now available.

One day in the first semester of the second grade, my best friend Melody was not at school. That night, I called her house to find out where she had been. I remember the conversation vividly.

"Hey, where were you today? Are you sick?"
"My mom died."
"Uhm, I'm sorry."

(Eons and eons of silence, the like of which has not been seen since.)

"Okay, well I guess I'll talk to you later then."
"Okay, bye."

Thus ended what might have been a promising future for me in psychiatry. I did not understand. Moms didn't just die. I had seen Melody's mom the week before, and she had been fine. Then a blood vessel popped in her head, or something like that. See? I still don't understand.

Melody was back at school the next week, and things continued as usual. I don't remember her ever mentioning her mom or even seeming sad about it, though I was probably not the most perceptive of lasses. We stayed friends all through elementary and middle school, though we kind of faltered when we didn't have classes together. Childhood friendships seem to be based more on location than anything else, so when I called her my second grade best friend, it was probably because our desks were next to each other. We were both in the same clique of girls through middle school, a group in which I was unquestionably accepted but never really felt like I belonged, but then, that was adolescence.

Melody decided to go to a local private school our sophomore year of high school, and I rarely saw her at all after that. Our friendship petered out completely. I think she was still somewhat in touch with the other girls, but our group had started to drift apart once we hit high school and started migrating to our individual social classes. By the end of sophomore year, I was still regularly talking to only one of the other three girls and we were even in the same classes.

I heard at some point that Melody had strayed from the drug-free lifestyle and had dropped out of school. There were a lot of other rumors about some guy and some stuff in an elevator, all of which combined to paint a harrowing picture of what can happen to your former best friends. It was the kind of thing that us public school kids would use an example to tell ourselves that private school wasn't that cool, even if you could afford it. After the stories died down, she faded into the back of my mind only to pop up every once in a while long enough for me to wonder what she was up to.

I ran into Melody one day at a walking park in my hometown during my junior year of college. She looked healthy and more fit than I'd remembered. We talked for a few minutes in a conversation that was awkward but didn't hold a candle to the one we'd had over a decade earlier. She mentioned that she didn't really talk to the other girls either, because they had become "too cheerleadery." That, too, is a direct quote. I nodded wryly, knowing exactly what she meant. She was disappointed, whereas I was not, because I had long ago gotten used to the idea that the friendships you make while you're still growing up don't last. By her dismissal of the other girls, all of which had arguably been much closer to her than I was, I felt approval. Nah, Melody, you can't count on those other girls, but I'm still Sandra, the same, steadfast, can't-think-of-anything-good-to-say-when-your-mom-dies Sandra. It was like we had entered a time warp back in 1998 to emerge and meet here and say, "Ah, so you made it, too."

At the same time, I want to apologize to her for not being a better friend, starting with the second grade and all the way through whatever she went through in high school. I can't really be blamed for not supporting her during her drug problems since we weren't even in contact, but I still feel like I should have somehow reached out to her to let her know that I was still her friend and was in no way cheerleadery. Whether she would have taken advantage of it, I don't know, nor do I care. Being available then would have made the difference to me now.


defensive driving.

"Hey, you IDIOT!"

The Idiot didn't hear me, but I imagine he heard my car horn. I love my little Japanese sedan, but its horn just doesn't adequately express my rage. I was left seething that my life had been so needlessly threatened by someone too lazy to check his blind spot with only a wimpy little honker to express myself.

Everyone seems to think themselves a better than average driver. Statistically, this is impossible. By the same token, it is impossible for everyone to be a worse than average driver, but that one seems very likely if you spend any amount of time on the road. Maybe the average is just very low.

I am not a particularly good driver. I drive nine miles per hour over the speed limit, I talk on my cell phone, I fiddle with the radio, I eat, I mess with my hair, I sing and dance, and I've even been known to change clothes completely while driving (which can probably be distracting to other drivers as well). Given all that, I sound like an absolute menace. But I've never had a car accident. Just lucky, I suppose.

