Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wing-a-ling dragon

Thank you to My Reflecting Pool for introducing me to Strongbad.

Oh, go ahead and click it. For a wing-a-ling dragon.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The pale blond un-interestingness of it all

I neither shave nor wax my bikini line. Sorry. I am neither dark nor hairy enough to bother. (Unlike some people).

In fact, let me just keep talking. I sometimes get sad about my lack of interesting hair. The pale blond un-interestingness of it all. Women with a little pigmentation actually have something to trim back or wax - hell - some have enough to shave their boyfriends' initials into the situation.

I was at the gym yesterday, and I had to share a bank of lockers with such a (naked) creature. She was applying lotion to her shins, which required that she fling her shins up onto the counter (one at a time, of course). This afforded me a good view of her sitation, whether I wished to observe it or not.

She had shaved or waxed it into a, um, how to describe? A charming... runway. Then I noticed that she was darker than I in an all over way and had - get this - longer eyelashes and prettier, thicker hair. She even had visible eyebrows. Lovely, she was.

And then I got a little sad. I have no good reason to apply razor blades or firey hot wax to my parts or situation. This must be no way to live.

Someone comfort me.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Even Weirder

Tagged again, this time by Bee, to list the seven most famous or infamous people I have ever met or to do the ubiquitous seven strange things about me post.

Happily, there are more weird things about me to share.

1) I do not own a single tube of lipstick. Gloss, yes. Stain, yes. Stick, no.

2) I categorically reject thong underwear. Whose idea was that? I'd rather not wear underwear than have to wear a thong. And yes, it is possible to find underwear that doesn't create lines. Please stop looking at my ass.

3) I used to be a telemarketer. (I was in graduate school and really poor. Don't judge me).

4) I have twenty bottles of nail-polish. Why is this weird? Because I don't wear nail-polish.

5) I am rarely late or early for anything. I am on time.

6) I have never read a single word of the Potter books.

7) I can't sleep unless I take my earrings out.

Tagged herewith:

Maggie, LAS, Liz, Lotus, Jen,and Cajunvegan.

P, you are also tagged if you want to be tagged but not if you don't. Ditto Woodrow.

(This presupposes that the above listed taggees don't have a choice, which they certainly do).

Oh yes and the "rules" state that if you are tagged you should tag more people and leave comments on their blogs telling them they are tagged.


Tomorrow, I will tell the story of Grip. Until then, have a lovely Tuesday.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Go see Dan and LAS

Go see Dan. After you do that, please go see LAS.

Thank you. See you tomorrow.

What rhymes with annoy?

Last night, Roy and I were settling down to watch Pride and Prejudice when I recalled the other bug from my past, one I did not name and incorporate into my household.

I will name him now. His name shall be Troy.

I will tell the story of Troy to illustrate one of the many excellent reasons I am watching five hour "movies" with a common household fruit fly and a cat, in my pajamas, with my hair piled on top of my head and very expensive beauty products piled up on my face.

The reason is that I am annoying. (Secondary reason: debilitating hatred of bugs). (Tertiary reason: petulant sense of feminine entitlement). (To be live unmolested by bugs). (The end).

A bit of pre-amble. Please be patient. Here is where I live:

The building is run by a squad of doormen, porters, maintenance workers and assorted real estate swindlers. These people are maniacs about making sure the building is well-run, organized, and above all, clean. Many times I have to share an elevator with a guy who is rubbing each individual crystal of the chandelier with a hanky. Once a day, I listen and observe that someone is running a vacuum cleaner right up to my door. Obviously, pests such as mice and roaches are not tolerated. In any event, I have had limited exposure to them in my five years here.

I am getting to the part where I explain more fully why I am watching Colin Firth amble across a meadow* in a wet shirt. (For the fiftieth time). Please be patient. Oh! And look at this:

So many years ago, I was bent over my needlework with my hair piled on top of my head. (I may have been wearing $10 worth of moisturizer). I glanced up from my embroidery and saw the creature scurry into my apartment from under the door. It was Troy, urban cock-roach.

(Please forgive me for not making you a proper drawing of Troy. To even picture him makes me shudder).

So in walked Troy. I screamed. I climbed onto the kitchen table, weeping and shuddering, gnashing my teeth. Troy, realizing there were no Ritz crackers and EZ cheese laid out for him on a doily, perceived his error. But instead of exiting the way he entered, he scrambled across the room (that would be my entire apartment) and set himself up under the heater in my bathroom.

If you think I was upset about Troy perching on my welcome mat, you can't imagine the inconsolable mania that resulted from his new location. My hands were shaking so badly that I couldn't dial my cell phone.

Who was I trying to call, you ask?

Why, FB, of course. He was wrangling a stent into Some Old Guy's hardened artery down at the hospital, but no matter.

FB arrived ten minutes later, but by then the problem was much, much worse. While I was on the phone, Troy had vanished. I shrieked and chewed my hands while FB tore the bathroom apart, looking for Troy. No luck.

So FB spent the night at my place, protecting me and Cat-head from Troy. I slept on one side of the bed and he sat up on the other, reading medical journals with one eye trained on the heater.

As you may have surmised, Troy did not reappear. The next day, FB and I had to go back to work and defer bug hunting for another day.

Two weeks went by without word from Troy. I had almost forgotten about the incident.

And then one day, while I was rinsing the shampoo from my inexcusably long hair, I glanced up to find two long, wiggling antennae reaching over the top of the shower curtain.

Oh, ok. I'll make you a drawing.

FB was working third shift in a hospital thirty miles away. Nevertheless, he arrived thirty minutes later to find me naked, wrapped in a quilt, with shampoo in my hair, in the fetal position, sobbing on the kitchen table. Have I mentioned how much I hate bugs? (I do like Roy a little bit).

FB, according to my instructions, disengaged the shower curtain and threw Troy away with it. He then took the trash all the way out to the sidewalk. He returned with a cookie and a bottle of my favorite mineral water. Then we had a "talk" about being a little more grown up about bugs.

Thirty minutes is an inexcusable duration to make Nina wait for rescue. I was most seriously displeased.

If you are marveling at the patience of FB, let me point out the original purpose of this missive. It was to illustrate one of the 345,232 reasons I am still single. (It's because I am annoying). The end.

*Not all women are vulnerable to The Colin Firth in a Wet Shirt pathology, which is attraction to men who are well spoken and refined and who do not define having good manners as being fussy and afraid of a little dirt. What every woman needs to know about Darcy, she learns when he arrives home on horseback, dismounts, takes off his hat and boots and jumps into the lake in front of his house. He is a Man, you see. Stupid Regency Period breeches notwithstanding.

** If you think this unreasonable, well, it was. But in my defense, FB found this behavior acceptable. While intolerant of certain other features of being In A Relationship, (like me speaking more than three sentences consecutively), FB had a very useful "savior" complex. Nothing motivated and pleased him more than being needed. He actually liked going to extraordinary inconvenience and trouble to "rescue" me from whatever situation I could present as beyond my strength. So you see, I was doing him a favor by acting like a spoiled child. (He liked it when I was helpless and he could step in and be competent and powerful). (We all have our issues).

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sin of the week, 1/27/08

I regret to inform you that I have no spectacular crimes to report this week.

I could, of course, give a run down of all the minor crimes, but I am already bored with the idea of listing all my hateful thoughts, moments of impatience, and cookies ingested. I didn't even drink too much on my birthday (despite much encouragement from friends, waiters and busboys and the entire upper west side).

So today I am going to shake things up a bit and describe a sin I am planning on committing this afternoon: I am going to the yarn shop (again) and while I am there, I am going to surreptitiously take a picture of a pattern grid I need to complete a certain long overdue project. Yes, I should buy the book. Ordinarily, I would, but I already own the book. The difficulty is that I can't look at it because it is at Buzz and Leta's and I don't have time today to go all the way to NJ today. So I am going to, uh, "steal" the pattern.

So the big excitement of my weekend will be swiping a needlework pattern. Could my life be any more thick and ordinary?

(I am going climbing after church tonight. I'll try to fall dramatically so as not to be so profoundly dull. Thank you).

Saturday, January 26, 2008


If I were you, I would go say happy 31st birthday to Adam Avitable. You know, the guy with the dancing video, the guy with edicts and luscious drawings, the guy eating ice cream with Hitler. What, are you still here? Go give Adam a birthday salutation, please. You did it for me, so go now and do it for Avi. Thank you.

I was going to draft a tribute post for Avi titled "If I were Avitable," sung to the tune of If I were a Rich Man from Fiddler on the Roof. But I found I just wasn't up to the challenge. Instead, I will give you a list of things I would do better if I were Avitable.

