October 20, 2011

Jack-o-lantern

Conversation with my father:

Me: When we go out on Saturday, can we stop and get some pumpkins for my halloween party?
Dad: Sure. I bet if we drive around residential areas, we can find some that are already carved.

October 19, 2011

Stick

A coworker was loitering in my office on the far side of the partition in front of my desk. A woman walked in and asked if we were meeting. He told her we were not. She babbled a request and then bustled off.

Coworker, in an aside after she left: Isn't it obvious we're not meeting? I mean, there's a partition between us. What—are we supposed to just hand a talking stick back and forth? Oh God—I can't imagine giving you a talking stick. Who knows what you'd do with it.

September 15, 2011

I Have a Dream

I have heard this speech oh so many times.

This is a speech my dad gives anytime he, my sister, and I are in a restaurant. It generally happens immediately after one of the following (or possibly several in conjunction):

–Someone shoots a straw wrapper across the table.
–I knock over a beverage.
–My sister snorts milk out her nose.
–Food is mindlessly shoved around a plate until it spills onto the table or splashes onto clothing.
–Jams/sugar packets are stacked up before tumbling down all over the table.
–Little triangular paper footballs are accidentally flicked into an adjacent booth.
–There is excessively loud shrieking/laughing.

The speech goes something like this...

"Girls, girls, girls. [Lots of disheartened head-shaking here.] When you were little, and we were out at a family dinner, and one of you would end the evening jumping up and down on the booth, dancing with your dress lifted above your head, I would daydream of the day we could go out for a nice dinner, and there would be no ugly incidents. Just a pleasant, non-embarrasing meal. It's been decades. I am still waiting for that dinner."

Often, this speech is greeted with a loud belch.

While the three of us were in Germany this summer, my sister pointed out that such a dinner had actually happened at one point. This did not satisfy my father.

"It's a perennial dream."

July 21, 2011

Lessons I Can't Learn

Today ended with me padding down a hallway in my office building barefoot, looking for my boss and carrying a copy of a Harry Potter movie on blu-ray. I was yanking unhappily at my dress (dress: slang for hot little sack of torture) and contemplating the lack of self knowledge that had led me to this moment. Which led me, in turn, to contemplate some lessons that, no matter how many times I "learn" them, I don't really seem to learn them.

Number 1: I like to write.
Sometimes, life gets busy. And by "life gets busy," I mean sometimes I feel compelled to come home from work, put on sweatpants, open a giant bag of Red Vines, and work my way through 18+ episodes of 3rd Rock From the Sun. Then I go to bed feeling tired but vaguely unsatisfied. If, instead, I come home and put on a record and do a little writing, when it's time to go to sleep, I feel good. Note: In either case, I am likely to wear sweatpants and eat Red Vines.

Number 2: I like to read.
The fact that I like to read isn't something I forget. It's more like something I overlook. I get into habits where I'm writing and drawing (or lounging and watching) and I don't pick up a book for a while. Then I crack one open and I just want to stop everyone I see and be like "HEY! Do you know about books!? BOOKS ARE AWESOME! You can read them! Stuff happens! It might restore your faith in humanity or it might just keep you guessing about why Daisy is obsessed with this Gatsby guy's shirts but either way—you win!"

Number 3: High heels suck. A lot.
Some days I wake up and think, "I will be a professional today!" I wear a suit or at least a jacket and a pair of heels and leave the house feeling like a million bucks. By the end of the day, I'm in a professional nose dive as I run around barefoot and daydreaming about amputating my pinky toes.

Number 4: I hate hot weather.
Because I insist on living in an area that is entirely Too Hot for my liking (and for stupid reasons, too, like proximity to family and a job), each spring I play the same game where I delude myself into thinking I have gotten over my hatred of hot weather. "Is it 90 today? I hadn't noticed. It's not so bad honestly. So childish of me to think this was intolerable." And it's all very well to say that as I sit on my bed in my air-conditioned apartment checking weather.com. But three minutes walking outside and I'm ready to kill someone, usually the designer of whatever clothing I might be wearing. "GD Banana Republic! Who makes a strapless wool dress? What were they thinking? I am in merino hell!"

Tomorrow I'm wearing flip flops and a toga and canceling my Netflix account.

July 18, 2011

Days 3 and 4 – Anne of Green Gables and the Haunted Mansion

If you are a young woman living on Prince Edward Island, you better resign yourself to the fact that, at some point, you're going to have to don a green jumper and some fake braids if you want a job.

We visited L.M. Montgomery's birthplace, the site of her childhood home, and the house she based Green Gables on. We also walked through the Haunted Woods and down Lover's Lane and visited the Anne of Green Gables Chocolate store (the most profitable if not the most authentic, surely). Everywhere we went, girls in braids. Also, straw hats with braids attached for sale to those looking to fit in.

We also went to a local haunted mansion. This was sort of a nod to my not-present sister's interest in all things creepy. Too bad my mom and I are big babies. We got through two rooms before my mom pulled a small flashlight out of her purse. A lot of the house was hokey, but there was a bottomless pit and a spinning vortex at the end. Also, inexplicably, there was a tilt-a-whirl in the yard that we were allowed to ride once.

Really the only thing missing was a zombiefied Anne inside the haunted mansion. I might suggest it.

July 11, 2011

Day 2 – Everyone Is Nice

[Dots On Maps–Say Hi; Y Control–Yeah Yeah Yeahs; Sit Down By the Fire–The Veils; The Stars Came Out Once the Lights Went Out–The Veils]

The stench of death is on my hands.

I ate a lobster tonight. It was good. It was creepy. I've washed my hands four times and they still smell lobstery.

We went to a Royal Canadian Legion lobster dinner, part of Summerside's "Lobster Carnival," where we were served by rotary club members. It was really quite wonderful. Two old men showed me how to get every little bit of edible meat out of a lobster. Their methods included doing things I wasn't willing to do, due to aggressive 8th grade dissection flashbacks, but it was all very informative. I have mixed feeling on devouring every speck of a lobster. On one hand, if you're going to kill the thing, you shouldn't let it go to waste. But then, on the other hand, no one wants to think about someone breaking open every part of their body after they're dead, right? I mean, wars have been fought over stuff like that. Bodies have been ransomed for small fortunes to avoid stuff like that.

Right now, I'm thinking this was my first and last lobster.


Other things that happened today:

–The b&b called and apologized profusely for the mix-up last night. They upgraded us to their suite for the duration of our stay.

–As I played music in the car, my mom said "I like your music. Is that the Blueberries? Wait. Cranberries." (It was not.)

