Thursday, August 31, 2006

another birthday on the books

Today is the first day of the 31st year of my life. I'm still deciding whether this will be a look-good birthday (shopping; pedicure) or a feel-good birthday (donate blood; rescue a pound puppy... okay that second one's bullshit, I don't care for dogs and they aren't allowed in my building, but I am in the mood to tap a vein). What to do, what to do... Blood replenishes faster than cash... but... Loehmann's... birthday... discount... ohIgiveup. Shopping it is. I'm weak but I'm well dressed.

You know what's weird? I feel younger. Younger than I felt a year ago. While last August I was pumped and ready to barrell into my fourth decade with attitude a'blazing, on this birthday I have had to remind myself -- several times already -- that I am not 29 today. My inner grownup, patient and patronizing, strokes my hair and cups my chin: "Yes, honey, 30 was a turning point, but that doesn't mean you get to count backward from now on."

I actually celebrated last weekend when my family and I descended upon Rockville's famed Far East restaurant for the Annual Chinese Birthday Feast, a ritual in which we order enough to feed a Jewish football team (if such a thing existed) at sundown on Yom Kippur, and leave with a week's worth of leftovers -- yessir, yessir, three bags full.

My youngest brother gave me this card:

He's a clever little bastard.

Early acknowledgments continued when my Grandma called around 3:00 yesterday afternoon. "Happy birthday!" she sang. "Thank you, Grandma! But you know, my birthday is tomorrow."

"Oy vey, I got confused," she chuckled. "Eh, alright, so you'll take it today. Nu? What are you going to do on your big day?"

"Well, I'm having lunch with a friend. And then after work I'll either go shopping or donate blood at the Red Cross up the street. And I'm sure I'll fit some dinner in there too."

"WHAT?!" My grandmother produces thunderous volume from her itty bitty frame. "Donate BLOOD?! Who DOES such a thing?"

For a second I thought she was pulling my leg. "Well... um... lots of people. All the time."

"But WHY? Why would you let somebody TAKE YOUR BLOOD?"

"Because I'm type O Negative, the universal donor. And there's a shortage. And... it's just... a nice thing to do?"

"Don't do it," she commanded.

I tried not to laugh out loud. "Grandma, why not?"

"It's not a good idea. Don't do it!!!"

"Why is it not a good idea?"

"For your health. It's not a good idea for your health."

"Are you kidding me? People do this all the time. I do this all the time. They have blood drives. At the temple (I tried to make it Jewish for her), and in high schools. Blood grows back in no time." I cringed at that last part -- "blood grows back" -- how embarrasingly elementary, but I had to explain this concept in a way that might help it sink in.

"No. No way," she insisted. "People give blood when they know somebody who's sick."

"Then it's okay?"

"Yes, then it's okay."

"But it's not okay to give blood to a stranger?"

"That's right."

"Nice attitude, Grandma. You're a real humanitarian."

"You listen to me, Danielle." I could feel her angry little finger pointing at me. "I know what I'm talking about. I've gone my whole life, 80 years, without letting anybody take my blood."

"And I'm sure you'll leave this world feeling that much richer for the extra pint you've saved."

And with that she grunted a final "Happy birthday" and hung up the phone. Of course Grandma immediately phoned my mother to report my horrific plans. Whether Mom defused the situation or incensed Grandma further I do not know, but I expect this will all have blown over in two weeks' time. Three at the most.

Later last night my mother called to tell me, as she often does, that I was missing a fascinating program on television. "It's about the end of the world. They're talking about what would happen if a black hole came too close to the earth. We'd have a couple days to say goodbye and then we'd all just... disintegrate. Or something like that. Anyway, turn on '20/20.'"

While I changed the channel she sighed into the phone and I could imagine her -- right hand pressed over her mouth, head shaking slowly. "It's so scary," she moaned. "That it could all end like that, just in a moment. Oh, honey... I love you. Go. Enjoy an ice cream. Right now!"

And then I decided it'll be at least another year before I'm too old to listen to my mother.

Monday, June 12, 2006

rule number one: don't get caught

My sister is such a fool. You'd think that with three older siblings she'd have learned by osmosis how to successfully pull a few tricks in her teenage years. Hell, I was the trailblazer and still I managed to sneak into Georgetown bars every weekend. Of course, it was the early 90s then, before IDs had holograms, back when Georgetown was still cool. But this isn't even about bars or drinking; it's about a DVD.

