You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2009.

DinersDriveInsandDives_bannerI was answering KGB questions a while ago, and someone asked a very specific question about an episode of the Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  Since I haven’t had cable in years, I had never heard of the show, but since Rhode Island is the home of the diner I was eager to see where all they had been.Grey's Ice Cream

At that time, the only place in Rhode Island they had visited was Grey’s Ice Cream, which is certainly not a diner, nor is it a dive, but I guess it qualifies as a drive-in since you stand outside to order.  I was seriously outraged and told everyone I could think of how stupid this show was for dissing Little Rhody (Also, the host is one of those morning radio DJ types with the shock of bleached blonde hair–I really hate that).  I mentally composed a strongly-worded email half a dozen times, but never actually wrote anything down.

Yesterday I read this, which says that one of my favorite diners will be forced to close abruptly along with 1,200 other small businesses in RI who are being levied a tax bill because the state is in trouble financially.  I wasn’t able to go support them yesterday, but this morning when Jewish Friend called me and asked if I wanted to go there for breakfast, I was eager to try to do my part (if it was still open).

Not only was it open, but there was a giant stand in front of the place that said “Read Before Entering.”  What it said was that the Food Network was inside and entering the building meant you agree to be on their show.  I wonder would have happened if the place was forced to close down yesterday…

So, Jewish Friend and I may be on an upcoming episode of the show.  We tried to sit in the dining room, but it was full of equipment, so we sat at the counter and tried to act like casual brunchers without a care in the world.  Then our meals were delivered, but we were not allowed to start eating until the photographer had gotten a good shot of the food being brought out and placed on the counter.

I ate granola and yogurt on camera, which was nerve-racking and extremely awkward; we answered some rather inane questions in a rather inane way, and sweated under massive kleig lights with me wishing all the while that I had showered.

In the five years I worked in television, I was never on television.  I even refused to tape a staff Christmas Greeting, now I’m going to (possibly) be on a cable show that I’ve been trash-talking for weeks.

When I was in High School, I went to a Rolling Stones concert in Winnipeg and was interviewed for the Winnipeg Free Press. I assume they picked me becuase I was 18 and everyone else there was 45.  When I read the article the following day, I was horrified to find that the way they quoted me made me sound like an absolute moron, and they put down that I had “giggled.”  I’m naturally apprehensive to see what a trainwreck this could become, but it is an interesting way to spend a morning.

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woman_running_bannerWhen I was in Junior High, my overly-chatty and track-obsessed history teacher asked me if I was going out for track.  No one had ever suggested that I take on a sport at any other time in my life (in fact, my parents, though supportive, were never upset when I quit all the various sports I played growing up) so I found this shocking and very odd.

“I don’t run.” I told him, then went back to my book.

A few weeks later, I had to go to the Principal’s office for something, and the school Superintendent cornered me and demanded to know if I was going out for track.  I had been going to this school for about four months, had played no sports, and was mostly concerned with reading during class and not getting caught.  I was not sporty in the least.

“No.” I told him.

“Why not?” He asked.

“I have weak ankles.” I told him, and left the office.

It seemed like making up a medical reason was the only thing that would get these people to leave me alone.  I still am not 100% sure why all these grownups wanted me to be in track.  The only reason that makes any sense is that they knew my dad is a runner, but it seems weird that they would think I was too.

I didn’t actually start running until I was about 25.  I was working at tv station and got a discount on a gym membership, walking on the treadmill one day got a little boring, so I ran.  I didn’t like using the machines because there was always some bitchy woman staring you down, or some little old lady just sitting at one watching tv–so I just ran every day.

My friend and former co-worker/fellow gym-goer, Danie (who is presently training for her first 1/2 marathon), used to surreptitiously follow the personal trainers around as they were doing sessions, and nab free training advice.  When she told me this, I was quite impressed and remarked that I should do the same.

She scoffed, “You just run like someone’s chasing you.”

I used to run to my piano lessons pretending that I was being chased by wolves, so really, she wasn’t far off.

While I was participating in my recent medical study, I was required to have a physical.  I haven’t really had a lot of physicals in my life because I never played the sports that required me to get one, and I don’t like to go to the doctor.  I dislike going to the doctor primarily because I often don’t have insurance, but also because I always feel like I’m wasting his/her time since there’s never really anything major wrong with me.  Unless I’m bleeding from the eyes, or have an obviously dislocated body part, I feel like I should be able to just wait out whatever I think is wrong with me.

