I'm a tall girl, and I'm not used to being limited by height. Little old ladies in stores ask me to get things off the top shelf for them. But I'm afraid that even Richard Kiel would not be able to paint my living room, which is too bad, because it would be pretty neat to say that Richard Kiel painted my living room.

It's not that I haven't tried. I recruited my tallest piece of furniture to paint the master bedroom. I also recruited a box of books once I realized that my tallest piece of furniture still wasn't quite tall enough. I set up a slightly shorter piece of furniture and a kitchen chair to make set of steps up to the tallest piece of furniture. While on top of this arrangement, I thought about my nephew, who is reckless and fearless and just generally nine years old. He probably thinks that adults never do dangerous things. Well, I was sure showing him. I didn't much like it, but I did it long enough to paint the top of the walls. But there is also a very tall loft area up there. And while the dresser/box allows me to reach the walls with a paintbrush, it does not allow me to climb up on the loft. Or maybe it's my lack of upper arm strength that doesn't allow that. In any case, I'm not even sure if the loft will support my weight.

For most of the house, a kitchen chair has been sufficient. These chairs, they've seen a lot of paint. I stood on them when I painted my old apartment, and you can still see the different colors splashed across the seats and dripping down the backs. Now, I've splashed a whole new set of colors on the chairs. I suppose I could wipe them off, but they're charming in an unintentional documentary sort of way.

One of those chairs fell down the stairs. I did not fall with it, and I probably owe God a favor for that one. I would have been crumpled at the bottom of the stairs, dragging myself seal-style to the cell phone, thinking about that old woman in the commercial who had fallen and couldn't get up. Instead I was standing at the top of the stairs, contemplating whether the chair's tumble had scratched any of the freshly-applied paint in the stairwell. It is luck that allows us to ever think about such trivial matters.

I told Josh about the chair's noisy fall. When he calls, he tells me about the bar in Arizona he played at that had a full-size Easter Island statue, and I tell him about what I painted that day. After such a near-death experience, it was nice to have something interesting to say. He said that I should not do any more painting, that I should wait for him to get back and he would do it all. What a terribly silly thing to say. If I can paint and I have the time to do it, why shouldn't I? My ex-boyfriend complained that I was too independent once. I don't even know what that means.

The living room walls will have to wait for him, though. There's no way I can reach them without piling strong furniture upon strong furniture and then climbing on it. My nephew might think that was a great idea. Me, I've already had broken bones before and decided it wasn't that cool. But then there is the half-finished hallway, where a lovely shade of red extends about ten feet up the wall before meeting beige in a jagged edge shaped by a paint roller. It mocks me. While I knew from the beginning that I couldn't do the living room, this wall still seems finishable. I just need a bigger box of books.

When I'm not thinking about bigger boxes of books, I think about ladders. I don't have one. Clearly, I need one for this specific job. But it might also be nice to have one around for when I want to change the lightbulb in the living room or clean the gutters. Those are things that homeowners do, right? Homeowners are also frequently ladder-owners. Hmm. I never thought of myself as a person who might one day own a ladder. Buying a home brings out all these things you never knew about yourself. Sandra: Ladder-Owner.

I could borrow one. I don't really have a way to transport one, though, so it would need to be from someone very close to me. I only know one of my neighbors, and I wouldn't feel comfortable knocking on her door and asking to borrow something. One day, I drove by another neighbor and saw her on the roof, a big extension ladder leaning against the house. I began formulating plans to befriend this woman and wondered whether a batch of homemade cookies might soften her feelings toward a near-stranger asking to borrow large home improvement accessories.

I started looking online. I discovered that if you do enough online searches for a word, you start to think too hard about the term itself. Ladder. Lad-der. LADDER. And that's how you end up doing wikipedia searches for common household items. Sandra: One Who Looks Up "Ladder" on Wikipedia.

I was surprised to see the many advances in ladder technology. Eventually, I would like one of the fancy multi-use ladders. You can extend them or step on them or make scaffolds out of them. Ladders have followed the action figure model in that you can pose them in all sorts of positions. Cosmic scaffold, activate! Action figure ladders are pretty expensive, but it seems like a good value if I only ever have to buy one to cover all my self-elevating needs. If I can make sound effects whenever I change the pose, that's just a bonus.

For now, I'll probably continue spying on the neighbors and working on my cookie recipes. Sandra: One Who Bribes with Cookies.


beeping rapists at the bates motel.

I was staying at the Bates Motel, which my parents owned and ran. In their defense, I'm sure they got the place for a song. For some reason, I was staying in some sort of crawlspace. It was an underground hallway with bunks that were attached to the walls like berths in sleeping cars. I had to brush aside the cobwebs to get to my bunk. I was so sleepy that I didn't even care.


There were actually two bunks right next to the door. One was up high, so high that I'm not sure how someone was supposed to climb up there. But then again, I'm not sure who thought this would be an appropriate sleeping area. There were half a dozen stairs down, then maybe ten feet of narrow hallway, and finally another half a dozen steps back up, leading to a doorway opposite me. The other door was open and the lights were on in the room beyond, which is how I saw the second bunk, the one I could reach.


Ugh, that infernal beeping. I needed to make sure and tell my parents about it in the morning.


I started to wake up from my Bates Motel dream, but even as I did, I was convinced that I was at my parents' house. It was the beeping that did it, reminding me of those times at home when the smoke alarm's battery would die and I would have to wait until morning. My parents would sleep right through it.


