how much of a loser.

Alright, Daniel Craig, I'm on board.

Josh and I are big Bond fans. I used to hear people arguing about Bond movies and wondering how much of a loser you would have to be to know which actor played the main character in any given movie in the franchise. I have since discovered how much of a loser you have to be. Some Bond movies are good and some of them are so bad, they're good. Most of them are dated in many ways, each of them little showcases of what Americans thought was cool back then. I enjoy all of them. I'll just let you know now that if you aren't reasonably familiar with all the Bond movies, you're going to spend a lot of time clicking on Wikipedia links for this entry. Or you might just ignore the links and wonder what kind of loser you would have to be to know one henchman from another.

I was really disappointed with Casino Royale. I'd heard mixed reviews about it, most of them good. But I didn't like it. It was dark and weird and neither what I expected nor what I wanted.

It starts out great. The opening sequence is one of the best in the series, because it makes use of parkour. While the villain is running all over Madagascar to get away, doing crazy gymnastic feats, Bond struggles to keep up. He falls, stumbles, and barely makes jumps that the other guy lands with ease. I appreciated this little bit of realism.

But then things go downhill from there. Bond shoots up an embassy, which seemed like the kind of thing that would be hushed up by the government and then revealed later once the administration changes. I really think they lost me with the torture sequence, with Bond naked and tied to a chair while the villain swings a knotted rope at his testicles. I have to give the scene some credit, because it was in the book. But I didn't enjoy it. I didn't need to see it. I would have much preferred that the scene ended right before Bond's double-ohs had been damaged.

The pacing of Casino bothered me as well. There was a point when you thought the movie was over. Bond and the girl were together, they were happy and snuggly, they had all the bad guy's money, everything was cool. But then the movie just kept going for about ten minutes. Of course, then there was a twist, and you had another half hour of movie after that.

As I watched Casino and realized that I wasn't going to like it, it made me dislike Daniel Craig. He always seemed to be swaggering, and his face constantly has the expression that he might be leaning in for a kiss in a minute. You see the expression he's wearing in the poster? That's his expression for the entire movie. Actually, it's probably not even him in the movie. They just took that one picture of him and glued his face on some other actor in every frame of the film. James Bond should not have pouty lips.

After Casino, we rented Quantum of Solace with low expectations. After being disappointed with Casino and with Craig in general, Josh didn't even want to watch it. But what kind of Bond fans would we be if we didn't even watch it? I mean, what if someone struck up a conversation at a party about which movie had the best villain, and we couldn't even participate? "Okay, well, I've never seen Quantum, but there's no way the bad guy...whose name I don't know... is better than Hugo Drax." And then we surprised ourselves by actually liking it.

I would not say that Quantum was particulary well-directed. You know that last part of the Godfather, where Michael is having all those other guys killed off, and the shots are editted together with scenes from the baptism of the sister's baby? Man, that was good. This director, Forster, must have really liked that scene, because he tried to recreate the technique of interspersing shots of violence with shots of other things. In fact, he did it twice: once in the opening action sequence, and once again when Bond is escaping an opera house full of bad guys. And he did it badly. I'm not sure if the scene he picked just didn't capture the violence properly or what, but it didn't work either time. It was just distracting. Okay, Bond is chasing the bad guy, now we're looking at horses, oops, there's the bad guy running again, here's some more horses.

There were some good scenes. The first fight with the bad guy has them dangling from ropes and fighting. It reminded me of marionette fighting, but was still kinda fun. My favorite scene was of an opera, where the various members of the big bad guy organization, Quantum, have gathered for a meeting. They have little earpieces for communicating with each other while pretending to watch the opera. Of course Bond gets a hold of one of the earpieces and wrecks their meeting, but I just thought the idea of having a super secret villain meeting at the opera was very cool.

There was also a scene which was a nice touch for other Bond fans. The bad guys capture and kill one of the Bond girls (named Strawberry Fields, *snicker*) by throwing her in a vat of bubblin' crude (Oil, that is, black gold, Texas tea). Then they left her on the hotel bed in Bond's room. Her positioning was exactly like that of Jill Masterson, who was killed by being covered in gold in Goldfinger.