If I were Avitable, I

... would post every day just after midnight, 365 days a year.
... respond to comments within the hour instead of twenty-four - or as is the case lately, never.
... would be doing my share to keep Britt off the street instead of merely reading her blog.
... would have a marauding band of adoring fans instead of a stalking problem from those guys from cell block E.
... would be sweet enough to have a dog named Jigsaw.
... would be well-adjusted enough to get married, Hitlerian associations notwithstanding.
... would still have a link up at Neilochka's place (Neil doesn't love me anymore. Heartbreaker, that guy).

I would also have the guts to routinely post my full name and street address on the internet; so confident and unfazed by criticism is Avi that he welcomes unmarked boxes that come in the mail, as they usually contain gifts and snacks from his readers. Once Britt got a stapler. That's the scariest thing they've received in the mail that I know of.

That's it for now. Will post later... after I am confident that all of you have wished Avi a happy birthday.

(OK what I meant was I'll post after I get back from the yarn shop. Need more stash).

Friday, January 25, 2008

Hello, Kitty

I walked into the office at Panic Hire University this morning to pick up my syllabi and course contracts.

"Hi Dominique," said I. "Do you have my paperwork?"

"No," said she. She then took her crystal encrusted Hello Kitty phone out and started tapping at it. IM, perhaps?

"So, Dominique, the paperwork. Where is it?" I tried again.

She looked up, startled to see that I was still in the room. One of her acrylic nails was caught in the keys of phone in mid-IM flurry. Most distressing.

"The Print Shop lost everything. They can't find any of your stuff."

"They lost it?" said I.

"Yeah, they can't find it. So, you know, it's gone." Her phone wiggled a little. Very shiny.

"Oh, dear," said I. "What shall we do?"

She, still tapping furiously, still sighing dramatically, still outraged that I was in her office, replied, "I don't know. Why don't you have your OWN copier?" Then her little head bobbed back down to the sparkly as if the matter were closed.

Not kidding.

Why oh why did I agree to work for these sloppy, unethical people again?

Oh yes. For the money. Yes. So I could go to Tanzania. Exactly.

Hey! Did y'all notice that I went to gym last night? Hm?

Ok, back to work.

Have a good weekend. And thank you for reading.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

You girls break my cab!

I got an email from "anonymous" yesterday.

Dear Nina,




Anonymous, you make a valid point. The blog was better when I wrote more about doing things rather than thinking real hard about things. (My life was better, too).

So anonymous, I hear and I obey and report that Bibi, Sri, Mischa and I booked a trip to Tanzania today. The itinerary includes a 5 day safari, a 7 day ascent of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and 5 days at the beach in Zanzibar.

Of course, the centerpiece of the trip is the climb.

Some quick facts about Kili:

1) the summit is 19340 feet above sea level
2) the climb takes 5-8 days depending on the route
3) you camp on the way (no showers or hot water)
4) the route includes 5 climate changes - which means lots of gear
5) 14,000 people per year attempt the climb
6) 60% do not make it to the summit
7) altitude sickness is the primary reason people do not summit

We started our quest for mountaineering greatness by having a whole bunch of beers and a little bit of cake.

Then we demonstrated yoga poses for each other in the taxi on the way home. (Please note: taxi drivers do not like this at all).

I have added to my already copious sidebar a record of my training, which I will update every day until we depart. As you can see, I have done absolutely nothing but resist two cookies (the cake probably puts me back down at at zero, but I ain't changin' it. Those cookies looked good).

PS Nobody tell my brother that I am deliberately going to the country that is next door to Kenya on one side and Rwanda on the other. Thank you.

Me. Glorious me.

Today is my 38th Birthday.

Below, self portrait of the artist as a newly minted middle-aged woman:

Enjoy, and happy January 23rd.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

9th avenue at 2:50pm

I ran an errand this afternoon over at Panic Hire University. On my way back, I walked down 9th Avenue, and as I was crossing 23rd street, four emergency vehicles blared by. I watched them as they turned left into Soho. I remember thinking it had to be something bad because they were practically nudging people and cars out of the way with their bumbers.

I was right.

The ambulance and two fire-trucks I watched go by were undoubtedly en-route to try to revive Heath Ledger, who died today of a drug overdose at 28 years old. He was pronounced dead at 3:45pm.

So not that it needs saying because y'all are smart and you know these things already, but dammit, it's take care of yourselves and take care of your people. If money and attention solved anything, the rich and powerful wouldn't die.

The end.

A boring, non-historical moment at Reader

Oh, look! I am doing another meme!

Bred tagged me to do this one:

Seven Weird Things about me:

1) I floss my teeth in the shower. I don't know why I do it this way, but I always have and I am rather ashamed of it. What kind of eco-warrior lets two gallons of water spin down the drain while she flosses her teeth? Bah. Not good. Not good at all.

2) I have one kidney. OK, one and a walnut sized blip of a second. It's a long story but the short version is that I was born with something wrong with my kidneys and almost died repeatedly until I was about three, when they medical community managed to fix it. But not before removing most of one kidney.

3) Three things I don't like that everyone else does: dogs, bananas, and naps. One, dogs pee in your house. If you keep them outside, the pee in your yard. They are also as needy as babies but can't grow up and appreciate you. (I have nothing good to say about dogs). Regarding bananas, ew. Gross sticky sweet ew. Regarding naps, if I take one, I wake up disoriented and screwy and I don't know what day it is. My body knows one kind of nap. The eight hour kind called nighttime. That is all.

4) If I drink a can of beer, soda, whatever, I always rip the tab off. I don't know why, but I must do it. I must. It's kind of OCD, I know.

5) I do not eat bacon. It is not a political statement. I do not like it.

6) I used to work for a Big Fancy Bank and my job was to underwrite non-conforming loans of every variety. Need a $50,000 loan secured by a tract of swamp land, a ball of rubber bands, and a tricycle? That was my job - to make "relationship" loans. (Please note: I am now a teacher, ie, I am no longer rolling around on the floor with the devil. At least I don't think so. Wait.... I.... oh shit).

7) We lived in Europe when I was a little kid. My dad had a friend in Holland and since the two of them did the same job for two different companies, they got the OK from their bosses to trade jobs, houses, and lives for a year. We lived in Eindhoven and then moved around a bit before returning to the U.S. A few grainy pictures I unearthed from those times:

A sea of tulips:

A lane of windmills:

My brother Buzz and I walking to Berg Eltz in Germany:

And finally, Berg Eltz:

Tagged herewith: Em, e!, Supajewie, Avitable (reverse tagged for previous meme he already completed or tagged for this one if he wants to do it but I think the seven photos of seven body parts post is adequate preemptive response to this tagging. So. Also, y'all should know Avitable is making an ENORMOUS fuss over his birthday. Go see him and guess his parts or otherwise give him attention).

Just so you know, since I am NOT making an enormous fuss, tomorrow is my 38th birthday.

Also, if you are not tagged in this post or the previous one and you wish you were, please consider yourself tagged. It's hard to say who wants tagging and who doesn't. So I leave it to you.

An Historic Moment at Reader

I have never done a meme.

I thought I never would.

Oh well.

Here is my first:

The name of my band is: Yutaka Hirose. The name of our album is To Come Back Home. Here is our album cover:

If I could figure out how to properly credit Flickr for the use of this photo, I would. Perhaps the above is all that is necessary.

Forgive me please, SpiritedStrider, for not making a proper job of this meme. Photo-shop is on my other machine and I am late to this party, so I thought I would hop to it.

Here are the official rules:

It's called The Band Meme.

Here's how it goes. You are about to have your own band's CD cover. Follow these directions to the letter.
Go to......

The first article title on the page is the name of your band.

The last four words of the very last quote is the title of your album.

The third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4. Use your graphics program of choice to throw them together, and post the result as a comment in this post.

(Don't forget to follow the Terms of Use at Flickr and provide a link back to the page at Flickr.)

Musical Laughter, Rick(y), Marlee, Mallory, Lola, Bred, * consider yourself tagged. Act as you will, but tagged you are.

* Yo, Lola, I know you have not updated your blog in two months and you are not speaking to me, but YO, you have been tagged. In case you feel like a little harmless blog communication, is all I am saying.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Did I miss anything?

In RDU airport, powering through all the emails, I get this one:

Hi Ma'am,
I didn't make it to orientation. Did I miss anything?

My response:

Hi Kerri!

First of all, I want you to know I love you too. I always have. Your love for me and my love for you are like children frolicking together in a sun-drenched meadow. I am relieved to know you feel the same way.

As for orientation, you missed keg party and a rousing game of strip poker. Then you missed a spirited, joyous gang bang with a band of convicts escaped from cell block E of the local penitentiary. (The federal one, so you know they were quality, indeed).