–People at neighboring tables at the lobster dinner cheerfully inquired as to where we were from, how we were liking PEI, etc. They made recommendations, talked about their own origins, and spoke warmly about life on the island.

–We visited the downtown seaside boardwalk in Summerside. We missed the lobster trap competitions, but we caught the end of the live music.

–Every single shop we went into had a friendly, helpful owner. 

Everyone here is NICE! They are all nice! And genuine. Not just helpful and friendly, but happy. I love it. Surprisingly.

Tomorrow is Anne of Green Gables bonanza. 

Day 1 – Bourgeois Bus

I had everything in order the afternoon before last. My laundry was done. My fish was at a friend's home. My plants were well-watered. I had a comprehensive packing list. All I had to do was pack.

Packing is hard for me. Yesterday was no exception. Somehow it took me from 5 in the afternoon until 3 in the morning to get a few measly possessions into a suitcase. I still can't tell if the 15 episodes of 30 Rock helped or hurt. When I finished packing at 3am, I was so glad to be done that I was too jubilant to go right to sleep. I checked Twitter. I read email. I listened to clips of the 10 most popular songs on iTunes. I finally passed out around 3:45am. My ride to the airport called me at 6:11am to let me know she was outside waiting. I threw on my clothes and ran out of the house with my bags.


I flew from Saint Louis to Chicago (where I met up with my mom), Chicago to Toronto, and then Toronto to Halifax. We arrived in Halifax just after 7pm and rented a car to drive to Prince Edward Island. It's a three hour drive. ("A three hour tour, a three hour tour.")

There are two options for getting from Nova Scotia to PEI—the Caribou Ferry and the Confederation Bridge. Both are a little over an hour from the airport. Both are free on the way over and costly on the way back. They are located on opposite ends of the northern Nova Scotia coast. We decided to go for the ferry. More interesting. More relaxing.

We sped down the highway in our little rented Kia Soul. We pulled up to the ferry launch just in time to see the last ferry of the day floating away, already 20 meters off the shore. We had no choice but to turn around and head for the bridge. We typed our destination into the gps and set off.

50 minutes later, the sun had set and we were in the middle of nowhere. We were on the Unintentional Nighttime Wildlife Tour of Nova Scotia (which included a black bear with cub, a fox, a cat, a skunk, and somethign unidentifiable), or possibly participating in the Travel On As Many Uneven Dirt Roads As You Can Without Breaking An Axle competition.

Each new direction from the GPS seemed like it must be the one that would take us to a highway, or at least a paved road. No dice. We spent another hour and a half meandering the Nova Scotian wilderness.

Finally—FINALLY—we made it to the bridge. We got to Prince Edward Island and found our bed & breakfast. Which was locked. And completely dark. We called the number. Answering machine. We called the second number. Answering machine. We knocked. We walked around the building. We rang the bell. We waited. We called again. We rang the bell again. Nothing. No light. No movement. By now it was nearly 1am.

What to do? Sleep in the car? Mother was pretty opposed to that. She wanted to go to Charlottetown, the only city on Prince Edward Island that's sizable. Unfortunately, it's also 50 minutes from our b&b. I was not up for another hour (at least) of driving. I looked through the sleeping options on the gps until I came to a hotel and conference center 8 miles away. The presence of a conference center sounded unlikely, but we called the number and, sure enough, they were open. The clerk also knocked $30 off the price because it was so late (and maybe also because he could hear the overwhelming exhaustion and burgeoning desperation in my mother's voice).

We set out. The gps attempted to take us on a gravel road running parallel to the paved road we were on. We ignored it. When we got to the hotel, it had a completely different name than came up on the gps, but apparently the clerk had informed my mother of this. (If this clerk campaigned for "Nicest Person in an Already Nice Country," I'd vote for him hands down.)

This was parked outside our hotel:


By now I was completely slap happy. I told my mother that maybe this would all work out because we'd meet somebody famous. "Like that Amish girl?" she queried, gesturing to the bus. I just laughed and laughed and got out my camera. When we got inside, there was a packet on the front counter with dates and times for the local festival, apparently going on this week—Lobster Carnival! "Bring your camera and take a photo of yourself in our giant lobster trap!" the sheet crowed. There are tons of events. Later today there's an Anne of Green Gables musical. At this very moment, I'm missing the dog agility show. And the only thing that costs anything seems to be the mini-concert presented by the College of Piping.

We thanked the clerk and headed for the elevator. The buttons looked like this:



This almost defeated me. Did I want to go left or right!?

We got up to the room and collapsed. There were two large beds and fluffy white guest robes that damn near made me cry.

Today promises to be better, if less noteworthy.

July 10, 2011

Oh! Canada!

[I Will Possess Your Heart–Death Cab for Cutie; The Engine Driver–The Decemberists; Tonight–Stars; Marching Bands of Manhattan–Death Cab for Cutie; Time is Running Out–Muse; I've Been Thinkin'–Handsome Boy Modeling School]

Security's efficient rather than officious, everyone's nice rather than surly, and wi-fi is free rather than outrageously overpriced. I am ready to move into the Toronto airport. Seriously, why isn't Canada beating people away with a stick? I guess I don't know. Maybe they are. But I kind of doubt it.

I could stand the snow and the cold and the caribou. How do I get a job here?

From here I'm going on to Prince Edward Island where supposedly everyone smiles all the time and fresh-cooked lobsters litter the streets.

Can't wait. Even though I don't eat lobster.

July 4, 2011

MC

[The Stars Came Out Once the Lights Went Out–The Veils; Brighten Up– Chutes; Flashing Red Light Means Go– The Boxer Rebellion; If You Run– The Boxer Rebellion; All the Same to Me– Anya Marina; Navajo– Black Lips; I Killed Sally's Lover (live)– The Avett Brothers; I'll Be Thinking of You– Jamie McDonald; You're a Wolf– Sea Wolf; Dots on Maps– Say Hi; California Love– 2Pac]

The small Illinois town my dad lives in began a new tradition this year. They held a talent show in the town square yesterday, in part to determine who would perform before the fireworks show tonight and in part to raise money for the fireworks show. Kitten saw a flyer for "Ottawa's Got Talent" and decided to enter to complete one of her goals for the year—performing a stand-up comedy routine.

Here's the thing about a first-year talent competition—there are still some kinks that need to be worked out. For instance, each act was given ten minutes. And there were 34 acts. If you'll be so kind as to do the math with me, you'll realize that you're looking at a five-and-a-half hour talent show. Yep.

