Wednesday, May 31, 2006

LFO Rules, In Case You Forgot.

Nothing interesting happened today. Sorry to anyone who came here hoping something good. Highlights of the day:

Finding out that the green lemongrass coconut ginger tea is sublime.

Getting sour cream on my Alabama 1986 World Tour t-shirt when I was clearing off the table from dinner.

Doing the dishes and singing my doing-the-dishes song, "It's A Fine Life!" from "Oliver!"

Reading a few more pages of The Picture of Dorian Gray pool-side.

Getting phone calls from recently-met people Keith (not Bob Marley--this Keith is the wheelchaired guy who works at Wal-Mart an hour away I met at the bus stop--I think he was probably calling to invite me to his 30-member church) and one of the guys I hung out with on Blue Angels day.

Eating pav bhaji from a box for lunch with some frozen pita I bought over a month ago. This is part of my "Save A Little Money Each Day By Eliminating Bonafide Day Highlights Such As Going Out For Lunch" plan.

Briefly enjoying Boss B's company during dinner, even though my enjoyment was lessened by the fact that I had to watch/listen to her eat.

Downloading "Summer Girls" by LFO.

Eating some of my homegrown organic lettuce, which was really gross and sour.

That's it. All in all it was a good day, with some sort of interesting, although not mindblowing, highlights. Tomorrow is supposed to rain, though, which means I'll be trapped inside and have even less to report on. Just check back with me on Friday and see if anything cool has happened by then.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Ack...A Sweltering Meltdown

Just noting some facts.

It is 100 degrees in my apartment (aka bedroom) so I am not physically able to drink my new Green tea with lemongrass, coconut, and ginger that I just got at Barnes and Noble because all of my insides would sizzle up and my outsides would turn to dust and crumble at my feet, which wouldn't be there anymore because they would have vaporized.

The new Futureheads album is out, but because I don't live in the UK I can't have it yet. And the new Amy Millan CD is out, but it's from Canada so I probably can't have it either. And a bunch of other CDs are out too that I can't have yet. Being an American is very uncool sometimes. Especially if you want to be British.

I finished Madame Bovary. It was OK. Better in retrospect than it was when I was actually reading it. I think the fact that I related it during a conversation with Rebecca means something.

I started The Picture of Dorian Gray. I love it so far. I guess I should mention that I haven't actually started it yet. I did read the first 35 pages which were actually the introduction by some scholar named Camille something or other. The introduction was super. I learned a lot about the Decadent movement, the Aesthetetes, and dandies. It's pretty cool; I think dandy means someone who wears a flower in their lapel and buys a lot of really luxe furniture and clothes. I would have liked to meet Oscar Wilde. I also learned that he converted to Catholicism on his deathbed, so maybe I'll meet him in heaven. I wonder what God thinks about deathbed conversions. I wonder if they're legit.

Bob Marley emailed me today to see if I want to go for a walk. I did not reply and I am not going to. At the time, yesterday evening was fun, but now I can't go downtown anymore because what if he's there and won't leave me alone again? Sort of like how I can't go back to the Mexican place because the owner asked me out to the movies and gave me a margarita.

There are gnats crawling on my keyboard. I think that has something to do with the fact that it's 100 degrees in here, but my windows have a screen on them so the bugs must be spontaneously producing in my floorboards or walls. Maybe Boss B put a gnat nest in my room to torture me. She would probably do that.

I think I'll skip work tomorrow and read Dorian Gray, swim, and make a bunch of iced green coconut lemongrass ginger tea. And daydream about moving back to Lexington, because that's pretty much all I do anyway. That and eat soft foods and listen to the Futureheads. And sweat.



Monday, May 29, 2006

Bob Marley Brightens My Evening

Tonight I was so tired, miserable, etc., that I was on the brink of tears. Or spending $50 on a tank of gas so that I could drive around and listen to loud power pop to force my sorrows out my ears. Or eating the unopened half gallon of mint chocolate chip ice cream that Boss B brought home from the grocery today. All by myself. In one sitting.

