Thursday, June 28, 2007

On Friday...

...I'll be guest-blogging for my friend D over on his blog American Twentysomething 3.0. I have to keep my usual case of Blogger Tourettes in check for this one. Dariush runs a nice, clean, family-friendly site, so you will be amazed to see me keep references to swearing, crack-addled Wal-Mart customers to myself for a day. Shocking, I know. But seriously, I can work clean. Honest.

So, come visit Chez Dariush tomorrow. Hopefully, he won't regret letting me do this.

Heh heh heh heh heh...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I may have found a completely new level of Hell

Disgusting. Dirty. Unsanitary.

And that's just the customers.

Come with me, dear readers, on a trip to the Germantown, Maryland Walmart - a larger, more wretched hive of scum and villany than Mos Eisley ever was.

Friday night, I had need of several items that normally would require multiple stops to procure: Jobe's houseplant spikes, lightbulbs (including the elusive 200-watter), Kleenex, underwear (screw you, Rockville Target, for no longer stocking my size!), and a handful of fiddly bits.

I got to Walmart at 8:45. I would leave 35 minutes later, nearly running for the door and the bottle of Purell I keep in my car. Truth is, I should have left as soon as I walked in the door and made a stop in the ladies room.

Here, folks, is a glimpse of the Germantown, Maryland Wal-Mart ladies room at 8:45 on Friday evening:

Included in this mess is the bag with the dirty diaper that a kindly suburban grandma threw on the floor as she walked in. When I said, "What the...???" She looked at me and said, "Well, what else can I do?" I heard her clucking and objecting from her stall as my cell camera clicked away. Too bad, granny.

Still, I had driven up there. I was in the store. I could pick up my stuff, get the hell out, and not come back. Not for a long, long time.

Let me introduce you to the Germantown Walmart shoppers. The playing field here is very level - the customers here are of every color, creed, nation, and ethnicity possible. White, black, purple, green - doesn't matter. Let me tell you - none of these folks were making themselves look good. None of them.

Like the mom opening up shampoo and condition bottles left and right, squeezing out large "samples" for her kids to play with on their arms and legs. She then pulled a box of baby wipes from the next aisle to open for them to use for clean-up.

Lesson 1: Don't buy toiletries at Walmart.

Then there was the clearly crack-addled woman who wandered the food aisles, opening packages of cookies, sampling them, closing them and then screaming "Muthafucka! Shit! Stupid fuckas! They don't have my cookies. Hey, hey, you! (said to passing, scared customer) WHERE ARE MY MUTHAFUCKING COOKIES?"

Lesson 2: Don't buy dry food at Walmart.

Even better, just around the corner there was the woman who picked up a package of hot dogs off the dirty floor, where they had been pushed around by several carts, opened the refrigerator with the non-floor hot dogs, and tossed them in with the rest of the weiners for sale.

Lesson 2.5: Don't buy ANY food at Walmart.

Or how about the dad carting a toddler dressed only in a t-shirt, sandals and a diarrhea-overflowing diaper. While daddio railed at someone on his cellphone, he plopped down the stinky leaky diaper kid on top of a pallet of bottled water. DIRECTLY onto the bottle tops, his feet bouncing and rubbing all over the next pallet of bottle tops. That was the point when I finally yelled.

"Hey. Hey! HEY, DAD!" Dad spun around, phone still to his head. "Get your kid's filthy bottom off the water bottles. And get his feet off the bottles, too! What is wrong with you?"

Dad screamed at me, "You are a horrible woman!"

I just replied, "Well, at least I'm not a horrible father."

Lesson 3: Never buy anything to drink at Walmart. You have no idea where those bottles have been.

Then there was the couple dry-humping on a big pile of paper towels. She leaned over the innocent towels, propped up on one elbow, chattering away on a glitter-spattered cell phone while her boyfriend pounded away at her phrase-covered backside, chuckling loudly as bored, tired immigrant couples passed by, their carted children observing the mock sex with great interest. As the stacked piles of paper products shuddered with every thrust, I started to wish both of these guys would smother in a tragic two-ply accident. (Of course, their families would then sue Walmart - successfully, likely - over the fact that the paper towel display didn't carry a warning about the dangers of sexual activity in a retail environment.)

Lesson 4: Never buy paper goods at Walmart.
Lesson 4.5: Never bring impressionable children to Walmart.

By 9:15, I'd had enough. I felt dirty, I was angry at the asinine and grotesque behavior throughout the store, and I was tired of dodging products dumped on the floor/opened and abandoned. I had given up on buying underwear because, after what I'd seen in other departments, that was one item with which I wasn't going to roll the dice. The last thing I needed to find out was that my undies had been pre-worn by some inquisitive shopper.

When I hit the check-out, I didn't even want to interact with a clerk. I know I muttered "Get me the hell out of here" under my breath. More than once. I went to an automated line to avoid any need to exchange false pleasantries. That was the highlight of the evening, actually.

The final ridiculousness of the night was in walking out the door, where you have to present your receipt. The door guy pretends to study the receipt, doesn't cast a single glance into the cart to verify anything, and then issues a red ink slash on your paperwork. Yes, indeedy, this cart has passed Walmart muster!


If I can avoid it, I won't be back for a very, very long time. I can always buy my undies online. Strosnider's hardware is on the way home from work, if I manage to keep my houseplants alive long enough to need more buck-ninety-nine plant spikes, and Target has just about everything else. Except for my damn underwear. But, they even have diet cherry crack on tap up on the second floor now, so that mitigates the underwear issue.

As for me...

Lesson 5: Walmart is a much bigger Hellmouth than the White Flint 7-11 ever could be.

I learned enough for one Friday night.

Every bad thing about America that you think, my fellow Americans - every bad thing your foreign friends and family think about this nation? It was all there at Walmart. And it's depressing as hell if this represents average America. Really, really depressing. If people are this freaking oblivious and grotesque and classless and ignorant... well, is it any wonder Bush got re-elected?

After writing about this, I think I need another shower...

24.... with Merujo

This conversation actually happened between 3:05 and 3:07 p.m. today...