You also missed important instructions on how not to fail my class flat on your ignorant, teenaged ass, but I'm sure you'll get by. How you'll get over missing the drunken card game and the gang bang, I don't know.

But I am here for you.

Love always,

Nina (Bitchy English Teacher)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sin of the week, 1/20/08

Buckle-up. You are going to love this.

My flight on Thursday morning was full, very full. Since I took the bus to the airport, I just barely made the check-in cut off, and I was waiting at the gate when I realized that the flight was overbooked and I had no seat assignment.

Three people volunteered to stay behind, but they needed a fourth. No one was volunteering. Boarding started.

So what did I do?

I walked up to the desk and said, "Ma'am, I need to be on this flight. Am I the only person without a seat assignment?"

"No," she said. "But you are the only person checked in without one." This confused me.

"Look," I said. "I need to be on this flight. It's an emergency."

She looked askance at me.

"I need to be on this flight because I have a sick relative. My, uh, father, in fact, is very sick. I can't miss this flight."

** I'll give y'all a moment to gasp and clutch the sides of your head in abject horror.**

"If you'll wait just a second," she said, "I can get you a seat."

And she did. I don't know if lying to her about what was recently true but is now no longer true had any effect, but gosh, do I feel dirty. Slimy pond scummy silty muck dirty, even.

Can anyone top that?

Cowboy-up: part three


My dad vacillated between indifference and open hostility, and Erica was steadfast and unwavering in her belief that my dad was the one true love of her life, end of story. So total was her belief in the romance that was not happening that she resolved to maintain contact with him by whatever means necessary - even to the point of causing that incipient hostility my dad was cultivating to become open and volatile. She believed, and she was not a woman to be gainsaid.

Of course, I could say nothing to him about his refusal to see her again, and I could say nothing to her about her unwillingness to abandon the idea. If I asked my dad about her, he said, "I did as you requested. I had lunch. Now let me be." If I asked her about him, she said, "I am praying for him to come around. I am certain that he will."

I moved to New York and worked on my PhD. All the while, I knew that Erica was emailing my dad and that my dad was ignoring most of her emails and that when he answered, he did so only because he felt that it would be abominably rude not to do so. This made things awkward with my boss, let me tell you. It's one thing to have girl talk with your boss - all well and good - but girl talk with your boss that is also about your father? Talk about awkward. However, she was sure he was 'the one' and that he would eventually see things her way.

I am getting to the part about the cowboys.

A few months after I left for New York, I got an emotional phone call from my dad. His effusiveness, on this occasion, about how much he loved me and so forth, was unusual. I asked him what was wrong, and he told me that two people he hardly knew, his neighbors in South Carolina, had died in a motorcycle accident. They were both in their fifties and just retired and BLAM! gone. It had just, well, made him sad.

I wondered what effect this might have on his policy toward Erica. I asked him. He said, "Women are trouble. I just want to go fishing and read my books."

"OK," I said. I told Erica the story about the motorcycle accident.

Then I asked Erica, "Any progress with my dad?"

"Maybe," said she. "I have a new plan. I'll let you know."

A few days later, Erica sent my dad an email that is now infamous. It read:

Dear Joe,

For over a year I have made it pretty plain that I want to be a part of your life, and you have rebuffed me. The story about the people who died in the motorcycle crash has convinced me that it's time for me to move on with my life.

The opportunity to be with me is passing you by unless you act now. I can't wait any longer.


Love, Erica


Poor dad. He never had a chance, really.

He received this email and saw that Erica, a woman he thought would love him from afar forever, was prepared to leave him if he did not act, if he did not "cowboy-up."

He called and asked her if he could take her to a movie. He drove to her house. From the way Erica tells it, he got out of the car and she walked out to meet him. In the front yard, they kissed for the first time. She burst into tears and said, "I love you."

My dad's response to this was, "Oh, good. Let's get married."

Three months later, they got married and he moved into her house. Three months after that, they moved into his weekend house in South Carolina. Right now, I am sitting in my father's armchair drinking coffee from that 'Bandera, Texas' coffee mug, and my dad and Erica are sitting at the kitchen table holding hands on one side and sorting the mail on the other. If you ask either of them what they think of dateless courtship, they will both say, "Why date when you can just cowboy-up?"

End, part the third.

(There no real cowboys in this story. Sorry I misled you).

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Cowboy-up: part two

Mrs. Lovelace, who was my direct supervisor at Sweet Little College, never seemed to grow tired of me. I spent hours in her office each day, talking about my teaching challenges or my grad school issues, or my boyfriend issues (Owen was five years younger than I and a lapsed Mormon; I, a lapsed Catholic, was drowning in guilt over my irrepressible desire to make out with a guy five years my junior. I mean, who does that? Want to see a grim and dismal? Take a look at Nina and Owen, circa 1999).

I am sorry. Where was I?

I learned more about Mrs. Erica Lovelace over the next year. The western wear, for example, was a fad/phase she and her daughter were navigating together. Her daughter, Epiphany, had fallen in love with a cattle rancher and pro-rodeo performer from Oklahoma. Having fallen in love with not just the individual cowboy, but also the cowboy culture, Epiphany brought her mother along for the ride (so to speak). Both were happily immersed in country and western music and were fast developing the wardrobe to match. They were planning a vacation over summer break to visit the boyfriend and see actual, real live cows, close up. Epiphany had taken up the banjo; her mother was learning to sing along with Bonnie Raitt. These were good times for them.

Of her former husband, Mrs. Erica Lovelace would say nothing. Being a recent convert to Catholicism, Erica was more interested the present and the future. In spite of her silence on the subject, of her first marriage, I became convinced that whoever he was, he must have been a complete ass. Epiphany later told me that my general non-impression was perfectly right. I never asked Erica anything more about it, but I did get the distinct impression that she would very much like, someday, someway, to marry again – so long as it was ok with her daughters.

Fade, cut, whatever the means, to a picture now my dad, seven years ago. My dad, bless his heart, did not take my mother’s death very well. Some men, when they lose their wives, set about to find someone, anyone else. We’ve all seen it happen: a young wife dies and her husband is seen three weeks later packing a convertible with beach gear while some age-inappropriate tart stands by, fantasizing about how much money he is going to spend on her. It is the way of the lonely, heartbroken man and the charming parasite. Blech.

My dad was having none of it; he set out to traverse the rest of his days absolutely alone. He worked, he fished, he smoked a pipe, and he slept. That was his life. (Except for perhaps the first four years after my mother died. During those years, you could also add catatonic armchair sitting and heavy scotch consumption to the list). These were bad times for him.

By early 2002, I had made plans to move to New York City. Naturally, I was concerned about how my dad would get along with me. (In reality, it was I who would be worse off, but that’s another story entirely). One day at Sweet Little College, I mentioned my concern to Erica, who knew by this time that my dad, to me, is the beginning, middle, and end of all that is good and right in the world. I was expressing something or other to this effect when I had a sudden and inexpressible urge to tell Erica that I wanted her to meet my dad before I left for New York. I knew there was no reason for them to meet and I knew that to suggest the meeting would be inappropriate. But I kept wanting to say it and fighting the desire to say it. And then finally, I said it.

“Erica,” said I. “Would you mind terribly much if I said I think you should have lunch with my dad sometime? Or would that just be too weird?”

Erica, of course, would be delighted to meet this paragon of manhood. Of course she would.

I called my dad that night and said, because I have considerable influence over him when I said things like “please” and “pretty please”, “Please drive to Raleigh and have lunch with my boss sometime before I leave for New York. If you do this, I will not bother you ever again about spending all your time drunk in an armchair staring into a cold, damp fire. The end.”

So my dad, convinced that my boss was both annoying and ugly, consented to meet her because I said “please.” He called her and gave her a date and a time and then Erica, because she is one of my kind, commenced the pre-date wardrobe freak out and bought three new tubes of lipstick.

It was an exciting time.

When my dad showed up at the school to pick her up, he looked at me as if he were on a death march to the guillotine. I have to say, I felt right sorry for him. That is, I did until I saw that he was wearing a jacket and tie and had finally moved his wedding ring to his right hand.

Well damn, I thought.

Damn indeed.

Erica reported that she loved my dad with complete abandon from the moment he walked into her office.

My dad reported that he found Erica to be the most depressing, phony, faux-cowgirl of a flake he had ever met, and further complained that he’d drive a long, long way for a guarantee that he’d never have to see her again.

Thus ends part the second. Sleep tight.

Cowboy-up: a love story in three parts

Kate P asked to hear the "cowboy up" story. To be fair, I didn't bring it up. First it was brought up by e!, who used the phrase in comments to illustrated a point about not being weak and wobbly.