Last night my father called me around dinnertime. "I need your advice on something." He sounded tired; like whatever was going on, he'd had enough of it.

"Your sister was out bopping around Bethesda with her friends last night," he said. "They decided to rent a movie. So she calls me from Blockbuster to ask what our account number is, and then she puts the cashier on the phone and the woman asks me if Steph has permission to be renting 'Sex and the City.' To which I of course I replied, 'No freakin' way.'"

I told Dad that was a good call. "It's totally inappropriate; Stephanie's just not ready for that show -- at least not unedited. I own all the DVDs and every time she asks if she can borrow one, which is often, I shoot her down."

"Well, she and her friend came home with a Blockbuster bag and when I asked what they had rented she told me it was 'Shrek 2.' Pretty innocuous, right? So I said fine, and they went down into the basement, and I went to bed. I guess it's my own fault for not looking inside the bag...

"The next morning I came downstairs to find two DVD cases sitting on the kitchen counter -- 'Sex and the City' season 3, and 'Sex and the City' season 5."

I tried to stifle a belly laugh. "So what'd you do?"

"Well, I confronted her! And she just didn't think what she'd done was a big deal. I know there needs to be some consequence, but I haven't decided yet what I'm going to do."

Oh, the irony; of all my siblings, I was the kid who smoked dope in the parking lot of the local mall. I was the one who skipped school, sneaked out, sneaked in, lied about my age and made out with 24-year-old Army boys on the Exorcist Steps when I was only 16. And now my father is asking me for disciplinary advice. (These days I'm asleep by midnight on Saturdays and sipping coffee over the New York Times by 8:00 a.m. the next day. The last thing I smoked was a piece of salmon.)

After a bit more chuckling I said, "You know, Dad, I don't know which is more disappointing -- that she committed the offense, or that she was too stupid to hide the evidence." I promised to think it over and get back to him with any ideas.

My best friend L -- wise, creative and just a little bit twisted -- is always a good consultant on matters such as these. So I asked her: If she was the parent in this situation, what would she do?

"Well, I might congratulate her for being able to talk her way into the rental after the telephone call from the store clerk. But then I'd have to chastise her for being stupid by getting caught with the contraband. Then again, I might give her kudos for having the chutzpah to flaunt those DVD cases by getting caught... I think you should make her smoke a foul cigar until she turns green. No, wait, that's for getting caught with cigarettes; never mind.

"Okay, here it is: Make her watch the DVD in front of the entire family... and... give you all a running commentary on the plot and scenes!"


I shared L's ideas with my Dad. "Public humiliation it is!" he declared. "And on top of that? I think I'm going to be too busy to drive her to the DMV for that learner's permit. Like for the next few months."

Friday, June 09, 2006

Official diagnosis: Bupkis!

I squirmed through a slippery sonogram of both my breasts today (they throw in the goop for free) and it turned up a screenful of stuff that looks a lot like the surface of Mars. No signs of life. I thought I saw something shaped vaguely like a hat -- which could have been the Monopoly piece or Carmen Sandiego (thanks, Lior) -- but it was just a tiny lymph node.

I'm to return in a couple weeks for a baseline mammogram... and all I can think about is California Pizza Kitchen. Next time you eat at CPK, take a peek behind the counter where they prepare the crust: They stick a round lump of dough between two circular steel slabs, pull a lever that clamps them together, and when they finally let go that dough is as wide and flat at the plate they'll serve it on.

Man, I could really go for a pizza right now.

Thank you, everyone, for your concern and for keeping the gag going; I enjoyed a few chuckles this week that helped the days fly by.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

taking my lumps

Just when you thought I'd exhausted the topic: More about breasts!

In this issue of Boobie Digest: My Very First Mammogram.

There's something in my breast. A lump -- I guess everything subcutaneous is a lump until you take a look inside. It's rather large (as breast lumps go) and a bit painful, which is a good indication that it's the kind of something that's nothing, as opposed to the kind of something that's something.

I'm not too worried... but I am curious. What could it be? The missing tophat from my first Monopoly game? That jujube that vanished into the couch? A fragment of an old broken heart?

Jimmy Hoffa's pinky ring?


