Monday, December 22, 2008

Resolution time

As I futzed around the apartment this evening, I began the useless tradition of listing resolutions for 2009. Good or bad, I like to have something to look forward to. This year I decided to list out things I can reasonably accomplish. No absolute numbers ("I'm going to lose 25 pounds." Yeah sure.), no b.s. So here's what I'm considering in the last two weeks of the crummy year that was 2008.
  1. Drink more.
  2. Drink with artists.
  3. Wear cuter underwear.
  4. Read the books on my shelves.
  5. Get regular haircuts.
  6. Less TV.
  7. Put pen to paper, fingers to keys.
  8. Read 1-2 books/month
  9. Develop an ass.
  10. Take care of cuticles.
  11. Make one new, decent friend.
  12. Don't take things personally.
  13. Finish family tree.
  14. Use gym membership--or save the damn monthly payment.
  15. Sweep more . . .
  16. . . . and sleep more.
  17. Get passport in case I need to make a quick getaway.
  18. Explore a new state.
  19. Take chances.
  20. Swing hips.
  21. Less thought, more action.
  22. Be a woman--hot, fiesty, confident.
  23. Be unbearably, intolerably selfish.
  24. Make it work, or move.

Monday, November 17, 2008

How yous doin?

I can finally cross off one thing that has been on my New Year's resolution list for several years running. No, silly, I didn't lose weight. I saw New York City.

My initial thought from the window seat on the Fung Wah bus: It's massive. No kidding. By comparison, Boston is a cute neighborhood. Boston has about 500,000 people. Chicago has 3 million people. New York City has a whopping 8 million people. Holy crap.

NYC is so infused into American culture (movies, TV, music, photography). So going for the first time gave me the same giddy feeling as listening to the Quebecois speak French. It's real. Terrifically real.

Over the years, well-meaning friends have offered to be my guide to NYC. And as I begin to get excited, their voices become dreamy and I hear the words "theatre," "modern art," and "Cats." I instantly chill and think fuggetaboutit. I don't want to be a tourist in that sense. I don't want to wave a sign outside the GMA studio in the freezing cold. I want to see the city. I want to work at not making eye contact with the crazy guy (actually, guys; there are many crazy guys there). I want to see the juxtaposition of glamour and poverty. I want to smell the urine in the alley . . . well, maybe not that. But you see where I'm going.

My kind friends who live in Brooklyn played tour guide and took me on a whirlwind tour. It was akin to being a prairie dog. Every time I lifted my head above ground from the subway I was tranferred to a wildly different aspect of New York. Some aspects were scarier than others. I think Times Square was the scariest experience of the weekend. There was just too much. You name it, there was too much of it. People, lights, chaos, taxis, consumerism . . . it was just too much. But now I've seen it.

But there were far more incredible moments that gave me the warm and fuzzies:

1. The guy who ran the Italian restaurant single-handedly, the inspiration for this entry's title. He was kind of like my uncle Mike. Corny and intimidating at the same time. He joked around with a four year old at one table and then stared us down when we asked for the check. I was spoken to for not being part of the clean plate club. And I began to sweat.

2. The Drop Off, a chill bar in the east village that welcomes children and dogs. Oh, and adults of drinking age too. It was the kind of bar that just feels right.

3. Standing beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. My friend was right: It's awe-inspiring. The sense of lines, scale, architecture, and history is unique.

4. Eucalyptus. The farmers' markets are intoxicating--the people watching, the smell of fresh produce, the bundles of fresh eucalyptus. That right there is enough to make me sell my car and live in a cruddy, overpriced apartment.

And the things that blow my mind in a not-so-great way:

1. Monuments and statues constructed to remind us of 9/11 and the struggles of our immigrant ancestors are not smiley photo ops. What did amuse me is that it was not solely the American tourists putting on a tacky display of smiling in front of such serious statements. Most of the folks in Battery Park clicking photos were not speaking English.

2. A liquor store that is really like walking into a glass closet. When it's your turn, you yell out what you want and point to it behind the glass. Then the little man behind the register skirts around the glassed-in corners and retrieves your choice. The transaction takes place through a 6x6-inch opening in the glass.

3. Being around so many people calls for a lot of touching. Stranger danger!

4. Who charges $18 for an omelet?! I don't care if you shave gold over the top. It's a couple eggs and some cheese. Get over yourself.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Yay, the fair!

