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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Some Christmas Cheer. Just a Little, Tiny Bit.

Heading to Utah tonight. Yes, that's right. I'll be at my mom's tonight. Crazy, isn't it? I think so.

It's been hectic. But I think everything will be ok. We got a security system before we left, a cat-sitter, and put up more drywall. Cool. Bless the cats while I'm away, that they don't miss me too much and that nothing bad happens to them. I'm like this lady:

VERO BEACH, FL–Annette Davrian, a 45-year-old Cedar Rapids, IA, bank teller, is spending her vacation time in a delusional haze this week, somehow managing to convince herself that her cats actually miss her. (Rest of article)

Pathetic. But true. Anyway, Merry Christmas. Later.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Rowan Atkinson Classic

A few years ago I saw this Rowan Atkinson skit with a friend. It was hilarious and I've always wanted to see it again, but the last time I checked, Atkinson's stand up stuff was only available on vhs. It's out of print and cost a million dollars. So, I bless YouTube. For once.



I think the tights are priceless. For more, see Welcome to Hell, Mr. Invisible, and Invisible Drum Kit.

More Excuses Not to Climb. But Wanting to Climb....Sort of.

Last night I painted the ceiling in one of the upstairs rooms. It has slanty walls because it used to be the attic, so it wasn't very difficult because the ceiling is only like four feet wide. The hardest part was tilting my head back to look up. I've been putting this project off for almost a month now. I bought all the paint in November and I had originally planned to get it done before Stoker's parents came out for Thanksgiving.

So my back hurt like crazy last night. Stoker slapped some Icy Hot on it, bless his heart, and I think that helped. I also took about fifty ibuprofen before I went to bed. Then, when I was laying in bed not sleeping because of the muscle pain, I realized the knot causing all the pain is my climbing knot! Old friend, I said to it, I haven't seen or heard from you in so long! We embraced and there were tears on my cheeks, and tears on the knot's cheeks. It was a Kleenex commercial.

I've already written about the climbing gym in Nashville so there's no need for me to explain why I don't go there. And because I don't climb at the gym, it's also unnecessary for me to expound on the reasons why I don't have any climbing friends in Nashville. Mike D. (climbing friend in Salt Lake) seems to think that if I just hang out at the gym long enough, I'd make a few friends.

Of course, I explain that because I'm not married, single people have no reason to strike up friendships. There's nothing in it for them, and really, not much in it for me. Even if these potential friends are all female. Single people like to travel in groups and a married person is a real downer in single people groups. I'm not saying this is gospel, I'm just saying that's what I've observed having been both single and married.

Raise your hand if you have NOT been to a party where there are both single people and married people. Probably a lot of you raised your hands. I went to a party like this once when I was single (not a cocktail party, those weren't the kind of circles I ran in back in the day). It was at sweet ol' Jason Campbell's house. His married friends all sat around the dining table and talked and pretty much ignored the single people, who were all gathered around the kitchen counter and the humongous TV, ignoring the married people (they made us uncomfortable). It was a very interesting atmosphere.

In any case, all I'm whining about is that for me it has been more difficult to make friends as a married person. I've never been one to rush into friendships. And since my climbing skills have been out of use, I'm sure to suck. So that makes it even more uncomfortable to be at the climbing gym. I told Mike D. that I want to build a small climbing wall in the garage. Stoker is down with that and if you saw our garage, you would note that it's perfect for a bouldering wall. The knot in my back even thinks so. But Mike D. says all I need is a hang board. Then I slapped Mike D. and said hang board a bear's ass.

The problem is, how will a hang board help me if I have no strength to hang? It's not fun to just hang there. I wouldn't hang enough to build any strength, so the proposed hang board is a terrible idea. It would be a waste. The bouldering wall is probably a terrible idea too. I probably wouldn't even use it.

What you're saying and thinking to me right now, I can feel it (the knot doubles as a brain wave receptor), is that I'm just making excuses for myself. You're thinking that IF I really wanted to boulder/climb, IF it was REALLY that important to me, I wouldn't be making EXCUSES, I would just do it. What you're really saying is that I'm lazy. Jerk.

Honestly. The hang board might be an okay idea. I just did a quick search and found that Metolius makes a more elaborate hang board than I'm used to seeing. Back in the day, son, these hang boards were just a piece of wood, a 2 x 4 screwed to the wall. On the other hand, Metolius's description makes it sound like EVERYONE is climbing at home. I hate being part of a trend. I'm a trend bucker. Buck that bucking trend (the second buck is a substitute for a word that rhymes with buck. That's right. Clever). Screw climbing. I'm going to start balancing on the edges of skyscrapers to get my thrills. No protection. Just me and the gargoyles. Oh damn. Both Batman and Spiderman have already done that. Crap.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Happy Birthday Sally

You like to say things are beastly when you feel strongly that they're disagreeable. Such as the cold weather or a fierce snow storm. Or even if there's a slight chill in the air, "It's beastly cold out." This is an endearing thing about you. Your sense of exaggeration. I miss it when you're not around.

Sometimes you say that you have "no earthly idea" about something. Usually it's regarding why or how someone could believe something so stupid, or how they could NOT know that the word is pronounced "filthy" with an /f/ sound and not a /th/ sound at the beginning. Often you're amazed at pronunciation flaws. It kills me. And once I read a poem someone had written about a person who said, "I have no earthly idea" a lot. I assumed it was about their mother. It made me think of you. I fell in love with the poet, though I can't for the life of me remember who they were. Sometimes you say that too, "I can't for the life of me . . . ."

Every night after you get home, you feed the cats (Yum Yum and Koko) a bit of tuna fish. Then you put your pajamas on. Perhaps you eat some tomatoes and a peanut butter sandwich. You read on the couch with the plate of food in your lap, snacking lightly as you turn the pages of your book. Sometimes it's a comic book, Walt Disney -- Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, or (my favorite) Uncle Scrooge.

Even though I'm way out here in Nashville and you are there, snuggled in your home beneath the Wasatch Front in Utah, I know you're somewhere in the world, reading on the couch. And I feel close to home.

Bursting at the Seams. Running Out of Time. Climbing up the Walls.

Is it just me, or am I running out of time? Today I feel like I'm about to burst out of my skin over this sense of urgency to get things done. Maybe it's a caffeine rush on an otherwise empty stomach, maybe it's the guilt over having wasted hours and hours playing Morrowind. Maybe it's because the year is nearly over, or because in four months I'm going to be 30. It may be because today my mother is turning 60 and in less than five months my grandmother will be 90. There's a nice triangular pattern there, don't you think? Beautiful.

I feel like I need to do a billion things or else I'm going to die or, worse, regret a billion things. Death is preferable to regret. I guess. I mean, why would I say it if it wasn't true? As I once told Stoker (when he told me that he felt fat), if you feel it, then it must be true (Stoker is anything but fat -- that's what I should have said, but I'm a moron sometimes). Great logic there. I know, I know.

Also, my dad is dying. Slowly. This agonizingly slow death. And I feel like I need to write him a letter telling him that I'm sorry I didn't invite him to my wedding and that I'm sorry I didn't speak to him for a year or two, that I love him, but I resented him for essentially going crazy and being a bad father (but, could he help it? He was crazy. I guess it depends on what you believe about mental illness). I feel like I'm mature enough to have known better. Maybe I need to forgive myself for that. In any case, he's dying and being cared for in a relatively nice assisted living home in Utah, and I feel this other pressure to hurry up and get his life story before he dies. To record it so that I will always have it . . . so that I know where I came from, I guess.

And I feel like I need to get more of my grandmother's story, before she dies. Because hell if she's not TRYING to die. Last I heard she was trying not to drink water because then she has to use the bathroom and she's tired of using the bathroom. What a woman. What a woman. Yeah, so she's been getting sick from not drinking water. She's very stubborn.

So, anyway. I'm about to burst.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Mainlining Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

I've made a huge mistake. I bought myself a copy of Morrowind and now I can't stop playing it. If you need me, I'll be in Balmora, pawning dishes, goblets, and vases so I can increase my alchemy skill and maybe afford some spells.

Two days ago I got lost on my way to Mt. Zand. I ran across an escaped Argonian slave and decided to have mercy on the fool (he really is a fool: he says weird things. But maybe that's just the language barrier. And maybe it's because he was emotionally abused as a slave and I'm just an insensitive jerk). Now the two of us are on our way to Ebonheart.

I can't tell if I contracted a disease while in the creepy mountains, but for some reason my character kept wanting to ask the Ashlanders (mountain elves) about disturbing dreams. A bit later I read in a book about vampires (in the game) that people who are becoming vampires report having disturbing dreams. To be on the safe side, I drank a cure disease potion. I don't want to become a vampire. Maybe another time.

If I sound like I have no idea what's going on in the game, it's because I don't. But I love it just the same. Don't try to talk to me when I'm playing. I'm a zombie. Don't even come around once I move on to Oblivion (Elder Scrolls IV). I'm behind the times, but I predict that I'll find its name perfectly descriptive. Stoker will feel like he no longer exists to me once I begin playing it. I'm disgusting. Don't look at me. Yes, that's drool. I forgot to swallow, so sue me.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mohammed Teddy Bear and Other Interesting Tidbits

Yesterday I wrote this hilarious post about scientists and how they plan to kill a bunch of rats on Rat Island (I read about it on cnn.com). They're mad because there are no more chocolate lilies and birds on this particular island. I proposed renaming scientists a-holes because it's more fitting. Anyway, you should have seen it. It was choice. A gem.

But I decided not to publish the post because I didn't finish writing it and also because I lost interest in the subject soon after I began writing it. In this day and age, who has control over their attention span? And anyway, I was at work when I wrote it (during lunch, of course) and then I started working and pressure and deadlines and the hey hey hey. I've had this enormous project weighing down on me for several months. As you may have noticed, I now have gray hair. I blame the project.