I haven't been particularly impressed with either of the villains in the movies. I mean, they're fine. Le Chiffre (Casino) is from the creepy Peter Lorre school of villainry, while Dominic Greene is more of confidently powerful and unconcerned bad guy, like Christopher Walken in A View to a Kill. I would have been right to say he was not better than Hugo Drax. We have yet to see any interesting henchmen in the style of Jaws or Oddjob, but perhaps that's a bit too comedic for this era of Bond. I could live without freakish henchmen if it prevented another Nick Nack. We haven't met the leader of the bad guy organization, as both villains thus far seem to be just minions in the overall web of evil. Or rather, they are individual evil fingers in individual worldwide pies in this very extensive network of bad dudes. It will be interesting to see how the movies proceed as Bond, MI6, and the audience slowly discover the extent of QUANTUM.

Some people have complained that there are no gadgets. There's not even a Q. Again, the gadgets might be too high up on the cheese factor for Craig's Bond. He does use his cell phone a lot, which I'm okay with. And you'll notice that M and company have some really amazing touch screen computers. It makes you think that the technology you're seeing could actually exist, which is a nice change after seeing all those amphibious Astin Martins and exploding pens. The gadgets are things that could possibly exist and be useful to us non-spy types. Of course, at this point, it's probably not as smooth and shiny as they portray in the movie. In reality, you'd get about three blue screens of death in the course of a couple of hours of use.

Judi Dench is a marvelous M. She's hard as nails but will go to bat for her people. I've liked the Bond girls, too. Pretty, smart, and sassy, they also take part in the butt-kicking when necessary. I'm glad we've come into an era when the female leads in movies do something besides scream helplessly and break the heels of their shoes. You would get sloshed in half an hour if you took a drink every time the girl shrieks "James!" in A View to a Kill. I've also really liked Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter, the representative American in the series. He's cool, intelligent, and not the square, but efficient dude that he frequently was in previous movies. Also, can I just say that I like Felix as a black guy? I have no idea why.

When I think about it, I can't think of a good reason why I didn't like Casino. I wonder if I'm only succumbing to the notion that cheesy Bond is the only Bond, and I can't handle this dark and not-particularly-nice Bond. But that's not fair. If you're going to watch Bond movies, you can't really judge them all on the same scale. They have different strengths and weaknesses. The fact that I did enjoy Quantum so much makes me think that I need to give Casino another try. Maybe I'll just fast-forward through the torture scene.


hostess with the leastest.

I may have poisoned some people.

I had houseguests the other night, two old girlfriends from high school, their husbands, and their babies. They were stopping in town on the way to D.C. to go to a wedding. I didn't have to make them dinner last night because they got in late. So I made cookies, just to show off. This morning, I had a solid breakfast planned: an egg, bacon, and potato casserole and made-from-scratch biscuits. There were blankets, towels, and pillows for everyone. I am not a natural hostess, but I can manage with proper planning.

It seems that when you buy a house, people suddenly want to come stay at it, as if they've grown tired of their own homes and need a break. I don't mind the company; it was just an unexpected aspect of home ownership. I think I had two overnight guests in the two years I lived in the apartment, and I've already had that many in the month I've been in the house.

I put the casserole and biscuits on the table, made sure there was juice and milk to go around, and we all had a pleasant breakfast. The casserole - it's a solid recipe. It's nothing that makes people moan in delight or immediately demand the recipe, but it's fairly hearty and no one seems to hate it. It's also pretty quick and easy to make, using ingredients that I typically have on hand. Sometimes, it's all about convenience.

After breakfast, my friends packed up and drove on down the road, after coaxing their babies to say "bye bye" to the strange lady they just met but who fed them cookies the previous night. I took a quick shower and headed to work, relaxed because it was Friday and I had the hostessing experience out of the way. I mean, I enjoyed their company, but it's still stressful to me. Does that ever go away?