In the end I decided to pack up a book and a camera and head downtown for a cup of coffee. First I hit up Hard Bean and Booksellers, where I mosied around a while looking for a cheap copy of Gary Shteyngart's new book, Absurdistan. (Shteyngart wrote my blog's namesake and one of my favorite novels, The Russian Debutante's Handbook). The one copy they had was $24.95, and even with the 10% off they give on all books, I wasn't willing to shell out the cash when I've got at least two shelves full of books waiting to be read here at (what do I call my dwelling--home? apartment? bedroom? peaceful lavender-scented refuge?) this place I'm living.

I was heading out empty-handed when I see a dreadlocked guy standing with a few other dudes, and he says something to me like "Having a good night?" Caught off guard, I give my typically witty and charming autopilot reply: "Yeah, you too." Walking out the door, I realized that I made no sense, but I didn't really care. Time for a cup of coffee.

So I went down to City Dock Cafe, ordered a cup of joe, and sat at a high-top table for approximately four minutes, staring at the same page of my book, before I realized that I was more depressed sitting there than I had been sitting in my bedroom before I left the house. Took the coffee outside, took the long way to the dock to avoid the obnoxious guys yelling at cars passing and giving the hitchhiker sign, and picked a nice spot overlooking the dock where I could read and sip in peace.

Not for long. The dreadlocked guy from Hard Bean promptly (and by promptly I mean about 10 seconds after I'd sat down) came over, plopped down, and introduced himself as Keith. I didn't know, at this point, whether he was a bum or a normal decent guy. I quickly profiled him, noticed he was wearing New Balances and eating a coffee shop-bought muffin, and decided he must be OK.

Then I got to play 20 Questions with him. In about 3 minutes he got enough of my life story to gather that I was lonely and probably needed his company and conversation. I inquire about his work and find out that he's a musician. This means he's not quite a bum.

We talk some more, he asks if I smoke ghanja, and I say, "What's that?" His reply: "The herb." After telling him nope, I don't smoke it, he tells me that Bob Marley said, "The herb tells us who we are," or something like that. I felt like telling him that I don't need the herb, or any other substance, illegal or not, to tell me who I am. Knowing I would have been wasting my breath, I must have uttered an, "ohhh" or just sat there, drinking it all in, knowing I could talk about it on my blog later. If only I had the gall to ask him if I could snap his photo.

He then sang me a song he wrote, and I found myself smiling as he sang. He had the sort of free spirit that in another life I would have--the sort that allowed him to sing a song to a girl he just met, then 30 minutes later sing it to an Indian family who, like him, was in no hurry in life and wanted to meet everyone and, in the dad's words, "make lots of new friends." I told the dad that the world would be a much nicer place if more people were like him.

(In the "Yeah brother, love's what it's all about. Maximum love," spirit of the conversation, I felt stupid after making this comment that was obviously too wordy and rational and not hazy-sounding enough.)

Found out that he's a vegetarian, and when I told him I also am, I think that was the nail in the coffin for him: we must be soul mates. He wants to take me to eat avocado and cucumber sushi. And sing songs together. And ride our bikes, and take walks, and do yoga on the sidewalk.

And in another life, maybe I will.


Rice Pudding For Life

This was a pretty rough day in the land of the Crazies in which I live. Besides the fact that the Bosses were at the top of their game when it comes to indecision and tension (you could have cut the latter with a butter knife), my mom suggested that I go on a soft food diet.

I have a lot of stomach problems. Basically, to keep it all lighthearted and not gross you out too much, I'll just explain it by saying that practically anything I eat or drink makes me puke. I used to think I was lactose intolerant, but now I think that my body just doesn't like food. It doesn't like milk, hot coffee, salad, salad dressing, cereal, Coke, water, pasta, bread...the list goes on and on. I tried to talk to my doctors in Frankfort about it before I moved up here, and they basically tossed me some sample pills, said "Take these," and that was that. I took them, that was that, and now I'm throwing up lettuce, rice, and whole grain super nutritious cereal puffs again.

