poor joe camel.

Dude, I saw this online advertisement today. It started with this picture.

And then it changed to this picture.

Did you see that? Do you understand the significance? Smoking has become uncool.


shucks, again.

I love a man who knows how to shuck corn.

That's a completely ridiculous thing to say, because shucking corn is not in any way difficult. Wouldn't it be better to love someone because they know how to do hard stuff, like build houses or judo or lion-taming? It's not like corn-related skills are a requirement for dating me. I didn't give him a questionnaire on our first date where he got five points for corn shucking, but minus two points for not ever having taken Calculus. I don't love him for his corn-shucking abilities, I just love that he knows how.

Really, whether they know it or not, everyone knows how to shuck corn. It's like tearing off wrapping paper, which is pretty intuitive, and considering the way my family does it, even a little carnal. No one needs to be told what to do when the thing that you want is covered in thin, papery stuff that can be easily ripped apart and then discarded. The ear inside is not delicate, and it's very easy to tell the part that you eat from the part that you throw away. It's a lot like peeling a banana. It just sounds hard because it's got a special word.

But I suppose if you had no familiarity with corn in its wrapped state, and someone handed you a shrouded ear, you might stare at it for a bit, looking for the opening, stealing glances at your neighbor to figure out what to do. And then after that one time, you'd know how to shuck corn and you could impress some girl in the city who is starting to realize that growing up in a small town wasn't so bad. Dating tip: learn to shuck corn. Actually, just learn to do as many things as possible, because you'll become a more interesting person and the girls will like you anyway.

Kroger has been selling corn for twenty-nine cents an ear for three weeks now. Every time we run out, I go back to the store and buy eight ears. It is some good corn, or maybe it's not that good as far as fresh corn goes, but it's ten million billion times better than canned. I think the farmers must be using chemicals, because there are never any worms. That's a necessary evil of shucking corn that came from my parents' garden. Each ear you open has a couple of little freeloaders living inside, making a trail through the yellow fruit, as if they were on a reality show where they had to eat their way out. You just flick them off and cut out the part they ate from. No big deal. Sometimes there is corn smut, which is also gross but has a funny name. You just cut that out, too. Some of the ears end up looking pretty battle-scarred by the time they make it to the table.

The Kroger corn is sweet corn, and beautiful, with yellow and white kernals in a pattern that could probably reveal the secrets of the universe if we just knew what to look for. The first week we bought it, we had to look up how to cook it. I'll save you some Googling: you boil it, for one to ten minutes, depending on how mushy you like it. I'd never considered my corn preferences, but I have since realized that I like it medium rare. The first time, I ate it with butter and salt and pepper, sprinkling the seasonings on the plate and then rolling the ear around to coat evenly. The second time, I decided that the butter was too far away, and I ate it plain. Sure, it's better with the extras, but not so much that you're thinking about that when eating it plain. You're thinking about corn. It's no wonder the worms love it. I bet I could eat a trail through a giant ear, too.

Kroger has a huge fifty gallon trash can set up right there in the produce department, where you can shuck your own corn before you take it home. But I never shuck in the store, preferring to take it home so I can keep the outer layers for the compost bin. Plus, I get a strange sort of peace from shucking corn, and it's hard to have that moment of zen under flourescent lights, listening to staticky announcements about calls on red line 1. Sometimes I do the shucking myself while Josh is at work so we can have it for supper when he gets home. But I like to wait until he is there, too, so we can shuck together. With only eight ears, it's less than five minutes of work for two people, but it's a sweet and perfect moment.

One of the things that I love about Josh is that we come from the same kind of place. I have a friend who is dating a man from Pakistan, her boyfriend before that was from Ukraine. I'm always a little in awe over her exotic men, thinking of the fascinating travel and new experiences (and food) that having a foreign-born boyfriend, or even one from a different state, would lead to. But then I shuck corn with my beloved, and I am comforted by our separate, yet shared upbringings. It's not just that his accent sounds like mine, it's that we both grew up on mini farms. I wouldn't say that shucking corn was a huge part of my childhood. In fact, I didn't really notice it at all, it was just something we did in the summers, along with snapping beans and picking blueberries. Even when I left, I didn't notice that I didn't do things like that anymore. Only when I came back to my mother's kitchen and it smelled like red dirt and sweat and freshness did I realize that I had been eating vegetables from a can for a year.

Being with a man who knows how to shuck corn is like getting a whiff of my mother's kitchen in July. Josh grew up just outside Winston-Salem, where few people grow their own vegetables and send their children out to feed the livestock. But his family had a piece of land, where they raised sheep and goats and chickens. He spent a lot of time on his hands and knees, pulling weeds in the garden as punishment for various little boy crimes. If I dated a man who did not know how to shuck corn, I would probably never even think to miss it. It is only in watching his experienced hand get the last few threads of silk off that I get a sense of familiarity, which makes me want to nuzzle my nose into his neck.

And I think about how much I love a man that knows how to shuck corn, even though that is still a completely ridiculous thing to say.


three yard sales.

Saturday morning, we yard saled (saled yards?) for only two hours. We had to be at a wedding in Statesville. Most people would probably just call it a lost day and take the opportunity to sleep in. No, wait, most people don't think about yard sales at all. I wrote down eight sales, and we made it to four. Here are three things about our day.

Thing 1: Wedding gifts
Due to laziness and a general dislike of bridal registries, we did not have a present to take to the wedding as of last Thursday. By Friday night, we had a set of vintage glasses and a small stockpile of Japanese candy. The glasses were actually the same as a set I bought months ago at an estate sale - the ones that said "on the rocks" and had real, live rocks in a compartment in the base of the glass. How many sets of these glasses exist in the Raleigh area, and what is the likelihood of me finding two of them? And, if I do find additional sets, will I be able to not buy them? As for the candy, that was an idea I had for the last wedding we attended. It went over pretty well last time, because everyone loves Japanese candy.

But candy and Goodwill glasses are not enough. We figured if we didn't find anything good and giftable at the yard sales, we'd just stop at Target on the way and get a gift card. Luckily, we did find some yard sale goodies, and I don't think it's even obvious that the gifts were bought in a church basement. We found a nice, blue vase that matched the color of pretty much everything on the registry and a Mozart action figure still in the packaging. According to Josh, the groom is really into action figures. Stick those in with the glasses and the candy, write a nice card and you have yourself a lovely gift package. Maybe. I don't know the people all that well, so maybe they'll be confused, offended, or both. Or maybe they'll think we're amazingly cool people. I know I would.

Thing 2: Cheering section
We pulled up to a yard sale put on by a youth swim team. About a dozen kids were all standing on the sidewalk, screaming various non-sequiturs ("Every time you don't go to a yard sale, a puppy dies"), trying to lure people into the sale. This is a common form of yard sale advertising. It gets the kids out of the way while the adults run the sale. Anyway, after we parked, we had to walk past the kids. They clapped, they cheered, they jumped up and down and hollered at us like we were completing a marathon. It was surreal. I don't usually like being the center of attention, but it's nice to be appreciated, and we are very good yard salers. When we came back through after the sale, Josh carrying a large and cumbersome full-length standing mirror, they yelled again. Some of them cheered for us, while others told us to go to the yard sale. Maybe they mistook us for movers or really vain homeless people.

