finally got that chance last night at Rams Head in Annapolis. Level 42 was fantastic, and the room was a very happy one. Funky, fabulous, and I wish I could afford to go see them again tonight at the Birchmere.

Drove home from the bay with the windows open, singing the whole way. Ahhh! What a fine night. And much gratitude to the band for really giving us one hell of a good show. For me, it always makes a gig even better when the band seems to really be having a good time and is projecting that wonderful truth that *everyone* in the room is having a damn good time. That's what we got at Rams Head.

And, adorably, keyboardist Mike Lindup did the "been trying to reach your shores" and "waves of doubt" moves last night, just like in the video below. What a blast!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

If you read my Air & Space article...

...please be sure to leave a comment on the A&S website, so the editors know if you enjoyed it. I've put permalinks over at the top right of the blog to both the main article and the slide show with additional vignettes from my mother's life and the story of the WASP. You can leave comments on either - or both - pieces on the A&S site.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for leaving feedback!!

From the Church of the Big Sky Way-Back Machine: On Love of Music

I was going to go see "Inception" early this morning - do a "Crepes and Apes" thing.* But around midnight last night, I got socked with a migraine the likes of which I haven't encountered in a long, long time. Tsumani-esque waves of nausea, stabbing pain, the whole nine yards. So, I turned off the alarm and curled up in a fetal ball last night for a little miserable shut-eye.

And while I woke up late this morning feeling marginally less queasy, I could feel the heat seeping through the balcony door. Without even opening a window, I knew the air outside was heavy and tangible. The morning was sultry, to borrow a little from "Throw Mama From the Train." It's not fit for man or beast or bug this afternoon, with the heat index close to 100F, so archery and a brisk walk are off my agenda. My cranium is still throbbing, so I'm going to retreat back into my dimly lit living room with a big bottle of water and a fistful of ibuprofen.

However, in my grand plan to continue my campaign to write regularly and keep flogging the blogging horse, I'll share with you a post I wrote just about three years ago about my love of music - and my sadness at missing a rare Crowded House concert in the area because of empty pockets and a car that needed to be shot like Ol' Yeller. This came to mind because I'll be going to hear Crowded House out at Wolf Trap in a few days - and, Dear God and Mutha Nature, hear my plea: let this oppressive heat and humidity let up before I have to sit in the sun on the Wolf Trap lawn, okay?

So, while my aching brain and I wuss out on writing something new, enjoy this: An Act of Simple Devotion.

* "Crepes and Apes" refers to the practice of going to see movies early on Sunday mornings (as to avoid much annoying yammering and cell phone activity) in tandem with a stop at the local IHOP. This originated when friends and I went to see the Tim Burton remake of "Planet of the Apes" after an IHOP breakfast during a crepe promotion. And - voila - "Crepes and Apes" was born!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Did the earth move for you, too, baby?

We just had an earthquake! A small one, for sure - 3.6 magnitude, epicenter just a few miles up the road from me in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Everything in my building shook, and one of my framed posters took a swan dive to the floor. Glass didn't break, though, and I attribute the fall more to my lame efforts at picture hanging than the mild "shake and wake" of the quake.

Ironic that Ms. Insomnia was actually sleeping for once when this happened at 5:04 a.m. And now, I'm fully awake. On my day off.

Earthquakes: Mother Nature's alarm clock. Hopefully, she didn't hit the snooze. No need for aftershocks, please - really, I'm up.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Props from the Alma Mater

Sweet! My alma mater, Macalester College, tweeted about my Air & Space article and posted it to their Facebook page. Too cool. :)

My fabulous college advisor Gitta Hammarberg was behind that. Thanks, Gitta! And thanks for initiating me into the cult of Lipson and his "udarniki" and "bezdel'niki."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My Air & Space article is out!!

Hello, folks!

At long last, the article I wrote about my mother & the WASP has been published. It will be in the August 2010 issue of Smithsonian's Air & Space magazine (and I hope it sells out on the news stand!! Buy a hard copy, please!!)

Today, the article went up on the Air & Space website. And what's wonderful is that the fine folks of Air & Space went far above and beyond in including great extras to supplement the story. Along with the feature, there is a gallery of all the photos included in the physical magazine, as well as an MP3 of Mom talking about Charles Lindbergh inspiring her back when she was only five years old.

And - making it all even more cool - they included a "web extra" slide show of additional photos coupled with the stories that had to be cut from the magazine for space considerations. How awesome is that?!?

I would like to say thank you to great people at Air & Space - especially Rebecca Maksel, the amazing editor who worked with me on this piece. She has had infinite patience with me.