This time I had to get a physical because they wanted to make sure I was fit enough to get drunk.  The doctor came into the room, asked a few routine questions, and took my blood pressure.

“You’re resting pulse rate is very low.” He told me, sounding slightly concerned, “Do you run a lot?”

Something inside my head went zing, and I realized I have finally achieved low resting pulse rate–tangible evidence that all of my hard work has paid off.

The deal with the low resting pulse is that it’s basically a measure of fitness.  The lower the better because if your heart can pump as much blood as you need with fewer pumps, that means that your heart is stronger.  Lance Armstrong’s resting pulse is 30, as is Dean Karnazes‘–the man who ran 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days.  Average is 65-75, mine is about 53.

“I do run a lot,” I told the doctor, “Actually, my dad’s resting pulse is so low that they won’t allow him to donate blood.”

At this the doctor got excited, “So it could be genetic as well!  And his father?”

I just shrugged, “He never went to the doctor.”

Then the doctor took my pulse manually, and because I was so excited about this news it had sped up.

camping_bannerThe teeny-tiny Minnesota town that I grew up in was 30 minutes from the Canadian border.  Every summer there would be a mass influx of Canadian campers who would roost in the campgrounds right by the city pool.  They would stare at us, we would stare at them, they would speak French and then laugh loudly in a way that made me certain they were making fun of me.

I loved growing up in that town and spending all day every day at that swimming pool, but even at that young age I had seen enough of the world to know that it wasn’t a superrad vacation destination.  There were some bike trails– I mentioned the pool (very nice for such a small town), a river that I guess people could fish in… I really don’t know what else would draw so many people to these campgrounds–or why it was almost exclusively Canadians.

When I was 12, we moved to another teeny-tiny town, this one in North Dakota, and there was a lovely state park about 30 minutes away.  This place had it all–woods, trails, a lake, beach–everything that I though proper camping should include.  Yet my friends who were of the camping persuasion, would go out there, spend the night in a pimped-out camper with almost all the comforts of home, and then spend the day either back at their parent’s house on the couch, or hanging out with me–not enjoying (what I thought was) the appeal of camping.

My parents never took me camping– which is probably pretty clear, because they didn’t get it either.  We took day trips to state parks, picnicked, swam, hiked, but then drove back home so we wouldn’t have to wrestle with putting up a tent, or what to do when it gets dark at 9:30pm and you’re really not hungry and have nothing left to say to each other.

Jewish Friend has been trying to shanghai me into going camping with her since I met her.  She went to college in an idyllic town in upstate New York and spent her time there hiking and wearing flannel (from what I understand of it).  I have now relented and agreed to camp with her in exchange for a visit to Washington Irving’s Estate, and possibly the mountain that Rip Van Winkle fell asleep on.

Now, in the quest to scare up some camping gear, I find out that more of my friends than I could possibly thought have a deep affection for camping.  Sassy Redhead, one of my most refined chums, owns a sub-zero sleeping bag and told me, “I chipped ice from a frozen river to make tea.”  Always classy, even in the woods.

This is similar to the bafflement I felt when I left the Midwest–Heartland of America, land of farmers– to come to the liberal Northeast and discover that all of these hipsters I was meeting also were or wanted to be farmers.  That’s an exaggeration, but it was perplexing.

I’m down with nature, I think it’s great and try to preserve it, I prevent forest fires, but I also like showers and comfortable sleeping surfaces.  Oh well, it’s an adventure.

shelf480_bannerIt’s now day 24 of living in new apartment, and things finally feel settled.  I’m very much a (though I hate to use this word) “Homebody.”  I have to have a comfortable place to relax otherwise I get very unpleasant.  Upon moving into the new place, Gentleman Caller and I set about creating spaces where we could exist comfortably–i.e. I tackled the kitchen, he took on the living room.  By the end of day one, we were able to eat well and entertain ourselves without moving around too much.

Next, I took on my office– set up my desk, my beloved chair, and unpacked a few boxes.

Gentleman Caller’s office is the room between the kitchen and the livingroom, but every time I wandered in there, he was playing video games or watching the Daily Show or Star Trek.  I started to worry– “What if Gentleman Caller misrepresented himself, and doesn’t mind living a life half-unpacked?  Can I cope with that?”

Answer is–no.  Even though I tried to rein it in, I got a bit bossy at times.  Finally, we sat down, discussed what we needed, and I took a trip to IKEA with Jewish friend, who also just moved and needs stuff.  IKEA was having a shelf sale, and I found one that I really liked, that was the right size, and that was a good price.  Of course it wouldn’t fit into the car.

