Thursday, November 30, 2006
52. I have both stripped and danced naked in front of a group of 20 people, most of whom I did not know. I did this voluntarily and had a wonderful time.
53. I guess that makes me somewhat of an exhibitionist, though I wouldn't do it in public.
54. One thing that makes me really happy is when I see or read about fathers who really enjoy their children.
55. My father did not enjoy his children. He enjoys his dog, though.
56. I have late-onset inherited vertigo that first manifested when I was 20 years old. It totally sucks, because I can't climb trees and have a hard time climbing rocks anymore. I spent my childhood doing both.
57. We had chickens when I was a kid, and two of them were South American chickens of some sort that laid green and blue eggs. I learned that chickens can be really mean because it was my job to gather eggs.
58. We also lived on a cattle ranch, and I learned that cows can be really mean, too.
59. I am pyrophobic, though not as bad as I used to be. But I still would rather let other people play with fire.
60. I have always felt like myself. Even when I was a little kid. I honestly don't feel any different or more adult or anything at 27 than I did at 7.
61. In a situation in which a lot of blood or pain on the part of someone else is involved, I go into total focus mode and I do first aid or whatever needs doing. I have no problem watching operations on TV or blood and guts on "E.R." But I can't stand watching plastic surgery (like on "Nip/Tuck").
62. While I like music, I've never been enough into it to really know much about individual bands or songs. I have no idea what's popular these days or what bands are good or anything.
63. I have always been afraid to try things I'm not absolutely sure I'll understand or be good at. Yes, Hulk, this is why I have yet to knit you a sweater.
64. In fact, my first inclination when something is difficult is to give up. I'm so competitive (with myself and others) that I'd rather not even try if I'm not going to win.
65. Most of the time, I make myself do whatever it is anyway.
66. My eyes are green and my hair is brown. Judging by the times I've tried on wigs, I would look terrible as a blonde.
67. I've secretly desired to be a blonde anyway, but I'm too afraid to bleach my hair.
68. I didn't eat macaroni and cheese out of a box until I was 10 years old.
69. This is also when I started babysitting my younger sisters.
70. I never once got paid for babysitting my own siblings, but I started babysitting for other people's kids when I was 12. I got paid for that.
71. I'm still not sure if I want to have kids of my own, but I'm leaning more toward the "have" than "not have" side of that equasion.
72. Yes, it's probably because I read entirely too many parent blogs for my own good.
73. At least one of my sisters is going to spawn at some point and then I will get to be Auntie Em!
74. There are entirely too many little girls running around with my name. It was mine first, dammit!
75. A shiver goes down my spine every time I take off or land in a plane, but nobody around me would ever know I was a little bit paranoid about that. I think I hide it pretty well.
76. I once had a job managing the house kitchen for my co-op. There were 28 people in the house. The job gave me a lot of good mangement and budgeting skills, but it sucked to have people knock on my door at 2 AM to tell me we were out of pop tarts.
77. In my entire life, I've only had a surprise party once.
78. I secretly want one every year.
79. For my 7th birthday I asked for My Little Ponies. I got 3 of one kind (identical) and 2 of another. Also, my dog died that day.
80. She was only 3.
81. My earliest memories are from before age 2. I actually remember my 2nd birthday party.
82. Most people I've told about that think it's weird.
83. I am weird.
84. Most people I know would tell you the same.
85. I like pie.
86. One of the things I like best about fall and winter is the proliferation of pumpkin-flavored things. I love pumpkin.
87. I wear a silver claddagh on my right ring finger that Hulk gave me almost exactly 5 years ago. I wear it in the "in committed relationship" position.
88. In some ways, it sucked being the oldest kid, because I had to wait the longest for everything. Case in point: ear piercing. I had to wait until I was 10. Lissa got hers pierced at 7 and Laurel got hers pierced at 5! No fair!
89. I am Emily #2 for Hulk. He also dated a girl who had the same first name as both his mother and paternal grandmother.
90. My hair has never been shorter than my shoulders, practically since birth. I was born with a ton of hair. No Winston Churchill babies in my family.
91. I wish there was some way I could perform in front of people again. It was one of the things I liked best about ballet and about doing plays.
92. I watch the Charlie Brown Christmas animated show every year if I have the chance, and I dance along with the kids in the dancing scenes.
93. When we were kids, my sisters and I used to sleep under the Christmas tree in our sleeping bags on Christmas Eve Eve. Maybe I will do that one night this year after we get our tree. But also, maybe I will just sleep in my bed, because it's way more comfortable than a hardwood floor.
94. I slept at a rave in college. Twice. If I gotta sleep, I'll sleep wherever I am.
95. Unless I'm too cold, in which case I will not sleep at all.
96. For that reason, I kind of dread having a newborn because I'm afraid I would sleep through a baby crying. Maybe that will be different when it's my own kid.
97. Hulk gives the best hugs of anyone I've ever known, and I've hugged a lot of people in my time.
98. I'm a very touchy feely person, but only with people I like (I like some of my coworkers, but you're not supposed to touch people at work).
99. I have a recurring dream that includes a childhood friend who I haven't seen since 1999. I still dream about him at various ages at least once a month.
100. Sometimes I wish I lived in California again. I'd move back there in a hot second if I could afford it.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
1. I used to go to church camp, despite considering myself to be somewhere between secular humanist and agnostic.
2. I also went to a church youth group and sang in a choir for a couple of years.
3. I was a high soprano until I was about 16 and couldn't sing those high notes so well anymore.
4. I was a goody two-shoes in middle and high school and got mostly As even through college, but I actually got Cs in penmanship in the 4th grade. This is why I never write in cursive. It's a good thing your 4th grade GPA doesn't count toward college.
5. Also, my mom's a teacher, and has perfect handwriting to which I could never aspire to mimic.
6. I skipped the 2nd grade because I learned to read when I was 3 and it all kind of spiraled down from there.
7. This means I could only legally drink for 2 months in college, though that didn't stop me (my friends were either older or looked old enough to buy booze without being carded).
8. No alcohol, save a few sips of homemade kaluha, ever touched my lips until after I graduated high school.
9. But then I went a little nuts and, shall we say, experimented my freshman year in college. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), everything just made me sick, so I stopped doing any of that illegal stuff in mid-1997.
10. I used to hoard candy because we got it so rarely. I would keep Easter stuff til Halloween, Halloween candy until Christmas, and Christmas candy until Easter. I'd like to say I don't do that anymore, since now I can buy all the candy I want, but I think I bought some Cadbury eggs a few years ago and they sat in our kitchen for over a year.
11. My favorite Girl Scout Cookies are Thing Mints.
12. I like bugs (except the kinds that suck blood, and also cockroaches because they are gross), spiders, snakes, and most creepy-crawly things. Does that make me ungirly?
13. One time I stole one piece of candy from a store (I think it was from that pick-a-mix bin). I was 6 years old. I felt so guilty about it that I couldn't even eat the candy, so I threw it away.
14. One of my best friends from elementary school was a child model. She got her period when we were 9 and it scared the crap out of me.
15. I spent most of my school years reading books all day long. Sometimes I would even read in class, and I even got in trouble for it a few times. I would go days without talking to anyone else (except teachers who asked me questions).
16. This was because I was super unpopular and lonely.
17. I spent 15 years taking ballet classes and was actually quite good. If I'd had the right body type (small frame, lean muscles) I might have even been able to go pro. Someday I might blog about ballet.
18. Tequila is one of my favorite hard alcohols.
19. Despite my fondness for wine, hard cider, and many hard alcohols, I don't drink all that frequently. I'm actually a cheap date.
20. One of the things I love most about Hulk is his voice. Also, I love when he has a really awesome deep belly laugh.
21. I totally hooked up with my travel buddy when I went to Europe in 2000, and I make no apologies for it.
22. When I was a kid I was deathly afraid of growing up, particularly puberty. I actually faked illness to stay home on the day when they played that "this is what happens to girls" movie in 5th grade.
23. When I was a very young kid I was deathly afraid of Gollum from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I saw the Hobbit animated version and had nightmares for years about Gollum. He was my own personal boogeyman.
24. My first kiss happened on my 8th grade day away at Great America. It was with a guy I met there and had only known for a few hours. I still remember his name. The kiss had tongue, and some other kids from my class saw us kissing, and they teased me the whole bus ride home.
25. I have since kissed many people. In fact, I think it's on the order of 30.
26. I haven't kissed anyone but Hulk since June of 2001.
27. Last year, we went to China, fulfilling one of my lifelong dreams. I would go back in a hot second.
28. I grew up in a really really small town, attended middle and high school in a really small town, and went to college at a really big urban public university. It was kind of a culture shock, but I loved every second of it.
29. At said big urban public university, I designed my own major and wrote an honors thesis. It was about the theme of death in American children's literature and how it changed between 1850 and 2000.
30. I'm not actually morbid, however, and would prefer not to think about death.
31. I still love children's lit though.
32. Every year that I get further from having been in school, I feel less and less smart. This is one of the reasons I want to go to grad school asap.