So Mom suggested I try this soft food thing that her sister's friend went on when her colon was found to be in bad shape. Something like that anyway. The goal is to cut down on fiber and give my esophagus or colon or whatever tube is being affected by constant vomiting a break. So last night I went to Giant and bought:

3 four-packs of no sugar added pudding (rice--it's gross, chocolate--doesn't have much flavor, and butterscotch--haven't tried it yet). I ate 3 of them today. 3 cups, that is, not 3 four-packs.

A Big Thing of applesauce. I ate a bowl today for a snack at 3 pm, and was starving again by 5.

2 six-packs of those little tiny yogurts. I ate one of the yogurts with a chocolate pudding for breakfast this morning.

And some bananas.

Then for dinner, I had leftover cheese enchiladas verde--really good and spicy, with red onions on top, and black refried beans and rice. Delicioso.

That was the last bit of delicious food I'll eat for a while if I keep this soft food thing up, so I figured one meal couldn't hurt. Now it's out of the fridge, and I'll be back to pudding, yogurt, and applesauce. Although I am going to have to do something about this rice pudding. Anyone who knows a way to make no sugar added rice pudding tastilicious, let me know.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

What Toothpaste Taught Me About Life

There's a brand-new tube of Tom's of Maine Peppermint Toothpaste sitting on my desk that I can't wait to use. I've never used organic toothpaste before, and it seems part luxury, part responsible consumer. I even unscrewed the cap this morning and just took a taste with my fingertip (after which I read the back of the tube to see if there were any CAUTION: DO NOT SWALLOW messages--there weren't). Then I went to the bathroom, opened the middle drawer, and removed Mr. Colgate Blue Gel with the Little Breath Strips. I reasoned last night as I was brushing that Colgate probably has enough in the tube for 3 more brushes. I could have tossed him and enjoyed the first taste of the herbal freshness of Tom's, but I know the value of a dime.

When I was a very small girl, my parents instilled deep within me the importance of squeezing the toothpaste tube until every last godforsaken millimillimilli[unit of volume...liter?] was used. To this day, I still squeeze toothpaste, shampoo, and facewash tubes until no more can possibly be eked out. I even run my toothbrush (it has that nice straight edge) down the tube so that all of the toothpaste is extracted from the sides and corners of the tube--it's not as effective as a vacuum would be, but short of clipping the tube open with scissors and scraping the sides clean, it's the best I can do.

Now, when you really get down to the bottom of it, what is the ultimate purpose of this extreme thriftiness? Toothpaste costs around $3 a tube. If a tube is used an average of two times a day for thirty days, that's a cost of only $.05 per use. So by scraping the tube I might save myself $.10, or $.15 if I cheat myself by using only a tiny bit of paste on the last brushing. So surely this effort can't be to save a dime--I pass dimes on the sidewalk all the time and don't pick them up, or I round up on a tip and leave $5 instead of $4.90, or splurge on a bottle of perfume for $60 that I totally do not need--that's a whole 600 dimes!

I guess my parents, after all, were just trying to teach me the value of a dollar. My parents are teachers, so I didn't grow up rich, but I always had lots of Christmas presents, took vacations a couple times a year to places like St. Augustine and Gulf Shores, and, even if my mom did cut my hair sometimes, I think it was more for the bonding than the $14 it would have saved.

I think my Mom and Dad will be proud that even if I didn't always, on every occasion, take their lessons to heart (I mean, not that I can think of any specific examples at the moment, but I'm sure they're there), their grown-up daughter, who lives hundreds of miles away and, although she is still a few important financial steps away from being independent, is mature enough to be (or at least try her hardest to be) content spending weekend nights alone eating leftovers, writing blogs, and reading classic novels, knows the value of a dollar and, even, a dime.


