Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Portable Home

Skipped class last night only to encounter a frantic Boy. The alleged night off became Outback takeout on particle board desks while we collaborated on deadline. But it was kind of fun in an I always wish I was Keri Russell’s Felicity kind of way. As long as I heard her Kate Bush-inspired soundtrack in my head, I could persevere.

The result of all that collaboration is that I’m not ready to go. And I’m supposed to be ready to go in less than a couple of hours. With half of the duo known as the grandparents and the entirety of their house now gone, traditions are being re-thought. Thanksgiving has moved, for my family, to Virginia, and now that I’m half of a we, I can’t justify traveling to see the family who lives near us. So tonight, we head to Connecticut for what I believe is the longest trip in our brief history. And what is definitely our first joint holiday on purpose.

The Mother will still be in New England at this time, so I will also be experiencing my first divorced holiday. Multiple dinners at multiple houses for different reasons than that has happened before. At least both of our families don’t live in the same state. I can’t even fathom 3-4 Thanksgiving dinners.

I just received the fourth terse phone call of the day from The Boy, who keeps sneakily trying to push our departure time up. I wish I would have anticipated that when I could not drag myself from bed this morning. Last time I was outside it felt like the Wizard of Oz, and I know New York, Jersey and Connecticut are all expecting snow tonight, so I guess we should get on the road. I know how people here get with even a hint of rain, so if they’ve heard the forecast for New England, we could be in trouble…

So I’m stuck between elation and sadness, in the vast middleground of melancholy, as I try to remind myself that no matter where I am on Thursday, things will never again be like last year.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Out of My League

My would-be ring bearer rejected me. Saturday, Little Sister and I went to Ravens Stadium (I know that’s not really its name, but I feel like I’m doing an awkward commercial in the Truman Show when I call it by it’s corporately-sponsored name). Our little cousins played in the “Super Bowls” for their respective age groups. The oldest is 11 and a big star on his team. But the cousin in question is newly seven and plays flag football, without pads or the glasses he usually wears. We just missed his game and found him munching on a hot dog. At this point, he refused to speak with me.

Throughout the day I requested his attention so I could ask him a question.

“Never!” He yelled, throwing his head back. Then he ran away.

Finally, as I escorted him from the seats to meet up with his brother, who had just won the Super Bowl, he let me talk to him.

“I was wondering if you would be in the wedding for me.”

“No,” he said.

“Gillian will be there too. You guys can walk together.” I’m still unsure why I thought this might be a selling point, as seven-year-olds despise members of the opposite sex, even if they are relatives. Maybe especially if they are relatives.

I resorted to saying, “Well, I was just being nice. You have to; your mom already said yes.” Mature, C. Nice.

He came running back later, asking why I didn’t ask his other brother, the shaggy-haired 10-year-old who was a spectator that day. “He’d be better than me, anyway.”

A little friend, Colin, overheard this conversation. “I was a ringbear,” he offered.

“Great!” I said, “Please tell him that it’s fun and he should do it! You had fun, right?”

“NO,” Colin exclaimed without mulling it over, “It’s not fun at all! Don’t do it! SAY NO!”

With that, the two ran away.

My own ring bearer shot me down. At least the groom still wants me.

Friday, November 18, 2005

He's the Inspiration

The Boy is not happy. Today, I received the following call:

Me: (in hushed, working-in-an-open-cubicle voice with a hint of "this is the fourth time you’ve called today") Hi.
Him: I did not throw the controller!

He went on to admonish me that I did not portray the episode properly, then performed a rant on the lack of frequency of his appearances here at, “Setta-dee.”

“I’m not a cricket,” he said, “I’m a cofounder.”

How he suddenly gained the right to call my creations his is a certifiable unknown. He complained that this publication makes him look like a jerk, but added, “The irony in the trunk thing is pretty funny.”

Then he told me it had been eight days since my last post, and he, a not-so-faithful reader, felt that I needed to update as soon as possible.

Here we are. This is his shout-out. I hope he enjoys it.

Life has continued to daunt, as the holidays approach with the rapidity of a big ol’ jet airliner.

I…was…PISSED to earn TWO B+’s in one of my classes. Chalk it up to stylistic differences, I guess, but The Boy chalks it up to unrealistic expectations and ridiculous standards of success. I say that’s what happens when you bring home papers and tests your whole life with 94’s on them to a mother who remarks, “What six did you get wrong?”

To balance out the B’s, an editor called this week about a magazine column. I think that’s as far as this one’s going to go, but with my limited credits, it’s nice to know he looked at my proposal and had any reaction other than unrestrained laughter.