Finally, I woke up enough to realize that I was in my own house, and if someone was going to change the battery in the smoke alarm, it would have to be me. And I might as well do it now, because I wasn't going to get back to sleep otherwise. The clock read 2:37 as I stumbled out of bed and into the hallway. There was a smoke alarm. I stood underneath it and looked up into the red light. Did red mean that it was working or that it wasn't working? Was this even the right alarm? I stood underneath it, waiting.

And waiting. It was like waiting to hiccup after holding your breath. My brain, having recently put me up for a night in the Bates Motel, decided to think about how a clever rapist might use a beeping noise to get some unsuspecting female out of bed so that he could attack. Why he couldn't just attack me while I was asleep rather than bothering with a decoy smoke alarm was beyond me. How should I know, I'm not a rapist. These are the thoughts that happen when you're standing in the hall, under a smoke alarm, waiting for it to beep in the middle of the night.

I got tired of waiting, so I found a chair to stand on while I fiddled with the alarm. The text on the outside said "DISCONNECT POWER BEFORE REMOVING," which made no sense to me. How was I suppose to disconnect the power before removing when I had to remove the case to disconnect the battery? Once I got the case off, I realized that the alarm was directly wired into the house's electrical system. That's very clever. No more waking up in the middle of the night to stand on a chair and change batteries. Except that I was standing on a chair in the middle of the night.

At that point, I decided that I had imagined the whole thing. There was no beeping rapist, or even a beeping smoke alarm. I used the bathroom while I was up, so at least getting out of bed hadn't been a total waste of time. I got back into bed and did not go back to sleep. I tossed. I turned. I thought about the Bates Motel dream and how I had been able to feel the cobwebs as I swept them aside.

At 3:30 or so, I was finally starting to drift. My eyelids were drooping, and my thoughts were sort of flowing over one another, jumping from thing to thing without any real connection, finally I was getting back...


My eyes snapped open. I waited, very silently and very still, to see if it would happen again. It didn't, but I was again fully awake. Maybe this smoke alarm only beeped every half hour or so. It seemed to beep a lot more frequently before, but I had been asleep and confused then. Back to tossing and turning and being angry at smoke alarms, clocks, boys whose best friends were their mothers.


The clock, that stupid and reliable clock, said 4:13. I decided to use the same course of action as last time. If the alarm really only did beep every 43 minutes, then maybe I could get some sleep and not have to worry about it until the -


Well, that was sooner than 43 minutes. That was like twenty seconds. To sum up, I've been awake for nearly two hours as some mysterious smoke alarm definitely beeped off and on, depending on when it felt -


- like it. Fine, I'm up I'm up I'm up. I poked my head out of the bedroom door to listen and play the waiting game again. I was afraid to get too close to the alarm, in case I spooked it into silence. Or in case there really was a rapist.


That was definitely not the upstairs alarm. I would have to go downstairs, which meant I would have to turn on a light, which meant I was playing right into the rapist's hands. But it was 4 in the morning and I was tired and grumpy. By the time I got downstairs, I realized I hadn't heard a beep in thirty seconds or so. I also realized that I had no idea where the other smoke alarms might be. From the dim upstairs light, I could see that there was an alarm in the hallway that led to the spare bedroom. It looked like the same kind that was upstairs, meaning it would be connected to the house's wiring. I used that reasoning to avoid going down the hall, which was very dark and looked like exactly the kind of place a rapist might hide.

I went into the kitchen, where I noticed yet another alarm. This one was not like the others. I stood on another chair and twisted the alarm off, revealing a nine-volt battery. I didn't even take the time to wonder what the alarm would do if the battery were completely removed, I yanked it right out. Nothing happened. I left both the alarm and the battery on the counter, knowing that I wasn't even sure that this device had been the interruptor of dreams. If I didn't hear the beeping again, I would know it was the right alarm. Either that or the rapist had caught sight of me, stomping and scowling in the middle of the night, and decided it was not worth it.


pioneer food.

My sister and I were talking about the recipes published by the Pioneer Woman. She said she hadn't had much luck with those recipes, where I've tried a bunch of them and had been mostly pleased. So I compiled a list of the PW recipes I've made and what I thought of them. Then I realized what an easy cooking-related blog post this would make. I'm all about reuse.

Not My Favorite
Crispy Yoghurt Chicken - I think it was the quality of chicken legs we used, but this was gross. Josh liked it okay.
Chicken and Rice Soup - This was so salty I couldn't eat it. Josh trudged through it valiantly because I made it for him because of his bike wreck. I blame the bouillion.

Okay, I Suppose. Shrug.
Black Bean Chowder with Yogurt-Cilantro Relish - Kind of sludgy, but I think I messed it up.
BBQ Meatballs - I liked the homemade BBQ sauce, but the meatballs themselves were only so-so. Tasted like meatloaf, which I've never been a huge fan of. Also, using oatmeal as the binding agent gave it a "fakey" texture. While I knew that the meatballs didn't have anything artificial in them, they tasted like they did.
French Onion Soup - I'm still looking for the perfect french onion soup recipe. This one is fine, but it's not any better than ones I've tried that were much less effort.
Cheese Muffins - Good, but end up being greasy. Likely an issue with the non-stick spray.
Good Morning Muffins - I thought they were pretty good, but Josh said, "Do not ever make these again." He was creeped out by the marmalade bits.