For my entire life, my family has gone to the Deerfield Fair every September. And it's important. In fact, this year little brother came up for the fair but will not make it for the holidays. That's how dedicated we are.

And we have it down to a science. There are rules:
  1. Arrive early on day 1. The animals are perkier, the food is better, and the attitudes warmer; plus you get to skip out of work for a day.
  2. Do not eat ahead of time. When you're complaining later about a tummy ache, don't say I didn't warn you.
  3. Only buy food cooked by old people. They don't care that you're waiting; they will take their time and put love into that food. Ever buy an awesome blossom from a 16-year-old? That's a whole lot of disappointing raw onion and crummy coating.
  4. Attend with like-minded people. Because you're sharing food, you will get to try more as you work your way through the day.
The whole family is very much in sync about the food situation, but little brother and I are professionals. And mad props to his girlfriend, who is a total trouper through what some might call an ordeal. Food consumed by the group included:
  • Onion rings (big'uns)
  • Corn dogs
  • Fried pickles
  • French fries
  • Funnel cake
  • Fried dough
  • Enormous donuts
  • Lemonade
  • Coffee
  • Soda
  • Hot fudge sundae (it was the hot fudgey-est)
  • Steak and cheese sandwich
No one indulged in the hot apple crisp this year. Surprising, because the family really enjoys goading me because I once got sick after eating it and cannot look at warm apples, cinnamon, and crumb topping the same any more.

The crafts are one of my favorite things at the fair. And each year, the braided rugs, quilts, hooked rugs, and paintings are better. I look forward most to seeing the latest creation by my favorite painter, Ted Nichols. He submitted two this year. Unfortunately, I cannot find him on the Web anywhere. I would love to buy some of his work. Someday.

The quilts are great too. This log cabin village was adorable.

But the ultimate joy that I get out of the fair is being up close with the animals. My family, particularly little brother, is extremely patient while I high-five each sheep and stand in awe of the oxen. They're all such interesting creatures, and they bring me a sense of calm. I just generally enjoy animals more than people--I can accept the faults and behaviors of animals in a way that I can't for people.

So another year, another fair. Another day off the diet, and another day of laughs with some of the people closest to me. The ones who know me best and accept my faults. It's worth every minute.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Go ahead, make my bed

Why is it that when I am upset, I clean. But when happy, I exist in a comfortable state of disarray?

This afternoon, I was unhappy. And I took it out on my closet. It is now the most spectacular 8 sq ft in my apartment. The clothes are arranged by color, like a rainbowww. The shoes no longer bob in the shoe soup that was the floor of the closet. They're arranged now in clear boxes on the rack above. Even my handbags are better managed. Now I open the door every once in a while just to admire my own work. And by the front door are two bags of clothing and one of shoes for the Salvation Army.

When the closet was finished, I still hadn't gotten all the upset out of my system, so the bedroom was next. My fury led me to folding clothes and pairing up socks and trying on questionable items. Who was I? And what had I done with Kelly?!

When I came to, I was on my knees vacuuming dust off the floor molding. I was sweating and feeling . . . calm. It scared me, so I turned off the vacuum and quickly tossed it into another closet (without first wrapping the cord correctly, 'cause that's how I roll). I then took one final look at my for-the-first-time-since-I- moved-in clean bedroom. Dazed, I joined the rest of the world by sitting on the couch and watching TV for a while.

Roses in salty air

This weekend I went to Fuller Gardens in Rye, NH. It's a beautiful rose garden on an old estate virtually across the street from the ocean. The weather was perfect, and the mix of rose scent and salty air was girlishly intoxicating.

The rain we've received this summer has hurt some of the plants, but there was still plenty to see. I was able to get several shots of beautiful roses that were in bloom, though the number of buds I saw tells me next week it will be even more beautiful.

To the side of the gardens is an incredible little Japanese garden. From the bright sunshine, one steps into a dark wooded area maybe a quarter the size of a football field. There are interesting trees and huge koi in the central pond. It was an incredibly peaceful, quiet spot. The pictures are probably too small to pay it justice.

Across from Fuller Garden is the most adorable chapel, subtly placed in the woods. It reportedly seats 90, and many people are married in the chapel and have their reception at the gardens. Looking at the scene (chapel, ocean, roses), it was the first time I've ever considered having a conventional wedding of any sort. It was that sweet.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

You computer geeks are ridiculous!

I foolishly decided it would be fun to create a Web site. About 10 hours and several tears later, I have conceded that my small brain cannot wrap itself around this mysterious technology.