I Dream of Guacamole

So last night I dreamed that Mom and I were grocery shopping in some weird grocery store in Frankfort, Kentucky, where I'm from and where my family lives. I accosted her for trying to buy non-organic milk, but when we looked for organic milk there was none. Mom wanted to make fajitas for dinner, and this required guacamole. I suggested she buy the fresh guacamole, or maybe even one of those seasoning packets where you can chop up your own avocados and season it with the packet like my friend Amy does, but she insisted she was going to do it like she had always done, and headed to the canned food aisle. Picking up a small can that had a picture on the front bearing no resemblance to guacamole, she said:

"It's french fries in green soupy stuff, and you mash everything together and it makes guacamole. You love it. You ate nearly the whole thing of it last time I made it."

I was appalled and refused to believe this. She bought it, but there was no way I was going to touch the stuff with a thirty-three and a half foot pole.

In real life, mom would of course not stoop this low. She'd buy real avocados and do all the seasoning herself.

As my friend Gray says, "That's the way to operate."

I

Friday, May 26, 2006

Summer Reading

It's no secret that I'm a sucker for two things (well, many more things, but only two are pertinent to what I'm about to talk about): tragedy and romance. My favorite book of all time, Kate Chopin's The Awakening, which I've read more times than I could count on my fingers, is steeped in both, and because the tragic heroine Edna is known as "the Creole Madame Bovary" I thought I'd read Madame Bovary. Nice summer reading material, you know, the kind that helps me sleep easy at night.

At first I couldn't get into it--while the writing has a concise beauty, the third-person voice seemed too distant from the characters. I'm halfway through now, though, and completely absorbed. Somewhere a few pages back, there was some transformation where I subconsciously moved from being completely apathetic to Emma Bovary to being completely sympathetic to her every mood and emotion.

I thought I'd include some quotes that particularly resonated with me:

"From the other side of the fireplace a fair-haired man was silently watching her. This was Monseiur Leon Dupuis, the second of the Lion d'Or's regular diners. Finding Yonville very dull, he dined as late as possible, in the hope that some traveler might turn up at the inn with whom he could have an evening's conversation."

This is me to a T. I go out for dinner several nights a week by myself, hoping to find someone to talk to. I spend so much time working with the same few people that I'm practically starved for conversation. Tonight I went to my favorite local place, Paul's Homewood Cafe, for dinner, with the exact same hopes as Leon. I arrived after 9, and was one of only two parties dining at the time. Usually when I go to Paul's hoping for conversation or, for that matter, a quiet night to my own thoughts, I am met with a well-meaning but irritating fellow diner who wants to talk to me about their fishing boat or how they're putting new wood floors in their "historic" home and what I know about horses (you know, every girl from Kentucky was practically raised on a horse--something I actually didn't realize until I moved to Annapolis, silly me!). Tonight, however, I was the only person eating at the counter and I had a nice chat with the owner, Chris, and some really delicious food, and not one person pestered me the entire time. It was wonderful.

" 'There's nothing I love as much as sunsets," she said. 'But my favorite place for them is the seashore.'
'I adore the sea,' said Monsieur Leon.
'Don't you have the feeling,' asked Madame Bovary, that something happens to free your spirit in the presence of all that vastness? It raises up my soul to look at it, somehow. It makes me think of the infinite, and all kinds of wonderful things.' "

What a good way to describe the feeling the sea gives me--it frees my spirit. I can look at the ocean and understand something about the world, and something about myself, that I can't put into words in any other way. That something is very personal to me and exists not in my mind but somewhere in my soul, which is why I can't put it into words. I'm a beach bum at heart, a parrothead, and my dream since high school has been to move to a sleepy fishing town in Florida or the Outer Banks and be a waitress at a local seafood place, talking to people and writing stories. Maybe I'll still do that one day.

