Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Halloween Tribute to My Daily Commute and a Portion of my Workday

Behold the horror captured in these photographs…moments of sheer terror--trapped, on naked, frightful display for posterity like a tray of thawed and rubbery farm-raised shrimp at the meat counter. Join me, won’t you, as we travel through the gut-wrenching fear that is my daily commute (and a portion of my workday). Aaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiieeeee! (Whenever this appears, it indicates a piercing scream. Primal terror should follow.)

Take a look, if you will, at the creeping miasma overtaking my city. Walgreens sits, as it has for years, stolidly on the left, innocently refilling Paxil prescriptions and offering a large selection of dental hygiene products. Oh, but do you see the sneaking monster being cobbled to life on the right? What is it? Can you make it out? It’s….ANOTHER WALGREENS, RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET!!!!! Move over, Blob…a crawling, oozing mass of ectoplasm is nothing compared to the hungry appetite of THE SPRAWLING WALGREENS, consuming local private elementary school facilities like popcorn with extra butter.* Coming soon to a busy intersection near you.

The desolate stretch of road … a staple in horror films since days of gore I mean YORE. What lurks beyond this dead man’s curve? A monster? Kim Jong Ill riding a nuclear warhead? Ghostly hooligans playing street hockey?



(Fear, if you will, the absence of photo depicting this shocking display. It is because a massive, rusty, car-eating truck bore down on me and almost ran me off the road, just like in the most original of scary movies, and I was unable to pull over to capture the traumatizing scene.)

Next: Little Shop of Horrors is child’s play compared to …

Cramped Cubicle of Overgrown Houseplants!!!

It began innocently enough: a short cutting was potted. Water was administered. Positions were tested to provide ample light. Months later, THIS has begun curving and sending out leaves as they reach for me. One day soon I will feel a cool, photosynthesis-y tap at the back of my neck.

But wait; look to your right, at the view from my desk. The view from THE ONLY WINDOW IN THE ROOM. *shudder* If hell exists, here it is. I can almost hear the screams of marketing executives, graphic artists, sign designers, architects, and interior designers from my chair…


There goes one now!

And behold: if I look beyond these scenes of tragedy, I can tell the time AND feel an ongoing, residual sense of shame from a childhood cycle of sinning, stewing in guilt, confessing, and saying three Hail Marys and one Our Father as penance: It is...THE CHURCH STEEPLE! Mwah-hah-haaaaa!

The time has come to return home. Along the way, look, if you dare, at the murky waters of this gray lake. “The endocrine-disrupting chemical-laden fish is coming to GET YOU, Barbara!”


Happy Halloween. And now, I'm off to avoid encroaching Walgreens wherever they may be.

*Guess what? Yes, you’re right. I attended kindergarten at the Catholic school TORN DOWN on this very site to make way for the Walgreens. Since I’ve documented a history of religious buildings from my youth being torn down in recent months (as evidenced in my April 13 post), this really isn’t all that surprising to me. Pissed at your priest, rabbi, minister, shaman, or imam? Invite me over and they’ll be tearing down your place of worship in no time!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Real Me

You know what really sucks about blogging under my real name?*

Especially knowing that some clients, my supervisors, old high school teachers, my in-laws, parents, many relatives, and other co-workers read this from time to time, perhaps when they’re feeling masochistic or need a reminder that their own lives aren’t so bad after all?

I can’t blog about the really juicy stuff. I think you know what I’m talking about here.

That’s right. The story about why I never pursued a career as an accountant. It’s just too hot to handle.

I can’t blog about why I had a bad day on Monday because it involves an incident at work (which I’m still horribly embarrassed about), and we all know what happens when people blog about their jobs…they become the most successful bloggers on the net. And nobody wants that to happen.

I can’t blog about Family Incidents, because…well, let’s just not even go there, mmm-kay? I mean, we all go through this. Show me one person that’s never griped about their parents or siblings and I’ll show you a severely deluded, in-denial, pathological liar.

His name is Bob Evans, and he works at Target.

(But PS, shameless self-promo here, I put many such incidents in the book, if you’re interested. Also some good stuff about ex-boyfriends.)

Bottom line with that shizznit is that I don’t want to hurt my family members’ feelings or embarrass anyone. Plus, I don’t want to sound like a whiny, ungrateful sphincter, even though I often feel like one.

So why am I not blogging anonymously (or at least semi-anonymously)? Because when I started this blog, back when it appeared I was actually going to bust out of Rejection Land and enter the mythical nation of Can-You-Believe-it-They’re-Actually-Publishing-Your-Novel-You-Sure-Fooled-Them, I looked around at what other writers / new authors were doing, and I thought, Hmmm… they all have blogs that identify them by name. I guess I need to do that, too.