Enough preamble, already. Let's get to the cowboy(s).

Let's say it was seven years ago. (It was). Let's say Nina was having an existential crisis and was shot through with anxiety and guilt.*

Nina quit her lucrative, high profile job in the banking industry because of the above feelings. She had no idea what to do with herself and was feeling anxious, guilty, scared and generally like complete shit. About everything.

She did what all people in her situation do: she applied to graduate school. Then she was told, ever so gently by one of her oldest friends, that she might consider teaching while in graduate school as a way to pay the bills.

Now, Nina had resisted teaching as a career ever since she took that popular personality type indicator test that indicated that she would be in a state of unrelenting misery were she to do anything other than become a nun or a teacher. She didn't resist so far as to become a nun, but eight years working in the banking career in a state of near-unrelenting misery had begun to wear her down. (See above).

Let's stop referring to me in the third person, shall we?

While in graduate school, I got some teaching experience so that I could become, in real life, just as prosaic and ordinary as that hateful test said I was. I applied to a semi-local college for part-time work, and got it because the above referenced friend worked there and bullied someone into signing off on the hire even though I had NO experience or training.

To my horror, I was an excellent teacher.

To my double horror, I liked the job an awful lot.**

To my infinite horror, I discovered that I never wanted to have any other job every again.

The end.

Oh wait. I forgot about the cowboys.

To recommence: I needed more than just part time teaching work, so called the local community college English Department and invite myself in for an interview.

I arrived at the local community college campus feeling sticky and hung over, and frankly, dreadful. I did not think the interview would go well, but I felt compelled to try, since I could not piece together a living unless I had one full time job or two part time jobs. My obsession with retirement savings had already begun. I was low on cash and I was sticky and terrified.

I am almost to the part about the cowboys.

When I knocked at the door of one Erica Lovelace, I was convinced everything would go terribly wrong. When no one answered, I decided that it had indeed gone wrong before it ever started. I turned to leave, but heard the door creak open behind me.

"Do come in," she said. "Nina, is it?"

Before me stood in a red-head in her mid-fifties with a sassy bob and curvaceous figure adorned by Levi 501 jeans, boots and a western shirt complete with mother of pearl buttons. She was not wearing a hat, but she did have a "Bandera, Texas" coffee mug in her hand.

Freeze frame. Faint and beautiful music hangs in the air, and a diminutive old man with a long gray beard and flowing robes steps out of the firmament. I admire his sandals.

"Gandalf?" I say.

"Nina," says he. "I am, of course, God. I suspend your disbelief for this brief psychiatric moment to congratulate you for being, finally, where I intend you to be at the moment I intend it. Your cooperation on this day makes my never-ending work at harmonizing the universe easier due to your compliance. Give me a high five."

Here, he raised his hand up as high as it would go, so we could, uh, "high five".

We did. Then he have me a wrinkly eyed smile and stepped back into the crack in my psychological outfit.

I looked again at the woman before me, and I had goose-bumps. My heart raced, my mouth went dry, my knees gave a little.

My life, of course, was changed forever. So was hers, though she did not know it at the time. I entered her office and she proceeded to hire me for a full time teaching job - without checking my references or caring tuppence about my lack of experience. As I left her office, I asked her "Why are you doing this?" I was sure she could see how appallingly dirty my hair was.

She paused. I could tell that she could not put words to the experience I was having earlier.

"I don't know," she said. "It's just a feeling I have, like you are meant to be here, like I absolutely MUST hire you" she shrugged. Then she smiled.

"So I am."

End, part the first.

Part the second will go up tonight, and part the third will go up tomorrow morning preceding "Sin of the week" - oh, and let me just say, my crime this week is especially wicked.

Thank you for reading.

* notice now how little has changed.

** crappy grammar unedited. It's for effect. Deal with it.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Tower of Power *updated*

*Several offensive typos fixed. Offensive typos happen because Nina is writing from her hotel room right before checkout. She is not to be rushed. (Apparently). *

I write this morning from the fourteenth floor of a hotel in downtown Raleigh. I arrived here last night after a good day's work at Sweet Little College, where I attended a certification meeting (don't ask) and "oriented" about thirty of my eighty students (ie, the ones who felt it important enough to show up).

Following the meeting, I took my state employee ID card and checked into a very nice downtown hotel for the very low price of $53.44. Then I took a shower, put on my favorite (non-corduroy) pants, applied a sweater to the upper regions of myself, and turned my attention to my head.

Did it need a hair dryer and good combing? Yes? I accomplished it.

Did the eyes need some smoky liner and perhaps inky black mascara? Yes? Done!

And lipgloss? Eh. Chapstick and a good pinch will do.

I applied shoes to my feet, tucked my wallet and my ID into my back pocket, and ascended to the twenty-second floor to find Roman, my (fake travel boyfriend and) favorite bartender ever, awaiting me.

Roman is thirty six years old, about six feet tall and upwards of three and fifty pounds. He is blond and blue-eyed and has a booming, melodious, cheerful voice. He has two master's degrees, one in philosophy and the other in literature. He has a cardboard box of excellent bar-reading materials available for anyone who has left her copy of Pride & Prejudice at the airport. He makes Nina's martinis very sweet because he knows she doesn't really like them as much as she thinks she does. He brings her peanut butter sandwiches if she is hungry and doesn't want to eat a big fancy thing on the big fancy menu. He keeps her water glass full and he prevents the Powerful Business Men from trying to talk to her by placing his substantial person directly in their path and glaring derisively at their puny, pale, scuzzy, married selves as if to say "Thou shalt not molesteth my Nina! She is reading."

Of course, if Nina does not feel like reading, Roman is happy to talk about books, movies, music, sports, sixteenth century French philosophy, or whatever Emily Dickinson might have meant by calling a "daisy" a "marauder". He is also good at politics, religion, science, crafts, and interior design. While he is entertaining her, he will serve drinks and food to the Powerful Business Men, but he will also wordlessly communicate to Nina, by a subtle play of words and looks and gestures, that he worships and adores her and would do absolutely anything to merit even the appearance of a real date. He knows he cannot have one because Nina live hundreds of miles away. He also wonders, she is sure, whether his substantialness has anything to do with her refusal, but he does not bring it up, and of course, neither does she. *

Does this make her a bad person? Basking in the affection of one lonely Roman bartender who is content to fix her weak drinks and peanut butter sandwiches and defend her from marauding, married, sleezers so she can read her books in peace?

*I, who have spent many a day with a tape measure in one hand and a Twinkie in the other, have NO right to say one single word in judgment of anyone who has food issues. So I don't. (He makes excellent sandwiches).

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I am schlub ** updated **

Is that a word?

Never mind. I declare it so.

Just guess who rented a car on Travelocity and paid for it with a debit card? And guess who had NO IDEA that you CAN'T DO THAT?

(Does anyone know why it's such an ever-loving tragedy to NOT want to charge your rental car to a credit card? I paid for the car, duh, with real money. Why is that so alarming?)

So yeah, you can't do that. The rental car agent took one look at the card that had ALREADY BEEN CHARGED and told me he needed to charge me again, but then he could credit the amount back plus some other arbitrary amount he was going to charge on there later when the car came back.

Well, OK. Do I happen to have a credit card? Well yeah. My debit card.



This rental agent and I? We were just not understanding each other.

But I had to go to work and I had been up since 3:30 in the morning so I could make my flight (remind me to tell you how I triumphed over evil by taking the bus** to the airport - thereby NOT spending $65 for a twenty minute car ride) and I was tired of all the banter I got out my card and gave it to the kid, praying it was still valid. I have not used it in years. (Sometimes a company will close your account because you have displeased them by not making them any money).

It worked. And now I am off to work at Sweet Little College before checking into a hotel for the night so I can flirt with my bartender (fake travel boyfriend) who I met last time I ran this caper. His name is Roman. He loves me, even if I am a schlub. So at least this day has some kind of promise of ending well, even if it started as a logistical CREDIT! CARD! nightmare.

Have a good day.

** Offensive, sloppy typo corrected. Gracias, Utenzi.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

In which I say absolutely nothing

Welcome to my post about nothing.

I have to leave for work twenty-two minutes ago and this day is very tricky for me as it involves: a trip to the shrink, a stop at the drug store, a mad dash into a bar to recover a ball of yarn I lost last night, six hours of paper grading, packing for North Carolina, and answering about 40 emails. Also I have to get my eyebrows waxed and buy a new hair dryer and I think I might have agreed to a two hour tutoring gig at Barnes and Noble in Union Square but I couldn't swear to it, so I have to check my blackberry. Where is my blackberry? I think I left it in a taxi on my way back from where it was I went at 7am this morning. Where was that, anyway? Oh, right. It was the shrink. At 7am.