Soon it will be done. The project. It irritates me to feel so much stress regarding something at work. I'll be frank and say that I don't think I get paid enough to feel pressure. Increase my pay by a few dollars and then I'll feel worthy of the pressure. As it is, I may as well be running a hot dog stand here. However, the wiener man down the street probably earns more moola than me. I think I'll go make hot dogs.

So, can you believe this thing in Sudan? The teacher. The teddy bear. The children and Mohammed. I've seen a picture of the teacher and I have to say, she looks as malicious as a baby seal. I can't believe there's actually a place in the world where someone COULD be punished for something as innocent as naming a teddy bear. I've known several stuffed animals named after religious celebrities and other icons. In fact, isn't it MORE offensive to have an entire culture named Mohammed (every Muslim man, practically) than a comforting, cuddly teddy bear? Men are wicked and lustful and capable of horrific acts. A teddy bear is inanimate and if nothing else, capable of great heroism. Who does a child adore more than their teddy bear?

Anyway, I don't see this thing blowing over without bloodshed. However, I really hope the woman gets to go home without the lashes. 40 lashes would probably kill me, I'm such a wimp (only funny if you know how burly I am. They call me "Lady"). In the meantime, I guess we should all be careful about what we say. That's the message they're sending, right?

There's a new "season" of Futurama out. I guess it's supposed to air on Comedy Central, but it's already available on dvd. That's what happens when you have diehard fans. Your series goes off the air. The fans keep on lovin' you, and then bam! Some network cashes in. Something like that. I'm just hoping something similar happens for Arrested Development. And the same cast comes back. And it runs for at least five more season. And then there are spin-offs for each character.

"He's still thinking about bees."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

How to Catch 10 Colds in One Year: Work in a Nashville Studio

Stoker has a cold. Again. Last night I asked him if his manager/boss noticed that Stoker was sick and Stoker said he didn't think so, and anyway, his boss is sick too. And then I belted Stoker. Knocked him flat on his back.

Just kidding. But I did swat him on the kidney, because it's my way and because I was so mad at the absolute moronic behavior of these ridiculous workaholics I'm surrounded by. Since coming to Nashville, Stoker has been sick with a cold about five times. We've been here a year and a half. Before that we were in Mesa for about 9 months and Stoker didn't get sick once, and before that we dated for about 9 months and I don't recall him being sick then. He was like a horse. Horses never get sick, right?

Then we come to Nashville and all hell breaks lose. Have you been to Nashville? Next to Sin City, Nashville is the second most happening town for the devil. The devil hangs out here. It's his crib, or whatever the kids call it these days (that's only funny if you know the real Nicole, I'm only 29, so young!). Nashville, or Nashvegas, as it is called in some circles, is Sin City 2. Hello! What's-your-name Frank-something-or-other, hint hint, second graphic novel Sin City 2, set in a rainy, autumny Nashville. Former Bell South tower, great lines! Great contrast, Gateway bridge!

Anyway, once here, hell broke loose. It was 60-70 hours a week at the job. 8 am to 2 am. How many hours is that? 9…10…11…15…18! It wasn't that drastic EVERY day, by any means. But there were several days where Stoker was at work from 8 until 1, 2, 3 in the morning, and on the days it wasn't that late he was still there 12 hours or more. And he wasn't getting paid. It was an internship. Magical words. Ship and intern. Meant to be together. More powerful in the modern world than relationship.

Currently a typical workweek for Stoker is 60-70 hours a week. The days have no structure. He doesn't really get a lunch. He's always at that studio, which is no bigger than a closet. (Only the BIG studios are bigger than a closet. Most studios in Nashville are not the big studios. The small studios are where it's at. Sad fact: most big studios are going out of business.)

And his boss is a great guy, an amazing businessman and I like him very much. But I question the wisdom in going to work sick, ESPECIALLY when your workspace is the size of a kitchen pantry and it's guaranteed that there will be more than five people shoved into that space. On a busy day, there are several engineers, anywhere from 5-12 musicians, the client -- who might bring an entourage --, the staff members who comprise 3-5 bodies, and the interns, who make up 2-3 of the bodies breathing the infected air.

Because Stoker is ALWAYS run down, he is GUARANTEED to catch whatever is brought into the studio by the warm, viral human vector. The vector I'm blaming this round is his boss. I've never been able to blame him before. One time the staff guys kept the same cold going round and round. I think Bob brought it in (Bob's gone now so I can tell you his name). Then the other dude got it. Then Stoker got it. Then Bob got it again, and so on.
It doesn't help matters that Stoker can't really call in sick. It's not a job where you've got back-ups. You can't call in sick. There are no safety nets. They don't even have insurance. It's like a flipping SWEAT SHOP.

I love Stoker's job. I admire his tenacity. I'm amazed that he's persevered and forged a path for himself. It really kills me to see him succeed. But there are times when I'm convinced the engineers have gotten a raw deal. The session players have a union and there are rules the studios have to follow about scheduling. If the players choose to work outside the rules, that's their right. The songwriters have a union, too, which protects their rights. The faces of the music, the stars, don't need a union because they're sort of the pets of the label. Their biggest problem is looking good. And let's face it, it would be embarrassing to have a union for celebrities.*

But the success of all of these groups rest on the skill of the engineer. And the engineer earns a pittance and gets walked on by the producers and the songwriters. The session players have their union, so they know that the producer won't be making them work past 10 pm, or whenever. But after the players are gone, the engineer keeps plugging away until the songwriter or the producer lets them go.

I'm not sure why no one has started a union for the engineers of Nashville. Probably because the machine would stop working if the producers and the songwriters couldn't squeeze every penny out of that day rate they're paying. It's pathetic, really. The most outrageous thing is the gall of some of the songwriters who buy a Protools rig so that they don't have to book studio time, and then they call an engineer to ask for help! It's like deciding to do your own dentistry and then calling the dentist because you don't know how to fix a cavity. What the hell?!

Most engineers have the grace to help out, but they're really biting their tongue. What they're most likely thinking is, "Hey, man, you're taking the food out of my mouth, yet you want me to chew it for you? Here's a little sugar to make it go down sweet." Add a few expletives. It's all political, right?

Anyway, I guess the point is, Stoker has his dream job and that's why he deals with the crap. I'm the one on the sideline watching him succeed, but I also have to watch him take the hits and it sucks. I want to help out. I just can't, Grasshopper. He has to do it himself and if he wants something to change, like going to work with a cold, he has to instigate that change. I just hope that I don’t catch his cold.


*In no way do I claim this as fact. This is information I've gleaned from being here in Nashville. For all I know the celebrities could have a union. And for all I know engineers don't feel like they're getting a raw deal. I don't represent anyone but myself, not even Stoker, who loves what he does.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Two Streets: the Rundown on Nashville

There are a couple of streets in Nashville that I really love. If you ask most people, I'd bet they'd say Broadway or West End or 21st by Vanderbilt and the Hillsboro Village portion of 21st, and I'd call those people crowd whores and snooty academics (I want to go back to college. But I still believe in the snooty academic).

Broadway is cool, I guess, if you're looking for tourists and irritating goods that cost little and fall apart quickly -- I've never actually bought anything on Broadway, except for some ice cream. Though the buy one pair of boots get two free deal at Boot Corral still beckons me, I've yet to indulge. The Ernest Tubbs record shop is for the tourist. The Mojos on Broadway is for tourists, however, the Mojos near Division street is for the locals. The only time Nashvillians actually hang out on Broadway, is when they've gone to a Predators game or they've attended the Opry at the Ryman. But even then, regular Nashville people usually don't go to the Opry much. I suppose there's a small group of college kid barflies who hang out at Wildhorse Saloon and Tootsies.

But honestly, if you're in Nashville as a tourist, the last place you're going to spot Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman is on Broadway. Although they DID grace the Frist Egyptian exhibit, I think that was a rare jaunt out of their Green Hills enclave (this weekend I was going south on I-65 and a black Bentley went screaming by. I'm pretty sure it was Keith Urban).

I must be a traditionalist or something of that nature -- adhering to what tradition, I'm not sure -- but the streets I love are old and a bit sketchy. Maybe that's why I love them. At lunch I took a drive down 8th Avenue. I love that stretch of road. There are lots of old rusty buildings and train bridges (train bridges? I'm sure there's a specific NAME for train bridges, but one doesn't come to mind and I've no time to go chasing down a word), and walk-in clinics for the homeless, and big fortress-like buildings that are banks and credit unions (you WILL JOIN the credit union). Some of these sketchy buildings have been turned into chic joints like Flyte, the snobby wine bar and whatnot, never been there, don't want to go, snobby bugs me and I'd probably choke on a piece of cheese.

Grimey's, the independent music store is on 8th. Grimey's is as pretentious as the wine bar, however, if you want to shop for hard to find music, sorry, you've got to go to Grimey's. One thing I like about 8th is how it rises and dips and you go past a hilltop cemetery with old stone steps leading up to it. At least I think it's a cemetery. Anyway, for a split second I feel like I'm in some Eastern European city. There you go. What I love about Nashville is that I can pretend I'm somewhere else. No, that's not it. And anyway, half the time I live in my head and when I'm there, somehow I'm still in Utah, my native land, land that I love, "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty…."

Further down 8th you find a cluster of antique shops that I've never been in, and an exotic car dealership, and what looks like the remains of an old movie theater. I'm not sure what it was, for all I know it could have been a strip joint (Nashville has a strip joint for every 10 people, which equals 54,552 strip clubs), I need to ask a native. But there are a bunch of art galleries mashed together with the Berry Hill vet, a check cashing place, and the Athens Family Restaurant, which I've also never been to, but I've heard is great.

