December 30, 2010

Everybody Put Your Best Suit or Dress On

New Year's Eve sucks as a holiday once you're past the age of eight. Some may disagree. A holiday about drinking and kissing and staying up late—what could be better? Just about anything. Too much pressure! Because you have to kiss and you have to stay up late. Plus it's cold out. Plus there are no costumes or presents. Plus the success or failure of this night is seen as a positive or negative forecast for the entire upcoming year. Pressure pressure pressure pressure!

Those pre-eight years, those are the good ones. You max out on sparkling grape juice and snacks well before midnight, pass out on the couch, and get carried to your room by someone who loves you. Really, aren't most of our adult New Year's celebrations just attempts to emulate that situation? Drink, pass out, get carried home. It's a creepy fun-house mirror version that's achievable as an adult, of course.

I'm too lazy for New Years Eve. I can't be bothered to wear heals and a dress in the freezing, snowy cold. I  don't want to party. I don't even want to leave the house. I'd like to read and listen to music and maybe bake some cookies. But for some reason, quietly ringing in the new year alone at home, content and warm, seems like the most pitiful thing you could do. If Christmas is a holiday about goodwill towards man, New Years Eve is a popularity contest spurred on by misanthropy.

That said, I'm really hopeful about this year's plans.

December 24, 2010

The Phone May Be the Only Smart Thing in The Room

"Let's go over there, get one of those guys in a headlock, and punch him until he tells us the truth!"

The most stressful part of this holiday season has been trying to obtain new cell phones. Our family plan expired, which means we can all get new phones for free, just so long as you understand "free" to mean "in exchange for some money, your sanity, and maybe your soul."

I am ready to firebomb AT&T. The thing is, these phones, they're all very complex. They have a jillion features, most of which I don't care about. All of them are either super-chunky because they have full qwerty keypads tucked inside them, or they are pieces of lightweight plastic junk that I couldn't differentiate from Mattel toys. I suspect most of them are devised solely to make me feel like a loser for not having friends to simultaneously text, email, and im. No wonder people get iphones. It's so easy. I want that popular thingy! I can have apps instead of friends! I will shoot angry birds instead of sending texts! And I don't have to compare features! I'm just getting an iphone because iphones are cool!

I can't even consider an iphone. I just bought an ipod touch, and having both would make me look idiotic.

Unbelievably, the phones are the easiest part of the process. The plans are the real killer. I am an adult. Should I get my own plan, or should I stay on the cheeper family plan and pay my dad each month? How much cheeper is it? When it says $30 data plan, is that per phone or per plan? Is the $25 fee for a smartphone per phone or per plan? Is that fee on top of the data package fee? How much is 2GB in terms of actual usage? Do I need more? Less? What does 3G mean? What is the difference between the 3G network and the internet? What happens internationally? Can I use my phone? Will I get charged a billion dollars because it connects to the internet? If I leave the country for an extended period of time, can I put my plan on hold? Can I cancel the data plan? Is the data plan required if I get a 3G phone? And what exactly does 3G mean again? What if I don't sign up for a data plan but then accidentally access the internet? How much just to hit someone here in the face?

Every time we ask any of these questions, we get different answers. Every. Single. Time. That's what led to my dad yelling the quote at the top of this entry. We've been to AT&T twice, Radio Shack twice, the AT&T website a dozen times, and we've watched countless youtube and cnet videos reviewing phones. At this point, we're almost guaranteed to hate whatever we get. But we're all still very excited. Next to the phones we've been looking at, the four-year-old phones we have look like shiny rocks.

December 20, 2010

Narnia: Where wanting to be pretty warrants a personal chiding from Jesus.

Dear Smirking AMC Ticket-seller,

I realize there may be no sadder sentence to utter on a Saturday night than "Voyage of the Dawn Treader for one."  As it happens, I was meeting people who were already inside the theater. So take that. And you know what else? My purse was stuffed full of cupcakes. Delicious contraband. Yeah.

I think I've made my point.

Yours respectfully,
Katie Jane

December 16, 2010

You Look So Precious With Your Bloody Nose

Yesterday was the one-month anniversary of my friend The Rake's 26th birthday. For my birthday, he very thoughtfully sent me a hand-made stamp of a t-rex walking over my full name. Since he likes his birthday to be celebrated in a very public way (one year going so far as to set up a blog exclusively about his birthday), I thought I would honor him by quoting six of my favorite passages from his blog. Twenty-six would just be ridiculous.