I followed directions on the kind-looking Web site I started using early this morning. The author gently explains purchasing a domain name, picking a host, . . . and yes, it just sort of trails off from there. She makes much mention about how confusing and frustrating it can be to build a site for the first time (thanks for that acute observation). And she mentions that it appears that everyone out there thinks the beginner already knows how to work code and create pages, links, etc.

For someone who clearly saw a need to dumb it all down, she really didn't explain a damn thing to me. I purchased the domain, paid for a host, and then wandered all day getting very little accomplished, besides, perhaps, broadening the size of my backside.

My brother was very helpful in getting me through a couple tangles that seemed indecipherable to me, and left me with a couple tools/sites he used in creating his own site. These sites, however, are mind-numbing. They are heavy on ads and not inviting or friendly to the end user at all. Holy crap. I was afraid to click on anything because no where was it clear what I was going to connect to.

Web geeks, I respect your technological acumen and your ability to create code as easily as I am able to eat Doritos, but I'm surprised by the lack of design sense. Are you too hungry for ad revenue to keep your site clean? Too excited about slapping it all on there to think about heading levels or clear directions? While it's clever to have the download button in the shape of a frog, it scares the hell out of me to click on it. I don't know where that frog goes to. So I'm paralyzed. I can't click the button; therefore, I cannot download; therefore, I wander back and forth between sites reading the same info over and over and I JUST WANT TO BUILD MY DAMN SITE.

I'm going to go ice my carpal tunnel and consider what a good beginner tutorial would include.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Dangerous stuff

1. Peanut Butter m&ms
I didn't like these at first, but a recent PMS attack saw me throw a bag into my Target basket. And now I'm hooked. That hard shell, the soft peanut butter/chocolate center . . . it's sweet and a little salty at once. Poifect!

2. Wireless Internet
It frustrates me to be such a girl sometimes, and technology really sends me into hair-twisted-around-finger-aw-shucks-I'm-not- smart-enough mode. My boyfriend kept telling me to go wireless with my new laptop (which I'm admittedly nervous about using because it's just so darn cool--no, it doesn't make sense). He, a tech geek, explained to me more than once during late-night conversation how to set up a router and get going. I don't know why it still felt like something beyond my reach.

Yesterday, I tossed plastic into my pocket, put on flip flops, grabbed my keys, and ended up at Staples determined to join the rest of the online world. Of course I am too proud to ask for help, and wanted to just look at all my options, read the boxes, check out the simplified little pictures on the back (phone connection to modem to [highlighted] router to laptop), and hope I make the right choice. But the aisles in Staples are teeming with pasty men in red shirts more eager to sell protection plans than help a poor woman get online.

But I did it. I brought the router home, set the whole thing up (too easy?), and I've been surfing the Web from bed ever since. That is dangerous.

3. Rabies
I might actually contract this if bats keep finding their way into my bedroom at night (six so far this year).

4. Blogs
Um yeah, I realize I'm typing one. And if you're reading this, you might be a pinch as voyeuristic as I am. I lose myself looking at pictures of people's lives, crafts, families, pens, what have you. I judge (that stay-at-home mom is really funny; that woman's crafts are hideous--people buy that crap?) and lose myself clicking through to blogs that those first bloggers like and link to their sites. I even started a Google notebook just to have space to copy and paste anything that amuses me. Time lost+wrists burned out from overuse of computer=dangerous

5. Stuff
I know that's vague. But it's like this: If you have stuff, you are bound to lose stuff in that stuff. Where is that receipt, book, blank birthday card, $10 bill, Trent Reznor autograph, freelance check, book of stamps, recipe for decadent cheese dip . . . I couldn't tell you because it's all buried in my stuff.

Each time I move, I pare down. A lot during this most recent move to the mill. But then I accumulate too. It's a dangerous cycle. And I can't find a frigging thing.

6. Craft Hobbies
Ugh, if only I were content hiking mountains or sitting and watching TV all day and napping. But no. I enjoy crafting. I need to do it. There is a meditative quality to it that allows me to zone out for long periods of time (or just feel less guilty watching Lifetime movies) and eventually come out having finished something praise-worthy.

Quilting was the first hobby. But it takes so long and so much effort (pull out the sewing machine, iron everything as I work, follow directions, get the whole she-bang together just to notice that I screwed up one square . . .) that I quickly lose interest in projects.