Someone must have realized this, but rather than adjust the time allowance, they just scheduled the event to go from 2-8pm. The show was divided into age groups: 5-12, 13-17, and 18 and older. Kitten checked in at 2pm, came home and got ready, and then she, my dad, and myself returned to the park at 3:30. Number 15 had just finished, the last in the 5-12 age group. Good, we thought. Ten acts until Alice. And they went through 15 in an hour and a half, much quicker than expected. My dad fetched some lawn chairs. The weather was surprisingly pleasant. We prepared to enjoy the next hour.

Things didn't go quite as I'd envisioned in those blissful minutes just after we'd arrived. First of all, things slowed waaaay down. These teens were serious about taking the whole ten minutes. (The set was opened by three thirteen-year-old boys who performed a mash up where they danced to Usher, break danced to Chris Brown, and sang to Jusitn Bieber.) Second, there were frequent pauses and interruptions. Winners of the previous group were announced. "Split the pot" winners were called to the stage. The MC, a nice man in his mid-30s wearing a shirt that said "More Cowbell," frequently implored the crowd to go vote for their favorite acts. The judges were praised.

But the slow pace was okay. The park was full of people, there were treats for sale, and there were activities for children.

And then, half-way through the adult set, right after Kitten performed, the teen winners were announced and the crowd thinned way out. The only people left were either seriously invested in one of the adult acts or too old and tired to get up. Half an hour later, all the food vendors closed up shop and left. The activities were long-gone. The rest of the show had the perverse feel of a mother hell-bent on getting her overweight child to finish out a pee-wee soccer game despite an abject lack of talent or enthusiasm on the part of the child.

Which isn't to say that nobody was talented. Some act were great. But there was absolutely zero audience participation. Every joke told dropped dead as soon as it exited it's creator's mouth. (Kitten leaned over at one point and whispered "Ottawa's Got Narcolepsy.")

One of the final performers was a woman who sang the national anthem and then what she called her "personal anthem," a country song I didn't recognize about overcoming adversity. She peppered the vocal pauses with comment about her personal journey. I half expected her to include performing at that talent show as one of her many trials. God knows it would have been justified.

As the day wore on, the exhaustion was most evident in the behavior of the MC. When we had arrived, he was energetic. Enthusiastic. Bubbly. He bounced onto the stage as soon as each act was over. He complimented each act and introduced the next act. He made corny jokes. He was effusive in his praise.

But his energy began to flag. It took him longer and longer to make it to the stage. Most acts left the stage alone, pitifully unplugging their guitars and shuffling away as the applause died after three or four claps. (The saddest, Kitten reminds me, was an awkward teen who sang two Dashboard Confessional songs without introducing himself or the songs.)

The second to the last act was a band of 18-year-old boys who performed Nirvana's "In Bloom" and Radiohead's "Creep" while wearing goggles. (What could possibly win you the affection of your rural audience more effectively than singing to them "He's the one who likes all the pretty songs and he likes to sing along and he likes to shoot his gun but he knows not what it means"?)

When they finished, the MC ambled out in front of the stage and said "Just leave your amps, kids. We'll just...yeah." The last act, a male/female duet who called themselves "Whiskey Romance," was quite good and, in fact, won.

After they finished the MC appeared, looking haggard, and said in a completely flat and emotionless voice, "Well...we made it. Man I'm tired. Does anyone care...?" Kitten and I looked around to see most of the audience gazing back at him, glassy-eyed and open-mouthed. "I guess that's a no." He gave the audience ten minutes to cast their votes. When he appeared fifteen minutes later to announce the winners, he accidentally dropped all of his papers. They fluttered everywhere. "It doesn't matter."

What could be a better summary of the day's events?

Kitten and Dad on a sunnier day in Ottawa.

July 2, 2011

One Part Schadenfreude, Two Parts Comeuppance

You know how when a highway is being narrowed from two lanes to one lane, and there have been signs for miles, and then there are cones and signs saying It's happening now!, and at that point there are always a few yahoos that try to zoom ahead in the lane that is being closed to cut off everyone else? Those people make me CRAZY! The fact that they're doing that is what slows traffic down so badly. I'm sure of it. Rather than breaking slightly to let someone merge, someone has to come to a complete stop, wait a few seconds for the jerk to realize they're being let in, wait while they pull into the line of traffic, and then continue. And who do these people think their cutting off? Are the rest of us, who are doing the logical thing and merging in a timely fashion somehow less important!? Does our observation of understood traffic rules make us chumps who deserve to be taken advantage of? IT DOES NOT!

I'll tell you who I love—the people who get fed up with jerks who refuse to merge in a timely fashion and pull half-way into the lane about to close. Even then, there are wackos who pull onto the shoulder, sometimes even the median, to get around. Don't these crazies see that they are cutting maybe 30 seconds off their drive and making dozens of strangers hate them in the process? Terrible karma, just terrible. (I realize one could argue that the relative insignificance of the amount of time saved or lost here also means I shouldn't be concerned with this issue at all, but it's not about the time. It's about consideration for fellow human beings. It's about recognizing that you are not more important than everyone else, and that taking advantage of other people is not okay.)

ANYWAY—this is exactly what was going on as I was driving to Chicago yesterday. One guy in huge black SUV actually barreled off the road to get around someone who was intentionally blocking the lane that was closing. Traffic ahead stopped so the SUV could pull into the main line of traffic.

After the construction zone had ended, several miles down the road, there were police lights. The guy in the SUV had been pulled over! The universe is not always a random and chaotic place! There is justice! I was delighted.

June 24, 2011

Reverse Paparazzi

Kitten has this little quirk where she suddenly explodes into photos I'm trying to take. Evidence from our trip to Germany.

















I love her. 

June 18, 2011

Sleep Deprivation

[O Children-Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, I am trying to break your heart-Wilco]

The sheer number of connections necessary to make it from Saint Louis to Heidelberg is outrageous. Stl to Ottawa,IL by car. Ottawa to long term parking. Parking to the airport via monorail. Chicago to Dublin via plane. 7 hours to kill where we very nearly got in a taxi to see Dublin. Brief interlude with friends. Dublin to Frankfurt via plane. Plane to airport via tram. Airport to train station via bus. Train to Mannheim. Train from Mannheim to Heidelberg. Walk from train to hotel. And you know? That would all be okay. Except the trip, just from Chicago on, took over 24 hours during which myself and my travel companions got little to no sleep. Not so easy to navigate your way from a train station to your hotel without a map in the dark when you feel like you might be legally insane.

Nevertheless, we eventually made it to our hotel where we all tucked ourselves into little down poofs and slept like bricks.

June 7, 2011

Peanut

I've been waging a war against the squirrels.