Thing 3: Sale in the Rain
I was a little glad that it was raining Saturday, because it meant that at least I wasn't missing a lot of good sales. Some sales will still happen, even in the rain, but most of them will close up. It didn't start raining until about a quarter until ten, which is when we hit our last sale of the day. It was an outdoor sale, but the people were prepared. Most of the tables were covered with lightweight blue tarps, while a few teenagers ran around covering the rest. I got out an umbrella and went from table to table, gently lifting the tarp to peek at the damp items beneath. It felt a little illicit, as if I were looking in my stocking before Christmas or watching someone undress.

I ended up buying a jigsaw puzzle of an Intel chip. If you've been paying attention, then you'll know that this will be my second one (it's actually a different picture). Josh bought a bunch of books, including one from the 1890s by Winston Churchill. The one from St. Louis.


just a sandra that's been juniorized.

"Hey, Sandy."

"That is not my name."

"Yeah, but can't I call you that?"

"No. You can call my mother that."

"Really? You have the same name as your mom? Like a junior?"


"Do women get to be juniors?"

"No. It wouldn't make sense because your mother's name is not usually her birth name, and they expect you to get married and take someone else's name anyway. Maybe if we didn't live in a patriarchal society."


"I called myself Sandra Junior for a while, when I was about seven."


"Yeah. I was such a feminist."

And then the conversation turned to feminism. Whether I was still a feminist, what it meant to be one these days, and whether a man could be one. But this is not about feminism. Because when I was seven and I wanted to be a junior, it wasn't because I was a feminist. I wanted to be a junior for the same reason that I took six weeks of gymnastics lessons and the same reason I declared at age ten that I did not want to go to Governor's School. It's the for that same reason that I still really can't stand it when someone calls me Sandy or Sondra or anything else besides my name.

And the reason is that I've been having an identity crisis for most of my life. Okay, not so much in the last ten years or so, but definitely for the first thirteen. I spent a lot of time trying to assert my individuality in an effort to differentiate myself from my five older siblings. I tried on different names, I went out for activities that none of the others did, and I shunned the things that they had done. I wanted to be Me, but the trouble was that I hadn't really figured out what that meant. I didn't actually care what it meant, as long as it was something other than whatever they were.

Pretty much every teacher I had growing up had previously taught some previous sibling or knew my parents. We have an uncommon last name and were big fish in a small, rural Western North Carolina pond. So my name on a roster conjured up certain expectations to a teacher. The worst were the ones who had taught the sister right before me, Carla. They would call me by her name, probably once or twice a month at least. My ninth grade French teacher once wrote me a hall pass with her name on it. I always had to play it off like it was no big deal, because I know they didn't mean to do it. It's a common, easy, and harmless mistake. I knew that to get bent out of shape over it would be unreasonable, so I laughed with them and told them it was fine, think nothing of it, it happens all the time! But it ate at me.

In the seventh grade, one of my teachers called out my sister's name on Awards Day to receive my award. Over the microphone. In front of the whole school and everyone's families. It was a long walk up to the front, blushing and fake laughing, wilting inside from humiliation. She corrected herself almost as soon as she had done it, and we shook hands as she handed me the certificate. She apologized, saying that she had seen Carla sitting in the audience and it had thrown her off, and I laughed it off, hoping that I was not letting on how close I was to tears (answer: very close).

You know, it's weird. I had forgotten all about that story until a few years ago, when I came across the event in an old journal. It seems like the act of forgetting would indicate that I had gotten over it. But when I did remember it, I was humiliated all over again. It's a funny story, right out of Are You There, God? It's me, Sandra. But I just couldn't laugh about it. I still can't. I've tried, and the most I can muster is a tired sigh. I can't remember the story without reliving it and all the emotions of my thirteen-year-old self. It wasn't the moment itself, it was what it represented to me.

The previous year, sixth grade for me and my sister's senior year of high school, was the worst one in my life (up until 2002...). She was doing all kinds of fun stuff, busy getting ready to leave home and go to college, winning everything in sight, being the golden child. And I was twelve. Do you remember twelve? It sucks. And I was acting twelve, too, so my grades were suffering and I fought with both my sister and my parents. I didn't even win the spelling bee. I wrote depressing letters to myself. I was convinced that I had finally differentiated myself from my siblings by becoming the black sheep. It wasn't so much that I was in the shadow as I was the shadow. It was an all-around rotten year, at least for an American kid from a loving, two-parent home.

And then, then! Seventh grade was awesome. It is not nice to say that my life got a million times better after my sister left, but I am here to say that it did. Exactly one million times better. I started playing sports and everyone thought I was good at it because I could reach higher. I was in a better class, and I had more friends. I still did not win the spelling bee, but I did win the geography bee. I stopped rebelling against my parents for the sake of it, I stopped being the shadow. These things are not all because my sister left. But you have to admit that the timing was suspicious.

And then Awards Day happened. It was otherwise a glorious day for me. I was wearing a pretty new dress, not a hand-me-down, that showed off the little curves I had finally acquired, and my own name had already been called out so many times that the eighth graders from the wrong side of the tracks had built a drinking game around it. But then Carla's name was called out, and I wondered if I would ever be anything more than just someone's else's sister.

By the time I went to college, I had had five more years of seventh grade style success. People still called me by someone else's name every once in a while, but it didn't bother me so much. When I laughed it off, it was more genuine. Somewhere in there, I found the line where I existed - the place where I was both an individual and a part of my own family. I had a niche in my family that was defined by the person I was rather than by birth order. And then when I left the small pond for college, I realized that the rest of the world did not care about my family. Nobody knew who I was, no one expected me to do anything, no one heard my last name or saw my nose and made immediate assumptions about me. Whatever I did was mine. It was freeing. And it made me appreciate my family.

I love my family. I got very, very (very, very, very) lucky when I was born into it. When I spend time with them, I am comforted by how alike we are. Finally, someone who gets it! The real world constantly reminds me that most everyone else grew up in a different kind of home. The last ten years has been a series of revelations for me, where I find one thing after another that I previously thought was universal, but turns out to be actually more specific to our home. I was struggling so hard to be an individual within my family that I didn't notice that just being born into this family sort of made an individual out of me.

And you know what? My mom thinks that I'm weird. I secretly like it.



Josh borrowed my camera for his tour. It was a nice camera five years ago when I bought it. It's still not a bad camera, but it's getting a little quirky. The most obvious problem is that sometimes your pictures come out with colored lines running across them like an old TV set. There's no equivalent of turning the aerial here, you just have to hope the lines go away on their own so you can take pictures. I guess that's a pretty bad problem.

He mentioned wanting his own camera, one that did not make everything look like a channel that you couldn't quite get. His birthday is in June, and so I started researching digital cameras to find him something before he left on the next tour. I didn't think my camera was all that bad until I started looking at how much better the new ones are. Even if mine did not embellish shots with random lines, it would look a little sad and dated next to the shiny new ones they have now. I looked at cameras, reminding myself that this was for Josh and a new one for me was just not in the budget at the moment.