Me (waiting for unfamiliar young studly dude to pull laundry out of the dryer)...
Dude: "Uh, you waiting to use this?"
Me: "Yeppers."
Dude: (pulls laundry from dryer, starts to walk out of laundry room with armful of clothes)
Me: "Excuse me. You forgot to clean out your lint."
Dude: (laughing) "You're kidding, right? I'm a guest here. You can get that for me."
Me: "Uh, no, buddy. I don't think so. That's not just fabric fuzz, you know. It's also your dead skin and hair. You can remove it yourself. I don't work here, hon."
Dude: "I doubt it's my hair. I wash and comb my hair, lady. Anyway, I'm clean. Have a nice day."
Me: "Uh, no, bubba. I'm not talking about the brushable hair on your head. I have no interest in handling your butt and nut hair. Clean it out now."
Dude: "I don't know why this pisses you off so much. So it's got hair in it. It's laundered hair! It's clean."
Me: "It's laundered nut hair. And unless I'm married to you or paid to wash your clothes, I have no obligation to handle your butt and nut hair. Clean it out."
Dude: "I'm gonna tell my friend her neighbor is a bitch." (Returns to clean out what I'm uncharitably going to think of as "butt and nut hair" from now own.)
Me: "That would be fine. Be sure to tell her the bitch is Merujo in Apartment X. You know, the building security representative? And tell her to have a great day and that she might want to escort her visitors to the laundry room in future."
Dude: "..." (leaves, slamming door behind him.)
Dude: (from hallway) "Oh fuck."

But apparently, he has the cleanest nut hair in the county.

J'aime la "vie d'appartement!"

And God bless us everyone.

History rising from the ice

This is so cool. I think one of the best parts of the story is that the last surviving pilot from the mission will fly alongside for the first 100 miles or so. The Lost Squadron flies again!

Just really neat.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Why do I love where I work? (a continuing series)

Why, indeed? Because I just got to hear Tony Bennett sing "If I Ruled the World" down in our auditorium. Live, in person, and just belting it out.

That was incredibly cool.

Goosebumpy cool.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Oh, and another thing...

Holy crap, those Doritos X-13D mystery chips? Disgusting. The flavor of a hamburger with ketchup and mustard and... onions, I think, bathed in salt on a tortilla chip? Oh, man. Not good.

Don't ask me how I know this. Just trust me. Avoid the mystery Doritos. If Willy Wonka made really weird savory snack foods, this is what he'd make.

And then throw away.*


*Along with whatever foolish child tried to eat them on the factory tour...

TV en Russe

I'm losing my Russian skills. I simply don't speak it anymore. No need at work (most of the time) and no socializing with Russian speakers these days. (Apologies to my friends Ben & Natasha, who I hope to see sometime before their kid graduates from college!) So, I've started watching the Russian news shows on local cable to try to keep my ear.

Sometimes, I talk back to the TV. It's so sad.

I have some friends who are born linguists - people who can grab another language and get in the swing of things very quickly. I'm envious of them, I must admit. For me, it's not quite that easy. But, after years of living in Russia, my language skills really were good. Super solid. Secretly, I was proud of all the times that people would ask me "Nu, kogda vy immigririvali?" ("So, when did you immigrate?") I liked the fact that my Russian was good enough to be thought native.

But that time is past. I have an American accent again. I have to think much harder to be able to hold higher level conversations - something I didn't give a second thought to 15 years ago. At least my Cyrillic penmanship is still nice.

It would be nice to be able to speak Russian well again. I know there are native speakers at my office. Maybe I need to see if any of them would like to get together for lunch po russki once in a while.

I'll add that to my list of things I need to do, right after go to the gym, win the lottery, and finish the book.

For now, I think I just need a glass of milk and a mud mask, not necessarily in that order.

Ponda Baba's Bad Day

This was, in my humble opinion, the highlight of the Robot Chicken Star Wars special last night. The crushing of a dream. The sadness of it all. The untold back story of a hapless (and limbless) bar-goer:

The Real Mystery

Okay, this has brightened my mood - the promo for the next episode of Destination Truth, where Josh and his "crack team" go looking for the chupacabra and the ropen. Quote: "The real mystery is how a town this small can have this many foosball tables."

Yeah, okay, so the last episode scared the crap out of me. Thai ghosts = freaky. Chupacabras? Just silly.

So very silly.

(Yeah, I'm hooked.)

Sunday, June 17, 2007


I'm very low and lonely tonight. Anyone got any good thoughts to share?

Enjoy some good music while you ponder:

(By the way, roll over the cute YouTube bar at the end of the video and watch the live performance of "One Step Ahead." Neil Finn is a god.)

Bad Ideas in Lust

Attention, good people of Montgomery County! For the benefit of all, let me share this small gem of advice: do not have sex in your car in well-lit fast food outlet parking lots.

Pretty please?

Last night, I was struck with really bad insomnia. I told my friend Lunesse that I was stressed about upcoming work deadlines, stressed about money (as usual), stressed about relationships (or a lack thereof), stressed about the book, and just generally having some sort of sticky existential crisis.

Around midnight I went out for a short drive to Wendy's. Why Wendy's, especially considering that their choice of advertising music kinda grosses me out right now? Well, because they serve diet Crack on tap. And, since I couldn't sleep, some diet Crack and a quick read of the new issue of Entertainment Weekly under the suburban stars sounded appealing to my ailing brain. Big, sweaty, icy cup in hand, I pulled into a well-lit spot in the Wendy's lot to read some Hollywood news. Windows down, the night wasn't too bad. I played some Split Enz on the Podlet and took sips of the caffeinated super drug, guaranteed to keep me up for a couple more hours (it did - got to bed at 4 this morning.) It was as pleasant as a lonely night at the drive-thru can be.

But then, my car started to vibrate.

I looked at my Coke Zero and watched the surface shimmy, like the early warning of a T-Rex approaching through the concrete jungle. But then, the tuba kicked in. And the cheesy trumpets. Crap. The parking lot had suddenly been turned into the Radio El Zol version of the Headbangers Ball. Oompa, oompa, oompa, oompa. My car doors thrummed with the sound. One song ended and the next began - the same rhythm, the same melody. I swear, I could not tell them apart. I refused to pay attention - after all I had important reading to do, by God!

Then, something odd happened. The rhythm of the music slowed. The oompa was still there, but... it seemed familiar. I turned off the Enz and listened hard.

Dear lord, it was a Spanish language oompa version of "I'll Sail This Ship Alone." The Beautiful South, as performed by some Mexican or Central American dance band?!? WTF? I couldn't help it, I had to go and check this out. As annoying as the loud music had been, I had to find out what group was torturing this lovely song.

I revved up the Crapmobile and motored over to pay a visit on the revelers a few spaces away.