Tonight we are going to Medieval Times. No, really. It might surprise you that a woman of my snobbery (and gorgeous new ivory and aubergine cashmere coats) would make an appearance at such an establishment (only to eat half a chicken with her hands, no less), but these are the things we do for friends. Happy Early Birthday to Edes.

Tomorrow, I am accompanying Little Sister to try on bridesmaids gowns. She was supposed to be a junior bridesmaid, but she campaigned to be a “real” one. I said, “So, what you’re saying is that you want to be a full-fledged bridesmaid?”

She: “No. Because I don’t even know what fuh-ledge means.”

She thinks she’ll talk Mom into allowing her to wear a strapless dress. I’m not sure what she plans on using to hold it up, but I’d like there to be a strict, no double-sided tape rule at my nuptials, thanks.

Otherwise, the wallpaper in the bathroom will be bidding a fond farewell, as The Boy uses his newfound free Saturday to rip it mercilessly from the walls. I think we will finish moving him in sometime in mid-2006.

I hope this post has reminded my several readers that I exist while placating The Boy.

Soon, I’ll be headed to watch jousting. Here’s to hoping your night does not involve bugles or long-haired men with horses and pointy sticks.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Cemetery and a Stale Grilled Cheese

My old stomping grounds have turned into a graveyard. Burial grounds. And everyone knows you shouldn’t stomp on the departed, even if the parting was not so dear.

As my unfortunate Marital False Start had its roots at said grounds, it is only reasonable to expect certain ghosts to appear. Such as the inevitable “I thought you were married” exclamations or the uncomfortable practice of omitting an obvious name from discussions. I expected such instances, so I was prepared.

I was not, however, prepared to hear Best Friend from College’s husband yell, at the football game, “C! This guy knows Leland!” Leland is not his actual name, but a mocking nickname my “friends” assigned to him. He didn’t know it was mocking. They didn’t think I was serious.

To this day, I would prefer to refer to this guy as “Mulligan.” I cannot offer an excuse for having dated him…or maybe it’s more like, as Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Amanda said in Can’t Hardly Wait, “I mean…I know why I started dating him, but…I just don’t know why it went on so long.” Friends and loved ones offer remembrances that are far from complimentary. I cannot argue; they’re right. So, obviously, that’s one that’s better left in the past. And it was the last thing I expected to encounter at The Cemetery.

Making matters worse, the guy who admitted to knowing Mulligan happened to be False Start’s roommate in his senior year. So, you can just imagine how that conversation went. I don’t think I need to crystallize it for you.

Otherwise, I saw ghosts whose names I could not remember, ghosts with whom I avoided eye contact, and ghosts whom I hugged ferociously. I ate at Yamato Express, my chicken teriyaki measuring stick to which no other Japanese restaurant has ever been able to compare. I saw my brother starting out “on his own.” My friends and I pointed out our successors. Then we ate Dairy Queen and went to bed at the Red Roof Inn before midnight, talking about birthing centers. And things have changed.

But before all of that, Mom and I went to buy a wedding dress. Again, but for the first time.

Our trip took hours longer than it should have, and the day began with my attempt to leave the house at 4:51 a.m. I had meant to leave at 6:00. I am never early, least of all before dawn. In my anxiety about oversleeping, I inadvertently reset my clock, resulting in my being all packed up and ready to go at nine ‘til five. I laid back down in my clothes for an hour. Then, attempting to back out of the space I probably could have just pulled out of, in my haze, I slammed into the car behind me. I did a thorough evaluation of damage from inside my car, and decided it was minimal.

When we finally arrived in Burlington, I was annoyed that I could only take three dresses at a time (a rule we promptly broke) and that I was virtually invisible to anyone with a nametag. Finally interrupting Betsy’s conversation, I asked if I could borrow a bra.

“We don’t do that anymore,” she said, “the bras were getting destroyed.”

I tried not to appear upset. Because I traveled hundreds of miles in pursuit of the dress at this store.

“Most girls just pull their straps down,” she said.

In my head: “This is my wedding dress. I am not pulling straps down. And anyway, I’m wearing a racerback bra.” I said none of this, just huffed over to my mom to relay the news.

Then, I had my first inexplicably emotional bridal moment. My eyes welled up with tears. Mom put an end to that nonsense and attempted to buy me a bra. I tried it on and laughed hysterically. B and D do sound similar, but the difference is marked.