I consulted my best friend on the matter, and she returned an impressive list of possible diagnoses, including: tears not shed; your virginity; the popularity neither of us found in junior high; sushi; the Lost Tribe of Israel; and (my personal favorite) "Maybe that's where your socks go when they disappear in the dryer."

All helpful, but still I'd like to open up the floor: Anyone want to hazard a guess? Come on, it'll be fun! Guess the Lump, all entries due by 9:00 a.m. this Friday, an hour before I see the radiologist. Maybe I'll even get Dionne Warwick on the line, just for shits and giggles.

Oh, don't look so horrified. You gotta have a sense of humor about these things! We all have to take our lumps now and then. You've got four days; now make with the funny stuff and help me take mine.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

like a fiddle

While Mom was out for the evening, singing a gig at a retirement home in Northern Virginia, I came by the house to wash a bit of laundry and hang out with my Dad. Once dinner was eaten and my khaki sheets were dry, Dad offered me a slice of my mother's famous banana bread for dessert.

"Mmmm... maybe just a bite. Only the bottom." I love the moist, chewy layer where the cake sits on the plate collecting gooey sweetness. My family has learned to eat that part first, before I can swoop in and gobble my favorite puddingy morsels right off their plates.

Dad set to work slicing a sliver from the bundt, sawing gently back and forth with a serrated knife as is his Proven Method (patent pending). The man may be anal, but nobody cuts a cleaner slice of cake.

He tipped the piece over onto the plate and we both groaned with disappointment; no bottom layer -- it'd been cut away.

"It's your mother," he said. "Not so coordinated. She just grabs the knife and presses down. Totally smooshes the cake, no sawing motion at all. And she's in such a hurry she usually cuts it on an angle too; takes the bottom layer right off the next piece." He sighed and shook his head, a defeated teacher realizing at last that some pupils will never master some skills.

At mention of the word 'coordinated' my mind flashed back to the wedding we attended a couple weeks earlier in New York. I watched my parents enjoying the band: My father boogied to the beat; my mother... well, she looked lovely in her pink gown.

"Not coordinated is right," I said to Dad. "That scene on the dance floor last weekend... oy vey."

"Yeah, did you see what happened when I tried to lead her? Disaster."

"Fortunately I inherited your sense of rhythm," I said. I was speaking of my own proclivity for shaking my groove thing, but Dad must've thought I meant my piano training.

"I suppose I would have done pretty well with a musical instrument," he said, nodding thoughtfully. He watched his kids grow up with music, always wondering what it would have been like to learn.

"Well, instead you married one!" I said brightly.

And then my father smiled in that wistful way he does when he thinks fondly of my Mom, which is often, and he murmured, "Yes, I certainly did..."

...only she plays me."

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

flesh & boneheads

Yesterday on the treadmill, my daily dose of cable TV leads me to Episode 5 of Dr. 90210: "If It Ain't Fixed, Don't Break It." For Taryn, a young transsexual, it's about that time; time to trade in the hand she was dealt and pick up a pair. Taryn has probably been on a hormone regimen for some time; she is a wisp of thing, more feminine even than I, with porcelain skin and -- I only mention this because Dr. Alter made such a issue out of it -- very small nipples. Apparently this, coupled with a lack of breast tissue, will make it difficult to shimmy Taryn's implants inside and fill 'er up, as the medical types say. While she has no breasts, her body is reedy and smooth and (save for a few hanging bits concealed beneath her skirt) she looks every bit a girl. So it's a bit jarring at first to see her standing there nude from the waist up. An uncensored topless woman is not a sight to which you're typically treated on American TV -- especially at 5:30 in the afternoon. But I suppose, as far as the censors are concerned, Taryn is still a man, and so we're permitted to see her, itty bitty nipples and all.

But then -- a change! Halfway through the surgery, suddenly we don't view Taryn the same way. Which is perhaps the whole point, but still -- I'm more than a little put off when, the moment that deflated breast implant pokes through Taryn's chest wall, suddenly her nipples are off limits to the viewing public and the blurry patches of censorship appear. "Here lies a woman," they seem to cry, their fuzzy fingers shielding our eyes. "Thou shalt not peek!"