I'd been at my desk for maybe half an hour when my body communicated an urgent desire to head for the restroom. I'll spare you the specifics, but my system was not happy with something that I had put into it. Usually when that happens, I get everything out the first time and then I'm fine. It was not so this time. Instead, I was left with a pain in my stomach, as if I'd eaten rocks this morning, big ones. I drank some Sprite in the hopes that I could burp out whatever was causing my tummy such grief. It did not work. The rocks stayed.

At some point, I stopped being so selfish and thought about my poor friends. I thought about them being sick all the way to D.C. Then I thought about them feeling sick during the wedding and not enjoying it, or worse, missing the wedding completely. Then I remembered that they had babies, who might also be sick, and the rocks in my stomach were joined by terrible, crushing guilt.

I wanted to call them up to see how they were doing. But what good would that do? If they were fine, then I would feel better (at least mentally). But if they were miserable and had rocks in their tummies and cranky rock-filled babies, what could I do to help them - tell them Sprite doesn't help? So I left it alone and hoped that they were fine. On the bright side, I probably don't have to worry about them coming back.


yard sale sushi.

There are lots of things that I have never purchased at a yard sale. For the most part, that's because I've never seen those things at a sale or I didn't need one at the time. I have never bought a car, a mattress, or eyeglasses at a yard sale, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't.

Some people have their limits. My ex-boyfriend was particularly appalled by the idea of buying underwear or bathing suits used, though he didn't seem to have such scruples regarding most secondhand goods. He saw me looking at bathing suits in a Goodwill once and told me that he would give me the money to buy a new one. I should have tried to take him up on the offer and see how long his objections to a used suit lasted. I did have a bra that I fished out of the dumpster once.

In any case, I have not yet found my limit. Saturday morning, I was faced with a new question: would I buy sushi from a yard sale?

The answer is yes.

Maybe that's not so odd. Yard sales often happen in combination with bake sales, and it's not so strange to pick up a bag of brownies from a kid at a card table. But sushi can be a little finicky because it so often contains raw fish. Some people don't eat raw fish, period, much less stuff that they can buy along with a pile of 50 cent records. But let me back up and tell how I came to face the question of yard sale sushi.

Every Friday, I make the yard sale plan. This involves searching the classifieds of the local paper and craigslist for sales that look interesting. Usually I'm looking for larger sales put on by churches, schools, or civic organiziations. I plot the addresses in Google Maps and then look for a route that hits the most sales. And then I take that route, also stopping at various sales I happen to see along the way. Last Friday, I saw that there was a sale at the Korean Baptist Church.


I eagerly marked down the address and made sure it was included on my finished plan. I had dreams of picking up intriguing Korean items for pennies. I just knew that the items for sale would be so obscure and authentic that I couldn't even picture them! Surely this would be a sale to remember. Josh was less enthused, but what did he know?

The sale was outdoors, with long tables set out, the kind that seems to be at every church sale. I got out of the car and immediately noticed the smell: food. To be specific: food fried in sesame oil. I definitely wanted to check out wherever those smells were coming from, but first I would look at the usual yard sale fare. After all, it was 9:00 in the morning.

The stuff on the tables was disappointing to me, but only because I had built it up in my head. These were the things you would see at Anytown Baptist Church, and there was nothing to suggest that the donors were not born and raised in the American South. After a look through the tables, we decided to follow our noses inside.

Once we got into the fellowship hall, it was apparent that the yard sale outside was only the secondary fundraiser. In the middle of the room were half a dozen tables shoved together, piled high with to-go trays of sushi, huge jars of kimchi, and I don't even know what else. A guy handed us menus printed in Korean (presumably) and English and told us that there were free samples for everything they were selling. And indeed, all around the perimeter of the room there were people battering and frying and assembling food to put out on styrofoam plates, ready to be stabbed with a toothpick and sampled. It was way better than the row of samples carts at Sam's Club.

Before we even had a chance to figure out what we wanted to try, a tiny woman accosted us and dragged us over to the nearest fry station. She handed us toothpicks laden with unfamiliar food, explaining that it was like a pancake and would be good with coffee. Before we could say much of anything she was handing us something else, some fried potato and veggie cake, and then it was tempura, and then some spicy rice thing. I wasn't sure if we were getting this kind of attention because we obviously were not all that familiar with Korean food or if everyone was handed samples faster than they could eat them. I was afraid to say anything, like she was actually selling me Korea itself, not various items of its cuisine.

