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I have a new nemesis.

My old nemesis was a girl I went to college with.  She was the girl who only spoke about herself and who pretended that everything she said was amazing.  She spoke very slowly as if to take up all of the conversation time, and would then interrupt other people.

Here is an excerpt from a conversation we once had:

I was talking to another friend who also drinks a lot of coffee about coffee I had had earlier in the day (something like that, it was a conversation about coffee, anyway).

Nemesis: “Oh, you drink coffee?”

Me: (glance at another friend who looks just as perplexed as I feel) “Yes, doesn’t everyone?”

Nemesis: (self-important tone) “I drink tea.”

Me: “Yes, I too drink tea, I’m just not talking about it right now.”

Nemesis: “Except this morning I let it steep too long and it was bitter” (sad, pouty face)

I ask you– what the hell kind of conversation is that?  What am I, or anyone else involved supposed to say?  “I’m sorry that happened to you”, “I hate it when that happens”, “Perhaps you should invest in some kind of timer”?

This is not an interesting conversation to have, and this was a girl who would constantly say things like this and expect… I don’t even know what.

Well, she’s been out of my life for years, and I’m better for it.  Though I keep expecting her to crop up somewhere and just suck.  Now, I had a new person who is driving me bonkers and I’ve never even spoken to him.

I go to the gym to run.  I could run outside, as many people have pointed out, but I really don’t like to.  My neighborhood is not the safest, the sidewalks are narrow and uneven, and I just don’t like to be outside that much.  I want a treadmill, some kind of 24-hour news channel, and a place to put my water bottle– then I’m content.

Lately, when I go to the gym, I keep seeing this guy.  I’ve been going there a year, and I’ve never seen him before this month.  Now he is always there.  That’s fine, good for him, however, he is rarely working out.

I show up, and find him on the treadmill directly in front of the TV that usually has CNN or MSNBC on it.  There are only two TVs in front pf the treadmills, so to avoid having to turn my head and crane my neck to see, I have to stand right next to him.  He wears a gray hooded sweatshirt, and gray sweatpants, and always smells sweaty.  That could be explained away as this is a place where people work out, except, he does very little.

I was at the gym for an hour and a half yesterday, and he spent most of that time standing on the treadmill reading the paper.  Standing, not moving, standing.  Occasionally, he would start it and walk at 1.9 mph (frame of reference, I can walk quite comfortably at 4.2). He would shuffle along for about four minutes, stop the treadmill, and stand and read for another fifteen.  There is no reason for him to smell as badly as he does if he’s not getting a workout of any kind.

Yesterday, he moved from the treadmill to the weight machines, which are right in front of the treadmills.  He then sat at one, staring at the ground for about ten minutes before putting him arms in place and half-heartedly doing half a rep.  Then he moved to another machine, and stared at the ground.  Without doing any reps on this one, he got up, and stood under another television and stared at it for about fifteen minutes.

I should not be as bothered by this as I am, but the last two times I’ve been at the gym, and have been running next to him as he stands there, people have gotten onto the treadmill next to me and asked if I’m watching the TV. Then they seem irritated with me when I say yes and they can’t switch spots with me.  What I want to say is, “maybe ask the guy directly in front of the TV reading the paper if you can run on the treadmill he’s using as a platform instead of asking me when I’m clearly watching the TV so intently that I don’t even see you trying to get my attention.”

bah!

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Wise Lawyer Friend, who is also my frugality guru, occasionally throws herself a “no buy month,” which is exactly what it sounds like.  She sets out the rules before the month as to what is ok to purchase (food, gas, etc.) and sticks to it.  I do a similar thing sometimes that I call a “financial fast”, but I always take it a step too far by being too strict and wind up buying a ton of stuff the day after the fast is over, which really doesn’t help me at all.

Since I had now been laid off from two jobs– good thing I always have three– it is time to start living within my means.  Also, I have the nagging fear that I may be unemployed for an indefinite amount of time, and need to stockpile cash as much as I can.  Therefore, February is Andria’s No Buy Month.