A few months ago, my dad brought me a large bag of bird seed. I've been slowly using it to fill the bird feeder that hangs close to a railing outside my house. The distance from the bird feeder to the railing is the precise length of a squirrel from hind to fore paws, which means I've witnessed many awkward squirrels scrambling desperately to snatch sunflower seeds with their grubby little paws as the feeder swings to and fro. When I see this, I yell at the squirrels. Greedy little jerks.

Several weeks ago, as I approached my front door after work, I heard a mad scrabbling noise. When I was feet away from my apartment, a squirrel came shooting out of the bird seed bag, seeds flying from its fur as it sprang away. I rolled the bag closed tightly.

For weeks, nothing else happened.

Then I went out of town, and there was an attack. I arrived home to find the bag of bird seed savaged. A corner had been ripped off and seeds were everywhere. There was distinct evidence of squirrels having rolled in the spilled seed. I wasn't sure quite how to remedy the situation. Leave the seed until it had been completely consumed by creatures? Try to gather it and throw it into the woods? Pull out the bb gun under my bed, use the seed as a lure, and wait for the culprit to return to the scene of his crime?

That week I was either lazy or busy, so I did nothing. Well, not nothing. I yelled from my living room like a lunatic when the squirrels would show up to gather seeds; they always came in quads, like little Terry Goodkind thugs. And I cursed the sky when I would walk out in the mornings to find that birds had processed and voided the seeds right there on my doorstep.

All of this behavior culminated a week later when my sister was over. I peered out the front door and called "Hello, Peanut!"
"Is that one in particular or just all of them?" Kitten inquired.
I stared at her blankly.
"I mean, are all the squirrels called peanut now, or have you singled one out?"
"Ah. I was just greeting my neighbor's cat. Named Peanut."
She laughed and laughed. I realized I'd been acting totally bonkers.

My dad visited a couple days later and dumped the seeds in a gravelly area a few feet from my door. Those lazy squirrels never bothered to finish them. The seeds turned into a strange little patch of grass, an unpleasant reminder of my insanity.

May 28, 2011

Different Names for the Same Thing / A Cautionary Tale

I went to Boston a couple weeks ago. I booked my round-trip flight with United, but the outgoing flight was operated by Continental. The reservation information was very clear about this. The picture by the flight number was Continental's logo. The printout of the reservation said "Operated by Continental."

As it turned out, the return flight was also operated by Continental. The reservation information was not clear about this. It was a fun airport surprise. The airline logo didn't print (so lazy), and the printout said "United flight number ____." Very tiny beneath that, it said "Flight operated by Continental."

I missed it. I went to the terminal that housed United. I waited in line for a very long time to check in. (Strictly speaking, first I waited in line for a long time at the U.S. Airways counter because I was fiddling with my new headphones and not paying close attention to the signs. Then I waited in line a somewhat long time to check in at United.) And there it was, an aggressive little message on the check-in screen telling me my flight was operated by Continental.

I was in the wrong terminal. Fine. I marched up to a couple United employees who were chitchatting. When they got done pretending not to see me, I explained my predicament and asked how to get to Continental.

"Aw yeah. Just go up the escalator and wait there. If there's not a golf cart, it will come. Just wait."

The escalator led to a very small circular platform connected to a hallway that led to the parking garage. Sure enough, there was a golf cart sitting there. No driver. I frantically tried to signal the chatting employees from my little round balcony to let them know that someone had abandoned his or her post. They paid no attention. I gave up. I waited. After a couple minutes, a guy came up the escalator, pointed at me, smiled, and asked, "Continental?" I nodded. He threw my bag in the back. A guy in giant headphones who had followed the driver up the escalator climbed in without a word. We were all set, only the golf cart was facing the wrong way. After an Austin Powers-esque 23 point turn, we were on our way. Through the parking lot. Going the wrong way down a one-way ramp. Squeezing between cement posts intended to keep vehicles out of areas. Running down slow-walking airport employees. And finally, there we were at Continental.

Dear United,
Please make the operator of your flights clearer. Thanks a bunch.
Best,
Katie Jane





May 6, 2011

Big Break

Friday evening two weeks ago, a tornado hit the Saint Louis airport. It also tore down two major highways and damaged dozens of houses. Thanks for nothing, Earth Day.

Property damage was bad, though there wasn't a single fatality. But here's the thing about surprise events on Friday evenings: news stations don't have their crack reporters on duty. As I watched live coverage, there was a palpable air of "This is my big break!!" from almost every reporter. 

People who I expect will probably never make it:
-Guy in the studio, gently twirling back and forth on a desk chair, as his co-anchor gravely updated the audience on the airport closure. He gazed into the middle distance, smiling placidly as we heard about how the windows were blown out of the airport and a shuttle had landed on the roof. 
-Woman in a station research room, who began her findings with, "Christina posted on her Facebook page..."
-Fellow out in one of the areas that sustained the most damage, who frantically reported, "As you can see behind me—" here I have to pause to tell you that we could see nothing behind him, as it was nighttime and quite dark—"there has been TERRIBLE damage. Some people are calling it a a uh waarpath, some people are saying it's the worst destruction they've seen ever. I talked to some of the hostages—RESCUE WORKERS—I mean, uhhhhh..."
When he finished expounding upon the scene and the view shifted back to the studio, someone in the studio tried to ask him a question. After a while, his voice boomed out. Unfortunately, he was asking anxiously, "What's happening in my ear!?"

I suppose tragedy brings out the best in some, the craziest in others. 

April 23, 2011

Recommendation

[Hysteric – Yeah Yeah Yeahs; The Chain – Ingrid Michaelson; Rolling in the Deep – Adele]

Five years ago, I was on a plane headed to Arizona. I was in the very last row, in a window seat next to my sister. Across the isle, a handsome, dark-haired man a couple years older than me was in the window seat next to my dad. He kept looking over at me and at the book I was reading. He tried several times to strike up a conversation, but I was like, Dude, that man you’re sitting next to is my dad. Not going to happen.

My demure behavior not withstanding, he stopped me at the end of the flight as we were deplaning to ask if I’d read a book called The Shadow of the Wind. I hadn’t. “You’d really like it,” he assured me.

I take unsolicited book recommendations from strangers pretty seriously, so I bought the book the next time I was at Borders. I put it in a stack of books to read, and there it stayed for years. (Tragic, if you are familiar with the book.)

I started it once on a trip to Germany, but I was reading another book at the time that, bizarrely, began in a somewhat similar fashion. Unable to keep the two story lines straight, I stopped reading The Shadow of the Wind. This spring, I picked it up again. This time, I became enraptured.