The other street I love is a real shocker, I believe. It's known as Nolensville Pike-- I like the bit of it that goes from 440 down to Harding road. I like this section because it's the most Mexican. The best place to eat Mexican food in Nashville is at a joint called Taquerio La Hacienda, or something like that, which means, I believe, House of Tacos. I could be wrong, I don't really speak Spanish, I've just assimilated Spanish.

Let's say you take the Nolensville exit off of 440, and you head away from downtown. You're heading downhill, and the city fades. Suddenly, it's like you're in a small border town. You pass the Phonoluxe store, which, I guess sells records and cd's. I don't really know what Phonoluxe is unless it's Spanish for music, but it's very cool because the store is housed in an old red brick building with a giant sign painted on the side of the building that says "PHONOLUXE." You pass La Illusion, the bridal shop and western wear joint (!), hilarious because I think in English that means, "the illusion." Or maybe even "the delusion."

Keep going. You pass the first Krispy Kreme donut shop, just off Nolensville on Thompson Lane (it really IS the first, all you Krispy Kreme lovers, and haters [in case you want to take it out for taking over the donut world]). You pass the Tire Recappers shop (they STILL recap tires, amazing!), and my personal favorite, Dan Company -- no one really knows what they do at Dan Company. It's in a small non-descript building and the curtains are always closed. I believe it's a front. Maybe they sell olive oil….

Even further down you pass another Mexican restaurant called Hacienda, the international market (there are about ten, plus a restaurant called Istanbul, a handful of carnicerias and panaderias), the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere (isn't that a great name, Grassmere?), the gorgeous Taco Bell, and Gorilla Mufflers with the tiny-hipped hand-painted gorilla on the side (he's ripped a muffler right off a car and is waving it above his head). My all time favorite shop is called Happy Days alterations, which just barely beats out Mr. Business Card.

Who comes up with these business names? I don't know, but I say it's loveable. I used to love Gallatin road in East Nashville, but then I realized, NO, no, it's Nolensville Pike all the way. In case you're curious, however, there's a Mexican restaurant on Gallatin in a hand-painted yellow brick building with a sweaty, red, upright bull on the side of the building. I believe he's handing you your tacos, and there's smoke billowing out of his flared nostrils. Someday I'd like to see who'd win, the Gorilla or Toro. Really, you have to see these streets to really appreciate their intrinsic beauty.

I almost forgot my favorite tire shop in Nashville, which just happens to be on Nolensville. I've never bought any tires there, but I'm sure they'd be classy. The shop is in yet another red brick building, with an all glass front and white columns supporting the fa├žade. If I'm guessing correctly, this was once a bank. Now it's a tire shop. What they SHOULD have done was go halfsies. Bank on one side, tire shop on the other. That way you could have your tires rotated WHILE you're depositing your check.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Moving Made Harder

My advice to you is, when you buy a house, don't wait a month to move in. Unless you have to. Unless, in your excitement the day after closing, you tear up all the carpet and linoleum to refinish the hardwood floors, and you rip down all the ugly paneling in the "den" and frame a wall to put up new, modern drywall (as opposed to plaster, I guess), and moving in would mean not finishing the floors. Because you really ought to finish those damn floors before you move in.

I guess waiting a month is rough, because instead of the house being a home, the house is a project that you carry with you to and from work and your real home. It wears one out, I think. But we didn't know that until we'd done it. No one offered any advice, really, and if they had we probably would have told them hush up, we know what we're doing.

Also, if you're not living in the house, it's real easy for a dripping bathroom faucet to turn into a gushing fountain that could potentially flood the entire basement. What? Oh, yeah, yeah, that happened to us. But see, we thought the dripping faucet wasn't anything. We thought the puddle of water in the basement was from the toilet. Later that night, we figured out it was the sink (turned off the faucet, everything dried out).

The next day, when we stopped by to put up drywall, the toilet had flooded and the basement was a mess again. It was the tank, see, it never stopped filling. We turned off the valve to the toilet, but the next day it had flooded again (ghostly? The valve WAS turned off). Three days in a row. It's like a sign from God or something. He deals in threes, you see.

If we'd been living there, those enormous water problems wouldn't have ballooned like they did. We would have caught them at the trickle stage, right?

So, we moved in all the way on Wednesday. Or rather, we moved everything out of the apartment and into the house. We were up until 3 am on Wednesday night doing all that, you know, vacuuming the apartment before we left so they didn't think we were quite so piggish when they came to clean it up for the next tenant.

Something that took longer than we'd expected was moving the cats. They were very frightened. We only had one cat kennel, so we held the other two in our laps. Well, Bastet rode in my arms, Sobek rode on Stoker's shoulder. He really loved riding in the car. Sobek did, that is. (Stoker likes riding in cars, too.)

Bastet is pretty good at riding in the car with me because she's so well traveled. She's been from Mesa, AZ to Salt Lake, and from Mesa to Nashville. She's also ridden on a plane with us. She's a jet-setter, that cat. A hippo jet-setter (I don't know, something about her screams hippo. She's a hulking creature. Beautiful and hulking). Polly (short for Neopolitan, like the ice cream) rode in the kennel -- she's still quite skittish.

The cats hissed a lot in the house, at first. The previous owners had cats who left behind lots of terrible smells. So I think the cats were waiting to be jumped by enormous tom cats or something. That or I'm right about the devil room and there ARE ghosts in the house. Cats can see ghosts, don't you know?

Anyway, it took us longer than we thought to calm the cats down, and even when we left they weren't calm. When we returned from buying new cat litter, Sobek was burrowed between some pillows on the couch. He was like a kid hiding from thunder (I used to hide from thunder under the velvet throw pillows on my mom's couch, so that's how I can make that comparison). When Sobek saw Stoker, he ran into his arms. It was like a Kleenex commercial or a Cat Fancy sponsored music video for "Reunited." It really tugged at the heart strings.

The cats are doing better, the odd thing is that suddenly they're all sleeping on our bed with us and so I can't move at night, lest I kick a cat off the bed. Bastet has successfully rubbed against every possible object, to claim them, as the supreme cat in the household. I think she worked herself into such a frenzy from marauding about the house, shooting out her scent, that now she has a cat cold. Her little eye was a bit oozy last night, poor thing. I told her to rest today. Get some sleep. Recuperate.

Anyway, moving was the most horrible thing I've had to endure for a long time. I thought the glue-scraping was rough, and it was. I thought the sanding was a burden, and it was (especially the devil room. I NEVER thought we'd get through all that black tar. And it WAS tar. I've had it confirmed by several sources). I thought filling the nail holes with stainable filler was rough, and it was. But moving stands as the number one shitty thing a person has to do in their lifetime.

It could have been worse, I could have been 8 months pregnant with a two year old, two cats and a dog, and it could have been from DC to Miami, or Southern California to Miami, or Miami to Denver. Take your pick. Luckily it was from one side of the circle that is Nashville-Davidson, to the other side.


P.S. The floors look excellent, and who can complain about new appliances? Especially a side-by-side fridge when all you've had your entire adult life has been the top-freezer monstrosities apartment complexes offer. The beasts!

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Devil Room in our House

I've been telling people for about a month that I'd post some pictures of the new house. Here are some:


There are three things to note in this picture. First, the wood paneling. It's gorgeous. It's really thick, heavy paneling. Some would call it knotty pine, though I'm not in the know about lumber, so I have no idea. Knotty pine? Probably. We ripped it out. Second, the enormous hole in the wall. Would you say that's CRT television size? It is. This is the red-neck flat panel TV. The back half of the TV comes out in the bathroom closet. Oh, and the holes in the wall (there's another one by the back door)? Yeah, they were covered by the previous owner's furniture. The first time we saw them was in the final walkthrough. Third, yes, that is BLACK carpet. Lovely, isn't it? You can see Stoker gathering up the pink carpet from the hallway (pink and black carpet. Who comes up with this crap?). We ripped that out too.

There were black and white vinyl tiles underneath the black carpet. Apparently these kind of tiles may have had asbestos in them, a possibility that we were totally unaware of, as you can see from the photograph. Stoker isn't wearing a respirator or anything (but he IS wearing flip flops. They're great for working on the house). I think the little spots in the photo are absestos floating around (these spots don't show up in the other rooms). Or evil spirits. Honestly, it's always been difficult to take pictures in this room, every image shows up with spots in it. We call this room the devil room. It has a thing for being black (so we're going to paint it white. Or yellow. Take that, you devil room!) and gloomy (the paneling really sucks up the light).

Notice that underneath the vinyl tiles, the floor is completely black. We think that was tar. Underneath the tar was the most perfect hardwood floor ever. It was unbelievable. No dents or scratches. It was immaculate once we sanded the tar up (but since then, as Stoker has been rewiring and dropping tools, it has gotten dented). During the sanding stage we wore masks. But I'm sure the damage was already done to our lungs at that point. The problem with the tile and everything was that the day after we closed, we stopped by the house to see how it looked. Stoker thought he'd dig right in and start tearing everything up. We didn't have a plan and we hadn't consulted anyone about how to do things, so we didn't know that it was a good idea to wear a respirator. But you'll be glad to hear that we wore them when we tore down the hideous acoustic ceiling tiles in the devil room.


Here, you can sort of see the floor underneath the tar. It might have been a good idea to use a paint scraper to get the tar up, but at that point, we were so tired from scraping the paint and glue up in the OTHER two rooms. I think if we could do it over, we would use the drum sander because it's a tougher sanding machine, or so they say. We went through a lot of sandpaper. The worst part about this was that the tar turned into a dust that settled on our hair and skin. Also, the floor took forever to sand. It was very demoralizing.