Aaaaaand, they were having sex.

Directly under a bright street lamp, right by the front door of Wendy's, the pick-up truck-cum-danceclub was rocking and grooving and steaming. And, oh God, they had a window open through which a bare butt was rising and falling in a universally recognizable rhythm.

Aaaaaah, my eyes! Dios mio!

I pulled out of the lot, crying "Aww, ewwwww, eeewwwww!" over and over again.

Somehow, the Beautiful South will never be quite the same. {{shudder, shudder}}

Fast forward to this afternoon. After a fairly uncomfortable six hours of dreamless sleep, I got up to meet with a friend who runs a local craft shop. She needs help next weekend at a big trade show, and I am happy to help her out. I'm going to run her "make and take" table - showing folks how to use the craft items they sell. I get store freebies for my efforts and get to spend a day playing creative teacher. Not too shabby.

Leaving the shop, I decided to hit a local drive-thru for a cool drink. The weather here has gone from unseasonably cool to super hot overnight. I tend to fade in 90F temperatures. So, I drive up, get my lovely sugar free cup (of mostly ice) and stop in a shady spot for a moment. I'm not there thirty seconds before I hear a woman scream "HELP!" I look through the windows of a truck separating me from the next car and see a woman seemingly struggling with a man, who is all over her, changing positions, holding her face. I pull out my cell phone and swing the Crapmobile out of my space to see what's going on - I didn't do this on foot because, with the numb leg, I'm still slower than mud, and if someone's being violent, I'm not fast enough to get away to save myself.

I whip up next to the bouncing sedan only to see the woman giggling like an idiot, yelling, again, "HELP! HELP! Damn, Jimmy! We can't f*ck in the front seat! The brake is stuck up my ass!" I think this is the moment when Jimmy noticed someone (me, my jaw in my lap) had pulled up next to the car where he was trying very hard to perform acts better done in slightly larger spaces. "OH SHIT!" Jimmy bellowed and struggled to get his pants back on. The woman just laughed and laughed and laughed. "I'm okay, I'm okay!" She cackled and waved at me between her loud laughs, but never made an effort to sit back up in her seat. "Holy shit, I told you we shouldn't do this here!"

I finally blinked and said, "Uh, there's a Red Roof Inn next door, you know." As I drove away, I heard Jimmy mutter, "Dumbass - you can't yell 'help' - we're at a damn strip mall." I could still hear her laughing as I left.

Twice in a 24-hour period. Maybe it's wacky sex season. I dunno. At least Jimmy and Laughing Girl didn't taint any music for me. But next time you stop for a drink in the local drive-thru, beware. If you hear the Latin oompa version of a favorite song drifting through the still night air, run away - do not look - just leave. You'll thank me for it.


And for those planning a little lovin' in the family hatchback? There's a "Car Kama Sutra" online. Google it. It may save you some embarrassment, pain, and a brake up the butt.

Musical Pandering

First, let me say how disturbing I find it that Wendy's chooses to advertise it's fast food with the guitar riff from "Blister in the Sun." Maybe it's just me, but I think it's a very strange decision. I hear that riff and my mind floods with lyrics like "I stained my sheets"... and, well... that really doesn't make me want to run out and get chili and a potato bathed in cheese.

But it's indicative of the musical pandering directed at people my age, more or less. Advertisers are aiming for the big fat wallets of peeps of a certain age, and they are trying awfully hard to lure us with nostalgic music. Wendy's went the wrong direction. A seriously wrong direction.

Just now, Ms. Insomnia saw another sad attempt to suck money out of 40-something pockets with a strange musical choice. This time, it was for, God help us, a Cadillac SUV. Perky rich couple (with ginormous house and nanny) and their school-uniformed perfect children ride through horsey country in their overpriced gas guzzler to the sounds of... The Pogues.

The Pogues?

I think The Pogues are the musical equivalent of the anti-Cadillac. They're like a musical beater-mobile, with rust and dents and no a/c, but lots of character, and someone trying to get high by sniffing the leaded fuel through its broken gas cap. But a Cadillac?

I don't even think that the 40-somethings that buy Cadillacs now listened to The Pogues back in the day. They probably spent all their time togged out in pastel Izods, madras shorts and Top Siders, white man dancing to "Rock Lobster." The Pogues may have popped up on someone's mix tape at the country club kids room, but that was likely long after Muffy and Chad passed out from all those G&Ts. Maybe some of it seeped into their subconscious minds. Who knows?

The Pogues played the spring dance at one of the University of London colleges while I was there. Holy moley, it was the most dangerous spring dance I've ever attended. Never before and never since have I seen so many broken bottles flying on the dance floor. Scary. Much like Shane McGowan's teeth. Damn! Hell of a thing.

Maybe the royalties from the Caddy ad will cover dental work for Shane. We can only hope there is a higher purpose in this particular pander-fest.

If I see anyone riding through Bethesda in one of these behemoths with "Rum, Sodomy and the Lash" pouring out the windows, I'll eat my hat.

(Frankly, I think my hat is pretty safe.)

Friday, June 15, 2007

21 Years Gone

It was raining on the last day my father saw the open sky. I remember only pieces of that day, and the short days that followed. It was late May 1986. I had just gotten home from my sophomore year of college, and I knew my father was very ill. Just how ill, maybe I really didn't fathom at the time. Or didn't want to.

As spring break approached that year, I got a call from my sister in Milwaukee. She'd taken a trip down to Illinois to visit Dad while Mom visited our brother in Germany. "There's something really wrong with Dad. I think you need to come home." I was packing for my college choir's annual tour when she'd called. I was scheduled to spend spring break singing in a handful of Midwestern churches and small concert halls with the rest of the group. I went to see the testy and high strung assistant director of the choir - a woman who would, eventually, embarrass me into quitting the choir because I could not read music. (But I could sing, man. I could sing.) She had been tasked with leading us on tour, so I explained the situation as best I could. My sister didn't know what was wrong with our father, but she was panicked. Mom was coming home from Germany, and the choir bus would run us through my hometown. Could I leave the choir in Moline to see my family?

The answer was no. (So cold.) Either I went on the whole tour or nothing at all. I didn't have cash to get home on my own, and Mom was still overseas. I had a terrible relationship with my father, and I didn't want to get on the phone and say, "Hey, I hear you may be dying. Can you send me money so I can home and see you?" It was just a mess. A bloody big mess.

