I'm locked in a Goodwill dressing room with two skirts and a pile of clothes from previous users. I do not know what to do.

At this point, you say, "Hey, silly, it's a dressing room. Ever used one of those before? You take off your clothes, you put on the skirts - one at a time, mind you. Then you look at yourself in the mirror and you make a face. If it's a happy face, then you buy the skirt. If it's a sad or any other sort of unhappy face, then you put the skirt back on the rack. Then you put your own clothes back on and leave to either purchase the skirt(s) or put them away. See? Easy!"

No, no, no, I know all that. In fact, I have done most of that. I tried on two skirts and made two unhappy faces. Then I put my own pants back on and made ready to put the skirts back. But the door is locked.

"Man, you are stupider than I thought. Look, the door is locked to allow you privacy while you strip down to your skivvies in public. In fact, you were the one who locked it. So you just unlock it. It'll be fine, really. Sit down and have a rest first if you don't feel you're ready for it."

I'm telling you, I tried that. I turned the lock back to horizontal (that's a big word, see, I am not stupid). When I came in, it was horizontal, and I turned it to vertical. Now that I'm ready to leave the room, I've turned it back to horizontal and the door still won't open. The lock is jammed or something, I am locked in a Goodwill dressing room, and I'm just not sure what to do.

"So the lock is stuck somehow?"


"You can't get out?"


"Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Oh man, that is rich! Ha ha ha ha! Wow, that really sucks! Good luck with that one!"


The way I look at it, I have a several options, none of which is particularly appealing.

1. I could live in the Goodwill dressing room. While the Goodwill dressing room does provide ample shelter from cold and weather, it does not provide food. That would be good up to a point: for instance, I would be able to wear one of these skirts within a couple of days.
2. I could continue fidgeting with the lock, hoping that I will do something I haven't already done in the last five minutes. The trouble with this one is that eventually someone will notice. Also, this seems to be more and more unlikely to be helpful the longer I stand in here.
3. I could knock on the door and hope someone answers. No doubt that someone will have to get another someone to help, and there might be five or six someones standing outside snickering by the time they free me. Though I am quite an avid collector of public humiliation stories, I collect them from other people.
4. I could shimmy under the doorway. Doorway shimmying is something I've done many times in the past to unlock a locked public bathroom or even a dressing room. Of course, I was always trying to get in, but I suppose that's irrelevant. The thing is, I haven't done that in probably ten or fifteen years. Also, this doorway is a bit low to the ground, making an already ungraceful move even more difficult. The image of me stuck under a doorway to a Goodwill dressing room flashes in my head, and I want to cry.

Still, Number 4 is really the only option if I want to a.) get out, and b.) avoid as much embarrassment as possible. Both of these things are very important to me.

I get low to the ground and peer under the doorway. A pair of women saunter by, pausing to admire something or other right in front of the door for what seems like ages. Finally, they move on. I peek to the sides to see if anyone is near. The time is ripe. I get down on my stomach and I shimmy. Oh boy, do I shimmy. I do not get stuck, and I get out, standing up quickly and tossing my hair casually over my shoulder. The pair of women miraculously were looking in the other direction. I walk up to the front counter, prepared to explain to the cashier what has just happened. But then I realize what I would have to say, decide to let them figure it out for themselves, and walk straight out the front door, which, thankfully, is unlocked.


sandra the spy.

Writers don't care what they eat. They just care what other people think of them.

-Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy

Harriet is an observer. She calls herself a spy, because that's much more glamourous. I read the book about Harriet the Spy a long time ago when I was still occupying the age group for which the novel was intended. I liked it a lot and secretly filed it away in the ranks of classic young adult novels, where the greats like Judy Blume and Roald Dahl (the ultimate) live.

The worst job in the world must surely be the bus driver of the terminal shuttle at Reagon National Airport. As far as I can tell, his job is to drive a small bus back and forth across an asphalt slab half the length of a football field. I suppose if he's good, he's promoted to...I'm not even sure what.

Harriet carries around a notebook all the time, and in it, she writes her thoughts as well as the daily comings and goings of her neighbors. She writes who has a big nose and who has a disgusting pimple and who has the most ridiculous red hair she has ever seen.