So all the pictures have Stoker in them. But I worked too, I promise. We took turns sanding and I was the one thinking about pictures, I guess. This room is almost finished. We've already stained it and coated it with polyurethane. The walls have been stripped and rewired, plus we added a wall to split this room. We made a utility room where the back door is, and where it joins the kitchen. Now we just need to put up the drywall.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sleeping at Work

I could fall asleep right now. I'm sitting at my desk at work and I can barely keep my eyes open. It's very difficult to stay awake while sitting in front of a computer, motionless, reading manuscripts. It's even difficult, lately, when I'm reading the news.

Can you believe the news? When I was a kid, I thought the news had clout. I believed it was The News. But now I see behind the news and it's just the news. Am I the only one who blames Ted Turner and his stupid idea for a 24-hour news channel?

Maybe I'm not eating enough protein in the morning. You've heard, of course, that the experts say that if you want to be alert in the morning, eat protein. They have, and I usually do. Eat protein, that is. But lately the cottage cheese and pineapple hasn't been getting the job done (are there any Texans in the room? They might be able to help) and instead of being alert, it's like I've been tranquilized.

Even now, as I write this sentence, my eyes are closed. But, like I need my eyes open to know that I'm writing the most beautiful words you've ever read. This is the next Great American Novel. The Sleep Chronicles. Yeah, that's a beautiful title. My eyes are now open and I'm re-reading the past four sentences with a smug grin. Gorgeous. I'm very pleased. Perfect wording. Mark Twain would be proud.

Oh man, I just had a dream, it was a soap opera of sorts, the leading lady and her male counterpart were arguing. All I got was this conversation: Him: "Yes, I do." Her: "No you don't." Him: "Yes I do." Her: "NO, you don't." I'm not sure what they were arguing about, but he was standing in the parlor with his hand on the door knob, like he was about to storm out, or maybe leave quietly. It was a dramatic moment. A very pivotal argument. Maybe it's part of The Sleep Chronicles.

I don't know why I'm dreaming soap operas, as far as I know I've never ever gotten through an entire episode in real life. I think my record is two minutes, then I change the channel or turn off the television in disgust. The news is better than a soap opera. A game show re-run is better than a soap opera.

Well, I'm going back to sleep. In a few moments I'll wake up and realize I sleep-posted, that's the blogging equivalent of sleep-walking. And then I'll be tempted to delete it. But I won't. I promise.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Like Unto Insomnia, though Not

I can't sleep. It's not that I have insomnia, it's that I feel like crap. For those who know me, they know I NEVER, EVER, NEVER, EVER, NERVER, never feel like crap. I'm basically a bucket of laughs, a bottle of bubbles, a stick of cotton candy. I'm a very cheerful person. It's just my nature. I'm round and jovial. They call me tons of fun.

So when I come to you like this, at 11:14 pm (so late!), and I tell you that I feel like crap, you must know, instinctively that something is dreadfully wrong. What is wrong is that my spine is on fire and my ear drums are about to implode. Or explode. They're doing both and I have no control of it, as anyone with ears will tell you.

Eustachian tube dysfunction my ass. Well, OK, that must be what it is because I realize my Eustachian tubes are to blame. Where's the Benadryl? I never have any Benadryl when I really need it. I'm not supposed to take it -- a rule imposed by me -- because it turns me into Mr. Hyde the next day. The first day it turns me into a sleepwalker. I'd rather be sleepwalking right now. I wish I had a bumper sticker that read "I'd rather be sleepwalking." It wouldn't be very funny, at least, not as funny as the "I'd rather be goldmining" bumper sticker I once saw. Classic.

The problem is, and I've resigned myself to this, the ears are never going to get better. Apparently the only thing that could really help them is the b.s. allergy shots. Remember the allergy racket post? Turns out, I was right about that! Either the insurance company or the allergist is cheating me. I can't figure out who because they both stick to their stories and their guns and their lies. I tried to strong arm the allergist by sticking to my guns and saying I'd only pay half of the bill they gave me, but they said they don't like that. They don't like that deal.

I haven't the energy to fight back. Is it really worth it? Over what will essentially add up to $140? I have two lawyers in my family, but I seem to have offended one into silence and the other simply told me UHC sucks. So anyway, stupid allergist. I could tell you the whole story but I'm sick of the story. It's exhausted me. Maybe tomorrow. The point is, I'm in the right. So I haven't returned for the allergy shots which aren't really free (there's the rub). I'd have to pay a co-pay every visit! In the long run is it really worth upwards of $2,000? Tonight it feels like it would be. But when this ear-hell episode passes, I'll think otherwise.

Even with all the lies and the cheating and the corruption of insurance companies (bastards!) and the greedy, lying doctors and specialists (bastards!), I still prefer it over socialized health care (commies!).

I just wanted to go one day without passing up the opportunity to use the word commie in a sentence. Sigh. Now I'll be able to sleep.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Al Gore: Phony, or Really Good Guy? And What about that Peace Prize?

Yeah, I think Al Gore is a bit of a phony. He's the toughest kind of phony to really pindown because he's kind of naive about stuff. Like when he said he created the internet (for a full run down on that, see Snopes). Plus he's really great at pretending to be sweet, and nice and all gentlemanly. Or maybe he is really sweet. Either way, the sweetness screams phony to me.

Isn't he just using the platform of climate change as a way to remain in the spotlight? He could have picked any subject, but he chose one that's deliberately impossible to prove with absolute certainty one way or the other, but which has global ramifications. Had he chosen a campaign to save the baiji, the only country immediately affected by it would have been China. That's too small. Though I think it would have done more good than the climate change battle.

I get the feeling that Al Gore really believes people have the power to damage the Earth, and I don't argue with that (though on what scale, we disagree). I think he chose an issue that has united people from all over the world -- so in that sense, he's created a kind of peace, a unity of cause. But there is also a lot of dissension that has been silenced by the easy responses of the "experts" and the "scientists." So Nobel Peace Prize? Maybe. I guess I buy that. But while they're expanding the definition of long established awards, they ought to broaden the scope of literature and include my blog in the running for the Nobel Prize in Literature. I'd even settle for a Pulitzer.

If the climate change theory is a tool that's being used to cause change in human consumption of resources and that alone, fine. Someone should admit that. But if drastic measures are going to be taken that have the potential to cause permanent damage, such as the measures that were proposed during the 1970s global cooling scare, I think Al Gore has unleashed a dangerous fury on humanity. I can't say that I think his motives are altruistic, either, and I guess that's the real reason he strikes me as phony.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Sleep, Read, or Watch T.V.?

Why can't I go to bed earlier? All my life I've been a night person and I really suffer in the mornings, like right now, when I can barely keep my eyes open. I curse the TV. On a nightly basis, Stoker gets home and wants to watch a quick episode of the Simpsons or Futurama, to wind down. The problem is that he falls asleep while watching it, and I'm wide awake laughing.

So then, I'm like, "Wake up! Drink your tea," and he's like, leave me alone. And then we have a comical little tiff wherein he blames me for keeping him awake. Ha ha. So then he goes into the bedroom and I brush my teeth in the bathroom. He sprawls on the bed and falls asleep again. "Did you brush your teeth?" I ask, because really, he might have brushed them an hour ago without me noticing. But now he's asleep again, and this question has woken him. He growls at me.

And then I say real sweetly, "Well, maybe you should just get in bed." And he tells me that he's just going to start going to bed when he's tired. Only he says it like it's a threat, and it'll ruin my life because I always want to watch the Simpsons, every night. By now he's in the bathroom brushing his teeth and his eyes are totally bloodshot from being pried open several times by my rousing conversation.

At this point in the night, after he's fallen asleep everywhere but in bed, under the covers, he's really just sleepwalking*. So I don't hold the childish fit against him, I've been known to have my own bursts of indescribable rage at being woken from my after school nap**. I respond to his "I'll just go to bed when I'm tired" jab with, "Great! I don't care if I don't watch television all night before bed."

Because I really don't. I love Futurama and the Simpsons, but moderation, people. Whatever happened to reading books? I miss books. I try to read a book and it's like pulling teeth. Stoker and I don't keep the same work schedule. Usually I'm home before him. But instead of reading, I run around like mad straightening up the apartment, or as my cousins used to call it, doing my chores. The new habit is to have the television*** on when I'm there alone. It's like a Ray Bradbury book. I have my fake family chattering away in the background and I don't feel so lonely.

How can a book even compete with free television? I can't clean out the cat litter while I'm reading a book, and that's part of the problem. And hey, what's wrong with being alone? Why can't I just enjoy the silence? What's with this dependence on noise?

I don't know. I guess it's habits. It's what you get used to. For so long I was used to being alone. I lived in Salt Lake in a house on a busy street, in a kind of slummy area (Sugar House, the greatest area in Salt Lake City) and I was alone at night quite often. It never bothered me. I used to walk down the street at night to the bookstore or the coffee shop, alone. I had no fear. But HERE, in Nashville, if I'm alone in the apartment and I hear a loud noise, I wish I had a gun.

Anyway, I'd like to read a book instead of watching television. Scrubs is entertaining, for sure, but I can feel my mind melting. Sitcoms do nothing for my intellect. Thousands of words I had learned from my years of bookishness have been replaced by obnoxious buzzwords and rude sitcom banter. That's no way to interact with people—as though you're in a sitcom. Honestly, has anyone else noticed what an effect sitcoms have on their interpersonal relationships?

Lifelong goal: become a morning person. The kind of thoughtful early-riser who sips delicious Celestial Seasonings tea and watches the sunrise color the sky (haven't you always wanted to be THAT person? Like in the coffee commercials, onlyI prefer tea). This WILL take a lifetime, for me.

Immediate goals: go to bed earlier and read books again. Is this possible?




*Remember, he falls asleep ON the bed, without brushing his teeth—and he needs to brush them, we just went to the dentist and they counseled him on not brushing his teeth into oblivion, and yes, floss more.

