Monday, December 20, 2004

I can't believe I didn't think of this years ago

Lazy Chicken

3 chicken breasts
dash of pepper
Italian seasoning
1/3 jar Prego spaghetti sauce, flavor of choice
3 oz. pseudo-mozzarella cheese, shredded

Turn oven to 350 F. Put chicken in glass dish; sprinkle with pepper and Italian seasoning. Dump Prego over top. Sprinkle with pseudo-mozzarella. Cook until chicken is done (about 30 min.). Reheat leftovers for lunch the next day.

Seriously, this is like my new favorite food. Two seconds of assembly, three meals. Woohoo!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The yearly rankings

I'm filling out my calendar for next year, which mostly entails writing in birthdays and other dates to be remembered, along with the few events I already have planned for next year.

I love writing in names on my new calendars. It's always an interesting experience, because more than just a reminder that I need to send a card or buy a gift, it's an evaluation of my relationships. Have I remained in contact with him? When was the last time I did anything with her? Oh, we've gotten to be good friends. March 23, add her, April 27, delete him.

I wonder if it's somewhat cavalier to end friendships this way, downgrading them to acquaintances by simple expedient of not writing a name in a numbered box. It's a little sad, unless something has happened to make me bitter toward the person, and then it's sad and schadenfreude at the same time (like the person cares that they're not on my calendar anymore). Mostly I think it's a way of identifying what my friendships are. Sometimes it's a reminder that I need to get in touch with someone (April 1) or find out when someone's birthday is (December...11? Crap. Missed that one.).

This year my calendar has three additions and three deletions (one schadenfreude, two normal). It's been a balanced year. In addition to my parents' wedding anniversary (June 21), I'm adding my brother's wedding day (May 27). I've noted a concert I'd like to go to in February and the dates of my brother's visit in January, and I'm done.

The new year is already underway.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Let's face it: I've never been rock 'n' roll

So I took my eyebrow ring out last night.

At the moment I did, I just wanted to see if I could; in the three years that I've had it, I've never taken it out or even tried to. I liked the ring that I had, a little silver hoop with a ball. I didn't want anything gaudier or more noticeable. I just wanted my little reminder that I can be even mildly edgy.

Lately, however, I'd been thinking of taking out the ring and letting the holes grow closed. Several things prompted this: first and foremost, my kitten keeps trying to get her teeth in the ring and pull it out of my face when I'm sleeping. Second, possible graduate school visits and interviews are coming up, and it's not the most professional thing in the world, even if most people (somehow) never notice it's there. And finally, it's always annoyed me a little that the ring wasn't exactly on my eyebrow; it was a couple of millimeters below. This is what you get when you go to a piercing parlor in Prague on a whim; it's a fun story and a great memory, but the actual result is a little questionable.

I took it out, feeling a little uncertain as I pulled the ball from the tension of the ring, but God gave me an immediate sign that it was time for the eyebrow ring to go: the ball fell out of the tweezers and down the drain. It's in the U-bend of my sink pipe now, ne'er to return.

So it's gone, and I'm coming to grips. Of course, the holes haven't closed themselves overnight; I could still go out and get a replacement ring if I wanted to save it. But I think I won't; nobody seems to have noticed that it's gone, and I'm sort of enjoying the reverse edgyness of it (whatever that means). Maybe I'll get it re-done after I get into graduate school, maybe not. For now, though, I can stop worrying about waking up with blood in my eye and a smug cat on my chest.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Because I've written this, I'll be going to Third Hell

What is up with church names in Texas, y'all? I'm Catholic, so maybe I'm not getting it, but is there some sort of prize for creative/bizarre names for your church? I mean, I attended St. Mary's Catholic Church and St. Patrick Catholic Church for my entire growing up, plus I'm from Nebraska where everything is sensible and cornfed. We do not, as a rule, name our churches after anything other than saints or members of the Holy Trinity. "Sacred Heart" is a break-out where I'm from.

Churches down south here are evidently having some sort of Bizzaro Name Contest in which the Catholics were not invited to participate. Sometimes it's just excessive wordiness: Fellowship Bible Church North (in Plano). Presumably there are Fellowship Bible Churches in all directions that necessitated this one putting "North" on the end, but frankly, this is why we have addresses, people. If this goes any farther, we're going to have "Fellowship Bible Church North-Northeast, But Mostly North" in a few years. Another entrant in the locational-church names category: Houston's "City on a Hill Bible Church." I don't know what city they're referring to, because by and large, Houston is flah-at.

Another thing I find weird is numbered churches. Catholics don't do this, either. Right down the street from me is the Third Baptist Church. Third? Did they lose a race? It's not in the Third Ward, so I don't think it's locational. They're just third. Personally, I would develop some sort of a complex. "Well, I'm Third Baptist. Too sinful to be second Baptist and too poor to be First Baptist. I'll be going to Third Heaven." And by the same token, how come someone gets to be the First Baptist Church? I'm almost certain that the Baptist faith wasn't founded here in Houston. Like, 99.9% sure. How come you get to be first, Fancypants? Isn't that a little egotistical? I'm pretty sure Jesus said "The first shall be last and the last shall be first." I couldn't tell you where, though, because I'm Catholic and we don't read the Bible. In any case, third heaven for you, too.

Last weekend, though, I found the total and absolute winner for Weird Church Names of the South. Ladies and gentlemen, from Tyler, Texas, I present: Church on the Move.

This is not, as you might reasonably suspect, a church in an RV or some sort of travelling church visiting shut-ins across East Texas. No, it appears to be a typically affixed church of unspecified denomination. I like to think that they're required to dance for the entire service on Sunday mornings, and that perhaps the altar is on some sort of Lazy Susan that moves. Either that or they get a new building every year like a college student.

So yeah. I'm sure there are churches with weirder names out there (because the internet told me so, Driven Life Church of Canton, Texas), but these are ones that I've seen personally, for the most part. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a mass to attend at Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Dear Bono: You're indoors. Take off the glasses, ass.

If I see the U2 Ipod commercial one more time, I'm going something drastic. Dye my hair again. Something. "Uno, dos, tres." Fine, fine, fine. "Catorce!" Uh...what? One, two, three, fourteen? Who counts like that? I can count in several languages, and in none of them are the numbers ordered "one, two, three, fourteen." Evidently the Spanish have made some adjustments lately. I hear their alphabet now goes A, B, C, K. Oh, they're hip, those Spaniards, and Bono's the hippest of them all.

What's that you say? Bono is Irish? REALLY. Interesting.

Honestly, I don't understand the whole U2 craze. As I was thinking about it, I asked my music guru his opinion of them. "U2 does not absolutely suck, but they come pretty close." Word. Their songs all sound the same, and that sound? Not good. The music is generic and the lyrics uninspired. And before you get going, I realize U2's been around a long time, and maybe they did found the genre. But even if they were first...meh. Or actually, blech. It makes it worse—they started this lowest-common-denominator genre. It's like the first guy to make a disco record. Or the first Wayans brother.

As I write, I am listening to the one U2 song I can remotely stand, "So Cruel." I think I tolerate it because it is not, like most U2 songs, processed to the point of EZ Cheese. Don't get me wrong, it's still an American Cheese single, but that can make a decent cheese sandwich. (yes, I'm eating a cheese sandwich made from Kraft American Cheese. Take your metaphors where you can get them, kids.) Most everything else, though, is painfully boring.

And if it's not boring, it's fascinating in the way that plastic surgery gone wrong is fascinating. You know that woman's eyes aren't supposed to be touching her hairline, and yet you can't. Stop. Staring. "Hold Me, Kiss Me, Thrill Me, Kill Me" is like that. First of all, it's on the Batman Forever soundtrack. I watched that movie Sunday while Tex was reformatting my computer (it was on UPN, home of all quality programming), and let me tell you. No. Just no. I liked the movie in seventh grade when it came out, which is also about the last time that I liked U2. Keep in mind, this was also the year that I liked big fat scrunchies and Chris, who played chess at the library on Saturdays and made Cs in social studies (social studies!). What did I know?

Anyway, U2 has a new album coming out now, and based on the commercial, it sounds like the same pseudorock pseudoedgy schlock they've been putting out since at least 1993. If you like that kind of thing, feel free to download it and play it on their overpriced, underuseful Ipod.

Just don't expect me not to roll my eyes at you.

*Please note, I made two errors in this blog, and my co-workers caught them and taunted me mercilessly. Thanks, guys.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Committing hairy-kiri

I'm a smart cookie, and I'll tell you why: I know that I'm dumb, and I institute countermeasures ahead of time to prevent total embarrassment.

So when I showed up at Mary's this morning wearing a bandanna, she had no reason to suspect that I had orange and pink streaks in the hair underneath. I started wearing bandannas over my hair in college, actually around the time I dyed my hair for the first time, as a freshman. Not coincidental, and it came in handy today.

Evidently five years is enough time to forget why it's a bad idea to dye your hair on your own. The last time I did it, it turned out this weird red color that doesn't occur in nature, but fortunately it washed out before my supply of bandannas ran out. This time, I knew I was bored with my hair, but I didn't want to repeat the Red Tragedy of '99. I decided "just to highlight it." That was my first mistake.

Highlights are significantly harder than all-over color, because you have to carefully control where the dye goes. This was made infinitely more difficult by the tool I was given to work with. It looked like a fork gone retarded,tines sticking out in every direction and a little bowl in the middle to hold the dye. I managed to get dye everywhere—on my shorts, on the sink, on the floor (and then on the soles of my feet as I walked on it), on my forehead and shoulders. Everywhere but my hair. The great thing about this dye was that somehow it was hot pink, despite the fact that we were going for kind of reddish-copper highlights. I was cheered, though, to see that the cat had some lovely copper streaks. I soldiered on.

Anyway, after an hour of pulling that crap through strands of my hair and then waiting for it to set, I washed the dye out and toweled off my hair. I waited for the steam to clear from the bathroom mirror only to see that my hair had been attacked by a kumquat with a grudge. The highlights were hot orange and had banded together to form a malicious, indistinct blob centered slightly to the left of my part. It appeared to be gearing up to attack my eyebrow. "Down through the widow's peak, boys! We'll go across the stray eyebrow hairs and get that eyebrow! And after that, the eyelashes!"

