Friday, December 05, 2008

Exhibiting my meme-ory

I was tagged by fabulous fellow blogger Needless to Say for this ‘Seven Things’ Meme. I’m not sure if I did this one before, and I’m experiencing a medically induced laziness to check, so I’ll just off and do it again, shall I?

Seven things about me that I may or may not have shared previously in some form, known only by some family and a few friends who are probably sick of my stories and secretly think me a bit full of myself though they’d never say so because I have Many Endearing Qualities:

1. I was the lead singer in a terrible band in college. We did one show. There IS video evidence. Fortunately I lack the VHS to web technology to share it and ANYWAY you would never see it because, good God, its terrible. If I am really that awkward I should not leave the house.

2. I was on PBS in high school (Channel 12, for youse in Philly) fake sight-reading my way through Handel’s Messiah on live TV. I was sporting a red sweatshirt with a teddy bear on it, giant Jeanine-from-Ghostbusters glasses, with all my hair pulled back drum-tight with a giant tortoise-shell barrette. I’m right in the front row by the harpsichord so I got a lot of camera time and didn’t realize how painfully short bus I looked until my grandmother popped the tape in for all the relatives to see at a family gathering. They showed it EVERY Christmas Eve for years until Pavarotti and the Vienna Boys Choir became the go-to music program and the greater Philadelphia area was spared my dorkiness.

3. I own firearms and a sword and have been trained to use both.

4. I have socialized with people who were either expelled from this country or refused entry here. I had guns pointed at me and visited two different prisons on the same trip. I will likely never be hired by the Department of Homeland Security for these and other related reasons. I’m now slightly paranoid that this whole item has tripped some sort of flagging program and my blog will now be monitored.

5. I was once caught shoplifting in the Province of Quebec and was convinced that the store owner had the legal authority to imprison me because he had an accent. I was four years old.

6. I married the second person I ever dated. My husband married the first person he ever dated. We did not live together before we were married. We have been married for twelve years.

7. I’m a firefighter and an EMT. I do more EMT-ing than firefighting, mostly because half our firefighters hang out at the station and I’d have to have the power of by-location to get there in time to make the first or second truck. So I usually only end up going if it’s a huge fire and we dump the station. There aren’t many of those. But I have the nifty coat with my name on the back in yellow reflective letters, which still feels badass even though when I put the whole rig on with the boots and suspenders I am pretty sure that if you knocked me over I’d roll back and forth on the ground and yell "Hey guys! I CAN’T get UP!!" Like Ralphie’s brother in A Christmas Story. But I’ve been on 107 ambulance calls this year. Of those, only five involved the patient being zipped into a plastic bag. (One stroke, one massive MI, one motorcycle vs. Various Stationary Objects, two suicides.)

I know I'm supposed to tag others, but since most of you have already done this one, feel free to throw interesting anecdotes into the comments, so I can break my big record of like, eleven comments on one post. Just make sure you vote for me so I can feel the love.

Monday, December 01, 2008

I know what I know, if you know what I mean.....

I usually pride myself on knowing, at least in a dim and rudimentary sense, about pop culture. True, the strength of my knowledge lies in the John Hughes era, but I am at least somewhat familiar with what's hot, enough that I could be filled with equal parts despair and amusement while trying to explain to my mother on the phone what a Wii is, and how its different from the last video gaming system she purchased and was familiar with (an Atari 2600).

Another gibbet of evidence that I'm creeping toward middle age (other than last week, when I bought birth control pills AND reading glasses at Walmart on the same day) is that I'm starting to let things go by. Things I realize I don't get and I'm okay with not getting.



1. WoW



In junior high I got together with a bunch of guys every other Friday night or so for a game. We all had our own dice, we all had folders full of sheets with our characters written out by hand in pencil. We sat together 'IRL' at a table, and a guy with a huge binder sat behind a trifold paper castle wall and determined our fate as we moved painstakingly painted lead figurines around on a piece of grid paper. We talked, ate Cheetos, and laughed our butts off. No one had seizures from playing 24 hours straight without sleep or food, though at least one bad movie was made about people taking it too far. By age 15, when we discovered things like extracurricular activities and the opposite sex, roleplaying tapered off sharply, with the exception of one live RPG excursion that ended in, as my doctor put it, 'The single worst case of poison oak he's ever seen" plus various minor blunt force and Ronsonol misfire injuries. (Hint: never run with a tiki torch.)

Today my Gmail ad du jour was from this company. Apparently, I can get a t-shirt with my 'Guild Tabard' on it. So when you do finally pry your ass out of the chair and grab a Big Gulp and a microwaved burrito, everyone can see what realm battlegroup and faction you belong to. Also: why your virginity is safe and secure.




2. Twilight




I didn't get it the first time, either. Did we have to start it all over again because Anne Rice found Jesus? (Be glad she did. Some of her pseudonymous stuff was, yikes. Just, yikes.)


3. Compulsive text messaging


Yeah, I use it. Mostly when I'm someplace too noisy to talk, and only when I have to tell Himself I'm on my way home. My one attempt to drunk text while at a friend's going away party ended in three very unintelligible and never sent messages that all started 'Hey bebby...' Which is probably why the party ended with breakfast at McDonald's at 7am. But is there really any reason why a guy has to stand around with a phone in his pocket that declaims "Apple bottom jeans and the boots WITH THE FUR" every twelve seconds? Does texting make you seem LESS like a 14 year old girl than just PICKING UP THE DAMN THING and talking to whoever it is that keeps sending you cryptic mini-missives that subject the rest of the free world to your questionable taste in music?





I keep seeing girls in these sweatshirts that are basically a hood, sleeves, and about 8 inches of body, with a zipper that starts somewhere in the ziphoid process region. I beg anyone with mercy and sense to explain to me what the heck the point of this is, beyond making you look like you raided a toddler's closet.




Is it a reality show? Is it a drama? Are there any other people in the world more in need of a savage kicking?



6. The Jonas Brothers


Methinks we've been here before. Let's see....






Oh, or




Or these guys, who disabled embedding so you'll just have to click on through to the otha side for all the hair-swinging goodness.

Look, I remember coveting my sister's Tiger Beat with Shaun Cassidy on the cover. I know from tweeny lust. But I look at these guys and all I see are the charter members of my high school Latin Club.





Hey, do a girl a favor and vote for me over to Humor Blogs, eh? While my husband hobnobs with the blogging elite I'm about five scrolls down the page. Its embarassing and precipitates haughty lectures from him about how I need to update my template and otherwise pimp myself out. I don't care if he's right. Its still annoying.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Not just a job, but an adventure

Ah, the station. I probably spend more time here than I should. In fact, I'm writing this here. Mostly because we have a big flatscreen monitor on the computer and the keyboard isn't full of crumbs like the one at home. (I'm not to blame. I'll leave it at that.)
Anyway, the station is a little like college. You sometimes share close quarters with other people of whom you have a certain fondness. A certain camaraderie. Okay, you tolerate them. Sometimes.

We don't have a live-in program or anything, so there isn't a full kitchen, though we do have a bunkroom that has been used now and again. I camp here myself in inclement weather, since I have a car that isn't the best handler in snow and ice. I'd rather be here already if its really bad out.

Some time ago it was decided that someone should be cleaning this place on a regular basis. I won't get into why. Just trust me. It was necessary. A price was negotiated, and the job fell to myself. I don't really mind it. Twice a week I chase away the cobwebs, wipe up the smudges, and clean the bathroom. This is a pretty uneventful experience about 98% of the time. Today was a two-percenter. I performed an intervention. Then left this note.

Some Thoughts to Ponder


1. The throne on which
you are sitting delivers water at the rate of 1.6 gallons per flush.
2. Despite the impressive WHOOSH it makes when you pull the handle, it
is a LOW FLOW TOILET.
3. If you, in the course of business here,
believe that the payload you are delivering will not be sufficiently moved into
the sewage system of Our Fine Borough by 1.6 gallons of water, a mid-transaction
courtesy flush is in order.
4. The average human anus is approximately
the size of a dime. It does not require FIFTEEN YARDS OF PAPER to clean.
5. Should you experience a plumbing emergency worthy of intervention,
a plunger can be found across the street (in the firehouse) in the ladies
room. Knock first; it’s a one-seater.
6. Should I ever have to clear a
plumbing emergency like the one I found tonight, and the perpetrator does not
make an effort to solve the problem, and leaves it to me, and said perpetrator
can be positively identified, they might find what they left behind in the
pockets of their turnouts.