I’ve always been an independent thinker.

Anyway, I started the blog last November to basically give people a preview of my writing. In case they’d be interested in reading my book, I suppose. Or avoiding it at all costs, if my blog gives them the dry heaves and/or makes them want to fire their collection of miniature tractors at the computer screen.

But then a funny thing happened. I connected with some hilarious, talented, thoughtful, eloquent, kind, honest, smart, witty, compassionate, and intriguing bloggers.** You don’t always meet awesome people like this in real life (except for Caryn, Swishy, and Manic Mom, who were every bit as down-to-earth and fun as their blogs). So this has been an unanticipated, amazing benefit of this whole endeavor, which basically started so I could spew crap that’s been on my mind to complete strangers.

Which I wouldn’t do in real life, unless I’d just guzzled a pitcher of dirty martinis.

But I guess that’s what blogging is all about. Thanks for reading.

*Which may or may not be Jess Riley.

**I was going to link to specific bloggers that fit these adjectives, but then I thought, Holy Massengill, that’s waaaaay too hard to narrow down! I mean, have you seen my blog roll lately? Plus, it always sucks when you visit someone’s blog and they’ve done this, and none of the links are to your site. I mean, it’s hard enough not to develop an inferiority complex with amazing young people like these roaming the earth. Which, thank goodness they do.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Happy Gigli Day!

Well, I’m writing again. All of this can be attributed to three things: 1) I saw Michael Chabon read at the Wisconsin Book Festival last Thursday evening, and he inspired the hell out of me; 2) my Halloween party and the associated menu planning, decorating, and cleaning frenzy is over; and, 3) I’m having the Gigli of days. Which is to say, painfully bad. Bad to the point where I almost decided to never speak again, because every time I opened my mouth I plunged in with both feet. But these kinds of bad days can, on occasion, prove very motivating when you want to get words on paper. Or in your hard drive.

(Great. Now I have that inane “Bad Day” song in my head. Does anyone have a portable lobotomy kit on hand? How about a rusty spoon?)

So yes, we hosted our annual Halloween shindig with old college pals last Saturday evening, and my digestive system is still recovering. The menu:

  • Two varieties of puff pastry tartlets: one stuffed with brie, cranberry sauce, and walnuts, the other with roasted squash, caramelized onions, feta, sage, and pecans
  • Shrimp Cocktail
  • Swedish meatballs
  • Cider Cheese Fondue
  • Spinach Dip with cubed bread and raw veggies
  • Chips with salsa and black bean dip
  • Crackers & cheese
  • Mulled cider
  • Pomegranate martinis
  • “Partytime” beans. I know, it sounds like something a hobo would bring to Thanksgiving, but they’re not half-bad.

I have a feeling I’ll be eating Partytime beans for weeks to come. I apologize in advance to my husband and coworkers.

We usually watch scary movies at this event, and this year my friend Wendy brought a copy of the hard-to-find Black Christmas, which I’ve been wanting to see since I learned it basically set the bar for horror films to follow, including Halloween. It was directed in 1974 by Bob Clark, who also directed Porky’s and A Christmas Story. Try as I might, I struggle to find the connection between these three films beyond … Bob Clark. The film also stars pre-Lois Lane, pre-psychotic ravings Margot Kidder. She plays a drunken whore.

It was an incredibly thoughtful and moving performance.

My overall impressions: if you’re a fan of the genre and want to crack some easy jokes at Margot Kidder’s expense, it’s a must-see. If you yawn at mysterious calls “coming from inside the house!” or roll your eyes at sorority girls in peril, you may want to skip this one.

Anyway, the party was attended by our closest friends and the toilet didn’t break, so I’d have to say it was a success. As for my Monday, not so much.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Epstein? Really?

Thanks to everyone for their kind words about losing our dog Suka; you all have such big hearts, and I’m glad to be traveling in your corner of the blog universe.

So many bloggable things happened since my last post: I spent two nights last week at a resort for a grant review session (ice cream drinks! Snow! Networking! Limited vegetarian options at a local supper club!); my partner in crime became ill with a severe cold, so much so that it that almost impeded his video gaming abilities; Daisy had her teeth professionally cleaned at the vet for the first time and now has breath like a field of sweet clover; my editor informed me that my novel may be released in May of 2008--the news of which led my dear mother-in-law to ruefully remark to her sister, “Well, I guess we'll just have to hang on and make it until then.” Meaning, live another year and a half. So thank goodness for large-print and audio books. And ventilation machines and other life support paraphernalia.

I’m joking.