The rules are:

  • I may buy groceries, but I will be more diligent in making a list and sticking to it.  No impulse purchases.
  • No eating out
  • No buying clothes
  • Obviously, I still have to pay bills–damnit
  • I may buy necessities, if I need to, but I really don’t anticipate needing to since I usually buy in bulk
  • I may buy beer if I go out for drinks with friends, but only one
  • I can still put gas in my car

I think I’ve covered everything.  This is potentially the most boring blog ever written, but the whole point is that everyone who reads this has to keep me accountable, so those of you that interact with me on a regular basis get to be assholes if you see me getting out of line.

To frugality!

I am a fan of Sex and the City.  I have all the DVDs, I had some on VHS– back in the day, I’ve even read the rather boring book more than once.  I think it’s smart and funny entertainment. Lately, however, it seems like far too many of the storylines are cropping up in my real life.

One episode in particular from Season one entitled “Bay of Married Pigs” has been popping into my head more often than I would like it to.  In the episode, Carrie determines that married people don’t hate single people, they just can’t figure them out.  If you’re not part of a couple, then they just don’t know how to perceive you.  Single people exist as the “other,” mysterious, something similar but different.  I’ve been single and I’ve been in relationships over the years, but I’ve never felt this way until recently.

I mentioned a while ago that the appraiser who I work with was very concerned about my lack of “local boyfriend” as he called it.  I shrugged this off as an old man tic, thought it was a bit cute, and didn’t think too much more about it.  Now I’m finding that he is not the only person who is concerned about my romantic status, but I’m starting to think that that is the only thing people think is interesting about me.

I was in Toronto visiting friends recently.  These friends are a couple, originally from Canada, who have been together about eight years.  They got married so she could stay in the US while he went to school.  My last night there, we went out for drinks with her Cousin and Cousin’s Husband.  Cousin and Husband also got married for citizenship as he is English and she is Canadian.

“How do you know your host and hostess?” Cousin’s husband asked me.

This is a question that I simply love because there is no easy way to answer it.

“Well, I go to school with Wise Lawyer Friend whose husband is Chinese Religious Scholar who goes to a different school with Canadian Male Friend, so I met Canadian Female Friend from there.  Funnily enough, Gentleman Caller goes to the same school, but doesn’t know any of the same people as me.”

At this, Cousin and Cousin’s Husband both leaned in, “Oh, you have a gentleman caller?  What’s he like?”

So that was a bit strange, but I dismissed it.

Later, all of the people who had gotten married for citizenship were talking about how instead of having a large wedding, they should all plan to have a big divorce party just to further confuse the people who didn’t know how to respond to unromantic nuptials done for paperwork.

“How about you, Andria?  Will you be getting married for a green card as well?” Cousin’s Husband asked me.

I assured him that that would not be necessary, and then they proceeded to plan my wedding the way I imagine an overbearing mother would.

It was strange, and I didn’t know what to do, so I just kind of sat there interjecting every now and then with statements like “I doubt that would be necessary” or “Really, I hope that’s not the case.”  If these were people who had been forced to have big, elaborate weddings, I could see trying to dump that onto the singleton, but these were people who had completely side-stepped that landmine, and I didn’t understand the need for the hazing.

Did they secretly long for giant weddings and were living vicariously through me?

It was very strange because despite the fact that I write a blog about my life, I consider myself to be a rather private person.  I prefer not to talk about relationships unless it’s with my closest friends, and even then, it’s highly filtered because it’s my business and no one else’s.  Also, it’s never really been an issue before, no one has ever leapt onto the details of my romantic life and grilled me about them.

Maybe I’ve just been spending more time around married people than before, and this is actually standard, but I’m a pretty groovy chick all on my own, and I would feel rather annoyed if people didn’t realize that.

Anyone who has even gotten me talking about books will inevitably get an earful about how much I love Nancy Drew.  Recently, I read Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women who Created Her, and fed my obsession a little more.  The Nancy Drew books I read growing up, the ones with the bright yellow spines, are apparently not the books as originally written.