We must have reached the end of the samples, because our guide disappeared as quickly as she had come, ready to give some other unsuspecting shoppers the hard sell. And then I saw the grandmothers.

Along the back of the room were several tables laid end to end. There was an older Asian lady positioned every three feet down the line, resulting in eight or so Korean grandmothers. They were making sushi. Each had a bowl of rice at hand, as well as a set of ingredients sliced long and thin, some we recognized and some we did not. They laid out their mats, covered them with nori and rice, then arranged the long slices of various colored foods in the middle. Then they rolled them tightly, sliced them, and put them on a plate, ready to be collected and packed in trays to be sold. They worked methodically, as if they done this thousands of times at home, while chatting back and forth to each other. I decided without hesitation that I would definitely buy yard sale sushi made by Korean grandmothers.

We bought one tray of 30 generous-sized pieces of sushi for $6, which is an incredible price. We drove back home to put it in the fridge while we hit the rest of the sales on the list. We were also very enamored of the tempura but thought it might be soggy by lunchtime. When we came back around noon, we did not make our traditional post-sale pizza, but unwrapped the saran wrap of our fresh, homemade sushi. I think it was the best sushi I'd ever had and I don't even know what all was in it. The yard sale at the Korean Baptist Church had been something to remember, though not in the way I had expected.

"We should start going to that church," Josh said as we were leaving the sale.

"Uh, I'm not sure if they have services in English. Are you planning on learning Korean?" That's me, always killing dreams by being practical.

"But think of the potlucks," he answered. I did. It was tempting. I could learn to eat with chop sticks if only I could get those sweet Korean grandmothers to cook for me.

It was also worth mentioning that the Koreans were selling haircuts Saturday, too. I did not get a yard sale haircut that day. But that doesn't mean that I wouldn't.


rodent problem.

It never occurred to me to report the rodent problem at my old apartment building. To be honest, I assumed that the management knew about the squirrels that had taken up residence in the attic of the building. The area was fairly wooded for a city apartment complex, and there were lots of the little critters running rampant all around. Surely they had gotten into every building, and every third floor resident could hear them scritching around over their heads. If the management cared about doing anything about the situation, they would have done it already.

So I never bothered mentioning anything about the extra house guests. It didn't bother me, because I like squirrels and they sounded sorta cute scampering around up there. One month they did a lot of talking to each other, and I looked up every time I heard their weird animal chatter, as if I could see through the ceiling to see what they were arguing about. Some sort of domestic dispute, I suppose.

I had a pet squirrel when I was about twelve. Our dog roughed up a baby and we managed to rescue it. We kept it in a bucket with a piece of screen over it and fed him milk from a bottle. It only lasted a few days after the mauling. It could have been my lack of knowledge of how to take care of baby squirrels, but we'll blame it on the dog. I was excited to be that close to one, after years of wishing that I could catch and pet such a cute and furry thing. I know some people hate them, but squirrels are A-OK in my book. I think they're freaking adorable. Plus, they always look like they're having fun, which makes you think they might have reached a higher plane of wisdom to be so cheerful all the time. I think I could be happy as a squirrel.

As I was moving out, it finally clicked in my head that most residents were probably not as content as I was to let little gray creatures scratch around over their heads, cute though they may be. In fact, the majority of the population would call "rodent-infested" as a bad thing. It might even be dangerous to have them in the building, some sort of health or fire hazard. So maybe I should have reported them a long time ago instead of thinking of them as particularly small and furry neighbors.

Then I moved into my house, and I started wondering whether squirrels could get in there, too. I don't have an attic, but I have eaves that might make cozy squirrel resorts. I felt very differently about bushy-tailed neighbors when it was my property they might be invading. Suddenly, those small gray creatures seemed much more menacing, and I watched them suspiciously as they dug around in my yard. A couple of them had the nerve to climb up on the deck, my deck. I kept an eye on every one that came near the house, trying to watch out for any tiny suitcases they might be using to carry their nuts into their new digs under my roof.

