Tuesday, May 29, 2007
A rather awkward conversation:
Evening. I walk into a room and see my friend Tucker and a woman I do not recognize. They are seated at a table.
Friendly chit-chat ensues. How's the wife, how's your daughter, how's work, etc.
Me:(Turning to unfamiliar woman.) Hi, I don't think we've met. I'm Amy. (Extend hand to shake.)
Other Woman: (Returning handshake.) I'm Amy too. We've met before.
Me: Uhh. (Look on my face as if I'm trying to place her and not having much success.)
Other Woman: Last time we met, I was Bill.
(I look closer and realize that yes, perhaps she is a bit masculine beneath the truly excellent make-up job and rather nice costume jewelry.)
Me: Ohhhhh. (Awkward pause.) Well. (Another awkward pause.) Well, you picked a great name.
(Polite and awkard smiling all around.)
Me: Well, I gotta run.
Note to self: Work on things to say in potentially awkward situations.
Note to reader: I have nothing against anyone who's transsexual, transgendered, transvestite, or any other kind of trans. (And I had actually just run into and had a conversation with a male acquaintance who often wears lots of make-up and sometimes wears women's clothes.) I guess I was just really caught off guard!
Monday, May 28, 2007
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Also, there is a brand new truck parked outside my house. It belongs to a guest of a neighbor. Anyway, as far as I can tell, it is brand new. It is one of the supersized trucks with the extended cab and all the extra chrome-y stuff. Also as far as I can tell, it is not an E-85 truck. So this is why they keep raising the gas prices: because morons like this guy (or girl; must remember to not discriminate along gender lines when it comes to oversized vehicles) keep buying giant cars that need a lot of gas.
I drive a sensible, efficient Civic, and I have a three-minute commute, so this price gouging by the oil companies maybe isn't hurting me as much as it's hurting others, but still: a few summers ago, I remember being shocked at $3 a gallon. Now they fully expect it to go to $4, and really, $5 wouldn't completely shock me. It'd piss me off, but when people still buy road tanks that get 11 mpg, I suppose no price is too high for gas.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Thursday, May 17, 2007
You remember the longbox, right? Sure you do. You don't? Okay, it's this: remember, like 15 years ago, when CDs were just starting to become popular, and you'd go to the Wiz or Sam Goody or some place like that and buy a CD? The CD was packaged in a longbox. The CD would be lodged in there up at the top, and the bottom would be just a hollow cardboard box, and if you bought a recently-released CD (and not an old record that had been re-released on CD), the longbox had a rectangular version of the cover art on it. One of the biggest complaints about the longbox was that it, like all unnecessary packaging, created a lot of waste. This was also back when a lot of communities didn't have the extensive recycling programs that they have now, so the assumption was that when people bought a CD, they'd just pry it out of the longbox and toss all the packaging in the trash. These days, people would probably recycle it, but back in the fat '90s, recycling was more of a novelty and less of a common practice, so off to the landfills they want. Anyway, I was thinking about all this yesterday, and I remembered that when longboxes were being phased out, I was really conflicted with my save-the-planet side, because even though I knew that longboxes were bad for the environment, I loved them.
I was in college in the early 1990s, and CDs were pretty much all I spent my money on. Tuition, room and board, and books were graciously paid for by mom and dad, I wasn't old enough to buy booze, and those early clunky electronics were way out of my price range anyway. Plus, a person can drink only so much Snapple kiwi strawberry before said person becomes sick of it. So I bought music. I also had a dorm room to decorate, and, when carefully opened, a flattened longbox made a great wallhanging. So I'd save them, and while I didn't buy music exclusively for the longbox artwork, I'd be lying if I said it didn't factor in to my buying decisions. At one point during my sophomore year, the entire upper perimeter of my dorm room was lined with longbox covers (with no spaces in between!), and I was working on the second row down. I remember one guys' room down the hall that had unflattened longboxes suspended from the ceiling, and I remember thinking that was really, really cool. (Laugh if you want, but what did you think was cool when you were 19?)