With the proper underarmor (including proper undies—I remembered this time), I began trying on dresses. This store is supposedly “discount,” and apparently the term extends not only to service and undergarments, but also to the existence of the fitting rooms. There aren’t any. There are stalls. Like for cattle at the Indiana State Fair.

So, in my coral Hanes Her Ways, I began the three-and-a-half hour process that resulted in my trying on the same Monique Lhuillier knock-off dress three times. It was so much more than I planned to spend, but so much more beautiful than anything I’d seen. As I walked back to the stall after the second attempt, Mom said to Betsy, “You know which one we’re leaving with, right?”

She responded, “Of course, she’s just making sure she does.”

We walked out with THE dress. And, if it really looks the way I think it does, I couldn’t be happier.

Sunday involved church and lunch with the lost boys who deliberately mortified me over my story by repeating one of the lines ad nauseum and then, when I didn't pick up on it, they acted out the final scene as we said good-bye. A grilled sandwich has never caused anyone so much heartache.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Gentle Reminder

Yes, of course, there are many stories to be told from the whirlwhind adventure to the Carolina foothills. Unfortunately, for all involved, they will have to wait. Higher Education (oh yeah, and "work") calls. With that in mind, if you have not yet taken my survey, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

Due in large part to said adventure, I am behind on the writing of my story, and I could use your assistance. Take the freaking survey. Unless you already have, in which case, thank you. I appreciate you appreciating me.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Mama, I'm Coming Home. . .Sort of

After The Boy’s meeting with the self-proclaimed Bishop of Baltimore ran late (what? Pentecostal preachers have their own, unique sense of time? You don’t say!), we missed our flight to Hartford. We didn’t, as Brother’s Middle Eastern drivers’ improvement teacher would say, “get sweaty,” because Southwest usually has flights there every 45 minutes or so. Not on this Tuesday afternoon. We were delayed two and a half hours.

We arrived at Bradley International at 4:47. Doors opened at the Meadows at 5:00 and Rock Star Brother was set to go on at 6:00. Somehow, we made it to our $100 rental Hyundai (no, really—there are drawbacks to being under 25) and to the hotel where everyone else had already checked in. The guy at the desk looked concerned when we told him we planned on walking to the concert.

“Uhh, is it just going to be the two of you?” He asked. “Just be careful around the bookstore. I mean, it’s safe and everything, but you’ll probably get hustled.”

We were glad to find free parking at the Meadows. We met up with the siblings and assorted friends and made it into the arena just in time. Just in time for me to have it out with three separate “staff members” because they would not allow us access in front of the stage. Even though, because they were the first act, there were hundreds of empty seats. And even though I offered to allow them to escort us back to our real seats after Rock Star Brother finished. And even though I volunteered to show them The Boy’s ID to prove his relationship. The Sister and Other Brother managed to get down there with a couple of self-important friends. Hope they enjoyed the show. But RSB and friends did wonderfully, and it was really exciting to see him in such a big venue.

We were back in the area by 9:30 yesterday morning, so a full day at the office and a 7:30 meeting today and I feel (and, honestly, look) like a zombie. I had planned on leaving for Carolina after work today, but something came up, so it’ll be another early morning for this tired soul.

Tomorrow, if we ever get there (I’ll see you when I get there), marks the beginning of The Search. Mom and I (and maybe Best Friend from college and The Roommate) will scour racks of discount wedding dresses in Burlington. As we sat to discuss wedding budgeting and planning with the parents last weekend, BigJohn, without a hint of sarcasm, said, “Why don’t you take that other one down with you and see if you can make a trade?” This, only a week after, loading groceries into The Boy’s trunk, I noticed a familiar balled up plastic garment bag. Emblazoned with the words, and I am not making this up, “All the Right Choices.” My skeleton found a new, if temporary, home. The Boy said, “I ride around all day with irony in my trunk.” For those who may remember The Marital False Start of 2002, I feel like I need to qualify every wedding planning statement with “No, really!” or, “For real this time!”

It’s like those chicken sandwich ads, “Try it again, for the first time.” Oy.

This weekend Dwayne Johnson and I will also descend upon my old stomping grounds for Homecoming. I always have mixed feelings about this, as it usually resorts in my feeling out of place, heading for the hills and wondering why I wanted to visit in the first place. Hopefully, it will be more pleasant than I anticipate.

If you're going to be there too, hit me up.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Verbal Scenery for Your Day

Venturing up to Hartford this afternoon for the Rock Star Brother's BIG show with Audioslave and Seether. We are trying to fool ourselves into believing this is a mini-vacation so that the insane logistics don't render us suicidal. Wish us luck on that one.