"Surprised by a sweetness that was new to them, it didn't occur to them to tell each other how they felt or to wonder why. Future joys are like tropic shores: out into the immensity that lies before them they waft their native softness, a fragrant breeze that drugs the traveler into drowsiness and makes him careless of what awaits him on the horizon beyond his view."

I have no commentary on this passage, other than just to emphasize how beautiful that whole idea is. I've read it several times and am still trying to grasp exactly what it means, but the language, even in translation, is so beautiful.

I am definitely not allowed to buy any more books until I read the ones I've already bought. Not including several volumes of short stories, my summer reading list is as follows (and, sucker for award winners that I am, I've noted awards where applicable):

J.M Coetze - Elizabeth Costello (winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature)
Sarah Erdman - Nine Hills to Nambonkaha (I'm expecting this memoir to make me want to be a missionary; Mom, steal it if you don't want me moving to Africa)
Jim Fergus - The Wild Girl (A Southwest Books of the Year Top Pick of 2005, Favorite Book of 2005 by the Rocky Mountain News)
Carlos Fuentes - Inez
Donna Gershten - Kissing the Virgin's Mouth (winner of the Bellwether Prize for Fiction)
Shirley Hazzard - The Great Fire (National Book Award Winner)
Penelope Lively - The Photograph (Today's Book Club...nice distinction, eh? It's not the Nobel Prize, but it means something!)
James Michener - Chesapeake
Zadie Smith - The Autograph Man
Oscar Wilde - The Picture of Dorian Gray





Thursday, May 25, 2006

Awesome Wednesday Part I: Blue Angels and the Bus Stop

After spending over a week working in Virginia, I'm finally back in Annapolis for a while. I really needed a break from things down there, and I think Boss A knew it, so he let me take yesterday and today off and come back to Annapolis to see the Blue Angels flying over the Naval Academy. Every year at Commissioning Week when the Navy people graduate, the Blue Angels come and fly over downtown Annapolis and there's a big show. I had never realized that the Blue Angels are part of the Navy--it was pretty cool to think that the pilots were flying over their alma mater.


So I rode the bus downtown yesterday around noon and walked to the Naval Academy. I had never been on the grounds before. I had to show my ID to get in, and I had no idea where to go so I followed a crowd that was headed toward the river. I sat next to a nice married couple who told me about the tradition and the planes. I had never seen a Blue Angel up close--they had always just looked gray to me before when I had seen them in pictures. But they are blue--surprise!--with yellow lettering. I wanted to get a good picture of one of the planes as it flew by, but they go so daggone fast that the pictures were all blurry. Here are some of the pictures I did get. I eventually gave up taking pictures of the planes and just took some of the pretty boats.

As I was leaving the Naval Academy, I heard two guys behind me remarking how impressive the show was, and I turned around to agree. We started talking, and they invited me to hang out with them for a little bit and get something to eat or drink. They had biked downtown, so I knew they were OK guys, and I agreed. We went to Pusser's Landing, a bar/restaurant at the Mariott. Pusser's was the official brand of rum of the British Navy back in the pre-Revolutionary days--two 'tots' (whatever that is) was issued to every guys every day, or something like that, and more after a victory. Anyway, we sat outside on the patio, which is right on the dock. It's the only restaurant on the city dock where you can sit outside on the dock. Boaters can pull up, dock their boats by the restaurant, and come right in from there like it's a parking lot. I think that's very cool.

Anyway, I finally said goodbye to them and made my way back to the bus stop. The bus comes to the stop on the hour, and it was about 6:20, so I knew I'd be waiting a while for the next bus. Well, I walk down West Street toward the bus stop, and who is standing at the entrance of the Mexican restaurant I go to semi-regularly but the owner Jose? He inquired on whether I was coming in, and I said no--but he insisted that I come in and have a margarita. I halfheartedly agreed, and he brought me the drink and proceeded to sit down across from me. The pinnacle of the conversation's awkwardness was when he said, "Do you think you could go to a movie with me sometime?"--yikes!--and I agreed! Double yikes. I was caught completely off guard--I couldn't help it! This whole time I had been thinking maybe he was going to hook me up with the cute waiter who's always there--foiled again! Anyway, so I agreed to go to dinner and a movie with a fortysomething mustachioed Mexican restauranteur.