Later in the episode we meet a young mother who visits Dr. Alter to repair a torn labia. (I tuned in after the part that presumably explained how her poor vagina came to be that way. Sort of glad I missed it.) What they revealed: A crude (as in 'undetailed,' not 'vulgar') illustration of the state of affairs between the young lady's legs. What they concealed: The tiny strips of flesh excised and laid unceremoniously on the surgical table. It was hard to tell through the pixelation but I gathered they looked like dehydrated earthworms, the kind you see shriveling like so many sun-dried tomatoes on the sidewalk in summer. Hardly recognizable as female genitalia. Not at all censor-worthy, if you ask me.

Now, maybe I'm missing something here, but the message I took away from all this was: "Caution! Female Flesh: Not Safe for Public Viewing!" Why can we look at an illustrated vagina but not at the quarter ounce of unidentifiable skin that once surrounded it? Why is it acceptable to see the nipples of an individual who is, for all intents and purposes, a female being, but not kosher to view said nipples an hour later with a water balloon inside? We see the rest of the breast. They display the unconscious patient propped up on the operating table, newly minted rack gleaming like two scoops of vanilla Haagen Dazs on a banana split. But the cherries -- the cherries are what make the sundae whole. And they've been wholly obscured. Yes, we know they're there... but only because we're not allowed to see them.

American censors: big boobs, and plenty of 'em.

(Related: Check out this little piece in Salon, "What Happens When Your Country Isn't Weird About Sex?" And then fire up your passport.)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

are your legs tired...?

I live in one of those fancy parts of town where the buses only stop by every half hour or so. So most afternoons I'm on a tight schedule: Change at work, dart to the gym and 45 minutes later leap off the treadmill just in time to mop off, grab my bags, sprint to the bus stop and climb on board. Without time to cool down or change, I am at my ickiest on these post-workout rides home -- still panting, still schvitzing, clothes damp and an old sweatshirt laid down between the blue plastic bus seat and the backs of my bare thighs. I'm not a stinker but just in case I'll pick a seat near an open window.

While I marinate in sweaty gym gear, the iPod is shuffling along, and I drift between daydreams. To the other commuters, ignoring one another (as is The Law), I'm just a sweaty splotchy frizzy pigtailed girl, staring dully at protesters outside the Turkish embassy. But on the inside... on the inside I am starring in "Guys and Dolls," owning Chopin's second piano concerto, or having the best sex of my life, depending what the playlist yields.

A few stops before the end of the line, an older woman labors up the bus steps, leans heavily on her cane with a deep sigh, then pivots and tips backward into the seat across the aisle, spreading into the space with an airy thud. She's heavy-set, dressed in purple velvet from head to toe, bright eyes peering through the shade of a broad-brimmed hat. The woman beams smiles all around as she addresses her fellow citizens. A chit to her left, a chat to the driver; nobody pays attention. Their dismissive silence is a judgment: "Crazy."

I'm turned halfway around in my seat struggling with a stuck window when I feel something poking at my sneaker -- one, two, three times. As the rubber foot on the chatty woman's cane nudges my big toe once more, I turn around with my eyebrow cocked and loaded.

"You have very long legs!" she chirps in a thick French accent, grinning from ear to ear. I am caught completely off-guard; a half-assed smile is all I can muster while I grasp for an appropriate response. "Oh... um..." I stammer a bit, almost point out that I'm only five-foot-three, so how long could my legs really be, then I think better of it. (I'm still working on my compliment acceptance skills.) Another passenger grins sympathetically -- "That's what you get for sitting up front" -- so I shrug and say, "I'll take it!"

The French woman accepts my humor as a green light and launches into a monologue. "Oui, very nice legs indeed. Strong! Long! I see you do much exercise!" It's not as weird as it could be, I guess. Coming from a man, or from someone younger, the attention might cause me to change seats. But this lady... she's a little eccentric maybe but she's not crazy. Maybe a little crazy. But more importantly, she's one of those precious jewels who makes it her business to spread warmth and cheer in the form of compliments wherever she goes. (D.C. locals, you know the sort of person I mean.)

You know, commuters work hard to look absorbed in their lives; you don't realize how bored they are until something interesting happens on the bus. As Frenchy loudly waxes lyrical about my gams, people start to pay attention. The woman next to me discreetly plucks out her left earbud. A young man across the aisle and a few seats down emerges from his nap one eye at a time. Their heads are turning now, one by one. They're all listening to this lady, trying (but not really) to pretend they're not interested in the spectacle, and each of them is stealing glances at my legs. It's not that there's anything much to see down there. My lower limbs are a bit doughy, really... white, vaguely bruised, scarred-up knees and three-day stubble. But the woman won't stop talking about them. Even I can't help but check out my lap, if only to see what all the fuss is about.