The book were ghostwritten, primarily by a woman named Mildred Wirt-Benson, and distributed by the Stratmeyer Syndicate– who were also responsible for the Hardy Boys and most juvenile serial novels of the day.  The first Nancy Drew book was written in the 1930s, and the series remained wildly popular through The Depression and World War II eventually reaching 56 volumes.

The Syndicate was hurt by The Depression, though, and many of the other serials fell off leaving Nancy as it’s real saving grace.  Eventually, the founder of the Syndicate died and passed the business on to his daughters, who acted as co-CEOs and wrote all the outlines for the stories.  One of the daughters, Harriet Adams, had a falling-out with the original publisher, Grosset and Dunlap, and eventually sold the rights of Nancy Drew  to Simon and Schuster publishers.  Adams also re-wrote all of the original 56 books.  She updated Nancy’s age, car, took out changed details to make the time period more generic, and took out a lot of very blatant racism.  These re-writes are the books with the blight yellow spines that I read and loved growing up.

As soon as I realized that what I had read was not the original Nancy Drew, I set about trying to get my hands on the original text.  Fortunately, Applewood Books recently re-issued the original books, and my local favorite used books store– Cellar Stories– also carries a few titles.

I’ve managed to amass a pretty respectable collection of both the originals and the re-writes, and have done extensive compare and contrast exercises, because I’m supercool.

The other day, I was at a library conference in Connecticut.  As I was just getting back to Providence, I got a phone call from my landlady informing me that a pipe had burst, there was water in my apartment, but she checked it out and it didn’t look like any of my stuff was damaged.  I came home to find a shallow puddle on the floor at the front of my house, and some water stains on the ceiling, really not too bad.  Then I noticed that the hat on the lowest shelf where I keep my Nancy Drew books was completely saturated.

misc-155I quickly checked the books, and saw that they were all completely fine.  This shelf is also where I keep the greatest item of kitsh I’ve ever acquired– my black last supper painting.

misc-156The only thing left to conclude, is that Black Jesus knows how much I love these books, and saved them for me– despite the racism contained within them.

misc-157There is simply no other way — that I can think of– to explain how the water came through the ceiling and soaked the hat on the bottom shelf (which is about 1.5 inches off the ground), and didn’t touch the books at all.

It’s a miracle.

As I mentioned before, I spent a lot of time in Canada while I was growing up.  Another source of delight for me was the fact that my allowance stretched much farther north of the border.  I would splash out on clothing and CDs knowing that the money I was spending wasn’t real and only cost me a fraction of the sticker price.  My senior year of high school, the Canadian dollar was particularly weak: 1 Canadian dollar = $.60 US, which made every concert I went to that year, and every pint of beer I bought seem like a wonderful gift, “Oh, Band X, I don’t even really like them, but it seems a shame not to go, it’s so cheap.”

Fast-forward to my recent trip to Montreal with Wise Lawyer Friend.  I used my credit card for most purchases, and when I came home and saw what kind of exchange rate I’d gotten, I nearly threw up.  The first meal we had there, Carlos y Charlies (I know it’s silly to eat Mexican food in Canada, but what’s done is done) cost me $40 Canadian, and $40.82 US.  I kept staring at the statement think I must somehow be reading it wrong, but finally came to the conclusion that the unthinkable had happened, the Canadian dollar was stronger than the US.  I half expected my cat to start talking back to me in full sentences and the sky to turn pink– that’s how impossible this seemed to me.

I immediately called my brother and told him what was going on.  We both agreed that it was bizarre, and reminisced about the good old days before deciding that America was clearly in a lot more trouble than we had previously realized.