(None of the emails I answer will be the one you sent me. I will also fail to visit your blog until sometime on Friday. Please forgive me).

Thank you for reading my post about nothing. I'll see you tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Score: Nina: 1, Jesus: 0.

Notes to reader: a) this is a long post; get comfortable b) I forgot to mention the cowboy-up incident c) I couldn't work in the key-lime pie and d) ditto the fried chicken. d) blasphemy quotient is inexcusably high; proceed with caution. Thank you.

To begin, my relationship with the Almighty has been - to put it plainly - quite limited in recent years. Among my standard prayers have been memos like,

Dear Jesus,

'I enjoyed that apple picking trip and the sunset on the orchard. Thanks for that.

From, Nina.

Sometimes I go with the standard thy will be done prayer that has never ceased to be a favorite among believers. Others, I am aware, pray for things, like freedom from sin, good health for their families and friends, winning lottery tickets and better hair.

I do not make these prayers. Or at any rate, I never will again.

You see, a few years ago, I went through a phase. This phase was marked by a poor decision on my part to be like others and file requests. I thought about what I wanted, and I filed. I opened with proper salutations and closed with proper expressions of gratitude for the request not yet granted.

Here is a short list of the things I prayed for:

1) That my brother not leave New York City because we were neighbors and it was great.

2) That my career become stable, if not lucrative and fulfilling.

3) That I somehow, someway, end up with a husband and a child. Methods unimportant. (Go ahead and notice that's a BIG request).

4) That my family all remain well.

5) That I not get so worn out that I can't finish my PhD.

These requests are significant, but I think also comprehensible. Notice that aside from item number three, there is nothing all that difficult or strictly unreasonable on the list. I did not ask for a pony or a tennis bracelet. No unicorns, either.

Here is how Jesus handled my requests:*

That's right. Not only did Jesus NOT grant a single request, but in the next frame, he stepped out of a crack in the firmament and smashed garden peas into my face until I was nearly suffocated with grainy bits of semi-frozen (and universally agreed to be un-delicious) vegetable matter.

Then he said,

You, Nina-swears-a-lot, doth NOT ever fileth a request conmigo. Ever! Are we all clear, slattern?

Then he shook his fist at me and returned to heaven to drink martinis and play bridge with my mother and her parents.

Well, perhaps it didn't go down exactly like that.

Here are the facts concerning my requests and the results:

1) Brother decided to move to New Jersey, where I would be able to see him maybe once a month rather than three times a week.

2) I lost one of my two jobs, found out my contract would be forever tied to unstable enrollment such that my pay, benefits could be cut severely - or disappear entirely - without any advance notice to me, whatsoever. Three times a year, I have to watch enrollment all the way up to the day before classes start to see if I still have a job. (The cutting actually happened one semester, too).

3) FB led me by the nose for two years without promising to marry me. Every time I tried to end it, he cried and said I was ruining his life BUT that he could not let me go. But would he marry me? No. But I was not to leave him! Never! So I left him anyway and find myself even now, two years later, unable to think of men as anything other then larger versions of humans who like football and porn and in actual fact are not really of my species at all. In short, I am so fucked up I can't even think about dating without bursting into tears and screamin:g WHY WHY WHY? For extra confirmation that I would be lonely and childless forever, Jesus gave me early menopause. Thanks for that, too, JC.

4) My dad not only got cancer, but he got two kinds. The big one, leukemia, gave him a staff infection that landed him in multiple organ failure three weeks after diagnosis - he spent a month in CCU. Then "it" went into remission for eight months before coming back with such a vengeance that his oncologist didn't want to bother to treat him anymore. My dad, who is the person I love most in the entire world, was told he had two weeks to live. Then he told me that he never wanted to see me again because he didn't want me to see him suffer. Our relationship was not only to be ended by inky black death, but also by his desire to spare me his suffering. Holy (no pun intended) shit.

5) Due to the above, particularly items 2, 3, and 4, who the fuck cares whether I finish my PhD? I am lucky if I finish this can of peas.

6) In case I didn't quite get the point that my happiness is a condition most assuredly despised by the Almighty, I also got the Great Larry Debacle of 2007 thrown in to keep me good and hysterical while I was having all my other problems -such as the one where my step mother went psycho and the one where the rumors that my dad has disinherited us surfaced and the one where I ended up with a $2000 cell phone bill for a single month. I also broke my arm mountain biking, got audited by the IRS (score: me $0; IRS, $15,000), oh and by the way, Lola no longer speaks to me anymore because her boyfriend doesn't like me. Can I borrow that box of nails so I can shove them into my eyes? The end.

At the beginning of 2007, which is what I now refer to as the "middle" of the end of all hope and joy in my life, I ceased all intercessory pray and resorted to missives like,

Dear Jesus,

I see that you have taken my requests into full consideration and not only declined to fulfill even one of them, but that you also wish to destroy me. I enjoyed the apple picking trip and the sunset on the orchard except for the inky black psychotic depressive mania that prevents me from enjoying anything. So thanks for that.

Best wishes, Nina.

PS. If this is how you treat your friends... never mind. Thank also for the newly diagnosed migraine headaches. I mean if that was meant to be a "good" thing... never mind. Apples, thanks. Talk later.

In the middle of 2007, around the Larry Debacle season, I ceased all witty banter surrounding the mentions of thanks and just went with

Hi Jesus.

I notice I am not dead today. I really wish I were. Here's hoping I fake you out this time and I really do die.

From, Nina.

And finally when my Dad was sent home to die, I stopped talking to God altogether and commenced to simply stare at him as if to say,

You got something to say to me? Any more peas up your sleeve? HEY! I am LOOKING AT YOU.

He, who STILL spends most all day every day getting drunk with my mother and her parents, simply stared back between hands of bridge. Occasionally, he spit in my eye. Hey, it's Jesus spit, so it's not really that gross, right?


This has been my default position regarding heavenly beings, bodies, and matters for quite a while now. Many, many people have come to me and confessed that they were praying for my dad and many have asked me to pray with them and to enter him into novenas and send his name in an envelope to the Pope and who knows what all else. People all over the world, strangers and friends alike, have prayed for my dad. And you know what?

The entire time my dad has been home and polishing up his spiritual perfection for an early, painful, and unmerited demise, I have flatly refused to say a single prayer on his behalf. I am convinced that if I did, he would not only die, but die in a painful and humiliating way and at the same time manage apply a curse to me for the rest of my life for being such an ungrateful and thoughtless daughter. If I prayed for my dad - even two words - that is precisely how it would go down. I know it for a scientific fact, and if you have read this far, so do you.

So me? Pray for my dad's recovery? Cold. Day. In. Hell.

But stare at Jesus as if to say,

You wanna piece-a-me? Eh?

Why, yes. I have stared in unrelenting, stone cold unflinching silent disbelief and horror for six solid months.

I am pleased to announce that in the staring contest between me and Jesus, I am the victor.

My dad's blook work came back last week normal. He is that 1 in 23,332,343,473,234,206,122,662,329 people in recorded history to go into spontaneous remission from recurrent leukemia.

Since prayers of gratitude have always been more natural for me, I write here the very first words I have said to Jesus in six months:

Dear Jesus,

I enjoyed the apple picking trip and the sunset on the orchard, inky black psychotic depression notwithstanding. Regarding recent events, I like your style - even if I don't always care for your choice of frozen vegetables. So thank you for giving me my dad back, even if it's just for a little while. I appreciate the enormity of it. Also thank you. I needed a break that didn't involved a protruding... never mind.

Love always, Nina.

P.S. Showed you, didn't I?

P.P.S. a pony would be nice.

P.P.P.S. Totally kidding about the pony. (Unicorn)?

*Image courtesy of Mr. Fabulous, who said it was ok if I used his clay sculpey of Jesus and canned peas.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Adios, amigos

All was beautiful in my garden this weekend. Until yesterday. Yesterday, it was not so.

This morning, Roy fluttered by the monitor looking disheveled and weary. I bade him stop a moment and tell me what was the matter. When he landed on the rim of my coffee cup, I could see that all was not well.

"Roy," said I, "What happened to you? What has become of your cheerful disposition? And what on earth happened to your arm?"

Roy, looking more downcast than I have ever seen him in our entire six day relationship, replied, "Begging your pardon, Miss, but it is not an arm I am missing. In scientific terms, it is a leg I am missing. My left leg," he sobbed, "is... no more."

"What has happened, Roy?"

"Nina, when you agreed to befriend me and keep me as your special companion, I made two promises to you. And I have broken one of them." Here, Roy cowered and hid his face behind his wings.