33. When I was in middle school, I loved dolphins and wanted to be a marine biologist. I never really thought about how few people actually get to work with bottlenose dolphins in this country. Madeline L'Engle made it sound so easy!
34. Despite his history of painting on commission for creepy men, I really like Bouguereau's art.
35. Every year, Hulk and I buy toys and books for kids listed on those "giving tree" ornaments at the grocery store. This year we picked up 3.
36. Some years I feel so guilty about not picking up more ornaments that I cry a little.
37. I'm most likely to cry when I'm feeling a really strong emotion - it is more likely to be anger or joy than sadness, actually.
38. My facial hair preference for men is in this order: goatee, trimmed beard, naked, soul patch, moustache.
39. I don't actually like my job anymore, but it's hard to give up such good benefits and vacation time (20 vacation days and 12 sick days a year! Who else gets that?).
40. I work for the government. I never ever in a million years thought I would work for the government. It's a little weird.
41. I can't remember the last holiday meal I consumed during which I was not, on some level, concerned about the number of calories in the food. Maybe I was 10.
42. If you hadn't already guessed, I do have some disordered eating and exercise patterns. I do my best to stay healthy, though.
43. Most of my childhood was spent in and out of doctors' offices for various infections, among other things. I didn't have a very good immune system. Now I try to eat well and exercise in part to keep my immune system in good shape, because I'm less likely to get sick if I eat well and exercise regularly.
44. Two of the four guys I have slept with told me that they'd like me better if I was thinner. During both of those instances I was pretty much the thinnest I've been in my adult life and was probably underweight for my frame.
45. My parents were hippies. My sisters and I each have one regular name and one nature name. They aren't terribly hippieish, though. They also planted a tree for each of us on the day of our births. Mine's a Douglas fir that's now about 25 feet tall.
46. I've never smoked pot. I frequently won "I never" drinking games pulling the "haven't smoked pot" card in college.
47. Once, Hulk and I almost got hit by lightning when we were summiting a 14er. It was probably the most frightening experience of my life.
48. I didn't get my driver's license until I was 25.5 years old. That's right, I've only been driving for 2 years!
49. I was born 9 months and 4 days after my parents were married, and I have been told I was concieved under the influence of psilocybic mushrooms and wine. I told you, hippies.
50. Sometimes I pee in the shower. But I don't do it in other people's showers, or when Hulk is showering with me, because he doesn't like it.
To be continued...
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
So I managed a 2-sentence nod to NaBloFloJo, intending to write that "I am thankful for xyz" entry the next day or maybe when we got home, but had other posts that needed to come first. I know Hulk's already done it, and done it much better than I could, but I do like to take this depressing, death of the year time to think about the things for which I *am* thankful. Perhaps they are silly, or sentimental, or schmoopy, but here they are for your viewing pleasure.
I am thankful for:
Soft, powdery sugar snow to break up the monotonous gray and brown that is a cold Colorado winter
A healthy body and relatively healthy mind
The good, functional relationships I have with my person, my friends, and most of my family
Friends near and far, many of whom I would never have met were it not for the scary internets. So also, the internets.
That at least one of our cats is a lap ho and also gives ball rubs.
That the other of our cats does sideways head when she is really interested in something.
A job that gives me ample opportunities to surf the internet and lots of vacation time. Also, that pays me money so then I can pay bills and buy shoes.
Books, movies, and pretty yarn.
Our new place that allowed us to have a garden and has almost enough space for all our stuff.
The ability to travel just about anywhere in the world and have adventures.
Dark chocolate covered cranberries.
That my boobs are big enough to look like boobs but not so big that they get in my way or make exercise difficult. Also, they make the most pretty bras in my size.
Seasons - I like them all, but I am partial to spring, especially here in Colorado.
Our comfy bed.
That they don't play that awful "Head on!" commercial right after Jeopardy anymore.
The smells of holidays - pumpkin, cinnamon, bay, pine.
That Hulk makes me such delicious food. I'm truly spoiled.
I'm sure the list is nowhere near complete, but these are the things that have been on my mind, the things that stand out the most, the things for which I know I am lucky/blessed/whatever.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Time lost all meaning. Hours would pass, or minutes would pass, and it was never easy to tell how long it had been since the last time we checked, particularly at night. When daylight means hours upon hours of Nevada or Utah, where things are pretty in kind of a desolate way, it all starts to run together in a blur. Our body clocks got all off and we ate almost constantly because really, there wasn't much else to do. You don't know if your're hungry because time means nothing, so you eat just in case. The enforced lack of exercise plus grazing is going to have me in the gym 2 hours a day for the next month just to make up for it all.
We sat, in the observation car, for hours and hours, watching out the window, reading, playing hand after hand of gin. The trip out, I won most of the time, but the trip back we were not alone - the Red family from the first trip was on our train back to Denver and we taught the two younger boys (8, 11, and 14 incidentally; I was a year off) how to play gin. Hulk also picked up a game book and some new and interesting pieces at a game store in SF with which to play new games on the way back.
The train goes faster. The train goes slower. The train stops in the middle of nowhere, because passenger trains have to give way to freight trains at all times. At least this trip there wasn't a shopping cart on the tracks that made the power go out for 45 minutes. The train is rocking, and you walk like you're drunk because you're trying to keep your balance. The brakes smell like burning rubber, and the bathrooms smell like dirty airplane bathrooms, and in between the cars smells like oiled metal.
Hours and hours. More hours. Saturday we watched movies after it got dark (our train left Emeryville an hour and a half late because of engine trouble, so we started off late and got later) - it was dark by Truckee, so we saw the bright awesome lights of Reno and watched Alien and Fellowship of the Ring. Yesterday we didn't feel like fighting over one of the few precious outlets or dealing with the laptop so we just continued to read, talk, sit, stare at the black nothingness after dark. I had brought a bunch of knitting but never felt like it; the motion of the train and the seats were not conducive to comfortable knitting.
Sleeping was better on the trip back. We were well prepared with pretty lavender eye masks (Hulk looked fetching in his), little pillows, a $4 fleece blanket from IKEA, and (most importantly) EAR PLUGS. Because on the way out, the lady friend of the guy who'd kept us up all night with his apnead vocal stylings told us they'd be on the same train on the way back. We didn't get to their stop until about 11 PM at which time I'd already fallen asleep, but I was armed with my ear plugs and only barely noticed when they got on the train and sat in seats across from us (ugh).
Poor Red family. They were not prepared for the man, whom the youngest Red called "Walrus Man" for his physical characteristics and frightening noises. Apparently Red Mom and Littlest Red didn't really sleep at all. In the morning, after Walrus and Companion woke up and went into the cafe to eat or drink or what have you, I went back into the coach to get something and saw that EVERYONE around where we had been sitting was sleeping. I think most people didn't sleep very well.
Walrus Companion was an interesting person. We had to eat dinner with her on the train ride out because there are 4 seats at a table so they fill all 4 at a time. Our other dining companion, a student at CU Boulder, was lovely, and we tried to have a conversation, and this woman insterted herself into everything - I told her what I did and she asked me where her severely autistic grandchild should be going to school or what programs she should be in. Lady, I'm just a bureaucrat with no specialized knowledge about autism or appropriate environments for autistic kids. Every bit of tid that people discussed, she had a related story or anecdote and would interrupt someone in the middle of a sentence to share. I was glad I didn't see her much for the trip back. I think she found a kindred spirit in another lady seated near us, because they seemed to spend most of yesterday drinking and playing cards in the cafe car (below the observation car).
We sat in our seats for the last few hours of the ride last night, utterly bored beyond belief at sitting at the same observation car table and staring at the blackness. Walrus, Companion, and Other Lady loudly and drunkenly discussed grandchildren and shared pictures. Companion has granddaughters named Madison and Emily (shocking!) and Other Lady mentioned her daughter, Brandi, and her grandchildren, Azpen (girl) and Neveah (BOY!?!)("It's heaven spelled backwards!" she explained when Companion looked confused). OK, so I can see naming a kid Aspen if you're a hippie or if that's where the kid was concieved, but this kid lives in New Mexico or something, and the name sounds like a bad energy drink (AzPen! Now with more obscure extracts that will turn your pee purple!), and it should be spelled ASPEN. And I've heard of Neveah for a girl, it's really really trashy (like naming your kid Dezztinie or Princess), but for a boy? He will never forgive his parents.
The train backs into the station in Denver. Just when you think you've arrived, you have to wait another 15 minutes so people getting on the train to Chicago have "a view", though I'm not sure what of at 11 PM. We finally got off the damn train into the cold Colorado air and waited nearly 45 minutes for our luggage to be carried the 5 feet from the train to the station. Red Kids were all punch-drunk, particularly Littlest Red (btw, those kids all had good names, not a Jaeden/Braeden/Cayden in the bunch), and I felt bad for them having to go to school in the morning. We finally got our luggage and ran for the solitary mall shuttle that tools around at that hour on a Sunday. We got home at 10 minutes to midnight and I had just enough time to blop, after which we hosed off our stinky 2 day train ride bodies and collapsed into bed. The kitties are still with HulkRents because our train was so late (the original plan was for them to pick us up at the station and bring us and kitties home) and I think we won't see them until Wednesday. :(
The train ride was probably some of the most relaxing travel I've ever experienced, but I don't ever need to do it again. Spending 4 of 9 days on a train pushed my tolerance for enclosed spaces and sitting and shared tiny stinky bathrooms and gin playing and I am so glad to be home.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Saturday, November 25, 2006
One pair of shoes, purchased at Shoe Pavillion (sister's house)
One Nalgene (sister's car)
One hair clip big enough to hold all of my hair (whereabouts unknown)
One bottle of this year's beaujolais nouveau (Mom's fridge)
A few months' worth of Trader Joes chocolate/candy supplies and peanut butter pretzels (Mom's house)
What else will we leave behind? Who knows, but it's time to go catch our train. I hope people aren't averse to mailing things to we who are so good at leaving things behind.