**"You BITCH." My poor sisters. I was ASLEEP! It's like being held accountable for your dreams. Plus, hello! It was high school. And because it was high school, I got into trouble. Double-dutch trouble, as they say. By the way, Anji, I'm still sorry about that.

*** It's free, like we'd pay for cable, and by free I mean we get about eight stations. Two of them are televangelists.

Friday, September 28, 2007

ABBA: Stress-buster

It's weird how stress makes you not want to work. At least, it makes me not want to work. It makes me want to listen to ABBA and stare at a blank wall, reminiscing about simpler times. Or it makes me want to vacuum vigorously. Clean like there's no tomorrow, or rather, that tomorrow there will be a panel of judges filing through my house to score my work.

Stress makes it difficult to focus. For several weeks the stress has been gathering. I got a cold sore last week, and then wonder of wonders, Cassi got one. Cassi's my youngest sister. She lives in Omaha. She blamed me for the cold sore, claiming that because I told her over gmail chat that I woke up with a cold sore, I cursed her. It seems impossible, but what do I know? I tell her at 9 am that I have a cold sore, at 5 pm she calls to shout into the phone that SHE has a cold sore.

Remember the Simpson's episode where Burns is in a tank outside the Simpson home, about to get revenge on Homer's mother, and Flight of the Valkries is playing (I think that's the piece)? And Burns is like, "I've waited for this day . . . " and he's wearing a helmet and looking all evil and formidable, and then the song suddenly turns into "Waterloo! I was defeated you won the war!" It's ABBA! It kills me. Smithers is like, "I'm sorry sir, I accidentally taped over your song."

Oh man. It's funny on so many levels. I was just thinking about that, because I'm thinking about ABBA and how great ABBA was, and is. Seriously, Benny, Bjorn, Agnetha, and Anni-Frid can't be outdone. They're right up there in the pantheon of rock gods.

We close on the house today. At 2:30. Remember when I was just a little girl writing about how I was in love with Stoker and I resented him for going to California without me, and then he was asking me to marry him, and now here we are, buying a house in Nashville, Tennessee? NASHVILLE! How does that happen? I was in SALT LAKE. Now I'm in TENNESSEE.

That's some crazy shit, that's all. I'm probably the only one who gets it. Well, I'll take some pictures of the house with my disposable camera, then I'll develop the pictures. Then I'll send you copies. I'm technologically backwards. I don't know how to post with pictures. Everyone else has their digital SLR. I have my camera, which is constructed of paper.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I Really AM Thrilled about the House in Nashville

I've been swamped at work. One of my (lazy-ass) coworkers left the company and I inherited one of his projects. Needless to say he had only done a small fraction of it. I was also in the midst of two other projects and so now I feel like I'm treading water, trying to get through them but going nowhere.

We close on the house on Friday. Thrilling. No, really, I'm thrilled. But a part of me just really wants to retreat to Utah. I blame the recent developments in my allergies on Nashville, and yesterday I found out that my allergist is charging ME for the allergy shots (immunotherapy) that I was doing. It's very shady. After the allergy test when they said I should do the shots, they told me my insurance would cover the shots. I didn't really want to do the shots. But, the prospect of perhaps getting over allergies at some point . . . and hell, if the insurance is going to pay for it . . . so I went ahead with it.

Do you think I would agree to pay for an allergy shot once a week? Hell no. Plus I have to drive to the hospital for the shot. I would have done the sublingual drops instead (insurance does NOT cover the drops. But is this really so different from NOT PAYING for the shots? The difference is the lie, so, NO), which I believe I could give to myself, from home. Anyway, I'm going to tell the doctor they can duke it out with my insurance company, since both of them seem to have lied to me.

I didn't have this ear problem in Utah or Arizona, though I HAVE had allergies my entire life. So, does it make sense why I'd want to go back to the mold-free desert? Yes? Good.

To sum up: house - Friday; allergies - racket, lying doctors; Utah - oasis; stray cat - new cat.

Oh yeah, I ran into a starving stray cat. A kitten really. We took her home. Too many animal ghosts haunting me for what I didn't do.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Allergy Racket

Did I ever mention that I finally got tested for allergies? After 28 years of year-round suffering, the results weren't surprising or anything. They told me I'm allergic to nearly everything they tested for. The P.A. who spoke to me afterwards seemed to think she was telling me something new, like, "You're very allergic to everything." Laughable.

The reason I finally submitted to being tested was because I finally had insurance, and also because my ears have been popping all the time for over a year now. I think I've written about this before. Anyway, it's incredibly annoying and sometimes painful. Eustachian tube dysfunction, is what it's called. I asked the P.A. about it, "Would the allergy shots stop my ears from hurting," I asked. Then she pointed to an illustrated chart on the wall depicting the inner ear and Eustachian tube, "This is a Eustachian tube. They're a narrow opening between the inner ear and the throat."

By then I felt like slapping her. I don't have a lot of patience for stupidity, but that's the only thing I'm not patient with. Everything else, rush hour traffic, beggars/scam artists, celebrity gossip, I'm patient with (that's funny because it's not true!). Just because I'm not a P.A. or an M.D., doesn't mean I'm stupid. Right then I could have talked circles around her about Eustachian tubes and semicircular canals and the stapes and the malleus and the incus, because I HAVE STUDIED IT OUT.

I don't know, maybe there are some people who don't try to figure out what's going on with their body before they go to the doctor. As for me, I spend a lot of time typing search words like "fatigue+bruising" and "insomnia+heightened body temperature" into Google. If you type some of those search strings into Google, be prepared to confront search results such as AIDS or MS or any other incurable, deadly disease, including Leukemia. I suggest more specific terms and remember, remain calm.

But since I do a lot of researching like that, I rarely feel the need to go to the doctor to confirm anything. I think doctors are a racket. Especially prescription drugs. Never mind that I'm finally on an inhaler that has pretty much put an end to my constant allergies (except for the ear problem), what bothers me is that I HAVE to go to a doctor to get a prescription for a drug that I'm never going to NOT need. That's why it's a racket.

And I feel that this particular area is a racket: the allergy business. So I get tested and the P.A. introduces me to the Eustachian tubes, after all my years of wondering (of course) if the throat is connected to the ear. Then she tells me, "I wanted to meet with you, in particular, because you are SO allergic to EVERYTHING we tested you for. You had the highest possible response to everything: mold, dust mites, grasses." And then she tells me she wants me to start on the allergy shots right away, which should be no problem because they're fully covered by my insurance.

We fight for minute over my cats, because I am honest when she asks if I have cats and yes, they sleep in my bedroom if they want to. There's no settling the argument, because I'm not going to lie and say, "Yes, I'll get an air filter and stop letting my cats into the bedroom."

She clearly doesn't understand that the cats might as well be little humans in my esteem, and locking them out of a certain room would be tantamount to locking a child in a closet. Sure, the cat looks like a cat, but in my heart the cat's basically human. I think they call this anthropomorphism and I think it can go the other way too. My cats clearly don't delineate between me being a human and them being cats. We're the same. We're a clan.

Someday I'll learn to lie when it's appropriate. For now they call me Honest Abe. I have buckled and am doing the allergy shots. That simpering P.A. told me I won't start to see results for about four weeks. This week I asked the nurse when I'll see results. She said, "Hmm, you know, six months, maybe a year."

Do you smell a racket? The office is set up on certain days just for shots. Not knowing what the norm is for responses to the allergens—as far as I know, it's normal to get an 11 from Bermuda/bahia grass— the doctors could tell everyone that they score the highest possible rating for each allergen and they need to start the shots right away, and it should be no problem because it's fully covered by insurance.

The only reassurance I have is that I know my body. I AM allergic as hell to EVERYTHING.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Red Like a Red Crayon.

No surprises here. I got this quiz from Jodi.

What color is your soul painted?

Red

Your soul is painted the color red, which embodies the characteristics of love, strength, physical energy, sex, passion, courage, protection, excitement, speed, leadership, power, danger, and respect. Red is the color of the element Fire, and is associated with blood, life and death, birth, volcanoes, and intense emotions.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz

quiz
Quizzes and Personality Tests

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

My Greatest Hits

Nine of my favorite posts ever (not it order of greatness):

Blessed Brown Bananas — Back in the old days, I was a better writer, as you can clearly see. I think it has to do with having gone straight from college to writing a blog. Higher education really does make a difference.

Things Not to Do in the Workplace Bathroom — I was at my best here, I really was. Incidentally I've again run into the problem of women putting on makeup in the bathroom at work. She uses Aquanet. That explains everything.

Surcharge My Ass — How hard is it to see a good show for cheap? Very. That's why I stopped going.

Stoked on Stoker — I like to remember how neurotic I was in the beginning with Stoker. Sometimes the only way to make it through the hard times is to remember how your relationship is its own love story.

7 Reasons MSN Sucks — They really do. Oh, and another one that just dawned on me, when I log into my Hotmail account there's that annoying entry page, which is really just an advertising scam. Gmail rules.

Old and Fat — Yeah, still feel this way. But getting rid of the bastards, at least trying. As you may know, it's a million times harder to lose weight than it is to put weight on. Unless you're one of those freaks of nature who have to buy weight gainers just to break 130. Jerks.

Pink. Purse. — The day I really became a feminine girl.

Hair — In case you're wondering, I still suffer from psychological and emotional turmoil based on what my hair does from one day to the next.