Rather Good
Blueberry Yogurt Smoothie - homemade smoothies...yum. Works great with other fruits.
Fluffy New Potatoes - I like that you can freeze them and reheat them quickly later. I'd like to try this again with a different recipe for the insides. So I guess that means I don't like these all that much, but instead the idea of freezing, which she did not invent.
Stuffed Onions - Josh liked it better with stuffed green peppers, which was also very good. Both are surprisingly filling.
Pots de Creme - Easy, yummy, and fancy-looking, though not to die for.
Macaroni and Cheese - The creaminess factor was spot on, which I haven't found before. I did not care for the mustardy tang. Josh ate it like it was going out of style. And then he ate some more.

Cauliflower Soup - Subtle, but rich and buttery. Good with bread.
Oven-Roasted Asparagus - I grew up eating asparagus that had been microwaved on a plate under a piece of plastic wrap. I thought it was good, but I realized when I made it this way that I had not known true asparagus before (sorry, Mama).
Decadent Chocolate Milk - We mixed this into coffee for rich homemade mochas.
Homemade Pumpkin Puree - Very easy and I've made some good stuff from it, including her recipe for pumpkin butter and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Will probably do this again in the fall.
Creamed Spinach - She has posted two recipes for this. I like this one better, though I also add nutmeg.
Bacon-Wrapped Jalapenos - We ate an obscene amount of these in one sitting and got tummyaches. It was totally worth it.

Really Super Awesome
Enchiladas - Oh man, these are sooooooo good. We make our own sauce and skip the part about the sauce - it's just barely enough for the recipe. I've made this several times. It has ruined most Mexican restaurants for me, at least the kind with a Speedy Gonzales lunch special.
Oatmeal Crispies - FANtastic. Easy and different, crowd-pleasers.

Now go out and make food. Eat it. Be happy.


not a movie review: high school confidential.

I know that very few, if any, of you understand my enjoyment of bad movies. That's okay. I don't need your validation, as long as you still like me. You do like me, don't you?

There are many types of bad movies. It's not all giant leeches or homicidal organ players. Sometimes bad movies are based on popular trends. They're quickly and badly made, hoping to capitalize on something before it goes out of style. And that's how you end up with disco movies in the 70s and break-dancing movies in the 80s. In the 50s, we got beatnik movies.

Just so you know, beatniks in these movies don't really have much to do with the actual Beats. Beatniks wear black turtlenecks and talk back to their parents and think that's the same thing as leaving a comfortable lifestyle to hitchhike across the country and pick cotton for a living. Basically, there were people who were Beats, who were interested in the kind of wisdom you can gain from having nothing and associating with others who had nothing. Advertisers took advantage of other people thinking that was cool. You too could be Kerouac, just buy our clothes. Somewhere in there, the point was lost. If you are interested in the actual Beat movement, maybe start here, which compares the beatnik fad to what the Beats were actually going for. Me, I just want to tell you about this movie I watched.

Now, High School Confidential! is not a good movie. But it's not a bad one, either. I did actually care about what was happening, which is not something that occurs with the bad ones. You can tell you're watching a crappy movie when you're fifteen minutes from the end and you could care less if the hero wins; in fact, sometimes you actually want the hero to lose. But here, I want the hero to win, even though I'm not really sure which side he is on until the very end. Another sign of a not-bad movie - I can't predict what's going to happen. Our hero here is played by Russ Tamblyn, who will ever hold a special place in my heart for playing Gideon, the youngest brother in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. He is a Bad Kid. He threatens the high school principal with a knife, sells drugs, and double-parks. Isn't he cute, though?

This movie is like a better and less known version of Reefer Madness. Have you seen Reefer Madness? It's a propoganda movie made to scare kids away from pot. It tells you that pot will make you rob banks and participate in orgies if you are even in the same room with it. It's famous for being over the top, so famous that someone recently made a musical version of it. This movie only shows a girl writhing on the floor in agony because she really wants a joint. I've never known anyone to do that, but it seems much more likely than orgies. The movie also tells us that "41% of high school kids are addicted to marijuana or heroin." The movie lures us in with its beatniks, who are obviously cool, but then it comes in and tells us not to get addicted to marijuana or heroin. Is cocaine okay? I just don't know. The beatniks didn't say anything about that, although I heard once that 53% of high school kids are addicted to caffeine or crack.

The big deal with beatnik movies seems to be the problem with authority, which we have with our hero, the Bad Kid, and the slang. Oh my, the slang. I mean, there are berets and coffee bars and poetry slams, but it's really all about the slang. There is one absolutely fantastic scene in this movie, where a student tells the story of Christopher Columbus in slang. It's marvelous. Is it accurate slang? I have no idea. But it sure sounds cool to me.

And there is the obligatory poetry scene. It is not as good. In fact, the poem is really terrible. I was sure it was terrible, but I'm not good at poetry, so I asked Josh, who confirmed that it was indeed terrible. Had he told me it was really well-written and interesting, I would have lost all hope of ever getting poetry.

My favorite line: "What is truth?" Makes me laugh every time. Maybe the poem is meant to be bad, so show the teens that if you become a beatnik, you will write really crappy poems. Stay away from marijuana and heroin, kids.