Finally she switches gears. "Pretty smile, too! Very bright. Your eyes, they are smiling eyes. It reminds me of some classic paintings. Like a Renoir, maybe..." Happy to have changed the object, if not the subject, I continue to flush and blush and stammer thank-yous each time the woman pauses to breathe, which isn't often. She never stops smiling. Every single person seated toward the front of the bus is grinning at me now -- except the driver, who's scowling in his rearview mirror. But even he, like the others, is enjoying my flattered embarrassment. They are laughing at me and with me; kindly, sympathetically. It really is rather funny.

Two stops later the lady yanks the cord, gathers her bags and hobbles off the bus, still smiling from ear to ear. I call after her, "Have a nice evening!" Talk about a mood boost; I feel like I just had a V8.

Just before the bus reaches my stop, a man across the aisle calls out to me, "She was quite a fan!" I grin sheepishly and turn pink again, while five other people chuckle in agreement. The bus stops a moment later and as I stand to leave the guy adds, "Another minute and I was sure she'd have asked for your number!" And with that the entire front half of the bus cracks up. It's a rare moment of fraternity in a place where, most days, the only sign we're even cognizant of other humans is the fact that we avoid stepping on one another's toes.

I wonder if the French woman knows the sort of power she wields. I stepped on the bus starving, wet and cranky; I stepped off still damp, still hungry, but feeling like a million bucks and change. For the first time in a long time I slowed my sprint to the apartment to a stroll so I could chat with one neighbor. I held the door for another. (Actually I always hold the door, but I did it cheerfully this time.) I hope I see Frenchy again soon; I want to tell her how much I love her hat.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

lettuce give thanks for this bounty I'm about to consume

A few weeks ago, while out for Thai with a friend, I elicited a few head shakes by ordering dinner with my proprietary blend of self-effacement and high-maintenance demands: "Hiiii, I'm going to be a little difficult here. Sorry (shrug) -- neurotic. Okay, I'd like the seafood grilled, without oil. That's no oil. No fat. And steamed broccoli, please. Also without oil. Sauce on the side. Thank you. Make that extra broccoli, thanks so much." (I always wrap it up with an apologetic smile -- 'I know I'm a pain in the ass. Please don't drizzle ipecac on my meal.')

When the food arrived my friend's eyes grew wide and she breathed, "Wow... there's enough food on that plate for three people." Indeed, the broccoli was piled high; it was just what I'd wanted. I told her, "Give me 15 minutes," and I tucked in.

When it was all over she stared at my empty plate and shook her head slowly. "I wouldn't believe it if I didn't see it with my own eyes." To which I replied, "Yeah, not the first time someone's said that to me. How 'bout some frozen yogurt?" It's possible this friend only hangs out with me for the freak value.

A few nights ago I met my family for dinner at the same Thai restaurant and ordered essentially the same dish. My Mom and my sister offered me bits of their own coconut soups and noodle dishes, but I politely declined, stating that "Really, I'd like to be alone with my vegetables now."

And then yesterday, when I met John for lunch before heading home for the Passover seder, I loaded up a styrofoam container with an admittedly obscene quantity of salad bar veggies. I did so in anticipation of a fattening meal many hours away; lunch would have to keep me full for a while with as few calories as possible. John has known me a long time; this wasn't the first time he'd watched in amazement (and a little bit of disgust, though he claims to love me just the same) as I scarfed down more comestibles than his 6'2", 185-pound body could ever pack in during a single sitting.

As we were wrapping up the meal, chit-chatting about some recent drama in my love life, his gaze suddenly softened and he said to me, "Honey, give me your hand." I reached across the table and he cupped my paw between both of his, squeezing gently with a tender look in his eyes. "There's something I need to tell you."

"Oh, shit," I thought, "here it comes. We finally make nice like old friends, and I get a little loose-lipped, and finally he's going to break and run, tell me he can't handle the idea of me with other men. I knew this would never work. I shoud've known you can't be friends with an ex."

John continued, "In the last six months or so -- since about the time you came back into my life last fall -- I have not..." and here he paused and swallowed hard. I held my breath for two seconds while he collected himself.