I came home shelfless and a bit defeated.

Then, as happens in situations like these, Gentleman Caller got an email about some guy selling stuff including a large shelf.  He emailed, and was told that he was first to respond and we could come get it at 7pm.  We went to the house, guy wasn’t there, but the new tenants let us in and we started disassembling the shelf. The guy showed up, gave us a bit of static for taking the shelf apart before he got there (he was ten minutes late, and the shelf would have to be taken apart even if it wasn’t we who took it– he was an asshole); we pacified him with a cool $20, crammed shelf into car in such a way that required I sit half on the shelf and shoved into the smallest corner of the backseat (seriously, it wasn’t terribly uncomfortable, but there was a moment when I wondered if I might not be able to get out again); we took shelf up to apartment, re-assembled, oriented, and Gentleman Caller happily spent the evening organizing his books while I drank beer and watched 30 Rock.

Now, our house feels like a home.  There are no more boxes of things strewn about, impressive titles are on display, and there was room enough on the new shelf for assorted knick-knacks!

apt 015

To look at that picture, you’d think we have no books–but that’s how big the shelf is!  Room to grow!

filthy_bannerA couple weeks ago, Jewish Friend and I had a lovely lunch downtown. I walked to her work, and we got an overpriced sandwich made by farmers and cheesemongers, then walked back. It was on the walk back that I man in a black SUV slowed his car down, rolled down the window, yelled “Hey, can you help me with this?”, and when we looked, waggled his penis at us. It may have been a fake penis as it was semi-turgid, but I’m not a good judge of that because penises out of context always look fake to me.

Jewish Friend immediately called the police with a report of harassment and a description of the vehicle with plate number, the driver, and which direction he was headed. The police seemed baffled that we had so much information, but Jewish Friend explained, “He was practically stopped, he wanted us to see it.”

About a week later, I was going for a run with Joe Roch and we saw two people having sex in the park a couple hundred yards away from a play area full of children. It was one of those situations where at first you’re like: “Is that that man’s ass? Is he humping a pillow? Is there a person under there? Oh my god, is that two people having sex? Did he just snap off a condom?!?”

We went for a three mile run, and when we came back, the people were still there sitting under the sex tree, the woman looking decidedly out of it. So Joe called the police, told them there were people having sex in the park then quickly changed shirt and glasses so we could watch inconspicuously and see what happened. The police talked to the couple for a long while, and then ended up talking the woman away, while the man left on his own.

The thing that I wonder—two things, really—Is it the heat or something? Why is there so much unwanted and inappropriate sexual innuendo in my life right now? Also, if you’re the police, what in the world do you say to two people who you just got a report of having sex in the park? For that matter, what do you say when you pull over a black SUV with Massachusetts plate #33VF80 on suspicion that the driver waggled his penis at two well-dressed young ladies? Is that something you learn in the police academy, or purely instinctual?

Because things happen in threes (except elebrity deaths these days), I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I’m going to be constantly on edge, waiting for someone to find a way to be naked, nearly naked, or sexually inappropriate within my eyeline.  I’m not a prude, I just don’t understand it and prefer not to think about it, but when it’s waggling at you, you can’t help but think of it.

lab rat_bannerNote: This blog is unedited for authenticity’s sake

I had a friend, when I was an undergrad, who made his living doing scientific studies.  There was an institution in town that tested name-brand medications versus prescription, and they were always looking for willing volunteers.  He made a lot of money doing this, and was apparently beloved since I moved into his apartment after he moved and fielded call after call from the place until I finally said that he had moved to California and I wasn’t sure if he’d be back.  The woman I told this to sounded devastated.

Aldous Huxley has an extra essay following his work The Doors of Perception, where he takes a lot of mescaline and stares into a strobe light.  Apparently, the reason that strobe lights give a lot of people seizures, is because you can still see colors even if you look at one with your eyes closed.  He was trying to determine what decides the colors, and the effect of mood-altering drugs on that.

I also tried to do the medical experiments that my friend made a living at, but my vegetarianism, and the fact that my veins are so small and ladylike I can barely fill a vial made me an unsuitable candidate.  What I can do is get drunk for science.  I’m currently testing a medical device that reads blood alcohol level through the skin.  For this, I must get drunk at 9am after having fasted since midnight the night before.  I drank a horrifying concoction of cranberry juice and some super alcohol, the level of which was determined by my height, weight, and waist size; and now I am drunk, in an exam room, at 10:18am.