"Roy," said I. "You didn't."

"Nine," said Roy, "I.... did. I.... have needs."

My peripheral vision is pretty good. I saw her alight from my subwoofer and pirouette in front of my monitor before landing next to Roy.

"This," said Roy, "is she."

Cordelia, clearly not one to be discussed as if she is not in the room, replied, "He most certainly did. And you, what is your, eh, name, Nina, is it? Do you have any idea how hard it is to find decent husbands in a house with no fruit and no male Drosophilia? The swarm was teaming with available males. But now I am reduced to this??" she gestured to Roy.

Roy curled up into a ball and started to cry.

"Cordelia, - " I began.

"Call me Delia, please."

"Delia, did you rip Roy's arm - er - his leg off?"

"He is a terrible provider, and worse, he is terrible in bed."

Roy cried harder. Delia ripped off his other leg and started whipping around her head like a helicopter blade. I can't say I much cared for the girl-fly.

"Delia," said I, "exactly whose bed are you talking about? And more to the point, have you and Roy been breeding?"


No sooner did I utter these words when fluttered into my view....

Now, what I know you are not surprised. Why should you be? Y'all knew when I agreed to let Roy stay that he would behave just like a man and start chasing tail. And that is exactly what he did and now I am forced to contend with a small family of these little bastards. (Oh, stop it. You know I am not going to kill them. They are a family.)

My solution is none too palatable to them, but it had to be done.

I packed them a lunch, ushered them into my backpack, and set them free next to a swarm of common houseflies feasting on a moldy donut in Central Park. They thanked me, of course, for sparing their lives, but remarked that it was a damp, chill night to be out among strangers. But the houseflies welcomed them and I left all, I believe, better for the experience.

Except, I am sorry to say, Cat-head, who misses his mite swatting partner. *

Have a fly-free Monday.

*last post about household pests. I swear it. I have work to do and I have to write tomorrow's post and I did have to go to a lot of trouble over these little bastards, so I was pressed for time today.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sin of the week, 1/13/08 - and announcements

This week's crime is so uninteresting that it's hardly worth writing about, but I'll do it because this blog is anonymous (despite my Christmas indiscretion) and it'll make you beautiful people feel better about yourselves.

This week I hated my job. And as usual, you all were supportive and intelligent and took reams of time to write beautiful comments to comfort me in my time of need and make me feel like less of a failure.

What I did not disclose is why I hated my job so much. Here's the why:

I really, really fucked something up and I got caught. And that's not all: I lied to my boss about it and she believed me - and now everything is perfectly fine because, hey, I lied about it and consequently got away with being lazy and incompetent - AGAIN. (I have been getting away with this for my entire life).

I am not even going to give you the low down on what I did and what various temptations and allurements of the evil one were involved. We're just going to let the discussion end here.

Ok? Ok.

Announcement the first:

I have noticed some things about this blog that are just not right - so I am going to be relabeling some posts, adding some features and rearranging things in the next few days. If you suddenly have hundreds of posts in your feed reader because I revised slightly and changed a category, just mark them all as read and get on with your day. If you show up and things look all different and you hate it, you'll probably adjust, so sorry in advance for the momentary shock you probably won't get.

Announcement the second:

I have something else to announce but I can't reveal it until Tuesday. The announcement will include one short back-story of the "love" variety, one occurrence of the phrase "cowboy-up" and several (honorable) mentions of common garden implements, fried chicken, and key lime pie. So come and see me on Tuesday, if not before.

Oh, and I love you. Also, you are beautiful. Did I say I love you yet? Because I do. *air kiss*

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Lick the Cheeto ***updated***

Whiteout Meetings are held one Sunday afternoon per month. Two or three people submit stories via email, and the group offers everything from line comments to more global evaluations such as, "Mitt, you are a genius," or "Jolie, I am humbled to be in your presence," or "Nina, this doesn't suck as much as the story about fruit flies breeding with giraffes -or the one where your character set fire to the mall so he could see exactly which products were flame retardant and it turned out to be an elaborate metaphor for homophobia that was completely not funny, but we suppose we'll let you live. Oh, and no more haiku submissions. Thank you."

No official business takes place until everyone arrives (or until we decide that we no longer expect Alana to show up). We fill the time until then talking about movies, reviewing each other's wardrobe selections, commenting on each other's hair, and perhaps discussing what we have read lately. Someone always brings snacks. Someone else always brings drinks. Jolie's husband often bakes us a cake.

Then Alana arrives, and after she has been fed and had a few drinks, we review stories. Some jackass (named Nina) will demonstrate a way of re-punctuating a whole paragraph such that it means something completely different from what the writer intended, and then someone else will remind her that it's impolite and pointless to screw with someone else's punctuation just because you can, and then we all say what a genius the writer is and move on to the next story.

This is all great fun.

Moistly torso corduroy spunk, one day Luca had one of my stories in her hand and she looked anxious and displeased.

"Nina," said Luca, "I demand that the word 'torso' be removed from this story." Just to say the word made her flinch.

"Why?" said I.

"Isn't it obvious?" said Luca. I looked around the room. Jolie and Alana clearly knew what Luca was talking about. Mitt and Jerry did not, or would not, register a facial expression imbued with... never mind.

"No, I don't get it. Why no torsos?"

Jolie shrieked, and Luca shrank to the floor. Mitt looked up from his beer and said, "Did you just pluralize 'torso'?"

I was stunned. "Yeah, I did. So what?"

Alana then plucked a Cheeto from the snack bowl and said, while licking the Cheeto, "Saying torso is about as gross (lick lick) as what I am doing right now." Then she held the Cheeto denuded of cheesy powder out for all to see. Then she said "Pluralizing torso is about as gross as doing this"- and then she tossed the Cheeto back into the bowl.

Jerry dove into the bowl and retrieved the spitty Cheeto.

Jerry said, "How you feel right now? It's how other people feel about the word 'torso' - not me, mind you, but other people, clearly.

"Ok," I said. "I give up. Somebody splain it to me."

Jerry said, "Jolie, tell it like it is. I'll draw her a picture."

Jolie, straightened her skirt and crossed her cowgirl boots at the ankles. Then she began.

"When you use the word torso, you are specifying by default the absence of a head, arms, and legs. In other words you are mentioning a slab of organ filled flesh that is automatically dead and has no agency or intentions - "

"Well, damn, I hope not - " I interrupted. Luca tossed a hunk of brie at me.

" - and even worse is the word itself. The word implies the violence. The first syllable, tor sounds rather like the past tense of the verb 'to tear,' doesn't it? Yes! It does! So the word not only specifies a slab of organ-filled pointless deadness - but it also suggests the manner in which the slab was denuded of its constituent parts. Consider, also, whether this non-being, this rectangle of "thud" is male or female. Consider that at least on one side of it, there is a legless butt. And don't even get me started about entrails. Do not do it."

By this time, Jerry had finished his illustration. He handed it to me.


I stared at it for a suitable interval before saying, "That's terrifying." Then I passed the drawing around.

I considered - and then said, "Let's shift our focus to the word "leg." Does saying "leg" automatically imply the absence of the rest of the person? "

Alana crunched down a few cheetos. "Nope," she said.

"Comparison not applicable," said Luca.

"Torso might be my most unfavorite word in the entire English language," said Mitt.

I opened a beer and sat back to think. No. It couldn't be.

"Are you all just completely fucking with me? You can't all unanimously agree that the word - "

"DON"T SAY IT AGAIN!" shrieked Jolie.

"Ok," said I. "Let's go around the room and all say our least favorite word. Let's all agree to ban the number one most hated word in the English language from our reviewed work for the remainder of the life of this group. All ready?"

People needed a few moments to think, so we argued for a few minutes over whether Jennifer Aniston has bigger boobs than Sarah Jessica Parker. I did not mention that to even THINK of a boob unattached to its owner was violent and malicious because I had clearly already lost that argument.

Finally, all agreed to reveal their own personal word-ban.

Mitt: Spunk

Jerry: Entrail(s)

Jolie: Moist

Alana: Sinew

Luca: Torso (obviously)

Nina: Corduroy.

That's right: my banned forever from Whiteout Writers' Group word is "Corduroy."

Anyone care to guess why I banned corduroy? If not, comment regarding whether "Cheeto" is a proper noun, meriting a capital letter. (I am conflicted about this). (About Cheeto). (Not about corduroy).

Friday, January 11, 2008

Smug and Famous, at least to each other

I suppose it is time to explain my obsession with spunk moist torso corduroy.*

Weekends are slow around here, so before I corduroy spunktificate on the poll, I ask you to read this, the preface to the first anthology that ever published my "work." It is written by Jolie "kicks ass" O'Reilly and four years later, it sums up how I feel about my literary coterie.