Does this Mullet Match My Moustache? — You can never have too many entries about hair, especially when it comes to mullets.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My First Triathlon: The Race and Post-Race

(First read: The Night before the Race and Pre-Race)

So then we walked down to the lake and started. And I could have drowned, but I didn't. There were some people hanging onto the sides of the boathouses, which they can do, as long as they don't move forward. It looked real nice, resting. I was very tempted, but I knew that it was psychological: if I stopped, I wouldn't start again. So I kept going. I couldn't swim with my face underwater. When I tried I went off course and I almost hyperventilated. So I did sidestroke, backstroke, breaststroke. Anything to keep moving. And I didn't think about fishes. I believe they were over at the wet bar having early morning cocktails.

The crappiest thing about the swim was that my muscles were very cold. Normally when I swim, the warm up is important. After I've been in the water awhile, the swimming is easier. The hardest part, right up there with the swim, was hurrying out of the water. The race volunteers were like, "Great job, the worst leg is over." And I said, "Am I the last one out?" And they were like, no. But I didn't see anyone behind me. Maybe they were still hanging onto the sides of the boathouses.

Immediately you start running. In a normal triathlon, the next leg is the bike ride, but for some reason this race was split up. So then I ran uphill for a while. I was totally out of breath and waterlogged. My shorts weighed two tons and I didn't dry my hair off, so it was flopping in my face. The morning was muggy and I was carrying four pounds of water around with me, uphill. I had a couple side aches too. I kept going. And I passed a few people.

I actually felt guilty about passing people, that's how stupid I am about competitive sports, and probably a big reason why I try not to compete anymore. But it was also invigorating to pass them. I'm sure they knew I was coming, because I was breathing like Darth Vader, so they had the chance to pick up speed if they had wanted too. I normally don't sound like Darth Vader when I breathe, the race just brought it out in me.

Then you run into the bike area. You change your shoes, or you don't, and you put on your bike helmet and they yell at you that you can't mount your bike until you pass this line here, and they say you have to go around some random cone before you can leave the bike area, and you're off. For me the ride was the best part. I don't know why, it's just less rough on your body or something.

I tried to keep up a pace of 15 mph or more. It was rough, but I did it, I believe, though I was at a disadvantage because I was on a front suspension mountain bike with road slicks. The road slicks helped enormously, but it was really hard to compete with people on a road or tri bike. I saw several people with regular fat, knobby, mountain bike tires and I thought, "You poor fool." And then I felt sad for them as I passed them. I wanted to shout out, "Next time you really should, at the VERY least, get road slicks!" but I didn't.

The race organizers said the course was mostly gently rolling hills. I would argue that the hills weren't gentle. They were beastly. The country was beautiful, however. There was a lot of lake footage and the occasional pastureland, with bleating goats and whatnot, and some rich area right next to the lake with a big extravagant sign that said, "Cash Country." Hmm.

Then we hurried into the bike transition area and jumped off our bikes and put our running shoes back on and ran another mile and half, uphill both ways. I passed a few people and felt sorry for them. I kept thinking, "Why the hell am I doing this? Never again."

As I neared the end, I passed a guy who had had the audacity to pass me during the bike leg. Ha ha. And I passed a girl. They were both walking. As I got closer to the finish line, there was a guy announcing finishers into PA system. He was like, "It looks like 218 is trying to pass 440," and I was like, hell no! to myself, and I sprinted. For no real good reason at all, other than that I had just passed her because she had been walking, she was much younger than me and she was all decked out in a tri suit and I looked really trashy in my running shorts and top.

She didn't beat me and she was nice enough to pat me on the back. I would have said something nice to her, too, except that I was about to throw up and was looking for a place to do it. But I sat down on a curb and was able to stifle the urge.

My conclusion? Probably one of the hardest physical things that I've done. It required a lot of focus and determination, as you might expect, and there was, quite honestly, a lot of questioning. Why the hell am I doing this? Why am I doing this? What the hell is my reason for doing this? This sucks (not a question, but I thought it a lot). I'm never doing this again (more of an imperative sentence). Another hill? This bites. Stuff like that.

But when I finished, I ate a banana and drank a Coke and thought, "That was pretty awesome." And then I thought about all the ways I could do the next one better. I ran into some people from my swimming class and one of the lake swimmer guys was there (he finished 3rd in men's). Someone told me that I looked really strong during the run and ride, which confirmed to me how deceptive my poker face is. Bwah ha ha ha ha.

My First Triathlon: Pre-Race

I had a lot of questions. Questions like, "So, I guess people don't change their clothes for a sprint triathlon?" And the answer to that is, no, they don't. The next question is about what to wear for someone who doesn't own a two piece tri suit, because I didn't want to wear one of my regular practice swim suits, full body, like what they wore in the 50s at the all girls school.

So I wore a pair of my Nike dri-fit running shorts. And then I wondered if I should wear underwear with them. And then I wished I had a pair of Under Armour underwear, or even Patagonia wicking underwear. It really makes a difference what you wear.

I arrived at the main staging area for the race and there was mass confusion. I had to pick up a timing chip and I had to get my body written on by someone using a magic marker. They call that body marking and it's probably the best part. It makes you feel official, and you secretly wish you could walk around all day after the race, wearing clothes that reveal your new temporary tattoos. Even though you hope it'd be apparent that you'd just done a triathlon, you realize, "No wait, I might look like a prisoner or an internment camp escapee."

The triathlon is made up of two groups of people. People like me who are uncool and unworthy, and people like the pro-wannabes, who make people like me feel really uncool. I suppose this is how all races are. There's the determined-to-rule group, and the group that's determined to finish. The determined-to-rule group is really difficult to stomach because they run around looking all fit and muscular, wearing all the right attire, and their bikes take up the entire bike transition area. They spread their gear out on a towel and have it placed just so. And everyone else is supposed to work around them, and should one of these young gods walk by or anything, onlookers are expected to genuflect or prostrate themselves on the ground and perhaps offer them a fig or something. Incense. Myrrh. That kind of thing.

As confused as I was, those of the determined-to-rule group should just be glad I didn’t put my bike shoes and helmet on their huge clean white towel. That would have gone over well. Don't you just want to say to the pro-wannabes something like, "Hey! You guys are built on us! We're the middle class! Without us the races wouldn't make enough money to support people like you!" Something like that. I don't know if it's true, really. But it seems like it is.

My First Triathlon: The Night before the Race

Of course it rained the night before the triathlon. It hasn't rained in a while; I lost count of the days since the last real rainstorm. But you know, I was willing to suffer through a very humid day just to have a little rain.

Honestly I couldn't believe I was waking up at 5:45 am just for a race. I had to wake up that early because of the rivers in Tennessee, and because of the lake. Old Hickory Lake is right around the corner, really, but because of the rivers and the hills and all these things, it took me about 45 minutes to drive there. If you live in Salt Lake City, it would be the equivalent of driving to Provo. Right? And then I'd be complaining about the mountains.

I guess it's too much to ask that they build a bridge that spans the lake. Then I could have driven right across the lake and made it to Hendersonville in fifteen or twenty minutes. I'm just lazy really. If that extra sleep had been very important to me, I could have gotten a room at the Holiday Inn Express.

The night before the race, I drove, really quick (or so I thought. It wasn't really quick. The entire trip took about an hour and a half), up to the race start to get my packet. Plus I was nervous and had some questions. And I thought I'd see the course. But it took longer than I thought it would take to get there, so it was already dark. I got my packet and for some reason, was embarrassed to be number 440 in a race with only 450 people.

I had told them my swim time would be 30 minutes. How was I to know? I left room for error. In reality, the swim ended up taking me 14 minutes, if you can believe it. It's rough I know, but just be glad I actually finished the swim. It's one thing to swim all relaxed in a pool, or leisurely in a lake, and quite another to be in a race. I couldn't breathe. So that was why I was 440 and also why it took me 14 minutes to finish the swim.

One of the race organizers was standing near the shirt table and I had some questions for her. But I couldn't remember them. So she stood there, awkwardly, and I muttered about the bike area, something about water bottles. Really self-explanatory questions, but I'd forgotten my real questions.

All I really wanted was reassurance that everything would be ok. The race organizer just stared at me like I was insane, and she was there to talk me off a ledge. Wondering, probably, why the hell she was standing there. It was one of those moments where you realize, later, that the person was clearly mentally working out how to get out of this one. Like, "Ok, casually take a step backward. Find the doorknob behind your back. Turn the knob. Carefully pull the door towards you. Take another step backward. Smile, duck out of the room. Close the door. (sigh) We're safe."

She was nice and tried to answer my questions, even though they weren't phrased as questions. I couldn't be any clearer, however, because I didn't know what I was asking. On the entire drive home I regretted having been so lame. If only I had been calm. A picture of coolness. I hoped I'd never see her again, and if I did that it be upon accepting my first place award (one hopes, doesn't one? Against all odds).



I went home and Stoker made me dinner. He wasn't going to be able to go with me, and in some ways, I was glad. I didn't want him to see me looking like a moron, you know, should I wipe out horribly or drown. But, I also wished he was going to be there with me.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

My Only Fear: Swimming with the Fishes. And Monsters. And Gators. And Sharks. And Snakes.

On Friday evening, I was attacked by two fish. They might have been Loch Ness monsters for all I know. That's the problem with murky water, you think you're alone until something grabs your leg. Or in my case, bites it. There were no fang marks, but I'm pretty sure the fish bit me. The guy I was swimming with, Andy, checked my leg and saw no marks on it and then concluded that I'm just a random crazy woman. It was the first time I had met him.

These people I swim with on the occasional Friday evening (I've only joined them twice), are all Ironman people. They're, how do you say, HARDCORE. When I arrived this past Friday evening, a little late—because I had to run to the bike shop to pick up road tires for my mountain bike (which I will be racing with on Saturday—yeah, I'm going to suck)—I got there in time to see these hardcore swimmers leaving for their 1.2 mile swim.

So I swam 100s in the cove and waited for them to come back. I'm still a beginning swimmer, though I learned how to swim when I was 5 or something and I swam in college. But that doesn't really prepare a person for swimming a mile in open water. The problem is there's no one to rescue you.