It’s bizarre, but that goes without saying.

After this, I had to record every single bit of alcohol that passes my lips and hand that in after seven days.  While I do not necessarily agree with the implications of what this device may be used for, I am happy to help.  It’s just very bizarre to get drunk in the morning, after dinking something that I would never happily consume, and then have to hang out in a 6×12 room with a broken clock on the wall for seven hours.

They come in to take breathalyzer readings every ten minutes, and I can’t leave until I’ve been at 0.00 for one hour—I’m currently at .086.

I have to say, as freaked out as I am about my career goals and financial future—I’m rather enjoying this summer.  I don’t love that I have to hustle for every dollar, but I do like coming up with schemes.  I feel like it keeps me more creative.  I’m currently doing things I never thought I’d do, and feeling a bit more like a writer again for the first time in a long time.

My worry was that in my underemployment, I’d lack for wacky adventures to write about, and I feel I have a bit, but I’m starting to find some, and getting a feel for the adventure.

10:30—breathalyzer .0802, going down, and I’m fascinated by how pretty the undersides of my shoes are.  This room is where people come expecting to spend 6-8 hours, and all they have is a small stack of magazines (People January 19, 2009, Redbook August, 2008 etc.), and 10 VHS tapes with hand-written labels—A Chorus Line, A New Life, except for Dying Young (starring Julia Roberts and Campbell Scott—not exactly the most appropriate movie for a hospital, I feel).

11:00—I’m dropping fast.  I’m already at .0643, which is kind of cool.  I used to talk with friends about how interesting it would be to drink and then take continuous breathalyzers just to see how if feels to become increasingly intoxicated.  Now I’m kind of doing it in reverse.

11:45—I actually get take-out for lunch instead of the cold cafeteria sandwich I was expecting.  I will be having a cheese sandwich, coke, and salad. My back hurts.

11:53– .044

12:55– .028 There’s a rather large spider in the room making the rounds.  It was initially on the table with the TV and magazines, now it’s been lapping the floor since morning. I probably won’t kill it, but it’s funny to find a pest in a hospital.  I’ve moved from the exam table to the chair, which is significantly more comfortable.  I wonder what other people in this same study are like when they get drunk.  I was asked a lot of questions about whether I get violent, but not much else.  Do some people just fall asleep, do they get really chatty?  Do they get do into watching A Chorus Line that they get annoyed with the breathalyzers every ten minutes?

2:13—0.00

gege-locks_bannerWhen I was going to school in England, there was a janitor in our dorm building who we nicknamed Squirrely Dude.  He was nice enough, but I think legitimately simple, and always seemed terrified when we came upon him doing his job.  He also had the incredibly annoying habit of coming around for our garbage cans first thing in the morning when we were either sleeping off hangovers, or frantically jamming on clothes to try to get to class on time.

He would do what I call the “dad knock,” where the person knocks two sharp raps in quick succession, then opens the door before a person inside would even have a chance to say “Don’t come in!” or, more likely, “I’m not dressed!”  Squirrely Dude  would put his key in first (wrong!), rap twice, then fling open the door.

We girls discussed this at length, realizing that it was only a matter of time before he saw one of us in a state of undress.  My friend, Cricker (who is freakishly sensible when it comes to some things), said that she had started keeping her garbage can out in the hallway the day before he came around.  That way he got his garbage, and she was left alone.  This was an incredibly logical and obvious solution to a problem, so we all adopted this philosophy and relaxed.

The new apartment (well, 100+years old, but new to me!) that Gentleman Caller and I now live in has no locks on the TWO bathroom doors.  We’ve already discussed at length options for dealing with this problem–always turn on the fan when you’re in the bathroom, and then if the door is closed, listen for the fan before attempting the door, was my suggestion.  We quickly discovered that that is not enough of a solution, so I’ve been knocking as well.

Problem is, I’ve started doing the dad knock now–assuming that there is no one in there and giving it two sharp raps.  As soon as I realized that that is the logic behind the dad knock, my mind was a bit blown.  I’m still getting over it.

Even if we get little hook locks, that seems like a lot of work and we’ll probably only remember to undo the one on the door used to exit; the fan trick doesn’t work because we (probably mostly me) leave it running after showering and then forget about it; and the knocking makes me feel stupid because if I heard a knock while I was in there, I probably would spend too much time thinking about what to say and the knock would be wasted.