Tracy, a chatty Wal-Mart employee, is having problems with her knee. Also, her car broke down this morning. She hurt her knee in the bathroom, she loudly complains, loud enough for a girl with glasses and a small notebook to hear her from the table across the way. Then she leans in to tell an old woman quietly some secret woman thing that she was doing when she hurt her knee. Across the way, a girl with glasses and a small notebook wishes she had been able to overhear the secret woman thing.

Harriet takes notes constantly. She scribbles over breakfast, during math class, before she goes to bed at night. She is taking notes as if life were a class, the events of which she will be tested on later. Some of them are just to remember the things she has seen. Some are things that she wants to remember to think about later. These she notes with a brief note followed by the words "THINK ABOUT IT."

The guy keeps looking at me, and I can't decide if it's because I look like his dead sister or because I look better than his blind date.

Harriet wants to be a writer, or is it a spy? Or maybe some sort of combination, which I suppose adds to either a tabloid writer or a really terrible spy. Someone told her once that to be a writer, you have to write, write, write all the time. People have told me that, too, and so I try, though I suspect it's just another joke, like that one about how to get to Carnegie Hall.

I have started to get comfortable with the natural ebb and flow of writing. For the past two weeks, nothing has come to me. Nothing in my life has changed, it wasn't as if everything got boring all of a sudden. I knew the little nuggets of inspiration that allow me to turn an everyday event into three pages are still all around me, but it's like I couldn't see them. And that feeling is not nearly as upsetting as it has been in the past - I had a bunch of old stuff saved up so I could keep up the blog. I worried a little, because one can never tell how long a dry spell will last, but at least this time, I seemed to realize that it definitely would end.

But Harriet isn't so much trying to get to Carnegie Hall anymore. The notebook has become a part of her, a kidney or lung, and she is unable to let it go. It interferes with her life. Even when she can focus on whatever is going on around her, she is composing it all in her head, her hands aching for the time when she can record it all in her notebook.

Things found in my car:
3 umbrellas
1 deck of cards
1 sewing machine instruction book, copyright 1970
9 burned CDs, 8 labelled
31 cents
2 pens (blue)
a box of hangers
1 diabetic test strip
1 hospital volunteer badge

And so I found Harriet the Spy for a quarter at the Salvation Army and immediately brought it home to snuggle it next to the Roald Dahls. I read it in one night on my couch, all two-hundred ninety-seven pages of it. I'm grown up enough to realize immediately why Harriet appeals to me so much, and I only wonder if I realized it then.


tree hugging.

Did you know that I used to be a tree hugger?

In the fifth grade, I became aware of the plight of the rainforest, of the endangered giant golden-crowned flying fox, of the ozone layer, of anything Mother Nature related that had a plight. Thinking back, I don't remember what started me on this environmentalist fervor - probably some nature show meant to enrage people by employing lots of sentiment and misleading statistics.

I did what any outraged eleven year old with a rapidly deteriorating home planet would do: I started a club. Inspired by the weekday afternoon advertisements for Kids F.A.C.E (Kids For A Cleaner Environment), I started K.C.E. - Kids Caring for the Environment. My club was totally different from those Kids F.A.C.E. losers. You could tell we really cared about the environment - it was right there in our name.

I enlisted the help of my classmates. My fifth grade teacher encouraged the whole enterprise by allowing me class time to explain what my club was and how we were going to care for the environment. I elected myself president and collected one dollar in dues from a dozen kids or so. The other kids went for it because I was the smart kid, and at that age, being smart was still cool. Had I known about the upcoming drastic drop in my popularity, I would have started a club that lobbied for dork coolness.

Each month, we had a theme. The first month was "Hug a tree" a phrase that I most likely heard from Rush Limbaugh, whose radio show was broadcast every day into the ears of my parents and whatever unsuspecting children might be around. My adult siblings thought this theme hilarious, and my brother Knocker even had me pose for a picture in which I was physically hugging a tree. It's been about thirteen years, but I think now that they were probably making fun of me. Thinking back on all this, I realize that Rush Limbaugh didn't use the term "tree-hugger" as a compliment. So while I was really a kid who just didn't get the joke, I prefer to delude myself that I was being satirical.