After the milers came back, several of them went back out, for ANOTHER 1.2 miles. Andy didn't want to do another mile. He thought he'd just swim back and forth across the cove. I joined him.

The first time I swam in that cove, I felt pretty confident about having overcome my fear of the unknown. The monsters in the water. The fish. Am I a complete wimp to be scared of fish? Yeah, probably. But they have teeth. And they have the advantage: I'm in their world. If I could see the fish, I might not be AS scared of them, like when I'm snorkeling in Hawaii, or when we're checking each other out in an aquarium, or when one is on my plate and I'm about to eat it. It's when a fish bumps into my leg or swims at me, seemingly out of no where, that I freak out.

And oh how I freaked out. You should have seen me glide across the water, on my back, on my side, on my stomach. It was tough to stay on my stomach, with the hyperventilating and all that. On my back I kicked as hard as possible, to make the biggest splashes and noise, to scare off any fish or other underwater predators (sharks, snakes, whatever). I had to make it to the other side of the cove. Once there, I planned to exit the water and WALK AROUND THE COVE IN BARE FEET TO REACH MY STUFF. I didn't want to swim across, even if it was a shorter distance.

Any cold stream of water passing my legs I was certain was a fish or gator coming at me, stalking me (we don't have gators in Tennessee. Supposedly). When I finally looked up, Andy had stopped and was watching me. "What's wrong? Are you okay?" he asked.

"A fish bit me," I gurgled. I rolled onto my back and tried to swim on the very top of the water. Have you seen the old cartoons where Donald's arms move like a windmill and he barely touches the water? That's what I looked like, only I flailed more. I was about to die from the effort and the hyperventilating.

But I made it. We stood in the shallows. "Let me see your leg," Andy said. I twisted and lifted it from the water. He inspected my calf. "I don't see any bite marks, I think it just bumped you."

"Fine, it bumped me. But it scared the hell out of me." Then I ranted for a bit, like a lunatic, about my fear of murky water, and deep ocean water, and how I'm not scared of anything but that. Snakes, spiders, heights. Not a twinge of fear. But don't ask me to go on a cruise, man. I read Life of Pi and there's no way I'm going to be marooned in the middle of the ocean. Andy told me his wife is a really good swimmer, but she won't swim in the ocean. Go Andy's wife. Let's start a club.

Anyway, as you can see, the Loch Ness monster didn't get me (though I HAVE heard Nessie migrated to Tennessee. Sick of the cold Scottish winters, she said), so I made it back across. We chatted about swimming and then another miler finished and talked to us a while. He said there are also snakes that swim on the surface of these waters. I said that's fine, as long as I can see them and they're not poisonous.

Apparently they're poisonous. He avoided the remark and then the question, even after I tried to pin him down. As I was leaving, another fish had been cozying up to my leg. We collided on my way out and I swore loudly, and scrambled across the sharp rocks to the shore. I cut my foot in the process.

So, back to square one. My triathlon is on Saturday. It's in the open water. Hopefully, the 500 other swimmers scare the damn things away. Fish love a nice morning breakfast and coffee while they watch the sunrise, so I know they'll be out. It's WAR, fishies.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Solid Gold and Olivia Newton-John: My Saturday Nights in the 80s

Normally, I avoid YouTube, but I'm doing some research. Back in the day I used to watch Solid Gold on Saturday night with my mom and my sisters. Usually my mom or one of my sisters was putting curlers in my hair as we watched, so it would be curly for church on Sunday. It was a good time, even though I hated to sleep with curlers in my hair.

It was a tough choice, but I settled on Olivia Newton-John. I really love how inventive this routine is. Notice the girls doing jumping jacks. I mean, who comes up with that? Ingenious! I could say SO much about the meaning of the song and its interpretation as displayed by the routine, not to mention how not winded Olivia is, despite all those jumping jacks. But I’ll refrain. A video like this is worth a million words. It’s priceless.

p.s. Remember belts over a long shirt, thus creating a dress? Yeah, my sister Anji was the QUEEN of the skinny belt. Especially when we played dress up. A game that consisted of us dressing up like our mom. It was fun.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Clipless Pedals Save the World


Cycling with clipless pedals is a million times better than without clipless pedals. If you ride at all, I recommend getting them. It took me about thirty seconds to get used to having my feet clipped in and then it was like we had always been meant for each other, the pedals and I. You know the feeling you have when you clip into your ski bindings? It feels like that, only better, because now you're a machine.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Buying a House in Nashville

We finally had to get rid of our old realtor (pronounced "real-tor," not "real-la-tor," as my mother pointed out to me once upon a time. I've never been able to forget it). In some ways we thought we should just buy a house without a realtor. But a couple music guys (a songwriter, a session player, and another engineer) couldn't stop insisting on their realtor.

By "get rid of our old realtor," I mean get out of our contract with her, not, as it sounds, bump her off (is that a phrase? It sounds so weird right now. Perhaps because I'm so caffeined up, my heart's got the pedal to the metal -- my arteries are about to explode) or send her to sleep with the fishes. Again, I'm not very versed in mob-talk. We don't have HBO and I've only seen the Godfather twice, and it's been awhile since I played the Xbox game.

Hopefully you get the point. Nothing happened other than a phone call between the old realtor and Stoker, wherein Stoker said, "It's just not working for us." And she said, "You WORK too much! You shouldn't be buying a house!" At least she finally told us what she was REALLY thinking.

Stoker and I are the kind of people who stay. That's one of the reasons we got married. We both found something we liked and we ran with it. I figure this correlates nicely with how we are in working relationships, friendships, and when we find the right house. We've already put two offers on houses.

As my many fans will recall, the first offer didn't pan out because the house was missing a portion of its foundation. The second offer wasn't accepted. For that we partially blame our former realtor and I could explain why and you'd agree with me. But I haven't the time and you haven't the attention span for it.

We're first time homebuyers. Part of the reason we sought a realtor was because we needed someone to hold our hands through the process.

I'm still not entirely comfortable writing about people on my blog without their consent (unless you happen to be a friend or family, in which case, bad luck, you happen to be a friend or family member). So, I'm not going to mention our old realtor's name, but I'm also not comfortable using our NEW realtor's name, even though at the moment I only have good things to say about him (those music guys were right). We've put an offer on another house already.

The new realtor is professional yet polite. When we went to look at this house we're trying to buy right now, it could have been a very awkward thing because the current owners were there. But the new realtor (a name would make this so much easier, but . . . still not comfortable) totally put both Stoker and me, AND the current owners at ease. I'm pretty sure they were at ease, though I didn't ask them. After we looked around he thanked them and asked some pretty damn pertinent questions, and he phrased them in a diplomatic way. I wouldn't have dared asked the current owners anything. I always feel awkward about that.

By the time we left it was dark, but it was still 100 degrees outside. The three of us stood on the road by our cars and talked. It was so damn hot. This new realtor had the courtesy to say, "Let's talk in my car and I'll turn on the air conditioner." !!! I couldn't believe it. Another cool thing was that he didn't put on airs about his success. He showed up at the house in a Mercedes.

Stoker and I aren't high rollers, you know. We have good credit, but we have student loans, so we're not buying a super sweet house. I know that there are salesmen out there who are very calculated about that stuff -- they don't want to appear too successful or not successful enough. Perhaps this realtor is that slimy, but so far he hasn't felt sleazy, plus he's been more willing to work for us than the realtor we stopped working with.

The house inspection is on Thursday. Both of us are nervous about it. You know, it's such a difficult process, buying a house. It helps immensely to have a realtor you like. Then you feel good about that 3% they're going to walk away with. After the crap experience with that other realtor, it's like, "3%? You should have 4%!" Ha ha. Yeah right. But you know what I mean.

Overcoming Lake Monsters for the Triathlon

On Friday evening I went swimming in a nearby lake. There are several lakes in the Nashville area, believe it or not. Radnor, Percy Priest, Old Hickory. I figure since I'm about to do a triathlon that has an open water swim, I ought to practice swimming in a real lake. I've played in the water at Lake Powell, Pine View, and Bear Lake in Utah, but have never really gone swimming. And by swimming, I mean, really actually gone a fair distance with the intent to swim. Horsing around in the water is altogether different, and I did that a lot this weekend too, with Stoker, in the pool.

In all honesty I'm afraid of lakes. Lake monsters, to be precise. A lake monster is anything swimming below me or near me that I can't see. I think the fear stems from my first experience swimming in the ocean, which happened when I was in seventh grade during a family trip to California. We stayed in Oceanside because it was between L.A. and San Diego. This stretch of ocean was rich in kelp and seaweed and when I was in the water, it would sneak up on me and touch me on the leg or the back. It scared the hell out of me. At that time I grew to hate kelp and seaweed, and also the unfriendly Oceanside beach. It was unfriendly because of all the kelp and seaweed strewn across the beach, like monsters basking in the sun.

My distrust of lakes is only strengthened by the murkiness of the water. I'm sure if I were in Hawaii where the water is very clear, I'd have no problem. It's the unknown I can't stand. I don't have many phobias, none to be exact, oh, except the one: bathopobia. Yes, this is a bona fide phobia, an abnormal fear of depths. This I cite when asked by certain individuals why I won't go on a cruise with them. After reading Life of Pi, my resolve against cruising only grew.

Friday evening I swam in a small cove with a few other people. The water was a perfect temperature and though I was a bit freaked out by the murky water and the unknown sea monsters lurking beneath me, I overcame. With my face underwater, all I could see was the suspended sediment and my eyes reflecting back at me in the plastic goggles (a little freaky in its own way).