This movie also features Mamie van Doren, another common star of bad movies (Girls' Town). Mamie van Doren fun fact: her stage name was inspired by Mamie Eisenhower and the very literary van Doren family. Jerry Lee Lewis is in it briefly, playing the piano from the back of a pickup. Why? Because he owed somebody a favor, I guess. Also, Jackie Coogan, John Drew Barrymore, and Michael Landon. Star-studded indeed!

If you have any tolerance at all for bad movies, I recommend High School Confidential!. Don't judge it by the poetry.


urination station.

We were sitting on a bench, waiting for the subway train, and I could tell you which train for the sake of detailed writing, but I don't remember which one it was. We had to wait a while, though, and it was cold. One day I will go to New York and it will not be December. The platform was gradually filling up. A few yards to our left was a man in his mid-thirties, who was wearing very nice, very rumpled clothes. He looked deep in thought and confused at the same time, as if he were thinking about the meaning of life and the answer was not what he expected. He walked - was he staggering ever so slightly? - over to a woman standing with her arms crossed a few feet to our right. She said something, and she didn't sound happy. With a loud and frustrated sigh, she walked a few yards away, leaving him standing there.

At this point, I lost track of them. And to be fair, I hadn't been paying all that much attention to them. I was talking to Sarah and looking for the train, whichever train it was. But I'd been keeping an eye on them the same way that I'd been keeping an eye on the middle-aged woman next to me and the teenagers a bit of a ways down. Suddenly I heard water running, and started looking around for the source, as I asked Sarah if she knew where it was coming from.

"Is the ceiling leak - oh my." The well-dressed rumpled gentleman was urinating down onto the tracks. I looked away quickly, as Sarah's giggle told me that she'd seen it too.

I'm not an absolute bumpkin, but I'm still pretty naive when it comes to life in the big city. I knew that people peed in the subway. I'd been in enough stations to know that smelling urine, fresh or stale, wasn't exactly rare. But I figured the urinators were bums, not investment bankers who'd had too many at the company Christmas party. I've apparently still got a lot to learn about the kind of people who pee in the subway.

Now all my attention was on this guy, and I watched him walk back to the woman. His face still wore an expression of incredulous bafflement - life was blowing his mind. They were hidden from me by a column, but I could hear an angry female voice. The one phrase we caught was "no self-control." Could we assume that she had seen him take a public leak, or was she angry because he'd done something equally outrageous at wherever they'd just been? Sarah and I furtively whispered thoughts on the couple. I was relieved to be with a friend who shared my affinity for eavesdropping on strangers.

The train, the one whose name I cannot remember, arrived. The couple boarded, as did we. We took seats halfway down the car from them and across the aisle. I was still very focused on these people and the little drama playing out in front of me. This was the kind of scene that reality TV was based on. All we needed were one-on-one personal interviews with each of them.

We wouldn't be able to hear them in the busy subway car, not that they were saying anything. Here was a test to see how well we could read body language. The woman, she was mad. Frustrated. Humiliated, too, I think. She sat bolt upright with her arms crossed, her whole manner screaming don't you even touch me. And he was confused still. He seemed to know that he was drunk and was concentrating on getting through the rest of the night with his angry girlfriend, no, wait, wife. Yes, wife - they had rings. He never said anything, never defended himself or shot back. He was waiting out the storm.

At some point, it occurred to me that this was not the first time this couple had played out this scene.

Perhaps she said nothing because there was nothing to say that she hadn't said before. Perhaps she knew that arguing with a person under the influence is an exercise in futility. And perhaps he knew there was nothing he could say to her anyway, either because he hadn't the wherewithal to come up with something or because he, too, had said everything in some previous showdown. He could only sit and wait until her posture became less rigid and her body stopped telling him where he could go. She didn't want to have to be angry at him, and if he just waited silently, she would give up on it. And that she did. The day caught up with her and she started slouching a little in the hard plastic chair. By the time we arrived at our stop and had to leave the little drama behind, she had her arm in his and her head was on his shoulder, her eyes closed.

She was trapped. Even when her husband is the guy at the party who has a little (or a lot?) too much, even when he makes an absolute fool of himself, even when he attracts the attention of tourists by taking a whiz on the subway, she still has to go back to the same apartment in Brooklyn with him, crawl into the same bed, face him tomorrow over breakfast. Was she at peace with her head on his shoulder, or did she feel defeated?

Maybe I'm reading entirely too much into this. Maybe this guy is ordinarily very responsible about his alcohol intake. Maybe even regular people find themselves peeing in the subway sometimes. Maybe I'm wrong about it all. I really hope so.


secret lepers.

I am just slightly under the weather. I'm not all out sick, under the weather like standing in the middle of a golf course with a nine iron during a thunderstorm. No, it's more like I'm under a narrow awning waiting for someone to pull up the car in a light, but steady rain. My shoes are being dripped on, and I'm a little chilly, but my head isn't getting wet.

I think I've stretched this metaphor far enough.

What I mean is that a have a mild sinus infection. I've had so many sinus infections that I can plot their course. I start out with a sore throat, the next day comes the snot. The snot is really the main event, causing drippiness and congestions and those dull headaches that happen when your head makes more snot than it has room to hold. This stage can last up to a week, and at its peak, I can feel positively drained, as if all my energy has been devoted to snot creation. At some point, the snot starts to drain into my throat, and just when I'm starting to feel better, my voice changes and everyone asks if I'm sick.