But I haven't seen any of that, and I haven't heard any scritching. Just a bunch of squirrels running around the yard, jumping from branch to branch, being twitterpainted. They sure are cute.

Relevant Internet Links Just For Fun
Squirrel fishing
Squirrels attack dog


crowned with many crowns.

I did pick a dentist, sort of randomly, really. I can say that I want someone who won't recommend a bunch of procedures that I don't need, but it's sort of like looking for a mechanic. I know about as much about my teeth as I do about my car, so if the dentist tells me that I need something done, I pretty much have to take her word for it. This is why we have experts, I suppose.

I knew I needed dental work. I know that because I take less than stellar care of my teeth. So when the dentist told me that I was going to have to come back and see them really soon, I wasn't surprised. She was nice enough to explain all the issues, using pictures taken with the mouth camera. And with evidence like that, I could hardly contradict her. It's nice to be shown evidence, too, rather than just be told that #14 needs a MODL and that it's going to cost $80 out of pocket.

I am less enamored of the mouth camera than I was before. It seems like an instrument of shame to me now, because it make me look at just how many fillings I've had over the years. I knew it was a lot, having been present (though not necessarily "there") to receive each and every one of them. But it was embarrassing to look at each individual tooth and see just how little of it was tooth and how much of it was shiny metal. Even when it was that white stuff that they've started using recently, you could tell that something was plugging a hole. Going to the dentist was like going to confessional: Doctor, it's been two years since my last cleaning, and five years since my last flossing. Except my teeth were telling on me with all their little plugged holes.

And that's why I have a crown in my mouth and why I'm getting another: because some of my teeth are so plugged that the dentist thinks it would be better to just cover them up and pretend they never happened. I had an appointment Monday to do the crown preparation, which is the more unpleasant part. That's when they shave your tooth down all the way around so they can put a shell around it. They shot my mouth full of anesthetic, so I didn't feel a thing. Well, I didn't feel the tooth-shaving. I felt like I had a couple pairs of hands and a clamp and some gauze and several scary dental instruments sticking out of my mouth. And then I felt a different kind of pinch when I went up to the front to pay the bill.

I could blame my parents for not making me take better care of my pearly whites. It wasn't a big priority in our house. Sure, they told me to always brush my teeth and that I was going to get cavities and whatnot, but they never really enforced it. So maybe they failed a bit in that aspect of parenting, but they did right by me in a lot of other, more important areas, so we'll let it go. Now I have to enforce it myself, and I'm not great at that.

However, I have decided to give flossing a try. Let me tell you why: While I was sitting in the chair, waiting for my mouth to get nice and numb, I overheard the dentist talking to the patient in the next room. Apparently, when you floss, your gums stay healthy and firm. But when you don't floss, they get, well, flabby, and start hanging down over your teeth, where crap gets trapped up in there. The lady in the next room was not a flosser, and as a result, she had to get a special cleaning where they went under the gums. That sounds particularly terrible to me, like having someone stab you right under the fingernail, but in your mouth. Any time a teeth cleaning requires anesthetic, it's time to change your habits.

I've been flossing for six days. My gums don't bleed tiny dripping red accusations anymore. I don't enjoy it, but all I have to do is think of that under-gum cleaning to get inspired. Maybe I should find out more about the procedure, so I'll have something to scare my kids with when I'm forcing them to floss.


the leader of the plaque.

I have a toothache, which comes as no surprise to me. I know people who have never had a cavity, but it's people like me who keep the average number of fillings up despite those other people. I really do the bare minimum required to keep others from recoiling in disgust whenever I smile. Floss? Mouthwash? Forget about it.

I don't have a dentist here in Raleigh. Maybe that's another indication of my priorities - I get two free cleanings a year and I haven't been taking advantage of them. But now the occasional twinge of pain has forced me to start thinking about letting some gloved hands poke around in there with pointy metal objects. I'll get my free cleaning so that the dentist can tell me that I need something else which will definitely not be free.