Brothers and sisters, this holiday season, if you stop at the station for a little 'You Time'....just make sure all systems are clear before you go about your day. That's all I'm sayin'.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pleasing your Man




Whoo hoo, sounds like a spicy one, eh? I grabbed this the other day and stuck it in my draft file, aka the doomed to never be published if I don't do it now file (Still sitting on one about my first attempt at canning, making fundraiser 'bread in a jar' for an organization I've since quit, complete with disturbingly glistening photos.)

Since, let's be honest, we're all pretty much pretending to work today, I figured I'd make today a two-fer. Because this article, from the Fount of All Dubious Advice, needed to be mocked. The sister-in-law had one not long ago about whether its okay to cry at work. This one is equally insightful.

So this is what MSN believes one needs to keep one's man.

1. Your backing when he takes a risk. Guys need to keep in touch with adventure—why else would Man Vs. Wild be a TiVo staple? “When I wanted to switch careers, my girl said to go for it,” says Will, 30. “Having her in my corner gave me the courage to try.”


2. The right to keep Secrets. Why should he have to tell you his friend is having an affair, or that his cousin lost his job and hasn’t told his wife yet? If it’s not integral to your relationship, don’t feel threatened. His discretion shows he’s a grown-up.


3. A guilt-free boys’ night out. The cure for “girly-man” syndrome is contact with other high-fiving men. This may mean a trip to the bar or an Ultimate Fighting Championship—but it’s definitely without you, and that’s OK. “See me off with a smile,” says Al-Teriq, 38. “That trust is critical.”

4. The green light to actually have sex, should the opportunity arise, with someone on his Celebrity List of Five. And by all means, hop on Brad Pitt if you ever get the chance.

5. Some space when his team loses the big game. And you can save your “maybe next year” optimism; just give us time alone to weep.

6. A heads-up when you just need us to listen. Sometimes all you really want to do is vent to us about something. A simple warning in advance and we promise we’ll stay quiet and let you talk it out.

7. Patience when he says the wrong thing. Like when you ask, “How’s my hair?” and we say, “Fine,” instead of “Amazing!” Give us a break: We’re trying.

8. Big guffaws and tiny giggles. We like to hear laughter—preferably following one of our silly jokes. We know, we know: Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld we are not, but anything you offer will be very much appreciated.

9. Frequent (and enthusiastic) trips downtown. Yes, we all request this, but that’s because it really is that good. We’re happy to return the favor.

10. A GPS for the car. You want this too. It will end those “where the *#!? are we?” arguments once and for all.

11. The freedom to be himself. It’s important for people in a relationship to retain a sense of self, and for guys that’s achievable in some unexpected ways; leaving the toilet seat up or spending the weekend in boxers.
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Good God. Where to begin. First off, is changing careers really on par with staggering through the desert swathed in a t-shirt cooled with your own pee? If your job is that demanding perhaps your girl would do better to be in your corner while you go buy some term life and name her as the primary beneficiary. I'm so glad that going without pants is enough to help a man retain his sense of self, especially since he is apparently one missed trip to the bar and a denied celebrity 'do' list away from becoming a screaming queen, which would actually be good, since MY sense of self revolves around whether or not he can appropriately assess my hairdo and maybe if he did bat for the other team I'd get some honest feedback. I can't mock these separately because all together they form this giant ball of stereotypey goodness that just gets stuck in my intellect like cotton candy with hair in it. So here's my own list.

1. Let's not fancy up the reality of things by calling it a 'Celebrity List of Five'. Its a wank bank. You know he has one. He knows you know he has one. Better to not speak of such things. Also: Brad Pitt gives me the heebies and he's starting to look like an unkicked jack o' lantern that has been on the front step about a week too long. And given his present company, if you apply the 'you sleep with everyone that person has ever slept with' theorem we're talking about a sexual history roughly the length of the OED. So, no. Also, ick.

2. I'm all for frequent and enthusiastic trips downtown. After all, its less than a mile and that's where the restaurants are. And the post office. And the park with the disturbing statue. And 19 churches. After that, its all deer and trees.

3. He cares about your hair about as much as you care about fantasy football. There. You're even.

4. Don't ask him why the underwear is in the trash. Just leave it there. No, really. You have bleach but he has plenty. Just leave it there.

5. Don't get a GPS if you think he'll dink with it WHILE he's driving. Rims are expensive.

6. If you don't want to touch the seat to put it down, clean the bathroom. Otherwise, shut up about it.

7. Just empty his pockets yourself. At least you get to keep the money you find. Yeah, its irritating. So is picking bits of tissue off your black pants.

8. Men do like to hear laughter. Just maybe not right after they run to you claiming something is terribly wrong with their gums, when actually they just discovered that weird little connector between their top lip and the rest of their face.

9. Regarding the sex thing, have some.

10. Operate on the general principle that your man is not an ornament or an accessory. He does not exist to get you stuff. He is a person that you've been given the opportunity to care for in a way that you care for no one else. Remember that he is a human being with an immortal soul and should be cherished accordingly when you are arguing with him in the cat litter aisle at Walmart.

Blitter Twogs

I've had some stuff wandering around my brain that, while amusing (at least to me) was too short for a whole post here, and too long for Twitter. Others call it their 'Sock Drawer' or some kind of 'Meandering', I call it 'something to do to look like I'm working while I pass the time at the office because no one wants to work and anyway my boss is making me breakfast even as we speak'. Which is admittedly unwieldy and not particularly clever. I had intended to have some interesting photos each week also, but lately the camera has stayed in its case because there is precious little of interest going on while I drive the same stretch of NYS Route 17 trying to find a radio station that isn't playing country-music Christmas songs that pick me up and toss me into the gaping maw of depression. (What is WITH that, anyway? If I want separation and death I'll watch a Disney movie.)

(Pause to take a big bite of a bagel sandwich with cheese and Canadian bacon and a perfectly cooked egg)

Where was I?

Oh, okay. So this morning I'm driving to work, listening to NPR. Because that's what I do, Obama lovin' tree-hugger that I am. Since National Public Radio is, as the name implies, public, it is supported by various foundations, charitable trusts, and, say it with me, "Listeners like YOU." Every morning, the important-sounding fellow says something like 'Support for NPR comes from (fill in the foundation, charitable trust, or vague guilt-inducing implication that you should send us SOME MONEY)'

Today was special. "Support for NPR comes from the Department of Homeland Security."

What??

Yes, I'd heard correctly. Apparently they are hiring, because I was encouraged to 'visit their website at http://www.dhs.gov/ '.

Thanks, guys, but my past is sufficiently checkered that you would probably give me a pass. But you already know that, don't you?
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The other day I was sitting at my desk watching a co-worker earnestly try to fill out an online form. (I wasn't spying on her, she has a giant flat-screen monitor.) I didn't know what it was about, only that she'd been flogging away at it for a good half hour. When I got up to get coffee she waved me over. She was trying to enter a contest online that she'd read about in Cosmogirl.

"I'm so frustrated! How can I get this password to be orange? I don't have the toolbar to change it when I'm in this form!"

"Why does it have to be orange?"

"Because look," she says, pointing to the page in the magazine, "the directions say to go to this website and enter the password in orange."

"I think they are showing you what to enter, not what color it has to be entered in."

"Oh."

This woman is thirty-two years old.

<><><><><><><><><>

I listened to a story earlier that started out:

"This guy and his wife were over my house one night...and she ain't got any teeth either...."

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I was drivng back from Syracuse the other day listening to 80's music, contemplating the awesomeness of this lyric:



You know I feel so dirty when they start talking cute, I want to tell her
that I love her but the point is probably moot......


Never at any point during my big-glasses and docksiders time of life did I stop and say, jeez, this has got to be the stupidest song I've ever heard. You know why? Because its awesome. Give it a listen while you make stuffing or whatever-it-is you are supposed to do the night before Thanksgiving.

Also... Rick Springfield was SMOKIN' HOT. I forgot about that.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Twelve Years


Tomorrow is my 12th wedding anniversary. Twelve years ago tomorrow, on the 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time (aka Christ the King Sunday) and five years to the day after I became a real live Cath-o-lick, Himself and Myself got married, at St. Patrick's church in a little South Jersey town.


I had the requisite South Jersey Catholic Big Hair, courtesy of a can of spray that requires a license and a hazmat certification to use and a hairdresser so fiercely bent on day-long perfection that not a single strand moved all day. (Nor, for that matter, for three days afterward. )


I was never one of those little girls who sprawled on her pink canopy bed fantasizing about her wedding. Once we picked the date, something I referred to as a 'Bridal Dictatorship' was initiated. Pick it, buy it. Say yes, say no. No foo foo nonsense. No quietly dying inside while someone else insisted on something you didn't give a toss about. When dress buying time came about, I purchased 1 (one) bridal magazine, picked an Alfred Angelo bridesmaid's dress that was under $150 and wouldn't cause any of my 3 (three) bridesmaids to do the Guantanamo Bay detainment diet, and I drove to 1 (one) David's Bridal and had this conversation with my mom in the parking lot:

"Okay, here's how this is going to go. I'm going in there, I'm going to find a dress, and I'm going to buy it."