I can’t think of the last book I liked so well, one that not only deeply resonated with me, but was extremely satisfying and quite smart. It is charming, lovely, insightful. 

This recommendation has none of the elegance or mystery that it ought to. All the same, should you decide the read the book, you won’t be disappointed.

You’d really like it. 
  

April 21, 2011

Blag!

Kitten updates her blog daily, while I shoot for weekly. This led to TaxAnt saying recently, "I look at your blog and your sister's blog everyday....yours is a disappointment." (It was a, um, joke.)

It disappoints me when I let more than a week go by without posting anything, but SOMETIMES IT IS HARD TO BE FUNNY OR INTERESTING. Sometimes the bucket of creativity is empty. Sometimes it has been wastefully sloshed over a work project. Lately, I've been laboring to use my daily allowance of interestingness to complete final projects for my grad class—a paper on the distribution of the character of Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost to Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, and a presentation on what Milton thought about extraterrestrial life (seriously).

So today, you're getting something curtesy of one of my favorite poets. In class we discussed the final two books of Paradise Lost. This led to a discussion about whether Milton accomplishes his goal—to justify the ways of God to man. (He doesn't, and the more interesting question is, Could he have?)

Then, by delightful chance, I happened upon this four-line poem by A.E. Housman in the supplementary material in the back of my Norton edition of Paradise Lost:

       O many a peer of England brews
       Livelier liquor than the Muse,
       And malt does more than Milton can
       To justify God's ways to a man.

More proof that A.E. Housman is completely underrated.

April 6, 2011

Restraining Order

I recently read John Warner's review of Kate Atkinson's most recent book, Started Early, Took My Dog. In said review, he calls himself a, "posters-on-the-wall, commemorative-magazine-with-exclusive-trading-cards fanboy of Ms. Atkinson’s books." I then spent half an hour googling Mr. Warner in an attempt to find out if he's single. 

You see, I am a posters-on-the-wall etc etc fan of Kate Atkinson. If required to produce my most embarrassing experience ever, I'd be hard pressed to come up with something more humiliating than the time I met her (though an incident in a high school gym class would put up a good fight). She came to a local independent bookstore when her book One Good Turn came out. I went, dragging a friend. I agonized over what to wear. A formal suit? Something casual? A clever t-shirt? I settled on the suit. In hindsight, this was probably a mistake, as I think it made my craziness more of an unexpected shock. 

I read Kate Atkinson's second novel, Human Croquet, when I was a freshman in high school. It changed my life. Too dramatic? I'm sure that's what Ms. Atkinson thought when I told her. But seriously. It was the first modular book I'd ever read. It took place in England. Much of it took place in a forest. It mentioned doppelgangers. It blew my mind.

Kate Atkinson's first few works were the slow unraveling of multi-generational family history. The events were dramatic, but the writing was indifferent—an accomplishment I found fascinating. Then, in a brilliant move, Ms. Atkinson took her talent for writing slowly unfolding family mysteries and began writing novels featuring a detective as the main character.

Even now, it would be too painful to relive many of the details of my terrifically awkward interaction with her. Manic laughter. Presenting a giant pile of books to be signed. Explaining excitedly that I'm currently reading one of her books. Pulling it out of my purse to show her. Talking about how I have a marked up copy of Human Croquet at home, but I brought the British version I got off ebay for her to sign because that's the version the library provided me with when I was 14 and I like the cover better anyway.

Eventually, she started backing away from me. The same way I'm going to back away from this blog post.
  

March 27, 2011

I'm Sorry, Miss Austen

I never, ever thought this would happen to me. Ever. But today, I realized that something astounding has occurred. I have changed in a dramatic and unforeseen way.

I've outgrown Pride and Prejudice.

I know. This is shattering news. I myself am shaken to my very core. But what can be done? I saw the new version of Jane Eyre, and I thought to myself, That Mr. Rochester could beat the pants off Mr. Darcy. Next to Edward, Fitzwilliam looks like a whinny little sissy.

Okay, sure. Mr. Rochester isn't perfect. Mr. Darcy's primary fault was that he had poor social skills, a forgivable problem with which I can certainly identify (I mean, look at me, using my Sunday afternoon to write a blog post about romantic heros in classic 19th century literature and my varying levels of affection for them). Whereas Rochester is a deceitful bastard–surly, taciturn, and manipulative. Don't think my sudden affection for him doesn't alarm me (and remind me strongly of this).

Nevertheless, there it is. I thought I would share it. Go see the new version of Jane Eyre if that's your thing.

March 21, 2011

First

I decided last minute to go visit my mom in London. She purchased the ticket using frequent flyer miles and surprised me with a first class upgrade for the trip there. It seems that just about everyone I know has some experience flying first class. They've flown with a wealthy relative, or traveled for business, or been bumped up by the airline. They all get the same dreamy look in their eyes when they talk about the experience. Well, all except my sister who bemoans her decision to wear purple cut-off sweat pants.

I've never been interested in flying first class. Why would I be? I've loved my experiences in coach. I never have problems stowing my luggage, I almost always sit next to interesting people, and most importantly, I'm getting an almost identical product for 1/5 of the price, right? I mean, okay, sure, you get a bigger seat and a free toiletry kit in first class, but certainly those aren't worth thousands of dollars.

Oh God. I was so wrong. There is much more to it. The delight began when I checked in. "Hello. May I have your passport?...Oh my! What a lovely passport photo. (Lies.) But then you're a lovely girl. And where are you traveling?...Oh very good....Ok, you're all set! Would you like a jacket for your boarding pass? Now, here is your baggage claim. I've put a priority tag on your suitcase so it will be out first when you arrive in London. From here just head straight down the escalator to first class security. I don't believe there's much of a line...."

My short flight to Chicago was perfectly lovely. Then I had a five-hour layover before going on to London. I whiled away the time in the Admirals Club. I sat in a plush chair and was offered free drinks. I chatted easily on my cell phone without the near-constant interruptions of squawking announcements and golf cart sirens.

Almost as soon as I boarded the second plane, my seatmate, a large businessman flying from Texas to Turkey, began what would become a running complaint about the fact that one of his three tray tables was broken. He made frequent half-serious jokes to the flight attendant about being reimbursed for his ticket. But how can you be upset when they keep bringing round little dishes of warm nuts? (Cashews, almonds, and pistachios only—no lame nuts.) They also offered orange juice, champagne, and water beginning before the door to the airplane was even closed. (I've never understood the appeal of getting on the plane first. I should have realized it something to do with maximizing alcohol consumption.)