I had a dentist in Winston-Salem that I really liked. He was funny and personable, as was all of his staff. His office was incredibly shiny and looked like it had been outfitted by Q Division. There were giant flat screen monitors coming from the ceiling that were hooked up to tiny mouth cameras. It was fascinating and gross. Some things should not be in high def.

I've been asking around the office for dentist recommendations. No one really seems to have much enthusiasm about their dentist. I ask if someone likes their dentist, they shrug, say he's okay, but then tell me they've been going there for fifteen years.

So I looked at some online reviews. These seem to fall into two camps: people who are unhappy with a dentist because the office messed up their insurance and people who are in love with their dentists because their root canals didn't hurt. There is something about the reviews in the second camp that bother me, and maybe it's my own quirk. I am wary of major dental work that doesn't hurt. In fact, that kind of statement makes me not want to go to that dentist. Are they just pumping these people full of drugs? Maybe they are just pretending to do the job by numbing you up, putting a blindfold over your eyes, playing a tape of drilling noises, and going out for coffee with the hygienists. In my mind, the dentist is supposed to hurt, and any time that it doesn't fills me with suspicion. Maybe I'm a masochist.

There are also reviews which talk about how nice the dentist office is, which makes me wonder where the money to buy that office is coming from. Of course, that's totally hypocritical of me, because I just got done talking about how much I liked my Winston-Salem dentist with the mouth camera. He probably didn't give me the cheapest kind of crown there is. He would have if I had asked about it, but I didn't, and so he probably has another mouth camera now.

So what the heck do I want? A guy with a used barber chair, a sharpened curtain rod, and a hammer for anesthetic? No, I want someone friendly who doesn't try and give me procedures that I don't need but fixes problems that I do have skillfully. A little pain is acceptable, because that's how people like me learn (or don't learn). Is that so hard to find? You know, I wouldn't have this problem at all if I took better care of my teeth. The cleanings are free; it's only those extra things that I have to worry about. Maybe I should just start flossing.



a no pressure situation.

I haven't wanted to mention this, because I would hate to speak ill of my house, but I've had some problems with water pressure. You could call it house loyalty, or you could say that I was just too embarrassed to admit that I'd already started experiencing house troubles. I didn't want you to think that my house is a lemon. I was just making lemonade, though only figuratively, because I didn't really have the water pressure to make actual lemonade.

First, I noticed that it took a long time for the hot water to come on in the kitchen. It would be quicker to get cold water out of the faucet and then heat it up on the stove top. And then I noticed that the plumbing wasn't so good with multi-tasking. So you could flush the toilet, but only if you didn't feel like washing your hands. And you might as well run the washer only at night, because it would take half an hour to fill up with water and you couldn't do anything else that required wetness during that time.

All of that was annoying, but I thought I could probably live with it by planning my water use and adopting a general "let it mellow" philosophy. But the showers were the most irritating. Taking a shower in my house was like having a friend hold a watering can over your head. I had to allow extra time in the mornings just for washing my hair, because it took so long to get it wet and then rinse it out. There's a fancy adjustable shower head, too, but in this case, the settings seemed to range from mostly useless to completely pathetic.

I emailed my brother Sid, who installs septic systems for a living and just generally knows things about how stuff works (or doesn't work). He gave me a list of things to check, which I asked Josh to do while I held a flashlight and gave encouragement. We learned many things: there is a Fisher Price toy car in the crawl space, acceptable ranges for a water pressure gauge to read, and to always turn off the water before removing a water pressure gauge. We did not learn why my water pressure was so miserably bad. Sid promised to come look at it the next time he was in town.

Before that happened, I had a week or so to ponder the joys of home ownership. I could not just call up the landlord and complain. I mean, I could, but I'd figured out at about age ten that when you call yourself, you get a busy signal. Maybe this would be an easy fix, and maybe it would require we dig up the whole yard. I went ahead and started resigning myself to the worst case scenario. Actually, I had no idea what the worst case scenario might be, but I was pretty sure it would be expensive.