Friday, November 24, 2006
I tried to start the day before. My mom had two sugar pumpkins left over from her Halloween decorations that I thought would work to cook down and process into a delicious pie ("There were no other pumpkins left on October 30 in the store, so I got those", she said.) I pulled out the seeds, scraped the stringy guts, and stuck the halves face down in the pan with some water. They went into the oven for the appropriate amount of time, and then my mom informed me her blender was no longer functional.
So wait, no blender? "Use the hand processor," she suggested. You mean that thing that's at least 30 years old and you once used to make my baby food? I looked at it dubiously, its heavy aluminum construction, the ricer-like holes, the hand crank. Hmmm, I thought. And so I tried it when the pumpkin came out of the oven, all warm and squishy. Tried, and failed.
"Have QIR and Hulk pick a blender up on their way," was the next suggestion my mom had. "Or I'll go get one at Longs." But we didn't want to lose the sweet parking space, at a premium in the little subdivision in front of my mom's house. Laurel was out visiting with friends, and had my mom's car. So we sat. Eventually, Laurel came home, and QIR was called and told NOT to buy a blender, and my mom went out and bought a cheap-ass plastic one at Longs. She got it home, I put in the pumpkin, and nothing. It wouldn't work. Well, it worked in that the blade went around, but it didn't WORK to process the pumpkin.
"I do have a food processor," my mom said, and Hulk pulled it out of the cupboard because it's also 30 years old and weighs about 897 pounds. At that point it had been hours since the pumpkin came out, and it was kind of dried out and really, really stringy. I threw up my hands in disgust and someone went BACK to the store to get canned pumpkin, and although people were nice and told me that the pie was tasty, I ate it too and I know it should have been way better.
This was the second culinary fiasco of our trip, the first being Hulk's creation of a delicious homemade pizza (even the crust from scratch!) for my sister and Curtis on Monday night. Everything went swimmingly until he went to transfer the pizza from the peel to the stone and it wouldn't budge. We somehow ended up coaxing it onto a large square cookie sheet (no lip made it easier) and it wasn't round anymore, but came out looking, smelling, and tasting yummy. The one problem was that we forgot to coat both the peel and the pan with cornmeal or oil or anything so the pizza stuck mightily to the pan, and we only got most of it off for consumption.
Things are supposed to come in threes, right? Because we only had two cooking-related incidents (so far, and we're going out for sushi tonight, so I don't know when else we might have the chance). Also, two injuries today in leaving Clovenhoof and returning to the Bay Area in preparation for our train tonight - Hulk hit his head on a high thing projecting out from a shelf at Trader Joe's, something that apparently short people would never see, but Hulk managed to whack himself a good goose egg and scare the crap out of me. Then QIR bit her own finger, which wasn't as scary, but still quite painful. I sat cowering in the back seat of the car, wondering when it was my turn and which body part I'd injure. So far, I've managed to avoid pain or injury today (knock on wood), but things have come in pairs this weekend, so maybe I'll be lucky.
We get on the train tomorrow morning at 9:15 - I'm going to post before we leave, attempt to wartrain again, but there are no guarantees. What I'll have to do is have a post ready to go and spend some time trying to steal internets just to post. Tonight is sushi and Casino Royale and perhaps one more tasty beverage for the road. This time we're armed with earplugs, sleep masks, tiny pillows and a blanket from IKEA, and the knowledge that there's hot water available for oatmeal and no need to eat in the dining car for dinner. I hope the world doesn't end when we're in the middle of nowhere, Nevada, because we won't even know about it until the sun comes up in southwestern Utah on Sunday.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
The thing about hanging out with QIR in SF is that she knows that place like the back of her hand. She can navigate like a pro, get from one side of the city to the other on the best streets, dodging double parked delivery trucks and motorcycles and opening doors and small children that run out in the streets. She's good at the parking and is as aggressive as one needs to be to drive defensively in that city without ever making you feel uncomfortable or afraid or anything like that. This particular time, we met over near the panhandle, window shopped on upper Haight, had noodles at the Citrus Club, and then headed over to Chinatown, managing to get there with a minimum of fuss. We even found a parking spot right away, and wandered through the least touristy parts of Old Chinatown and never heard those stupid animatronic cricket chirps or had to sidestep throngs of tourists huddled in their San Francisco sweatshirts.
It took a while to find our egg tarts to which we have become addicted, and we popped in and out of several bakeries. We managed to get the other things we liked as well, and also found a place selling that green tea I really liked for only 95 cents - still probably five times what I paid in China, but this is San Francisco. We skirted around and down to North Beach and popped into Vesuvio, where the bartender was happy to surprise us with interesting and fruity yet unsweet cocktails. Hulk had an Anchor Steam - go local, right?
QIR is a fantastic host, though she no longer lives in the city. It's a city I love to show to people who have never been, and also a city I love to discover anew through QIR when she shows us David Eggers' pirate store or tells us about a church we pass or takes a particular street to give us a fantastic view of the bay. I know the city by foot; QIR knows it by car, and could give any cabbie a run for his money. I love hanging out with QIR.
After our lovely evening with Leah and Simon, and after our day in Berkeley, and after our unexpected sunshine in San Francisco, I find myself wistful and homesick, wishing that somehow we could magically afford to move to the Bay Area. I don't know if it will ever happen, though. :(
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Train, travel, on the other hand, has a lot to be said for it. One's seat has more than ample leg room, the seat reclines almost completely, and a leg rest comes up for ease in sleeping. One doesn't have to fasten a seatbelt, and one is completely free to get up and move around. The train we were on had an observation car complete with booths/tables for playing cards and having picnics, and comfortable side-facing seats for ease in viewing the scenery. There's a cafe and a dining car, and they don't mind if you bring all your own food. You can walk around and around, play games, watch movies, and watch the world go by, not having to worry about connecting flights or stopping for gas.
The one drawback, of course, is the amount of time it takes to get anywhere. Our train ended up being about 2 hours late and so we were on the thing for nearly 36 hours, which pretty much became a drag after a while. We didn't take advantage of any of the stops (some people did - there was no smoking whatsoever allowed on the train, so the smokers hastily sucked down their carcinogens in Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction, Salt Lake and Reno) and so we went nearly two days breathing train air, confined to the cars.
All this time on the train gives passengers ample time to get to know one another. We spent so long confined to the same small spaces (and had to share tables in the dining car) that we all had an opportunity to talk to the other people riding the train. It also made for excellent people-watching opportunities. Several families had taken the train to kick off vacations or take advantage of the low fares for children (no kids' discount on an airplane!). There were two families aboard the train that I think were mennonite, or some kind of pentecostal. Both families consisted of a young father and mother. The women were wearing simple homemade dresses with elbow-length sleeves, mid-calf length hems, and those little black yarmulke-like things pinned over their hair. The men were wearing jeans and button-down shirts and had closely-trimmed beards. Both families had babies and one had a toddler, and at one point on the first day the families spread out a picnic across two booths in the observation car.
I gotta tell you, this was the oddest thing. They were drinking Pepsi and eating potato chips. Their food was all store-bought and processed. The babies were eating Gerber. If not for what the women were wearing, they could easily have been, you know, not obviously of a religious group. I was sitting close enough to hear them talking to one another and they had very slight accents. Then, one of the women pulled out a cell phone and called someone! This was the oddest scene - a woman in modest dress holding a baby girl in a homemade pink dress talking on a cell phone.
Another of the families that shared our journey all the way to the Bay Area had three boys - a 13-year-old, a 10-year-old, and a 7-year-old. All three were tall for their ages, skinny, with freckles and bright red hair. Three boys who had so much energy and were confined to a train for two days. The parents trusted their kids to behave and they did, which was lovely. For that family the train ride was part of the vacation, to experience seeing the country from the perspective of the observation car. They'd brought a portable DVD player, cards and a poker set, chess, scrabble, and decoratable gingerbread cookies. It was lovely to see such a secure, functional, loving family - the parents knew they had good kids, and the kids completely lived up to their parents' trust.
There were a lot of other passengers, of course, some of whom were families, but these three stuck out from the crowd - one because of the odd juxtaposition of the looks and actions of the families, the other because of their obvious functionality. I can only hope that we'll end up with similarly interesting fellow passengers for the trip home.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Fog, overcast, and palpable air
Parking rigamarole with bonus parking ticket ($36, holy shit the city of Berkeley must make a killing!)