On my most recent trip to Canada, we listened to CBC radio quite a bit where the announcers, in their cheerfully distant, but never downtrodden tone announced that Canada is officially in a recession.  None of their banks have failed, and they most likely won’t, but unemployment is up slightly, and holiday spending was down.  The strangest thing, and I’ve forgotten this about Canadian broadcasting because I haven’t listened/watched it in years– there was very little emotion about the whole thing.  There were few scary words, there was little encouragement, it was “just the facts”, and it didn’t make me want to hoard food– maybe because it wasn’t my country they were talking about.

When I got home, I checked my bank account and found that the $100 Canadian I had taken out at the ATM, only cost me $85 US, and my $19 museum entrance, only $16.52.  This makes me feel like the world is making sense again, and gives me a feeling of optimism that I haven’t had in a while.  Yes, I paid 14% Provincial sales tax that I will never get back, but it cost me less than it used to.

I got my crown put on on Tuesday, or as I like to phrase it, “I now have a $1300 toilet in my mouth.”  Honestly, it’s a lovely little bit of porcelain, and matches my other teeth beautifully.  The dentist was exclaiming as he snapped and shoved it into place, “This is just wonderful! Sometimes things just work out!”

Of course, now that my nine fillings, one root canal, and one crown are all taken care of, I can start going to the dentist once a year like normal people.  I’m excited about this, but it was a bit of an emotional goodbye on Tuesday.  The dental hygienist and I get along famously, and she told me that I’m one of her favorite patients.  This is a girl who I’m guessing says this to a lot of people, but honestly, I may just miss her as well.

“I just get so excited when I see your name in the schedule book!” she told me.

Regardless of the level of sincerity in that statement, it’s still very nice to hear.

“I was thinking about you when I was in Toronto,” I told her, “There were Ugg boots everywhere, and it would have made you so angry!”  This is completely true, I almost took pictures for her as this is what bonded us together.

The bond between this hygienist and I is not so strong that we will become bestest besties, or even seek each others company outside of the dentist’s office, but it’s still a little bit like high school graduation, or the last day of camp in it’s “end of an era” feeling.  This makes little sense because even though high school sucked, it never costs me as much money as this dental adventure; and even though I had to go to Lutheran bible camp while an atheist, it was still not as uncomfortable as getting your tooth drilled down to nothing while the worst sound/smell in the world fills your head.

What will I do with my Wednesdays now?  Will I just go back to life as usual except flossing a bit more frequently?

I’ve been tonguing the new, fake tooth in my mouth so frequently I’ve given myself a headache, but I’m beginning to get used to it.  It’s time to move on.

I grew up 30 minutes away from Canada. We got two Canadian television channels, Canadian radio, there was always Canadian currency mixed in with the American, and it took me until about age seven to understand that Canada, where the buffalo museum was, was a country, and Wisconsin, where my cousins lived, was a state. The first time we visited Winnipeg, MB was for the Ice Capades. It was a magical afternoon of ice… capades, and novelty glowing sticks, culminating with a trip to Canadian McDonald’s for ice cream.

When I was in high school, I spent a lot of time at bars in Canada, and going to concerts in Winnipeg. Most of the concerts were at large venues, which required paying way too much for parking and/or staying at a crappy hotel that was slightly close. One concert was at the West End Cultural Centre— a teeny tiny venue in a part of Winnipeg that I’d never ventured to before. There was only street parking, but Map Fleece and I got a spot that was fairly close, and rocked out solidly for about two hours.

When we were walking back to my car, we noticed that the dome light was on.

“You left the light on?” Map Fleece asked me.

“I guess so, but at least it’s still on so we know that the battery isn’t dead.”

Turned out that I hadn’t left the dome light on, rather my car had been broken into and the thieves absconded with my car stereo, purse and contents, and a puffy down jacket that I had given Map Fleece that said “versatile.” Thankfully, the thieves were very skilled and made little mess of my car, and thankfully I’d brought my ID into the concert with me– though they did get all my credit cards, passport, and Social Security card.

Once back home in Fargo, I called in to work and then called my mother, who was not sympathetic at all.

“Well, why were you even there?” she demanded.

“For a concert, I told you that.”

“You live in a big town, go to concerts there. You shouldn’t be driving to Canada.”