Sid went into my crawl space and came out five minutes later to tell me that I had a clogged filter. This, my friends, is what brothers are for. Then we went to Lowes, he told me what to buy, which he then installed. I flushed the toilet, washed my hands, then ran the dishwasher and the clothes washer all at the same time.

And then, then! I took a shower. It was the most magnificent shower in the history of the world. The hot water came on quickly and the jets were powerful. I was able to wash my whole body in less time than it took me to wash my hair the week before. I emerged so fresh and so clean and ready to finally be able to blog about the joys of home ownership and perhaps have a nice glass of lemonade.


always a Four.

Between my sophomore and junior years of high school, I went to a nerd camp. We stayed in college dorms, two people to a room. Prior to going, we had to fill out forms, answering basic questions about personal habits so that they could try and match us up with compatible roommates. I sent in my form late and as a result got paired with a girl that drove me a bit crazy by the end of the four week stay. I think it's safe for me to assume that I drove her a bit crazy, too.

One of the questions was about tidiness. It asked how neat you were, with a scale of one to five, one being next to godliness, five being Pig Pen. I thought hard about this question and decided that I was a Four, thinking that I could probably be a little messier, but I could be a lot neater. My roommate was a One, which was a source of tension between us. She had issues with my housekeeping habits, though I confess her cleanliness didn't bother me one bit.

When I was little, I was under the distinct impression that neatness came with age. After all, the people in my life who insisted on cleanliness were adults, and the other people my age also had to be told to clean their rooms or they wouldn't be allowed to have friends over. I was picking up a pair of jeans off my living room floor a couple of weeks ago when it occurred to me that if I was ever going to grow into cleanliness, I probably would have done that by now. If I had to fill out that questionnaire again, I still probably circle the number Four. I'll tell you a secret. When I was waitressing in college, my favorite thing about the work pants and shirt I used was that I could drop them on the floor after taking them off, stomp on them all day long, and then put them on the next morning without fear of wrinkles. This is not the behavior of a One.

I thought about my elementary school friends and realized that their idea of a clean room was different than mine. To ten-year-old me, a clean room meant that there wasn't crap all over the floor. Now, there was crap everywhere else - on top of the dresser or the desk or the bed. You couldn't see the surfaces of those objects, but you could see the carpet, and that was apparently what mattered. For some reason, having a clean room was all about how elevated the crap was. My friends, though, you could see their dressers. And their carpet. I'm pretty sure they weren't stuffing everything in the closet either, which I tried a couple of times. Where the heck was all their stuff? Hrmmm.

The realization that my score wasn't ever going to go up hit me kinda hard. While I accepted a long time ago that I wasn't a tidy person, I now have to accept that I will probably never be one, at least if my understanding of tidy people is correct. I'm under the impression that these people care enough about things being neat that they will make the effort to keep things that way. Sure, I would like for there not to be jeans in my living room floor, but not enough to not put them there in the first place. I just don't care, and I don't see that aspect of myself changing. I've just always felt like there were more important things to do. Sure, I could force myself to make an effort, but I get the feeling that it comes very naturally to some people. They want to make the bed the way that I want to lie in it, reading a book and eating ice cream. These people are very strange.

I might as well mention this fact, because you've all figured it out anyway: I did not grow up in a neat house. I don't think my mother really cared either, because the only way that I could get away with the Elevated Crap Theory of Cleanliness is if she accepted it, too. I'm embarrassing her by saying that, but I don't think she's arguing. She's already thought of where she would land on the godliness-to-Pig-Pen scale, and if she is anything higher than a Three, then she is kidding herself. Come down here with the Fours, Ma, we get to eat ice cream in bed!

Should neatness count? I don't feel like being a Four impairs my happiness in any way. The only time I mind it is when I know someone is coming over who will certainly think that jeans do not belong in the floor. And I make a sort of half-hearted effort, but I know that my house just ends up looking like the residence of a Four who is expecting company, which is EXACTLY what I am in that case. I am satisfied, because the floor is clear. I don't even notice the fact that there's still a lot of junk milling about on the kitchen table.