It was obvious I couldn't show my hair in public. So I decided to correct it. You can see that hair dye seeps into your brain pretty quickly and makes you dumb(er, if you're me). This morning, before my bandanna'd breakfast at Mary's, I swung by CVS (Motto: taking over the world one prescription at a time) and picked up a box of Revlon hair color, the kind that had both the dye and the highlights all in one package. I ate breakfast with Mary and went home to deal with the insurrection on my head.

The application of the all-over dye from Revlon went fine—it turned the orange to something close to the color I had originally hoped for. It was kind of a blood red, I guess, but I hadn't solved the clump problem. This is where dumb idea number three made its way out from under the masses of over-processed hair. "Well," it suggested, with barely repressed glee, "why don't you use the highlighting kit to see if you can break up the clomp with lighter color? It'll be a multi-colored effect. Very hip."

Fine. I put the highlights in, using the oversized mascara brush Revlon provided.
It was a somewhat better tool than the fork of doom, but it didn't do much better with getting the dye all the way down to the ends of my hair and thus preventing the dreaded clump. I finally gave up and worked it down the strand with my fingers. It was at this point that the phone rang. I picked it up, holding it as gingerly as I could, and brought it to my ear. It was my mother.

"What are you doing?"
"Um...nothing?" I lied. I like to preserve my parents' illusion that I'm not totally abusing their intelligence genes.
"Oh. Well, Touching the Void is on PBS tonight. And something with Jon Krakauer."
"Great. I'll check it out." My eye started to sting. I flipped a lock of wet hair out of it.
"Yeah, I knew you had read Krakauer's books, so I thought I'd let you know."
"Oh, thanks. I'll be sure to watch it."
"Big plans for today? Isn't Tex coming over?"

This went on for two minutes, and in the meantime, dye was running into my right ear and, I think, the second set of highlights was plotting with the first. When I rinsed the dye out fifteen minutes later, not only was the problem not alleviated, it was worse. I had somehow managed to add flamingo-pink highlights to the reddish areas that the all-over dye had quasi-corrected, plus the orange had staged a mysterious comeback over my right ear.

So, torn between a temper tantrum, tears, and uncontrollable laughter, I put the whole mess in a bun, put my bandanna back on, and headed out to Walgreen's, because I obviously couldn't go back to CVS. Time was of the essence—it was 1:30, and Tex was due sometime between 2 and 2:30 to fix my computer. I quickly grabbed a box of Garnier Nutrisse dye in the darkest brown I could find. No muss, no fuss, and it supposedly covered 100% of gray. I could only hope that the dye couldn't differentiate between orange and gray or pink and gray.

I mixed the powder and the developing conditioner, forgetting the "concentrated fruit oil" in my haste. Squeezing the bottle a little harder than strictly necessary, I began to apply the dye to my hair, praying all the while that my hair wouldn't just rebel all together and fall out, leaving me as sad as Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. I was hurrying so much that I didn't notice when a drop of dye splashed onto my nose, leaving a little brown spot that I still can't get out, hours later. Finally the dye bottle sputtered its last, and as I looked down to pitch it, I noticed the little packet of concentrated fruit oil. Swearing, I drizzled it over my hair like dressing over salad and, spinning my gooey locks into a loose bun, went to throw clothes into the closet and dishes in the dishwasher. As if Tex doesn't know what a horrible housekeeper I am already.

At 2:25, the door to my apartment burst open. "Uh...hang on," I said, and spent the next minute fumbling for a shirt I could ruin by pulling it over my dye-covered hair. I finally located a Rice freebie and shrugged into it, and then permitted Tex to enter. He manfully refrained from laughing when he saw me, acres of oddly colored and dripping hair on top of my head, wild look in my eyes. Or, knowing him, he didn't notice. Either way, I was grateful.

Eventually I got the last round of dye rinsed out, and blessed Garnier for living up to its promise. Even if it smells like a chemical factory, my hair now looks essentially as it did when I started, three dye jobs and many dollars ago. It's maybe a little darker, and there's a hint of a red sheen toward the back where the stragglers of the orange army wander aimlessly, looking for their slain kumquat leaders, but I'm not going to have to wear a bandanna to work tomorrow.

What have I learned? It's a damn good thing I'm applying to English graduate school and not to beauty school. And I'm going to Hobby Lobby tomorrow to get more bandannas.

Monday, November 08, 2004


I haven't bought gas in almost a month. This is not because I have a fuel-efficient car; it's because I never go anywhere. Still, I think it's pretty awesome. Especially since I just spent $200 on four new tires and an oil change.

My brother, on the essentials: "If I've got a wife and a freezer full of meat, what else do I need?"

Lyra fell in the toilet this morning, bringing the grand total of Erin's cats who've fallen in the commode to two. Lyra was somewhat more blasé about it than Regan was. She pulled her front legs back out, jumped down, and attacked the shower curtain.

Five recent Google searches: "crank radio," "t.s. eliot criticism theory," "cool out," "huskers volleyball apparel," and "sarah connor." Two of those are potential Christmas gifts. The rest are just weird. Speaking of Christmas gifts, can anybody think of a good idea for my dad? He likes gardening and chewing out hunters who shoot at his house. Go.

On that last item, I originally wrote "and chewing hunters who shoot at his house." I like the idea of my dad employing punitive cannibalism.

Raspberries are my favorite fruit. Asparagus is my favorite vegetable.

According to Kroger-brand yogurt, "lemon meringue" is a fruit, and therefore eligible to be "Fruit on the Bottom." I'm not really complaining, although I think this could get out of hand if they continue down the pie path. Nobody wants mincemeat-on-the-bottom yogurt.

I got a haircut today, and evidently, in stylist world, "I need a trim; take off about an inch and a half" means "take off five inches and give me layers." My hair looks good now, but I think we all know it's going to be what my family calls "BIG hair" tomorrow morning. It's okay. I preemptively went to Wal-Greens and got a headband. Pillow, do your worst.
Suspect your lawyer and control your elephant

As most of you know, I started the full-time copyedit phase of my job; I spend six hours a day (on average) reading the Cause of Action book my company publishes. This is the third edition; it comes out in January. Contact me for ordering info if you are a Texas lawyer/law student or just phenomenally bored.

The Causes of Action book basically tells you all the major reasons you can sue someone and how to prove your case if you do. Sometimes this is irrelevant and mind-numbing (Usury, Abuse of Process, and Conversion), and sometimes it's fascinating, usually in a sick way (Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Defamation, and Fiduciary Duty). And sometimes you get a mixed reaction that makes you go, hm, this is why Law and Order has been on T.V. for the past 75 years. For example, Premesis Liability. Doesn't sound terribly interesting, and in fact I thought I was going to have to have an extra shot of caffeine to get me through it. However, included in Premesis Liability is the idea of Attractive Nusiance, whereby children wander onto property and drown in pits or get killed by arcing electricity because they don't know better. Then the premesis owner has to pay through the nose.

Right now I'm reading the Legal Malpractice chapter, which is interesting but it's not doing anything to convince me that attorneys are nice and/or competent people. There are a disturbing number of cases that are like, "Attorney conspired to lengthen trial to increase fees" and so on.

The best chapter I've read so far has been Animal Actions. Mostly it was people being bitten by dogs or attacked by rabbits or something, although I did learn that bees are tameable, and if your bees attack someone you're liable. But the reason this was the best chapter ever was because of what I call the "Siegfried and Roy" subsection on Wild Animal Actions. Unfortunately we mentioned no cases involving white tigers, but there was an elephant escape, a deer attack (yeah, I didn't know deer were particularly vicious), and a contrary, irritable, and nervous type of horse named Crowbar. Good times.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Geeker Joy: English Major Version

If you don't love PBS already, let me explain to you why you should. Three words: Regency. House. Party.

When I was flipping through the channels Wednesday night and ran across a servant in a wig going down the stairs of some dimly lit house, I thought, hm, maybe this is a production of some Victorian novel that I can watch for a point or two on the GRE subject test.

Oh, no. No, it's far better than that. Five men and five women from England are living for two months as if they're in Regency England. (If you don't know, the Regency era ran from 1811-1820. Think Pride & Prejudice, more or less.) They've been assigned roles, and they're supposed to attempt to make an advantageous marriage. I don't really see how any of them are going to be able to do that, given that they're only allowed one bath a week and no deoderant. Of course, there are 36 chamber pots in the house, so maybe B.O. isn't the real problem. The chaperones aren't helping, either, even though one of them is a real-life countess. (She hooked up with the Mr. Bingley character in the first week, I think. Good work there.)

The best part, though? There's a hermit. Evidently there was a "back to nature" movement during the Regency, so wealthy landowners would let part of their acreage grow wild and then hire a guy to be the hermit. Basically he would take port with the master once a week and jump out from behind the bushes to scare the ladies. This guy, who's played on the show by an artist, spends the rest of his time cooking things over and open fire and hitting on the chick who's playing the lady's companion.

I don't think I can really explain to you how great this show is. It hits on all my English major fantasies (guys in waistcoats, parasols, romance and complicated dancing) and is hilarious to boot. Need I remind you: hermit. Hermit hermit hermit. And also, snuff.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Yes, Wiglaf and Chalantly need to have their pizza and go to bed

I swung by Kro-GRR tonight after a meet-and-greet for Rice's new president. I ran out of milk this morning, plus I needed some fruit and frozen delights for lunch this week. (I also bought a turkey, but that's neither here nor there.) I was standing in the typically long check-out line, idly flipping through Time and observing that there are far too few blue states on the map of the U.S. right now. I noticed a couple behind me. The woman was in her early forties, holding a squash of some sort, bossing around a man of the same age holding an 8-oz. package of sliced mushrooms. They were trying to find a shorter line, but in that store it's like looking for a polar bear in a blizzard.