At some point, I realized that I was going to have to let Josh in on my idea. As much as I would like to surprise him, I didn't want to spend a lot of money on something he didn't want. Did he just want a simple point-and-shoot, or did he want the option of playing with settings to take more interesting pictures? That was the main question that I didn't feel comfortable answering for him: what do you want this camera to do, anyway?

He said he wanted his camera to make phone calls and access the internet. Oh. See? This is why you ask. Because your boyfriend might specifically say that he wants a "camera," but what he really means is "smartphone."

So I dropped the idea of a camera, and I even stopped pricing them (though I thought about how much I might like one of them). I energetically talked to him about phones and offered to take him to the Verizon store that very day. He was sort of quiet and non-committal, as if I had offered to take him to a knitting class. No, it was worse, he seemed uncomfortable, as if I had offered to take him to a knitting class at the nudist colony.

Apparently, in Josh's family, they do not talk about presents. His parents don't ask him what he wants, they just give it to him. For him to actually specify what he wants makes him feel rude and presumptuous. His parents must have read him The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies.

My parents never read me that book, though I saw it at the dentist once. I come from the kind of family where Mama would chuck that year's Wish Book at us, tell us the per-child gift budget and let us go. Every year, as my October birthday approaches, she asks what I want. If I don't have an answer, I get a check in the mail. There is not much mystery or excitement in this process, but I always get exactly what I want. Sometimes what I want is a check in the mail.

I understand his feelings to a point. I have a hard time with bridal registries. In fact, I hate them. I get in a bad mood and write ranting blog entries every time I encounter one. I go to the dentist just so I can read about the Berenstain Bears. Isn't a registry the same thing as a hurled Wish Book?

Well, kinda. I think the difference for me is in the kind of relationship between the gifter and the giftee. With a registry, you're just asking everybody, whether or not your relationship has achieved the present-exchange level or not. It assumes the level, it assumes that you want to buy the happy couple a gift. Maybe you do, but maybe you don't really know them all that well and they didn't even have very good food at the reception. Registries bug me.

But I know that Josh and I have reached a gift-exchange level in our relationship. He picked my nose for me last week, and surely the gift level is somewhere before that. He would never say that I am required to buy him a birthday present every June, but I want to. So he might as well get over it and pick out a daggum phone.

He did. I might have thought he wasn't interested, but a few days later he mentioned that the Motorola Droid was on sale. Clearly, his discomfort with gift requests was overcome by his desire to check his email in the car. And hey, they're on sale: buy-one-get-one-free. BOGOF is one of my favorite acronyms. It sounds like the name of a monster - a savings monster! What he wanted was now a solved problem, but Bogof posed a different issue. Two phones?

I'm due for a phone upgrade. Every couple of years, I upgrade to the phone that was the latest in technology two years before. I get those because they are the free ones. I like having a cell phone, and I get a lot of use out of mine. But I am not one of those people. You know, phone people.

This is not to say that I don't appreciate smartphone. They're awesome. You can have the internet in your hand. I remember being in the fourth grade, and my teacher had a car phone, a corded number that looked like a regular home phone that happened to live in the center console of her Buick. I thought she must've had another job as a drug dealer or something, because it was 1993, and only the Incredibly Rich had car phones. But now it's 2010, and they have these tiny computers that fit in the palm of your hand and access the internet, which 1993 didn't even dream of. Check it out, the future has arrived. How could I not want one of those?

But I thought it was still a couple of years off for me. My next upgrade, I would get the kind with the flip out keyboards, because I've recently discovered text messaging. And then the upgrade after that, I would get a smartphone. By then, all the early adopters will have phones that will...I don't even know what they will do. Technology is working faster than my imagination.

Still, I was going to buy Josh a phone. And I could get a free one with it. May he always want birthday presents that come with a free gift for me, even if I wasn't sure I wanted one.

For one thing, I would have to pay $30 more every month for a data plan. Before last week, I'd had at least two years to get used to the idea of paying that much for my cell phone service. Now it looked like it would happen soon, and it bummed me out. I asked a couple of people with smartphones, phone people, to show me theirs so I could get excited about the higher monthly bill. Honestly, you don't have to play with one of those things for very long before you get a severe case of the gimmies.

Phones are not even phones anymore. They are little hand-held computers with the ability to make calls. When computers came out, some might have imagined that there would come a day when everyone would have a tiny personal one that lived in their pockets. But would they have imagined that we would get to that point through the evolution of the telephone?

I spent an hour and a half at the Verizon store last night, buying phones. It was truly a pain in the behind, but I was in a good mood the whole time from pure excitement. It is the first time I've ever spent money on my phone, rather than getting the free one, and the first time I've ever had a current phone. I feel pretty good about it. I've had to fight to urge to run around skipping and shouting, "Look at my phone. I can watch YouTube on my phone." For one thing, I don't want the phone people at work to think that I am one of them. Next thing you know, I'd be asked to join the Droid Faction as they plot against their arch-nemeses, the Iphonies.

And Josh feels great about his. I got him exactly what he wanted, because he asked for it, and I come out looking like the World's Greatest Girlfriend. He called me today to tell me how much he loved me and, oh, by the way, his phone is awesome. He can even take pictures with it and then immediately upload them to the internet. It's exactly the kind of camera he wanted.


bad at puzzles.

I did jigsaw puzzles with my niece last week. We have different strategies for puzzles. Did you know that there were strategies? If not, you don't do a lot of puzzles.

Both our strategies, as all correct puzzle strategies do, start with the edge pieces. That was easily done, because these particular puzzles had been given to her by her grandmother, who always separated the edge pieces out into a little plastic baggy after finishing a puzzle. After we finished the edges, I dumped out the rest of the bag and started turning them all face up. This was how I was instructed to do puzzles when I was five by my brother Knocker, to whom most everything has a strategy. However, this was not part of Sarah's strategy, because she despaired that I had just dumped 300 minus 66 pieces onto the table. She said that seeing so many pieces overwhelmed her, and she preferred to get small handfuls out one at a time, putting things in place as she went.

Sarah's strategy is stupid not ideal, because if there are 66 edge pieces, then there are only 54 pieces that connect to one of those edge pieces, and they could be anywhere in the bag. Also, Sarah does not look at the picture, which seems akin to not accepting free ice cream. Me, I look at the picture of the completed puzzle and pick out areas of distinct colors or patterns. Then I find those pieces and I assemble that area. There, one whole section done. I also look for borders, places where two colors or patterns meet. If you pick out the pieces that are partially one color and partially another, you can connect them and form a frame for another small area, just like you did when you put together the edge pieces first. I put together smaller sections within the greater puzzle, and then fill in the spaces between with what is left. Divide and ca-zonquer.

So self-indulgent is this blog that I have just written out my personal strategy for doing jigsaw puzzles. Some of you thought it was interesting.