I had a friend who swore by the concept of defensive driving. As far as I can tell, this idea means that you can drive however badly you want to, but you have to be constantly vigilent for other people who are following this policy (or any other bad driving policy). I don't know that he would have defined it as such, but he was just another terrible driver who thought it was all everybody else's fault. It seems to be a rather arrogant concept the way he used it. Defensive driving: Because everyone else is an idiot.

I believe in defensive driving, too. There are idiots out there, and I've had to avoid letting them kill me. But you know what? Sometimes I am the idiot. Sometimes I pull out when I shouldn't, sometimes I don't check my blind spot, sometimes it's dark and rainy and I'm sorry, but I just didn't see the median. And sometimes other people have to compensate for my idiocy. The point of defensive driving is not really that everyone else is an idiot, but that we all have lapses. It's just karma - I'll save you from yourself this time so that someone else can save me from myself.

Defensive driving: Because we're all idiots sometimes.


view from the top.

This picture was taken the morning that there was a fire drill at the R.J. Reynolds building and so all the employees were outside for a smoke break.

Or maybe it was just really foggy.


lunching out.

Packing one's lunch is a tricky thing, a task not to be taken lightly. You'll have to anticipate whether or not you'll feel like leftover spaghetti in a few hours. You need to decide whether those prepackaged frozen cartons are really all that healthy (maybe) and whether one is really enough food for a whole meal (definitely not). You have to figure out what can be stowed for a few hours in the fridge and then made yummy using only a microwave. Most importantly, you have to figure out what is socially acceptable.

I really thought I was done with all the lunch judging. Back in grade school, you were held accountable for what your mom threw in your lunch box. You could reside in peanut butter normalcy and acceptance, or you could wither in hummus humiliation. The rich kids had Lunchables, and oh, how I envied them in their tiny square ham opulence. I was lucky - my lunch contents were homemade and often kinda weird, but were accepted, even revered, because they were very good. I remember pistachio pudding and homemade beef jerky being big hits in particular. So I became known for having exotic lunches, even if it was only because the kids at my school didn't have very broad horizons.

Now I'm in the situation of having to bring a packed lunch again, but I don't have the benefit of my mother doing it for me. In fact, I'm at a disadvantage, because all the guys here have their wives fix them food. I suppose you could argue that I would play the role of the wife and cook my own food, but that simply doesn't work because I'm a lousy cook. I do the best I can, and I haven't yet resorted to PBJs. The problem is that I'm cooking only for me, and so when I make something, I pretty much have to eat it all week. Chances are good that when a coworker stops by to ask what I'm eating today, it's the same thing I had yesterday and the same thing I'll have tomorrow.

I was on about the third day of beef stroganoff when I started getting teased. People started asking me if I made it in fifty gallon drums or something. I get teased a lot at work, because we have a very friendly and jovial environment. I can usually handle it. But for some reason, the stroganoff teasing really got to me. It wasn't particularly vicious or even very clever, but man, it bugged me. I couldn't figure it out. Why should I be so bothered by this?

I finally decided that it all went back to those grade school ideas of social acceptance based on lunchbox cargo. And while my coworkers are likely judging my lunches in terms of nutrition, I don't think they're judging me personally. They're just giving me a hard time because it's been stroganoff all week and they don't have anything better to tease me about. Basically, I need to get over it. Accept it with a smile and a sly comment about the other guy's eggplant parmesan. Because if anything was ever socially unacceptable in elementary school lunch, eggplant parmesan was it.


pontiac sunfire.

The clock in my car says 3:32, while I know that it's really only 2:32 because of the autumn time change. No matter, it's late. I'm driving on an unfamiliar stretch of Interstate 40, discussing the history of Halloween with Josh and whether the holiday could be considered evil. I'm holding my own in this argument, which is unusual, but then again, he's had a few beers.

Up ahead, blue lights. I begin to slow down, because I can't tell whether the lights are on the side of the road or actually in it. As we get closer, we see orange lights, too: a huge fire. Then I see a tiny white light as a police officer stands in the left lane with a flashlight, waving us to stop. His car is the source of the blue lights in the right lane, and the orange lights are coming from a gold Pontiac on the right shoulder as it burns.