If you enjoy it, please leave a comment on the Air & Space website. The feedback would be great and much appreciated.

I hope you enjoy it. It's probably the most important story I'll ever tell in this lifetime.

I'll never forget, Mom.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


Welcome to Washington, DC!

Blogger comments are screwed today

Hi folks,

Just FYI - Blogger is having problems and many people, including me, currently cannot moderate/publish comments from readers. So, please know you are not being ignored. Just can't get the system to cooperate. And trying to get answers from the Blogger folks is very challenging. (The support group is full of frustrated peeps.)

Monday, July 05, 2010

Roku, how I love thee!

Have I mentioned how much I love my little Roku machine? Yes, the initial investment set me back a little under $100, but if you're on a short financial chain, but love movies and music, it's a godsend and worth turning a trick or two to buy. I have my $10 (well, $9.53) one-DVD-a-month Netflix account, which comes with all-you-can-eat viewing from their instant play menu. And there are so many other free channels I get (my Pandora stations, Radio Paradise, etc.) - man I love it!

Today, I added the freebie to my Roku line up. Right now, I get 2GB of free "locker" space for music and videos from my iTunes account that I can now listen to/watch through the TV. When you sync your Roku to, you get an invite for an upgrade to 10GB of freebie iTunes locker space. That's a nice pile of your hand-picked songs for a party or a day of lounging with a book. Sweeeeeet!

I got one of my sisters hooked on Roku, and she's got her own little black box now. It's addictive pleasure for shallow-pocketed pop culture freaks. Really, it's heaven. I have so many foreign films lined up to watch, I could run my own art house cinema.

And right now, I'm listening to brand spankin' new Thomas Dolby music through my TV. Ah, technology! Sometimes you really are grand!

And hey, kids - if you haven't heard Mr. Dolby's first new studio music in 20 years, it's time to hie yourself over to his website, join his forum, and then, for $2.99, you can revel in some gorgeous and fun new tunes. Seriously - go get his new "Amerikana" EP. It's an exclusive download (with swanky digital booklet!) for registered members of his official forum, the Flat Earth Society. Three killer tracks for less than a Starbucks coffee, folks! Once you hear "17 Hills," I guarantee you will be hooked on Dolby music all over again.

Go! Now! Get new music! Fall in love!

And if you don't have one, consider a Roku. Brilliant item. And, no, they're not paying me to express my love for the little black box. It's just another awesome thing that I think you should know about it and get for yourself.

And now, back to the sofa and my "Veronica Mars" Season One Netflix marathon. Ahh, air conditioning, the La-Z-Boy, a pitcher of ice water, and good TV. On a hot summer night, that's all you need.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The sizzle you hear... not meat on a grill. It's the Washington area, gearing up for a week of weather worthy of Hades itself.

It's currently 94F here in DC - and that reading is likely in the shade. For the poor, patriotic bastards (an estimated 500,000 strong - eek!) hunkered down in the direct sun on the National Mall, it's got to feel like it's over 100. I bet the DC paramedics are doing a booming business with heat exhaustion cases today as people wait hours and hours for the festivities to begin.

I've done the 4th of July on the Mall before, but from the relative comfort and safety of the roof garden at the National Air & Space Museum during my time as a Star Wars exhibit volunteer. Gotta say, that *was* pretty damn awesome. But now that I've done it once, I don't have to do it again. The crowds, the traffic, and the heat just add up to an urban nightmare, and - call me a loner loser - watching fireworks in hi-def in my air conditioned living room (on a spine-friendly sofa) gets the thumbs up this year.

Back home in Illinois, I used to love going out to watch the fireworks. There's something very comforting about the sense of small(ish) town community with neighbor-strangers, chilling on blankets and the backs of pick-up trucks, all ooh-ing and aah-ing together over the modest pyrotechnics. Traffic was rarely bad leaving the gathering site, and we were always home in a few minutes to unload the cooler and shake off some grass from the hillside where we'd plopped down to enjoy the display.

But here, it's different. The flag-waving camaraderie dies faster than the dissipating smoke, and it's a massive heat stroke clusterfrak- and a half a tank of gas or a stifling, claustrophobic squishfest on the Metro - just to get out of downtown. Go with God, Mall watchers! I'll have a gin & tonic and raise it in your honor as the John Philip Sousa plays. I'll celebrate the holiday tomorrow with the Sasquatch as we picnic indoors with filet mignon (thank you, Harris Teeter, for marking down the nice steak to cheaper-than-hamburger prices!!), watermelon, and a good flick on the Roku.