I packed my bag for tour and headed out with the choir. Mom returned home while I was on the road. I called her from a phone in the back of a church hall somewhere in Wisconsin. She didn't sound good. She told me I had to come home. What I didn't know - and she was keeping to herself - is that she had been diagnosed with colon cancer. But she kept silent. She knew, I think, before any of the rest of us, that Dad was going to die. She put her own health on hold. She'd had cancer before and survived. She was goddamn tough.

I told the assistant director that I absolutely needed to leave the tour. The bus driver told me we would hit my home town around noon the next day. I called Mom and asked her to meet me in the parking lot by the mall near our house at noon. No cell phones then. I was at the mercy of pay phones when I could find one.

Again, the cranky woman told me I couldn't leave. To this day, I don't know if she was more concerned about dumping a kid in the middle of a college-sponsored tour (and her liability) or the lack of one of her first sopranos. I tend to think it was the latter, honestly. The other members of the choir could see that I was quietly freaking out, and they sympathized. I made a deal with the bus driver. I sat up front and quietly gave him directions to the mall when we hit the outskirts of Moline. I saw my mother in her little Escort wagon, waiting in the empty lot by Von Maur - one of those big, high end stores with a pianist playing standards on a baby grand next to a small fountain.

The driver stopped in the lot. I grabbed my bag, turned to the appalled woman charged with managing us and just said, "Sorry, I'm leaving." And I was gone.

Mom took me to the hospital, where my father was already on a downward spiral. He had lost a tremendous amount of weight, and with his dentures out, he looked even more hollow. I don't remember much about that time. Even in good times, my father and I rarely communicated. He didn't enjoy my company, and I was surly around him in return. There was simply a great deal of silence. No one really talked to me about what was eating him alive. In truth, I think the doctors were having a hard time pinning it on one thing. Systematically, he was shutting down. But briefly, he rallied.

He came home from the hospital, and I returned to Minnesota to complete the academic year, mostly in a daze. Plans were in place for me to leave for a year in England in the autumn. I was pretty shell shocked finishing that semester. I was parting ways with my friends for a year (which became a critical year and a half, in fact) and I had no idea what waited at home, where my mother tended to "her Eddie" - a man she loved, but I listened to treating her with something less than love so many times.

I came home again in late May. By then, my father lay in bed almost all the time. Only once or twice did he shuffle down the hall in one of his nightshirts, looking lost, looking vacant. There was no conversation. I tried a couple of times, but there was no response. He was vanishing, and he retreated into the bedroom - just him and CNN and the shelves of Louis L'Amour books he loved, but could no longer read.

I stayed quiet. I stayed out of the way. I watched. I waited. I let my mother spend time with him. If we had been close, it would have been different, I think. If he hadn't been so damn mean and unpleasant so much of the time, it would have been different. I think. But I just stayed out of the way.

And then, one morning, things declined to the point where my mother couldn't handle it. "We have to take him back to the hospital," she said, her voice quavering. I called my brother Ed up from his basement room and we walked Dad out to the car.

That's my single most clear memory of the week when my father died.

The walk to the car.

Mom went ahead to open the car doors and start the engine. I could feel the urgency in her movements. A light rain had started to fall as we walked out. My father was a shuffling ghost in his nightshirt and loafers. His eyes were sunken and his jaw hung open. I held one arm and my brother held the other as we led him out. It was as if he had no weight at all. No strength, no power. So light it was as if the spirit had already left him.

And then, in the middle of our small yard, the rain increased. Big drops hit my father's face, and something happened. He stopped stock still. Rigid. And he gripped my arm so hard, it hurt. He was an immovable object. I heard my mother calling, "Ed, Ed, come on, you have to get into the car!" But my father just stood there, the rain running down his face. And he slowly turned his face up to sky. His jaw dropped lower and his eyes seemed to seek something there. I wonder if he knew right then that would be the last time he would see the sky, to know the enormity of the world. I wonder if in his silent sickness, he was pleading to leave right there and then.

It's a path I would have chosen for him. Instead, he lingered in the hospital for days. My siblings gathered, goodbyes were said. My mother sat at his bedside, taking notes in shorthand when he actually did speak. I think I've mentioned, one of the last things he said was my name. But I have no idea if it was to wish better for me or tell me he loved me or just to condemn me. I will never know.

There is a Polaroid of me and my father, probably taken the day before he died. In it, he is jaundiced from his failing liver, his eyes so deep in their sockets, they are mere pinpoints in his face. I was trying to cheer him, I think. 21 years later, I can't remember the exact circumstances, really. Strangely, I am smiling. It's a big, forced smile, disturbing in its context. The picture popped up in a packet of documents after my mom died in 2001. It really rattled me to see it again. I gave the photo to the Sasquatch to hold for me. I still can't look at it without a mix of really rough feelings.

My father died on the Sasquatch's birthday, you know. We had just become friends at the beginning of that college year. He phoned me from his parent's home in Nebraska a few days after Dad had died and said, "You didn't call me for my birthday." I told him where I'd been on his birthday. I think he felt terrible. I did, too. Isn't it strange? I can clearly remember taking that call from him in my parents' bedroom, sitting on my father's side of the bed. Feeling strange. Feeling wrong.

I still feel strange and wrong about how my relationship with my father ended. Or didn't end.

I just see him in my mind standing in the yard, whatever strength he had left to call up radiating through his limbs. Do not take me from this place! Do not take me from this sky! Do not take me to the room where I will be ended! I will make my stand here!

But then, he faltered, and we moved him on.

I'm not sure how to end this post. I'm just not sure.

I am my father's daughter. I have his gift with words. I can tell stories and speak convincingly in front of groups. I also unfortunately have his prematurely grey hair, hand tremors, and broad nose and even broader calves. I have his ability to sing, his ego and his sometimes incendiary temper. There are times when I do not appreciate seeing him in myself. And there are others when I depend on it.

I still don't know how to end this. So I will simply say this: father friends, be good to your children. Trust me - a time comes when you cannot mend fences anymore.

Be well.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Damn my overactive imagination!

I'm wide awake - freaky wide awake - at 12:35 at night, and it's my own damn fault.

Last night I watched the first episode of a goofy cable show called Destination Truth. I didn't know until tonight that it was an original series for the SciFi Channel, as I saw the premiere episode on USA (I think.)