"Okay."


I bought tried-on dress number three, once the helpful salesgirl realized that the DRESS was okay, but the ivory material made me look like I had decreased liver function. We tried the white, Mom cried, it was the right one, they shoved it into a pink wardrobe bag, and away I went.


I only really had one wedding image in my head that guided me. The one above. I wanted a big ol' train to drag down the aisle just like Maria. (Not so much the instant family and singing nuns. Just the train.) So I got it. For the uninitiated or not-as-insane its referred to as "a Cathedral Length Train".


So began a small problem that, if it had a Sound of Music-type song for it, would need a song called 'How do you solve a problem like a giant caboose and a bustled Cathedral Length train crammed into a folding chair'. Which isn't nearly as musical as 'a problem like Maria', but every bit as disconcerting. And for the record, you 'catch a chair and pin it down' by putting it against the wall behind the head table, perching on the edge, and jamming your feet against the floor. 'How do you solve a mark-ed lack of traction' is another story altogether.


I used the ladies' room exactly once during the reception. I took the dress completely off. It was easier. Plus I could readjust my foundational garments. (Read: briefly re-establish blood circulation to my thighs and various ladyparts.)


Still, it was a lovely day. Last Saturday, I took the Bustle of Doom to a consignment shop, hanging it up for the ladies to sigh over while I shamelessly reminisced about November 23, 1996. I felt a little sad as I left it with strangers. Oh well, I still have the best part of that day anyway.


Tomorrow: Perhaps scanned photos if I can get himself to hook the scanner back up. And sage advice from MSN about 'pleasing your man', complete with snarky heckles.

Physics is Not Your Friend

I have no kids. Some might say I have no business dispensing advice to kids. I'm going to anyway. Its not particularly loving or kind. Too bad.


List of Realities For A Seventeen Year Old Male

1. You are too young to drink.
2. Anywhere. Anytime. Four more years to go. Wait.
3. Drinking anyway makes you a lawbreaker.
4. Drinking and driving makes you a selfish dickhead lawbreaker.
5. Such decisions are expensive. No one is impressed, least of all your parents, or the person whose rather new sportscar you totalled.
6. See #4 re: selfish dickhead
7. That body you are walking around in is essentially an animated bag of meat. It is fairly easy to break and poke holes in, particularly when you are too stupid to wear a seatbelt.
8. We all know that you know better. Since you aren't dead you get a chance to prove it. Don't screw it up.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Audacity of Soap

Or, how my day started with him:
And ended with him.

Friday was a grrreat day. It started with an emergency appointment in Bushkill, PA. I moved some things around to accommodate it, and three more quickly queued up to completely fill the day. First, the gentleman I missed on Tuesday owing to the Scranton area's Ice Age Drill grabbed the top spot at 9am. Then we slid a Forest City right behind it, followed by Mr. Bushkill, and just for good measure, one more in East Stroudsburg. For you geography kids, this is one hell of a loop that starts about three an a half hours to the Southeast of me. So I got up at Ye Daemon Houre of Sorrows. (about 4:30am). I slapped on my Velma glasses and threw a bag of randomly chosen cosmetic items and a toothbrush in my tote, intending to improve my appearance as soon as the sun came up or I gave a crap, whichever came first.

I have my nappin' spots when I drive long distance, when I start out that early I usually need about a 10 minute snoozaroo about 2-3 hours into the day. I pulled into my last-spot-back-lot Dunkin Donuts parking place in Tunkhannock and set my alarm for 10 minutes. I settled into the seat, wondered briefly how I'd fall asleep 500 yards from a concrete plant and zzzzzzz......10 minutes later I sat up and looked around, as the drive-thru coffee-goers eyed me curiously. I gave my hair a brisk brush and looked purposefully into my vanity mirror just long enough to assure them I was neither homeless nor insane and I was on my way.

I sat at a crosswalk smiling in Carbondale as a dad led a diminutive Buzz Lightyear across the street to his preschool Halloween party. I thought about the crisp fall evenings where I set out in some product of my imagination with a plastic pumpkin to collect goodies from my grandparents' neighbors. Even then the lure of having a look around someone else's house nearly trumped the candy in terms of interest. My Carbondale guy was nice shoes, expensive cologne, and ego; it was a divorce situation and I got the condensed version of what happens when Beautiful People must divide their spoils and go in separate directions, their house was a blur of Pottery Barn, exercise equipment, and ornamental dogs. It was spookily clean. I was glad to leave.

Number Two was in a small Scranton-y village 15 minutes to the north, nice people, I managed to smile as I grabbed a bag of parts off a shelf in their basement to explain what washer locks look like, only to discover too late that the bag had been used repeatedly by the cat for claw sharpening and the odd piss. I just talked and talked while I Lady Macbethed my hands in their basement sink with a squirt of whatever laundry detergent they had sitting there. My powers of denial and moving on are strong; one of those things a couple years of volunteering in emergency services will get you. I'm sure I'll be puked on by a random customer child at some point; I'm waiting for it.

Lunch break, then on to Number Three. Number Three lived in a state park. No. Really. IN a state park. I got to try out all the roadblock avoidance functions on my GPS since the route that it chose for me took me down the ONE road that has been washed out for two years that they decided to fix THAT DAY. I pulled into the steep driveway and glanced at the piles of plastic toys that littered the yard, topped here and there by a scroungy bad-tempered cat. I suspected I had arrived at The House The Neighbors All Talk About. I was not disappointed. The living area of the house looked like it had been filled with toys and household items from a hatch located in the ceiling, perhaps with a backhoe. I broke things I stepped on. I couldn't help it. They stood and sort of giggled while I attempted to calculate the approximate number of boxes the piles might be efficiently shoveled into, while considering how I might be kind in my report when the ready vocabulary for the mess included words like 'squalid' and 'disaster' and 'mind-boggling sh*thole'.

Task completed, I set out across the Poconos for my last appointment. I was sitting at a traffic light when the college radio station I found played this, and made my day.

You know, it was kind of warm Friday. And I had my window down. And I probably should have considered that before yelling "WHO THE F--- IS STEVE REEVES??" At a traffic light. There were stares. It was college all over again.

Number Four was small, the appointment brief, and I was happy to be heading at last in a Northwesterly direction. By the time I got back on Route 6 I was just chanting a mantra to myself: "I'm going to make dinner. Then I'm going to take a shower. Then I'm going to put my jammies on. I'm going to make dinner. Then I'm going to take a shower. Then I'm going to put my jammies on." I was hungry. I was tired. I was anxious to take off the Work Pants and scrub off the dirty house cooties. I was tired of the radio. I slapped in my headphones and was tapping the steering wheel listening to this when I looked in my rear view mirror.

Crap.

Was I speeding? Did he see my oh-so-inconspicuous white iPod headphones? Was I SPEEDING? I didn't think so. He walked up to my window and informed me that 'this conversation is being recorded'. Oh, jeez. Here's my license and registration, Captain Serious. The whole time he is telling me that the police are out IN FORCE because its one of the 'most celebrated holidays' and I'm all like, "What??" I recognize him. His sawed-offedness. The space between his teeth. The Barney Fifery. This was not your typical crew-cut, disarmingly handsome and usually good-smelling Pennsylvania State Trooper. This was a local dude, and more than that, the very SAME local dude who gave me my FIRST SPEEDING TICKET EVER.

Flashback: thirteen years ago. I'm driving too fast through a very small town trying to get to my boyfriend's house before it starts snowing for reals. I get pulled over. $117, thank you very much. I cried for miles afterward and generally felt dirty. I wanted to write an apology letter to send with my check. (Yes. Sometimes us Good Girls are sad and a little ridiculous. Sue us.)

He explains to me that Halloween brings out all the drunks. I nod politely and want to say, I'm not a drunk, I'm a 38 year old woman in a minivan, for crying out loud, who has been driving for umpteen hours and I just want my honey and olive oil soap and my jammies and some supper. I sign my ticket and drive 43.5 miles an hour all the way back to Mansfield, then 4.35 miles an hour THROUGH Mansfield, cursing the trick or treaters and the empty gas tank that forced my interaction with them as I pulled into the station for a fill.

I see my little house. There it is. I pull in the driveway, stagger into its inviting warmth, and drop all my junk in a heap. And walk straight into Himself having a girlfit because his cell phone isn't working. Also, he lost his credit card.