I don't know if most people even have puzzle strategies. A lot of people seem to be running around without ever using strategies for anything, which seems foolhardy, maybe even dangerous. But they seem to get by, although I don't know how those people put together puzzles. Like word searches, it is an activity that begs for methodology. Maybe those people don't enjoy methodology and therefore don't enjoy puzzles. They probably would choose an afternoon of cliff-diving rather than sitting down with a nice segmented picture of kittens in a basket of colorful yarn. Those people may feel free to use my puzzle strategy the next time they spend a rainy afternoon with their grandmother. If she is anything like mine, she will cherish the time spent together and be sure to mention how good you are at puzzles the next three times she sees you and also in your birthday card.

I am not like those people, but I've always liked puzzles. I have one of an Intel chip hanging above my desk, framed and held together by puzzle glue. It may just be the dorkiest puzzle in the history of both dorkdom and puzzleness. And I have a puzzle of myself at ten years old, holding my favorite cat, given to me by my brother Sid. It's one of my favorite gifts ever. When I had to bring a gift to be given away in the class Christmas drawing, my mom would go pick out a puzzle, because she too assumed that everyone likes puzzles. I probably had a reputation for being a crappy gift-giver.

I have only a little experience with paired puzzle-solving. When I was little, I used to have to tag along with my dad sometimes in the summers because I was too little to stay home alone and there were no convenient relatives to dump me on. Once, at the community college where he worked, I was in the library, where a huge 1000 or so piece jigsaw puzzle was sitting half-completed on a coffee table. Another little girl about my age was working on it, and I sat down on the floor to join her.

This little girl was a stranger to me, yet after only a few minutes, I knew at least one thing about her, and it was that she was not good at puzzles. I wasn't even aware that putting together puzzles was something you could be bad at. Obviously, some people are good at it, and they finish puzzles quickly. But it would not have occurred to me that anyone could possibly be bad at it. Maybe you were slow, but as long as you kept at it, you'd finish in the end. As long as the graph of puzzle progress approached the completion line as time approached infinity, no one could say that you were bad at puzzles.

I was wrong. This girl was just...bad at it. She couldn't seem to fit in any pieces. She thought she did, but anyone could see that she was mistaken, because the piece that she jammed in there did not quite fit in the hole, stuck up slightly, and was not quite the same color as the pieces immediately around it. Her graph of puzzle progress approached zero. In case you didn't know it either, let me share the lesson I learned at ten: it is possible to be bad at puzzles. Not just slow, but actually failing.

Let's break this scene down into two parts: me and the other little girl.

First, me. I was seriously confused about the other little girl's failure at puzzles. They came easily to me, and at that age, I not only assumed that everything that was easy for me was easy for everyone else, but also that everything was and always would be easy for me (ah, youth!). I was impatient with her, because not only was she not helping us get closer to glorious puzzle completion ecstasy, she was actually taking us backwards.

But hey! Guess what! Unlike many other stories on this here website, I'm going to report that I was not a jerk. Despite my interal frustration, I was patient and nice to her. When she proudly pointed out a piece that she managed to strong-arm into the too-small hole of another piece that was a different shade of gray, I congratulated her. When what I wanted to do was to rip that piece out and maybe make her eat it, asking whether she was trying to piss me off. It's refreshing to look back and not have to be ashamed of oneself. In my mind, the adult me stands next to the little girls doing the puzzle and pats the little girl me on the head, beaming, because she knew that being a good person was more important than finishing the puzzle. I have to relearn that lesson in some form or another several times a year.

Confession: I think that little girl me thought the other girl was retarded. Not slang retarded, not like "retarded" the way a stupid-looking hat is retarded, but actually mentally disabled. So I was nice to her, because you should always be nice to retarded people. Was there any other indication that she was at all developmentally delayed? No. She was just bad at puzzles. Adult me is sighing now, struggling not to pop little girl me on the back of the head before settling for a slightly heavy-handed hair-tousling. By accident, and sheer force of arrogance, I managed to be an okay human being. Surely this is cause for celebration.

And now to consider her. Never until this day, until the act of writing this very entry, have I ever pondered what the other little girl might have been feeling. Did she know that she was bad at puzzles? Was her futile effort to force pieces an act of desperation to contribute to the shared goal? Was she nervous about meeting a girl her age who also had a rural community college library for a baby-sitter? Is there another way to use the jammed gray piece as a metaphor for the sad and lonely life that I assume she had because of her lack of puzzle skills? Is she now working as a professional cliff diver?

Of course, I have no idea at all, because she played a bit part in a scene in my life that would not make the thrilling movie version. If I met her again, I wouldn't even know it (unless she happened to start reading the blog, found this entry and recognized the incident, and then promptly unfriended me, preferring to hang out with her other cliff diver friends anyway). I don't even have a tidy conclusion here to act as the moral of this ridiculous jigsaw puzzle fable. But I hope you learned something today, be it a useful puzzle strategy, the fact that I consider moments when I accidentally was not a jerk a reason to rejoice, or that people can be bad at puzzles and they probably don't even care.


murder, she wrote.

I like to know surprising details about people. Details make people more human and knowing these details makes you feel closer to the person. So when I am feeling social (rarely) and sick of small talk (often), I ask specific questions about people's families and childhoods, hoping to bring out these details. I'm gleaning. I'm always happy and surprised to find the little nuggests, as if without them I was not convinced that there was not a person there at all, just some android that appeared out of air in front of me recently and will soon go away. But no, look, this is a person, just like I am a person, and here we both are! What are the chances?

There's a guy I know who hangs out and drinks with Josh and his buddies sometimes. I like him, and he must like me well enough to keep talking to me even though I can be a jerk. I know he has a little sister, and I've asked him a lot of questions about that. I don't have any little sisters, but I am one, and I've always wondered how that feels on the other side. Once, I was talking to him in a bar, and someone asked if I was his older sister, which formed some sort of bond between us - mistaken identity siblings, I guess. I used that angle to nag him a lot about his smoking that night. See? I'm a jerk.

But one time, I must have been in a weird sort of mood, because I asked him to tell me something surprising about himself. I was maybe tired of trying to dig out details or perhaps I was just feeling bold, because that is the sort of blunt and open-ended question that makes people uncomfortable. And yet, people love to talk about themselves. Look at me. I have a special place on the internet where I drop inconsequential details about myself all the time just so there is evidence that I am a person, too.

Anyway, this is what he told me: He really likes Murder, She Wrote.

I was floored. What an awesome detail. I had known him for a couple of years and all the time he was just walking around, liking Murder, She Wrote, and I never even knew. How many others are around us with these kind of secrets that aren't really secrets but might as well be for as long as it takes anyone else to discover them? How many other twenty-three year olds know that Jessica Fletcher's nephew's name is Grady?

We talked about the show. My parents both like TV mysteries, and so I've seen a lot. Matlock, Perry Mason*, Columbo, the works. I liked them all. Matlock, who was like the gentle, teasing Southern men at my church, except he caught bad guys for a living. Perry Mason, so austere and calm, sending Paul Drake to do the dirty work and always having a sort of ambiguous relationship with Della Street. But Columbo was my favorite. I loved the way he snuck in, annoying and bumbling and seeming so incompetant, that crazy eye going every which way, but then BAM! He caught you. I loved to see Columbo get his man.