We're leading a coup, and you're invited

Over a year ago, I answered an ad on craigslist for a Writers' Group that was applications for a new member. The group was formed and run by a man named Cyril. And from what would turn out to be my first and last meeting, he and another member, Mitt, got into a disagreement about whether to italicize or underline a particular phrase in one of Mitt's stories. The disagreement escalated, Cyril believing that proper format should always be respected, and Mitt believing that meaning superceded format. People were yelling over, I am not making this up, italiticization.

The next day I received a covert email from Mitt with the whispery subject line, "We're leading a coup, and your invited." Did I want to, along with all the other nice members I had met the night before, secede from Cyril and form a group in which writing championed over rules?

Here is what I know a year later about the member of Whiteout Writers' Group" Nina refuses to write in third person and I refuse to write in first person. Jerry doesn't think anyone is interesting enough to write a memoir, and also believes we should all work on semi-identical versions of the song "My name is Luca." Mitt's characters are all brilliant artists walking around pontificating to each other. Luca insists that everything we write is actually a young adult novel. Alana's favorite word is "head-hopping," and she does not consider her work erotic. Yazmeen and I would be the first memeber to challenge another Writer's Group to a street fight. And we all hate the Microsoft Paperclip man.

The title ofthis collection comes from a line in one of Luca's stories about two people not falling in love with each other: "It was important to smug and famous, at least to each other."

Here is what I know about Whiteout Writers' Group: We are named after a state of emergency. Because sometimes, as in the case of our coup, writing is an emergency.

This collection and our first year is dedicated to Cyril.

In First Person,
Jolie "kicks ass" O'Reilly


If you made it this far, reader, you know that I love my writer friends a whole, real, lot.

And you must also know that the coup, now five years old, is still in power.

And you must know that the controversy over the emotional coloration of words like torso is one that arises at Whiteout meetings.

Tomorrow, I'll elaborate and then you will understand how it is possible for seven reasonably intelligent and reportedly sane adults to converse for hours about how a particular word makes people feel.

*sorry you stopped by? I'll bet. This is, at any rate, a bonus post - unrelated to Blog365 - so you can go ahead and be grossed out and feel rooked. It's my second post of the day and as you know, my standards are low. Really low. Torso low? Oh no.

Panic, or no Panic?

I have a decision to make, so I call upon you, good people of the internet, to help me make it.

If you've been reading for more than a few weeks, you know that I worked for a place I call Panic Hire University last semester. I called it so because they hired me on a Sunday afternoon, over the phone, without the benefit of an interview or reference checks. They were desperate.

I needed the work, so I was glad to get it.

Soon after I started working there, however, I discovered why they were seo desperate to hire people and why they were so unconcerned about my qualifications: the place is a disaster.

No one ever returned my phone calls or email. And I do mean NO ONE and I do mean EVER.

It took them almost two months to give me the materials I needed to teach the course.

It took them until after THANKSGIVING to start paying me- (yes, I worked there for three months for free).

And let's just say ethics violations are EVERYWHERE.

For examples of this, click here and here.


I got a series of frantic emails from the good (snicker) folks at Panic last night. They outlined all sorts of courses that were available for me to teach and would I, could I, pretty please, teach as many as three of them starting in two weeks? PLEASE????

Now, I know what I said to all of you. I said no amount of money or fear of penury would induce me to work for these sloppy, unethical people ever again. But guess what? I just found out I lost my summer funding. And I just found out that my trip to Kilimanjaro is going to cost about $3500. And I just realized by loading up all this month's Quicken data, that the Great Cash Hemorrhage of 2007 was violent indeed. The only reason I am not sobbing uncontrollably is that most of the money that galloped out of my wallet in 2007 was not for stuff I actually wanted. I am broke through (mostly) no fault of my own. (I am also obsessed with retirement savings).

All this, plus the fact that Panic's retirement system matches 401K contributions at 8% has given me pause.

It would be a clear violation of my principles to work for these people, yes. True. But is would solve some of money issues, absolutely.

So money or principles? What do y'all think?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Is this it?

This is the fourth day in a row that I have been hating my job with a roiling passion.

Most of my teaching career, I have not hated it. I have loved it. Mostly. But the last four days, I have been having fantasies of becoming a postal worker or a bee keeper or a cocktail waitress or - hell - even a cashier at a bookstore.*

Is this it? Is this what it is like for everyone else? The hating of the job, thing, I mean?

Instead of grinding away at the novelty of my hatred, I'll just say that yes, I do grind my teeth when I sleep and I can't help it because I am unconscious when I am doing it. If that turns out to be the grossest thing about me, I'll consider myself fortunate. (It's not.) (The grossest, that is).

Picture I took at some unsociable hour this morning:

I'll write again when I am feeling... some other way than the way I am feeling right now.

Thank you for reading.

*stop laughing, Supajewie. Nobody knows about that but you and me.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

What you asked

Em asked: If you could change your race what would you want it to be?

The short answer is: I don't have a race any more than anyone else does. But of course, I do. The one I resemble. If I could change my appearance, I'd like to be dark - Phillippino? Laotian? Indian? Some kind of Pacific Islander? African would be good, too, but I have to admit, I am fond of my straight, maintenance-free hair.

Effortlessly Average asked: if you were to look into a passenger side mirror with a pair of binoculars, would everything appear normal sized or would the mirror itself just appear closer?

Answer: I do not have a car - or binoculars, but my guess is that I'd see what I would normally see if I looked into a regular mirror with a pair of binoculars on front of my eyes. (Binoculars).

He also asked: What do you look for in a guy? Nothing. I haven't dated in almost two years and have no plans to start again. If I were to date, I can only tell you I know what I like when I see it. Back when I was looking, three things mattered more than any others: brains, integrity, and because I am slightly shallow (get it?) height. I 5'10" to 6'1" is perfect. Taller is acceptable, but not ideal, Shorter than 5'9" just doesn't attract me. I also like outdoor people who are not fussy and who don't care about money.

123Valerie asked: what is your favorite number, and why?

Answer: My favorite number is eight (8). I have no idea why I like it so much, but I always have.

Molly asked: If you could live inside of any book, which one would you pick and why?

Answer: What I really want to say? Bleak House. But of course, I am lying. I don't want to live all cooped up in a castle bent over my needle-work. (My life is like that right now).

Bermudabluez asked: about....are you a city girl or a country girl?

Answer: I am a country girl living happily in the city. I love being outside, so I try to get out of Manhattan as often as I can.

Avitable asked: I can't ask dirty questions? Damn it!

Answer: What your question, the answer was probably yes. So go ahead and giggle.

byJane asked: what's your dissertation [going to be] about? Or at least the title, including all ellipses and the obligatory shit after [out of] the colon.

Answer: My dissertation is about Depression Era literature having to do with post Civil War social problems involving race. The main idea is that modernity (in the form of the introduction of electrical power in the south) and other forms of technology causes anxiety similar to the anxiety caused social problems of race. Several novels demonstrate this by using unusual and striking metaphors involving the violence of change brought about by technology - and that the metaphors appear in racially charged situations. If you don't have any idea what I am talking about, congratulations. It means you are still sane.

Nightfly asked: What brought you to blogging?

Answer: I started blogging during the summer of 2007. I did so because my professional life was falling apart at the same time as my personal life, both in terms of my family and my friends, was also falling apart. With everything around me out of my control, I wanted to be able to write and create the illusion of agency that having my very! own! website! would provide. It has worked out nicely. I am a leaf in the wind of other people's plans in my real life, but THIS? This is MINE.

He also asked: My word verification is "kmarjf." What is a kmarjf? Or, how does one kmarjf? Or is it an adjective, as in "That's kmarjfy, man."

Answer: I am going to guess that kmarjf is a verb, and that the verb is regular, and that is means "observe with compassionate interest." Example "When I got to the party, I kmarjfed that Nina was wobbling down the steps with two glasses of wine."

Woodrow asked: What are you listening to? Reading? Thinking? Drinking?

Answer: I am listening to John Eliot Gardiner's "Israel in Egypt" - and when I am not listening to that, and I am listening to "Mantra Mix." I just got done reading Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert.

It is a psychology book that explains is accessible, but scientific terms, how and why people miscalculate what will make them happy. Interesting read. I am half way through reading Larry Brown's Big Bad Love

for the 100th time at least. Before that I read Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey

and CHarles Bukowski's Ham on Rye.

Sandy asked: What was the last meal that you cooked?

Answer: Tilapia with balsamic vinegar reduction, snap peas, and mashed potatoes. I made it for my dad.

and Do you really knit a pair of mittens every week?