Proof of copious leg room. 
I flipped through the movie options. Available to travelers at a moment's notice were Burlesque, The King’s Speech, Black Swan, Harry Potter 7, True Grit, RED, Megamind, Waiting for Superman, The Social Network, Unstoppable, plus a dozen or so year-old movies and a few classics. If you don’t feel like a film, that’s okay. You can watch episodes of Mad Men or Glee or Arrested Development. Or, you can fully recline, get out your full-sized pillow and large comforter, and sleep.

Of course, anyone who knows me at all knows exactly what I selected.

The flight attendant had learned my name. “Miss ______, your dinner menu.” Dinner menu! Four entrĂ©e options. Dressing options. Dessert options. Everything came in real glasses and on real plates. There were tiny salt and pepper shakers. Of course, when there was sudden turbulence, it was no fun to see people trying to steady their glass wine glasses.

There were too many other amenities to completely enumerate. They hung my jacket in a closet, they provided me a copy of the New York Times, I received noise cancelling Bose headphones (helpful for tuning out my neighbor’s tray table complaints). Everything was endless. Would I like more water? More juice? More nuts? Did I care for another roll? Yes? Cheese, pretzel, or sourdough? I thought that business with the hot towel was made up, but they came round with those, too.

All those things were nice, but most impressive was the attitude of the flight attendant. Constant politeness. Helpful suggestions. When she noticed I had my phone out, I was shown a little drawer for personal items. When I precariously held my glass of water aloft as I attempted to pull out my second tray table so the flight attendant could throw a table cloth across in preparation for the arrival of the shrimp and fresh pineapple appetizer, what it must have cost her to smile and say kindly, “Maybe you should put your water glass down on your other tray table while you do that.” Such restraint! Such tolerance! Not even a hint of sarcasm or judgment, though I’m much mistaken if she wasn’t secretly very irritated with my stupidity.

It was lovely being treated like a human being rather than semi-fragile (but super-stupid) cargo that must be regularly fed and watered. Why don't we all treat others with such kindness? I suppose because it's difficult, right? It takes a lot of energy to be upbeat, to be thoughtful, to watch others do something that will create more work for ourselves and not get irritated.

So here's what I've taken away from the experience—I need to marry well.

March 18, 2011

Pack

I am a terrible packer. Not terrible as in I do it poorly, but terrible as in I SIMPLY CANNOT DO IT.

There are a lot of people who can attest to this fact, and none of them find it at all funny. I put on ridiculous movies. I putter around the house. I take snack breaks. I perform assorted unnecessary beauty rituals (face masks, pore strips, nail painting). My rubik's cube usually makes an appearance. But primarily, the trouble is that I allow my packing to have a James Joyce like stream of consciousness to it.

10:00pm (Enough time to pack and get a good night's sleep.)
I get out my packing list. I start semi-arbitrarily pulling out things I need to bring—small shampoo, a camera charger, earrings, high heels, chap stick. I frequently pause to look at things. Pulling out the shampoo occasions a thorough sorting of travel shampoos, conditioners, body washes, etc. The camera charger leads me to root through electronic equipment for a card reader. And so on and so forth. I frequently find myself staring slack-jawed at whatever movie I've selected to play "in the background" as I pack.

11:25pm (Still time to get a decent amount of sleep.)
I pull out my sketchpad to pack it and absent-mindedly flip through it. I find that I never finished that last sketch I was working on. I start looking for a B4 or B6 pencil. I rifle through my art drawer. I can't find either pencil. I start pulling things out of the drawer. I look in disgust at the old paints, the stiff rubber bands. I decide to clean the drawer. I take everything out. I divide items into piles based on whether they are often used, seldom used, or never used. These piles are based more on fiction than fact. When I repack the drawer, I keep the oil paints towards the front even though I haven't used them since I was in 8th grade. The Mr. Sketch markers, which I just took out to smell last month, go in the middle of the drawer. Meanwhile, The Care Bears Adventure Movie II is now blaring in the background.

12:35am (Possible to get a sufficient amount of sleep.)
When I'm done with that project, I remember what I'm supposed to be doing—finishing a sketch. I settle for an HB pencil I found and add a few lines to the drawing. I decide I need to see the photo the sketch is based on, so I go into the bedroom to look through my iPhoto pictures from Venice. I can't find the photo. I look though the pictures a second time. No dice. I go back and look at the sketch. Ah. Florence. Not Venice. I begin looking through my Florence photos. Hey. Look at that plaid shirt I'm wearing. Where is that shirt? I'd like to bring it on this trip. Pad over to the closet. Swish through button up shirts. Pull out plaid shirt. Decide to model it.

1:15am (Still possible to get some sleep.)
Now, there's a giant pile of clothes on the bed. I'm wearing army-green pants and a bright orange t-shirt I haven't worn since 2005 that says "The radio still sucks." I struggle to remember why I stopped wearing it. Oh, yes. Ran into the parent of a kid I was tutoring while grocery shopping in shirt. Take off shirt. Put on new-ish purple sweater. Realize I have no idea what weather is supposed to be like. Go over to computer. See Florence pictures and remember what I was supposed to be doing. Pull up photo of the Arno and the Ponte Vecchio. Study photo. Go back to living room and begin sketching.

1:55am (Unlikely I will feel at all rested in the morning.)
Hercules ends. Look over at clock. Screech. Throw down sketchbook. Race into bedroom. Pull out suitcase, unzip it, and flip open the top. Stare into it. Cast around the room for an item I want to take. I see my favorite book. I grab it and throw it in the suitcase. I cock my head and stare. The book takes up more space than expected. The suitcase is looking smaller now that there is an item in it. I take the book out and put in a smaller one that I like less. Much better. Stare at mound of discarded modeled clothes on bed. Start randomly grabbing things and tossing them in the suitcase. Wear myself out quickly by running around apartment. Decide to go to sleep and finish packing in morning. Set alarm for 5am and pass out on top of covers next to giant mound of clothing.

I'd love to say that it goes better in the morning, but that's not usually the case. No matter. It always works out.

March 4, 2011

Thoughts Upon an Emergent Technology

More convinced than ever this idea that cell phones can flumox plane equipment is a scam (for which I am grateful).

Flight

I am writing and publishing this post from the airspace over Colorado. I both resent and wonder at such a staggering capability. This time is for reading, not blogging! How dare the airline serve up temptation on a little piece of direction-laden cardstock prompting passengers to enjoy first-time-free inflight wifi? And yet, it is miraculous, is it not?

February 23, 2011

Two by Two, Hands of Blue

On the radio, there has been a commercial for Comcast. The gist of the commercial is "TV is good. Only jerks claim to not watch TV. They're missing out. So you spend 7 years' worth of your life watching television–so what? Before TV, people probably just stared at gravel."