And then, slowly but surely, longboxes began to disappear. At first stores would put one of those unlockable plastic outer cases around CDs that would get removed at the register when you bought a CD. And within a few years, those disappeared too. No excess, no waste. But for me, anyway, the initial transition was hard. I remember being in the Wiz in lower Manhattan during spring break of my Freshman year of college, and going in to buy a copy of It's a Shame About Ray by the Lemonheads (which I still think totally rocks), and finding that the store had copies with the longbox and copies with the removeable plastic thingie and no longbox. I remember that I found all the longbox ones in the "L" section and in the "What's Hot" section. The longbox version of the CD had been in stock longer than the nonlongbox ones, so some of them were pretty beat up, but I looked them all over and bought the one that was the most pristine. Then I took it back to college with me, used an Xacto to carefully slice out the front panel, and hung it on a blank spot on my wall. And I distinctly remember thinking that it would be the last longbox I would ever get to buy. I was right.
As far as I've noticed, there hasn't been much clamor for the return of the longbox. I guess it was just kind of one of those things that gets phased out without much noise, and really, all things considered, it's for the best. We don't need the extra packaging. And these days, everything on my walls is in a nice frame. I don't put things up with scotch tape or poster putty like I used to, so maybe longboxes aren't such a great decorating option in the long run. I am almost positive that I recycled all of those longbox covers a long time ago, but I think I might have saved a few. In fact, I think there is a slight chance that I may still have a few up in my attic, and I am tempted to dig through a few bins to see if I can find any. If I do, I may hang them up. After I get them framed, of course.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
So sure enough, it started to rain. And then the thunder and lightening started, though it seemed like it was still far away. And then the sky got a little yellow, and then it got super loud because sirens started wailing. Sirens? Tornado sirens! Every town within probably a 20-mile radius was blaring their tornado siren, so it sounded awful outside (probably worse than what an actual tornado sounds like). I turned on the tv again (after plugging it back in; I unplugged it because last summer when the weather was all thundery and stuff, it was plugged in and blew a circuit, and we had to pay a hundred bucks to get it fixed), and sure enough, we were under a tornado warning for the next few minutes. And then it was a hard decision: do I keep the tv on and stay informed, or do I unplug it and go hide in the basement and not know what the hell's going on outside?
I opted for choice one and added walking around and looking out the windows to see if it got worse outside. And you know what? It kind of cleared up. It was still raining, sure, but it wasn't so yellow out, and the thunder and lightening weren't coming as fast, and it basically looked like your everyday summer rain. So I plugged stuff back in and stopped freaking out.
The aftermath? Well, there was no tornado, that I'm pretty sure of. I guess the little towns south of here got hit pretty badly, with lots of trees down and no power, and I'm just seeing now that the high school in the southern end of the county is closed because there's no power, but around here? Nothing much to speak of, except that I didn't have to water our plants last night and that those weathercasters make me nuts, with their traveling red blobs and their watch-warning-imminent, severe weather, wolf-crying nonsense. I know, I know, they're just doing their jobs. But damn, those tornado sirens are loud.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
We used to eat artichokes a lot when I was growing up. In fact, my mom tricked us into thinking they were dessert. Dessert! And we believed her. Maybe once every week in the spring, as we were sitting down to dinner, she'd put the pressure cooker on the stove, and the whole time we were eating, that little wobbly thing on top would jiggle around and make a buzzing noise, and then when we were done eating, the pressure cooker would go in the sink and get doused in cold water for what seemed like forever, and then my mom would twist it open, and the artichokes would be inside, hot and ready. And then we'd eat them for dessert. With garlic butter. No, garlic margarine. Bright screaming yellow margarine. And not really garlic. It was more like margaraine with garlic salt sprinkled in it. Just the thought of that now makes me gag a little. But we all really liked them, and I even learned at what seemed like an early age how to cut out the fuzzy toxic choke. And then the whole heart would go in what was left in my dish of garlic-like margarine. And then I would eat it.