In each episode, the host - a dude named Josh Gates - goes to funky places around the planet, looking into local myths and mysteries, like living dinosaurs, ghosts, sea serpents, and mermaids. Part of the show is travelogue (some of which I found absolutely hilarious) and part is hokey-scary stuff with night vision cameras, rustling trees and strange sounds. Last night, Josh and his "crack team" went to Papua New Guinea in search of a live iguanodon that villagers swear they've seen and mermaids rumored to be swimmin' around off the coast. (One guy said he found a dead mermaid washed up on the beach, whacked its head off and then buried the carcass in the sand. An attempt to unbury said remains was fruitless.) Like I said, it's goofy, but entertaining.

So, I find out there's a new episode on tonight. What the hell, I'll watch!

Big mistake.

Big, biiiiig mistake.

Have I ever mentioned that I get really creeped out by weird recordings? You know - like the ones where people claim to have the voices of the dead on Memorex? Don't like that stuff. No sir, not one bit.

Hell, I was so freaked out by the "weird recording" sequence of the John Carpenter movie "Prince of Darkness" that I can still be sent into a panic if a friend jokes around by repeating the dialogue from that scene. Notice I'm not mentioning what the dialogue is. I'm not going to get myself more wired than I already am at this point.

So, what happened in this goofball show tonight? Josh and his minions go to Thailand to visit a town with a ghost problem. The haunting is centered around a Buddhist cemetery with it's own wee crematorium. Josh & the crew set up camp in the cemetery for the night, and they even put a microphone inside the tiny crematorium chamber and seal the door.

You know where this is going, right?

Yep, they get some creepy-ass sounds recorded from inside the locked space. And when it's cleaned up by audio experts, it's a voice saying "GET OUT!" in Thai. (Nice to know that ghosts the world 'round go for the traditional angry spirit "screw you" phrase that pays.) But you see, they played the damn recording over and over again in the show, getting me more and more weirded out. Add to that all the night vision footage of the crematorium, and, voila - I'm gonna be up all damn night.

It's my own fault. As soon I saw what they were doing, I should have turned the channel. Watched "Top Chef." Turned the boob tube off. Read a book.

But, nooooo. Little Miss Love-a-Scare stayed put.

I'm an idiot. Now, I keep hearing noises everywhere. I need to go out on the balcony and rescue my poor plants that are soaking in pots filled by tonight's heavy rain. But I don't want to know what's out in the dark on the balcony along with the plants. I had to stop listening to iTunes on my headphones as I sit here now because my back is to my bedroom and the overhead light just blew. One must be able to clearly hear what's lurking in the dark - so thinks my paranoid mind. And right now, my bedroom is a dark room giving off all sorts of creaks and groans. When I took my headphones off just now, I realized the weird noise was just the upstairs neighbors having sex. {{shudder}} To keep my sanity, I've compromised and put the headphones back on -without music playing - so I muffle the neighbors, but still hear whatever's gonna creep up on me.

Silly, huh?

If I do sleep at all tonight, I will have to tuck in the sheets entirely around me, so nothing can grab me from beneath the bed. Go ahead, roll your eyes. But, you see, this is an improvement from my childhood, when I would sometimes get so scared of creatures in my closet, I would pull the sheets over my head, too. This frequent loss of oxygen might explain a great deal about me.

That strange habit started after my paternal grandmother's death when I was in third grade. At the funeral in Minneapolis, there was a tiny pillow in her coffin with a small scripted banner that read "From the grandchildren." Before they closed the lid, the undertaker handed the pillow to me, as a keepsake. WTF? Yeah, in retrospect, WTF? Let's give the little kid a casket pillow! Lemme tell you, I got home, put that freaky death pillow in the back of my closet and proceeded to have years of believing that both the bogeyman and my dead grandmother were in there, waiting for me. I had to make certain the closet doors were completely closed before hitting the sack every night because I was certain the monsters in the closet could slip through any small crack.

I actually blame my late brother Ed for a lot of that (thanks, Ed!) because he liked to terrify me for shits and grins. Everyone has to have a hobby, right?

I had a deep fear of our basement - which was your typical slightly dank, Midwestern flood plain ranch house crap - because of the times Ed would hide by the staircase, turn off the lights and grab my ankles as I ran screaming up to the light. He would laugh this loud, basso-profundo "BWAH HAH HAH HAH!" as I ran. It wasn't until college that I could handle that basement trek without doing things like walk backwards up the stairs, ever vigilant for the things that might lurk there.

Part of that fear, too, I think came from my sister Barb's stories of staying in her friend's theoretically haunted house in New Jersey. It was one of those pre-revolutionary structures that has a lot of history and death attached to it. As I recall it, people had been buried in the dirt floor of the basement during the Revolutionary War (later exhumed), a fire had taken the life of a child in an upstairs bedroom, and, when the house was used as a funeral parlor during the 1920s, the caretaker was killed there. (Lots of bad juju with the house.) Many people had seen and felt strange things there over the years. The beloved mother of Barb's friend - a homeowner with a wicked sense of humor - knew that my sister was scared of the house basement. She used to send Barb down to get a can of peas or some other mundane item and then turn out the lights and lock the door and giggle while Barb hyperventilated and waited for the ghosts to come.

We should both be in therapy, honest to god.

So, here I am. It's now past one in the morning. I really need some sleep, and I will try.

But I'm leaving a couple of lights on. And I may sleep on the sofa, as the neighbors are still going at it. Have I mentioned recently how much I loathe them? Last thing I need tonight is to picture them as the happy humpers. Ye gods, no!

Sweet dreams to you all, when you have them. Just make sure your sheets are all nicely tucked in. You never know what might be under your bed, waiting to nibble your toes and breath heavily in your ear.

Wait. That just made me think of the neighbors again. Ewww.

Shudderingly yours,


Monday, June 11, 2007

Capitol (Circular) File

To the Circulation Staff at Capitol File magazine:

I don't know how I found my way onto your subscription list, but I can assure you, it was not by my choice. I sure as hell didn't pay for it. I think you have seriously overestimated my worth - and my possible interest in your glossy pages.

The first time one of your oversized issues showed up in my mailbox, I assumed it was a mistake. Perhaps one of my neighbors was a voracious reader of attendee lists at charity balls or enjoyed perusing ads for $1200 handbags and $3.5M homes. But nope. My name and address were clearly marked on the label attached to the plastic bag that protected your magnificence from possible scarring en route to my oh-so-tony apartment mailbox.