Misguided names or no, we actually did some stuff. The dues we collected went towards a membership in the Arbor Day foundation or some tree thing. Whatever foundation it was, they promised us that 2500 square feet of the rainforest would not be cut down. I'm not sure how that works, but it doesn't matter, because we never got around to sending in the ten dollars. I think it might have been eventually embezzled by the club treasurer, but I've decided not to report her to the authorities for fraud, mostly because I figure I could probably be held responsible in some way. I also had plans to adopt a whale and name it Kasey E. Whale (get it? K.C. E. Whale!), but that never happened due to the embezzlement incident and the general loss of interest in the whole thing on my part. There was one afternoon where the entire class voluntarily and spontaneously spent a whole recess period picking up trash off the playground area. One kid was the hero of the day because he even picked up cigarette butts, which the rest of us thought were too nasty to touch with our bare hands. I later found out this same kid had a crush on me, and I wonder if the cigarette butts were his secret cry for love. It's like the sweetest creepy thing anyone has ever done for me.

I saw the summer after fifth grade as a good opportunity to let my whole tree hugging past fade away. I decided I wasn't really into saving the world, or at least leading a save the world club. I was busy dealing with the onset of puberty and the sudden loss of my popularity amongst my classmates. It surprises me to think of it now, realizing that I was kind of an ambitious little kid. I don't consider myself to be a particularly ambitious adult, and I wonder what happened. It makes me a little sad to think of that girl unabashedly hugging a birch, even while her big brother laughed at her. I know she's got to be still inside me somewhere, and I think maybe I should let her out more often. Not necessarily to embrace fauna, but to go after big dreams and do good things without realizing they might also be somewhat unrealistic and/or idiotic.

I just won't let my brother take pictures this time.

Note: Knocker - do you still have that picture? I would like a copy, please. It will be destroyed treasured forever.


got your goat.

I stole this sign from the window of an empty shop in a strip mall. In my defense, it had been up for quite a while (notice the water marks). Also, I did it all for you, my loyal readers, because I knew that you would find this sign as fascinating as I do. If not, that's okay, too, because I guarantee I am fascinated enough for every single one of you. When you first read this sign, how many times did you stop and say, "Wait, what?" I really can't decide what intrigues me more: the idea of people who bow-hunt goats or that last remark about serial killers. Should I be concerned about mass murderers? Or maybe just lost and confused Bushmen?

Notice that I did mark out the phone numbers so as to avoid some sort of 867-5309 incident. I mean, these poor people have been through enough.


portuguese bacon with salt.

Thing 1: When it rains, it pours.
You know, I was having kind of a blue evening tonight, and I decided to go shopping. Yes, yes, I know that it is a dangerous thing when my moods can be affected by retail success, and I am coming off as a rather stereotypical female here. I'll defend myself on that front some other day. Besides, I went to Goodwill. While sometimes shopping can only worsen a bad mood (see "Bathing Suits, Shopping For"), the find of a good bargain can make my week. For instance, this evening, I came home with - get ready for it - a bright yellow rain slicker! I've haven't had a rain slicker since second grade or so, when I had a reversible one that was solid blue or white with blue polka dots, depending on how you wore it. This one is much, much cooler.

It's a little silly how much this rain slicker (not rain coat, that's not as much fun to say) excites me. "I'm going to look like the Morton's Salt girl!" I said to whoever was close enough to hear me talking to myself. Then, later tonight when I was looking for images of said little girl to show to you, I found out that I have been misinformed about her and that she wears a bright yellow dress, not a slicker.

I'm going to look even cooler than the Morton's Salt girl!

Thing 2: Line of Demarcation.
I've been getting a lot of emails in Portuguese. I know you all have very high opinions of my intelligence, but sadly, I do not speak Portuguese. These were emails from actual people who were trying to send forwards to another girl named Sandra, presumably one who does speak Portuguese. I would sometimes get as many as a dozen a day. I don't even know if they were good forwards or just a bunch of good luck nonsense, in which case, I wish to know what sort of exceptions there are to the chain letter bad luck ruling. I feel like not knowing the language is a very good excuse.

