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.

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