"Is that all you have?" I asked. "Would you like to go ahead of me?"
The man looked surprised. "Oh, that's just so nice of you. Are you sure?"
"Oh, yeah, no problem. Plenty of people have done it for me before. Go ahead." I waved them ahead of me with the magazine.
"Well, that is just so sweet," the woman said. "Especially since your children are probably waiting at home for you."

I had to mentally check myself to keep my jaw from dropping on the spot.

I don't have kids! Do I look like I have kids? I'm 23 years old, and I look it. I had my hair up tonight and I was wearing slacks, so maybe you could add a couple of years at most, but I'm certainly not at that age where people can assume that I have children. Am I?

I don't ever even want to have children. But I realize there will come a point when people may just take as given that I have, as Tex put it earlier today, "cursed the earth with [my] seed." I just didn't realize that point was now. Maybe I need to get some hipper clothing, something like the screaming yellow translucent blouse and black mini-skirt worn by the med student trolling for dates at the alumni gathering I attended tonight. Evidently my tan slacks and maroon sleeveless shirt aren't getting it done.

Or maybe it was the fact that I had a frozen pizza and multiple half-gallons of milk in my cart, I don't know. I don't have any idea what it was that made this woman assume that I had children. I smiled at her and said in a lame, "Yes, my non-existent children. My cats."

I think I should probably just be glad she didn't ask when the baby was due.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Horseshoes and Handgrenades

I don't think anybody can claim that the Astros didn't exceed expectations this season. Clinging to .500 by the very tips of their gloves in July, falling seven games back in the National League wild card race, and then coming within inches of winning the National League pennant. And they did it all with a certain sort of "Oh, is that us? Well, I'll be" panache that had their fans both charmed and terrified. It was a hell of a run.

And while the Astros' death in the sixth inning tonight was painful, and not only because we missed out on the World Series (bye-bye Beltran), it wasn't tragic. I thought it was. In fact, I was going to write a whole blog about how the Astros won't be able to put together a team like this for ten years and we're all doomed yadda yadda.

But here's the thing.

Yes, Beltran's going away. He's going to the Yankees, where he will get paid $25 million a season to stare at Derek Jeter's ass, encased as it is in his unusually tight pants. It's a crying shame, but it does free up $9,000,000 for Astros owner Drayton McLane to play with. And, oh, Drayton. Drayton, Drayton, Drayton.

Get some middle relief pitching, or I'm going to kill you.

You can get six decent relievers for $9,000,000, and with Lights Out Lidge, we don't need nearly that many. Especially considering how many we have to give away. We can keep Wheeler, too, maybe Qualls. Everybody else: grab your jock strap and get going.

So relief pitching's set. Starting pitching's more than set. Oswalt will be back, Clemens looks good to go, Pettitte and Miller will be healed, and Backe has come into his own. That's the best five-man rotation in the majors. Even if Clemens goes away, it'll still be the best.

The weakness, of course, is the top of our order. Biggio and Bagwell are aging, and it ain't pretty. Worst case scenario, though, Biggio gets replaced by a solid Jason Lane, and Bagwell's arm blows and we get to move Lance Berkman to first base, where, God knows, he should be anyway. The boy does the best he can in right field, but it's like watching George Bush trying to use multi-syllabic words. Painful and unnatural. Wayne Graham knew it. He didn't call Berkman the worst outfielder he'd ever seen for nothing.

So we need to pick up someone for center field, and maybe get a catcher who's not just an Ivy-league pretty boy. (Hey, I like Ausmus, but he needs to be splitting time with some sort of slugging machine. Brains and brawn, it's a delicate balance.) That'd really be more than necessary, though. If we can just get middle relief, I think we'd have a scrappy squad who, while not setting any records for most runs in a season, would be competetive the whole year.

And in Houston, that's all we need for lift-off.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

If you still care

The baby's name is Lyra, after a character in a book I read and loved while in Austria.

I promise my next post will be non-cat related.
How to name your cat

Erin: Maeve?
Tex: too many chicks
Erin: ?
Tex: is maeve something other than a band?
Erin: Celtic goddess of song?
Tex: ah
Erin: Eulalie.
Tex: Shantasta
Erin: Good one.
Erin: Fiona?
Tex: i thought we were making up words. i realize now that we're going though potential cat names
Tex: Scarnak
Erin: Wait, did you think we were making up words when we did Maeve?
Erin: And Scarnak is your suggestion?
Tex: right on all counts
Erin: Is [your significantly more with-it girlfriend] around or going to be taking a break any time soon? I need someone more helpful.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Bringing Up Baby: Day One

I have my kitten now. She's tiny and adorable and wreaking havoc already.

She of course has no name yet, so I've been calling her "the baby" all night. The baby is curious, sniffing everything she can get her nose in proximity to. She seems to like shoes and anything that Regan plays with frequently. She does not, however, like me. I'm not sure if it's because I'm so big and scary, or if she's annoyed with humans in general for subjecting her to surgery (she was spayed on Saturday).

The baby likes to cry for no apparent reason, which makes Regan come out from under the bed and hiss at her. Amazingly, neither has taken a swipe. In fact, the baby seems entirely unbothered by Regan. It's only me she hates. Of course, I'm mildly obsessing about it, worried that she'll never like me and we'll be stuck together for the next twenty years in, at best in mild disdain, at worst in seething hatred. I'm neurotic like that.

In the meantime, I've locked the baby in the bathroom, where I can stop worrying about her, Regan can hiss at her through the door, and she can frolick in the bathtub and hide behind the toilet when I come in. I don't know how long she'll have to stay there—another couple of days at least, probably, by which time she'll have hopefully stopped hating me and Regan will have stopped hating her, and I'll have stopped freaking out about both of them.

Monday, October 04, 2004

No cat for you

Quick update: I wasn't able to pick up Baby X this afternoon because the Houston SPCA had a gas leak. The officers who were blocking off the road seemed supremely unconcerned, so I choose to believe that nothing's really wrong and they're just being overcautious.

I guess I have 24 more hours to think of a name.
It's a girl! And a cat!

My household increased its membership by 50% this weekend, if you go by pure numbers and not something weird like mass. If you go by mass, my household increased its membership by like, 0.4%.

I adopted a kitten on Saturday.

She is a tiny girl, only eight weeks old and easily small enough to hold in one hand, although much too squirmy for that. She's a lilac-point Siamese, which, for those of you who don't know Siamese, means her tail, paws, ears and nose are a dusky grey. The rest is white, and she has ice-blue eyes.

I don't know what to name my new baby, but I do know that she comes home from her surgery today and that I will spend the night protecting her from Regan, my six-year-old Alpha female who is destined to teach the baby bad habits. So if you have a name suggestion (preferrably something that kind of goes with Regan and isn't a subsistence crop), give me a suggestion.

In the meantime, I'll be trying to figure out how to keep this cat from breaking the blinds like my other one does.

Thursday, September 30, 2004


From notes I made on a napkin while having coffee with Mary in August

"Hm, he's cute."
"I wonder if he's meeting—oh, that guy. He's gay."
"How do you know?"
"Men don't have coffee dates with their friends. It's too intimate."
"Meaning it involves talking."

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

As superpowers go, it's a good one

So I discovered tonight I can kill off characters in movies.

I was watching Japanese Story with the girls tonight, and it was, as S. said, going literally nowhere. The two main characters, allegedly in lust but mostly in awkwardness, were messing around next to a desert pool. The main character dived in. Her pseudo-lover took a running start. I looked up from petting Donna's cat and said, "Wouldn't you like this movie so much better if it just ended right now? Like if he were dead?"

And then he broke his neck and died.

Unfortunately it didn't end there, but we all agreed that we liked the film a million times better after that happened. I don't know if it was weird clairvoyance or just random wish fulfillment, but it was awesome.

In conclusion, Toni Collette needs to stop cutting her hair with a buzz saw.
Wolves do not have highly evolved etiquette

I don't know how you were raised, but my mother told me I should never talk to strangers. This does not, however, seem to keep strangers from talking to me.

I was stopped last Saturday in Ikea by a middle-aged man wanting to know if I found his arrangement of candles attractive. "What do you think of this?" he asked. I looked around to make sure he wasn't talking to someone standing behind me, perhaps his wife or mother or SOMEONE AT LEAST TANGENTIALLY RELATED TO HIM. He was not. I said, "Uh, it looks nice."

"You think? Like on a table for dinner?"
"Yeah, that would be nice."
"Do you know where I can find more of these candles?"

Now, I was very distinctly not wearing a navy blue polo with "IKEA" stitched on the breast in yellow. I was looking at wrapping paper (I know, who knew they sold wrapping paper at IKEA?) and carrying a strainer and a mirror. There was no earthly reason this guy should have been chatting it up with me about candle placement.

This isn't an isolated incident, either. In Austria I was frequently trapped by old people who wanted a young ear to listen to their life story. One man, on finding out that I was working as a teacher, told me how out-of-control teenagers were. I agreed, but I was laughing on the inside because as he was telling me this, his grandson was throwing pinecones at squirrels and flinging sand at fellow three-year-olds with a minature shovel.

An old woman at the Südbahnhof in Vienna talked to me for twenty minutes about how expensive bakeries were. I was with my family, and she felt free to comment that my dad looked younger than my mom, and that it was unreasonable of them not to speak German.

Planes, trains, and supermarket aisles—people feel free to accost me anywhere. They ask for directions, donations, and advice; they tell me ridiculously intimate details. It's not limited to adults, either: Sarah, who was sitting next to me on my last airplane flight, informed that she was almost three, having her birthday in October, and, after she asked me what I was doing (to which I responded, semi-sarcastically, "Reading and listening to music,"), she told me that she was sleeping. Sarah's not unique in her inquisitiveness. This was a frequent conversation with strangers in Austria:

"Wie alt sind sie?" (How old are you?)
"Sind sie geheiratet?" (Are you married?)
"Wieso nicht?" (Why not?)
"Tja...eigentlich, ich habe keine Ahnung."

I don't know why people feel that they can talk to me when I'm just trying to find the damn lemon juice and go home, for crying out loud. I never ask random strangers if they like my candle arrangement or why they're not married. I mean, who does that?