Some very uninteresting screaming ensued, followed by an angry shower and his retreat to the grocery store to get some nachos to throw in my cage. Followed by some more screaming, because I started to write this Friday and he had Girlfit II because I was using the computer.
You know what knocks the wind out of stress/anger/anxiety mixed together with a stupid high histamine level, complete with spontaneous hives? Three Benadryl. I passed out and slept for 10 hours, awaking refreshed and altogether ready to panic clean my entire house in three hours for unexpected overnight guests.

Its a new week, and I am rested and ready! Whether or not things go your way tomorrow, history will be made and the river rolls on. Go easy on the candy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I get the frightful....not so much the delightful



I didn't take this picture.

As my husband often complains, I never have my camera when I see stuff. But I took a couple of snaps like this on my cell phone.

Yesterday.

I had an appointment in Hallstead, PA, then another in Port Jervis, NY. For those of you playing along at home without an offhand knowledge of Pennsylvania geography, it's the right hand half of the rectangle kinda near the top, then aaaallll the way off the edge back into NY where the Delaware is merely a creek. I travelled down Route 81 and noted with amusement that it was getting progressively worse. Cue the wadded up station wagon against the guardrail.

Then I hit 84. Route 84 goes through the Pocono Mountains. Usually its a lovely, pleasant drive through towns with names like 'Promised Land' and the ever-giggle inducing 'Dingman's Ferry'.

Yesterday it was like crossing Caradhras with an elf and a bunch of cranky hobbits.

I made 45 miles in just over 2 1/2 hours, with the van in low gear, creeping along flanked by trucks who were going as slow as I was. Truckers are the flight attendants of bad weather driving for me. If I'm on a plane and there is turbulence but the attendants don't look concerned, I don't worry. If its snowing like a bastard and truck drivers are still hauling ass, I don't worry. When my Schneider guys and my North American guys and my big dumptrucks are going 20, I want to panic a little.

Almost to Matamoras (I love the name of that town, though the name is the most interesting thing about it; it needs a snazzy Mexican restaurant. SOMETHING. Though the welcome center bathroom is obsessively clean.) the road clears up a little and I am cheered. Perhaps its passing. I do my thing in Port J and get back on 84, ready to patiently brave the creeping traffic back toward the Scranton area. The electronic billboard is flashing CAUTION CAUTION CAUTION/ROAD CLOSED MM37 /USE ALTERNATE ROUTE.

I think to myself, where is Route 37? Never heard of it. Oh well. I don't have to drive on it.

(sound of penny dropping)

Oh. MILE MARKER 37. Crap.

I get off the highway, and plan my escape route. Because my THIRD appointment, the one I was most assuredly going to be late to, was in Carbondale, and I was hearing that they were having some sort of apocalyptic ice age and thank ya no, I wasn't going to risk my neck getting there. So I followed my second customer's advice and jumped on 209 north because "It'll put you right on 17, and you can run right on in to Binghamton!".

She left out the part about it being 98 MILES from Binghamton. And the fact that I'd have to drive through the Catskills. But it turned out to be not so awfully bad, I just continued my stress management technique of driving in low gear singing songs from the 70s at the top of my lungs and eating string cheese for the extra 98 miles and got back to familiar territory. Total workday: 6:30am-8:15pm.

Yeah, I slept in today.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Weekly Curiosities


This week’s curiosity comes to you from the ‘Sometimes a yard ornament is just a yard ornament’ Department.
I drive by this house about twice a week, though I didn’t notice this treasure until recently. It appears carefully crafted and is deliberately placed on a small rise at one corner of the front yard.

I think the great wealth of candidate endorsement signs elsewhere in the yard should have been artfully arranged around this magnificent pillar. (Not that I’m implying that a four foot concrete phallus would be a fitting focal point, given the candidate on the sign. You can draw your own conclusion there.)

There are a couple of snaps I didn’t get this week, and they are, in no particular order:

Two gentlemen in Ithaca crossing the street; one pushing a shopping cart, the other tucked neatly INTO the shopping cart , with his crutches alongside and his apparently broken leg propped up on the front. It didn’t look terribly comfortable, though they both seemed cheerful enough about it.

My favorite political candidate name EVER. I don’t know what party he is with, I don’t know what kind of person he is, but anyone who is willing to get out there with signs that say VOTE TINKLEPAUGH is awesome. Sadly most of his supporters seem to live on busy roads with no shoulder and I couldn’t get any snaps. I did find this though. He’s on page 12. His home address is there too, if you are in the Greater Binghamton area and want to drop by. If you do stop by please don't mention that I referred to the Greater Binghamton area on Twitter as ‘Craptaculopolis’. ) Oh, and now I know he’s a Democrat.

The last of the glorious color making a cavern of golden light on a side road as I passed. ‘Denuded lanes, with leaves adrift below’, I thought. Yeah, I'm kind of a dork. But I like Rilke and I don’t watch TV so that’s the kind of stuff that rattles around in my craw.
The whole poem, in my favorite (and arguably, most depression-inducing) translation, is here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Three Years On

I realized while dawdling down the highway this morning that the third anniversary of our flight to the hills is upon us in two weeks. I got reflective. What have I learned since I left behind the convenience of the "Main Line" for the Glorious Northern Tier?
A lot, my friends, a lot.
I wasn’t a privileged girl, but I lived close enough to privileged people that I got a little bit of their snobbery on me. When I came up here, everything was cute, quaint, primitive, or OMG worthy. (Archival evidence here and here.) I talked too fast, drove too fast, and kept having to translate everything in my mind, though instead of English to Spanish it was What I Had Available Before to Where The Heck I Get It Now That The Mall Is 60 Miles Away.
I’ve chilled out a bit. This was facilitated not only by time but by a job loss that resulted in a readjustment of my income and my attitude. (One went down, one went up.)
Things I’ve learned after three years:


What a brush hog is.

That 'drivin' it like ya stole it' has to do with speed, not larceny.

How to correctly pronounce Jonsered and Husqvarna.

How to ride a six wheeler (though it was a mildly traumatic and majorly hilarious experience and I doubt my fellow firefighters will let me do it again anytime soon)
That bears can and will do this:










(PS- I have one just like that— and it’s a wrought iron pole.)



That misery may love company, but poverty likes it okay too. Something about having lots of friends that also have no money makes you feel less like the world will end at any moment because you don’t have any.



That its never too late to do something you’ve never done before,

and

Its never too late to get the brothers you always wanted.

Arnot Building Supply Fire, Mansfield, PA July 10, 2007.


Jeremy Raymond Memorial Softball Tournament. Department 1 Team. (The girl is someone's daughter and our ringer. Without her, it would have been an embarassing day. You rock, Kash.)



I have also learned that for every desolate, snow scoured, cold and gray day that makes you wonder why you moved here, there is a day like this:

Or this:
And all is forgiven.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Weekly Curiosities


I believe I shall start something new.



I can't give it a name with any sort of alliteration, mostly because I can't guarantee that it'll always happen on the same day. Or that I'll be in the office on the same day every week. When I'm not in, this is my workspace:
That stretch of highway excitement is I-81 southbound. And despite this promising sign:
I can assure you there are no margaritas, white sand beaches, or overpriced parasailing opportunities to be found off that exit.

On my way to my work task, I stopped for a wee at a mini mart, and when I pulled out, I saw this.




Yes, that would be located alongside the 'It Pays to Enrich Your Word Power' marina. Though I realized this morning as I was cleaning the cat box (you'd be surprised how many feats of mental agility are performed over a scoop of poop) that I was confusing the word above with this word. Perhaps I should have lingered a bit longer over the Reader's Digest myself.

With a tip of the hat to Carmen Sandiego, I will publicly laud the first person who knows where I was yesterday. (I'll take a town name within, say, 26 miles of my actual destination. Since there's pretty much nothing but boat storage, customs clearance warehouses (hint) and signs like this in-between.)

The picture I didn't get:

I was driving through Onondaga Nation Territory and I found The actual Vortex. The source of that elevator rendition of 'When Doves Cry' that haunts your dreams. Yes, the Muzak office. I was in traffic on the wrong side of the road and couldn't get a picture. But now you know; people are working somewhere, making that music. For you. On purpose.

Friday, October 03, 2008

And that's all I have to say about that.....


I really, really miss the days when this was the only Maverick in my world. *

Also, evidence I may be a bigger pen geek than Himself: While watching the debate last night, Joe Biden held up a pen, which I immediately recognized to be one of these. And yes, I did say to myself, 'Hey! That's a blue Uniball Vision! I love those!'
*I also miss the days when Tom Cruise wasn't a crazy bastard.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Blogger's Block

Jeez.