"Once I hit my stride, [blog posts] should get progressively shorter, until you start seeing entries like 'Went to London, knighted by Queen. Sat next to guy I thought was Pete Townshend on train. Won't get fooled again.'"

"I've thought up some ideas for the inscription on my memorial in Westminster. I don't need a tomb. That would just be arrogant. All I want is a floor tile big enough to stick my ashes under. I think the inscription will either be 'He had a nice lunch' or 'Wish you were here'. Or 'Please jump on me'."

"Cathedrals do what they're designed to do. I couldn't keep my eyes off the stained-glass window depicting Jesus' crucifiction. When I did manage to look away, I invariably craned my neck to look at the enormous vaulted ceiling. It dwarfed the few hundred parishioners inside. The stone columns were magnificent, if the whole structure was a bit foreboding. Small wonder medieval people feared God. He's not home right now, but if this is his house, you know he must be huge."

"What do other people think about in church? .... Do other people actually contemplate the mysteries of God and the promise of eternal life, or do they just compile mental shopping lists? '...and give us this day our daily-- That reminds me, I need to pick up a loaf on the way home. Otherwise I can't make sandwiches for Katie's lunch tomorrow. And we're out of ham-- and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.'"

"I wanted my program back. I darted across the street after it. Sensing that I was closing in, it attempted to duck down a side street, but it was stopped by the shoulder of a surprised tourist. Defeated, it fell to the base of another rubbish bin, where I stamped a foot on it and thrust it into my pack. (Don't you even think about running off like that again, young man.)"

"The new editor isn't as passionate as the editor during my entire year and a half at the paper. I don't hold that against him. Who could have [the latter's] energy and dedication? The man could talk a herd (pack? group?) of zebras into an alligator-infested stream, then persuade the alligators not to bite. [The former] would be standing on the opposite shore yelling at the zebras to hurry."

Me and the Rake, 2006. 
Moments after that picture was taken, he broke his own nose. Anyway, Happy Birthday!

December 15, 2010

Santa Paws

There are always some tragic misestimations made at Christmas time, most economic or gastronomic in nature. One year my family made an entirely different kind of mistake. The local animal shelter was holding a fundraiser—bring your pet in to sit on Santa's lap and get a family plus pet plus Santa photo taken. Most people brought dogs, a few brought birds or hamsters. My family brought two cats. Snowflake was cunning, feisty, and always looking for opportunities to escape. Mouse was a sad mess, terrified of everything, especially male strangers with beards. It would be impossible now to guess why my family thought participation in Santa Paws was a good idea. Nevertheless, we brushed the cats, wrestled them into their cat-taxis, and drove them to a building where they'd previously been brought only to get shots. Merry Christmas, cats. 

Both cats meowed miserably until we walked into the waiting room full of dogs dressed in tartan sweaters, reindeer antlers, etc. Then the cats cowered silently in their cages until it was their turn with Santa. When our family's name was called, we went into a small room decorated with fake trees and sparkly white felt draped around the floor to look like snow drifts. We opened the cats' cages and pulled them out. They wriggled with all of their strength as we brought them towards Santa. Santa remained non-plused throughout this process, counting, it would seem, on some innate cat-charming ability he thought he possessed. He thought wrong. As soon as we handed over Snowflake, she clawed her way up his body and face, leapt over the back of his chair, and scampered beneath a fake tree. As Santa screamed in agony, Mouse went berserk. She wriggled free and raced to the door, looking desperately for a way out. Someone must have decided to come see what the commotion was about, because the door opened and Mouse shot out of the room. Unfortunately, the only place for her to go was the waiting room full of dogs. I found her frozen in the middle of the room. Angry owners whose dogs had gone crazy when a cat ran into the room yelled as I scooped her up and brought her back to Santa's room. 

In the meantime, one of my parents had chased Snowflake out from behind the fake tree and she had been captured. The photo that was taken that day betrays more truth than most of us like to see at Christmastime. Both cats' ears are back, their eyes wide, as they're clutched by my sister and myself. Santa appears quite miserable, no doubt questioning his life choices. Ho ho ho. 