Maybe you assume that everyone who lives in the 20814 Bethesda zip code is a member of the social elite and simply must know, dahling who the 99 most eligible singles are in DC.* Or that we all shop for $595 Burberry summer wool slacks.

Dudes, here's the deal: I have $147 in my checking account, and that has to last me until my next payday on June 22nd. I'm not likely to fawn over photos of the rich peeps who attended the Creative Coalition's "Poker D├ętente" or swoon to see that Morgan Fairchild was at Tammy Haddad's 10th Annual Garden Brunch. Whatever that is.

Your magazine has full page ads for things like a $150 pair of socks. I'm not shitting you. $150 socks.

Socks that cost more than I have to live on for the next two weeks.

Get freaking real!

Socks that cost $150 a pair should be able to cook, clean, and give you earthshattering, spontaneous orgasms when you put them on. And I doubt these do.**

I see that your parent company is Niche Media LLC. Niche's website notes that they produce "must-read, luxurious publications that mirror the sensibilities and lifestyles of the unique, vibrant communities to which they cater." Like Aspen, the Hamptons, and parts of DC I do not frequent.

The actual Capitol File website invites advertisers to reach "an audience of unparalleled affluence and influence." Holy crap! I have unparalleled affluence and influence?!? Damn! Quick - somebody get me George Lucas on the phone! I want him to apologize for the last three Star Wars movies! Also, I want Dubya to admit on TV he is a chimp, and that Dick Cheney is Satan. (Well, the son of Satan at the very least.)

I fear it's not gonna happen.

You see, I think you made a mistake. According to your demographics page, 99% of your readership have an income above $200K and 78% have a net worth of $1M+.

So not me, baby. So not me.

If you don't mind, please take me off your mailing list. I'll just stick to Entertainment Weekly and Ellery Queen and that freebie subscription to TV Guide I got with 2,500 useless Delta frequent flyer miles.

I'm sure there's some tragic ex-wife of a Hill lobbyist who's too broke to make her Red Door appointment these days and is dying to have my copy of your genteel publication. Please give her my subscription, with compliments.

And be sure to tell her I said she looks fahbulous.

*By the way, I am utterly traumatized - simply gutted - to know that I am not one of DC's 99 most eligible singles. My life is over.

**Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe Ralph Lauren himself flies out to perform sexual favors when people spend $150 on socks. He should.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


Four pages into a chapter about my trip to Vladivostok, and I haven't even made it there yet. How could I have forgotten about the weird detour that trip took to Los Angeles, my very first (and possibly most horrible) bad Internet date, the OJ Bronco chase, and the nekkid guy in the convertible on Sunset Boulevard?

Memories, memories... so many weird ones, so little time...

The sun is setting, and I need to grab some groceries and go home. Housecleaning awaits me.

Oh, the excitement of my life. It's almost too much, eh?

Seriously, you can't take me anywhere

I've retreated to the coffee shop, where I do some of my best writing, for the first time in ages. Within two minutes of arriving, I've:

1. Mistaken a conversation in Polish for Russian and made myself look like a linguistic moron when I asked the two dudes a question po russki;
2. Smacked some guy writing an academic paper about the human genome project in the head with my computer cord;
3. Turned my cafe mocha cup into a dribble glass and poured part of it down the front of my shirt. Yes, I have a drinking problem.

I'm planning on being here for a couple of hours. Let's see how else I can embarrass myself in the next 120 minutes...

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Ouch, youch, oy vey!

So, remember how I mentioned in my last post that I doubted I would have a good night's sleep? DING! I was right!

I woke up at 3 a.m. with the hip just screaming at me. I actually tried to do some work, translating a document from Russian into English as a favor for a colleague, but I couldn't concentrate for long. The pain was so intense, it felt like my leg was on fire. Two hours later, I just couldn't stand it anymore, called my doctor's service, and eventually, I ended up in the emergency room, where I got a really intense painkiller shot (which did not last as long as one would hope) and an x-ray.

Unsurprisingly, I have some nice arthritis going on there (my family's full of arthritics) and just some angry, angry, ANGRY nerve action. Lost a half day of work, drove downtown to find a load of chaos, angst and deadlined crises, and realized that, all things considered, today I would much rather have been communing with the fishies down off the Florida Keys.

I told this to one of my favorite colleagues - keep in mind, she does things like attach cameras to whales for a living - and she just laughed. I realized that, when things are crappy here, she CAN go down to Florida (or Hawaii) and commune with the fishies - and get paid to do it... Remind me, in my next life, I need her gig!

She's also a big Dolby fan from the old days - she's gonna go with me and the Sasquatch to see Dolby and the Jazz Mafia Horns in Annapolis come September. (Gonzomantis, if you can't be there, we will miss you so!!)

Rented a $1 movie from the Red Box at the grocery store. It's time to go watch Adam Sandler and his magic TV remote and veg on the sofa.

Peace out.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Feeling Hip

Holy crap, Batman! My lower back and left hip are screaming at me tonight. Just now. Out of the blue. Feels like someone just beat the snot out of me, as a matter of fact. Evil, evil, evil. I think it's time to bathe in arthritis rub go to bed. Damnation!

I have this funny feeling it's not going to be a comfy night of sleep tonight. Oof.

I'm actually hunched over the keyboard right now, looking a lot like I should be ringing bells at Notre Dame. Yikes.

Time to sign off...

By the way...

I saw the guy in the Panda suit on the Pike again. He was shilling a tire sale yesterday and waving up a storm. This was quite a change from his listless state when I saw him previously.

Then I noticed something I wish I hadn't noticed: the dirty, furry suit was wide open on the rump side, revealing a very hairy back and blue plaid boxers. No wonder the panda was happier this time - he had air conditioned his polyester prison by leaving his assets on display, boxers proudly fluttering in the breeze.

I considered pulling over at the Catholic church just past the panda. I wanted to light a candle and thank God that, while I've only got $1.78 in my wallet and pay day is a week off, at least I don't have to expose my underwear (and undepilated flesh) to commuters in order to remain happy at work.

Well, at least not this week...

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

It's already the 6th of June for half the planet, so...

I guess it's okay to offer an early North American "Happy Birthday" to my friend, the Sasquatch.

May you have a wonderful day, bubba. The world could use more men like you.


Scenes from a North Bethesda Video Rental Store

Merujo: (chuckles at trailer for "Borat" running on screen at check out)

Clerk: You know, a lot of people just don't think that movie was funny. They hate it.