"I don't reckon she's gonna blow up, do you?" the officer says to another as he dons an orange vest reading "Wallace Fire Department." I realize that we were made to stop a safe distance away so that no one would be driving by in case the car did explode. I would have wanted to stop anyway; it's not every day you see a car on fire. We hear various pops and wheezes as the fire quickly took over more of the car's real estate. Even from the opposite shoulder, we can feel the heat.

We wait as a few cars line up behind us, other late night travellers. We are directed to the shoulder as the volunteer fire department arrives and puts out the blaze. Once it is out, we're allowed to proceed, and so we did, and it was all over. We are silent for a few minutes.

"We just saw a car on fire," Josh finally says.

"Yeah. I'm trying to find some meaning in it."


"Because if we were in a book or a movie, then it would be a sign. You know, symbolic of something, or signify a turning point or an epiphany for one or both of us."

"Yeah, you're right. But we're not in a book. This is real life, and nothing means anything. People search for meaning in everything, and you can delude yourself that you know what everything means, but you really don't. No one does."

I say nothing and put my hand on his leg as I drive. I agree with him, and I don't, and what's more, I don't think he even believes what he's said. Many people do search for deeper meaning where it doesn't exist, but that doesn't mean that deeper meaning doesn't exist. The burning car doesn't necessarily mean anything for us. Maybe it meant something significant to one of the people in the cars behind us; maybe not. Maybe it was just a car on fire.

The matter all seems to be in the personal interpretation of events. It could be that a dude in one of the other cars had been driving along with an inner debate and somehow the burning Pontiac made something clear in his head. Whether he was "meant" to see the Pontiac and "meant" to come to that conclusion is up for debate; that's what happened regardless. Maybe I was meant to see the blaze, find no obvious meaning, and post a blog about it, so that someone else could make some sense out of it. Maybe not. Either way, I've done my part.


the listeners.

My psychology class is three hours long, so we take a break at around 7:15. My classmates leave the room to go out and smoke or call their significant others or do whatever it is they do for ten minutes every Thursday night. I never go, because I don't smoke, I don't really have any friends in that class, and I can survive three hours without talking to my significant other, who I would biasedly say is much more interesting than any of theirs. I've made a habit to have a book with me, so I take out Franny and Zooey, because Josh has convinced me not to give up on Salinger just because of Holden Caulfield.

I glance up to realize that it's just me and Mazie, the teacher. I wonder if this situation will encourage her to start up a conversation; it does.

"What are you reading there, Sandra?"

"Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger," I reply.

"Oh, I don't know that author."

"Sure you do. He wrote The Catcher in the Rye," I tell her, confident that someone with a Masters Degree in Psychology has at least heard of Salinger's most famous work. She has. I tell her that I'm dating a literature dork, and as a result, I've been reading a lot more lately.

I like Mazie. She's an older woman, so she's a little old-fashioned, but she worked for years and years as professional counselor, so she's seen a lot of interesting things. She is surprisingly open-minded for a woman her age who grew up in the mountains of North Carolina, and I know that it's because of all the people who have constantly challenged her views of the world. Her stories, of which we've heard only a scant few, are harrowing in that it seems certain that any one of them could happen to one of us.

"You know, ever since Mom died, I've had a hard time reading books or watching movies. I just want something that's not stressful, you know, that I can watch and relax and not worry about it. My husband thinks it's a little strange, because sometimes I don't want to watch a movie with him that's really a little ole nothing movie, but it's still just, just too stressful. And I have enough stress without all that. But it's getting better." She pauses for a long time. "I don't know why I told you that."

"You can talk, too, Mazie." I want to encourage her if she wants to offload some feelings, instead of just listening to everyone else all the time. I wear my most open and best listening expression on my face, but she says nothing while turning to some papers on her desk. I return to my book, a little hurt, because though I know I come off as brash and aloof, I feel like I'm a pretty good listener. I shouldn't be hurt, though, Mazie doesn't even really know me and she's spent her life doing mostly listening. Her mom died early in the semester ("She died, she did not pass away or depart, she died," she told us when we talked about euphemisms.), and she's made few allusions to the grieving that she's been doing even while discussing bereavement in class.