But I don't think I'll answer the phone when he calls. Sometimes avoidance is the best solution. If you have a better, more humane idea, tell me, unless it involves me actually going.

After fleeing the scene, I made my way to the bus stop and sat smack dab in the middle of the bench, next to Jay, a young black guy with corn rows and a wedding ring, and an older black man who remained silent the duration of the wait. I asked the young guy if he saw the Blue Angels, and he said he'd seen them from the Maryland Inn, where he works as a cook. He said they just let him go outside and stand there--that's what he always does anyway, when they're not busy. He said he eats free there, but the food's not that good. He's from Baltimore, and Annapolis is "too slow" for him. I laughed and, half-joking, told him it's too fast for me, being from Kentucky.

We waited, and waited a little more. At this point it was 7:15 and he had been there since 6:50. I had assumed I was going to have to wait for the 8:00 bus, but he told me the 7:00 bus had never come.

A few more people rolled in to the bus stop. A white guy in a wheelchair and an older bearded black man with corn rows and a backpack came to wait. I was talking to Jay some more, and the bearded guy looked at me and said, "You're Erin, aren't you!" I recognized him as a guy I had talked to about masonry on the bus about a month ago, after which we had exchanged phone numbers and company names because he thought my company's work was interesting.

I jumped up to give him a handshake, but he ignored my hand and instead gave me a big hug. He asked how I was doing, and to the people watching the scene he said, "I met this girl on the bus a while back when she was singing Marvin Gaye--and I thought, 'This girl's too young to know Marvin Gaye!' She said her parents listened to it and she knew the song--and I thought, man, this girl's got soul!" (I should note here that my parents don't listen to Marvin Gaye--the song was "How Sweet It Is to be Loved By You," which everybody knows.)

I saw that he had flipped open his little notepad to the page where I had written down my name and company name. He asked me to write down my email for him, and I did. He asked me what I was doing at the end of July and asked me not to make plans because his family has a big family reunion at Sandy Point State Park "with lots of food...venison, chicken, BBQ." (Venison.)

I told him I'd love to come and to let me know more details. He said I might like his nephew's friend Todd, and said, "I'll call Todd right now! And put you on the phone! He'll love this!"

While Bruce (he finally name-dropped himself, thankfully--I was thinking his name was Richard or Robert) was calling Todd, a black man who looked about 60 sat down where I had been sitting on the bench at the bus stop. I heard him say something about waiting for the bus, and he had a definite accent--sounded Jamaican. I asked him where he was from, and I struggled to understand as he told me he moved from Jamaica 50 years ago. He told us (anyone listening) that he had been born in Jamaica in 1915 and lived in a town called Suzy. Trying to get his story straight, I said, "So you moved from Jamaica 50 years ago" and he corrected me, saying, "I moved from Suzy 50 years ago."

Jay did some quick math and said, "You're 91!!" And the man said yes. He didn't look a year over 60, and Bruce, who was listening at this point, said, "That's due to a good diet! Lots of vegetables!" The old man replied, "And liquor. Drink plenty of liquor." We all burst out laughing. He said he drinks Tanqueray gin with orange juice every day, he says, and advised us to do likewise.

Awesome Wednesday Part II: The Bus Finally Comes is coming soon!


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Me backstage at Villanova with Stephan (I'm on a non-reciprocal first-name basis with him)

This picture deserved its own post.

(Me with Stephan Jenkins, lead singer of Third Eye Blind, my favorite band since I was, what, 15?)

I know, we look beautiful together.