Comic book store, shoe store, game store, headed through campus past the homoerotic football statue only to realize we'd left the nalgene at the game store
Back down to retrieve the nalgene
Back up through campus, passing babies that made us feel ancient, briefly pausing in Sproul Plaza to soak in the hubbub of midday - an a capella group, a "stop police brutality" rally, all kinds of other stuff
Down Telegraph in and out of stores, and sandwiches from Cheese & Stuff
Madhouse of Berkeley Bowl. Seriously, the worst I've ever seen it, at 3 PM on a Monday. It's always insanity, though, and I got some good pictures of the produce.
Picked-over Safeway, and a guy who had only a frozen turkey in his cart. Who needs a cart to push a 10-lb turkey around? (Besides mothers of small children)(OK, that was kind of evil).
General pedestrian vs vehicle insanity
But I loved it. There's nothing like coming home to a place that really feels like home even 4 years after you move away.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Saturday, November 18, 2006
So far there is no decent wireless (I’m writing this in Word in hopes that the wireless works better once we actually sit on the train. Wish me luck).
Damn, we got up early. But it was a beautiful morning and we got to see the sun rise. Also, big train stations look pretty much the same in Europe, China, and the US, apparently. I guess there’s no better way to do things, because aside from the English everywhere this could be Beijing.
We get to board soon!
Ah, we’ve boarded, and there is like 39485039485 times more leg room than on a plane. Awesome.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Part of the job required College Boyfriend to memorize a list of police codes. He was never much of one for memorization, so I agreed to help him by making up mnemonic devices and going through his flash cards with him. I think before they let him go out in his awesome tan polyester uniform (the pants were too long so I hemmed them) he had to take some kind of test on the codes, so he crammed for several hours the night before the test. Because I've always been the type who memorized stuff that I didn't even need to know (for example, for every play in which I was cast in high school, I knew the lines and/or parts of everyone on stage with me - I knew all 6 parts of Steel Magnolias by heart!), I couldn't help but memorize some of those codes as well.
I still remember some of them - 10-20 was "location" and I helped College Boyfriend remember this by having him remember, "Can I have the 10-20 on the dead body?" 10-17 was, of course "Request for gasoline" - one of the few that actually sort of rhymed. I remember some nights when he'd have a shift and at midnight or 1 AM I'd go out and meet him on campus somewhere, walking around with him in the dark, still, and foggy Berkeley nights to keep him company. Those were surreal nights, especially when the sky was purple with fog and cloud and pollution and just Bay Area climate. I got to see so many parts of the campus that I would never have otherwise explored, and I got to see them with nobody else around, except maybe a bum sleeping here or there. He found come pretty cool spots and looked forward to showing them to me.
I could never stay out for long - I could never comfortably stay up that late. I become a pumpkin after 2 AM pretty much no matter what the circumstances - any later and I start getting nauseated. But he'd call one of the other CSOs to escort me home to my dorm or to his apartment, where I'd go to sleep and not even stir when he joined me in the dawn.
He didn't have that job for a long time, maybe just 6 months or so. He wasn't big or imposing (so he never felt terribly comfortable armed with only a flashlight (even though it was a big heavy MagLight)) and had a girlfriend so wasn't all that interested in trying to seduce the drunk freshmen since he had regular and reliable booty calls from me. And I'm sure today he doesn't remember a single one of those codes. But when I realized this evening that this is the 17th day in a row I've blopped, the phrase "10-17 Request for Gasoline" popped in my head, so there you have it.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
For me, growing up, Christmas was always totally the best day of the year because I got presents and both of my parents were pretty much in good moods (unless we'd gone to Grandma's, in which we were still all recovering from the 9-hour-car ride/fight). My dad seemed to make an effort to be nice on Christmas, and when I was really young he would get all excited about the cool toys he'd get us, like the metal detector or the remote-control cars (I think he just went to Radio Shack and picked up whatever was closest to the door, honestly, because that man hates to shop).
I figured out that Santa was really my parents when I woke up at age 3 to find them assembling stuff under the tree. I never told them and kept the Santa secret well past the age of disbelief, since I did have two younger sisters. As I got older my parents had some lean years in which I would volunteer to give up my Christmas presents, or many of them, so that my sisters could have nicer gifts, and I was totally OK with that - my mom would usually make it up to me 3 months later for my birthday. My parents were pretty careful to either treat us equally in terms of amount of money they'd spend on gifts, so that maybe one of us would have more presents and the others fewer, but the fewer would be more expensive. Or something.
My family had several Christmas traditions - my mom made an advent calendar with a felt tree on this really pretty piece of red silk. She embroidered numbers 1-25 and collected and saved interesting buttons over the years, so that when I was about 6 or 7 we started using it. My sister/s and I would take turns pinning the buttons that had been next to the numbers on the tree, and Mom would get to put the star on the top on Christmas day. My mom also had a number of recipes that she'd only make for Christmas, particularly cookies. When I was in college I had my mom email me with all the recipes so I'd have them for myself - the Austrian Chocolate Balls (heehee, I said balls), the Mexican Wedding Cakes, the layered bar cookies with raspberry jam, white chocolate/cream cheese, and dark chocolate, or the cookies layered with caramel/rice krispies and milk chocolate. And of course we'd make, cut out, bake and decorate sugar cookies.
As I've gotten older, and Things have Happened in my family, the holidays haven't felt quite like they used to. I guess that happens to everyone, regardless of whether their parents split up between Thanksgiving and Christmas. These days we spend one year in Colorado and one year in California (this is a Colorado year) and we have to ship or schlep gifts back and forth. But there's just something about Christmas - an indefinable air of hope, of people being nicer to each other, of Possibility. I still get that feeling waking up Christmas morning no matter where I am - the anticipation of opening presents, of relaxing and eating delicious yet rarely-eaten food (in my family it's usually enchiladas or lasagne), of spending time with family and friends. Since I started knitting several years ago I've also given quite a few handmade presents to my family and Hulk and other friends. This year I've got all kinds of projects in the works, including stockings to hang by our fireplace for both Hulk and I (his is already done! I finished it a few days ago).
Christmas could use some better movies, and probably some better music (EEK's mix CDs and 24 hours of Ralphie shooting his eye out on TNT notwithstanding), but even my friends who aren't even nominally Christian but instead Jewish, Hindu, or staunch atheist, seem to get into the whole thing. For me I guess it's a way to remind myself how much the people in my life mean to me, and to do things for them that show my love and affection. Hulk's getting a kick-ass present this year (not that I will say what it is, but I think he will lurve it), and I guess as long as we're in the same place for the holiday it will be home.
Now if only I could get him to get a little into it.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
I started UC Berkeley as a freshman in the fall of 1996. There were times that I would see homeless people or beggars, both in the streets of Berkeley and on campus, and I always felt sorry for them. Within a couple of months of living in Berkeley, I had become so jaded from the wearing-down of my bleeding heart liberal sensibilities that I pretty much decided I'd never give money to street people again.
First, there were the self-styled gutter punks. The kids who may have been runaways but were more likely just skipping school (Berkeley has ONE public high school with thousands of kids; I'm sure it's easy to get away from campus when you're just a number and not a face/name). These kids would lounge on Telegraph, smoking stinky cigarettes or pot, and wore Docs and dirty, yet stylish, punk clothing. Their hair colors ranged from those found in nature to those only found in a crayon box and styles varied equally as well. Many of these kids had puppies that then grew into dogs, and while I eventually hardened my heart to the gutter punks I always felt badly for their dogs growing up on the street. They'd ask for spare change, make fun of people walking down Telegraph, blow smoke in your face and prop up cardboard signs asking for change for pot or beer or whatever. I got the feeling that many of them just thought it was cool to scam people out of money; none of them ever looked me in the eye and connected as a fellow human being, and if you're going to ask for my money I'm going to need some kind of reassurance that you really need it.
There were other spare-changers on Telegraph, some of whom were obviously hungry and/or homeless - the guy who smelled like a dumpster, wearing shoes with no toes, with crazy matted hair, walking straight and tall up and down the street is one I remember in particular. Other panhandlers had their normal stomping grounds - the blond guy with a reddish face who always wore a black jacket despite the weather would sit at one of the entrances to the BART station downtown. I saw this old lady who always wore sparkly sequined hats panhandling in Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco, and she'd always ask for change for the bus, day or night.
But the ones on campus were the worst. There was this one guy who would nearly assault people with his aural presence, almost screaming about how hungry he was. One time he came up to me and told me how hungry he was. I was a poor college freshman trying to save my meal plan dollars and so I only ate twice a day, but I had an orange on me and offered it to him. "Oh, no!" he said. "I can only use money, not food." He wandered off and I thought, if he was really hungry he would have taken the orange. There was an obese lady who would wander around campus, wailing, crying, sometimes selling the homeless newspaper. A few times I saw her with her son, who seemed more and more annoyed the older he got. But most of the time tears would be streaming down her face and she'd be bemoaning her homeless state, "Oh, I'm so hungry! I need money to feed my poor son!" she'd cry. I felt kind of bad for her and felt worse for her son, until one day I was on the bus going to visit some friends in Oakland and that lady was also on the bus. I overheard her conversation with a friend that made me so angry I almost started yelling at her. "I've had such a long day," she said. "I can't wait to go home, put my feet up, and get high."