This one hasn't been so bad. Friday brought the sore throat, and I'm already at the voice change stage. One of the problems with these infections is that they're usually not bad enough to be debilitating. So I go into work like usual and hope that no one notices that I've sneezed all over every thing. There are some serious germaphobes there, and I am afraid that every time they hear my sneeze, they want to run me off the premises with a pitchfork and a decongestant. I don't like to work from home too often, and so I come in and hope that they're too absorbed in their work to realize all the nose-blowing sounds are coming from the same cube. One time, a colleague did notice. She came over and gave me some sort of powder to put into hot water so that I could be sure and get 12,000% of my daily Vitamin C requirement. I imagined my white blood cells soldiering on against the nasty snot-colored infection cells and then being bombarded with Vitamin C, which looked like overeager dogs that got in the way. Yes, I do frequently anthropormorphize my cells, why do you ask?

I know there are people who are obsessed with germs. Me, not so much. I feel like germs are pretty much unavoidable, and I seem to be doing okay. However, I have been obsessed with germs since Friday; I've been obsessed with my germs. I know that everything I've touched probably has tiny snot particles on it. Every piece of junk that I picked up at yard sales on Saturday morning became a carrier for my infection. The pump that I used to put gas in my car, the credit card I handed to the cashier at the restaurant I ate Sunday brunch at, the envelope I used to send off my power bill payment. I feel like a leper, only one that has a rare form of leprosy that no one else can detect. I'm a secret leper. Shhhh.

I suppose I should feel bad about all the innocents that have unwittingly come into contact with my snot. And I kinda do. I feel bad for the people I know, my family, my coworkers, and the friend I had brunch with (my bad). I would feel worse, except that I don't know who gave me this infection. I haven't been hanging around with anyone who was sick. That means I got it from someone else who was going around pretending to be perfectly healthy. I went to two high school graduations last week, where I came into contact with approximately 5,000 people, any number of which could have been leaving snot particles on chairs or tables or that door handle that I licked (just kidding). Who knows how many secret lepers are around us at any given time?

So it's not just me. There are other snot-spreaders. You can think I'm irresponsible or whatever, but you can't avoid the others. They're out there.


the rv dream.

I've been having a recurring dream the past four years or so. I don't abscribe much meaning to the interpretation of dreams. I guess I see dreams as the conglomeration of a bunch of things that float around in your head. And so the individual parts might point to something that was happening or that you thought about, but the total dream may not necessarily mean anything.

Back to the recurring dream. It's not like watching the same movie every time, but more like watching a different episode of Matlock every time. The basic premise of these dreams is that my ex-boyfriend shows up and I have to break up with him. Or rather, he somehow doesn't know that we're not together anymore, and I have to explain it to him. Uh, listen, we've been broken up a while and actually, I've got this other guy over here. It's never really clear to me in the dream why he doesn't notice the giant four year gap in our relationship. That's not the point. The point is my anxiety at having to break up with this guy. Again.

Now, clearly there is still something unresolved in me about my old relationship. I'm pretty sure my ex-boyfriend knows that we're not together anymore. There's just something in the back of my head that feels sorta weird about the way it ended. While I felt our relationship had been disintegrating for a long time, the breakup blind-sided him. And I think I've felt guilty about that ever since, thus the dreams where I have to catch him unawares all over again.

One night recently, it was the same sort of setup again. A bunch of us, me and him and a bunch of vaguely familiar dream extras, were leaving Boone. It was sort of like the end of a coming of age movie, where everyone is scattering to their various new lives. We were were all leaving town, but we were also leaving some important stage in our lives and were hyper-aware of it. The whole scene reeked of significance. All it needed was that Green Day graduation song.

I had this awesome RV. It had the cab of a huge truck, and it opened up like a Transformer. I wasn't sure where I was going to go in this fantastic recreational vehicle. But I had the idea that my ex thought that he was coming with me, and I knew that I was going to have to tell him that he could not come with me in my super-cool RV. Josh was there, too, and he was nervous. He was afraid that I would be reunited with my ex and he would be left behind.

So I steeled my resolve and walked over to where my ex was securing items in the back of an overpacked red pickup. I started out with small talk, asking vaguely about "the future." He said something about going to Canada, all the while tightening bungee cords. He wasn't unfriendly, but he wasn't really concerned with me either. And I realized that he had no expectations of going anywhere with me in my RV, awesome as it was. He had his red pickup and his stuff and a map to Canada. He had his own thing, and he assumed that I had mine.

Relieved, I wished him luck and walked back to my vehicle. I pushed the button to open it, and there was a lot of whirring and whooshing as a set of stairs came down. Josh stood far away, watching me anxiously. I smiled and waved for him to come on.

The end.

And it's so silly that I should wake up the next morning feeling so relieved. There's no way that I could know that anything has changed with him. I haven't spoken to him at all. But now my subconscious is telling me that everything is okay, that we've all moved on and got our own lives and large live-in vehicles. How does my subconscious know? It doesn't, but I'm going to take its word for it anyway.


does it still make a sound?

Q: If a tree falls in the front yard of your new house and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?
A: I don't know. I wasn't there.

Q: If a tree falls in the front yard of your new house and no one is there, but then you come home and see the undersides of a bunch of branches heading toward the house, will it scare the crap out of you and make you start wondering how good your homeowner's insurance is?
A: Yes.

Q: If a tree falls in the front yard of your new house and you discover that the tip of the tree landed inches from your porch, will you wonder at your incredible luck?
A: Yes.