And I liked ole Jessica Fletcher, who lived in Cabot Cove, Maine, a small town that seemed to have a serious homicide problem. Maybe I related to her especially, because she was a writer. We used to watch Murder, She Wrote on Sunday nights with popcorn and coke. We sat on the floor because we weren't allowed to eat on the couch. My mom would remark upon the familiar names in the episode's guest stars, names that meant nothing to me because I was eight and had no idea who William Conrad and Ricardo Montalban were. Sometimes I would ask who those people were, because the names obviously meant something to her, and she would tell me, but I wouldn't get it, because they all seemed to fall into the general category of Some Old Guy That Used To Be Famous.

Except for her role as Jessica Fletcher, which earned her relevance in my world, Angela Lansbury herself could have fallen into that category. But that role seems more like an easy and comfortable retirement job, the equivalent as a part-time greeter at Wal-Mart, after the rest of her career. When I saw her in The Manchurian Candidate, I was blown away by how a.)beautiful and b.)terrible she was. It was discovering her anew, realizing that she was a lot more than some silly TV show where she was a widow improbably solving improbable mysteries. She became Angela Lansbury instead of Jessica Fletcher.

It was a little like finding out that some guy you've been having beer with for years really likes Murder, She Wrote.

*The whole reason I started writing this was because I found this great Perry Mason site by James Lileks, who has lots of amazing nostalgia content on his site and also has in-jokes with Dave Barry.



We always have pepperoncinis in the house, but I don't ever eat them. They're one of those things that Josh requires, as if I had a pet man and this was his kibble. Obviously, I feed him more than just pepperoncinis and olives and chocolate, but these are his snack foods. Me, I'm normal, and when I want a snack, I can eat a whole bag of potato chips. But he wants pepperoncinis and olives, with a homemade potato roll on the side. Then later, chocolate.

I buy 16 ounce jars of pepperoncinis at Aldi for $1.50 each. I don't pay any more attention to them than that. When I find an empty jar in the sink, I check the pantry and see if it's time to buy more. That is the extent of my relationship with them, other than the occasional kiss laced with pepper juice.

And then I found a recipe with pepperoncinis. It had never occurred to me that these were anything other than a snack food, that some people might use them as an ingredient in preparation of other foods. To me, they were just those things that Josh ate whole while I finished supper or that came in the Papa John's box. Snacks are snacks. They are not ingredients. It's like those people who put potato chips on their sandwiches - they claim it tasted good, but really it was just a gimmick. Those people used to earn quarters in elementary school by eating weird stuff.

But I made drip beef anyway, because it sounded delicious and because I'd recently had a great french dip at a restaurant. French dips are those beef sandwiches that you dip in au jus. They are one of the things I might order in a new restaurant if nothing else stuck out or they didn't serve reubens. I'd love to be able to make a great french dip at home. Now, I am halfway there.

Here's the Pioneer Woman's recipe. She has two ways to cook the meat; I used the first. Because at my house, pepperoncinis are a pantry staple and cooking sherry is not. Also, the second way involved more work. Not much work, but some work, while the first way required no work at all.

Since there are only two of us, I cut my chuck roasts up, so I used a 1.5 pound roast and 12 pepperoncinis (and halved the rest of the ingredients). For my Italian seasoning, I mixed 2 teaspoons each of basil, oregano, and marjarom, plus one teaspoon of sage. The meat was tender and flavorful, with just a touch of kick from the pepper juice. It looked pretty weird with the pepperoncinis floating around in there. I only had to cook it for 4 hours before it was falling apart. Also, I stuck my roast in the oven frozen solid, because I am lazy.

We ate these on toasted rolls with melted cheese on top. They were not the right kind of rolls, because I don't know the recipe for the right kind of rolls. Something like French bread, but with a thinner crust. And that's why I'm only halfway to making great french dips at home. But even though the ones we used were too dense and not crusty enough, it was still delicious. It's hard to go wrong with homemade bread. Josh said they were "dope," which is one of those terms that I can't get away with using because I'm can't say it with a straight face. In any case, now you, too, can make dope sandwiches.


shoeless joe faustus.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
This movie is fast-paced and frenetic, madcap even. You might say that the characters are all on collision courses with wackiness. You get the idea, it's a farce. It didn't really feel like a musical to me, since the songs were sort of scattered in and seemed out of place. I'd forgotten it was a musical at all until the people started singing again. Considering the plot and dialogue were so quick-draw, the sudden breaks for singing were jarring. I'm no director, so maybe without the songs the film would be so fast-paced as to cause seizures.

You know, one of the things that I've enjoyed most about broadening my musical theater horizons has been the exposure to performers that I was previously not familiar with. This movie featured Zero Mostel, who I've always sorta not liked solely for the fact that he isn't Topol. That's a silly reason. I mean, there are lots of other people who are not Topol that I like a lot. For instance, my own mother is most decidedly not Topol, and I've never held it against her. No, it's just that Zero Mostel originated the role of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway, and I really just can't imagine anyone being Tevye except for Topol. Tevye = Topol. Even when I watch the James Bond movie that has Topol in it, I wait for him to sing or complain about his horse or disown his daughter for marrying a Catholic. Instead, he just eats pistachios.

ANYWAY, ole Zero is growing on me. He has a certain...sweatiness about him, but he plays his part well and he's got a good voice. I've no reason to suspect that he wouldn't make a great Tevye. Also, he apparently gave very entertaining testimony to the House Committee on Un-American Activities in a classic show of sticking it to the man. Phil Silvers also had a large part, the second musical I've reviewed where he has impressed me. And! Buster Keaton, in his final film role, looking old and in color and saying words out loud.

Songs and Dance: When I saw Sondheim's name in the credits, I got really excited, because he wrote one of my favorite musicals, Into the Woods. The film cut several of the songs from the stage play, but the ones that were left in were good, though not of the lyrical quality of the ones from Into the Woods. I found them to be rather mundane, but that was a problem of expectations. They were good, but I was expecting mind-blowingly fantastic. I'm sorry, Mr. Sondheim, I still love you, even though you're not Topol either.

Here's the opening number. It actually sums up the movie pretty well, really. And it will make you like Zero Mostel, too.

Will I Make Josh Watch It: Probably not, although I think he would enjoy it, what with the clever plot and witty word play. He'd really like it if I showed him an edited version that didn't have any songs.

Funny Face
This whole movie is based on the premise that Audrey Hepburn is not beautiful. It's one of those movies where you start out with a dumpy girl who cares about stupid things like books or art, but by the end of the movie, she's beautiful and everyone is happy. Except that they did a really crappy job of making her look bad in the start of the movie. Dude, it's Audrey Hepburn. It's no big deal if she looks fantastic in a red evening gown, because she looked pretty good in the brown wool jumper!

I really wanted to like this movie, but I didn't. Songs by Gershwin, with Audrey and Fred Astaire, this movie was made for me to like it. And parts of it were fine. The musical numbers were a little lackluster, but the costumes were neat, and the sets elaborate. But really, the movie lost me when Fred told Audrey that the professor that she came to Paris to discuss philosophy with "cared no more for her intellect than I do." And this is after he is her love interest. I guess we've come a long way since the 1960s. I was depressed for the rest of the movie. Also, Fred was way 30 years older than Audrey, and I had a hard time getting past that.