Next was cross stitch. Cross stitch is pretty user friendly (easy to transport; everything can be tossed into a basket and tucked away when company comes over; you can do a small picture in a weekend and feel like you've done something), but I get in over my head. I recently bought a great kit (I'm into kits now because I am too scattered to get all the stuff together; better to leave it to someone else) of beautiful French pumpkins. But when I got home, I realized the work was one thread over one square on 40-count fabric. That's 40 squares per inch. I actually gave it a try, but quickly became angry and cursed anyone who thinks this is a good time. I'd need a lot of patience and a zillion-times magnifying glass to work on something like that. Who are these people who make this the "in" thing (bet you didn't think there were "in" things in cross stitch). So I'm doing the picture with two threads over two squares on 32-count (I've decided that's as small as I'll go). It's still draining and difficult, but the pumpkins are adorable.

As of yesterday, however, I am playing with penny rugs. Ah, finally a quick-result craft. The most difficult part is starting a blanket stitch. I find I stare at the wool for long minutes, stab and pull thread through, and instantly realize my attempt won't work and pull the thread out again. It makes me feel like I have an IQ of about 10. Or like I'm high. However, I'm happy with the newest hobby and can't wait to finish a project.

7. Unfinished projects
I am easily distracted. And while it's easy to say I'm a quilter/cross stitcher/wool worker (?), the proof is in being able to unfurl something in front of people to elicit that "Ahhh" of approval. But because I can sit and watch a half-hour of TV without sticking a needle anywhere into the project in my hands, or because, as mentioned, I stare for long periods at fabric trying to figure out where the hell to begin the blanket stitch, I don't get far. And then I become inspired by something else and start a whole new project. I have several orphan projects all around my apartment (probably covering my missing "stuff").

8. Living alone
Is it even necessary to express how living alone allows one to become a foul, disorganized, antisocial mess? I can stay in pjs with a spoon and jar of peanut butter for a whole weekend, and no one will know. Except you, dear reader. And because my boyfriend lives far enough away that visits necessitate plane tickets, I don't waste my precious peanut butter--eating time shaving, filing, and grooming like normal people do. Nope. I can be as greasy and pathetic as I dare. He has several photos of me from times when effort has been put into my appearance. Until he buys a ticket, those can keep him content.

The frightening thing is that I suppose this means he is doing the same as I am. So we are two pathetic, unwashed people who deserve each other. That's almost romantic, right?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Boston is the shizzle

A weekend like this past one makes me wonder why I live in New Hampshire. Yes, it's peaceful and pretty and cheap. But it's not fun. Not the kind of fun a young 30-something should be having.

Noelle invited me down Friday night to attend the Grub Gone Guilty reading. Grub Street is the smahty-pants literati scene in Boston. What I appreciated was that everyone seemed way different from each other--there were some well-groomed Boston types, some blue collar Boston types (folks from around the Boston area can attest to the fact that Boston is split into two opposing teams: Team A tuck their shirts in, make dough, spend dough, have been educated at BC, and have well-combed hair; Team B wear stained shirts, buy beer, drink beer, have been educated in how to kick someone's ass verbally or physically, and haven't see a comb in a good long while), some edging-on-gothic types, some guy who seemed to be putting out vampire vibes, and some really attractive people who make me want to get a better haircut or work out more or hire a personal shopper so that I look like I can put an outfit together too.

How's THAT for a sentence?

So this was my first Grubby experience, and I liked it. In some dimly lit secret location with no air conditioning, I and many others sweated our asses off while listening to readers share their guiltiest pleasure reads, among them being The Thorn Birds. Seriously.

As profuse perspiration rolled down the side of my face, puddled between my breasts, and created shameful wet marks on my backside, I found myself feeling something I haven't felt in a long time--kinship. These folks were funny. And smart. And imperfect. And I liked it. I wanted to hug everyone and tell them how much it meant to spend the evening with intellectual insanity. It's a far cry from watching the bar brawls outside my bedroom window.

My challenge now is how to bottle up the things I like about New Hampshire and meld them into something I can enjoy in Massachusetts. My apartment, for one. I will never have an apartment like this again. And especially not in Boston. That bums me out quite a bit. And I work with good people. I may go on to have good experiences, but the current one is nothing to scoff at.

While I plot the next chapter of my life, I have a lot to consider. And while I don't appreciate the lines on my face that grow more permanent with each day, I do appreciate that experience teaches me what I can and cannot tolerate. It quietly shows me who I am. Hang tough, Grubbies. I'll be back.