Luckily, I had replaced my crap goggles with Speedo Vanquishers and they didn't leak or crush my eye sockets with their intense suction (like the Leders I bought at Wal-Mart). Had any frightening creatures lurched at me from the water, I might have seen them coming. Honestly, I amazed myself with my mental ability to quell my own fears. There was only one moment when another swimmer was talking about a skeletal hand reaching out for him, where I nearly left the water and walked the circumference of the lake to reach my stuff, just to avoid the skeletal hand.

I plan to go a few more times before the triathlon, to get the feel of not having a wall to grab onto when I get tired.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Black Marks and Rock at the Pearly Gates

Do you ever feel like you're being watched? Not in the "I'm starring in my own movie and this is my soundtrack" way, which I'm convinced everyone secretly thinks until they have the reality check of "WTF, this is NO movie!" No, my friend, you only live once.

Who can blame us, really? Raised on Little Mermaid, Breakfast Club, and Some Kind of Wonderful and all those other Disney and John Hughes movies, we're bound to feel like our lives are dramatic and being caught on tape, somewhere, somehow, even if it is just a cosmic reel of film in the sky being recorded for judgment day.

St. Peter: So, Nicole, this is what we caught on tape from your college years. You were pretty rebellious. For no apparent reason. Of course, we all understand, but that's no excuse.
Film rolls. Nicole kissing a random stranger on the Old Main "A" on (when else?) A-day (Aggies, duh). Staying out until 4 a.m. to be with boys. Sleeping through political science class all the time.
Nicole: I was 18!
St. Peter: No one blames you, we all understand. We all rebelled and pushed the boundaries, I mean, I understand very much. But NONE of us got a D in political science because of our misadventures. As a result, three black marks by your name, here on the White Board of Judgment. [Gestures to a large white board with thousands of names on it. Nicole's name is highlighted with a long string of black marks beside it.]
Nicole, gasping: What? I'm being judged based on my college performance? I had no idea! The Christians told us it would be based on the Ten Commandments.
St. Peter, shaking his head: They've been wrong about a lot of things. For example, there is no Hell.
Nicole: Yeah, I kind of knew that, basically. I mean, I knew that the real Hell was being on earth, with the Democrats and the environmentalists. What really gets me is that you're using the name-and-black-mark system to judge people. I thought that was a lie, a tool used by clergy and mothers to subjugate children and the uneducated public.
St. Peter: No, it's real. Some of your black marks have been erased based on good behavior. For every insect whose life you have spared, one black mark is erased.
Nicole: There's that, I guess. So, I really like the soundtrack. Is that "Lovefool" playing?
St. Peter: Yes, sung by the Rolling Stones. This was a very big song your first year in college, when you were chasing that boy (an ill-advised love affair, if you ask me). But St. Anthony prefers the Stones to the Cardigans, so he commissioned them specifically for your life soundtrack.
Nicole: Wow . . . that's . . . some great service . . . this is very random. I didn't think saints listened to rock.
St. Peter: This is Heaven. Of course we listen to rock.

Anyway, the real reason I ask about feeling like you're being watched is because a couple of days ago, I was walking through the parking lot at my work. As I approached the building, a guy I had never seen before was walking away from the building. Really, I'd never seen him before. He looked at me like he knew me, you know how a face lights up when they recognize someone. So I smiled and gave a little wave. He said to me, "Nicole, right?" A bit taken aback, I said, "Who are you?" And he said his name, which I've already forgotten, and then he added, "I'm in security."

There are cameras everywhere, I don't even pay attention to them. But I sometimes wonder if there are people somewhere watching the video feed. It's just a little disconcerting, that's all. I guess this is how celebrities feel.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Busy Trip, No Triathlon Training, etc.

Yesterday I ran a seven minute mile in 100 degree heat. I don't know what I was thinking. It was actually about 7:30, the mile. And I'm sure I could have been faster in better conditions. When I decided I wanted to do a sub-eight minute mile, I wasn't thinking about the temperature outside. Luckily, I took my water bottle and it was full of ice.

After the all out mile, I ran two more. But the heat nearly had me sick. So I had to walk often and ended up only doing the three miles in 28 minutes. It was a terrible time. I'm trying to find out how well I might do in the triathlon I signed up for. Anyway, I didn't get to exercise much on the Utah trip, though I ran four miles one day (it was very difficult, what with the elevation difference).

All in all, it was a busy trip (photos). I actually feel worse physically than I did before I went. I feel better mentally, however.

I told my mom on the trip that I no longer plan on sleeping well when I go home. It used to be different, back before the introduction of grandkids. Now the grandkids wake up and scream and throw things on the linoleum above the room I sleep in while I'm visiting. They're genuine busybodies. I used to think I had a lot of energy to kill, but then I met Dani's twins, Ellie and Emma and they have outdone me.

But Jack, the twins' brother, has gotten older and his vocabulary has also grown and now we have great conversations. On this trip Jack told his dad that we're buds. It's weird how a kid makes you want to be a hero. Or, in my case, a heroine. Except I've never really been fond of that distinction, so let's go back to hero.

Jack makes me want to be a hero. I imagine it's how a parent feels, and in that case, it must be ten times harder to be a "mean" parent (in the parlance of the child). But sometimes you have to have the big picture in mind, right? For me it's not too hard to be mean occasionally because I know that I'll leave and the kid will most likely forget me in favor of his or her toys.

One of the things that I talked about with Jack was his brand new cousin Isabelle. For some reason Jack didn't want his other cousin Clayton (Anji's boy) to look at or be near her. She was laying in her car seat carrier thing (I'm still not sure about all the baby paraphernalia) and Clayton came over to look at her and Jack put his arm up to block him. It was a very subtle move. I didn't know kids could be so subtle.

I said to Jack, "Why'd you do that? Don't you want Clayton to see her?"
And Jack shook his head and said, "No."
"Why not?" I asked him.
"Because she's too precious. You have to be careful with her."

I'm not kidding. He really said that. I think Jack is four. And then he touched her cheek really softly and I told him that he's very good. This all went on beneath the attention of the adults, except for me because I still have all those great childlike qualities about me. Essentially, I'm on their level.

I'm not sure what Jack thought Clayton might do to Isabelle the baby, accidentally hit her or something, maybe (not that Clayton is violent or anything. So far I've seen no evidence that any of them are vicious children). Kids live in their own world, you know, and they see things adults don't see. Like when an adult leaves the kids' room and all the toys come to life and have a tea party with the child. Of course, as the child grows older these tea parties become less frequent, until, eventually, the toys no longer come to life because the kid's an adult. You know what I'm talking about.

On Sunday, Abby, my sister Kelly's first daughter (Isabelle is the second), got a birthday cake. Basically the cake was a naked Barbie doll. Jk jk. The doll was only naked underneath all the frosting because, get this, the cake WAS the doll's clothes. You've never seen a kid happier about a cake, a doll, or a box ("I, I, I think it's a box!"). She absolutely loved the attention and I can only assume that this is because of my sister's overindulgent parenting.

I had my cell phone out to take pictures so I could send them to Stoker, and Abby noticed and said, "Take a picture," in a very adorable, childlike voice. She has a bit of lisp—also adorable. Take note that the command to "take a picture" is only acceptable when coming from a child. Please don't use this one on me next time we hang out, otherwise I'll be forced to deck you.

Look at that, I DID Complain about Lost Luggage the Whole Time

Last week I signed up for a triathlon. I'm nervous about it. I took my stuff with me on the trip to Utah, so I could swim laps at least one morning. My plan was to get up early on Friday and swim at the local pool. But United or Frontier lost my luggage. They didn't really lose it, but it wasn't in Utah when I arrived. I got into Salt Lake City at 11:00 pm, made the rounds yelling at people until midnight, and then gave up and went to my mom's. She had been waiting in the car for me for that entire hour. Normally I wouldn't have been so upset about my luggage being misplaced, but I had big plans for the next morning.

And I didn't really yell at anyone. I just went to the United lost luggage counter and expressed my frustration. The girl seemed to want to tell me it was Frontier's fault for not transferring the luggage. So I went to the Frontier counter. But the only person there was the Jetblue guy. He told me he couldn't do anything about it, and said, "All I can tell you to do is to go over to that white telephone over there on the wall and ask to speak to someone at Frontier about lost luggage." Translation: "Go call someone who cares." So I did that. After being passed around a few more times, the people I called said they couldn't do anything about it, really, and the girl wanted to give me another number to call.

There's an idea, just keep giving angry customers different numbers to call.

All in all, it was frustrating, and I don't want to spend this entire entry complaining about the lost luggage. Clearly it's a big industry, the lost luggage industry, because they have a system in place to deal with it (as my mother pointed out on the drive to her house). The next day a guy called and said he would be dropping my luggage off soon. He didn't even need directions to the house because he had a GPS. I told my mom it's just AMAZING that they can't think of a more cost effective way to deal with it, like not losing luggage. She countered that she's just AMAZED they don’t lose MORE luggage than they do. And she claims that it's gotten worse over the years.

I think she's probably right, as the possibility for more airlines has grown, flight and international travel is less a pastime for the refined: we now share elbow room with chickens and the homeless looking for a place to sleep. One company is even called Airbus, which simply reinforces my feeling that an airplane is really nothing more than a glorified bus.

Not so insightful from where I sit right now, but on the plane itself you really wonder how you could have paid $400 for such a narrow space between two large men who smell like they ran several laps out on the tarmac and then ate a few chili dogs before hopping on the flight. Next time, you think to yourself, I'll just take a Greyhound. That way, instead of being trapped with a chicken in front of your face and smelly neighbors, when the bus pulls over for a pit stop, you can change your mind about the ride and reconsider your transportation options. Maybe a train with a private car?

I'm just waiting for the glorified flying train. When will airplanes look like flying caterpillars? Someday . . . preceded, of course, by the airplane with the stretchy middle.