I guess, in general, this movie should have been better. It had all the parts, why didn't they add up? In defense of...I'm not sure what, apparently the movie bears little resemblance to the stage play. The plot of the movie was adapted from another Broadway show, Wedding Bells.

Songs and Dance: Like I said, kinda blah. There is a famous scene where Audrey does a ridiculous Bohemian dance in a Paris cafe that was featured in a Gap commercial several years ago. My favorite number was "Clap Yo Hands," with Fred and Kay Thompson, who later went on to write the Eloise children's books. Unfortunately, that clip is not on YouTube, so here's Audrey singing "How Long Has This Been Going On?" which is a lovely song. You can tell that the scene takes place at the beginning of the movie, because she's absolutely hideous.

Will I Make Josh Watch It: No.

Damn Yankees
A version of Doctor Faustus, but with baseball. It's more like Shoeless Joe Faustus, I guess. The Devil shows up, offers to let a Washington Senators fan become a star player for a season so they can win the pennant in exchange for, well, you know. His soul. I wonder if the Devil ever does favors in exchange for anything else, say, a new addition on his summer home.

The best part of this movie is Ray Walston, who plays Mr. Applegate, a.k.a. Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub. No horns or tail or anything like that, just a little guy in a nice suit. He sings songs about having people murdered and causing the plague and all that. I guess it's funny, but I found it a bit dark, to be honest. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood. Gwen Verdon is very good, too. She is someone who sold her soul to the Devil about 100 years ago in exchange for some beauty (she was previously the ugliest woman in Providence, Rhode Island), and now she does seduction work for him. You know, making men leave their wives, give up their money, commit suicide. Which makes you wonder, if Mr. Applegate owned you, what would he send you to do? I don't think my talents are in line with being a femme fatale.

Songs and Dance: Ah, a musical where the plot is better than the music! I didn't care much for the songs. They were fine, I guess, but none of them really stuck with me. The big famous number is Gwen Verdon singing and gyrating to "What Lola Wants," which is a fun little song, but not the sort of routine I would do if I were looking to seduce someone. The dance is almost ridiculous. Then again, I'm not a man, so maybe this would really drive them wild. I much preferred "Two Lost Souls," which had an amazing extended dance sequence.

YouTube does not have a great selection for this movie, but here are a couple of Gwen Verdon numbers: "A Little Brains, A Little Talent" and "What Lola Wants."

Will I Make Josh Watch It: Nope, even though he's a sucker for a good Faust story.


handy man.

I've had a stack of five pallets sitting next to my driveway since last fall. I got them for free off CraigsList, because I wanted to build a compost enclosure. I saw instructions online on how to build it, and I'd even bought the parts. And then everything just sort of sat there for a long time. I guess it wasn't high on my priority list. There's a rolled-up hammock sitting in my dining room for a similar reason.

Tuesday evening, I came home and it was magically done. It even had a hinged door. It's so nice to have a man around the house.

After admiring the new compost bin and giving lots of compliments to the maker, he asked what else needed to be done. For reals? I can just, like, tell you things that need to be done and things will happen? I mentioned the ceiling fan that had mysteriously stopped working one day during the winter. It wasn't a huge deal for a long time, but now that it was getting hot in the day, I missed having the cheap cooling mechanism spinning above my head. Also, it was the only source of overhead light in the living room, and sometimes, lamps just don't cut it. I was to the point of calling an electrician and buying a new fan.

Thursday night, the fan was whirring pleasantly. I told my sweet handyman to have a slice of pie for his trouble. He had two, then asked for the next task. I mentioned the door locks.

Some time ago, his grandparents' house was broken into, which led him to assess the security of our house. It's pretty basic. I'm relying mostly on the fact that ours is probably the cheapest house in the neighborhood. It's a similar principle as going out to the bar with ugly friends. But he decided that, at the very least, we needed better locks, particularly since I was alone there so much of the time.

I lived alone for years, and I'm not scared of it. But I do get a little spooked every once in a while. One night, the porch light came on mysteriously, as it does from time to time. Maybe it's rapists, but more likely it's a bat or a bunny. But then I started hearing thuds and clicks coming from the other side of the door and I became very aware that I was just a little ole girl, sitting here alone and watching a musical, very vulnerable. I grabbed a pair of scissors and my cell phone and crouched next to the door. Standing on tip-toes, I peered out the tiny decorative window and saw nothing except bugs. Giant bugs, declaring their love for my porch light by throwing their bodies forcefully at the house. Bugs are very romantic.

I don't know that new, tougher locks will really make me feel any more secure when he's gone. But Josh says it makes him feel better about leaving his baby alone (that's me). And so I get the double bonus of having my big strong boyfriend do handywork and also wanting to protect little ole me. It makes me feel delicate and dainty.

I'm hoping to capitalize on this mood of his for as long as it lasts. There's the hammock, and those outside lights that have never worked. Maybe a clothesline and a fence for the back yard so we can get a dog. The gutters could be use a cleaning, and there is moss on the roof. I could do all of these things myself, likely with considerable trial and error. But it's so much nicer to have someone else do it for me.

I don't like to rely on gender roles. I would never say that he has to do those things because he is the man, nor would I try to apply our situation to any other couple. But he seems to enjoy doing these things for me and I enjoy thanking him with food. Maybe it's because we were brainwashed into thinking that real men fix things and real women cook, but, hey, we don't care. It works for us, and in the end, we can both enjoy the cool air generated by the fan as we eat our pie.


the pit.

When I was growing up, we had something called "The Pit," where we dumped vegetable scraps and coffee grounds. It was in the center of the garden, a huge depression five or six feet across and maybe ten feet long. We used to jump it as kids. I don't know how deep it was, because I was never brave enough to get in it. I never really understood what it was for, just that we threw cucumber peelings into an old avocado green pitcher kept by the sink and then, when the fruit flies were just starting to get to be annoying, we'd take the pitcher out to the garden and empty the contents into The Pit. It never occurred to me to question the purpose of The Pit or to wonder why none of my friends' families had one. Sometimes plants would grow in The Pit, melons and pumpkins and whatever other seeds took hold in what was probably a very nutrient rich environment, but it seems like we never picked them.

I knew a girl from my hometown whose family had a similar way of dealing with refuse. Except they didn't have a Pit. Instead, her mother would just give her the scraps and tell her to go out in the woods and bury them. I'm not sure if it was always the same hole or if maybe their property was littered with little mounds hiding the decomposing skins of vegetables and egg shells. Their method sounds like a scene from a thrilling folk tale, where the little girl sneaks out the back door at night to go into the dark woods and bury something secret while someone menacing pounds at the front door. My family's routine is more like a scene from Deliverance.

We buried pets in The Pit. We'd lay them to rest inside paper grocery bags. I once looked in one of those bags at the body of a cat who had met with a car. It had been dead a while, and there were bugs eating at the corpse. There were so many it looked like a little gray blanket, and only by watching closely could you see that it was made up of a thousand little scavengers, moving ever so slightly as they did Nature's dirty work. It's best not to look inside the bag.