So not only was she not homeless, she obviously wasn't hungry (it's hard to stay obese if you're hungry, I think), and she was spending her hard-earned panhandler money (and the money people paid for the Street Sheet) on drugs. Not food for her kid. I was so mad.
That was pretty much the last straw. I never gave money, even small change, to panhandlers in Berkeley again (except one time I gave $5 to the blind guy who sat on the corner near my place on Berkeley Way, but I have a totally different story about that guy). I did (and still do) give money to buskers if I happen to have some on hand and I find them entertaining - but then I'm paying them for a service they're providing, so it's totally different. The Berkeley campus is never short of buskers, whether it be those who have gone before (Eddie the Drummer at the corner of Bancroft and Telegraph, Rick Starr with his microphone and his Nestle Quik Can), or Smokey or hate man, who I think are still around. Plus all the kids in the bands that are touring around, or the old blind Chinese man playing his weird Chinese stringed instrument.
I lived in Berkeley until January 2, 2003, so that's over 6 years, plus I've gone back two or three times a year every year since. The same panhandlers are in the same places, with the same stories. Things don't seem to change. I don't know if the the city of Berkeley, bastion of liberalism (the city council is made up of liberals and uber-liberals who fight with each other), knows what to do with the homeless and/or panhandler population. I know for a while they would sell fast food and pet food vouchers to people who wanted to help the gutter punks, and instead of giving them change you'd give them these vouchers so they could feed their dogs. That's a good program, I think. But if you're a panhandler who makes enough money to NOT be homeless, and stay obese, and get high whenever you want, what incentive do you have to stop panhandling?
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Lucky for me, I live with a guy who loves to cook. Not only does he love to cook, but he loves to cook soup - and to experiment with new soups and making up his own recipes. He's made chicken tortilla soup, chicken black bean soup, split pea soup, lentil soup, seafood gumbo, chicken vegetable soup with homemade noodles, and the other night? Seafood/root vegetable chowder. Said soup contained shrimp, catfish, fish broth (from Asia 88), and chopped celeriac, carrots, potatoes, parsnips, and celery. Oh holy cheese on a cracker was it good.
The nice thing about soup is that it can be as basic as throwing a few things in a pot and waiting for them to cook, and as complicated as Hulk's chicken tortilla soup recipe, which takes several hours and 23049809 steps, but the result? Amazing. I like to make soup, too, mostly basic vegetable soups. I'm a big fan of pumpkin or butternut squash soup, and I've made sweet potato soup as well, inventing something new to do with the sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving a couple of years ago. One time I made cream of broccoli soup that turned out far better than any "cream of" soup I'd ever had out of a can.
Another good thing about soup? It's warm and filling without being particularly fattening, for the most part. Broth-based soups are relatively low in calories and high in vitamins and other good things - the more veggies you use, the better they are for you. I'm not a fan of cream-based soups in general, like most clam chowders or bisques, but that's because my digestive system has a hard time with dairy fat. But if they're your thing, more power to you.
The other night, when Hulk walked into the room bearing the seafood/root veggie soup, I realized how spoiled I am at this point. I don't really like any soups out of cans now because they all taste like salt or MSG or the inside of the can. The vegetables have very little flavor, and I'm never full afterward. But give me a bowl of homemade soup, even one as basic as butternut squash soup (essentially broth, butternut squash, and maybe some onion and celery, seasoned with red pepper flakes and fresh pepper, pureed, with a dollop of low-fat sour cream on top - YUM), and I'm a happy camper through the cold Colorado winter.
Monday, November 13, 2006
On Clairol, for discontinuing the shampoo I have loved and been loyal to for the past 10 years. Clairol Herbal Essences Clarifying for Normal to Oily hair - with rosemary and jasmine flower and whatever else it had/has.
A few weeks ago, I was in Indianapolis and ran out of my travel bottle of shampoo, so I stopped by a CVS to pick up another bottle. But somehow, all the familiar Herbal Essences products had been replaced with these bizarre, opaque, brightly-colored bottles that looked just like all the other "hip, new" salon-style products. There were shampoos for color-treated, and volumizing, and structuring, and whatever the hell else their new products claim to do. But no clarifying, no for-oily-hair, no lovely clear green shampoo that I'd strayed from off and on over the years but always gone back to. They had something called "de-gunkify" - but it smelled like perfume and I don't have gunk in my hair because the only things I ever put in my hair are shampoo and (rarely) conditioner.
The thing about my shampoo is that it was really popular - popular enough over the years to inspire generic versions made by Target and Kroger and maybe even Safeway; I can't remember. I tried the generic versions, which worked in a pinch, but always went back to the name brand - I liked to get the enormous bottle that would last me months (I do have a lot of hair, after all, and go through a lot of shampoo). You'd think that they wouldn't just up and get rid of it, especially since it had inspired generic versions and all.
So, back to my story. I figured maybe it was just something going on in Indy, like a test market or something, and I'd just buy shampoo when I came back to Denver. But I came back to Denver and I tried Rite Aid, I tried Walgreens, I even tried Target and Safeway and I COULDN'T FIND MY SHAMPOO! They didn't even have the generic versions anymore. I went online to drugstore.com, no dice. It was as though my shampoo had disappeared off the face of the earth. I got some kind of crunchy granola shampoo at the hippie grocery store, and I hated it. I got some $1 Suave clarifying shampoo and I hated it. I finally found a shampoo that I'd tried once before and liked OK, but it only seems to be sold at Rite-Aid and not Target. And then I tried one more place, our King Soopers, and it wasn't there - but the Kroger generic version was. I snapped it up and my hair is finally being more normal.
I think I'm going to have to find my shampoo on Ebay or something and stock up, because this small generic bottle won't last forever. I'm also thinking of writing a strongly-worded letter to Clairol admonishing them for getting rid of a good-selling shampoo line with a lot of satisfied customers. To quote Jay from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back: All those motherfuckers are going to PAY. They are the ones who are the ball lickers!
Sunday, November 12, 2006
We went to International Market to stock up on spices (Hulk likes to grind his own spices for making Indian food, chili, etc.), and they have the best prices on bulk spices anywhere. They've got just about anything one could want - though I didn't see any saffron; maybe they've got it locked up in the back or something, since it costs more than diamonds and high-quality coke combined. Anyhow, International Market is run by some Muslim guys, though I don't know what country they're from. The store isn't just spices - they stock a wide variety of dried bulk foods (rice, lentils, etc.), flours, canned goods, and packaged foods from African (bags and bags of yam flour to make foofoo, for instance), Asian (a whole aisle of Chinese tea), and Middle Eastern cultures (olive oils, nut oils, sesame oils - you name it). In addition to the spices, we bought some teff to make injera, the spongy sour flat bread one eats with Eritrean and Ethiopian food. We also bought some Tasty Bite - like boxed Indian meals with space-age packaging, some filo dough, and a package of homemade baklava. When ringing up our purchases, the clerk asked to make sure we knew what the teff was for - since we were the only people of European descent in the store at the time, and I think he wanted to make sure we knew what we were buying. "It doesn't match the rest," he said. "You can't get teff at King Soopers," I smiled in return.
Asia 88 was cold and smelled like China, much more so than anyplace else we've been since we got back nearly a year ago. Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese foodstuffs share ailes with candles, icons, cleaning products, and dishes, and there are only a few fresh vegetables - baby bok choi, bamboo shoots, lemongrass. There's a whole case with frozen things that have names like "Vegetarian fish balls." There was an entire aisle of snacks and treats, and I looked in vain for the delicious pignuts (peanuts) we brought back from China. I was tempted to get some mochi and was REALLY tempted by some bottled green tea that was the same kind I really liked in China - but wasn't willing to pay $1.50 for a small bottle that a year ago cost me 15 cents. But at least I know where I can get it. We bought some spring roll wrappers, some glass noodles, pocky, and fish broth, and by that time I was too hungry to shop anymore so we left.
The customers in those markets very rarely have the same skin tone and features that Hulk and I have. I almost felt like an intruder; we white people have our own crappy supermarkets with our own white people food and maybe part of an aisle dedicated to "ethnic" food with the La Choy canned chow mein next to the jars of La Victoria salsa. But there's something so delicious about buying the products that really work best for Thai or Indian or Ethiopian recipes and we can't get those at the Safeway down the street. So we feel like outsiders and we go and buy the good stuff and laugh the next time we're in our white people market and see the outrageous markups on spices ground and labeled nicely in their little glass jars.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
By the end of the summer, I had become a raging bitch, justifying to myself that I should keep on forgoing food because I'd lost all the weight I put on from ages 10-12 (I was the kind of kid who grew wider before I grew taller), but man, was I ever moody, depressed, and manic about every bite that went in my mouth. I specifically remember going out to eat at a fast food place with my family, ordering a small fries, and eating ten of them - when my mom said, "Don't you think you should eat something a little more substantial? I'm worried about you" and I totally snapped at her.