Though it's a (federal) holiday for some - including me - Mother Nature is officially heralding Hellish Work Week '10 tomorrow with a 98F scorcher. I return to the office slog on Tuesday, when we're expecting a high of 101F. And kiddies, that does NOT include the heat index. Weatherdudes are saying that should feel like something between 105 - 110F.

Drink up and be merry tonight, DC friends, for Satan himself is ready to put the screws to us for several days in a row. Stay hydrated, slather on the sunscreen, and, for now, happy holidays!!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

It's that time of year again...

...when most of the hits on my blog are fireworks-hungry people looking for information about that Midwestern Mecca of explosives, Krazy Kaplans:

The sign says "Buy 1, get 6 free!" but that was 2006.
Their (awful) website says "buy one, get one free!"
Damn economy!!!

I wonder how many guv'ment lists I just got added to by having the words "Mecca" and "explosives" in the same sentence. (Kinda joking, but sadly not entirely joking.)

Happy 4th of July, friends! Picnic well, wear lots of sunscreen and mosquito repellent, and may your fireworks be "ooh and ahh" worthy!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Laying off "The Office"

So, Steve Carell has announced that he is leaving NBC's marquee sitcom, "The Office" after this coming season. Carell's a talented guy, but I'm glad he's moving on. His departure may ring the death knell for the show, but I think it's time anyway. Pack up the docu-comedy cameras, kids, and good riddance to the insecurely egotistical character of Michael Scott, the manager everyone loves to hate.

Well, maybe everyone except me.

Over time, I've just come to hate him. There's less and less "love" in my painful observation of his behavior. I laugh infrequently now, and I shudder more. Yeah, I get that we're supposed to be appalled by Michael's ineptitude and boorishness, yet pity his wretchedness. But, honestly, my willing suspension of disbelief is no longer willing.

I've reached a point where I just really want someone to:

1. fire his ass
2. slap him with a workplace harassment suit
3. coldcock him for being such a big weasel

I would also like for Jim to take some calcium tablets and strengthen his spine. And for Dwight to be canned and/or arrested for some of the crap he's pulled.

Yes, I know it's just a TV show. And yes, I can just turn the channel. But after a viewing investment of several seasons, you still want it to be as good as it once was; the decline starts to wear on you more than a little. Just like Michael Scott's obnoxiousness.

I know the writers want to keep their jobs. And, in order to keep their jobs, they will churn out what the network wants/needs. The network, in turn, needs to appeal to the largest common denominator groups that punch their Nielsen buttons and buy the cars and fast food and alternatives to The Pill that they advertise. (Side note: anyone else terrified by the side effects listed in those ads for Mirena, the intrauterine device? HOLY SHIT! That is the stuff of nightmares!!)

So, the network asks the writers to keep churning out "Michael Scott is an HR horror story who still manages to keep a job and his staff stays on board, despite many opportunities to sue him and the whole company" scripts for a group of increasingly one-note characters. And, after this coming season? Well, there's the problem - you can't really lay a foundation for success with a group of one-note characters left in the wake of Carell's departure.

It's a tired premise. And - speaking as someone who was once in a real-life miserable work situation - increasingly frustrating to watch. It's just not all that funny anymore. Are there still moments of comedic brilliance and warmth? Sure. But they come in flashes now (take Andy and Erin's romantic kiss in the middle of the city dump.) I don't fault the writers as much as I fault the network for not knowing when to say "when." Take a page from the UK TV playbook, NBC. Know when to stop flogging your superior workhorse before it actually *is* dead.

I'm just not feeling the pathos anymore.

And, seriously, what documentary team is hanging around this one office so long? That's a production team that maxed out their personal credit cards (and their parents' credit cards!) a long time ago. Sundance? Christ, if they were real, they'd be doing a pole dance soon to make rent!

It's time to downsize the Scranton office. And Michael Scott? Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, son.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

No lions and tigers and bears, but...

Pink eye and deadlines and insomnia (oh my!) and a drunk neighbor playing ZZ Top's "Legs" over and over again at the 1 a.m. hour is no way to go through life, son. The neighbor and the itchy eye didn't let me sleep until about 3 a.m. Again. Same as the night before. Ugh!

But up I'm now, and I understand that the weather is going to be as miserable today as last Thursday, when we were crushed with a 104-degree heat index. (Yes, my European friends, that's 104F - as close to the surface of the sun as I care to get, thanks.) So, it's a fine day to do some writing and then curl up with a book and a glass of wine in the safety and comfort of the air conditioning here at Chez Merde.

Hope your Sunday is sunny, friends! (But less skin-sizzling and eye-frying than here.)