My thoughts aren't very organized lately. Not sure why. Maybe the change of seasons has me off-track. Maybe its the election, the disruption of my exercise schedule, this new laundry detergent. I mean, I had a couple of days there where it was five or six hours past when I was supposed to take medication that is supposed to be taken IN THE MORNING (caps on the instructions) and preferably at the same time every day. I woke up from a dream this morning wherein I was back in college, although not exactly, though with friends from college, feeling this vague ennui coupled with a fear that I didn't actually graduate, but wait, they gave me that diploma, did I have enough credits? Were they humoring me? This morphed quickly into some sort of Bollywood film that I was both watching and participating in, and then They (not the Indians, another more sinister 'They..not that Indians are sinister, more that the first They were not sinister and the second They were. Oh, you know what I mean.) were after me because I was One of Them (too much 'Heroes', I guess) but they couldn't tell if I was Good or Bad.


Take your meds as prescribed, people.



Fleeting bits of humor drift through my transom while I'm driving, but nothing cohesive. After several weeks of bland customers, almost boring in their uniformity of wealth, I had a customer who had carpeted his driveway (indoor/outdoor, burgundy, very tasteful) and whose house was full of neo-classical Greek statuary but he and his sons (twins; 42-ish, still and always living at home) were so sweet and kind I couldn't spin a catalogue of weirdness out of it, try as I might. We talked about everything (over mugs of grape juice) from his wife's flea marketing habits to Alexander the Great to a fatal electrocution they witnessed 20 yards from their house. They sent me home with gifts; two large pink plastic hair clips and a framed print of The Last Supper, which I promised to hang. (And will hang, in my kitchen, with apologies to Himself, your parents have had the same giant portrait of a deer in their living room for 30 years. You can adapt.)


I took a couple of extra duty sections this week, I'm ten calls away from 100 in a year and grabbing a weekend here and there frequently enables you to practice skills that are not called upon on Wednesday nights. But I guess I need to back up.

It has come up now and again, in passing, in the comments section of other people's blogs, that I am a firefighter and an EMT. I have never talked about it much, in fact, I set up a separate blog for it, because about 95% of the time, stuff that happens is not funny. And this is a humor blog, si? Okay, once in a while it is funny. Drunk people (not the dead kind) are funny. Sometimes, crazy people (not the dangerous kind) are funny, but even that is treading on shaky ground. For every person who'd get a chuckle out of my responding to a full-blown psychiatric emergency on 'Dickens of a Christmas' festival day, all decked out in my best imitation Mrs Cratchit complete with elaborate Victorian hairdo, and no doubt heartily contributing to said patient's psychiatric emergency, there is someone who has been there, has coaxed a bug-eyed relative out of the barricade fashioned out of dining room furniture, full of the same assurances we had, that the neighbors are not trying to poison her because they secretly hate retired math teachers. So I'm basically left with the first time I ever responded to a fire call, wherein I fell over and banged my head on a forty year old engine parked across from my locker while trying to get into my boots, and got left behind in the empty garage littered with hastily cast off sneakers and workboots, lone witness to some sort of municipal rapture.

There is a unique brand of juvenile hilarity that one participates in, doing this job. A bystander, likely a pinched-up one who doesn't laugh at much, might call it immature. A rough game of king of the hill played on the snow piled at the corner, across from the firehouse, the guys looking like overgrown children, cigarettes dangling as they tumble down, laughing and swearing. Practical jokes where carelessly parked bicycles are lashed to chains, winched into the rafters, where they dangle over the head of the clueless owner who is endlessly talking, not seeing. "Shit, that was funny. Remember the time....." and the story is told. We need this. The same guy who does a maneuver he calls 'Fat Guy Freestyle'-- a crazily awkward but surprisingly high side-vault with a clicking of the heels off the end of a stretcher, a railing, with points given for a flash of buttcrack, can also tell you about the patient so badly tangled in a wrecked car it took an hour and a half to extricate her, mostly intact, her broken legs folded up over her shoulders. Half an hour of wisecracking in a circle in the garage might seem like a waste of time, but we need it. Then I can go home and do The Ritual.

Its simple; dead patient, gotta wash my jacket. The death doesn't have to be messy. It doesn't have to Get On Me. But if it happens; if there is talk of lividity, that low, animal wail from the living room when the relatives are given the 'Nothing More We Can Do' speech, the turning off of monitors, phone calls to county for the cadre of cleaners-up, I know I'm going to do it. I go home, peel off all the layers, clean out my pockets, zip it up, and throw it in the wash. There is an element of relief, of 'There, that's over'. It comes out of the dryer soft, its navy surface uniformly dark and reassuring. All is reset to zero, the good zero, the 'time to try again' zero, not the 'asystole on two leads/no response/ 1-1-1 on the Glasgow scale' kind of zero.

Suicides kind of mess up my schedule. I want to write about how nice the leaves are, with pictures. I want to muse on why I keep inadvertently running over squirrels. I toy with sly and amusing political humor, ultimately rejecting it in favor of keeping things non-partisan here in my little corner of the northern outpost. But Saturday morning at 2:35am I knew it was going to be another jacket washing day and I was right. I'll write about it later. (On the other blog, where the dark and heavy stuff usually goes when my boundaries aren't all blurry like they are today.)

Just this, and I'll leave you with it. You are out in the world, wherever you happen to be, surrounded by people who are fragile as crystal and carrying heavy burdens. Be kind to them.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Possible Evidence I May Need to Up My Dosage

I just re-read this email I sent to a friend in response to her confirming plans for a weekend away over Columbus Day 2009. I'm not sure if the caffiene or the pharmaceuticals are to blame.

And its a time of year when I shouldn't have any trouble taking vacation
days, so even though it isn't a real holiday I can still take off. (I mean, a
real holiday where we get off. Though really, its not a real holiday. Because
who gives a damn about Christopher Columbus and his discovery of someplace
other than here that he found by accident when he was looking for something else
and thought he was there anyway for a minute because his navigational equipment
sucked but then people didn't look Indian at least not the way he expected
but he figured, hell, there's good crap I can steal here anyway. Except maybe
the Italians. They care. Not sure why. I guess they didn't get a cool saint to
have a drunken holiday over like we did. I mean, they have the saints. But none
of them inspire binge drinking and public urination. Thirteen year old martyred
virgins are kind of a parade-downer.)

Thoughts?

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Day After

I have been running this week and not in the office much, today I spent my lunch hour hunched over a bowl of ramen and a magazine wishing away a sinus headache, with lots of bloggy-bits whirling around my head, nothing cohesive. I wanted to write a 9/11 post, in fact, I composed one in my head, and all the images of that day so overwhelmed me that I never got it written.

Every time I go to tell the story it starts out "I remember that it was a perfect day". Perfect, blue sky, no clouds, perfect temperature. After the stunned silence of the workday (I only got one phone call all day, from a woman in Japan who hadn't heard what happened yet.) I drove home, peering up at the perfect, empty sky. I absentmindedly missed my turn home and pulled into a convenience store for a drink and a pack of gum. The clerk at the counter looked at me and said, "Are you all right?" I knew what she meant. I just didn't know the answer.

Himself was at a school board meeting, which was held despite the events of the day. I sat transfixed watching CNN until I couldn't do it anymore. My grandmother called. "Just checking on all of my chicks," she said. After that I left the house, no destination in mind, just the desire not to be alone. I went to church even though evening Mass was over an hour before. When I yanked open the doors, the place was packed. A priest was walking up and down the center aisle, reading the Bible, flipping the pages, reading what came to him, comforting who could be comforted. I sat and cried with strangers.

We've all had those losses where, at least in your own world, time stops and you wonder how everyone else can just go on when someone you loved is gone. Only we all stopped. I remember wondering when it would be okay to laugh again.

On September 14th I went to Red Bank, New Jersey to visit a friend. As I drove up the Garden State Parkway the sky glowed purple as the sun went down. I thought of the brilliant sunsets that follow a volcanic eruption. In Red Bank, the sidewalk was lined with candles, flowers, and pictures. Some of the pictures had 'MISSING' written with black marker across the top, cell phone numbers. People stood hugging their own arms, in silence. For once, the question 'Who is my neighbor?' had an obvious answer. The next morning my friend Ann said,"I hope you don't think its morbid, but I just have to look." We drove out that cloudless Saturday to Atlantic Highlands and joined the others that had gathered silently on the pier, squinting through binoculars at the cranes that moved rubble, searching. Smoke still rose from the gray chaos. In church on Sunday in Middletown (a town that lost some thirty people) the pastor asked everyone who was returning to Manhattan for the first time the nextmorning to stand up. There were people standing in every pew. We prayed for them.