Everybody, evidently.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Meditation: On Green Beans

When green beans are ripe, they snap off the vine into your hand with just a little resistance. When they are overripe, long and hilly like the eastern Nebraska landscape, they fall off into your palm at the slightest touch, as if they are tired of hanging on the bush and just want to lie down for a bit. Sometimes we throw these to the dog, who doesn't eat them. It's unclear if this is because he doesn't like them or because he can't find them; the grass where we throw them is too high to tell. He pounces through it with great glee when we fling vegetables, but the outcome is a mystery.

My father's garden has two kinds of green beans: bush beans and pole beans. Bush beans grow close to the ground on their little shrubs, and they often become entangled in the stalks of their plants. Unable to escape, they're forced to grow in curves and curls that are hard to harvest. You have to hunch on the ground and bend the little bush back and forth, and pull the curvy beans away without breaking the stalk. It's somewhat painstaking and the crouching makes my calves burn. Later, we will take one or two of these curly beans and throw them on the kitchen floor, where the cat will bat them about until they fly under the pantry door. Then she will sit in front of the door, staring expectantly at the doorknob, reaching up a paw to pat it or occasionally sliding an arm under the door to grope for her lost toy. If no one rescues the bean, she will mope for a few minutes and then attempt to get into the cupboard that holds the extra grocery sacks.

Pole bean bushes are more attractive than their midget siblings. The stalks twine around the pole in a criss-cross pattern that looks too complicated to be achieved without a loom, and the leaves have fewer holes in them. My father can't keep the rabbits out of the garden, despite the electric fence, and they chew the bush beans. They're too short to do much damage to the pole beans, so the leaves and shady stalks are healthy and rife with ladybugs, although I can't see any aphids. Do aphids eat bean plants? If they don't, why are there ladybugs here? I remember that old rhyme: "Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home, your house is on fire and your children are alone." The babies are probably on fire, too, I think. Ladybugs don't crawl very fast.

In addition to being prettier, Pole beans are easier to harvest, because not only do they grow long and straight, but they are far enough off the ground that you can stand up to pull them off the plant. At the top of the bean is a little curly cap. You can tell it used to be a white flower before it became a bean. If you pick the bean correctly, all that remains on the stalk is a small green stem that ends in a little flourish. If you pick a bean that is not quite ripe, though, the cap and stem hold on, and the bean snaps off at the first joint. It is decapitated, frilly cap still in place. It makes me think of the guillotine, and wonder how many people were wearing hats during the French Revolution. It's gruesome. Beans make me think of gruesome things, like ladybug babies flambé and disembodied, hatted heads.

My mother is getting tired of beans, because she's had to prepare them every night for a week, and there's no end in sight. She promises to send some home with me.(Fortunately, she will forget, and I will go home with no more produce than a Walla Walla Sweet onion. I won't have any room in my suitcase, anyway.) She fixes them the same way every night, steamed with a little bit of salt and pepper. When beans are steamed, they change from their decorous medium green to a deep kelly. Sometimes my mother adds small pieces of bacon before steaming, and, when my brother and sister aren't home or aren't paying attention, diced onions. The beans taste very faintly of dirt, but mostly of green and salt and nutrients. We eat them gladly, and my sister's not-boyfriend endears himself to my mother by having a second helping. My sister picks them out of the serving bowl with her fingers, and my mother glares at her. My father pokes her with the serving fork for the chicken, since she is too far away for my mother to reach. We laugh, and continue eating our beans.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Five five-item lists

1. Things that they sell at the Everything's 99¢ store, with commentary
This list is so not even made up.
1. Air Freshener Jesus (I'm as much a fan of Jesus as any Catholic, but I doubt that Our Lord smelled like vanilla.)
2. Official souvenir major league baseball helmet. Team: Cleveland Indians. (Keep in mind, this store is less than four miles from Minute Maid Park, home of the Astros).
3. Clam juice. (Evidently you use this to make white clam sauce. Or to make people vomit on command.)
4. Official Olympic program, 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games. (Is this the Mary Lou Retton factor?)
5. DVDs of old Ronald Reagan movies. (I don't know if that has more to do with him being dead or a crappy actor.)

2. For Mary: Things that are always funny
1. Monkeys
2. Pirates
3. Jesus (E.g., Our Lord did not smell like vanilla; bobblehead Jesus.)
4. People tripping
5. Word play, particularly puns and malapropisms (Impulsive fetishes and the like)

3. Tools that I have deliberately misused in setting up my new apartment
1. Drill (to frighten cat)
2. Pliers (to pound off screw that was stuck)
3. Saw (to measure so that picture frame would hang evenly)
4. Staple gun (to frighten cat, again)
5. Paring knife (to turn screws—I have somehow lost all my flat-head screwdrivers)

4. Grocery stores at which I have shopped in the past week, in order of preference (most preferred to least preferred)
1. SuperTarget
2. Everything 99¢ Store (Hilarity has probably artifically inflated this score, but I did get some cute flip-flops there.)
3. Fiesta on Dunlavy (You can't actually get horchata at Fiesta, at least not as far as I can find. Weird. They have it at Target.)
4. DiscoKroger (Open all night, heavily gay clientele)
5. Kroger

5. Words that I consistently mispronounce because I learned them from reading and not speaking
1. Debacle (DEB-uh-cul)
2. Forte (Fort-ay)
3. Yarmulke (Just makes me stutter)
4. Canape (Can-ape)
5. Superfluous (Su-per-FLOO-us. I know better now but sometimes still pronounce it wrong because I think it's funny.)

Friday, September 03, 2004

There's a strange number of simian references in this post

I don't know how much moving you've done lately, but let me give you a good piece of advice: don't. Don't move. Cling to your current residence with all the strength in your bony little arms.

At this point, nine days after I started moving, none of my stuff is unpacked I've spent a ridiculous amount of money, and my father thinks I've got the IQ of a retarded lemur.

This last is the result of the desperate pleas for help that I keep sending him over email. They go something like this:


My couch is broken. Can you help? Keep in mind:

1) I am broke.
2) I am incapable of using any tool more complicated than a screwdriver. That
includes hammers, Allen wrenches (they're all bendy!), and drills.


My father, amazingly, was able to give a good suggestion (C-clamps and Gorilla glue), but since I can't figure out how to make C-clamps work on a T-joint, I fixed the problem with duct tape and a screw. Well, actually two screws, because I stripped the head of the first one and had to break it off in its place. Whatever. If you come to my house, don't flop on the couch, that's all I ask.

So now I have somewhere to sit, but other problems remain unsolved. For example, finding a grocery store. In my old apertant, I lived literally around the corner from my favorite grocery store in the world, SuperTarget. It was the best thing about the old place. Now SuperTarget is over 20 minutes away, and the only things in my neighborhood are Kroger and Hollywood Food Store. On a scale from one to 10, Hollywood Food Store has a Sketch Factor (SF) of about...oh, 15. They're invariably tiny and of questionable cleanliness, and I have no idea how their various locations stay in business.

Kroger, on the other hand, is possibly the most retarded supermarket in existence. It's apparently been "organized" by a chimpanzee on crack, because the meat is strewn all about the store: cold cuts at the rear right, butcher at the front left, and bacon lost somewhere in between. The frozen food section is interrupted by a flower stand, and the produce is both banal and overpriced. Worst of all, they have the stupid membership card system. I don't really object to them tracking my purchases, since I imagine it helps with stocking, but it's a damned irritant because things that aren't on the card discount tend to be just slightly more expensive than they should be. They think I don't notice, but I do. SuperTarget doesn't pull that crap.

The other pending problem is my mailbox key. My property management company doesn't have it and told me to call the post office. The post office was patently surprised by my phone call, and said they don't have anything to do with handing out mailbox keys (which seems reasonable to me—I've never had to get a mailbox key for a residential mail box from the post office before). So I can't get any mail, and I NEED my mail. Some butt monkey is lying to me, and that person is going to suffer my wrath.

Let me reiterate: DO NOT MOVE. It can only end in tears.

*"Beelah" is my dad's nickname for me. I've had it since I started talking, and he's the only person who uses it. I like it because not only does it make me feel close to my dad, it reminds him that sometimes I'm not all that far away from the two-year-old that he first used it on. As if he couldn't figure that out from the body of the email.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

"Must know location of Holy Grail."

SWF, 23, seeks SM (Single Mechanic) for good times and free auto repair. Must have bachelor's degree in liberal arts. Must understand inner workings of carburetor, plus how to spell "carburetor." May also be called upon to do heavy lifting and minor home repair (preferrably without complaint).

Successful respondant will join pool of other useful friends, including computer expert, accountant, doctor, and lawyer.

Positions also available for chef, pharmacist, and masseur.

Monday, August 30, 2004

You may find this hard to believe, but sometimes I have TOO MUCH tact

Sometimes I just want to look at people and go, "You're being stupid. Do what I say."

Sometimes. Or all the time. One of the two.

Anyway, it was kind of a lame weekend, in that I spent 75% of it moving and the other 25% sleeping. In any case, I've decided that Mary's high school English teacher was right; we are all developing T-rex arms from typing too much. My forearms were screaming after hefting just a couple of boxes. Unfortunately, I'm not really sure what I can do in normal life to strengthen those muscles. Scooping ice cream seems somewhat self-defeating, and Lord knows I don't want to move any boxes (or any thing, really) that I don't have to. So I guess I'll just go through life with weak arms. The tragedy.

The highlight of the weekend: I was packing boxes in the kitchen, when all of a sudden I hear a giant sploosh! from the bathroom. Regs, my 10-pound, negative-IQ cat, comes streaking out into the living room, tail thrice its normal diameter and a peeved expression on her pointy kitty face. Her chin, front paws, and stomach were dripping, and I discovered a large puddle around the toilet. I looked at her and said, "Well, that's what you get for being a pottymouth." And then I laughed for an hour. You can't buy that kind of entertainment.