In any case, I went to one of those websites that will translate a small amount of text into any language for free and entered the phrase "Please stop sending me messages. You have the wrong address." Out came, I assume, the Portuguese equivalent. I wanted to enter something much more elaborate, for instance:

Long ago and far away, the Pope drew a line on the world, giving Portugal some room to be fruitful and multiply without tripping over Spaniards all the time. Regardless of whether the Pope had any right to do this, the land where I was born some centuries later was not affected. Therefore, I cannot understand a single word in these emails. I am up late at night, fearful that I am missing great pieces of literature or insightful discussion, just because of the way a dead Catholic arbitrarily drew a line. Please, cease in sending these emails to me, so that if I cannot read them, I will no longer suffer in the wondering of what I cannot understand.

However, since I was using a questionable translation tool, I thought it best to stick to a simple message. I started replying to these emails with my translated message. Thankfully, they have stopped, and I am at peace once more.

Thing 3: Something by M.C. Escher's fat cousin.
Phone call, 11:33 AM

Sandra: Hello?
Josh: Hi. I made a moebius strip of bacon.
Sandra: You did what?
Josh: A moebius strip of bacon. I just thought you wanted to know. I have to go now, because I'm cooking bacon.


a background of pasty.

It's Saturday evening, and I'm inspecting the damage to my legs. I count three injuries, all of the variety of capillaries broken beneath the skin, i.e. bruises. There's a teensy one just below the right knee, while the other two are right on the shins, one on each leg. The one on the right leg is noticeably swollen. I'm poking that one to test for tenderness. I don't know it yet, but I will develop a scratched-up hand and a sore bottom the very next evening. This is the first weekend we got the wheely shoes, and our bodies show it.

I remember when my legs were quite the colorful things, with varying hues of red, blue, green, and brown all over a background of pasty. This was all in my high school sports days, back when I did something more than sit at a computer all day long. My knees were always particularly vivid in volleyball season, where my kneepads could only do so much to cushion the blow of a girl my size crashing to hardwood floors.

As I admire the colors of my new bruises, Josh sees and makes sympathetic noises. He kisses me and tells me that he is sorry that his poor, sweet baby is damaged. I smile broadly and tell him that I am nothing but proud of these little blue and swollen patches among the pale. I am proud of any badge on my body, be it a bruise or a scratch or even a hickey, that I got from living. Monday morning, I will go to work and whenever someone asks me about my weekend, I will silently and wide-eyed show them the new cut on my hand before I launch into talking about my new wheely shoes, and how they're so cool, and I just had the most fun ever.


bela lugosi meets a brooklyn gorilla.

"So, seen any good movies lately?"

The question is put to me by Todd, who is sitting next to me at an employee lunch. The other half a dozen people present are talking about their children and the various stages of baby poop. Neither Todd nor I have children, and though someday baby poop might be an interesting conversational topic for us someday, today is not that day.

"Actually, no. I have seen no good movies lately." The answer takes both of us aback, but it's the total truth. In fact, I have seen nothing but absolutely wretched movies lately. I don't mean your regular bad movies, like where the acting is sub-par or maybe the script is uninspired. I mean horrendously, awful, terrible movies that show up in lists like "The 50 Worst Movies of All Time" or "Movies Which Make the Eyes Bleed." I've been watching them on purpose, completely aware that they are insults to the medium of film.

See, I've recently discovered Mystery Science Theatre 3000.

Back in college, I heard the really cool kids talking about this show. I'd never seen it, nor did I know what it was, but I knew better than to admit that to those guys. Better just nod along. But now I'm qualified to discuss it at length and even use the very hip nickname MST3K.

For the uninitiated: Have you ever watched a really bad movie with some good friends and the whole experience turned out to be pretty fun, because you just ruthlessly made fun of the movie the whole time? That is the whole concept of this show. Rather than try to keep up or even understand the movie, just make fun of it in any way possible. In a lot of movies, that's better than trying to take the film seriously. MST3K shows a bad movie with the silhouettes of a guy and two robots in the front row. You watch the movie and hear their commentary. And it's hilarious and brilliant.