Merujo: Oh, I thought it was hilarious. Wrong, but hilarious. I've been to Kazakhstan, so it makes it a little bit funnier for me.

Clerk: Wait - that's a real country?!?

Merujo: Uhhhh, yeaaaah. It is.

Clerk: Wow! What kind of work do you do to go to places like that?

Merujo: I used to work in the region. I have a degree in Russian Area Studies. (mumbling) Kremlinology? Soviet Studies? Whatever that means these days. I work for [really cool international non-profit with own theme music] now.

Clerk: WOW! You know, I want to do international work.

Merujo: That's great.

Clerk: Hey - is [really cool international non-profit with own theme music] hiring these days?

Merujo: Yeah, sure. You can always check the website and see if there are jobs that match your skills and experience.

Clerk: Oh, well, I've only worked in this video store. Are they hiring volunteers?

Merujo: Um... probably. Non-profits love good volunteers.

Clerk: How much do they pay volunteers?

Merujo: Ahhhh... they don't pay volunteers. Volunteers... well, they volunteer.

Clerk: Well, I couldn't volunteer unless they paid me. And it would have to match my work schedule here.

Merujo: Good luck with that!

Somewhere off Frederick Road, 9:45 p.m. last night

There are times when I really do miss my Midwestern hometown. I miss being able to climb a hillside on a warm summer night and see a sky with no city lights to obscure the stars. I used to ride my bike from my parents' house to Prospect Park, a generous square of green a few blocks away. The park had a pond where folks skated in winter. I never could skate (which meant I always passed on the pizza and rollerskating birthday parties at SkateLand) - at Prospect Pond, I just sort of skittered and fell and then crawled back to the pavilion. I'd nurse my wounds by the fire pit while my sister or my friends glided over the pitted, bumpy ice.

The public school band program held concerts in the park on summer evenings when the community musical theater guild wasn't performing in the converted roundhouse on the opposite side of the pond. Once, that building had been the end of the line for the trolleys that ran down the brick roads of Moline.

That was long before I was born - decades and decades before. But when I was a kid, there were still a few brick side streets that hadn't been paved over. The worn trolley tracks and faded cobbled blocks were fascinating to me - I loved the sensation of riding my bike over them. My tires would hum on the bricks as I rode to my friends' homes or over to the thrillingly steep hill that led downtown. I'd fly (dear god, I can't believe how fast I'd be going) down to the Mississippi and catch the bridge to the Rock Island Arsenal, in the middle of the river.

I used to ride wide laps around the arsenal, where my father worked. It was also where one of my mother's Alabama relatives was buried in a Civil War cemetery of Confederate prisoners, lost to yellow fever or spotted fever - I can't remember which. The tidy lines of white stones in the adjacent national cemetery - where, now, my father is buried with a measure of my mother's ashes - meant little to me then. I was just a fat kid on fast bike, zooming past the dead, past the park where officers' kids played on gutted, decommissioned tanks, down to Colonel Davenport's house and back home. I remember making the ungodly steep trek up 16th Street, walking my bike back to uptown Moline, past the five and dime where my sister and I once bought a huge bag of small rubber monsters and plastic banjos to decorate our Christmas tree (don't ask.) Past the VFW and the funeral home (where I held my breath as I peddled by, ridiculously afraid I would smell the dead), through the alley by the seed and feed and the elementary school, over the singing bricks again, back to my neighborhood and the park with the pond and the roundhouse.

When I was a teenager, Prospect Park became a place of mischief and make-out sessions. I recall one night when some of my friends - a year ahead and already off at college - came home and hunkered down by the roundhouse, looking out at the lights of Southpark Mall. One of them had procured some really awful weed and they tried to smoke it, using a birthday card envelope as rolling paper. I passed, thanks. In retrospect, it's hilarious, especially that they're all now college professors, lawyers, scientists, engineers, parents - pillars of the their communities. (Okay, one of them is a personal shopper at Marshall Fields, last thing I heard.) They were the best and the brightest our high school produced, and there they were on an old swingset, lighting up a pink Hallmark envelope - and failing miserably. Mostly, we'd just sit in the swings or ride on the little "spin it yourself" merry-go-round until we were hideously dizzy, yammering away and wondering what life would be like once we really left town.

Some of us landed in New York. Others, Chicago or the Twin Cities. I ended up in London, then Moscow, and now, DC. Others came back home to nest, getting married, raising kids. They found contentment back where we started.

My high school boyfriend (himself now a respected scholar at one of America's finest universities) and I would have rather innocent make-out sessions on that roundhouse hill, kissing, snuggling, watching the stars. Of course, finding out he was having less-innocent make-out sessions in the same place with a guy when he wasn't with me did put a damper on my feelings about the park. My older self tells me had I not been so naive, I might have noticed some things back then - like the fact that most straight high school boys wouldn't have been satisfied with such innocent stuff after a year of dating. I was a rube when it came to romance. Still am.

Did I mention he's now married to a gay square dance caller named Chi Chi? Yeah. For real. He married a guy named Chi Chi. Go figure.

I wrote this, by the way, in the parking lot of a strip mall in Gaithersburg at 9:45 at night. I should have been home, doing laundry, doing dishes, working on my book. But I'm not. I felt acutely alone last night. Afternoon thunderstorms gave way to a cool summer evening, and it made me think that I should be on a hillside somewhere with friends, talking about the future or just shooting the shit. Or maybe, on a hillside with a straight boyfriend. Not just shooting the shit.

Truth is, I'm growing ever more hermit-like as I grow older. I just don't have many friends here in the DC area. Initially, I did, but most moved away. I have friends scattered around the globe, and I keep in touch with them through the Internet. I check my blog stats and see what friends have come by to visit. I see Madame Ambassador dropping by early in the morning from her Central Asian enclave, along with friends in Australia, with a jump on my day. Friends in Norway and Germany swing by, and, following the sun, the East Coast rises, the Midwest follows, and dear friends Way Out West join in. Some I've only seen once or twice in a decade-plus online.

It's okay, I suppose, to not have a core group right in town. I know my being broke is a bummer for anyone who wants to socialize with me. I feel bad for the Sasquatch, for instance, having to hear me whine, gripe, and fret (mostly fret) constantly about my finances - or my health, and I don't like being a burden - socially, emotionally, or financially.