December 8, 2010

Fun-loving Easy-going Make Believe Time

One of my new favorite games is what I call "Fun-loving easy-going make believe time." This is where I tell people that everything is cool. They can come over whenever. Hang out. Eat all the food in my house. Play the Wii. Call me back, don't call me back–whatever.

Most of the time, "Fun-loving easy-going make believe time" and reality are one and the same. People are genuinely welcome to hang out at my house whenever. They can eat whatever they want. They can play the Wii. They can soak up creature comforts and saturate themselves in my consumer goods.

But about 5% of the time I take a trip into crazytown. I don't know it's happening, of course. I don't realize what's going on until I find myself pondering the proper way to explain to my sister that she used the cookie spatula as an egg spatula. (See, the cookie spatula has a nice crisp edge. It has never been used for a non-dessert food. It isn't burned or melted, and it does a fabulous job shooting between fresh baked cookies and broiling hot pans.) I think about when I can get a new cookie spatula since the current one has been compromised. I plan how this scenario could be avoided in the future. I will color code the spatulas and maybe have an orientation when people stay with me. Then I realize there is no proper way to explain to my sister that she used the wrong spatula. Every single scenario makes me sound nutso and not a little obsessive/compulsive.  Because honestly, who has a spatula only for cookies and can't handle it being used once for scrambled eggs? Crazy people, that's who.

This is where "Fun-loving easy-going make believe time" comes in. Now that I know I'm totally insane, I can take a deep breath and pretend that everything is a-okay. I scrap my orientation notes, stop myself from waking up my sister to talk to her about the spatula problem, and go back to thinking of myself as fun-loving and easy-going. I'm the kind of person who doesn't even know where she keeps her spatula! LOL!

The effectiveness of this game is almost alarming. I forget what a spatula is. I forget I was upset about anything. And when I remember, I'll be calm, cool, and collected. Though I'll probably still have to buy a new spatula.

December 6, 2010


[Gone for Good – The Shins; The Sweets – Yeah Yeah Yeahs; Moan – Cute is What We Aim For; On Call – Kings of Leon; Endlessly – Muse; You’re a Wolf – Sea Wolf; Reunion – Stars; The Bagman’s Gambit – The Decemberists]

On a crisp fall day last year, I opened the door of my former residence (Moathouse, so christened because a narrow moat ran along the front of the patio) midday to find a surprised opossum tottering along. Rather than playing dead, it tried to scurry quickly into the woods adjacent to the house. Unfortunately, top speed for a possum is still agonizingly slow. Had I wished to, I could easily have caught up to it and punted it into the forest. I didn’t. I just watched it go. In its haste to escape, it accidentally toppled sideways into the moat. Embarrassing.

The biggest problem with being a opossum seems to be that all you have available to convey your chubby, inflexible body from place to place are stubby little legs. Also, their eyes might as well be marbles.

The bottom of the dumpster outside my new apartment building has rusted through. There is a hole approximately 1 foot in diameter. Opossums and raccoons are grateful. They throw yogurt tops, used Kleenexes, scraps of paper, and torn plastic bags around in jubilation.

The facilities department occasionally sets traps to catch them (wouldn’t dream of replacing the dumpster). I never see raccoons in the traps. Always opossums. Slow, slow opossums.

As of yet, the traps have not managed to stem the tide of visitors to the garbage buffet.

These opossums, they are an argument against survival of the fittest. Despite their clumsy, awkward lumbering, the surrounding wood hosts a hydra-head worth of the furry creatures.

I like them. I’m going to start feeding them apples.

Moathouse in winter. 

December 1, 2010

Model Employee

When I was quite little, my family took a trip to Disneyworld. At the end of a very long day that had included upwards of 17 go-rounds on the Peter Pan ride, my exhausted family was slumped in the line to catch a monorail (fastest ride at Disney) back to our car. As we stood huddled with a mass of strangers, kept away from the rail by a guard (doing his best impression of his Buckingham Palace brothers) and a velvet rope, a giant–I mean GIANT–cockroach crawled out of a crack in the pavement. It terrorized the crowd (scariest ride at Disney) by parading back and forth in front of us, pausing occasionally, and being an insect. People were gasping. Babies were crying. And then, out of nowhere, a solitary foot struck out and smashed it flat.

I don't know who that monorail guard was, but I know if I met him today, there isn't much I wouldn't be willing to do for him.