Then after I stopped living with my parents, I didn't really eat fresh artichokes. For a long time, I thought you could only cook them in a pressure cooker, but now I know better. (And, confession, I still have a slight fear of pressure cookers. They just sound potentially dangerous.) And I liked the canned and frozen hearts well enough, and they were hardly any trouble at all, so I just forgot about the whole fresh artichoke tooth-scraping thing. But now this week I got some, and I am enjoying them again. (And maybe correcting a few mistakes of my childhood. Margarine with garlic salt? That's just wrong on so many levels.) I've been steaming them, one at a time, since when I unpacked them from the grocery bag, Paul made a face that I interpreted as "artichokes are gross" (I was right). I chop off all but maybe an inch of the bottom stem, and then I slice off the top half-inch or so of the leaves. My mom never did that, and I suppose you don't have to, but it really prevents your fingers from getting jabbed by those prickly leaf ends. Then I put a steamer basket in a tallish pot, add a little water, put in the artichoke bottom up, put the lid on, turn on the heat, and walk away for 40 minutes. Then I come back, and there's an artichoke, all ready to eat. Instead of garlicky/salty margarine, I dip the leaves in a kind of modified salad dressing: a spoonful of mayo, plus a little vinegar and whatever dried herbs I happen to grab. But just a little, so as not to negate the supposed health benefits of artichokes. Last I heard, mayo is still not good for you. And when I'm done eating my artichoke, everything left over goes in the compost, so there's no waste.
I don't know if this will turn into a regular habit, as there is some time commitment involved with eating artichokes, both to cook and to eat. It's not fast food in any way. And it looks like I will have to eat them either alone or with Paul sitting across from me making confused and disgusted faces. And I have noticed that, out of season, they're amazingly expensive for a little softball-sized vegetable. But they are good, and I have two more left in the fridge. I just don't eat them for dessert.
Monday, May 7, 2007
Then last night, because it finally opened here, I went to see The Namesake. I thought it was good, even though it was rather UN-subtle. (Fun side note: the mother worked in the Nyack Public Library in good ol' Rockland County, so there were some exterior shots that I recognized.) But what was memorable about the movie for me was that I sat in front of three older ladies. They were maybe late 60-ish or early 70-ish, and they were obviously all friends, or maybe even related, and they acted like they hadn't been to a movie in 40 years. They didn't only not realize that certain standard American movie plotpoints, like the two leads having sex for the first time, or parent-child tension, are perhaps a bit more visual and intense than they were in movies made, say, 40 years ago, but they just didn't understand common moviegoing etiquette, like keeping your fucking mouth shut while the goddamn movie's playing! Holy crap, these three broads were having their whole post-movie discussion while the movie was playing, and they weren't even trying to whisper! They repeated lines, they made little comments ("Oh, how could he say that?"), they gasped every time two people kissed, and they just generally acted like the people on the screen were real, rather than fictional characters. Seriously, during the more emotional scenes, I could hear them sobbing and sniffling and unzipping their old-lady handbags and digging under rolls of Certs for a floral handkerchief. Jeeeeeeez. I have no doubt that they all got up this morning, went to the local library, and checkecd out a volume of Gogol short stories so they could read "The Overcoat." And I have no doubt that they will all talk about it with one another. Loudly, and probably at the most inappropriate times.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
But I do like the idea of getting rid of stuff we don't use, and maybe even making some cash on it in the process. So, Paul and I rifled through the basement and the attic, and we'll be selling the stuff that's just been sitting around for the past two years. Anything that doesn't sell will go to Goodwill. The weather promises to be great, and even though I am usually skeptical that people will want to buy our old stuff, it all seems to go. We did this last year and sold everything! Apparently, lots of other people like garage sale-ing, even though I do not.
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
But then this afternoon, I was entering my grades for the community college class that I teach, and I got to one student about halfway down the list, a woman who I liked because she actually cared about learning something in my class, and I remembered that she missed the final exam, which struck me as odd, and then next to her name, I saw the word "DECEASED," and I kind of freaked out. She was a really nice woman, and was just starting back to school to become a nurse so she could stop working crummy factory jobs, and she was motivated and ready to learn and get her degree. I stopped what I was doing and made a bunch of phone calls, but no one could tell me what happened. Then I learned that the visitation was happening as I was on the phone, so I hung up and went to the funeral home, and there she was, and it was awful. They're still not sure how she died, and I didn't feel right asking anyone to let me know, so I guess it will be a mystery for me. I feel terrible. She seemed like a good person who was ready to turn her life around, so for her to go so suddenly just seems unfair.
And, I don't want to get a complex about this or anything, but this makes the fifth student of mine who has passed away in the last two years (plus I had one last year who was in a horrible accident and was just barely alive for a few weeks before he started to recover), so I am starting to wonder if maybe I am cursed or something. Does this normally happen to teachers? I don't think it does. I hope it doesn't.
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