That was the only time in my life that I was really borderline anorexic, but my eating has been disordered at times since - freshman year in college, for example, I would eat salads every day in the dining commons and not eat anything else in order to save money, and then I'd get dizzy and sick working out in the gym. Or when my college boyfriend decided neither of us should eat meat, so I didn't, and he was also lactose intolerant, so I didn't have any cheese or milk for months either.
While I could go on and on about my history of disordered eating, the point of this post is about my blood sugar issues. I've been tested as borderline low blood sugar, and I show many of the signs - if I sit or lay down on the couch, I get dizzy when I stand up, sometimes to the point of falling over. There's also a specific sequence of events that happens when I don't eat.
These are the things that happen to me, chronologically, when I go for a while without eating. Or sometimes they're the things that happen if, for whatever reason, I eat only processed carbs with no fat or protein - especially if I eat a lot of sugar or white flour. First, I start to get lightheaded or absent-minded, just a little slower in thinking than usual. Then I get moody - most of the time I'm pretty even-tempered, but if I haven't eaten or eaten right for more than about 5 or 6 hours I can be pretty bitchy. Then I get withdrawn and don't speak and start to feel sullen and shaky. I develop a one-track mind - food at all costs; doesn't matter what it is. I get a headache and sometimes get nauseated, and then my energy level quickly falls to zero and I might fall over and not be able to move. If I eat some sugar, I will feel OK in a few minutes, but then will crash harder afterward if I don't also have some protein or fat.
These symptoms are all worse if I've been exercising. I MUST eat something after I work out within 30 minutes or an hour or I get extraordinarily dizzy and feel like I will pass out. Sometimes it's so sudden and strong that it's kind of scary. When we were training for the marathon a few years ago, one day we did a training run and then went to the grocery store, and I pretty much fell over and couldn't move. Hulk got me some orange juice and I could get up and walk in a few minutes, but while I was down I was pretty scared, because it happened so quickly.
It took me years to figure out that I needed fat and/or protein on a regular basis; in college I'd mostly eat carbs and avoided fat whenever possible, plus I wasn't eating meat so I didn't get much protein. When I went to Europe for the summer after I graduated I lost some weight and felt dizzy most of the time because I *still* wasn't eating meat but mostly yogurt, bread and fruit, trying to save money. It wasn't until I started traveling with someone else on that trip that I was really eating enough or regularly. I think it was maybe 5 years ago that I realized that my blood sugar issues got much better when I ate more protein and whole grains and stopped eating much processed carbohydrates, or if I did eat those I needed fat or protein with them - yogurt with my bagel, guacamole with my chips. Now I'm much better about balancing everything and I make sure to have my small handful of walnuts, almonds or pecans every day - they keep my skin looking nice and help keep me on an even keel.
One of the first things I told Hulk before we met was how I got when I didn't eat. He got in the habit of bringing food with him in the car when he'd pick me up at the airport so I would have something to eat on the way to Greeley. He only had to see Unfed MLE once and decided he never needed to see that again. I'm not nice, pretty, or attractive when I haven't eaten or have only eaten sugar. So I prefer to keep my blood sugar constant if at all possible, because my symptoms have only gotten worse as I've gotten older.
Today we were running errands in the car for most of the day. We had a nice big breakfast that included eggs with veggies and salsa, turkey bacon, orange slices and homemade biscuits at around 10 AM, and by around 3 PM I started to realize that I needed to eat something. But we didn't have much to munch on that was appropriate to stave off Unfed MLE, and we had more errands to run since we have the car, and we didn't get home until about 5:30 PM. I made a beeline for the freezer and inhaled my daily 5 walnuts and am hoping my headache doesn't get worse. Hulk is currently making dinner (burritos) that will have plenty of protein, vegetables, and we only eat whole grain tortillas, so within an hour after I eat I should be OK. But I really hate the "Unfed MLE" feelings and wish I'd remembered I had an energy bar in my purse. Because I just remembered that, and had I eaten that I could have staved off all the unpleasant things and bad mood of the last two hours. But that's Unfed MLE brain fog for ya.
Ooh, burrito's done! Time to eat!
Friday, November 10, 2006
For a Friday afternoon, the gym was surprisingly crowded. I did my weight circuit for the first time in over a week (the note on the fitlinxx machine told me "You have been doing great with your cardio, but we're going to guilt trip you into doing weights") - for some reason, there's no way to input any weights I do into fitlinxx at the gym, and I *have* done some weights when I've been in various hotels over the last month. Anyhow, I did weights and rode the bike for 25 minutes and caught up on my trash reading. Then I tried to go to the library, but it was closed for Veterans Day, so instead I spent some time browsing in one of my favorite gift/card/jewelry stores. On passing within a block of our old place I called our old neighbor to see if she was home - she's in the middle of finals for the business school quarter, but had some time to hang out.
She had lost 44 pounds! Holy shit, did she look good! But that's another post.
Hulk met me at Old Place and we walked home together. I knitted; he made dinner; we watched some Battlestar Galactica on DVD and also some Nip Tuck Season 3, borrowed from old neighbor. All in all, it was a lovely relaxing day. I am now refreshed for the weekend.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
1. I'M DONE! DONE! I'm home from Stepford Springs and completed my last training day today. Upon arriving home, I put on comfy PJ pants, sprawled on the couch, and immediately had James Loki Stryer on my lap, where he stayed for the whole afternoon.
2. Tonight, I made a lasagne for dinner to surprise Hulk. It was the first time I ever used those no-boil noodles (they weren't the kind with ripples on the edges, but the flat, homemade-style kind). The lasagne turned out OK; maybe a little dry. I like to chop up fresh, non-E.Coli containing spinach and include that in my layered pasta baked dish - how 'bout you?
3. On Sunday I de-ape-ified myself, sending all my disappointed Sasquatch suitors running for someone else who hadn't waxed in nearly 6 weeks. I know, totally gross.
4. At the Awesome Staff Enforced Togetherness Thing, I managed to knit most of and complete a gray scarf for Hulk (I had about 8 inches completed before the retreat; it ended up about 6.5 feet long). I was so proud of myself because I taught myself how to do a cable, which is one of those things that sounds all hard and advanced and confusing but it actually was quite easy, and I made up my own pattern. It looks quite dashing, if I do say so myself.
5. Pomegranate juice with tequila and Cointreau or Triple Sec makes a lovely variation of a margarita, on the rocks with salt and lime, as I discovered in the not-terribly-authentic-but-still-pretty-good Mexican place in downtown Stepford Springs. Perhaps next time Hulk makes a big batch of margs I'll invest in some POM and experiment.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
You are The Moon
Hope, expectation, Bright promises.
The Moon is a card of magic and mystery - when prominent you know that nothing is as it seems, particularly when it concerns relationships. All logic is thrown out the window.
The Moon is all about visions and illusions, madness, genius and poetry. This is a card that has to do with sleep, and so with both dreams and nightmares. It is a scary card in that it warns that there might be hidden enemies, tricks and falsehoods. But it should also be remembered that this is a card of great creativity, of powerful magic, primal feelings and intuition. You may be going through a time of emotional and mental trial; if you have any past mental problems, you must be vigilant in taking your medication but avoid drugs or alcohol, as abuse of either will cause them irreparable damage. This time however, can also result in great creativity, psychic powers, visions and insight. You can and should trust your intuition.
What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.
Several weeks ago, I needed a state car for my first two trainings and the popularity of the motor pool is such that one must request cars way ahead of time in order to have one when one needs one (otherwise, one must rent a car (which is also paid for by the state, but more annoying)). My first two training dates weren't set until about 3 weeks beforehand, at which time I went in to request cars for all the days I'd need them and was told the downtown office didn't have any cars for those first two dates. So I had to reserve older, crappier cars from the northern campus. And in order to pick up said cars, instead of walking a couple of blocks to the new parking garage, I had to take an awesome city bus for over a half hour and then walk a few blocks.
The first time I rode the bus to get a car, I sat down next to a smallish Mexican or Central American man. He looked a little down, but it took me a few minutes to notice that he didn't have any fingers. Well, that's not true. He had a thumb and some nubs on one hand and two fingers and a thumb on the other. Every minute or so, he would fidget with his finger stubs in what looked like a newly-developed nervous habit, as his hands still had angry red scars.
After a while, he started to make basic small talk - he asked if I knew Spanish (un poquito, I answered); he told me he wanted to learn better English. He was on his way to a physical therapist appointment, he told me, and was going to be fitted for prostheses. "Two month ago" was the response when I asked when he lost his fingers. "I have accident at work and now I no can work." I silently wondered how long he'd been in the States, whether his work was compensating him fairly for his obviously life-changing injuries and losses. Some life insurance pays cash money for the loss of fingers and toes and arms and legs, but how likely is an immigrant, legal or no, to have life insurance? And if he was illegal, would his company pay workman's comp?