We've had a lot of time to attach all kinds of meaning to what happened, and what that day showed we were made of. But sometimes I wish we could hold on to those precious hours where it wasn't about politics or flags or defiance, but the realization that no matter our color or heritage or economics, we were one family who lost, one family who hurt, one family who loved, and one family who reached out and, for a little while, beautifully, held each other up.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

One More Step Toward Bleak Midwinter

sigh.

Summer's over. I know we will probably have a few more weeks of summerlike niceness, but when the months end in 'ber', for me, the summer is over. I took a break from the computer this weekend to try to suck up as much blue sky and fresh air as I could hold, in some vain hope that when I get to that dead gray middle of February when I want to run screaming through town wearing a flannel nightgown and slippers brandishing a tire iron, I can reach down inside and clothe myself in sanity-preserving sunshine and daisies.

So I signed up to sell raffle tickets. Our fire department is selling tickets for a chance to win either a 4-wheeler or a Harley, (winner's choice), and we set up a table in the middle of town to catch some of the weekend visitors. I had grossly underestimated the entertainment value of sitting in a folding chair on a streetcorner in my town. I recommend it, if you ever get the chance.

Not my town, though. Do it in yours.

Some observations:

If I am sitting at a card table, wearing a t-shirt that indicates my membership in the fire department of the town we happen to be in, please believe there is an excellent chance I LIVE HERE and that I would not mislead you regarding the parking meters. I'm not telling you that you don't have to put change in them on a holiday just to mess with you. So stop scrambling through your car looking for dimes. No, really. Stop.

The exact time the leaves will change is not SCHEDULED. It sort of happens, based on a variety of environmental factors. I can't really tell you when it will happen. Its like a nature thing.

Two big motorcycles came up the avenue and swung at an angle into a parking space together. The riders got off, took off jackets and helmets and they were GRANDMAS. Grandmas with big purses and orthopedic sneakers who strolled off down the sidewalk, shopping. Awesome.

Apparently, if you live in New Jersey you are issued at least four 4-wheelers. Every single one has a teeny license plate. Having lived in an area where the police have to keep order in the DMV because its so frustrating and crowded, I realize that must suck. Thanks for coming.

A man came out of the shoe store and asked if he could sit on the 4-wheeler. "Sure, " I said. He gracefully swung a leg over the seat and sat there for several minutes, his hands on the handlebars, gazing at a point far down the sidewalk. I expected him to start making engine noises, but he said nothing. After a few more minutes, he got up without a word and went back in the store. His wife came out and explained that he was buying a new pair of motorcycle boots and wanted to see how they felt on the footrests. He had an accident a year ago, and broke both legs. "Its a year next week....I guess he's getting back on," she said, looking both proud of him and slightly afraid.

The last hour or so was a bit dull; tiny dogs, RVs, a giant truckload of string beans, a few people complaining that none of the restaurants were open. Now I'm back, surveying giant houses that smell like a new deck of cards and navigating the ocean of paperwork that is my weekday life.
I leave you with this for your pseudo-Monday:


PS- The 'Flight of the Conchords' video is dedicated to whoever in Auckland, New Zealand was reading my blog this weekend. Howdy to my Brisbane, Australia visitor too! Feel free to give us a shout when you visit!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Love Guns and Donut Runs

Its a beautiful day in the neighborhood....I left at 6am for an early appointment down toward Scranton.

I don't know what's wrong with me lately; either menopause is firing a warning shot across my forgetful bow, or its the medication. All I know is, I have to take great pains to remember things anymore. I made dinner plans with a friend a few weeks ago and completely forgot until the day after. Not only did I stand her up; I ended up forgoing a fabulous meal in exchange for a grilled cheese sandwich I made on bread heels and flipped with a spoon because all the spatulas were dirty. Then I went to bed at 10, counting the greatest pleasure of my evening as the moment when I got to take my contacts out and my bra off. Last week I agreed to meet someone to lend them something and forgot almost as soon as I said it; when the day came I took a nap instead and didn't show up.

I've fallen back in love with my Palm pilot; when I have to bug out early like I did today I set an alarm with a reminder that pops up on the screen to make sure I have everything I need when I go. This morning's list:

  1. Sandals
  2. Ambulance shirt
  3. Pager
  4. "Triumph of Caesar"
  5. Phone

My phone was charging quietly in the corner of my bedroom; in terrible danger of being left behind. The shirt and pager are for later when I'm on duty, the sandals are my house shoes and I needed them because I was doing a survey in a Japanese home. I had a tantalizingly small number of pages left to read in 'Triumph of Caesar" and its on interlibrary loan with NO RENEWAL so I needed to knock it out. I managed to remember all of those things and actually put them in a bag rather than running out the door with them crammed in a messy armload like an inefficient burglar. I even made myself a cup of coffee to take.

Route 6 East seems to be a never ending source of amusement. Very near the spot where Cow Pie Bingo was advertised a few weeks ago, a gaily painted yellow sign announced upcoming Lawnmower Races. (Someone needs to build these people a YMCA.) I got as far as Tunkhannock and decided two things: one, that it was time to return my coffee, and two, the weird waking dreams and vague delusions I was having while driving meant I needed a 10 minute power nap. I turned toward the Dunkin Donuts/Minimart/gas station combo and waited for oncoming traffic to clear so I could scope out a nap-worthy parking spot in the back. Pulling out of the DD lot was a local policeman. I looked at the four cars in front of me and made a bet with myself; that not one of them would pause and wave him out. None of them did. Passive aggressive much? I stopped, gave him the 'invitation hand', and he pulled out with a thank-you wave and was on his way. My little contribution to police karma in exchange for mercy shown me by the City of Corning. (From 54 in a 30 to 'Failure to Obey a Traffic Signal'. Thank YOU, Lt. Allard. I'd be happy to plead guilty and I may bake you cookies at Christmas.)

My customers were very pleasant and I was shortly on my way to enjoy the drive back. Some random observations/things that made me wish I had my camera:

  • In front of a cute little cottage: a mailbox painted Williamsburg blue with a pistol neatly stenciled on the side. Coming out of the stenciled pistol: little stenciled hearts.
  • I'm not up on current hitchhiking etiquette, but I'm pretty sure that guy on 6 East would fare better if he was actually wearing a shirt. Godspeed, tanned guy with a duffel bag.
  • Why do companies around here seem to send the dimmest employees outside with the box of letters? The Wysox Comfort Inn offers 'Long Term Houseing'....the sad part is, it used to be spelled correctly, and someone un-corrected it. My beloved vet's office has Frontline and Advantage 'no perscription necessary'.
  • Not misspelled, but bewildering, in front of our local florist shop: 'Educate Your Children With Flowers'.

Now the befrigged bullet point thing is giving me fits. I think I need more coffee.

Please go vote for me on Humor Blogs before you forget.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Why I Love My Husband

Me: I met this really cool nun once, on a train.

Himself: Did you exchange murders?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

County Fair

I know I usually keep to a certain chronological order in my Dispatches, but last week was such a rollover with entrapment that things got all jumbled up as I ran from event to event with clothes to change into shoved in my eco-friendly grocery bag with a paperback and some sunscreen.

So I'm a little mixed up.

Last week was the Tioga County Fair. Having learned my lesson last year, I steadfastly refused to sign up for ambulance standby for the rodeo, since one year of diving sideways to keep bull poop out of your french fries and arguing with a 90 pound cowboy who got stomped on by 1,800 pounds of angry beef that he should really go to the hospital, but he ain't, 'cause he has to be in South Carolina in the morning and he ain't got no insurance anyhow and you can't make him and then spending an hour cleaning the mud that the driving rain brought into the ambulance while you stood there getting soaked for no good reason as all his buddies tried valiantly to explain 'Hey-ow we AY-re and it ain't personal' is really one year more than anyone needs in a lifetime.

So naturally, I signed up for the monster truck show and the truck demolition derby and the figure 8 race. Because the potential for messy and potentially dangerous situations was a lot smaller there.

More to the point, no poop.

Before I get to all that though, I need to talk about the guy above. I want to talk about him first because much of this post will engage in gentle mockery of humans I'd lovingly classify as 'yokeltards' and I in no way wish to imply that Big Tiny is mockery material. Because Big Tiny is awesome.

He's been at our county fair for all of the three years I've been here, and he can play any song you can name. He's a great singer, his repertoire is vast, and he has a bitchin' synthesizer. I stumped him, though, by requesting this song.