But I will have to remove some of the older pop culture references from the book. I don’t think anyone wants to poke fun at Steve Irwin anymore, however good-natured the punchline may be. *wince*

Oh! And I barely escaped with my life after a visit to my place of employment by two young men from the Unification Church. (Not to be confused with the Unitarians.) They were peddling overpriced suncatchers.

While I don’t agree with their religious views or the value of their wares of dubious origin, one of them did have a snappy sense of humor.

But here’s what I really wanted to tell you.

Recently my husband told me that as a child, I looked like “that guy on Welcome Back Kotter.”

Those were his exact words. Recalling my childhood fro, I grimaced. “Arnold Horshack?”

J shook his head.

“Gabe Kaplan?”

“No, the Hispanic guy with the gap in his front teeth. Epstein!”

You be the judge.

Halloween, probably 1978. Would you trust this bunny? Unfortunately, my Epstein fro is being suppressed by this novelty headress. Also, what's up with the tail on my neck?

The officially licensed Welcome Back Kotter candy (and TWO prizes!), featuring Juan Epstein. Perhaps I had even received this in the course of my trick-or-treating that year.

In blue footy pajamas, Christmas 1977. Or 1978. Who remembers the seventies, anyway? Here we see a better view of the yard refuse masquerading as my hair. Unfortunately, the best pictures of my fro days are at my parents' house. One of these days I'll have to find and post one. Lucky you.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Once in awhile something happens that knocks the blogging wind right out of your sails. For me, it was the death on Monday of our family dog, Suka. She'd been with us for sixteen years--since March of 1991. She's seen us through all number of family ups and downs and countless boyfriends of my sister. (Okay, me too.) She's been hit by a car three times--twice by the same lady. Each time she rebounded with aplomb, because she had much more barking at the wind, cat-herding, and furtive farting in the living room to do. Sure she'd grown arthritic, deaf, and incontinent--but who were we to hold those age-related milestones against her?

A few weeks ago, a walnut-sized tumor began to grow on her hindquarter. By last weekend, it was the size of a large grapefruit. It had also begun to supperate. She only hobbled up and down stairs with great difficulty and would circle endlessly, whining, before collapsing on or near her bed. She'd begun turning her nose up to food, even fried eggs and liverwurst. The vet, already amazed at her longevity for a Springer Spaniel, offered options. But everyone knew that another surgery for such an elderly dog (almost 119 in dog years) would be extremely stressful for her. And since the cancer would likely spread, even once the tumor was gone, her overall prognosis was dim. So my parents made the difficult decision to put her to sleep.

My brother, sister, and I said good-bye to her on Sunday. By Monday night, she was gone. We'll miss you, Suka Bazooka. But we were lucky to have you for so long.

(I almost forgot to add that even on Sunday, she still hauled herself up to territorially piddle over the place on the lawn that my Dad occasionally uses as his own personal Zone of Urination. I think I referenced my Dad's efforts to lessen the burden on their septic system in an earlier blog post ... My Dad. Promoting Public Urination Since 1950.)

Friday, October 06, 2006

More from the "True Story" Files

Yesterday I met with two lovely clients, and of course after the meeting I blabbered on about my book. This is a problem I’m battling. Even when I can sense people feigning interest just to be polite, there I go, prattling on and on and segueing clumsily into our latest remodeling project and the horsehair we found in our plaster and my fear that we’ll never sell our house because it’s not up to code. It’s so not up to code it’s probably included in the “if you build a house like this you're a complete idiot” chapter of at least three architectural textbooks. Yes, this is a true story.

Oh, the humanity.

The good news is that my awkward diarrhea of the mouth will prevent me from ever running for office. (Hmmm… “awkward diarrhea.” Can’t wait to see what kind of Google hits I get now!)

After I returned home I was forced to hide under my computer desk because guess who came to the door? That’s right, people distributing religious literature! This time it was the Baptists. Once they’d deduced that either nobody was home or the lady of the house was hiding under some furniture like the coward that she is, they progressed down the street and entered into a lengthy conversation with a neighbor who was outside making a racket with a leaf blower. Poor guy, he never heard them coming.

Anyway, they stood outside chatting for probably half an hour. What do Everyday Joes and Janes talk to the roaming Bible people about? Do they split hairs over different interpretations of scripture? Are they discussing how evil Harry Potter is? Are they talking about the price of tea in China? (Well, maybe if said tea was sold by godless Communists.)