"I no like the bus," he said, "but I no can drive neither. Too scared." I didn't blame him; if I lost most of my fingers I think I'd have a hard time being comfortable operating a car at first, too. And it was pretty obvious he was used to doing manual labor; I think he had worked in some sort of factory and had a major industrial accident. Truly, he couldn't do that kind of work anymore- and I hoped that somehow, someone would pay for him to be retrained or get some kind of occupational therapy or something. There are disabled service centers, I'm sure, that could help, but I didn't know how to tell him in words he would understand. "You know a school where I can learn English good?" he asked me, and I mentioned the only one I knew about for sure. "Oh yeah, I know that one," he said.
After a while, there wasn't much left to say. I could tell he was ogling me, and it was a very weird sensation; I didn't want to ignore him or make him feel that I was shunning his lack of digits, but at the same time I didn't want him staring at my boobs or looking down my shirt. Soon it was my turn to get off the bus and I told him goodbye and I walked in the cold to get my crappy state car and drove home.
The next week, I took the same bus to get another state car. I was on the bus at a totally different time, but the same guy was right there, fidgiting with his stubs. I didn't sit next to him.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
I just got done with voting after waiting nearly 2.5 hours. I am tired and hungry and had to go home in order to steal wireless so I could get directions to my hotel in Stepford Springs. Hulk should be home any minute, and so I'll give him a kiss, pet the kitties, and leave again for two more nights.
I'll drive for about an hour, schlep into the hotel, find someplace that will feed me, and have to put on my game face for my last training of the year. I can't wait for Thursday afternoon, for then I shall be DONE.
Maybe I will post some later tonight, but since there are no guarantees no matter what the hotel says about wireless internets, it's better to be safe than sorry and not blop today.
Monday, November 06, 2006
2. Also, then I have to drive to Stepford Springs, and I can't tell you how excited I am about that. Woo. :|
3. Also, because I am going to be gone all day tomorrow I have to go do early voting in a few minutes. I'm voting no on almost everything except for the pot thing and the domestic partnership thing. And political ads can go suck green syphillitic gangrenous donkey balls.
Sorry for the shined-on post, but the last few have been pretty meaty, so I don't feel too bad.
Update: Those fucking bastards closed early voting on Friday so I will have to vote when I come back from Testes Park tomorrow and before I drive to Stepford. Because I didn't have anything better to do. Argh.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Glenwood Springs was named for its sulfer hot springs and vapor caves that made it a happening destination back in the late 1800s and early 1900s for people recovering from tuberculosis or just those who had been advised by their doctors to take the mountain air and soak in the hot springs. The vapor caves and hot springs are still the main tourist draw, though the big fancy hotel where I hold my trainings is no longer a sanitarium for those suffering from TB (duh). (It was also once a hospital and rehab facility for troops coming back from one of the world wars).
The hotel was a favorite of Teddy Roosevelt (Bully!) back in the day and is reputed to be haunted, probably by the ghosts of all those people pissed off that they still ended up dying of tuberculosis. The person who served our lunch on the first day mentioned that she usually sees a ghost in the kitchen or the stairwell between the first and second floor. It's a grandiose establishment with history you can really feel, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if it were actually haunted. The hotel is full of antique furniture and photographs and paintings of TR and other famous guests. Some of the rooms are reputed to be haunted, and Hulk and I did hear some suspect noises, though they might have been coming from the pipes (it's an old water system and uses radiators for heat. Those make noises like hissing cockroaches or cicadas). But 12:30 AM the first night we heard knocking noises near our heads that neither of us had made, and at that hour in that kind of atmosphere it was a little spooky.
Yes, Hulk was able to come with me for my Glenwood Springs trip, which was nice because I didn't have to spend another 2.5 hours each way in the car alone. He got frustrated because we were going through the Eisenhower tunnel during the most exciting part of last weekend's football game. The Little Hybrid that Could didn't like the mountains (this is the gold civic hybrid, that performs miserably over the passes), but luckily I picked a great time and the weather was gorgeous. We did see a couple of herds of bighorns on the way up, none of which were actually in the road this time. It was time change day and so it got dark much earlier than we were used to.
After a nice dinner, we spent some time in Doc Holiday's Saloon, one of the two bars on the main strip (the other, next door, is more of a sports bar type place). It's full of old timey memorabilia, photographs and portraits of notable wild west figures, and since it was low season we were two of the 10 or so people in the whole place - it was nice to just hang out and chat at the bar; we never do that sort of thing.
I ran my two days of training and spent the first afternoon (it was a small group so we got done early on Day 1) wandering around the downtown part of Glenwood. My hair was still red from the henna and kind of glowed in the sun, and we traipsed in and out of shops looking at stuff for sale, at one point happening into a store selling woven textiles made by developmentally disabled adults, some of whom were actually working on looms in the store. There was a sign that mentioned Doc Holiday's grave, but I didn't find it (Hulk did, the next day, I think). Ol' Doc had come to Glenwood to partake of the hot springs and never left, I guess. Maybe he was the one knocking in our room that first night.
The most notable thing about our hotel room was the full-length mirrored closet doors reflecting the bed, and to spare your sensibilities I won't go any further with that. Needless to say, we had a good time, and I loved having company on my trip. Thankfully, there was no blizzard in Vail pass and we had an uneventful drive back to Denver. We came home Halloween afternoon, carved our pumpkins and lit the candles inside. Our bowl of candy sat by the door and we waited all evening but only had one trick-or-treater, the 5-year-old next door. I found myself wishing I'd taken the ghost tour at the hotel or visited Doc Holiday's grave, wishing I'd had the opportunity to partake in more of the Halloween celebrations. At least I got to see the broadcast of "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" that played the Friday before Halloween. I missed it last year because we were in China.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
That wasn't my introduction to working with fiber and my hands, however. I was always one of those kids who had to touch everything (my mom tells me that when I was a baby and even a toddler she was afraid I'd choke all the time because I put EVERYTHING in my mouth). I even agreed to chew on a rock when I was about 4 because a kid in my preschool class thought it would be a good idea (he also thought it would be a good idea to lick the dust layer on the back of my mom's station wagon, but that's a different story). Anyhow, I was always touching stuff and fiddling with my hands, so when I was about 8 my mom taught me how to do some simple macrame. I thought it was totally lame, so 70s!, so I didn't do much with it. Then came the fad of finger weaving or finger knitting - wrapping yarn around one's fingers in such a way as to create pieces of "cloth" with one's bare hands. In 5th grade I made a finger-woven garland that my mom used as a christmas decoration for years. The secret art of finger knitting is still safely tucked in my brain. Every so often, I take a piece of scrap yarn and ensure myself that indeed, it still works as I remember.
Also around age 8 or 9, my mom taught me how to knit for the first time. I did it for a few minutes and lost interest - knitting was something that grandmas did, and I just couldn't see myself making something with those big metal needles. She taught me again at the end of the friendship bracelet craze, when I was 13 or 14. I made a tiny strip of cloth long enough to sew together to make a headband-type-thing, which kept my forehead warm the one time I went skiing with my youth group. But that's all I did. In college, she retaught me because I had the bright idea to make a scarf for College Boyfriend one Christmas. Unluckily for me, I picked wool yarn without knowing how itchy that makes my hands, and I soldiered on for about a foot or so and then dropped some stitches and didn't know how to pick them back up. So I gave up on it.
And then the first Christmas I was with Hulk, I got the bug in my head again - hey, I could totally knit him a scarf! He lives where it's cold! So I stole my mom's aluminum size 8s from 1968 and went to Michael's and bought some greyish Lion Homespun and retaught myself the knit stitch. Had I known anything about fiber gauge, using the appropriate needles for a given project, or how to read yarn labels, I might have picked some different yarn for my first real project. Homespun is kind of bumpy and weird, with a central thread, and has no stretch or give. Also, it's supposed to be knitted on size 10 or 10.5 needles. But despite my having picked the Homespun and the size 8s, I soldiered on and managed to make an entire scarf without any holes - though I might have done a few yarn overs without realizing along the way, since it ended up with about 6 extra stitches at the end. I got to the end and realized that I'd never learned how to bind off (I had totally improvised the cast on) so I called my mom. Over the phone, she read instructions out of a knitting book that was to be a Christmas present to me (I thought it was her book) the easiest castoff. So I did that, and gave Hulk that scarf, warts and all.
That scarf was the beginning of a love affair. My non-QIR roommate taught me how to crochet, and I started cranking out matching scarves and hats for friends and family. I bought bigger, more appropriate needles, but made nearly all of my projects in Homespun and, even more difficult to work with, big fat chenille with needles that were totally too small for that yarn (your black-with-pink-and-red was the fat chenille, Monks). It wasn't until I moved to Denver that I realized there was a whole world beyond artificial fibers and acrylic yarn. After visiting a few actual yarn stores that sold products beyond Red Heart and Lion Brand, I realized there was much more to know about yarn and knitting.
The first time I went to a real yarn store, it was a specialty shop in San Francisco (ArtFibers) that commissions all of the yarns they sell (and also was where I realized I'm allergic enough to wool and blends of wool that have more than 50% of said fiber). I probably touched every yarn in the store, rubbing some between my fingers and some on my inner forearm and some on my face. I was like a kid in a candy store (or like Hulk in a comic book shop). On moving to Denver, one of my coworkers at my temp job taught me the purl stitch and took me around to a few LYSs (Local Yarn Stores). I can spend hours and hours in a yarn store, and even can spend hours in the yarn section of a Michael's or Hobby Lobby (hobblablaablabya), which I have done on many occasion. One time I was doing just that and a harried Michael's manager came over to me and asked if I'd like to teach a knitting class - just like that. So I did, for about a year and a half. I taught people of all ages (though mostly they were women around 40-50).