Josh and I watch this show together. We rent them through Netflix as fast as the mail allows. And while we listen to the comments made by the show, we're making up our own, too. I've come to realize that there are some atrociously bad movies out there. As one of the characters on the show said, "Just when you think you've seen the worst movie ever made, along comes the worst movie ever made."

This show has messed with my mind. I can't watch a movie anymore without making a bunch of smart-aleck comments. What's more, I've developed a special place in my heart for bad movies. I read somewhere that the movie Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla makes Plan 9 From Outer Space (widely regarded as the worst movie ever made) look like Gone with the Wind. I've seen Plan 9. It's ridiculously terrible; at one point, a prop gravestone actually falls over. But I've seen much, much worse. And so my reaction to reading that statement was to immediately go to Netflix and queue up Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla. After I did that, I realized that my logic was completely backward. It's like someone showed me the arsenic, and I excitedly started sprinkling it on my pancakes.

I realized at some point that I seemed to be seeking out the holy grail of crappy flicks, The Worst Movie Ever Made. It wasn't just a matter of wanting to make fun of poor filmmaking, I was actively looking for the one that is the most terrible. That quest begs a lot of questions. Will I know the worst movie when I see it? Is there actually a worst movie ever, seeing as how movies can be bad in so many different ways? Is The Worst Movie Ever Made available on DVD?

So far, in my book the title of Worst Movie Ever Made belongs to Monster A Go-Go. Watch it if you're feeling brave, as it's going to hurt. The promotional poster quotes N.A.S.A as saying "This picture could set our space program back at least fifty years!" I assume that's only if the astronauts saw it, as then their brains would all explode. Maybe it's the Worst Movie Ever Made, and maybe not. I haven't even seen Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla.


the right song.

I consider myself to be quite arrogant. I'm not proud of it, though a fat self-esteem seems to make my life so much easier than the lives of my friends who constantly struggle with self-doubt. So let's say that I'm aware of it, but not necessarily doing anything about it. I wasn't even aware of it until some people who didn't like me much told me and then the people who did like me wouldn't look me in the eye when I asked them if it was true.

Similar to the way good chickens come from good eggs, arrogant adults come from arrogant children, who are made by other arrogant adults; namely, the child's parents. The way I am is entirely my mother's fault, and I don't think she's one bit sorry, because deep in her heart she thinks if anyone deserves to be a little full of themselves, it's her children. Again, considering the damage some mothers do to the psyches of their offspring, I don't think I did too badly here.

As a child completely and unreservedly full of myself, I thought I could do anything and do it well. I applied this thought particularly to the arts. I could write, I could draw, I could act, I could dance, I could sing, I was a vaudeville act born seventy years too late. Of course, none of all that was really true. I can write a little, and I can draw a little less. I'm a good actress as long as it's a comedic role and no one else is auditioning. I can't dance at all, and I can carry a tune if I know it well enough, but it's not particularly pleasant to hear. Please note that I don't believe any of that, and in my secret heart of hearts, I still am that highly successful vaudevillian. But when I was a kid, I still quite openly believed all of it.

I was going to be a singing sensation (provided it didn't interfere with my acting and writing and drawing careers). I would practice in my room with a tape recorder, making up songs and singing along to Disney songs with considerable emoting. I acted as if I were onstage, reaching out to my adoring fans and expressing the songs' deep feelings through my face and hands. Luckily, this was all before YouTube, or I'd be one of those kids whose older siblings record and then humiliate.

I remember a particular car trip. My mom was driving, my sister was in the front seat, and I was sitting in the middle of the back. I sat there because I could stretch the seatbelt all the way out and have relative freedom while still following Mama's strict seatbelt policy. We were on the interstate on a long drive, and for some unknown reason, I was singing the national anthem. No, I was performing the national anthem with all feeling that my nine-year-old voice could muster. Why was I performing? To show off, I assume. Why did I pick "The Star-Spangled Banner," which is a rather difficult song? I doubt I could have told you at the time. At the end of that very long song, which I'm sure was particularly long for my mother and sister, there was a brief moment of silence.