Answer: Yes, I do.

and Do you put dunk your oreos? If you were to eat oreos. In milk of course.

Answer: I don't eat oreos. I just don't like them much.

Cajunvegan asked: What is your most unusual nighttime ritual?

Answer: I don't really have any. I used to have an elaborate skin care ritual, but the last few years I have been more concerned with other things, like sleeping, to worry too much about eye cream. I do floss every night and put in piece of molded plastic in my mouth before I go to bed. If I didn't, I would grind my teeth to dust in my sleep.

e! asked: Mary Ann or Ginger?

Answer: Mary Ann. But I think you already knew that.

Mallory asked: What is your favorite mistake?

Answer: My favorite mistake is a guy named... oh, we'll call him Owen. Owen and I went to graduate school together and dated - or whatever you called what we were doing - for nearly two years. We never had any illusions about having a future together; he was too young for me and also, by his own admission, so screwed up from his Mormon upbringing that he wasn't really capable of a normal relationship. But we were great friends and I think we loved each other. He lives overseas now and though we are not in touch, I think of him all the time.

and What do you feel the most guilt about?

Answer: Having a pretty decent life that I would happily toss in the trashcan right now if I could figure out how to do it without going bankrupt and hurting anyone.

and f I gave you 1 million dollars and told you that you must spend it all on yourself, what would you buy?

Answer: My father's house.

Julie asked: Ok, if you had to go a day eating three meals, which I know you won't do, what would you eat? Would Turkey Meatloaf be a choice?

Answer: Yes. I do not know why I love turkey meatloaf so much. But I do.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

What did you say?

I am so covered in work right now that I am afraid to take a shower for fear that I'll miss a phone call or a blistering email. Most of the data I transfered last semester is incorrect (somehow), I was IMing with students about it until midnight, and as of this morning, the mother of one of last semester's students wants to rip me to shreds with her long, pointy fangs.* Or at least make sure I get fired.

So today, ask me stuff. Any question asked in comments will be answered in tomorrow's post.

Oh, and please:

1) Don't ask me my real name.

2) Don't ask me anything dirty (or if you do, at least be clean about it).

Thank you for reading.

*Roy is doing just great, thanks! He taught Cat-head how to play "swat the dust mite" and they are getting along famously.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Roy and Nina

I have vanquished all the bugs, it is true. And yet not so.

Last night as I was writing the final email of the day, a wee fruit fly fluttered across my computer screen in the most untoward manner. I was most seriously displeased - until I took a closer look. Around its neck, unmistakably, a name tag.

It was Roy.

"Roy," I said, "Perhaps you dodged the Raid can, but you might have taken the hint anyway. Have you nowhere else to go, Roy?"

Roy did the most charming pirouette and pivot before landing on my Blackberry.

"Nina," said Roy, "You have killed my entire family. I have no one left." He spread his wings wide and wiggled his antennae, gesturing to the empty apartment. "I am all alone in the world," he sobbed. He then curled up into a little ball and stuck his thumb in his mouth.

I must say... I was moved.

"Roy," said I. "Are you truly the last? Is there no one left?"

"Nina," said Roy, "I have searched everywhere. My swarm has flown to the sky that leads nowhere. I am the last."

I scrunched up my face and considered.

"You are the last?"

"The last," said Roy.

I started to cry a little bit.

"Would you like to live here with me? You may do so as long as you swear not to breed by artificial or any other means. You must also make friends with my cat."

Roy arose and did an interpretive dance of joy before floating back down the the Blackberry.

"OK," he said.

So, reader, I have made peace with one fly, Roy.

He is handy around the kitchen and can be counted on to fetch spices and salt and pepper upon request. He gets along with Cat-head, and he is a demon of an editor. Just this morning, he crossed a stray comma out of my NaNoWriMo novel.

So Roy and Nina? We cool.

But I really must get back to work.

Have a good Monday.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Sin of the week, 1/06/08

The violent annihilation of thousands of innocents was not especially difficult, even for a enlightened, centered, peaceful being such as myself. Hearing about the slaughter will likely be more difficult for you than the actual killing was for me. (I was singing a Sinead O'Connor song at the time).

Let me explain.

I had been having a lovely weekend. Friday night, I saw the precious Sri and the dearest Bibi. We talked about our trip to Africa and chattered about our El Capitan fantasies. Today, I have been reading blogs, listening to Tibetan prayer chants and scrubbing things. I have been feeling - all weekend long - pretty goddammed harmonized with the universe. I even got an email from Merry, who is now home from Australia, which means brunch after church. That event alone gets me all the way to eleven.* OM.

But let me get to the murders.

I have the great good fortune to be friends with more than woman from India. One of these lovelies, my darling Lola, taught me a whole about Indian cooking, and as a result, I have a formidable spice rack. It includes everything a proper South Indian girl might need to cook for her household. Bag of basmati, too. I can even make the naan.

Now, I have only been back from South Carolina for a short time, and since I got back, I have not cooked a thing. I have been living on vitamins, water, salad and a piece of fish here or there. It happens sometimes. (It should happen more often. I'd be a lot thinner if it did).

I am on my way to the murders. Please be patient.

So last night it seemed a good New Years, 2008 idea to clean out my refrigerator and my cabinets and give everything a good scrub. I decided I would start with the microwave. I reached for the door of the microwave and I had the oddest sensation, unlike I have ever had in my life.

The feeling was, well, one of suffocation, one of horror, astonishment, nausea and outrage. Because do you know what happened when I opened the door to the microwave?

Do you?

Times like this, I wish I were handier with a thesaurus. What happened is that the area between the sink and the cabinet tops, commonly refered to as my kitchen counter, was obscured from view by the most vicious, wiggling, (seven-legged giraffe of a) cyclone of fruit flies ever recorded in human history. (Tights optional).** I shrieked. I went weak in the knees. I think I cried a little bit. So that you understand, I made a picture for you.

Picture thousands of him flying in lazy formation over you kitchen counter. Adjacent to your spice rack. You'd cry, too.

So I crawled over to the computer and IMed Supajewie.*** Having deliberately infested her own house with dogs, cats, and a baby, Supa understood instantly my feelings of rage, heartbreak and scorn. She recommended bleach and boiling water.

I considered. Yes, I could boil water - that is I could if I could nudge enough of these creatures out of my way and grasp the a sauce pan handle without injuring any of them. I did not understand the bleach idea at all. What would turning them snowy white accomplish, other than making them harder to see? Then I realized: if I did pour water down the drain and the water was boiling, serious injury would be done to the swarm. And bleach, while excellent for washing sheets and towels, is harmful to living things.

I did not understand how I was going to take back my apartment by non-violent means.

Was there a way, I asked Supa, for me to pack them all a lunch and light their way to a nice sewage drain somewhere? Was it possible, in all humility, to usher them all into my backpack and set them free in Washington Square Park, so scavenge among the dope dealers and seagulls? Might I toss name tags around their necks, get to know them, and make peace?

Supa told me to get over myself. I didn't need to hear that. I was already beside myself.

Then the oddest, most unexpected thing happened. (Well, odd after the tornado of wiggling grape fuckers). I armed my cat with a paring knife, put on my coat, and left the building. I directed my steps down 2nd Ave and let the drizzle have its way with my hair. I let my socks get soggy. I walked down to the river, which, if you know anything about Dickens, is where desperate people always go when they are not sure whether to live or die. I looked into the rising and falling waves of the brackish East River and considered the great rhythm of the cosmos, the circle of life, the miracle of sentience. Then I considered - and resigned myself to kill.

I returned to apartment and reported to Supa that the time had come for me to go crazystyles on my flying friends. She approved, and I went to work. Before I opened the first can of whoop ass on my kitchen dwellers, I selected Mantra Mix Disc 1, you know, to take the sting out of it. (As if that were even possible).

A few puffs from the Raid dispenser, and the bodies began to rain down upon me like hail. It was absolutely disgusting. (A few of them simply melted into thin air. I saw this happen. I am not kidding).

After the last of them - or at any rate the last I can locate - died, I swabbed them up and took them trash out. I then set about bleaching the entire kitchen. Then I re-washed it all over again with hot water and a magic eraser, boiled a gallon of water an poured it down my sink drain.

Is it safe now? I don't know.

If I stop posting and a six winged fruit fly with a giraffe's head appears on my blog and starts talking about its feelings, I think you will all know what went down here.

Now I am off to church and brunch with Merry. When I return, I will commence freaking out over all the work I have to do to get ready for tomorrow (first day of classes at Sweet Little College).

* I love you if you know what it means to "go to eleven."

** If you are confused, you just scroll down and admire the giraffe. Everyone else had to do it.

*** For more information regarding this moniker click here.