Then, the knitting craze began for younger women. Debbie Stoller wrote Stitch and Bitch to help reclaim knitting as a feminist art, appropriate for women of all ages, and the yarn companies began to realize there was plenty of money to be made in novelty yarn. I branched out from scarves and learned to make knitted hats, kitchen linens, purses and socks (and fingerless wrist warmer thingies that I sent to EEK). Though I haven't yet branched out to more complicated things like sweaters (Hulk's getting the first one I do, promise!), I consider myself an intermediate knitter.
But what I like best is the imagining part, the feeling of the yarn on my hands and fingers, picturing in my mind the garment or item that will come from that yarn, the finishing and the giving of the item to its intended owner. I've made a lot of blankets, potholders, purses, scarves, hats, and socks over the last five years, but have only made and kept a few things for myself. I'm currently working on a warm scarf made of a green/blue colorwave of baby alpaca (to which I am, thankfully, NOT allergic) for myself to replace some of the ones that were ruined in the Small Winter Item Storage Debacle. I bought the yarn to make this scarf at ArtFibers just before I moved to Denver and am only now getting around to making it because I kind of have to; it's getting cold out there! It's hard to stay motivated to finish something that is just for me, I'm finding. Though I love touching and working with the yarn, the best part is hoping that the recipient of my hours of time and effort spent on the whatever finds it useful, beautiful, interesting, or all of the above.
Friday, November 03, 2006
Specifically, I hate the time change that comes at the end of October. You know, Fall Back? Some people talk about loving that "extra" hour of sleep, but my whole schedule just goes off (much more than when I travel, so it isn't like jet lag or anything). For the last week I've been wanting to fall asleep at 5 PM and then again at 8 PM. I wake up at 6 AM and 6:30 and 7 AM. It fucking sucks.
My food clock is all off, too, especially since I've been traveling so much. I normally eat lunch at 1:30 or 2 PM or sometimes even 3 PM, but when I run a training lunch is at noon. If I'm staying in a hotel, my sleep is all weird regardless, but strange hotel bed all alone plus time change? equals major suck.
I hate that it gets dark so early! I hate that I have to walk home in the dark (when I'm at work, that is). I hate how gloomy and depressing everything is, and adding the time change to the already-setting-earlier sun adds insult to injury. Ugh. Why can't we just stay on Daylight Savings Time all year? I like it way better.
I can only think of two things that are positive about the fall time change. Thing one: Hulk has this really cool clock that automatically sets itself with a signal from the Atomic Clock in Boulder. In the spring, it isn't that interesting (it moves ahead an hour) but in the fall it moves ahead for like a whole 11 hours and it's all clicky and weird for over an hour until it's completely reset. Thing 2: I LOVE the spring time change and the switch to Daylight Savings time - so if we didn't fall back, we couldn't spring forward, and I would have one less thing on my 340982340985-thing-long list about why I like spring.
The best news I'd heard in a while came when I found out that next year, they're going to extend Daylight Savings time for nearly a month. I can't wait 'til early March.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Let me explain. The hotel is generally patronized by people on honeymoons, people taking a night or two to get away from it all. It's generally expensive and the beds are large and cozy and the rooms are kind of small. Some of the fixtures are 70 years old, and you can tell that a lot of stuff is original. They don't put fancy TVs or coffeemakers in the room, but they do have nice fluffy towels. The rooms are designed for people who are planning to spend a lot of time focused on each other, in the bed, and I think some of them are also designed for, shall we say, atmosphere?
The room I was in had an old TV and a big fancy bed. There was a haunting picture of a farmer girl whose eyes would follow you around the room. A super cool old armoire was in one corner and a comfortable overstuffed chair in another. But the best part was the heavy red velvet curtains and red velvet flocked wallpaper. It was not at all difficult to imagine myself a girl for hire in a late 19th century old west brothel, dressed like one of the girls in the saloon downstairs. In a way, it was even kind of difficult to sleep, what with the spooky girl staring at me and the red velvet surrounding me.
Other than my brothel room, Durango was lovely. It's probably my favorite smaller town in Colorado that I've ever visited. Some of my yearly haunts include a fantastic brewpub that serves amazing breakfast and also roasts their own coffee (Carver's), Honeyville (selling honey products and jams and jellies, with a working beehive enclosed in glass actually in the store), two yarn stores, and a kick-ass used bookstore. There's an authentic French bakery/restaurant (selling the best chocolate croissants I've had outside of France), a number of good coffee shops, and a store that sells everything from Lord of the Rings sword replicas to leather goods to sex toys. It's a vibrant town with a lot going on, and becoming a more desireable area to live.
Unfortunately, as with all places that become the new in place to live, housing prices are skyrocketing and people who have lived there for years are having a hard time paying their property taxes, since their neighbors' houses are selling for so much money. But for now, the population is quite invested in improving their community. It's not a tourist destination, though there's plenty to do - an hour's drive from Mesa Verde and the four corners area, a mountain train that runs between Durango and Silverton, and plenty of camping and hiking. And there's a state college in town. You can tell that real people actually live there. Durango isn't Disneyland or Venice. But it is a fun town to spend a couple of days, even if your room does make you feel like a call girl from 1887.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Ah, so. It begins.
Day 1 shall be somewhat of a rundown of what I've been up to for the last couple of weeks, with a few highlights here and there.
In the fall, I travel a lot for my job. And I mean a LOT. I started with nearly a week in Indianapolis at the beginning of October, and I sort of hit the ground running after that, with trainings conducted in Fort Collins and Denver, a Big Two-Day Meeting in Keystone, and trainings in Durango (southwest) and Glenwood Springs (western slope). Last night, as I sat miserable on the couch in anticipation for having to get BACK in the car tonight and drive to Pueblo (south front range) for two MORE days, Loki decided that my lap was the happening place to be. Every time I sat down, there he plopped himself. Petra is still speaking to me - but barely. I have a feeling that when I come back from Pueblo only to head up to Testes Park for another work thing and then pretty much go straight to Stepford Springs for my last training, Petra will officially hate me. But then I'm done, kitty! Done!
So, yesterday was my mom's 58th birthday. Aside from some continuing divorce/money drama, it sounds like she had a good day. Mom is a middle school teacher, and every year the kids manage to find out that Halloween is her birthday, so she always ends up being sung to and has little gifts and hugs bestowed throughout the day. She always dresses up, too - some years she is a biker chick, or a witch, or (this year) a bobby soxer. When I was a kid, Halloween wasn't quite the same as it might have been for other kids, because it was also Mom's birthday. I liked it best when Halloween itself was on a weekend so we could do mom day stuff on the weekend and I could wear my costume to school the Friday beforehand and PRETEND that that day was Actual Halloween. Later, I liked it best so I could head home from college if only for an afternoon and take my mom to lunch or a movie or something. Since I moved to Denver, I haven't seen my mom for her birthday, but then again she hasn't seen me for mine either, so it's all OK.
This year, Hulk and I were invited to a couple of different costume events. One was at a bar in the adjoining neighborhood, entertainment provided by the band of an ex-coworker (he dressed as blinged-out pope, complete with enormous gold pendant on a chain that said Jesus Saves!). The band invited hundreds of people and I think everyone came, because the space was so jam-packed crowded that it took our server an hour at one point to refill our drinks. We got there early, forewarned that it was going to be a crowded event, and snagged a table.
And of course we dressed up! We made a Max from Where the Wild Things Are costume for Hulk and I put together a last-minute costume after realizing a Wild Thing might be difficult to pull off - so Thursday night I hennaed my hair red (it did get pretty reddish, especially the blonde parts) and Friday night I dressed as Pippi Longstocking. The party was a lot of fun, despite the crushing crowds, and the best part was getting to see how creative the costumes were. There were even some girls not dressed as sexy/slutty _________ (fill in the blank). Though I must admit, the girl dressed as Tinkerbell at the table next to us probably wasn't wearing any underwear, and her skirt barely covered her butt, and I kept feeling like her ass crack was going to greet me at any moment.
On Saturday we went to see The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3D playing at a local theater. It was cool to see it on the big screen again, though the 3D was pretty subtle - it didn't so much pop as just open up a little bit. And I got to sing along to some of my favorite songs and almost seriously considered growing my hair again just so I could wear my Sally costume again next year.
I can't blow my entire wad in one day's post, so I'm sorry for the disjointedness and all - but this is my only day in the office until next Friday and I have actual work to do!
Wish me luck on the whole blopping thing. We're taking the train to California for Thanksgiving (I'm taking 3 days off work; Hulk has that whole week off school) so I'll have to wardrive (wartrain?) during the train ride (it's about 30 hours in each direction). I should have plenty of time for writing, but will I find wireless to steal? That remains to be seen!