"In the last six months I have not... um... eaten as much salad as you just scarfed down in the last eight minutes. That really was amazing. Really, just... I honestly don't know where you put it all. Just thought you should know; I'm inspired."

And then we busted up while I slapped him on the arm and scolded, "What the hell are you trying to do, give me a heart attack?" and he shot me his trademark 'Gotcha!' grin and we both enjoyed a hearty laugh.

But I sort of have to wonder... could I be a vegeholic?

Friday, March 31, 2006

waiting-for-judgment day

"You'll be out by noon," Kayla said, "12:30 at the latest."

By 3:00 my eyes are bleary from reading without glasses (which I left on my desk, where they belong, right?), my earbuds and the contents of my iPod are irritating my head, my hand has cramped into a useless claw from scribbling this post in a notebook, and I have done all the napping one can do in a jury lounge chair. People-watching ceased to be entertaining hours ago; now the District citizens seated around me, dozens of rows in front and in back, are simply getting on my nerves.

To my right, a plump woman in leopard silk pours half a bag of peanut M&Ms into her right fist, where she hides the candies, transfers them one by one to her other hand and slides them deftly into her mouth -- like a student sneaking contraband snackfood every time the teacher turns around. Only nobody's watching, and no one cares.

An elderly man shuffles around and tips backward into the seat in front of me, landing with a quiet groan. He's clean-cut and dressed in a tailored brown herringbone blazer, but he smells terrible. Crossword Guy next to me sniffs the air, looks at me as if to say, 'You smell it too, right?' and mutters out of the corner of his mouth, "I think I can identify the source..." We grin at one another. He's nice-looking, young, shoes too Euro and polished to belong to a straight man. I make a mental note for the next time I'm called to this day-long purgatory: Fire up the gaydar and plant yourself next to a well-dressed homosexual. A bit of queer snark is a fantastic pick-me-up in the mid-afternoon slump, or at any time of day. The old stinker is hunched over a paperback novel, his poor posture a reminder to check my own; I instinctively sit up straight and tall in my chair. Crossword does the same. With a silent sideward glance, we are bonded in that moment by our common vanity, and an old man's B.O.

Another row forward is a thirtysomething man built like a small mountain; from the base of his small, shaved skull he widens steadily at about 45 degrees right down to his seat, over which he spills onto the next chair. The young woman next to him seems not to notice that someone else's ass is occupying half her seat; she's busy examining the sparkler at the center of her engagement ring, a diamond roughly the same size and shape as one of her enormous front teeth. I wonder what talents one might be able to hone with choppers like those. Rip the tags off new clothes? Consume a lobster unaided by tools? Open beer? That would explain the Hope Diamond on her hand; a girl who can pop the top off a brewsky isn't likely to stay single for long.

Since I arrived this morning and probably for some time before, each of the room's six TVs has been tuned to a snowy channel that plays a ghost of "The People's Court" on screen and an unrelenting stream of grating static through the speakers. Eventually -- at 11:55 a.m. -- one of the jury handlers darts in and starts a DVD. Twelve minutes later we're released for lunch, returning just in time to catch the final (now completely out of context) scene of "A Beautiful Mind," followed by the DVD menu (Watch Director's Commentary; Watch Producer's Commentary; Watch Russell Crowe's Mother's Commentary). It's accompanied by a short musical theme that is charming for no more than 120 seconds. After 15 minutes of that accursed sound I turn to Crossword Guy and announce that I'm going to kill myself now. He asks if he can have my iPod. I giggle; a bitch after my own heart.

I imagine jury duty is a lot like being an animal in a shelter: We're penned in, supervised more to ensure our presence than our well-being, never mistreated but far from free. Once in a while someone wearing a bored expression and a jangling keyring wanders in to pluck a few poor souls from the cage and refresh the "entertainment," but just as quickly he is gone, the rest of us left behind without a thought. No one notices that the litter box is full; the water dish is empty; the same infernal strings-and-voices melody is wafting from the TV speakers over and over and over again -- three bars of music strung together in a hideous, mocking loop, repeating for all eternity or until someone sits on the remote control and inadvertently releases us from our pain.