I'm off to write about a dead pony. This dead pony, as a matter of fact:

Fig. 1: Dead, stuffed pony. Creepily smiling, dead, stuffed pony.

Intrigued? Horrified? Hopefully both. And, when I'm done and you hear the story, I'll hope you'll be intriguingly, horrifically amused. I'll leave you with that for now. :) Now, where is my corkscrew? It's 5 o'clock somewhere, right?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again

At last! My muse is out of rehab.

Fig. 1: Before

Fig. 2: After

Went to Mayorga in King Farm for the first time in eons and spent a couple of hours with pen and paper. No laptop, no distractions, no messin' around. Nursed a skim milk sugar-free iced mocha (with a shot of sugar free Irish creme) and pounded out a few pages of text.

It was good.

Welcome back, muse. I'm not sure what cut-rate version of Promises Malibu you were in, but they did a fine job!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

In my hands, a faded history

It's D-Day. The Sixth of June.

It's the 42nd birthday of my dear, wonderful friend, the Sasquatch. The 24th anniversary of my father's death. And, of course, it's the 66th anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy.

Big day at Chez Merde. Lots of memories. Some good, some bad.

Some, simply sad.

For me, the family sadness of D-Day starts a little more than a year before the beaches were taken at Juno, Gold, Omaha, Utah, and Sword. In April 1943, my mother was training to be a WASP, and her brother, a Naval aviator, was in the Pacific, flying carrier-based bombers.

My mom's brother, Franklin

Mom had only been at Avenger Field in Texas a few weeks when she got the first of two telegraphs on the same day.

First, one came from her father:

And then, another, from the Navy:

In her wartime photo scrapbook, Mom would later write:
"Telegram from Navy arrived notifying me that my brother was missing in action - found out later from other navy pilots that he was bombing Bougainville from a converted carrier (USS Chenango) based at Guadalcanal - his flight disappeared in vicinity of a tropical storm. Not known if they ever reached their target."

Franklin would never be found. So many men were lost in the Pacific Theater, there wasn't enough space to put all their names on the memorial at Pearl Harbor. Franklin's name is inscribed on a memorial in the Philippines. Mom wanted to see it someday, but never made it there.

Lt. Junior Grade George F. Hardman

While serving at New Castle (Delaware) Army Air Force Base after training, Mom requested a posting on the West Coast, to be closer to her family in Nevada. She felt her father and stepmother would be comforted to see her once in a while. The military, of course, had an odd idea of "West" and eventually, in 1944, posted her to Fairfax Field in Kansas City, Missouri and then to Officer Candidate School in Orlando, Florida, where Mom met Dad.

During my parents' whirlwind courtship, Mom's beloved stepbrother Jack - a man who had already done a good amount of time in uniform - re-enlisted for military service after a recruiter came through town, talking up paratrooping. Along with thousands of other young American men, he shipped out to Northern Ireland in advance of Operation Overlord.

Jack Quaid (on left) with two buddies, Northern Ireland, 1944

D-Day came and went, with expected radio silence from Jack; no one expected any word from the men in France in the days just following the invasion. Back home, my parents married on June 24, 1944 on a sweltering day in Richfield, Minnesota. And less than a month later, on July 20th, Mom got another terrible telegram:

A few days later came the crushing blow:

Jack had died at Sainte-Mère Église, which was the heart of the airborne operations for D-Day, with many men dropping right into the center of the town. Mom's handwritten notes in her scrapbook tell the story:

"(Jack) killed while setting up a roadblock by mortar shell a few days after parachuting into Normandy June 6, 1944."

Jack was buried at the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, but his widow had him repatriated and reburied in Reno. This upset Mom - she felt Jack should have stayed in France alongside his fallen brothers in the well-tended, much-revered cemetery not far from Omaha Beach. But we all mourn in our own way, and Jack's wife needed him home. She needed something tangible. I can understand that.

Lt. John A. "Jack" Quaid, Northern Ireland, just before D-Day

The only tangibles I have of these lives are the snapshots and notes Mom kept from a lifetime ago. I never knew them except through her words and these images. I think I would have liked these guys. Mom adored her brothers, and while I'm sure their memories became a little idealized in death and mourning and celebration, I have confidence that they were pretty damn fine men.

Rest in peace, uncles I did not know. I'm glad Mom left fragments of your stories behind for me to ponder. I wish I knew you better.

In my hands, your faded history
A stack of yellowed photographs
And crumbling Western Union words
I puzzle out how much you meant
To people I did know and love

Assembled telegrams, your faces smile
But no voices speak your story
I wonder who you would have been
Had you not been cut short by war
Now just
Tear-stained bookmarks in a life