"Wow," my mother said simply and almost breathlessly.

"What?" I asked innocently and modestly, already preparing myself for the barrage of compliments that was sure to come. I wondered if Mama would try and enter me into national contests or perhaps get me an audition for the Mouseketeers.

"You knew all the words!"

My poor, poor mother, who tried so hard to boost our egos at every turn, could not lie to me. I imagine her suffering through that excruciating song, realizing at about the time that I got to singing about the twilight's last gleaming that she was going to have to come up with something positive to say at the end of it all. She made a valiant effort, but I was crushed. I played it cool, like I didn't care, but I surely didn't sing for them anymore, which is probably what they wanted.

I have recovered from the incident. I love to sing, and I do my best music video-worthy work in the car. But that's when I'm alone. I don't like to sing in public. Even if someone that I trust (and who can't sing very well either) is in the car with me, my volume is turned down. So my mother can take credit for deflating the ego she herself inflated. S'okay, no hard feelings, I feel certain that I need more deflation than the alternative.

Okay, I admit it. I still hold secret fantasies of my illustrious singing career. It's not that I have no talent or that my voice sucks. I just haven't found the right song.



Easily half of the spaces in the parking deck outside my office building are marked "COMPACT." And that word is routinely ignored, as cars which are not COMPACT are frequently parked in those spaces. I would be irritated at every gargantuan SUV in a COMPACT space, if not for the fact that my car actually is COMPACT, and I can't park it correctly at the deck. I think I've hit the sweet spot in between the parallel yellow lines maybe once or twice in the few months that I've been parking here. Usually, I'm over on one side or another. And so I decided that it was not the SUV owners who were stupid, but the people who painted the parking lines.

The system seems very inefficient to me. There's so much double-parking that many spaces are rendered useless by the vehicle parking next door. It seems like they could have easily given us all a few more inches per spot and saved a lot of trouble.

I used to park on the first floor. There were usually several spaces on that level when I arrived in the morning, all of them COMPACT. But see, this was when I still naively believed in the COMPACT spaces and my right to park there.

One day, I went out to my COMPACT car and found it to be COMPACTED. There was a sizeable dent on my left back bumper where I had not put one. True, I had put a hideous scratch there years ago, but the dent completely obscured that. What I did not see was a friendly note on my windshield that said, "Hello there! Sorry, I'm a dolt and I've gone and ruined your hideous scratch by putting a big dent in it. Please call my insurance agent." I found no note at all. I left work that day feeling very bitter about the COMPACT spaces, the parking deck, and the human race in general. I considered checking all the other cars in the deck for traces of my paint color, but decided against it.

I don't care about the dent. Yes, it is unsightly, but my car is a functional piece of equipment. When I do finally trade her in, it will be because her engine does not run or because her transmission has exploded, not because of superficial damage. But, man, what a jerk. It pisses me off to know that I am probably continuing to park alongside this bonehead, and that he smiles a special jerk smile every time he passes by my marred bumper.

It's time like these that I like to believe in karma, because it makes me feel better when other people get away with being lousy to think that they will get their comeuppance. Congratulations, sir, you have cheated consequence this time, but it will come around and bite you in the hindquarters some day. Then you will complain about the big jerk who ran into your car and did not even leave a note, the scum. You will lose faith in human nature.

I was comforting myself with the idea of karma when I realized that maybe the event was already an example of karma. Maybe I was being repaid by the universe for some wrong I had done someone else. I didn't remember doing anything, but I'm certainly not dismissing the possibility that I was a jerk at some point. Now I can't even look at that big, stupid dent on my car without wondering fearfully what the heck I did to deserve it.

I park on the third floor now, regardless of how many open COMPACT spaces are on the first floor. I secretly hope the extra walking is causing me to lose weight. The spaces are still very tiny up on the third level, but the people don't seem so intent on squeezing their Yukons or Escalades or whatever into the closest open space to the entrance. I never did see a car with my paint color flaking off, nor did I ever figure out what I had done to merit my big dent. Karma's fine, but sometimes people are just jerks.