I had a classmate come over to work on a computer science project once in college. I did not expect him to come into my room, and so I hadn't even bothered to move the stuff from the floor to the dresser. But then we had to do something on my computer and he saw how a Four lived. He commented on it positively, rather than just pretend not to notice that he had to step over about three pairs of shoes, a pile of books, and my waitressing clothes. He said that he thought it was cool that everything did not have to be in its place. At the time, I thought he was just trying to put a positive spin on an embarrassing situation, but maybe he meant it. Maybe he too was a Four, and he resented having to submit to the standards of others. He thought I was being true to myself, rather than just being caught unprepared. Of course, he, uh, didn't shower as often as most people do.

I'm not advocating making your guests wade through a foot of debris when they come over. That makes people uncomfortable. I'm not even saying that I'm going to stop cleaning when I know company is coming. I might resent it, but frankly it's the only way my house gets cleaned. This whole entry has been me, talking myself through accepting that I am a Four and likely to stay that way. I've decided I'm okay with it.


on the injured list.

At my high school, we had a sports trainer named Jeff. I don't recall much about Jeff except that he was a really nice guy and that he had a big mole on his face. I also remember that he was sorta young and that being around high school girls made him nervous. The high school guys felt comfortable enough around him to tell dirty jokes, which also made him nervous. This is why you don't let casual acquaintances from a decade ago write your personal ads: "Very nice and shy white male with big mole on face seeks a partner. Likes pina coladas."

I had a couple of ankle incidents and so I did some time in Jeff's office. I sat there with my foot in a bucket of ice and I walked back and forth across the room so he could see any problems. He gave me one of those plastic stretchy bands and told me to do exercises at night, which I sometimes actually did. He would wrap my ankle tightly in tape before games. And any time I needed Jeff's attention, there were several other kids who did, too. Other kids who had twisted ankles, pulled muscles, or bum knees, all sitting around outside Jeff's office, telling dirty jokes and making him nervous.

There was a sort of glamour about going to see Jeff, which sounds weird, because his office was tiny and smelled like a locker room. I think it was the personal attention given to athletes, the understanding that no matter how hurt you were, you needed to be better for the next game. That's why we sat there with our feet in buckets of ice; Coach was counting on us.

My first injury was during the last regular season basketball game of my freshman year, when I came down with a rebound and landed on someone else's foot. There was an awful noise, a ccccrack!. It was so loud that I could've sworn that someone had shot me in the ankle. It was the noise that told me that I was hurt more than anything else. It just wasn't the kind of a sound that a body part should make. I tried to get up, confirmed that my right ankle needed some attention, and sat back down. I waited for them to rush out and look at my foot, and when they helped me limp off the court, the audience clapped, just like they always did on TV.

After the first injury, I wore an ankle brace on my right foot for every practice and game. Only right after a fresh injury (and right now, I think there were only two) did I need Jeff to tape my ankle. I found the ankle brace a couple of weeks ago when I was packing. It was sort of frayed and had lots of discoloration due to close contact with sneakers and foot sweat. I wondered for a moment why I had kept it and then tossed it into a box of stuff going to the house. I vaguely remember it being expensive when my mom bought it (at Jeff's suggestion), which is the only reason I can come up with for keeping the thing. Perhaps it's sentimental. Putting on and lacing up the ankle brace was part of the ritual of preparing for play. Change clothes, remove jewelry, put up hair, put on ankle brace, put on shoes, stretch, all while gossiping with your teammates who were doing the same ritual.

I twisted my ankle this week while taking out the trash. I put my right foot in a hole that I didn't know was there, heard a loud pop!, came crashing down with two trash bags and landed in the dirt. I said some choice words, clutching my ankle, and debated a bit with myself, but finally decided not to cry. And then I was confused about what to do next. There was no one waiting on the sidelines to come get me and to tape up my ankle. No one was worrying about whether I'd be able to take out the trash for the conference tournament. There were only a couple of sniggering squirrels. I took a deep breath and got up, wincing and whining all the way. I picked up the trash bags off the ground and took them to the receptacle, then hobbled back inside to find my ankle brace. No one clapped.