Q: If a tree falls in the front yard of your new house and just misses the front porch, will you start eyeing all the other trees suspiciously?
A: Yes.

Q: If a tree falls in the front yard of your new house and just misses the front porch, does it still make a mess?
A: Yes.

Q: If a tree falls in the front yard of your new house and makes a mess, will you realize that you now have to buy yet another tool that you never thought about needing before?
A: Yes.

Q: If a tree falls in the front yard of your new house and you ask your brother to recommend a good ax, will he tell you to buy one that is powered by gasoline?
A: Yes.

Q: If a tree falls in the front yard of your new house and your brother recommends a chainsaw, will you still buy an ax, because it's cheaper and chainsaws seem awfully scary?
A: Possibly.

Q: If a tree falls in the front yard of your new house and you commit to cleaning it up the old-fashioned way, is it handy to have a man around?

Q: If a tree falls in the front yard of your new house and your boyfriend chops it up with an ax, are you required to make him brownies and rub his shoulders?
A: No, but it's probably a good idea.

Q: If a tree falls in the front yard of your new house and your boyfriend cleans it up while you make brownies, will you think about gender roles?
A: Yes, and you will think that sometimes it's not so bad being the little woman.

Q: If a tree falls in the front yard of your new house and you tell your boyfriend you want to take pictures of it before it gets cleaned up, will he think you are weird?
A: Yes. Avoid telling him it's for the blog entry you've already begun composing in your head.


behind the fridge.

So, I was painting behind the fridge when-

Okay, yeah, I was painting behind the fridge. I was being thorough. I mean, there was this little part that you could see behind the fridge. It was totally noticeable if you happened to look right at it. I know that it would have bothered me if I didn't paint it.

Anyway, I was putting some painter's tape on the floor behind the fridge when-

Well, okay, you could only see a little bit up towards the top. I didn't really have to paint anything besides that strip. But, you know, it's nice to be thorough. And the fridge is on wheels, so it's really easy to just scoot it out and get in behind there. It was pretty dusty, but fine. No big deal. I'm sure lots of people paint behind the fridge.

So, yeah, like I was saying, I was in the space behind the fridge, putting painter's tape on the floor when-

OKAY, FINE, I bought too much yellow paint and I used it to paint behind the fridge, ARE YOU HAPPY NOW? Can I PLEASE tell my story?

ANYWAY, I was sitting on the floor behind the fridge, where I noticed that there was no trim on the bottom. Apparently, this is officially the Fridge Spot, because this little area was not meant to be seen by the public. It was very dirty and gross, lots of dust and cobwebs in addition to a sort of unfinished look created by the naked wall not being quite connected to the floor. I see why they invented trim.

And the weird thing was, there a couple of areas were the wall was a little worn away. Like just a little arch of space, very small, but strange nonetheless. It reminded me of something from my childhood.

But surely it wasn't that. These were very small, less than an inch high. Besides, that was just a cartoon. I'd never actually seen a mouse make a hole like that, despite having lived in places that definitely had them. That's just the way it is when you live in the country. So I just shrugged and forgot about it.

And then, later, I was painting a closet in the spare bedroom, because it looked like it hadn't been painted since the house was built and also because I still had almost a whole gallon of yellow paint left. There is thick carpet in here, but again no trim. I guess the carpet was supposed to bridge the gap. The floor was filthy in there. I assume the previous owners had not bothered to vacuum it before they left. I was covering the carpet with more painter's tape when I saw another one of those funny little holes in the wall. I thought again about Saturday mornings of my childhood.

And then I realized that this closet shares a wall with the kitchen, and would be approximately on the other side as the area behind the fridge. I also realized that the carpet was filthy with tiny long and black bead-like things. I did not need to pick any up to figure out what they were.

Sigh. I possibly have a pet mouse, though it's also feasible that he's already moved out (or died in the walls somewhere, heaven help me). So, the solution is to vacuum the closet and maybe tape over the hole. We will know the present residential status based on whether the tape gets chewed or tiny long and black bead-like things reappear.

Here, for your enjoyment, one of my favorite Tom & Jerry cartoons. Sexy lady cat, dog named "Killer," pogoing on a double-bass, ridiculous violence, and a great song. What more could you want?


antique white.

It seems to be a general rule that when you buy paint or paint supplies, cashiers will ask you about it. Sometimes when you buy brown sugar, flour, eggs, butter and chocolate chips at the grocery store, the cashier will make a cookie related comment. But not always, because sometimes you get a vacant-stared teenager or some college kid who never realized that cookies don't grow in nature and are instead of made of other things. But paint seems to be obvious enough. You are buying paint. Ergo, you must be painting something.

"So what are you painting?"

"My house."

"Which rooms?"

"All of them."

For some reason, that seems surprising to them. Maybe people only paint one room at a time. Not being a cashier at a paint-supply store, I don't know about the painting habits of the general population. One guy even asked me if I was doing it all by myself. I'm not sure if he thought it sounded like an awful lot of work, or if perhaps he'd been looking for a girl to paint houses with and thought this was his chance.

In any case, it is an awful lot of work. I've painted every day for a week except Tuesday, when my muscles were so sore that they demanded I lie on the couch and eat homemade enchiladas instead.