He could play it, make no mistake, he just couldn't remember the words. So like any self-respecting fan with this song on my iPod, I got it out of my purse, popped in my headphones, sat down on the steps of the ambulance, flipped over a Patient Refusal of Treatment form, and wrote out the lyrics for him. By hand. I didn't get to hear him sing it, but I have to believe that I added a bit of additional musical enjoyment to the Big Tiny Young Show for the countless other Statler Brothers fans that will cross his path. Godspeed, Tiny.

At one point during the fair I started to worry that I would forget some of the things I witnessed. So I got out a pen and a little notebook and started to write things down. Some highlights:


Man on cellphone in the 4H tent: "Yes, yes! I see them! I'm standing in front of them right now! What? Well, yeah. Yours are bigger but hers are yellower. Like how much? I don't know. Yellow, like, 20% yellower. Well, just come down here and see them your damnself then. I don't know what to tell you." (Apparently the squash competition is ruthless.)

Woman in giant black pants with chains all over them, with dyed black hair, a trucker hat, and a black t-shirt and a lip full of metal, who was explaining loudly to a friend that she was going to kick someone's ass because they were staring at her.

Young woman in yellow dress, black fishnet stockings, and yellow shoes who was not part of any organized dance troupe or other street performance that I could see.

Large woman in an ill-fitting brown and white t-shirt that declared her a 'World Class Farter'.

Lots of boys with faux-hawks. Same boys trailing a vapor cloud of Axe which almost but not quite covered the faint odor of animal dung, various on their shoes. I suspect these boys were allowed to come to the fair "if and when" they got their chores done, and said chores were accomplished in record time and they moussed and sprayed themselves and headed out.

The elusive HFG, or Hot Farmer Guy. I caught a glimpse of exactly two. Tan, tiny waist, huge shoulders from lifting hay bales or whatever HFG's do all day, hat that isn't an ironic fashion statement because they gave it to him with his keys when he bought the tractor. Sunglasses. Boots. The other one, later in the evening, was wearing immaculate jeans and cowboy boots and a black cowboy hat and he was ROCKING the outfit. Bless your hearts, gentlemen. Please keep all your teeth.

Walking around, I had two epiphanies.

Revelation one: I really don't want to be that intimately acquainted with my milk. I LOVE milk. I love cheese, I love sour cream, I love all things with either the words cream or cheese in the name (except cottage cheese, which reminds me of baby sick) BUT I don't need to sit at a picnic table eating onion rings and watch the milk COME OUT OF THE TEATS into the hose that goes to the milkhouse, with the veins and the noise and the whatnot. I like my fish in sticks, my lobster bisqued, and I just want to scoop up that white plastic container that costs about the same as a gallon of gas, put it in my cart, and not think about it.

Revelation two: I'm afraid of large farm animals. Yes, afraid. Every year I force myself to walk through the beef barn at the fair, forcing myself to deal with the anxious breathing thousands of pounds of insensate potential crushing death placed shoulder to shoulder with strangers and small children prone to making sharp loud noises milling around behind them causes me. What keeps them in that little aisle? What keeps them from killing us all? Worse yet, I strolled through there with the taste of a recently enjoyed roast beef sandwich still in my mouth. It was the most intense whore in church feeling I've ever experienced.

The evening passed uneventfully, with the obligatory allergic reaction (kudos to the wise parents who allowed a kid who was allergic to horses PET THE HORSES, the gene pool clearly has a rip in the liner) and no serious injuries, though I had to throw my funnel cake on the dashboard of the ambulance and run across the dirt track to see to the monster truck that rolled over. Nothing ever happens on the track close to where we are parked, ever, and it was a delightful flashback to gym class to haul my considerable mass over a deeply rutted and potentially ankle-rolling expanse of mud in front of a grandstand crowd only to have the guy self-extricate and give everyone the Nixon-fingers to clapping and cheers. The only truly hair-raising moment was using the port-a-potty at the edge of the track while the demo derby was going on. As I hastily concluded negotiations inside I scanned the walls for something I could hang onto in the unlikely event that my comfort station might be rolling down the hill behind an '89 Astro with no brakes and 'BOB'S AUTO PARTS' spraypainted on the side.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Downstate

Aw yeah. I was there.







A family contacted us because they decided to escape the rigors of city life and flee for the hills, much like we did. They are voluntarily moving to a small down near here that would ordinarily figure in a hilarious story told by flatlanders that included the phrases "and then we got LOST" and "I never thought we'd get home again". Since I'm the token flatlander here, and could spend the weekend visiting my homiez (Holla back, Chester County!) I went down.


I drive a lot. I can pretty much drive anywhere without flinching. But I was kind of nervous about the parking. I'm no world champion of parallel parking and a 1999 Dodge Caravan is not exactly a 'pop it in the spot' kind of vehicle.


First, I left sevenish and headed down to the Wilkes Barre area to drop off a couple of boxes to a customer. A last minute bid to avoid route 81 in all its hellish orange coney-ness was a good call and I found my destination with no problems. I reset my GPS for Philadelphia and headed on down.


I merge neatly onto 76 from the Northeast Extension and actually pump my fist and say aloud, "Schuylkill Expressway, y'all!" Which just goes to show you what a loser I am. Then I hang my arm out the window and drive all casual like, as if I do this all the time and really, it's no big whoop. I go through the city. The Walt Whitman bridge looms in the distance. I am almost there. I get off 76 and the fun starts.


Apparently, the time between the light turning green and someone honking at you on Oregon Avenue is .00002 seconds. I get honked at. I'm all like, "Whatever!" but notice I am hunched over the steering wheel. I straighten up and try to breathe normally. I turn onto 7th street and realize that my mental image of how narrow the streets are didn't take into consideration that I might have a guy on a bike riding no handed toward me on a one way street with cars parked on both sides talking on a cellphone. He taps my sideview mirror with his hand as he passes and never touches his handlebars.


I straighten up and try to breathe normally.



One more turn and and I'm at an intersection of, oh, six streets, I think. I expect to look between two buildings and see Diagon Alley. The GPS tells me to 'bear right' authoritatively and I wonder if she means 'bear right into the rear end of this van with a handwritten license plate' or 'bear right into the front window of this Vietnamese grocery'.



I straighten up and try to breathe normally.

Two more blocks and I see the house I am shooting for. Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, there are THREE PARKING SPOTS directly in front of the house. I do a ridiculously selfish park job that guarantees I'll be able to pull right out. Yeah, I know. I won't be there long anyway.



Work done, its time to flee. I Tom Tom my way back to I-95, salute the Wachovia Center or whatever its called now, and reflect on what a driving rock star I am as I fly past the shipyard, the airport, and through Chester.



Shore traffic diverts me to the north but eventually, after seething through a construction zone or three, I arrive here. The jewel of the Diamond State.


Ah, Wilmington. From your glistening industrial parks to your shimmering port you inspire me. Go Blue Rocks! Alas, I never got to visit the screen door factory. I just stopped off in Greenville to grab a whiff of old money and baseless entitlement. And coffee.


After a visit with my sister and nephew I headed down to my old hometown. I couldn't find any pictures to do it justice, you'll have to settle for a snap of D-town's badass rescue truck.





I had a great time visiting my friends, most of whom I met here. I reflected on how many more of my stories involve monster trucks and funnel cake these days, and how that is okay with me, though I still miss them an awful lot. I never got a cheesesteak but I got two things I can't get here: decent Mexican food and an all you can eat Japanese buffet.


The drive home was uneventful, though I saw tons of people on the side of the road in lawn chairs on Route 15. Apparently it is customary to sit outside and wait for your favorite NASCAR driver to happen by on the way down from Watkins Glen. Mind you, Kasey Kahne isn't going to be wandering into the Sheetz in Shamokin Dam for a LifeWater and a package of Oreos. But if you sit there long enough, you may catch a glimpse of the truck with his car in it. Which is apparently enough of a thrill for the hundred or so people out there in lawn chairs with handmade signs. Bewlidering, though, were the large groups of Amish kids. Not sure where they are getting their Talladega.

I know this is all out of order and whatnot, but I'll have to tell you about the county fair last week. It was a veritable feast of hilariously judgemental peoplewatching.




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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Country Piccata

I had originally titled this post "In which I am beset by grubby mongrel children" but it just seemed mean.

I only had one appointment today, this morning. I went, I followed the directions. I hit my trip odometer so I'd know when to start looking for the house, because they had one of those funky RR Box whatever addresses and up in the yonders no one bothers to put their address on their mailbox. I guess if someone in your family is ill you either throw them in the back of the honey wagon and take them to town or shoot them and toss them on top of the silage with the tires since an ambulance finding you is right out.

Look, I live in the country. I'm all down with that. I know there is no mall, and no traffic lights, and I have to pass farm machinery, and people have cows and whatnot. Three years of this I've had. I get it. This was a whole 'nother level.