Finally, the Olympics are over and I didn't really write about them, although I of course watched as much of them as I possibly could. Bob Costas was annoying, Michael Phelps was hot, and Svetlana Khorkina was a bitch. On a side note, the name "Svetlana" cracks me up, because that's the fake name Mary and I always intended to use when we wanted to sit in on one another's classes or meetings in college. "This is my cousin Svetlana. She's visiting from Russia." We never actually did it, but it was amusing to think about, since neither one of us looks particularly Russian.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Yes, I act like I'm 800 years old. What of it?

I'm looking for playmates to play the following games, which my real friends won't play with me:

Canasta (If you know how to play this, are under 80, and aren't related to's a miracle.)
52-card Pick Up (I'll deal)
Five Crowns
Scattergories ("No adjectives" rule strictly enforced)

Admittedly, I don't have some of these games, which could be impeding our ability to play them. But in general, my friends are much more resistant to board games and cards than I'd like. (Isn't everybody?)

Games my friends will play with me, if reluctantly:
Trivial Pursuit

And finally, just to weed out the losers...

Games I won't play, except maybe on pain of death, and even then it's not a guarantee:
Pictionary (Not even on pain of a really horrible death, or Bob Costas)
Chess (More because I don't know how than anything)

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Screw you, Houston

So my car needs to go into the shop.

That sentence sounds so simple until you break it down. Why does it need to go into the shop? It makes a growling noise when it hits speeds above 30 m.p.h. That's as specific as I can get. I don't know why it makes that noise (Tex suggested bad bearings, SB thinks it might be the exhaust system or something that starts with T that I can't remember [not transmission]), so I don't really know what kind of shop I need to take it into.

Second, I'm really resistant to taking it in during normal working hours, because I don't have any way to get to and from work. Or at least not any convenient way.

So if you have any advice for me and my Tracker, please fork it over.


Monday, August 16, 2004

The overzealous dentist strikes again

I'm always amazed how much of my face is controlled by the nerves in my gums. I've had three shots of novocaine today; my left eyebrow is numb. Basically, I look like a stroke patient.

Anyway, I went in today to get a cavity on my upper left molar filled, and this time Dr. T. felt no need to deviate from the plan of attack. She shot me up with novocaine, let it soak in for AH second, and then started drilling. I don't know if it was my contorted facial expression or my scream that clued her in to the fact that, yes, I could feel that. She's lucky I didn't bite her fingers off.

So she gave me another shot of novocaine, waited approximately two seconds for it to kick in, and went back to her joyful drilling. I could still feel it, and evidently she was paying more attention this time, because she asked, "Can you still feel that, Erin? I'm going to have to knock you out with a two-by-four," and then she made a "psh" noise to indicate the piece of wood hitting me upside the head. I stopped grimacing. She went back to drilling.

Eventually the novocaine actually started working, and I stopped bowing my back in the chair every time she put the drill in my mouth. The rest of the filling went smoothly, although I wasn't pleased when she put the metal shaping brace in my mouth and tried to sever my gum with it. And I don't know why, but she always uses enough filling substance that I'm spitting out silver chunks two days later.

She managed to drill and fill in about 25 minutes, meaning she had 35 minutes left before her next appointment. We were sitting there, waiting for the silver to set, when she looks at me and goes, "You have a small cavity on the upper right side. I think we'll just go ahead and take care of that one today. Let me give you some more anesthetic."

So she shoots me up again and starts drilling. Before you ask, yes, I could feel it, yes, I was grimacing, and no, I didn't ask for another shot. The novocaine eventually kicked in, about halfway through the drilling. And she was using the big drill, too, the one that makes your head bounce on the chair. I was sort of skeptcal about her claim that it was a "small" cavity. She managed to fill that one in less than 10 minutes, at which point I was getting nervous that she was going to start looking around for something else to be wrong.

Thankfully, though, she just tested the height of the fillings and then booted me out of her chair. However, she didn't escort me to the door before she asked this exact question: "I may have asked you this before, but has anyone ever told you you look like Monica Lewinsky?"

Me: "Uh, no."
She: "Really? Hunh."

I didn't respond because I was spitting silver chunks into a tiny, tiny sink, but seriously, can you think of anything more horrible to hear while your mouth is full of metal and your face is numb?

Me neither.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Intentions, road to hell, you get the idea.

So the book I'm in charge of at work? Sucks. It's error-ridden, complicated, and quickly falling behind schedule. It's supposed to go out Friday, but I'm having my doubts about whether it's going to make it.

Just so you know why I don't really ever want to look at print again.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

$50,000 because it's so shiny!

Normally I flip right past PBS when I'm searching for mindless entertainment on T.V., although occasionally I get sucked in for five mintues by something like Sunday's documentary on Ayer's Rock. (I like the weird intensity of the photography in PBS documentaries. Everything is sharply focused and brightly colored in a way that normal television is not, and I don't know why.) But for the most part, I find that PBS lives up to its reputation as the most boring channel on television.

Last night, however, I was baking chocolate-chip cookies and looking for a little background noise, and I made a very important PBS discovery: Antiques Roadshow is, as far as I can tell, the television equivalent of pot.

Seriously. First of all, everybody on this show acts like they're drugged. There's lots of inappropriate laughter, and they keep mentioning the bright colors and patterns. Anything that's shiny gets particularly close attention. Swirls and curliques seem to blow people's minds. Most convincingly, everybody speaks in that weird, floaty voice you only hear from people who are spaced out of their minds. And psychics. Hm, I guess that's the same thing. People begin making wild plans with absurdly slow diction. "Iiii can get fiiiifty thooooouuusand dollars for thiiiis soooooup tureeeen? Amaaaazing. Iiii'm going to goooo hooome and put sooooup in it!"

You watch this for long enough and you start to get a contact high. You feel very mellow, sort of blissed out on the slow voices and the bizzare pattern of the $8,000 rug some woman's had in her attic for the last 25 years. Your head lolls back on the couch and your eyes slide half closed. The abrupt scene changes seem normal because you immediately forget whatever it is you were looking at before. Eventually you get to the point that you just want to have a cookie and go to bed.

So Antiques Roadshow will be my new drug. Actually, it will probably serve to keep me from ever trying pot, because I know the first thing I'd want to do after I got high is watch Antiques Roadshow just to see what that would be like, and if that ever happened, I'm afraid my brain would explode.

Monday, August 02, 2004

I don't think this is a logical idea, Captain

Somebody gave William Shatner another T.V. show. Playing A LAWYER. I mean, lawyers are already hams, but to add WILLIAM SHATNER? Does anybody else think this is just going to end badly?

"I'm...sorry, your honor. Iiii...just couldn't file the brief in time. But the peeeeople have this information client." And then he shoots the jury with a phaser.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Ten Pieces of Advice for the New Democratic Presidential Candidate and His Sidekick

I watched the final evening of the Democratic National Convention last night, and by and large, I had a good time.  Of course, I have a good time whenever the Heinz boys are on T.V.

Anyway, I had a few...suggestions, I guess, for John and John. I will share them after I get a cookie.

Mmm, cookie. Okay, here we go.
  1. John Edwards, you have to stop doing whatever it is you're doing with your tongue when you talk. M2 observed that it makes you look like a hungry frog about to snap up a fly. I thought it looked like your tongue was sentient and rebelling against its toothy masters, trying to climb over your lips and escape. Either way, get that thing under control or learn ventriloquism.
  2. Kerry, you need to smile more. It broadens your face, which makes you look less like a horse. This can only be a good thing.
  3. Keep saying the word "nuclear." It reminds us who can pronounce stuff and who can't. In fact, if you wanted to just stop every once in a while in front of the cameras and say that word over and over for thirty seconds, I think it might be a good idea.
  4. Somebody needs to tell Teresa Heinz-Kerry to stop wearing red. Unless you want Jon Stewart and the rest of America to keep it up with the ketchup jokes.
  5. More Heinz boys. Because damn.
  6. More Alex Kerry. She's a good storyteller. And evidently the boys think she looks okay, too.
  7. This one is for John Edwards: You can't use the word "myself" like that. There are only two ways you can use it: reflexively or emphatically. You cannot use it as the subject of a sentence. No, you can't. Knock it off. John and yourself aren't doing anything.
  8. Put a leash on Teresa. I'm all for powerful women (have you met me?), but do you really want another Hillary on your hands? Give her something important to talk about (because Laura Bush isn't really cutting it as far as role models go), but keep her from alienating the more easily intimidated swing voters. You can turn her loose after you win.
  9. Ditch the slogan "Hope is on the way." Because if you think about it, that's not actually all that promising. It just means we're going to be in a better mood about our problems, not that they're actually going be fixed. Stick with "help is on the way." 
  10. Blue shirts. M! made a point last night: he could never be a politician because he hates white dress shirts. (Well, that and because his chief rebuttal in debates would be "Eat a dick.") Is there any reason we can't have some less serious shirts? Perhaps a nice light blue? Still dignified, but not quite so boring. Would look super snazzy with a blue blazer. Try it, see what you think.

So there are my ten bits of advice for the new nominees. If you see any of them go into practice, you know who to thank.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

I also can't recite the Pledge of Allegiance or cut paper in a straight line 

I have a confession: I'm 23 years old and I don't know right from left.

I mean, I know conceptually what is right and what is left. I realize that if I hold up both my hands flat with the thumbs sticking out, one of them will make an L, and that's the left one. But doesn't work out that smoothly.

Today at work I've been paginating, which involves a lot of telling the computer if a page is a right-hand page or a left-hand page, so the footer and tab can go on the correct side and not get sucked into the gutter of the book. It should be relatively easy to remember: even-numbered pages are left, odd are right. Page 467? Click on "SoloArtRight." Cake.

Yeah, no.

EVERY TIME I change a page, I have to mentally refer to my hands to remember which way is left and which is right. When I tried to make an example of page 467 above, I had to correct what I'd orignally typed: "SoloArtLeft." That's what I get for not referring to my fingers.