Once, and it seems a crime to tell this story so close to Mother's Day, Mama buried some kittens alive in The Pit. One of our cats had a litter and then abandoned them, and they were sickly. Maybe so sickly that they didn't move or mew when given a test poke. So Mama did the hard thing and buried them in The Pit. Later, I was walking in the garden when I heard mewing coming from The Pit. I ran inside to tell Mama, unaware that she'd buried them. Our mother cats were always moving their babies to protect them from the hands of eager little girls, so I thought that this was just the new sanctuary. But Mama knew. Her eyes widened in horrified understanding. We got out the shovel and dug the kittens up. A couple of them were really dead, but a couple were still clinging to what must have been a very disappointing life. We tried to nurse them with a drinking straw and 2% milk, but they died anyway a few days later. And we buried them again in The Pit. Ashes to ashes to ashes, dust to dust to dust.

Josh and I decided to start composting at the new house. We scoped out the back yard and found a natural hole in the corner. We kept a big white mixing bowl on the kitchen counter, and we dumped onion skins, egg shells, coffee grounds, and vegetables that had gone mushy in the fridge inside. When the bowl was overflowing, one of us would take it out to the back yard and dump it. Except one or both of us forgot where the hole was, and so The Compost Hole became more like The Compost General Vicinity. I'm sure the various critters who passed through thought it was a grand buffet.

Someone asked me what we were going to do with the compost. Since I had lived in a place for 18 years, composting all the time and never knowing why, it seemed a weird question. Isn't that what you do with that stuff? Still to this day, I have no idea if my parents ever dig out The Pit to reap the benefits of all that crap they sowed. Josh had grand ideas about a garden, but I suppose it was more like nostalgia for me. Plus, I dunno, it's sort of a crunchily romantic idea anyway, giving back to the earth, contributing to the circle of life rather than always just taking, taking, taking. Dust to dust to dust.


danger pie.

I spent last Friday night running around like a chicken with its head cut off, a chicken who was expecting company the next day and had promised to cook a big dinner and also had its head cut off. I had a big pan of baked beans in the oven and a container full of deviled eggs in the fridge. There was a bowl of egg salad on the counter, made from leftover deviled egg parts. A pie crust was cooling on the counter, and it was time to make chocolate pie filling.

It's easy for a chicken to make chocolate pie, as long as the chicken has a big stand mixer to do all the work. All a chicken has to do is put the ingredients in, then add four eggs, one at a time, mixing for five minutes after each egg. The chicken can do whatever it wants in between egg additions, perhaps weep over beaten eggs.

It was hot in the kitchen because of the combined efforts of the oven, the dryer, and the dishwasher. It was hot everywhere I went, because I was doing so much running around. In between eggs, I went all over the house, tidying up, sweeping, mopping, stuffing junk into closets. Each egg is only supposed to mix for five minutes, but each egg got more like six or seven or even eight minutes because I wasn't paying close attention to the time. By the time the last egg had been mixed it, the filling was noticeably runnier than I was used to. No matter, that just made it easier to pour into the waiting crust. I transferred the filling from mixing bowl to crust, covered it all in aluminum foil, and put it in the fridge. I crossed one more item off my list, licked the mixer's beater, took a bite of warm egg salad and washed it down with a swig of beer.

I think I was folding clothes five minutes later when all of a sudden, my stomach felt really weird. Not a good weird, like the way it feels when a boy holds your hand for the first time, but more like the way it feels when you're not sure if you're going to throw up or just need a really good burp. Then I had a really good burp but didn't feel any better.

Was it the raw eggs in the pie? Or the warm mayo in the egg salad? Or the fact that I hadn't eaten anything since lunch but a few spoonfuls of egg salad, a beer, and a beater's worth of chocolate pie filling?

At that point, it was 10 PM. All but one or two of the items on my to-do list were crossed out. I was so tired. I threw out the egg salad, but there remained the possibility of a dangerous pie. I did not want to poison my guests. But I did not want to make another pie. Another pie meant another pie crust. It could have been the egg salad. It could have been nothing at all. I could maybe serve the pie and hope for the best. Was I comfortable being that kind of lazy, reckless, and selfish person? Maybe, as long as I didn't have the be the kind of person that made another pie.

I called Josh, because I needed him to tell me to do the right thing. I needed him to tell me to make another pie. Because the right path was clear before me, I just needed a little strength to go down it.

He did not answer.

I sighed, forced to give myself the strength. I got out three sticks of butter (yes, three - two for filling, one for crust) and made another pie. I timed each egg to the second. I covered it in foil and marked the top with a plus sign, plus for "less likely to become violently ill," because there are no guarantees with raw eggs. The next day, I served the second pie, and it was buttery delicious. No one got sick or even had to burp.

I did not throw out the first pie. I really could have used the fridge space, but I let it stay. Because there was still the possibility that it was a perfectly good pie, one that was rich and delicious and would not make a healthy adult sick at all. There was really only one way to know.

Last night, Josh finished the second, definitely not diseased, pie. He knew the story of the first pie, how one lick of the beater may have made my stomach turn. But that seemed a long time ago, and he was willing to blame the egg salad if that meant he might get to eat another whole chocolate pie.

I cut half a slice of the first pie, which we now called the Danger Pie. I was going to eat it, and if I had to spend the night in the bathroom, we would know. Josh offered to be the guinea pig himself, but I don't think his heart was really in it. No, I said, this is my experiment, and I will take the risk. He would just have to hold my hair back.

I ate the pie. It was rich and even creamier than usual, no doubt because of the extra beating.

Five minutes later, I felt fine.

Thirty minutes later, no problems at all.

An hour later, still okay.

An hour and a half later, Josh couldn't take it anymore and ate the other half of my slice of pie, declaring the Danger Pie to be safe. I guess it was the egg salad. Or maybe I just needed another good burp.


darlin', don't you go and cut your hair.

I've been cutting Josh's hair for the past couple of years. This is not to say that I am good at hair stuff. Hair Stuff is Girl Stuff, and I'm good at none of it. But I like to cut his hair, because it lets me pretend that I am good at Girl Stuff, that I am providing necessary services to my man in the form of Girl Stuff. I am fulfilling a role in our relationship; I imagine he feels the same way when I ask him to squash a bug. Luckily for me, his hair is mercifully forgiving. It's curly, and so you can't really tell that it's not cut in a straight line at all.

This is how haircuts go. He sits down in the bathroom and we get the special scissors that are just for cutting hair and have never cut anything but hair. He starts off facing the mirror, but then I tell him to face the other way because he freaks out about the great hunks I'm chopping at. He obliges, but then sneaks peeks in the mirror in between snips. He complains that it's uneven and I explain that it's because I haven't gotten to the other side yet. He continues to make comments that are neither encouraging nor helpful. Finally, I'm done, and he shakes his head and tousles it one way and then the other with his hands, looking fretful. I make him wash it. He does, and when it's dry, he goes to look at it in the mirror every ten minutes or so, saying every time, "Well, it'll grow back." After another six hours of that, he declares that he likes it.