By 3:00 I am still in the lounge waiting, and not once have they called my name. I pace the hallway for a while. Make a couple phone calls. Kick myself for leaving my computer at home. Stupid girl! The courthouse halls are quiet but never empty. Lotta suits here. Everyone seems to be playing a role -- The Law, in uniform or suit; and The Citizens, in all manner of casual dress. It takes me back to my days with S, when I was a category unto myself -- 'Prosecutor's Girlfriend' -- and enjoyed privileged access I probably shouldn't detail here because most of it surely wasn't kosher. I will say that I've been on the inside of a murder trial, seen the crime scene photos, heard 911 recordings, watched grown men weep on the stand, confessing that they're still unable to sleep six months after they witnessed the bloody scene that changed the way they see the world. Few people in this jurors' lounge understand, truly, why they're here. The gravity of the role they could play. The responsibility to judge. The power to give freedom or take it away. The pressure to be sure, and to be right. I comprehend the weight; I'd be scared but proud. Right now, I'm ready to go home.

Around 4:00, after languishing in the courthouse for the duration of an absolutely stunning, cloudless day, we're released back into the wild with a cheer (and a few balled-up papers chucked at the televisions). It's too late to hit the office but early enough to Metro to Tenleytown and stroll the long way home, enjoying the sunshine, and an ice cream cone, and sweet freedom.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Happy spring! I won't bother apologizing again for the lack of posting; at this point I'm just the blogger who cried 'busy.' Nothing's wrong, everything's fine, I'm doing what I can.

So, it's springtime! Even though we're expecting snow tomorrow. But that's okay, because even if it's too cold to wear sunny styles it's not too early to buy them. Some people garden, others clean; I shop. The spring harvest invariably yields yet another pair of cargo pants, a stack of tank tops I really don't need, and at least one 'pretty' item that will never see the outside of my closet. Someday I might accept that my (mutually exclusive) fondness for lace and button-down shirts is not a fondness at all, just a fleeting lapse in judgment. (in·san·i·ty n. : Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.) I am still learning to be girly; I only bought my first pair of thigh-high stockings last fall, and I wore them once. On Halloween. Maybe I'm not cut out for this 'sophisticated woman' thing after all.

But still, shop I shall, and soon these bulky sweaters will retreat to the high shelf, the undershirt will become the only shirt, reluctant shoulders and knees will reacquaint themselves with the sensation of breezes on bare skin. As in a reunion with a long-absent, long-distance lover, I'm a little shy at first... but my body remembers and that naked consciousness, that conscious nakedness, will vanish, in a moment, on the wind.

Monday, March 13, 2006

one pill could make me larger, one pill might leave me small

...I'm looking for the pill that's gonna tell me when my period will fall. (See what I did there? I made a rhyme! Rhyming is fun.) I'm also looking for the pill that will make me not want to leap off the roof each month. It's time I stopped pretending that my pre-menstrual symptoms are not disrupting my life, that they'll go away with my next cycle, or the one after that, or when the moon's not full, or when the sun comes out, or when American Idol is done for the season. I have a problem. I need to fix it. This will require breaking my rule of No Medication Unless You're Dying or Have Cramps.

I've always felt a bit hypocritical preaching clean living, what with my excessive daily intake of Sucralose, Cool Whip, fat-free 'cheese' and caffeine. But really, I think I make an admirable effort to eat right, exercise much, avoid medicines for pain and sniffles. I even go without glasses every few days to give my eye muscles a chance to flex. Strong body inside and out is what I'm going for. And in keeping with that policy I have repeatedly declined my doctor's offer of oral contraceptives, year after year since my early twenties. I'm not gonna lie to you; my concerns are mostly superficial. Weight gain, inflating breasts (I like mine small)... And it's really not about birth control -- monogamy (and I mean real monogamy, not like "I swear, baby, you're the only girl I'm doing right now") is the only way I'll relocate my Trojans from the bedside table to the junk drawer. (I love how that sentence gives the impression of a thriving sex life. I am quite a woman on this blog! Note to self: check expiration date on condoms.)