This whole phenomenon gets even worse when I have to give or take directions. I finally told my friends that they had to pay attention to the gestures I make with my hands while giving directions, because it's a damn good bet that if I say, "Turn left here," I'll actually jerk my thumb to the right and give you a confused look when you get into the left turn lane. I use the phrase "Your other left" frequently. I've nearly wrecked my own car more than a few times making abrupt lane changes after somebody says, "No, I said right, dumbass."

I'm not sure if there's some disconnect between my brain and my mouth that is impeding the comprehension process, or if I didn't watch enough Sesame Street as a toddler, or what.  I think it might be a function of my larger problems with spatial thinking—the problem being that I can't do it. I know a half-mile is the distance from my house to my mailbox, but if you asked me to look down a random street in Houston and estimate what half a mile is, I'm likely to give you a location that's 500 feet away, if I don't offer one that's three miles down the road. I can't tell you how much water a container holds, I can't figure out my route on a map without turning the map so it is going in the same direction I am, i.e., if I am going west, I have to turn the map so west is at the top. And even then, I'm likely to make a right left right turn when I want to go south.  

Yes, I'm dumb. I know.

Friday, July 23, 2004

I don't think that's really how this is supposed to work

My grandfather does not have a computer, which is unfortunate, because I have a sneaking suspicion that, should he ever learn to use a computer, he would love it. Denizens of eBay: fear the day my grandfather figures out Windows.

Anyway, my grandfather has no computer, but he enjoys reading what I've written. My mother prints out any particularly good blog entries—the lastest being the tooth drama—and mails them to him, and then sometimes they talk about them on the phone. The last time I called him, he told me that my "stories were real cute." That was the same conversation in which he demanded that I write a story about one of the dates I was presumably going to go on. I informed him that nobody had asked me on a date in the last aeon, to which he replied, "Well, you've got a voice, same as them boys." So, anybody want to go on a date with me for blog purposes?

Anyway, my mother called on Tuesday and said, "Your grandfather liked your tooth story. He took it down to the store and showed Rob." I don't know who Rob is or what he sells in his store (probably coins—Grandpa has 10 rolls of each of the state quarters that have come out so far, and he's trying to get 10 rolls from each mint of each quarter), but evidently Rob also enjoyed my tooth story, and will probably be a regular reader of my (abridged) blog from now on.

The thing is, Rob is not the only random friend my grandfather has. For a man with no legs, he gets around. He makes trips to see his friends at the car dealerships down the street, at Bi-Mart up on the hill, at the granary downtown, and more than a few other places that I can't think of off the top of my head. He lives in a town of 16,000 people in Eastern Orgeon, and I'm pretty sure he knows most of those 16,000 on a first-name basis.

By the end of the year I could have a solid senior-citizen readership. Is this blog suited for senior
citizens? I have to wonder. If nothing else, my mother has become the de facto editor of my collected blog works, so I guess I'll leave that decision up to her.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Stupid things I have done this week:
In the spirit of "Thank God this week is almost over."
1. Melted five Gladware containers to a burner on my stove.
2. Burned left forefinger getting melted plastic off burner with butter knife.
3. Burned left forearm draining hamburger for dinner fifteen minutes thereafter.
4. Lost mail key immediately after my roommate gave it to me.
5. Announced (loudly) "There is no good reason to be in college for six years," forgetting that kid who took 6+ sits on the other side of the (open) wall from me. 
6. Stayed up until after midnight for no good reason the day I got my tooth pulled.
7. Decided to take the GRE literature subject test after all.
8. Accidentally dumped drawer full of cosmetics into toilet.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Items of interest

My jaw is still sore as all get out. I can open my mouth this wide: ------, which is one to two hyphens wider than yesterday.

My brother set a date for his wedding: May 27, 2005. Not the date I was hoping for, frankly, but it is Memorial Day Weekend, so you can bet that after the wedding, I'm going to go back to Wayne and sit on the porch drinking wine and exchanging gossip with my parents.

Astros manager Jimy Williams got fired yesterday, and it's about damn time. Not that every problem they're having is his fault (they've got a fair number of geezers, and geezers get hurt, Jeff Kent), but they certainly have the talent to be better than .500. However, I'm not holding out a lot of hope for Phil Garner, Jimy's replacement. The man got fired by the Tigers. Yeah, those Tigers.

Finally, I cannot stop watching T.V. It's bad news bears (WM), seriously, but I love T.V. I only have about six channels, but it's more than enough. I watch That 70s Show and Dharma & Greg or Everybody Loves Raymond in the evening, and Good Morning America in the morning. Please note, Diane Sawyer is clearly superior to Katie Couric in every aspect.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Street Value, One Molar: $154

I love my dentist, but she is a little bit of the crazy. I went in today because I had been having some pain in my upper left molar. She decided she couldn't be bothered to fill the cavity in that tooth; instead she wanted to pull the one next to it.

Of course, you can't really argue with your dentist and be like, I'd really rather not, you crazy weirdo. Cheerio!

So she snapped on her gloves and I leaned back in the chair with my eyes closed and my mouth open. Actually, the scariest part of the whole extraction was reading the release form they make you sign beforehand. Basically it says, "The dentist is going to rip your tooth out of your head and you can't ever sue her, even if the following things happen:
1. You get dry socket.
2. Other teeth are crushed in the process.
3. She takes the wrong tooth. (She's evidently entitled to one tooth per
form, and she gets to pick.)
4. She breaks your jaw, accidentally or deliberately.
5. Your sinuses are opened and dripping into your mouth.
6. The nerves in your mouth are severed and your face is numb forever.
7. You are beheaded."

I literally wanted to look at my dentist and beg, "Please don't break my jaw. I'll floss from now on, I promise!" The words were on the tip of my tongue, but instead I asked if I was going to be able to drive myself home. This was a complete bullshit question, because regardless of what happened, I fully intended to drive myself back to work.

So she lays out her sadistic little instruments on the tray: four of Satan's screwdrivers (heavy, metal, and pointed or slightly hooked on the end; actually called "elevators"), a silver syringe big enough to take down Koko and her kitten, and a gleaming set of forceps. She gave me two shots of Novocaine (bless) and set to work.

She started off using Satan's screwdrivers, and for about the first five minutes, it felt like she was actually trying to push the tooth up through my jaw in order to pierce my brain. The unnumbed side of my face was pushed up against her breast, her eyes are looming over my forehead as if she's a monkey being held up by the tail, and she's prying with all her might against this tooth. Meanwhile, I'm gripping the arms of the chair so hard that my fingers are still tired two hours later.

It took a full fifteen minutes to pry the tooth out. Evidently God hates me, because he gave my wisdom teeth curvy roots. Think about how hard it is to pry a screw straight out of wood. Same principle applies. There was crunching and grunting, and she finally had to STAND UP and YANK BACK AND FORTH with the forceps.

Of course, the first thing she says when she gets the tooth out is, "Wanna see your tooth?" I just looked at her and said, "No," in a tone of voice that implied she was 1) sadistic and 2) high on laughing gas. She said, "Oh, come on. God worked hard to make that tooth," which pretty much confirmed my opinion that God does, in fact, dislike me immensely.

Anyway, I had to look at the tooth, which was bloody and amazingly intact for the amount of crunching I heard. Now I'm worried that the crunching was something that's still in my mouth and is going to start to hurt as soon as the Novocaine wears off, a fear that is aided by the fact that I keep spitting out white shards. Fortunately, I won't have to deal with the pain for, oh, about six or eight hours, because the tip of my nose is still numb.

I escaped from the dental office after paying $154 for a tooth I no longer had and making an appointment for four weeks hence to do what I'd actually come in for in the first place. And when you think about it, that's actually about as good as a dental visit can get. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go spit out this bloody gauze because as fun as talking like the Godfather is...gross.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Get an accurate read on the situation

There was an article in the Globe and Mail yesterday that I found particuarly interesting.

Evidently only 57 percent of Americans read any sort of book in 2002.

Frankly, I have to say that I'm surprised that the number was that high. But that's actually not what I'm interested in. What I'm interested in is what the article doesn't say: how National Endowment for the Arts did the counting, and more specifically, what qualified as a "book."

Did they count eBooks? It's not in book form, but it has the same content. Does that count? Did they think to ask about electronic reading material? And what about magazine content? The New Yorker publishes dozens of short fiction pieces every year. Do they only count once they've been bound in a trade paperback and sold for $15.95 at the local Borders? What about the internet? I'm not saying that blogs, conspiracy sites, and porn should count toward the reading quotient (especially not porn), but I know there is valid reading going on out there. Some of it is even literary. Should spending an hour a day reading the newspaper be less valid than reading a bound collection of Far Side comics?

I'm absolutely unshocked that 43 percent of Americans aren't Barnes & Noble Advantage Card holders, but I have to guess that these people aren't illiterate, functionally or otherwise. They're reading. They're reading box scores and stock reports, news feeds and film critiques and a thousand other things that the NEA has deemed beneath its notice. And while I'm the first one to advocate for the importance of literature, it's really the most important that people read anything they can, whenever they can. These stats are too simple for the NEA to cry "read 'em and weep."

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Well, I don't know why I don't have a boyfriend. You tell me.

My brother is getting engaged this week. Or at least, that's the buzz—he has the ring, the reservations, and the (borrowed) Mustang. He's been dating his girlfriend for at least a year and half, and he told my dad that he feels like this is the right thing to do.

My brother is 21.

I suppose that's not a totally unreasonable age; he'll be 22 by the time he gets married, which is a solid year older than my parents were. And it's not like he should wait until he gets out of school—he's got a good six or seven years of school still left (pharmacology, thanks for asking). He's a fairly mature kid, and I suppose he's as ready to be a husband as anybody really can be.

Actually, he's probably readier than the average guy for two reasons. First, he's got three sisters. Three. And we're all extremely different, so he's seen the female psyche in various states of disarray. Second, the kid's had a girlfriend almost constantly since he was 15. I don't mean he's been dating since then, I mean he's had a girlfriend. Most of his relationships lasted well over a year (against the better judgment of the rest of his family). He's just a dateable guy, I guess.

My youngest sister is the exact same way, although she seems to be a little less willing to be tied to one guy for any length of time. On the other hand, Elysia and I are more...sporadic daters (to put it euphamistically).