I wanted to point out that it was she who had first brought me into Canada, where I’d been a hundred times by that point and never once been the victim of any kind of crime– probably not even a dirty look. She was the one who started this whole chain of events, and I really wanted to point out that just because I live in a place that’s somewhat big doesn’t mean that everything I want to do and everyone I want to see will come there.

“It was a Canadian band, mother, no one here has heard of them…” But it was no use. I promised to change my locks as she was convinced these thieves would drive the six hours from Winnipeg and steal everything in my apartment– “”They have your address, Annie, and your keys.”

I spent the rest of the afternoon canceling credit cards and watching Brokedown Palace. Though I had to watch it in black and white with no sound because it was on HBO, which I wasn’t paying for, it still drove home the message that there’s always someone sadder than you. Yes, I would have to go get new documents, and change my locks, but at least I wasn’t in a Thai prison.

Now I’m going up to Toronto for a four-day mini-break, which I told my brother about on the phone the other day.

“Toronto? That’s like nine hours away, that’s damn near Michigan.”

“I suppose so,” I agreed.

“If you’re so eager to drive that far, you might as well come back here and visit for once.”

“Well,” I pointed out, “It took me longer than a days’ drive when I was moving out here, and I am planning on coming back at some point.”

“See that you do.”

I don’t know why traveling to Canada always makes my family angry with me, but there it is. Thankfully, my brother got over it faster than my mother did.

The Quest

Yes, Garden Grill is technically in Pawtucket, but only by a block.  I got a text message from Jewish Friend informing me that Garden Grill serves gluten-free vegan macaroni and cheese, and responded with “that sounds like paste.” To be perfectly honest, I’m not entirely sure what gluten is, but I know it’s in bread and beer, which are two things I need to live, and it seems like an element necessary in macaroni & cheese.  We had to find out.

The plan was to go, be unimpressed with what would surely be orange gloop, and fill up on a second entree– possibly have dessert as well.  What actually happened, is that gluten-free vegan macaroni & cheese is delicious, and we now have a lot of leftovers of the other stuff ordered.

misc-127This picture actually makes it look quite disgusting, but also, quite a bit like normal mac & cheese.  When we flagged the server over and demanded to know “How? How can this be good?”

He told us “Nutritional yeast.”

That sounds like something you’d find in your scary grandma’s cupboard one night after sneaking out of bed in search of forbidden cookies, and though Jewish Friend purports to love nutritional yeast, she cannot tell me what kind of nutrition it provides.

Despite the deliciousness of this meal, I’m still unsure of whether something like this can actually be called mac & cheese.  Mac, certainly, despite the lack of gluten, but there is nothing resembling cheese here, merely a slightly cheesy flavor provided by something that sounds horrifying.  All in all, I feel like I really learned something from this experience. Despite the fact that I haven’t eaten meat (except accidentally and in the name of victory) for 10 years, I’ve never experimented with these vegetarian ingredients– probably because I hate vegetarians so much.  I dare say, I feel a bit pure, and slightly smug.

Decor/Atmosphere:  8 Garden Grill is cute and small and looks like a hippie vegetarian restaurant, and our booth was very cold since it was right by the door.

Service: 9.5 It took a while to get our bill, but the two servers who were working that night tag-teamed our table, which was pretty fun, they were easy to flag down, and perfectly willing to tell us what the hell the deal was with the mac & cheese.  One even said as she was serving it to us, “I swear it tastes better than it looks,” I appreciate that kind of honesty.

Food: 9 Macaroni & Cheese was fantastic, I will eat it again any time, and I feel less full and gross than I usually do after a night questing for pasta.  We also had a pizza and sweet potato appetizer, which were delightful; Jewish Friend got an apple cider martini that smelled like an expensive candle, and tasted like America.

Total: 26.5

The Quest

Steeple Street is on my way– walking or driving– to the East Side, and since I’ve lived here I’ve walked or driven by it hundreds of times, sometimes stopped and read the menu, and thought I should go there. I never had though, and I think it’s because people kept trying to convince me that it’s really expensive.