What a burden to take in the pain of everyone else and feel it weighing you down. I hope that Mazie has someone to talk to, hopefully someone better than some smart-aleck little twenty-something in her class. I've felt that way before - all listening and no talking. It's frustrating and lonely, even on the very small scale that I've experienced it. Even the listeners need to talk, or write. Maybe I should tell her to start a blog.



I remember being fourteen years old and at my friend Jessica's house with all our other friends. And I had to call my mom to stay later than I had initially planned, because we wanted to watch a movie. It was this movie that Ashley had told us all about, and that just seemed to be the way with her. She would come across movies or songs or TV shows that no one else in our group had ever heard of, and somehow, by the will of her personality, the movie or song or TV show became our next thing.

My mother predictably asked what the movie was rated. I had no idea, so I asked.

Oh, it's like PG, Ashley said.

I told my mother.

I got permission to stay late and watch the movie.

Man, that movie is like rated R, Ashley told me as soon as I got off the phone. My eyes widened. Had I lied to my mother? It was a severe moral dilemma for me to stay and watch the movie. I only hope that my fourteen year old daughter freaks out about watching a rated R movie.

Fourteen year old girls look for meaning in everything: no, really. That's why we obsessed over song lyrics and movie lines said by ordinary girls who end up with the captain of the football team and, like, the most popular guy in school. In every movie we watched, we assigned roles. Coming-of-age movies are not that creative in making their characters, as long as there's a pretty one, a funny one, a smart one, a dumb one, and maybe a slutty one, everyone is happy and all the good lines can be said. In limited cast movies, a couple of those roles can be combined into one person.

I found the movie that my mother allowed me to stay and watch under false pretense for a couple of bucks at Big Lots. Now I haven't seen this movie for ten years, but I had sorta fond memories, so I bought it and popped it in my VCR. Instantly, the ritual of role-assignment within our group came back to me. I did not remember the roles we had been assigned, but I could tell that the character Carson would have been Jessica, Pudge would have been my friend Laura, and I would definitely be the girl with the ridiculous glasses. I was hopeful for a while that maybe I might have scored the role of Pudge, who ended up with a nice boy and who won the dance contest, but no, I could tell that I would have been assigned the spectacles.

My character ended up with a rich boy who would inherit his father's tobacco company. My character's goal was to have the most organized and ladylike fun possible. My character was shocked and appalled when one friend flounced around in a bikini (this was set in the 50s) and even more so when another one had casual sex. I was comic relief, there only to provide a minor obstacle and the voice of traditional sense so that I could be rebelled against.

After I watched the movie, I put the tape in my pile bound for the thrift store. Truth be told - and here it comes - I disapproved of the movie. I am the girl in the glasses. I am in favor of organized and sensible fun. I remember being that voice of disapproval when my friends got a bit wild.

I guess that's typecasting.



I did not intend for Thousand Worth Thursdays to become a sort of travel brochure for things to do around Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It's just that I happen to spend approximately five-sevenths of my time there.

I actually "lived" in Winston for six weeks before my senior year of high school at a program for nerdy kids called Governor's School. I could try and explain it all to you, but to be completely snobbish about it, you probably wouldn't understand. At least, that's what all us Governor's School alums complained about in our emails to each other when we got back home. That six weeks was fairly important in my life; for one thing, I met a nice boy there named Josh, and now he gets lots of blog entries written about him.


Governor's School was held at the campus of Salem College, which is smack dab in this historical area known as Old Salem. It's basically this area that has been preserved to look like it did back in the eighteenth century when it was settled by Moravians. It's a pretty neat place, with lots of old buildings and cobblestone streets and really fantastic ginger cookies. They still have old-timey cobblers and bakers and blacksmiths there for the benefit of the tourists. While all that was cool, what was not cool was the fact that my dorm was one of those old buildings, and naturally, it did not have air conditioning.

It's quite picturesque, which is why I took a picture of it. I took lots of pictures of it, actually, and I will probably take many more. Besides being of sentimental value to me, it's very unique. Even I decide next month that I hate that stupid boy and thus the stupid place where I met him, I will not be able to deny the charm of Old Salem.