An hour later, the refrigerator repairman arrived. Not unexpectedly. Of course he was invited, because our fridge is busily planning a trip to the Great Appliance Graveyard Around the Bend. “Nice day,” I remarked (oh, the wit!), trying to make small talk while he unpacked some tools. “I know. I shoulda called in,” was his reply. After more repairman banter he studied the photos on my fridge and pointed to a holiday photo of my friend and her husband. “This the guy?” he asked. Meaning, ‘is this your husband?’ Nevermind the fact that I look nothing like the woman in the photo. Nevermind the creepy factor. Here's the thing: he was pointing to a Seasons Greetings! photo card. “Not unless I send myself a holiday photo card OF myself, and then tape it to the fridge,” is what I should have said. “Um, no,” is what I actually said, my wit exceeding—no, smashing—all limits heretofore restraining it.

And then he opened the freezer. “Hey! That’s where I store my vodka, too!”

True story, folks.

Let me leave you with this headline from Poland. Please click. You won’t be sorry.

Monday, October 02, 2006

bric-a-brac, paddy-whack, give a blog a groan

If you've been reading this blog since its inception almost a year ago (which, in blog time, equals a full century), you probably already know that I can be a bit weird. Members of my family, and sometimes even my coworkers, remind me of this frequently.

Which is fine, because who wants to read blogs written by normal people? Barbara Walters might, but I certainly don't! Anyway, I thought that today I'd create a "grab-bag" post of potential blog entries and notes I've jotted to myself only to find days, sometimes weeks later, after all meaning has seeped from the text. Usually these messages-to-myself are meant to go in my book files, helping me flesh out a character or theme. Unfortunately, when I re-read them, they often seem incoherent at best. Like what I recently found scrawled on the back of a receipt in my purse:
  • Perkins whole pie incident
  • Scuba sex show
  • There's someone in the house sleep walking!
  • Poop undies in corner
  • Bucket of KFC
I am pretty sure I scribbled these notes at a party while a friend was telling us about his honeymoon. *pause for a beat* Yes, his honeymoon. Some of these incidents may end up in a future project, except for the "bucket of KFC" because I can't remember what the hell that was all about.

And check out these never-used "possible blog entry" tidbits from my (bad) idea draft folder:
  • "Have you ever been out to dinner at the Applebee’s in Oshkosh on a very cold December evening and this crazy girl at the next table is loudly asking her dining partner, 'So which of your friends was the one who used to stick a carrot up his ass?' If so, I sincerely apologize."
Gee, wasn't that the same girl who came up with shitty blogging ideas?
  • (Written after my last birthday): "Dad wanted to have dinner at this local restaurant called 'Green Acres' outside Dotyville. It’s an actual restaurant in someone’s ranch home…how awesome is that?!? Mom’s response was, 'But Peter, it’s her birthday. What if she wants to go somewhere else?' Dad’s reply: 'Yeah, we all want to go to Tofu Palace.'"
Well, if Tofu Palace was in a split-level with shag carpeting and swag lighting in the bathroom, who WOULDN'T want to go?
  • "Have you ever farted in bed, and it was of such scope and substance that it actually woke your spouse up and made them cry a little? Nope? Okay, good. Neither have I. "
The second in my "Have you ever" series. I can't imagine why I never posted this one. It's simply dripping with class.
  • "Milk and a vegetable at every meal. Pizza with baked beans and peas. And 2% milk in a scuffed-up Tupperware cup. Other things to rant on: Duct-tape diet"
Jesus Wept Like a Busted Televangelist on Larry King. Duct-tape diet? Really? Apparently, this was written during my "pissed off at all food and developing an urge to alienate any potential readers" phase.
  • "Did I tell you I actually went Christmas caroling this year?"
Did I ever tell you this is probably a story you should take to your grave? (to myself)
  • "Before I hit puberty, I talked so much I’m surprised I never sprained my mouth. Then I once dated a boy for nine whole months before saying more than two words to his parents."
I don't know where I was going with this one, but I can practically hear the comments rolling in. Can't you?
  • "Watching the Olympics always makes me want to work out. To better myself physically. To put down the Tostitos, get up off the couch, and start training for a marathon. It also reminds me of the time when my twelve year-old self announced to my entire extended family at a cousin’s birthday party that I would medal in freestyle swimming at the next summer Olympics. Never mind the fact that we lived more than ten miles from the nearest pool, I could hardly swim, I didn’t really like to swim, drowning topped my list of Worst Ways to Die, and I wasn’t from Australia. "
In my defense, I was ... well, I actually don't have much of an excuse for this other than "it seemed like a good idea at the time and I may or may not have had temporary lead poisoning."
  • "She felt as out of place as Christmas lights in May."
Somewhere in southeastern Wisconsin my 9th grade English teacher is shuddering uncontrollably, with a sudden, inexplicable urge to weep.
  • "Poop shaped like a pretzel."
Wow! Another reference to fecal matter! Imagine that.

So there you have it. Bad blogging ideas that were never to see the light of day--unearthed to recoil from the light like the slugs they are.