First, the town. I couldn't find it on account of it used to be on the main drag and since they dragged the main drag over half a mile, the town now sits below the level of the road, a Valley That Time Forgot. I had to turn around once but got on the right track, found the landmarks, turned onto the dirt road 'between the two churches'.

A more accurate landmark would have been "Drive toward the smell."

There are five houses on this road. Five houses and ten veal barns. I'll spare you the PETA line, you can Google 'how veal is raised' all on your own and be grossed out on your own time. Suffice it to say it was a latrine on the nature trail to hell times a thousand. Nestled right up alongside one of these delightful barns was the house I was looking for. I drove past it twice, noting the two tons of random crap levered against the front porch hoping it was not the house I was looking for. The same group of people who gave me the stinkeye on the way past the first two times SET A DOG LOOSE the third time when I finally pulled in. It was a lab, a rather determined looking one, and I carefully observed its body language to determine whether I needed to reach down and pet it or put its head into its neck with my foot. There was wagging. The dog didn't, contrary to my original assumption, want to sink its teeth into my face.

A woman squatting on a plastic lawn chair that was on its way to the density of a dwarf star under her considerable bulk waved and yelled sort of half-heartedly and called off the dog. I waded into a sea of children, cats, other dogs, plastic yard toys, and more cats. One or two of the older kids helpfully hammerlocked the smaller ones to keep them from following me inside.

I wouldn't say this house was dirty. That wasn't the problem, though I'd say its been a good 12 years since some of the windows have been open and the 'remodel' of the farmhouse the woman mentioned wanting to do would involve the rental of no less than five twenty- foot rolloff containers and a team of five in each room working all day for two weeks solid just to strip it to God-knows-what. Imagine, if you will, going to about 100 estate sales and buying every single nick-nack, teapot, piece of china, and age-darkened print of a woodland scene or cavorting angels in a gaudy frame and shoving all of that stuff into one house. China figurines stood shoulder to shoulder on the buffet. Rugs that began to surrender their original color midway through the Nixon administration adorned every room. And every open space that didn't have angels clustered together like they were waiting for an airport shuttle was occupied by a sleeping cat. I looked in all the rooms, and it took some clever interview skills to discern what was and was not going and even now I'm not completely sure. On the way out I got to see the dog that 'greeted' me nursing a litter of a dozen puppies. I managed to have my sneezing fit after I rounded the corner on my way back to the highway.

And this week has only begun to yield its treasures. We take to the road for an adventure in Philadelphia on Friday, where your faithful Dispatcher finds out if she still remembers how to drive with extreme hostility and malice aforethought. Or how to parallel park.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Some Pretty for your Day

I just had the most blissed out lunch, peoples.

It had nothing to do with my two cheese dogs made with leftover hot dogs and leftover picnic cheese on two whole wheat bread heels. Nor the fact that I took a break from the pile of invoices and spreadsheets or whatever in tarnation it is I'm supposed to be doing today.

Its because I sat under a large tree by a pond watching dragonflies buzz the surface of the water and bees gently touching flower after flower, listening to this.


Just had to share. I'll post a picture of my happy place, which is onsite where I work, as soon as I get my camera back from Himself, who used it this weekend to take incriminating photos in his parents house.

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Cat Who Broke Jesus

I was getting ready for work this morning when I heard 'gink-gonk'.


I looked around: I was nowhere near the bathroom scale, and Himself was asleep.


Gink-gonk is the noise my scale makes when you 'wake it up'....you have to gink-gonk it, wait for 000.0 to come up, then step on up and decide whether you will drive to work humming songs from Disney movies, or clutching the steering wheel trying to figure out how to do 45 minutes of exercise in 30 minutes every morning before work and still knock together some carrot stick and bean sprout sandwiches that you'll enjoy while walking uphill doing kegels and listening to Dr. Andrew Weil banging on about 'Conscious Eating' on your iPod.


I looked down, and the cat was sitting on the scale, looking at me. I moved his tail to try and see what he weighed, and realized it was pointless because his front legs were on the floor and he was cheating. (He didn't learn that from me, I swear. ) So I started to wonder. What does he weigh, anyway?


Last weekend, after all, he broke Jesus.


We live in the mountains, and sometimes radio reception is sketchy. Yes, we have XM. But sometimes we listen to free radio because that's where Car Talk is. Himself will maximize our Click and Clack by draping the long, flexible antenna across the kitchen door, securing it to what's handy. In this case, the fancy sick-call crucifix we got as a wedding gift. (Its sort of an Inspector-Gadget crucifix that opens up and has candles and whatnot inside it so you can rig up a bedside altar if you are, you know, dying at home. Cause nothing says 'congratulations on your special day' quite like a reminder that every day you are shuffling ever nearer to the gaping maw of death.)

Seamus has spent several months (since Palm Sunday, to be exact) trying to pull the dessicated palm fronds off the crucifix. He'll jump against the wall over and over like a brain damaged kangaroo despite the fact that they are simply too high for him to reach. On Saturday, I heard the ka-thunk ka-thunk ka-thunk of his jumping and opened the bathroom door to see what he was up to. He was trying to grab the bottom of the antenna, which was draped around Jesus' shoulders and hung just low enough. This is what happened. (I borrowed this photo from Himself, who used it in a different context.)



Yep, he pulled it down and Jesus came off. So I have to find some hardware in my toolbox that will fit the holes in his hands and nail him back on there, because it seems really wrong to hotglue Jesus to the cross.

Where was I going with this? Oh. So I wondered....what DOES Seamus weigh? I gink-gonked the scale, got on it myself (no Disney, but no regrets either), then picked him up and got on it again.

He weighs almost EIGHTEEN POUNDS. I guess its time to cut back on the kitty crack.


Here's where all the fat cats meet, daddy-o.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Itinerant Hippies and Scatological Games of Chance

Travel day.

I had, oh, six minutes' notice that I had to run to the Scranton area for two appointments today, which was fine, but I left without my sunglasses or the rest of my coffee or a trip to the potty and I was all out of sorts. My GPS was convinced the development didn't exist and I did a little driving around on gravel backroads in the woods, followed by the airless sun-baked stretch of hell known as Route 81 South, under construction.

When you travel a lot like I do, there are certain things you just have to deal with. One of them is public bathrooms. There is no avoiding public bathrooms when you are on the road for eight hours at a time. This is not a job for the dainty 'ew, I can only poo at home' set. One becomes discerning, one knows where the cleanest ones are. Other times, you 'make do'.

We were discussing this discernment the other night when I mentioned to Himself that I prefer a bathroom with multiple stalls so I can avoid turd burglars.

He had not previously heard this term.

"You should blog about this." he said. "I didn't know what that was, and I'll bet other people don't know either." I sensed he believes I made it up. I did not.

I'm sure that some of my gentle readers know what a turd burglar is, but for the benefit of the others: its a person who knocks on the door of a public restroom, effectively disrupting the progression of events taking place therein. They are the gate agents on the flight to your happy place. And they are not boarding your row.

Sometimes I ignore them, particularly if they knock so soon after I've locked the door that it was obvious they were right behind me and saw me go in. If you are that desperate use the men's room. Women with a small child in tow knock like they are trying to get into the tornado cellar minutes before touchdown. Nothing ups the ante of public restroom entitlement quite like a child who HAS TO GO. Just in case you, in your selfish midstream micturation, don't get the message, they usually say "NO, (insert child's name here), YOU HAVE TO WAIT. SOMEONE IS IN THERE." loudly enough to imply that if you don't get out immediately, you will be responsible for their having to drive the rest of the way home with a pee soaked four year old. Sorry, ma'am. The sooner they learn 1) that its better to say something before they reach critical volume and 2) their days of instant gratification are numbered, they'll be better people. Anyway, I'm in here.

Here's a picture I wish I'd taken this morning-- Wyalusing, PA: a man is shambling up the sidewalk with waist length filthblond braids, a gnome-y beard, a jaunty purple hat with feathers, and an outfit that looks like it might have been left behind in the mud at Woodstock. Hours later when I drive through town I see a red scooter bedecked with all sorts of flags and signs and a satchel to match the outfit and conclude that it can only belong to him. A few yards up the street I see him again, and this time I notice he is also draped with a cord that has about eight little brass horns tied to it. He waves as I drive by.

Just outside of Factoryville, PA I discover that I missed out on the social event of the summer a mere 11 days ago. A large black and yellow tow-behind highway sign, the kind that usually says things like ROAD WORK AHEAD and EXPECT DELAYS bears this message:

COW PIE BINGO
7/19

Several questions.

1) What is it?
2)Why is the sign still up?
3) Just, why?


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