The picture is black and white, for those who were questioning their vision or their computer monitors. My camera has that particular setting and I was fiddling with it that day. Or, if you prefer, you can believe that Old Salem is so timeless that it exists in a place where color has not yet been invented, like Kansas.


articles indefinite.

I don't have TV.

Note the lack of an indefinite article in that sentence (note the definition of an indefinite article). What I mean by that statement is that I own a television set, but it doesn't get any channels. I have a pair of rabbit ears, but they don't pick anything up. What the statement really amounts to is "I don't have cable." So while I have a TV, I do not have TV.


This fact is the cause of wonder and amazement to my coworkers. They don't understand, even when I go through that whole explanation about indefinite articles. It seems like I have to say the words "I don't have TV" at least once a week.

"Hey, have you seen that commercial-"
"I don't have TV."
"Oh, yeah."

It makes for bad water cooler conversations.

They try to convert me. I like to think it's because they envy my simplified life, but I think it's just so they can tell me about that commercial or that episode of that show that I don't watch. They're just tired of having perfectly good conversations ruined by the fact that I don't have TV.

If someone is learning for the first time that I don't have TV, the person will invariably ask why, because not having TV doesn't make sense. It's like being born without a big toe or turning down cake or not picking up a dollar off the street. And the answer to why I don't have TV really only adds confusion.

I don't have TV, because if I had TV, I would watch it.

Alright, now, let's walk through that one. When I was in college, I had TV. And I watched it. I watched lots of shows and I would have been very good at water cooler conversations had there been any water coolers around. I don't really think that I watched an exorbitant amount for any old American, but it still seemed like a lot. The default answer to boredom is TV, and soon you're watching shows that aren't that good because there's nothing else on, but you don't want to get off the couch. And so when I moved into my own place, I decided that I wanted to save $50 a month and come up with better things to do with my time. Read, write, learn a new recipe, call my mother, climb Mt. Everest, whatever.

I haven't had TV for two and a half years. I don't miss it. I'm not really anti-TV, though I do think people in general watch too much of it. I don't lecture my friends for watching it. It's just something that I've decided is not for me. Besides, I enjoy the challenge of coming up with other water cooler topics. Speaking of indefinite articles, have you ever heard about the zero article?


a hard row to hoe.

My like or dislike of people in my psychology class is mostly based on how interesting their comments are. It's a discussion-based class, and the best ideas come from the older, more world-wise classmates. Though I like the kid who sits two seats down, it's hard to take him seriously when everything he says screams out the fact that he is only eighteen.

Suzy is soft-spoken, but not afraid to speak. Her points are reasonable and plainly stated. She's always struck me as someone who has had to toil through life, though I've never been sure exactly what her struggles have been. She just seemed downtrodden, even when she was laughing and joking. One Thursday night, our teacher told us that we were having a guest speaker. Our guest speaker was Suzy. And so I found out about Suzy's problems, and they were much, much worse than I had imagined. My mother would say that she had a hard row to hoe.

She started out with sexual abuse from her older brother, memories of which she completely repressed until she was thirty. Then she moved on to an eleven-year period of hard drug use, basically using every drug I've ever heard of, and some I hadn't. She talked about working at a pharmacy, stealing the drugs for her own use and to sell. She talked about following little grandmothers home from the pharmacy to break into their houses and steal the drugs she had given them. She talked about shooting up in her parents bathroom at twenty-four years old and then deciding to get clean. Then she talked about being diagnosed with hepatitis C twenty years after she stopped sharing needles and how now that she has a chronic and often fatal disease, she really wants to live for the first time in her forty-six years.

Now Suzy goes on a talk circuit, giving talks to people in safehouses and at twelve-step meetings. She talks to them just like she talked to us. I've heard speakers like her before, giving the story of their glorious rehabilitation like a made for TV movie. But those people were professional speakers, emphasizing the right points and saying the right phrases to make the maximum impact. Suzy was just telling a sad story, and the fact that it was about her was incidental. It wasn't meant to shock and it wasn't meant to motivate, just to say, "This is where I've been." And yet that was what was inspiring about her words. She was so regular and so open that it was a testament to what regular people can do in the face of adversity.