Admittedly, it is somewhat expensive, more so than the places I usually go; but not break-the-bank only once-in-a-lifetime expensive like Jewish Friend tried to convince me.  I would point out to her that I spent the same amount of money at Steeple Street that I spent the last two times we went to the damn Melting Pot– and no one called me a lesbian even though my date for the evening was a lovely lady.

This was also the first time I’ve gone out for Macaroni & Cheese without Jewish Friend– a landmark occasion all around.  I met Sassy Redhead, Joe Roch, and Joe’s Beloved for an early dinner so Sassy Redhead cold go to a late movie with her Auntie.  Honestly, there’s really not much I can say about the whole experience– it was kind of perfect.  The food was excellent– we shared calamari and pizza, and I ordered mac & cheese (of course).  The service was very good– prompt refills of the water, attentive without being annoying, our server was happy to politely interrupt our chattering to tell us the specials, rather than waiting awkwardly for us to stop talking, and he encouraged us to hang out and digest rather than hustling us out the door so he could seat a new party.

Decor/Atmosphere:  9.5 Cozy, dimly lit, kind of like eating at Grandma’s house if your grandparents made a lot of money in steel.  It looks kind of like the house in Royal Tenenbaums without the pink.  My seat was close to the hallway by the door, so I got a few drafts on my back, but really not that bad. I dig it.

Service: 10 Perfect.  I have no complaints at all.  Once told by Joe that I’m a bit of a connoisseur of mac & cheese, the server made a point to ask me if it was up to my standards, and seemed genuinely happy when I said that it was.  He handled Sassy Redhead’s vegetarian concerns gracefully, and seemed happy without being fake.

Food: 9 This mac & cheese had the unusual quality of being both delicious and also very light– I have no idea how you do that with a cheese-covered pasta, but I am impressed.  The pasta they use is big shells, which are fun to eat, but not annoying like the little shells, which just go all over the place when you eat with gusto like I do.  The menu says 4 cheese, and also au gratin, which confuses me a bit, and I cannot tell you what the four cheese are, but no matter, it was good.

Total: 28.5

Since I’m on break from school and working very little, I’ve spent more and more time lolling around the house in my loungewear– because I can.  Also, since the holidays only recently ended,  my pants have all been feeling a bit snug, and the loungewear doesn’t cut into my fat bits the way jeans do– much more pleasant.

My loungewear of choice is the tracksuit.hoodie Yes, it makes me look like a stereotypical Italian gangster, but it is comfortable, has a jacket portion that can be removed depending on the temperature in my apartment or my level of activity, and I think it is much cuter than some pyjama pants that make a girl look like she is wearing a saggy diaper.

I have two sets of tracksuits so I always have one on standby while the other is in the laundry.

The problem, I’m starting to figure out, is that these tracksuits are simply too comfortable.

Anecdote: I went out to dinner last night with a lovely group of people.  We ordered calamari and a pizza for the table to share, which I definitely ate my share of, followed by macaroni and cheese for me, which I actually ate all of, plus two beers, followed by pantsanother beer at another venue.  I was stuffed.  I was so full I was feeling lethargic and a little addled in the head.

When I got home a little later, I immediately put on my tracksuit, and the first thought I had was maybe I should have some dessert? Then I realized what I had just thought and felt horrified, but still a little… hungry ?

I’m happy to say that I talked myself out of dessert, though I did eat a handful of M&Ms.  I’m mostly alarmed that my sense of fullness seems to depend upon the level of comfort of my pants.  Am I just not paying enough attention to my stomach? Or have I eaten so much lately that I’m going to always feel hungry, or what I think is hungry but is actually just the feeling of a normal eating schedule?  These are things I wonder about.  Either way, the tracksuit bottoms need to be used sparingly or else I won’t be able to fit into any of my other clothes, and I refuse to ever go outside in loungewear– I will not be that girl.