I'm 23 and chronically single. My brother is 21 and getting married in a year. I'm not really jealous, except in a general sort of "I want a boyfriend" way. It comes and goes. I don't wish it was me instead of him. I just think it's weird. That's all.

One of us is clearly adopted, that's all I can figure.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Dear Lawyers of the World:

If you don't stop starting every single sentence you write with "also," "however," or a coordinating conjunction, I am going to sue you for abuse of language.


Tuesday, June 29, 2004

So you're not actually supposed to put sugar into the battery jack of the phone. Interesting.

One of the things I forgot to mention on my list of items that are causing my money to disappear was a phone. I was not particularly enthused about the idea of getting a phone, mostly because all my phones seem to come to bad ends.

Today I purchased the fourth cell phone I've had in the past year. I realized that I can't really afford to live without a phone, both for safety reasons and because I'll kill the next person who gives me a sympathetic ook when I say that I don't have a phone number. But I know that somewhere down the line, I'm going to get my heart broken.

My first cell phone was a Nokia 3390. It had a gold face plate—at least, it was mostly gold. The corners and edges were pale grey where the paint had been scraped off by repeated dropping. I accidentally put that phone in a cup holder in my car, which wouldn't have been a problem if my friend I. hadn't spilled a quarter-inch of Sprite in the cupholder the day before. The display was never quite the same after that.

That phone lasted until I went to Austria, where it propmtly became (more) useless, and I got a new, relatively inexpensive prepaid phone. It was shiny and silver and had decent-sized buttons. It's actually still shiny and silver with decent sized buttons, but it doesn't work because I dropped it in a cup of tea. I had just gotten off the phone with my mother and was getting ready to go to sleep. I reached over to put the phone across the top of an empty mug. Too bad that I missed the rim and that the mug was not, in fact, empty. Blutorangentee and electronics evidently don't really mix.

The second phone I had in Austria was great, as well—for three months. Then, when I went to Croatia, it mysteriously turned itself off and refused to allow itself to be turned on again (insert your own sex joke here). I took it in to be fixed ten days before I left. As far as I know, it's still at the repair place, because despite repeated assurances of efficiency, they failed to return it in the allotted time and I left for the U.S. without it.

So now I have this new phone, a Sony Ericsson that's a little clunky and absolutely covered with that little orange Cingular character, but it's got color display and it will be able to call a tow truck if I ever have a blowout on the freeway. Of course, now I have to go through all the new phone rigamarole: pick a ring tone, painstakingly type all my friends' names and numbers in, offend everyone when my phone rings on volume 10 in the middle of a meeting, gum up the display screen with finger prints.

Hm. I think I need a cup of tea.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Yet to be purchased: T.V., Q-tips, carpet cleaner, pots and pans...

I always forget how expensive moving is.

Even in this case, when most of my furniture, books, and household items were already in place, I'm on the verge of bankruptcy. Every time my wallet opens now, it whistles the theme from "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," and a tumbleweed blows across my checkbook.

I've been in town since Friday night, and even before that, the gas to get here nearly equaled the GDP of a mid-Asian country. Okay, let's be honest for just a second. My mother came down with me, and she paid for all the gas on the trip. She's got a Conoco credit card, what can I say.

My mother also paid for the ridiculous two-cart shopping extravaganza at SuperTarget on Friday night. I've never filled up two carts at one time anywhere before, but let me tell you, we had no problem at Target. Part of the issue is that I'm living with a boy who can't correctly identify foodstuffs, so the pantry and the refrigerator were barren like an Antarctic landscape, except for a few lonely cans of lima beans and six bottles of liquor. I also had to get ridiculous items like pillows that I forgot to bring down. Not that they would have fit in my car, anyway.

So yes, I've been giving out money like a Democrat-run congress. I'm telling you this because it means I'm going to be überpoor for the of my life. Give up on Christmas presents now.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Seriously, though, clowns are freaky

I'm continually amazed by how much crap my Tracker is capable of holding. Spatially it's deceptively small, so I always feel like I'm driving a clown car that's going to explode at the next stop light, spewing clothing and housewares all over the highway.

As you might have guessed, the drive to Houston is commencing here in a few hours. My mom and I are loading up the cat and the crap and descending on my new apartment and Half Price Books for some fun good times.

If you're in Houston and wondering when I'll be available for play, the answer is "Monday night." I'll hit town Friday afternoon, but my mom has priority until Monday morning at 7, then work, and then you can monopolize me to your hearts' content.

See you soon.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

You were annoying in high school. Not much has changed, eh?

I just got back from my five-year high school "reunion." I use sarcastic quotation marks because a) five years isn't nearly long enough to require a reunion, and even if it were, b) most of these people still live in Wayne. How reunited do they need to be?

But I went, because hey, free drinks. Also, I thought, what the hell, free opportunity to make fun of many people at once, which was totally what happened.

Of course, the deal at these things is that everybody is happy to see everybody else, but basically falls back into old cliques and is catty about all the other cliques behind their backs (or possibly to their faces, as the night gets older and the drinks get harder). I was no exception; I just sat around with a couple of girls that I actually liked in high school and talked about how much fatter everybody is now. Because damn, Dunklau, you don't just have a spare tire, you've got a spare 18-wheeler goin' there. And you were a jackass in high school.

So this was the conclusions I drew: everybody's fatter but nobody's really changed.

I wasn't nearly as popular then as I was tonight. Or maybe I just felt more popular, because I realized that I truly I don't give a shit now what those people think, so I feel free to speak my mind. That certainly wasn't the case five or six years ago. It was sort of an amazing quiet epiphany. Of course, in high school I didn't have the advantage of alcohol to loosen my tongue, but still, the liberation from worrying about what everybody was saying about me was nice.

However, I'm not mourning the five years that separates me from another night of drunken mockery. I'm not that smug.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

However, I still wave my hand in front of my forehead to indicate that I think someone is insane, like this:

So I've been back in the U.S. for just over a week now, and I don't think my brain is any less confused than it was before I left Austria.

I was, in fact, correct. The reverse culture shock is a bitch. Several times a day, I find something that makes me pause in confusion: country radio stations, saying the "Our Father" in English, hearing somebody talk about soccer, constantly getting the z and y keys mixed up when I'm typing (not to mention endless searches for the umlauted letters). The grocery store threw me for a major loop the other day. It's so big. Is it really necessary to have an entire aisle (which, by the way, is a terrible word for ESL speakers to have to learn) of cereal? We could certainly get rid of Waffle Crisp, at the very least.

I want to speak German all the time. I want say "Grüß Gott" when I walk by somebody on the street. I think it's weird when people say "Hi" to me, especially if they're old. I expect a more formal "hello" or "good afternoon."

Actually, walking by somebody on the street hasn't been happening too much. I admit, I'm doing a lot of hiding. I don't want to talk to people and have to sum up my trip in a few neat sentences. I don't know what my favorite thing was, I don't know what I missed the most, and I don't know when I'm going back. In some ways, I want to hold the experience just for me. On the other hand, I can't stop talking about it when I'm hanging out at home. Fortunately, my family doesn't seem to mind too much that every other sentence out of my mouth starts with "In Austria...."

Getting reintegrated is a process of slow degrees, evidently. I'm mostly over the jet lag, and I can control the impulse to speak German. Now I'm working on getting used to the imperial system of measurement and more casual means of address. Maybe next week I'll be ready to hang out with friends who've known me longer than eight months.

Friday, June 04, 2004

You say goodbye, I say hello (hello, hello). I also say: shut up Paul McCartney, nobody believes your poorly thought out heroin excuses.


This will be my last post from Austria, barring me either a) not being lazy and posting from Vienna tomorrow (doubtful), or b) getting stuck here by an airline strike (it's happened before). It will probably be my last post for at least a week or so, because the computer connection at my parents' house is dodgy at best, and I want to take a little time to digest everything before I start full speed again.

So...I don't have any deep words of reflection on what I've learned, or pithy observations on transition and change. All I feel right now is a stab in the gut that I can't take all the people that I've come to love here home with me, and a budding anticipation for seeing all the people I already loved there again. "All I feel." As if that weren't enough.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

When I grow up, I want to be an ex-pat

Well, I'm almost packed. I sent a 14.02 kilo box of books to Houston yesterday; this afternoon I crammed the stuff I'm not taking into a box to leave for next year's assistant. (Hi, E.!) Most of what's left I've smushed into my well-travelled black suitcase. I still have some significant cleaning left to do in my room, and I have to figure out how to get my shoes into the one square inch of space that's left in my suitcase, but I could probably be ready to leave in less than an hour.

The idea of leaving Stegersbach gets more dreadful as every hour goes by. Today I abmelded; this is basically the process of dergeistering with the government. I no longer officially live in Stegersbach.

On the way home I stopped one last time in the town's sole bookstore, the one where they always seem to find it strange that I just want to browse. It's a good technique, though, because I'm almost always guilted into buying something. Today was no different, though I kept it small (see 'one square inch of space' comment above).

Tonight I have the last choir outing, a performance of Volkslieder in Bad Tatsmansdof. Tomorrow I will say goodbye to my teachers, and Saturday morning I will get on a bus to Vienna and I won't come back.

I'm not ready.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

I just want to pinch its cheeks and ruffle its hair

Sometimes Austria is so cute I can hardly bear it.

Today was a holiday (Pentecost), so of course Gertraud picked me up for the traditional enforced marching.

Today was one of the most beautiful days we've had since I've been here, so Gertraud decided to march me and her boyfriend through the Kellerviertel (cellar quarter) in Heligenbrünn. It's a tiny little town that's filled with these straw-roofed, clay-walled huts that were used (are used?) to store wine barrels. They are adorable in their quaintness. As a result of these huts, the town is also filled with Heuriger, so naturally we stopped to have some Uhudler (a fruity red wine that's a specialty of this region; it tastes kind of like strawberries) and salad. After that we walked bergauf (uphill) along the vineyard and back to the car.