I left class feeling sort of awestruck by Suzy's bravery and frankness. I felt a bit foolish, too. Two weeks before, we had been assigned a four-page paper about our lives and the major events that had shaped us into the Interpersonal Psychology students we are today. I'd written mine in like an hour, no problem. I've got lots of practice writing at length about myself. I was honest and open, too, but about what? My two-parent home and carefree, drug-free school years? My paper was downright light-hearted. Let's face it, life's been dealing me all the good cards. I think I'm a pretty cool and well-adjusted person, but I have no excuse not to be.

I confess that I am waiting for It, the thing that will immediately even out the great odds I've been given, because, well, I believe in statistics and probability. Something's got to give. Maybe in some sick and naive way, I want It to happen, so I can prove that I can come through a life that is not all violets and primroses, that I can still be a pretty cool and well-adjusted person when I would have an excuse not to be. I mean, who really wants to live happily ever after anyway?

Oh, wait. I do. I take all that other stuff back. Forget it ever happened.


oyster stew and the kentucky cousins.

The prodigal son, and I, his girlfriend, showed up for Christmas breakfast an hour and forty-five minutes late. No worries, there was plenty of fatted country ham left over for everyone. However, since everyone else had finished eating, they had nothing else to do except watch us eat our reheated cheesy grits and oyster stew. I was introduced to cousins from Kentucky and hugged by a grandmother as she remarked about how she hadn't called me by Josh's high school ex-girlfriend's name this time.

After eating, Josh was submitted to the usual question and answer routine by his mother and aunts while I felt awkward and aloof and hoped that I was coming off as worthy of their son and nephew. I reminded myself that I wanted to be there, that I had brazenly invited myself to Christmas breakfast. My family does not have much in the way of Christmas traditions, and so a week before the holidays, I had timidly asked Josh why he hadn't included me in his holiday plans. To my relief, he seemed genuinely happy to have me along and somewhat charmed by my completely rude question. My advice to all you flawed people out there: find someone who thinks it's charming.

And so that's how I ended up in an unfamiliar house on Christmas day, having taken extra care in my dress and even breaking out my electric hair dryer rather than using the atmospheric one like I usually do.

After a few minutes, everyone migrated over to the living room for another tradition new to me, the first having been the inexplicable presence of oyster stew. Josh comes from a very musical family, so where my family might have a friendly, yet aggressive game of basketball, his family has a mini variety show. There were two violins, a cello, a piano, and (my favorite) an accordian, so it was a little bit country and a little bit polka. People took turns playing and singing for the enjoyment of everyone else. While a trio of singers were preparing to perform, one of the Kentucky cousins cheerfully asked if I played any instruments.

"Nope," I replied, shaking my head.

"Oh," she responded. "What do you do?"

"I write software." I wanted to tell her that I do a lot of things, but I assumed this was the kind of answer she was looking for.

"Oh, I hate computers."

I smiled back without saying anything. I can only imagine the poor reviews I received in the station wagon on the long drive back to Kentucky, but I guess you can't win them all. No one else seemed to have a problem with my lack of musical abilities, and thankfully, no one asked me to perform.

Afterwards was the extended family game of Dirty Santa, in which Josh and I did not participate, because we hadn't known to bring a gift. Here was the real interaction, in the giant circle of people from three generations of a family that all lived on the same parcel of land. My family is rather scattered, so our get-togethers are more like reunions of old friends who maybe don't know each other as well as they'd like, but who still can fall instantly back into comfortable companionship. And yet it wasn't all that different here: there was the same gentle teasing of the kids, the old family jokes, the stories that have been told before.

And so I didn't fit in, and yet I knew that I could, given a little practice and acclimation (both for me and for them). They would get used to my candor, and I would get used to the oyster stew. I would be able to learn all their names and Grandmother would stop calling me "Laura." I would be able to tease the kids (and, man, I am good at that), and I would get the old family jokes. Maybe I'd even learn a musical instrument and the Kentucky cousins would finally accept me, software and all.

Maybe not.


oh, the folly!