I'm not sure how flagrantly dishonest something has to be before you're not allowed to air it. I'm guessing the qualifying word "probably" makes that last statement okay.

I haven't had access to live tv on a regular basis for the last 9 years. Sure, there's been the occasional house-sitting stint, the weekend stay in a hotel room. And of course there's the magic of my dad's DVR. But most of the time, no tv.

I'm not disappointed. I like not having access to regular television most of the time. This is not because I think I'm above it, but because it keeps me from putting my foot through a flatscreen when good shows are cancelled. One season of Studio 60. Half a season of Firefly. And yet a jillion seasons of The Bachelor? WHY!?

I didn't know Studio 60 or Firefly existed until well after they'd been cancelled. My frustration with their respective television networks was nothing—nothing!—to my likely reaction had I become invested in them as they were airing. It's different, watching them on dvd, knowing how many episodes are left, rationing them out.

When I visited the Rake a couple years ago, we watched episodes of the Dick Cavett Show on dvd. Some hoity-toity author was on the show saying that what he did was more valid because his books would be around forever, while Mr. Cavett's show was airing this one time and would soon be forgotten. I can't even remember his name now, and I've certainly never read any of his books.

February 11, 2011

Sing-a-long

Sometimes we all have weird reactions to normal situations, right?

When my mother acquired a piano, my statement to Kitten was: This is great! Now we can sing through Wicked together, then switch parts and do it a second time! 

I couldn't really play well enough for us to do so, but when I lived with Berry, she would regularly play through broadway songs and we would sing. She complained about her piano skills, but I was so grateful. Dream. Come. True. 

"I hope you're happy, now that you're choosing this. I hope it brings you bliss."
  

February 7, 2011

Poem

When I read The Hound of the Baskervilles in eighth grade, one of the assignments was to write a poem about the story. It must have been a burst of inter-unit fever on my teacher's part. Anyway, there were plenty of stipulations. The poem had to include alliteration, rhyme scheme, consistent meter, personification, repetition, and a clear reference to some element of the book. I was toiling over a sonnet about the moors (like the hilly and wild English terrain, not like Othello).

My dad came in, glanced at the assignment, and quipped:

Doggy doggy in the night, 
you can bark but please don't bite. 

It fulfilled all the criteria. I may have snapped my pencil in half.

February 5, 2011

Bowling

I swear the people who live above me fashioned their own ten pin lane. Rolling and crashing noises all the time.

January 22, 2011

What I Did for Love

[On Call - Kings of Leon; Let's Dance to Joy Division - The Wombats; Heartbeats - Jose Gonzalez; Oxford Comma - Vampire Weekend; Seaside - Kooks; Winter White Hymnal - Fleet Foxes; Skinny Love - Bon Iver; The Prayer - Bloc Party; Moth's Wings - Passion Pit; VCR - The XX; The Lady is a Tramp - Ella Fitzgerald; Boom - Anjulie; Darling - Zee Avi; Fly One Time - Ben Harper and the Relentless 7; Mango Tree - Angus and Julia Stone; Fitz & Dizzyspells - Andrew Bird; The Rake's Song - The Decemberists; I and Love and You - The Avett Brothers; Rox in the Box - The Decemberists; This is Why We Fight - The Decemberists]

When I went to Germany when I was 15, I made room for a discman, giant headphones, and a case of forty-eight cds, despite only having brought carry-on luggage for the 3-week trip. (I felt stupid about underpacking until Posh's checked suitcase was sent to Africa.)

When I went away to college, I brought a case of 256 cds, a case of 100 cds, a couple dozen-cd cases, and a few individual cds. Nearly 400 albums might not sound like a lot now. But then—before the itunes store and sites with free, legitimate downloads existed, before music could be shared digitally, when cd burners were rare—it was a ton. Other college freshmen marveled at my collection. No one had anywhere near as many cds as I did. It's possible my roommate's friend Mac had more music than I did since he downloaded stuff illegally, but at some point his computer crashed and he lost it all. Proof that a digital library wasn't the way to go.

By the spring of freshman year, I'd decided I couldn't live without my boom-box. It held six cds, and you could create a program that would play any song off any disc in the order you specified. It was magical.

Then I found out about ipods. My parents understood their relevance to my life before I did. To me, they sounded like a lot of work. Upload all my albums to my computer only to download them to some finicky gadget? Constantly put music on and take music off? Why not just listen to a cd? Uploading an album took around 10 minutes. Doing that 400 times didn't sound like a picnic. I was interested without being interested.

Some sort of alchemy happened in the next two years. Ipods became popular, coveted. Their usefulness became suddenly obvious. I was going to Austria on an abroad. Was I going to tromp around with dozens of cds? NO! My parents gave me an ipod for my birthday, just a couple months before the trip. OMG! WHAT WAS I THINKING NOT DEMANDING ONE SOONER!?

It was 10GB, and adding songs was like my own little slice of manifest destiny. How long would it take to fill it completely? 2,500 songs isn't as many as it sounds. It took no time at all.

A couple years later, when the iPod video came out, my mom gave me one as a gift.  30GB. I was traveling a lot at that point, and being able to load new music without selectively removing something else, being able to travel with photos and video, it was all so nice. But sooner than I would have expected, that iPod was full, too. So when I bought a new computer and had the option of getting a free iPod, I got it. (Dur.) 80GB this time.

I started running. My 80GB iPod seemed huge, clunky. I saw those adorable little iPod shuffles that clipped right on. How practical! So much smarter than jogging with the heavy iPod classic! I bought one. Once I had it, I started using it all the time. It came with me when I walked anywhere—to work, around the super market, at airports. I was constantly trading out playlists for walking around with playlists for running. Sometimes I would get to the gym and realize I hadn't updated my ipod. Jogging to "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" or "I Will Follow You Into the Dark"—not a great workout.

I went with my father to the Apple store to get my sister's computer fixed, a repair he expected to pay at least $300 for. He politely listened to by uber-luxury troubles. Why couldn't my shuffle just hold two playlists? When we got to the genius bar, it turned out that the problem with my sister's computer was a known defect. The repair was free! My father, delighted by this windfall of good fortune, purchased a second shuffle for me.

By this point, I'd started naming my iPods after Atlas Shrugged characters—as the Rake put it, a giant eff you to anyone who questioned my right to have so many ipods. To be fair, my first ipod was really just a sentimental ipod by this point. I couldn't get rid of it. It was full of music that was clearly from my college days. Liz Phair songs with play-counts well over 100, a playlist from the road-trip Dynamite, Juice Box, and I took to Texas. I didn't really want to listen to it, but it was like a little time capsule.