In the meantime, since I can't really post, I thought you might like to see one of my recent pieces.

And, not that you would, but don't even think about disrespecting me or my work by ganking it (see licensing below). That kind of insurrection will not stand ... man. That being said, enjoy. Or don't. It's up to you!

Crossing Paths at Cross Street Market

On Sunday afternoon at Cross Street Market, no one shops. The wide aisle dividing the building is usually crowded with bodies buying stargazer lilies, steaks, pies, and salmon. But on Sundays, the only part of the market doing business sells beer. Around wooden barrels and stools, crowds congregate—as diverse as the drinks in their hands. Watching football or not, Cross Street’s patrons occasionally collide, but they never intersect.

This particular Sunday concludes Cross Street’s grand re-opening celebration. Mayor Martin O’Malley ceremoniously cut the ribbon after the $1.3 million dollar renovation, but the market never actually closed.
The bar area is transformed; exposed duct work and beams make way for tin awnings over each refurbished bar. Brick tiles shimmer on the floor, though, judging by the crowd, they probably won’t for long.
The new Cross Street Market feels a bit more sashimi and bottled beer than crabs and kegs. A sushi chef in a Ravens hat rings a bell—order up.

A pony-tailed teenager flip-flops by, wrinkling her nose. “It smells weird in here,” she remarks loudly.

Eating a seaweed roll, a middle-aged man talks with his mouth full.

“It’s the younger generation’s appreciation for the older generation.” He nearly shouts, “You gotta like it. There’s a sense of fair play in the world.”

His blonde companion chain smokes and smiles. The cement bar around them is littered with empty Heineken keg cans and the market’s infamous four-dollar, 32-ounce beer cups. In front of the blonde sits a half bottle of chardonnay. It is empty.

The couple leaves behind only the bottle and two cigarette butts, lying in an empty oyster shell.

They walk past two round men in Ravens jerseys watching the game at the end of the bar. The older man’s bald head and hoop earring gleam. He laughs and slaps the younger man’s black jersey. The younger man hunches over. His fuzzy blond hair reminds no one of the man whose name he wears. Deion Sanders isn’t really here.

By another T.V., Ravens shirts hold plastic cups and huddle around an overturned barrel. A rumpled man in a flannel shirt interrupts the mass of purple. His enthusiasm is his ticket into this crowd. When officials call a penalty against the Ravens, he shouts disapproval the loudest. He stays.

A woman in a Steelers jersey and red lipstick stands at a bar looking lost. She is not invited to approach the barrel.

Farther down the bar, football does not exist. Poster-board signs declare, “We Need 1’s, 5’s and 10’s. No 20’s, 50’s or Fake 100’s. We Have Plenty.” Two women sit below the signs, drinking Coronas.

“This is what I mean about playing these mind games,” one says, mercilessly separating an oyster from its shell. “That’s the part that rises my blood pressure, and due to my unhappiness, I will not have good health.” She swears, “I knew better. I knew all along he was leaving. I felt it.” The other woman nods and sips her beer.

Also tuning out the game, grey-haired men with wrinkled jackets and puffy faces stand around a picnic table that holds no plastic cups. Drinking Budweiser and Amstel Light from bottles, they laugh as one man casts an imaginary fishing line. Somebody’s grandson looks on from his stroller.

Back at the magnetic barrel, a bearded man in a straw hat and Ravens golf shirt approaches. He holds a plastic cup of Guinness that is big enough to share. The circle widens to accommodate him.

Late-twenties men and women in baseball caps mill past the barrel, oblivious to the 16-3 Ravens score that could mean this season’s first win. They stay across the room.

The woman at the bar rages on, interrupting herself only to order six more oysters. “He said, ‘I did not purposely not call you back,’” she lowers her voice, then bellows, “But you’re not sorry neither? I was just sitting in disbelief. It’s the principle of the thing.” The silent woman excuses herself. She walks several feet behind her to kiss a man slouching on a barstool, watching the game and nursing a beer.

Half the room celebrates as Ray Lewis makes a tackle and pounds his chest. Although his shirt wanders around the bar, Ray Lewis isn’t really here either.

Blocking a T.V., the pony-tailed bartender wears a shirt that reads, “I see drunk people,” and shells oysters. She assures a patron that he is not eating live oysters.

“I kill them when I open them. When I cut the muscle, I’m actually cutting the heart.” She laughs a mock evil laugh, not noticing the man’s look of horror.

Once her friend returns, the woman at the bar finishes her beer and sighs, “I just gotta get some anger out right now. But not today.”

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