There is a suburb town outside of Winston-Salem called Kernersville, or, for the young and hip, K-Vegas. In the historic section of town is a very old house called Körner's Folly. This house is also Kernersville's main claim to fame. Basically, it's this huge house that costs like a bajillion dollars to build back in the 1800s before the bajillion dollar bill was even invented. For true and actual history, please go to some other more legitimate site.

After the house was built by Mr. Körner, his family inconveniently kept growing and so the house was added on to and remodeled several times. What you end up with is a very strange and big house: some rooms have 25 foot ceilings, while other rooms have about 5 foot ceilings. There are narrow hallways that would be darned inconvenient for the obese. There is a beautiful theatre in the attic, with gorgeous murals and a tiny stage. There are over a dozen fireplaces, each with a different tiled pattern. It's a weird, weird house.

The house, being so very old and oddly constructed, is falling apart. There is a historical society that is trying to restore it, but it turns out they need about seventy bajillion dollars to do all that. It's very sad, really, to tour this house, when you're used to touring historical buildings that have funding, such as Tryon Palace or the Biltmore Estate. I took the walk-thru tour one afternoon, and I was simultaneously amazed and depressed. Yes, those are fantastic murals, but they are peeling. And what intricate woodwork on the kitchen table that sits on the on the huge crack in the floor made by a growing tree root.

The name, by the way, came when the local townsfolk heard that Körner was building this bajillion dollar house. The guy heard about it and liked it so much that he had the name spelled out on the front porch, mosaic style. Sounds like my kind of guy.

That's the mosaic. If you are ever in Kernersville, I recommend you check the place out. If you like oddball stuff, and if you're here, you do, then I think you'll like it. It'll knock you back six bucks, but that is only a fraction of a bajillion.


a little kulture.

I was at a club called Kulture, but not The Culture Club or even The Kulture Klub. It wasn't a bad place, and I've seen my share as the girlfriend of a local musician. It had ample seating, a decent-sized stage, and the decor was varied and interesting. Actually, it looked like something I might have decorated by combining hodgepodge items from yard sales and thrift stores.

I was sitting on the couch while Josh was in the bathroom. I had just finished my beer, so I got up to go to the bar and get another round of $1.50 PBRs for the two of us. As I sat back down in the approximate middle of the couch, a strange boy sat down next to me where Josh had been sitting.

"Is your boy sitting here?"

"Um, yeah." The guy sat down. "He can sit on the other side, I suppose."

"Oh, good. So, how old are you?"

Kind of a weird pick-up line, but whatever. I spotted Josh on his way back to the couch, and I prepared myself to explain where this strange dude had come from.

"I'm 24."


"Yes, really." I choked back the explanation that I was only barely twenty-four and just let it go. No need to have a mid-twenties crisis on this guy. Besides, Josh had taken his new position on the other side of me. I handed him his beer as he looked at the intruder suspiciously.

"Hey, man," Intruder Guy says. "I was just hitting on your girl here." I groan inwardly. Dude, please don't make this worse on me.

Josh is outwardly cool. "Oh, okay. What's your name again?" He reaches out a hand as the guy answers, "Aaron," and I can imagine Josh writing out Aaron's epitaph.

Josh and I resume our conversation, and I am completely rude to Aaron. I want to send a clear message to this guy, so I ignore him and talk solely to Josh about the importance of James Joyce and the meaning of the word "antipodean." After a few minutes, Aaron gives up and leaves.

"So, who was that guy?" Josh finally asks.

"I dunno. He sat down after you left and asked how old I was."

"He asked how old you were?"

"Yeah. I had just bought beer for us. I think he was trying to get me to buy him beer."

"He did look like he might be underage."

Now, it was a complete guess when I told Josh that, but as soon as I said it, it rang true. I don't get hit on that often, and to be cornered when I'm clearly with someone else is even more odd. Of course, then I felt supremely old. Sure, yeah, I still get hit on by twenty-year-old boys...when they need someone to buy them booze. I was just about to feel depressed and sorry for myself when I remembered what twenty-year-old boys were like. You know, it's okay if they don't hit on me. Besides, he probably didn't even know what "antipodean" means.