My previous painting experience is limited. I painted stage sets in high school, which was fun. There was a lot of goofing off and a pretty low standard for quality. We had a huge set of brushes and rollers. Half the time they were crusty with the previous day's paint because the doofus who was responsible for cleaning them hadn't bothered to do it. Then there were the days when I was supposed to clean them, and I understood why the other guy had been lazy. It seemed to take forever to clean the stupid brushes. How did any paint get on the sets when there was clearly a whole can's worth stored in this stupid roller?

In college, I helped paint part of my first apartment. Okay, it said in the lease that we were not supposed to paint. But the neighbors had done it. And when we mentioned that fact to the leasing office manager when we were viewing the place, he said it would be fine as long as he got to approve the colors. Then, we were bad tenants, because we just went ahead and used whatever colors we wanted without consulting him. But we found out later that he wasn't being quite honest with us, either. He would have only approved the off-white color that was already on the walls. Apparently, he thought college girls wanted to paint their apartments solely for the joy of painting.

I happened upon some paint at a yard sale during the first summer in the apartment. Something like four cans of paint for $5. They were bright colors - blue, red, yellow, orange. I painted the kitchen yellow and my bedroom blue. Then I painted half the hallway red. I don't remember why I stopped after only doing half the work. Maybe I had to go somewhere or maybe I just got sick of it. My attention to the task was obviously wavering, as I used the brush to spell out my name across the top of the wall. Then I painted over half of it and left it for, oh, eight months or so. We had half a red room, with the letters "DRA" at the top. Finally, one of my roommates got sick of it and finished the job. I can imagine getting a roommate performance review: "Pays rent on time. Is quiet, non-smoker. Sorta messy. Will paint half a wall, write her name on it in giant red letters and consider the job done."

Then, when we left the apartment, we had to paint it again: a coat of mold-killing primer followed by two coats of "Antique White." It was not a good time. It felt like punishment, which it was and which we deserved.

Because of that incident, I started taking leases more seriously when they said "NO PAINTING." I lived surrounded by Antique White for the next four years. It's not that it bothered me so much, but it made me feel sorta old and boring sometimes. I know, that's unfair to people who like Antique White who may not actually be old and boring. It's also unfair to old and boring people who may not even like Antique White.

But now! Now, I have a house, and I, as my landlord, say that I can paint the walls, provided I approve the colors beforehand. I picked out something pretty similar to Antique White, actually. And then the paint guy added a bunch of colors to the Antique White and put it in this violent shaking machine. I tried to watch the violent shaking, but that made me nauseous. We opened up the can, and it was a beautiful dark orange/red, the color of brick. Then we did the same thing to another can, but it turned out to be the color of a tulip stem. Then I decided that beets had a very pleasant hue to them. I am not afraid of color.

Having all this time to spend working alone on the house is a sort of mixed blessing. I feel like I'm getting to know my house. For instance, I now know the color of the floor under the fridge. And there is some trim in the living room that is a little broken. That mysterious weird box on the wall in the hall controls the doorbells. I am learning the house's secrets, which is only fair, since it's seen me naked a bunch of times already.

I am also transforming it a bit. The walls were beige before, and that was fine for someone else, but I'm going to need a little color in my life. Sure, my stuff was in it, and that alone would have differentiated it from the house of anyone else. After ten years of buying used, I have fairly distinctive stuff. But this feels much less temporary. I hung all those same pictures in those apartments, knowing full well that I would later take them down from the Antique White walls and move them somewhere else. This has a sense of permanence. This is my house. I am invested in it. I have literally coated it with myself, sometimes two coats.

It's an awful lot of work and it's expensive. Paint is not a common yard sale item; I don't think I've seen any since I bought those cans seven years ago. But I approve this expense. I'm not planning on doing much in the way of improvement or renovation to the house for a while, having shot my wad buying it in the first place. Compared to knocking down a wall or redoing the cabinents, painting is cheap. And it makes a huge difference. Already, I look at the completed rooms and just feel happy with how much better they look, how much more interesting they are. It feels more like a home, and less like a place where my stuff just happens to be.

It's an awful lot of work, though.


press b.

I grew up as part of the video game generation. The original Nintendo came out when I was six. I never had one, but I used to beg my friend Brandi to let me play Duck Hunt. I'd sit really close to the screen to make up for the fact that I was a terrible hunter. She'd long since gotten sick of her video games, but it was like an amusement park for me.

Later, I would play Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat on a Sega system in the basement of a neighbor's basement. Along with Pepsi vs. Coke and NC State vs. Carolina, Nintendo vs. Sega seemed to be an important question of who your friends were in the second grade. I didn't really pick a side. Sega seemed edgier, but Nintendo seemed to have a sort of classic appeal. I guess we know who won.

In college, my roommate brought in her old Super Nintendo, and I finally was given enough time to play as many video games as I wanted. This culminated in an eight hour Saturday session of Super Mario Brothers, after which I never picked it up again.

I was at a friend of Josh's with a bunch of other semi-strangers shortly after Guitar Hero came out. We sat around and watched two guys play. Then all of the guys went outside to smoke cigarettes, leaving me and another girl there. We both looked around furtively before agreeing to try the game. We played a few songs on the Easy level before deciding we'd done enough.

Video games are fun, but I always feel sort of empty after playing. Yes, that was fun, and I improved as I went along, but at the end, I don't feel like I've done anything valuable. None of these new skills seem to translate to my life. I like watching people who are good at video games, both for the action and for the often surreal world on the screen. It's easier to appreciate all the little touches of video games when you don't have to worry about being shot. I can't handle high-stress games. I can't handle anything where you can be attacked from behind, because panic prevents me from being able to turn around effectively, and so by the time I finally do see what's draining my life force, I'm pretty much dead.