But sometimes, I miss having people to hang out with on the merry-go-round or watch stars with me on a grassy hill. (Eating DQ Dilly Bars and drinking ice cold water, of course.) Then again, around here, I'd have to find a park that was safe enough to sit in at night, and far enough from the lights of the city to actually enjoy. And I'd like a straight boyfriend, please?

For last night, the strip mall parking lot was okay. It was well lit enough for me to feel safe (except I did move when I saw a well-fed rat running toward the Boston Market outlet.) I had a big Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee. I was fairly certain I could see a star (unless it was actually just a light from the lot over at the Burlington Coat Factory), and the train whistles were dopplering from the tracks behind the fairground.

And I guess, some days, train whistles and a cup of joe is all you need.


Sunday, June 03, 2007


That an old Ford Escort makes a wonderful hothouse:

There had been no blooms - just tiny green buds - at 5 p.m. yesterday. But, today, voila! It's been raining steadily all day today. I'll keep these guys in the car until tomorrow, when the balcony won't be a drowning zone for them.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Some perennials take a long time to bloom

I took a friend to the airport today. He's getting some much needed and greatly deserved R&R with his lovely girlfriend. We listened to old Elvis Costello on the way - Goodbye Cruel World, an album that critics pooh-pooh'ed as a low point in the man's career. I beg to differ. It's romantic and wistful and playful. It ain't Armed Forces, for sure, but it's still vintage Elvis to me.

I kept the windows closed and the air on full blast on the road out to Dulles to cool my friend off. He'd been hauling luggage and doing all that travel prep that is sweaty and taxing even on a cool day. And today was another hot, sticky, windless, Code Orange DC hell day. When I left home to meet him, I rolled all four windows down to cool me down and conserve gas, guzzled far too fast by the a/c. I pulled my hair back with a old-school wrap to keep it off my forehead, but left the rest to blow in the breeze. With my oversized retro sunglasses, I realized I looked like my mom - fatter and younger - but still, like my mom.

My childhood images of her are so often in the car, driving me somewhere far from home, big sunglasses on her face, collared shirts with the sleeves rolled up, unruly salt-and-pepper hair tied down in a kerchief to keep it out of her eyes. And there I was today, with my sleeves rolled up - left arm already sporting a trucker tan, and my own unruly hair partially smoothed, the rest rolling in tousled curls (which is the nice way to say "tangled and frizzy") from the wind that crossed between the open windows.

As we pulled away from his place he said, "Why don't you do that more often with your hair?"

"I dunno." I usually just pull my hair back into a pony tail or a French braid to keep it from getting in my way at work. "Maybe I will."

"You should," he said. "It's good."

That's the closest thing to a compliment I've received on my appearance in, quite possibly, years. I can live off of things like that for a long time.

When I left my friend at the airport, I turned off the a/c and rolled down all the windows again. I turned the iPod back on and listened to random songs for a long time. I sang along, out loud, uncaring who was staring as they passed me. It was very cathartic. I wailed away with Thomas and Neil and Andy (and, god help me, Britney) aaaaand

completely missed the Beltway exit to take me home.


I ended up winding down past the Pentagon, across the river by the Kennedy Center and caught the Clara Barton on the edge of Georgetown, leading me back to Bethesda. It felt good to just drive, even though I knew it was draining cash from my pocket to burn that damned fossil fuel (made from dinosaurs who traveled with Noah!) I felt free and calm and energized in the sunlight - just me and my music and my beat-up, crappy car, motoring through one of the wealthiest spots in America. The sign for River Road caught my attention, and I took the exit, knowing that the local nursery, American Plant Food Co., was just around the corner, nestled between private schools and MegaMcMansions that swallowed the carefully manicured landscape.

It's funny to go shopping in a very egalitarian store like the nursery in the midst of so much conspicuous wealth, especially knowing I'm dead broke. If not for the low-end nature of my car in the lot, surrounded by Lexus SUVs and Range Rovers, I could be just another rich MoCo person, slumming it in an old shirt and jeans, picking plants for my faaah-bu-lous gahden. If you happened to be there this afternoon and saw me sweating in the check-out line, it wasn't from the breezeless heat, it was just me, praying I wasn't overdrawn on my checking account. Still got a week of tuna sandwiches and stretching that pound of bing cherries until next payday!

Truth be told, I just haven't felt well or happy enough to pick up plants for my barren balcony in a long, long time. Driving up to the door yesterday, I realized that I had the most white trash balcony in the whole neighborhood. Dusty, empty pots, a pile of leaves, and the broom I used to dissuade the woodpeckers from nesting there were the only decorations. Signs of a non-life. The closest my 'hood gets to having an old pick-up on blocks out front. Now, I feel - even if it's merely a tiny symbolic gesture - I need something green out there. Something to greet me when I come home.

I bought four containers of portulacas - a hearty flowering plant that, blessedly, thrives on neglect. More or less. I first had some of these plants when I brought them home from the wedding of two friends. They had lovely potted portulacas as the centerpieces on the reception tables. I had driven to the wedding in Pennsylvania from my place in Maryland, and the bride and groom helped me load several of the plants into the back seat of my car. By the time I got home to Bethesda, the plants were happily blooming away. I actually left them there for a couple of days because I found it so appealing to find flowers in The Crapmobile at the end of the work day. Finally, I transplanted them to the balcony, where they bloomed for me for months and months.

I hope today's purchases will do the same.

Fuschia and red, tangerine and sunny yellow. I think it was $16 well spent. And I left them in the car. Let's see if the hothouse Ford works its magic again this weekend. Tomorrow, I'll dust off the balcony and wipe down all the planters and the rarely-used IKEA footstools. It may not be much, but it's a start to getting things back on track at home.

And maybe I'll go to Target and get a colorful pack of Goodie hairbands. Hey, if your hair is all you got goin' for you physically, might as well try to work it. If one guy noticed it, maybe another will, too. Who knows? I'll ride in my hothouse car and try to bloom, myself.


It would seem that ice cream and painkillers before bedtime is a heady mix.

I couldn't possibly tell you how all these things fit together, but last night I dreamed of:

1. Sad, imprisoned African half-man/half-anteaters
2. A musical about the New Jersey state lottery
3. Christian Bale starring in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" (I apparently owned the original Broadway cast recording on CD, yet it sounded like a bad, scratchy LP)
4. Interactive Star Wars cartoons being broadcast on a giant screen in my mother's living room
5. Terrifying midget assassins

Seriously, that was only half of it. Tonight, just a glass of water before bed. I'm going to be thinking about those sad African anteater men all day...