You feel like a sucker now, right? This blog has just been one long justification for my extravagant lifestyle. I'm like one of those elderly people who grew up during the depression who now hoards sugar and butter. Years of lugging around cds has made me ipod crazy. I know it. I've known it for years. That's why I decided to stop. The number of ipods held steady at 5 for a long time. But this year I fell off the wagon.

Ipod touches were on sale after Thanksgiving. They suddenly seemed so practical! I could access the internet when I was out and about in the city. I was doing interviews for work, and it had a voice recorder. It would be great for travel—weather updates, alarm clocks, a calendar, a camera, language dictionaries. I had made up my mind that I would never get an iphone. This was a reasonable alternative. No outrageous monthly plan.

A month after buying the ipod touch, my family got new phones. I got a little green one with a fabulous keyboard and a terrible touch screen. The screen would only respond to my instructions 70% of the time. On more than one occasion, I accidentally called someone because the contact list was hard to work. It was difficult to move from screen to screen. As I would sit struggling with my phone, I would look over and see my ipod touch, so angelic, so easy to use, its touch screen as close to perfection as could be hoped for. Even then, a part of me knew I was being stupidly stubborn.

This Monday, my dad called me. He told me that he had traded his new phone in for an iphone. It was within the 30-day exchange period, and the price of the iphone 3G had dropped to $49, making the exchange practically free. "Now, instead of screaming at my phone, I can just use it," he explained. He wanted me to drink the kool-aid.

I patiently explained that, while I was happy for him, I would look stupid toting around an iphone and an ipod touch. Plus I had railed against iphones for so long, how could I get one? It only took two days of constant calls and texts from him telling me he was cooler than me for me to break down.

So here I sit, feeling cool and foolish at the same time, totally clueless as to how to wrap-up this blog post.
 

January 14, 2011

Shower

A few weeks ago, Kitten realized in the nick of time that the improv class I was driving her to was at 1pm and not 3pm. The nick of time didn't allow for a shower. Just clothing.

Once in the city with time to kill during Kitten's class, I thought about going over to Berry's nearby house. She was out of town. Her shower would be free. I had maybe even left some shampoo there over the summer. Then I felt an irresistible impulse to not only do it, but write a blog entry on creeping around someone's house without permission while they're out of town. Except Berry reads my blog. In a living room 1,000 miles away, she would see what I had done.

A blog is a good way to find out someone has been using your shower while you're out of the house, right? It's certainly incentive to keep reading.

January 13, 2011

Groceries

I usually do my grocery shopping in a hoity-toity area where a Whole Foods, a Target, and a Schnucks (a traditional grocery store) are all clustered together. That way I can get my specialty items at Whole Foods (goat cheese with honey, out of season fruits and vegetables, curry sauce), home items at Target (paper towels, sponges, floor cleaner), and basic groceries and brand-name items at Schnucks (eggs, bread, Oreos). It's a ridiculous system, but it's working for me.

Over the years I have adjusted to the insane trappings of the grocery store in this well-to-do area—hardwood floors, special cooling lockers for milk, little cooking stations. The fanciness has, I think, contributed to the fact that I see grocery shopping as one of the most adult things I do. It always seems so responsible! I make a list. I go to a classy place where the produce is spritzed down like it's enjoying a spa day. I buy fresh food I can assemble into meals. I make decisions about time, about health, about causes, all in the process of filling my grocery basket.

Yesterday I experienced quite a shock when I decided to pick up a few groceries after my graduate class. The grocery store I went to was in the college town where I'm taking the course.

If someone has asked me to design a grocery store when I was 17, the result would have been this store. There were multiple chip aisles, spaced throughout the store. A huge, garish sign reading "Party Central!" in lime green letters was hanging over the liquor isles (three of them). They carried Ben & Jerry's flavors that I'm pretty sure were discontinued years ago. Displays of junk food were everywhere, eager to pop out and tempt unsuspecting shoppers.

Instead of the usual tasteful entrance display of soup and other traditional lunch fare, I found the display pictured below.


Lunchtime favorites indeed. 

I can't ever go back there. Not if I want to feel at all like a grown-up. 

January 10, 2011

Interrupted

[O Children - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Stars - The XX, Dust Bowl Dance - Mumford & Sons; I'm Not Calling You a Liar - Florence + the Machine; Beach Baby - Bon Iver; Lightness - DCFC; On Call - Kings of Leon; Eve, the Apple of my Eye - Bell X1]

"And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains." –excerpted from Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut

Now that Kitten and I have these new keyboarded phones, texting is remarkably easy. Kitten is taking even greater advantage of this fact than I am. When we're together, someone's phone is constantly going off. With a phone beeping or blinging or buzzing every minute or so, you've really got to grasp tightly to the thread of a conversation to keep it from running off when you're not looking.

Of course it's just as difficult when I'm on my own. Potential situation: Put pan on stove. Turn on burner. Pour sauce into pan. Hear text message sound from living room. Decide to wait until food finished cooking to check phone. Dice vegetables. Add to pan. Stare at pan. Shove sauce around in pan with spatula. Will food to cook faster. Decide food is OK on its own for a moment. Run to living room and check message. See text from sister that reads "Chow chow splat toot!" Text her back to express my displeasure with meaningless texts. Set phone down. Begin to return to kitchen. Stop in tracks when text message noise sounds. Go back to phone and check message: "Crystals!!" Text sister: "That's not a thing!" Look up and see Lonely Planet Italy guide on bookcase. Remember that I owe Posh a phone call about our likely spring break trip. Text her to let her know I'm free to talk tomorrow evening. Receive text from sister: "What's not a thing?" Roll eyes and text back "You know what!" Feel like I had something to do, but forget what. Take Italy book off shelf and sit down to leaf through it and reminisce about last trip. Hear weird noise from kitchen. Pad into the room to find sauce splattering all over stove.

When I'm writing, texts barge into my train of thought like persons from Porlock. Only they're more self-inflicted than that, aren't they? So I'll drop the Coleridge comparison in favor of Vonnegut. I am willfully handicapping myself.

And yet, in the back of my mind as I prepare to post this, I am hoping reading it doesn't discourage anyone from sending me texts, even pointless ones. I like them. I appreciate the funny or charming or loving updates.

"A buzzer sounded in George's head. His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits from a burglar alarm."

January 7, 2011

Sisters Without Borders

Kitten lived with me in Nook House for the majority of this winter break. 


I love my sister.


I tolerate her stuff.