Back in England it only took two weeks after we had the discussion about putting our garbage cans in the hallway on trash day before I forgot to set mine out.  I was frantically trying to jam on some clothes when I heard the tell-tale knock, and though my torso was covered, I was pantsless.  Knowing Squirrely Dude’s system, I had just enough time to sit down on the bed, and as he entered the room, pull a blanket over my legs.

He saw me and visibly started.  I gave him what I can only imagine is the dirtiest look I’m capable of.  After a pregnant pause where we just gaped at each other, he managed to stammer out, “Rubbish?”

I didn’t like it when that happened, even though my friends found it hilarious, and I’m certainly not looking to repeat it.  I know the solution is quite simple, but for some reason, I just can’t see it.  Until that time, I will live in fear.

I have now moved into a lovely new apartment, with a hypervigilant landlady, in a fancyish neighborhood–at least it’s fancy adjacent.  All is right with the world… except.

I’ve mentioned before that for some reason people kept dumping things on the sidewalk of my old apartment. Mattresses, couches, shelves– all manner of random hodgepodge came to my sidewalk to die, and I still don’t understand why.  Since moving and reassessing, I’ve wondered what I might do with some of these larger items should I decide I don’t need them.  I’ve decided that I will simply take them back to my old sidewalk and dump them there– since everyone else is doing it.  Maybe all the former tenants of that building get rid of a lot of furniture, and are too cheap to have it hauled away properly.

This is all speculation.

Right before I left, it got particularly bad.  Without fail, I would wake up Tuesday or Wednesday and find something on the sidewalk.  Usually it was a couch or loveseat– my favorite was the two mattress/box spring pile that the neighborhood kids quickly discovered was fun to jump on.  All of their precious antics left the three items strewn across the end of my driveway so I had to do the awkward push with foot/try not to touch because who knows how dirty these mattresses are maneuver.  I’m not that much of a germaphobe usually, but people have sex on mattresses.

I started taking pictures each week because I almost couldn’t believe it myself.

misc2 110

Couch #1 appears to be in good shape, but there’s a major tear in the seat cover.misc2 111Couch #2 was made of some kind of pleather.

misc2 112Couch #2 had friends visit.  These were not the mattresses the kids jumped on and scattered, I wasn’t taking pictures at that point, these are different ones.

After this, I misplaced my camera in all the packing hullabaloo.  Now I have found it again, and taken this picture:

misc2This is the view from my office in my new apartment.  I’m starting to feel like it wasn’t the curb at all, but was me the whole time.

work_life_bannerEven though I have never had a full-time job in my nearly (gulp) thirty years of life, I’ve always kept my part-time jobs for an inordinately long time.  My first job not answering phones for my father or baby-sitting, was Dairy Queen when I was fifteen.  I kept that job for a full year, and picked up another one on top of it just to break the monotony of making Blizzards.  That next job– Bjornson Oil– I stayed at for four years.

After setting that precedent, I kept my two main jobs– TV station and Barnes & Noble for five years each, and interspersed those with other more minor gigs, most of which I worked at for at least two years.  Basically, except for a two week stint as a hotel housekeeper when I was 21, I had never had a job for less than a year that wasn’t a temp job–ever.

Then I moved to Rhode Island.

I was thinking about this yesterday, as I updated my employment section on Facebook.  I’m very meticulous when it comes to that section, for some reason, and feel great annoyance with people who aren’t the same about theirs.  Those people probably only have one job, and have had it for years, where I update mine every three months or so.

Since moving here I have worked at three libraries–two public, one private; done a year as a URI Graduate Assistant; was hired as an adjunct professor, and then got cut along with the budget;  and I am now a magazine editor.  That doesn’t sound like a ton of jobs– 6 in total–but I haven’t even lived here two years. That’s a lot of paperwork.

I sat down with a friend who works in public radio a while ago, and we talked about my many jobs for a piece she’s working on.

“Why do you think it is that you’ve never had a full-time job?” she asked.

I sat there for a full minute before admitting that I really have no idea, but that I’ve never really known what I want to do, therefore, never wanted to commit to something full-time that I was half-hearted about.  Also, doing something FULL-TIME always sounded so time-consuming and dull, so much like my parents.

Now, I would really like a full-time job, but no one is offering me one– bittersweet irony.

What I really don’t know is whether or not it makes me look bad for never having had a full-time job, or if all the part-time work I’ve done makes me more well-rounded.  Even though I have all these degrees, whenever someone says something like “professional job interview,” I get very sqeamish and feel like a dirty-faced kid again.  Professional just doesn’t sound like me.  Perhaps if I got a suit and wore it around the house…