Back at the end of February, there was much debate between us whether he should get one last haircut before he left. He finally opted against it, since he felt his hair was at that perfect place: it had grown a bit since the last time I hacked at it, but was not yet too long. It would get long and uncomfortable, but at least for now, he looked good. And that's what is important to a rock star.

"Besides, you can always get a haircut on the road if it bugs you."


"When you are at Kelly's in Chicago, I bet she could do it."


"You know what, nevermind. Kelly is not allowed to cut your hair." That was stupid. I know Kelly, I trust Kelly, and I trust him. What did I think a haircut was going to lead to? But somehow the idea of another girl doing Girl Stuff for my man bugged me. He laughed at me. I think he is flattered when I get jealous.

Fast forward to some night in the middle of the tour. I had a dream that some girl that he met on the road had cut his hair. I awoke angry. I resisted the urge to call him right then. He might not be so flattered if my jealousy caused him to call him in the middle of the night and yell at him over some haircut he got in my dream. However, I did ask him about it when we had our regular evening call. He sighed at me. Maybe jealousy is less flattering over long distances.

In the wee small hours of Sunday morning, he came home. His hair was long and wild from a couple days of not washing it. I asked if he wanted a haircut now. He was indecisive for a while, trying to trick me to into telling him what to do with it, interpreting my pauses as meaning the exact opposite of the very direct words that followed them. Finally, we got out the special hair scissors and wheeled a chair into the bathroom.

"About two days after you asked me whether I'd had a haircut, a girl tried to get me to let her cut my hair."

"What? Just some girl you met?"


"Well, that's kinda flirty."

"Yeah. After I wouldn't let her, she tried to cut Trevor's hair."

"Moving right along then."

"Yeah, she just wanted a hook-up. She wasn't interested in Dave for some reason."

"Because Dave looks like he's growing a beard for a cause. He will shave when Tibet is free. Would you have let her if I hadn't told you about that dream?"

"Probably. I wanted a haircut. She talked a good talk, said it would be good for the band. She said we sounded great, but we needed a different look."

"Uh, right."

"It would have been a bad idea. I found out later that she had a boyfriend in prison and another one in the army."

"Nice girl. You would have been able to extricate yourself before anything happened."

"Yeah. It's better not to get in those situations."

"Plus, I would have freaked out a little bit."

I suppose the lesson here is to always act on your irrational dreams. Also, don't let strange girls give you a haircut.


the email list.

Last Wednesday night, Josh called from a bar in Austin, sounding discouraged and frustrated. He had lost the email list.

Let me tell you about the email list. At every show, there is a spiral-bound notebook found at the merchandise table with the words "EMAIL LIST" scrawled at the top. Here, you can sign up to receive periodic information about the band. The band promises not to sell, distribute, or use your email address for anything but communications about the band itself. Well, they don't explicitly make that promise anywhere, but I'm sure they wouldn't. I am on the email list, though I don't recall signing up. In fact, I resent the email list, just a little bit, because after shows, Josh walks around the crowd with it, asking people to sign up. I would rather he be spending that time with me since I just spent an hour and a half watching him from the audience, but, then again, I am very selfish.

I confess that I do not entirely understand the importance of the email list. I mean, yeah, it's a good idea to let people know about shows so they'll come out, but I can't help thinking that a good percentage of people just ignore them. We are all badgered with so many emails, letting us know that Nine West is having a sale, that someone has written on our Facebook wall, that your mom's birthday is in two days. At some point you get tired of actually reading them and it's an automatic delete delete delete. But these emails must work to some extent. I'm not saying that the band shouldn't have an email list, just I'm not sure how much good it actually does.

I think there might be a souvenir aspect to it, and also some indication of progress, of having achieved something. See, here, according to this page, they played a show in Arcata, California, and they got 15 email addresses. They have 15 fans in Arcata. That is 15 more than they had two months ago. It's tiring to drive around the country and play in bars that are empty or bars that are full, but here you have this notebook, full of names that prove that you're doing something.

Something happened to the email list on the last tour. I was never really clear on the details, whether it was lost or stolen by another band. I was sort of skeptical about the idea of another band stealing a ratty notebook full of the email addresses of bar patrons, but I've already admitted that I don't get the importance of the list in the first place. Maybe it is important, and it's not just my boyfriend and his band who hold it in such regard. Also, the guys in that other band were jerks.

Back to last Wednesday, when my sweet man called from far away and sounded like someone had stomped on his puppy. He had left the notebook sitting next to a computer terminal at Kinkos, where they had gone to print out flyers to hand out to advertise for the show. He was so angry with himself, as if he had stomped on his own puppy. The loss of the email list seemed to make the whole last two months mean nothing. They went nowhere, they got no new fans. They might as well have sat in the van, parked in my driveway.

He said he called me to make himself feel better. While that stroked my ego, I also suddenly felt pressured to say something helpful, uplifting, reassuring. So I told him that I had watched an episode of Faerie Tale Theatre with Leonard Nimoy cast as an Arab. For some reason, that made him feel better. I don't really understand how my charms work, but I'm not complaining. The conversation turned back to the email list and to Kinkos. I asked whether he had called the copy shop to see if they had found it. He'd called, but the number was apparently some corporate line. In a strange town, the fifteenth largest in the US, they had no idea which Kinkos they had used, nor were they sure they could find it again.

I went to my computer and looked up the Kinkos in Austin, Texas. Just so you know, there are 34. I asked where they had been driving, some description of the place so I could narrow the field down. He remembered an interstate (or maybe it was a highway? with an 8 in the number?), and there was an MLK highway in there somewhere. The Kinkos had been in a tiny, run-down strip mall, and there was a gas station next door. I picked out Kinkos locations near Highway 183 and then looked them up on Google Street View to see if they matched his description. The first one was in an old strip mall near a hospital, but no gas station. Another one was in a large shopping center. Still another was on a downtown street corner. Finally, I found 9222 Burnet Road, near Highway 183.

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"Was the strip mall kind of beige, with a blue stripe?"

"That sounds about right."

"And there's a Chevron station across the street, and an auto body paint shop next door?"

"I don't know, maybe. There was definitely a gas station next door."



"Man, gas was cheap the day they took this picture."

The shop had already closed for the evening (some of them stay open until 11 pm or even all night), but they opened at 7 the next morning. He memorized the address. He thanked me, we hung up, he went and played a show and I read a couple chapters in a book and went to sleep. When I woke up Thursday morning, I thought about writing this blog entry and how my mom would think it was just so neat, isn't technology wonderful?

As I was writing that last paragraph, I realized that I didn't know how it ended. So I decided to call him up to find out, because my readers would want to know. They'd gone to the Kinkos at 9222 Burnet Road and searched high and low, but no old notebook. Josh even got into the dumpster to look for it, and they left a phone number with the shop employees in case it turned up. The email list was gone.

No amount of Arabic Leonard Nimoys could make him feel better, but that's the way it goes. We'd done the best we could. Though I don't quite get the importance of the email list, I know it's important to him, and it broke my heart to hear him be so hard on himself. Modern technology can help me find a Kinkos in an old strip mall next to a gas station in Austin, but it counts for nothing when I want to reach across the country and give my poor, dejected boyfriend a hug.