This would have been fine if it wasn't a surprised forced march; I was wearing sandals and capri pants, so I wasn't actually prepared to be tromping through the grass and straw that they lay alongside the grapes. My feet have blisters and my ankles are scratched.

Of course, that wasn't the end of the enforced marching. As we were driving back towards Stegersbach, Gertraud turned around in her seat and said, "Have you ever seen the lake at Rauchwart?" I, stupidly, told the truth and said, "No." So then we had to go march around the lake, which was not a small little pond. We did see a swan, though, and about seventy million tadpoles.

Mostly the day brought home to me how much I'm going to miss Austria. Houston is not big on either lakes or Catholic holidays, so the enforced marches are going to be severely curtailed. Also, nobody in Houston is likely to buy me red wine on a regular basis just because I speak English. I miss my friends and I'm ready to see them, but why can't Texas be as cute as Burgenland?

Friday, May 28, 2004

Well, my cheeks are pink

Most embarrassing German-as-second-language mistake I've ever made:

During a conversation about the division of household chores, I said this sentence:

Wer macht hier das Wichsen?

Which I thought meant, "Who does the polishing here?"

Of course, "to polish" is the archaic form of wichsen, which has fallen completely out of use. What does wichsen mean in today's German?

To masturbate.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Bill Bryson I’m not, but I did try to avoid overdoing the landmine jokes

So here, finally, is the novel-length story of last weekend’s Ausflug, which, as you know, consisted of a trip to Pula, Croatia, by way of Ljubljana, Slovenia. If you make it to the bottom you get a prize.*

I met two other teaching assistants and the friend of one of the aforementioned in Vienna, where we rented a car (a blue Ford station wagon that we named Lorelai) and took for Köflach on Wednesday night to pick up one other assistant.

A short excursion on the subject of our renting a car: this was possibly the most brilliant decision we made all weekend, apart from the one where we actually went to Croatia instead of some other, more banal corner of Europe. About 95% of our suggestions during the trip were concluded with the words, “Hey, we have a car! This will be no problem.” We weren’t constrained to stay in the city center, to depend on public transportation, or to carry our crap with us all the time. Admittedly, parking was sort of hell (I will never, ever, ever own a station wagon if I can do anything short of selling body parts into white slavery), but my word, the freedom was delicious.

The drive itself was relatively smooth, all things considered. The things under consideration are, of course, the fact that 1) I was the only person who could drive a stick, and 2) I am, at best, a marginal driver. Perhaps the best moment of the drive was when we were crawling along in bumper-to-bumper traffic outside of Ljubljana, swearing at the asshole drivers who kept flying by on the shoulder. Our swearing turned to cheers when the semi in front of us, the driver of which was apparently watching the assholes out his rear-view window, pulled suddenly into the shoulder, forcing a tiny purple car to slam on the breaks and slide into a guard rail. Nobody was even close to getting hurt, but their shiny car did get an impressive scratch on it. Served them right. There was much appreciative honking from other cars in the vicinity.

But let me back up a bit and tell you about Ljubljana, which may be the cutest city in the whole entire world. As you (should) know, Slovenia entered the EU on May 1, 2004, and was the richest of the 10 countries that joined. It shows in their capital, which is absolutely charming, with its cobblestone streets, pedestrian-friendly center, and relatively small number of annoying American tourists. Our first encounter with the locals was heartening—we were parking at a spot near the center of town around noon, and a UPS man stopped to welcome us and offer us his extra parking token. Besides being super sweet, it was also fortuitous, since we didn’t have any Slovenian taler at that point. Then we had the largest pizzas ever for lunch, at a cute little café that overlooked the blue-green river running through the center of town, and before we left, we had the best apple ice cream I’ve ever eaten in my life.

We knew Croatia was going to be fantastic when, upon driving out of the longest tunnel I’ve ever seen (cost of use: $3.50), the vista of green mountains and blue, blue water sprawled like a reclining goddess in front of us and stayed that way for the next 60 miles as we made our way down to the tip of the Istrian peninsula, where Pula is located. Not that you would ever be able to figure this out without a map, because the Croatians suck at signs. The Austrians are generally quite good; the Slovenians are acceptably competent, but the Croatians wouldn’t know what to do with a sign if somebody handed them one with explicit directions written on the back using the shortest possible words. It took us an extra half hour to find our hostel, even after we stopped to ask for directions, because we didn’t figure out for fifteen minutes that the street markers were small green posts with the words written on them in twelve-point gold type. Needless to say, they were useless even after we did find them. We forgot this minor annoyance completely when we found the hostel, though. It was right on the water. And by “right on the water,” I mean, “we could open our door and throw things into the Adriatic.”

Thursday night we decided to hit the grocery store for dinner because we were tired and they took credit cards—we had neither patience nor Croatian money. We bought bread, wine, and dried apricots, and proceeded to get drunk and watch the sun sink into the azure.

Friday morning we had our first adventure: parking in the Eastern European style, namely half on and half off the sidewalk. I think this might be the stupidest parking system in the world, because not only does it leave pedestrians no place to walk, but it’s hell on tires. Anyway, we parked in downtown Pula, got cash, bought stamps (you’re welcome, Mom), and then started following the only signs in the entire town of Pula. They pointed toward the first century A.D. Roman amphitheatre, and I’m sure it was probably the Romans’ idea to put them up. Anyway, the amphitheatre in Pula is the second largest in the world. I presume the Colisseum is the largest, but my fact-checker is on vacation, so who knows. Anyway, it was surprisingly complete, considering it was a) old, and b) in Croatia, which doesn’t have the most peaceful history in the world.

After that we bought postcards to go with our stamps and then located a bistro for lunch. Let me insert a word about wine, here. I had wine at every meal in Croatia, except for breakfast where I had either sweet tea or “cocoa” that tasted like it was made by dipping a spoon of Nutella in lukewarm milk. The wine on the Istrian peninsula is very, very good—fruity but not too sweet, and absurdly inexpensive (and I’m speaking as someone who’s lived in Austria the last eight months, where you can’t buy a bottle of wine that costs more than 10 Euros). However, they serve red wine cold. I don’t know why—no other beverage in all of Europe is served properly chilled, but the red wine in Istria was practically shivering.

Friday afternoon we had our first beach adventure. I use the word “beach” lightly, because the shore in Croatia is rocky. There’s no sand whatsoever. Friday’s beach was large rock slabs that actually weren’t too bad for sunbathing, as long as you avoided the parts that were sharp like coral. We lolled about for a good two hours, finishing off the apricots and throwing longing glances at the water. Although the air temperature was a solid 25 or 26 degrees, the water had to be hovering around 17 at the highest. We tried to tough it out—John actually made it into the water because he had to pee—but after I stopped being able to feel my toes as I was inching in, I gave up and went back to my beach mat, which had been purchased the previous evening for 8 kuna (~1 Euro).

Friday night we had dinner at the Hotel Milan, which had been recommended to us by a waiter in downtown Pula as the only decent restaurant in town. It was in the only three-star hotel in town, so that made sense. We spent three hours there, alternately chatting up the cute waiter (who made fun of us for not being able to decide on dessert—we ended up getting one of everything) and complimenting each other on shrimp denuding technique. I adore fish, as you know, and Croatia is the ideal place to eat it. It’s cheap, and John found sand in his calimari—an acceptable level of freshness, I feel.

Saturday morning we decided we had seen all that Pula had to offer and decided to head up the coast a tad to Rovinj, which was purported to have excellent beaches. After another parking adventure (mmm, burned rubber), we found out that Rovinj was celebrating its summer-opening carnival that evening, and that there were 10 km of beaches waiting for us. We headed for the beach.

I don’t know if the sun had fried our brains or what, but somehow we decided that the water was not quite as cold on Saturday as on Friday, even though we were several kilometres north of where we had been. I managed to get in up to my waist, but got back out after I sliced the hell out of my toe on a rock. Mixing my feet and bodies of water is evidently always bad (some of you will remember the famous “Shell Imbedded in Foot While Tubing” Incident of 2000; plus, I cut the arch of my foot while shaving my legs in the shower the other day). The beach on Saturday was composed of small, sharp pebbles which evidently did not bother the two small naked Austrian children that were allowed to run amok until the little boy fell and cut his knee. Austrian parents—so permissive. We, on the other hand, had to either hobble-hop like a rabbit that needed hip replacement, or wear shoes at all times. I chose the latter after the former almost landed me on my ass in the water.

Saturday night was a real adventure. The parade was not kidding around—it started with a baton corps, followed through with a batallion of children, all wearing giant paper flowers on their heads, and finished up with drunken, costumed revelers. I got my hand kissed by a man in a blue hat with giant feathers coming out of it, and some crazy old lady put smears of brown shoe polish on all of our faces. You can imagine how that looked. The best moment, though, was when three Croatian kids, all about seven or eight, rode up to my four loud, somewhat embarassing, beer-drinking friends, and made very distinct “you drunken American bastards” gestures to them. Sometimes the designated driver gets a little bit of karmic reward.

We made it back to Pula Saturday night just in time to hit up our favorite grocery store one more time, picking up stuff for breakfast. We had to be back in Vienna by 5 so I could catch the 7 p.m. bus back to Stegersbach, and since the bus company is evidently run by Nazis, I didn’t want to be late. Therefore we had decided to leave by 7 a.m. in case we hit traffic or weather or something. However, the drive home was nearly ideal (I will admit that my driving companions annoyed me to the point that I was deliberately trying to make them car sick going around curves in the mountains) and we made it back to Vienna by 4:30, in plenty of time for the bus.

All in all, I think this might have been the luckiest vacation I’ve ever been on. I found out after I got home that the weather had been horrendous nearly the whole weekend in Austria. We had no problems with the car, amazingly, and everybody we met was charming or at least amusing, excepting one jerky café waiter who was easily ignored. For plunging half-prepared into a country that’s not renowned for its tourism, the whole thing was ideal. As I said, I’d totally recommend that you go there, if I didn’t want it gunked up by a bunch of annoying American tourists next time I go back, so stay away.

*By “prize,” I meant, of course, “insult.”

Blog Archive