I'm always self-conscious about playing video games in front of other people, since everyone else seems to be much more experienced at them. The controllers feel very alien in my hand. People might be shouting "Press B! Press B!" until I cry out "WHICH BUTTON IS B?" but by then I'm already dead. I know that the reason that the others are so good and I'm so bad is because they've been pushing B for years, but I still feel a little stupid. So I don't really play, and I don't really feel like I'm missing much.

My boss bought the office a Wii last year. People played Guitar Hero (or was it Rock Band?) and the Wii Sports games that came with the system. Everyone designed a little Mii character, even people who weren't really gamers. And then someone brought in Mario Kart, and all the other games started gathering dust.

I like race games okay. They're not like shoot-em-ups, where you can die if you can't find B in time. They've got the action and adventure in them, without the stress of imminent death. I mean, you can still come in last, but that's not so bad.

So I played sometimes with the other guys. At the beginning, we were all sort of on the same level, because the Wii controller is so different from previous controls. You just hold the thing in mid-air and turn it like a steering wheel, as opposed to using a thumb pad or arrow keys. I still wasn't good; I had a tendency to oversteer and would end up driving wildly back and forth across the road and frequently off the track completely.

After a while, the other players started leaving me in the dust. Aside from more general gaming experience, they had Wiis at home and played there, too. They started making the game more difficult by increasing the speed of the cars and the aggressiveness of the computer players. It stopped being fun, and so I stopped playing. There was a core group of people who played in the late afternoon who were just fantastic. They soon started coming up with ways to challenge themselves. They picked vehicles which were clunky and hard to steer. They gave the computer players a full lap head start. Even though they've pretty much "beat" the game, they still play to beat each other and post new top scores. For some reason, Mario Kart is a game which does not get boring.

We used to play board games at lunch, but then the people who owned all the board games left the company. So we started playing Mario Kart at lunch. A couple of the guys who play with us are pretty good, though not in the same class as the afternoon crowd. But then there is me and another guy, two people who have never owned a video game system in their lives. We were bad compared to the people we play with, and just plain terrible compared to the other guys. We drove off-road, fell off bridges, got turned around and drove the wrong way for a while. Fifth place was a strong finish.

Lately, though, something odd has been happening: I've been getting better. I've been finishing in the top three after a series of eight or ten races. We're not using the easy settings, either. Is this what it's like to be good at a video game?

Even though I'm not decent at exactly one video game, I still don't see how it has translated to my life at all. I'd like to throw turtle shells at other commuters on the interstate, but I'd probably be arrested. Still, I think it would be nice to be at a party sometime, where everyone was playing Mario Kart on the Wii, and I could show them up. Hey, I don't suck! It would almost be an inspirational story if it wasn't about a stupid video game.


the color of loneliness.

I had to make apology granola bars when Josh went on tour in February, because I was a big baby. He was gone for four long weeks, which included four Saturdays of making my own pizzas. I also bought a house during that time, which was a little lonely in that I couldn't share my excitement with him. But I survived, partially in thanks to the move, which kept me busy.

I had just gotten used to having him around again, when one of his bandmates mentioned the next tour in my presence. This is the worst possible way to get bad news - have someone else speak about it as if it's common knowledge. Then you have to act like you knew all about it, when you really want to yell out "STOP THE PRESSES!" and start interrogating everyone in the room. I never get to use my interrogation lamp anymore.

As soon as I found out about the second tour, which promised to eat up six whole weeks of summer, I could feel my lower lip start to push out, as if the Spirit of Whining and Pouting had flown in and settled on my shoulder, whispering to me that other girlfriends didn't have to deal with this, that the band wasn't even thinking of my Saturday pizza needs. I went into a funk, and it lasted the rest of the day, while I took the opportunity to badger Josh for information about this new tour. I was writing nasty things in my journal when I realized that I had already gone through this, had already apologized and publicly denounced this sort of behavior in myself.

Being a better person is hard.

I was glad to find out that once I noticed the Spirit of Whining and Pouting sitting on my shoulder, I was successfully able to shoo him away. And except for that one day, I have been a supportive girlfriend. I made granola bars again, but they were individually-wrapped love packages, instead apologies for weeks of immaturity.

I do not have a major property purchase or move to distract me this time, so I'm painting. The previous owners of my house were apparently the kind of people who were really into beige. They surrounded themselves with it. I bet they high-fived each other every so often and went, "Beige, oh yeah!" It's a beautiful house with lots of character, even with such blah coloring, but I'm planning on taking its character to new heights. I'm sure it's thinking, finally, an owner with some personality. Because it's not just weirdos who seek out houses with "character." Deep inside, those houses are calling out to the weirdos.

If I were the poetic sort, I could say that I was painting my house with my loneliness. But I saw a paint chip for Loneliness, and to be honest, it's kinda boring. I was thinking more of using Quiet Comfort or Snuggliness or Excited About This Great Thing I Found at a Yard Sale, Check It Out. I will not be using Whiny or Pouty or Not Learning My Lesson, because I am a better person. I hope to get the pout period down to a few hours next time, rather than a whole day.

You should click on the picture to see the enlarged version, because I spent like fifteen minutes on it.