After slogging through an especially rough cycle this past month, something just snapped. Or clicked, let's say it clicked, that sounds a little less "men-in-white-coats-came-to-take-me-away." Something clicked and I realized I'm spending about one third of my life swollen and panic-seized in the clutches of (what is more than likely) PMDD. I must admit to myself that this is not just going to go away; that my body is aging, it's less cooperative, less predictable than it used to be, and for more than a week each month it's beating the peace right out of my mind. And it's not fair. I deserve better! There are new pills on the market. I eat well and run because it does my body good. It only makes sense I should take care of my head, and beat the bloat (which only makes me crazier) while I'm at it. I'm seeing my doctor on Wednesday. New policy, effective immediately: Do What You Must To Be Happy All The Time (Or As Often As Humanly Possible). Viva la Revolucion!

Monday, March 06, 2006

I know, it's been almost a week. I'm digging out. Bear with me. Sometimes I feel a bit foolish going public with emotional downswings, sometimes I want to delete a post that looks bitter or weepy in hindsight, but I try to uphold the law of No Regrets here. So the pity party's over but I'm not getting rid of the evidence. (You sweet blog people who wrote to see if I was okay -- thank you so much for asking. I am feeling much better.) Little Mary Sunshine will be back with you shortly. Thank you for your patience and please enjoy some fresh snark while you wait. It's on The House.

I've spent the last six days at my family's home, making sure my 15-year-old sister didn't get knocked up or burn the place down while Mom and Dad were on vacation. It's been said (again and again and again) that you can't go home again. And you know, it really is true. My parents live in a beautiful house with a gourmet kitchen and big-screen TV, huge laundry machines, buttery leather living room sofa, my beloved piano... luxury upon luxury that my cozy little apartment could never hold. And you know what? I'm uncomfortable there. Really uncomfortable. The beds are unforgiving. The water takes an eternity to heat up and the pressure is weak. (My shower in the city will wash your nipples off if you forget to face away from the stream; back in the 'burbs it takes the better part of an hour to wash my hair.) The cats are annoying -- one of them shits on the doormats and the other is too neurotic to sit in a room by himself. The kitchen's overwhelmingly large and I don't know where the coffee filters are hiding. And it's FREEZING in there. I think there's something wrong with my family, they're like pod people -- something's just a little bit off... Who the hell keeps a house at 67 degrees? It isn't right, people. I'm telling you, it's just. not. right. Normally I'd touch the thermostat on pain of death, but I figured there wasn't much Dad could do to me from Florida (though he might just be anal enough to sense the temperature shift from 1,000 miles away and send a neighbor to enforce the law). I bumped that baby up to 70 degrees. That's right! Try and stop me! Anybody need help with a dirty deed? Scamming your dealer? Robbing a bank? Get me while I'm hot! I made sure to drop the temperature back to Arctic Tundra before I left the house this morning; maybe I should've left a window open for good measure. I don't think my father will know what I did. Y'know, until he reads this, or gets the gas bill, whichever comes first. Then I'm Dead Meat. Which is no big deal, really, 'cause they can hang me up pretty much anywhere in that house and I'll keep for a month at least.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Bless me, Bloggers, for I am pinned. Suffocating beneath the weight of a looming panic attack. It's been four weeks since my last menstruation.

I know I should not let my hormones rule me, that I'm supposed to keep my urges in check, but it's overwhelming, Bloggers, and I don't think I can stifle the impulse to curl up and sob much longer. Just for a moment. That's all I need. If indulging in such a sweet release is a sin then let me be guilty. I'll pay my penance later.

In the last four weeks I have been good to myself. Eaten well, exercised a lot, cultivated some cherished new friendships -- one in particular that's illuminated corners of my intellect I'd almost forgotten were there. It's been a happy month, Bloggers, at a time of year when even happy days are scarce. Except, of course, on cable. I didn't realize how good I felt until I started feeling bad. I took happiness for granted and now I feel badly about that, too.

Around quittin' time yesterday my gut began to sink. By dinnertime my chest was growing tight. I climbed into bed early, breath shallow, mind racing at breakneck speed. I even took some NyQuil to knock me out -- a desperate measure, I know, since I'm loathe to take medicine even when I need it -- but still I was up three times before dawn. (Actually that could have been the tea.) By the time my alarm came to life at 6:45 my brain had been up for an hour. Roused, apparently, by my heart, which was pounding against my ribs. "Nice of you to join us, lazy bones," the two of them scowled at my puffy reflection. "Now go wash your face, you look like shit."

Seven hours later my ticker is still thumping. Needless to say I can't concentrate on much besides breathing deep and slow; if I turn my attention the wave of panic might hit shore. It's time to leave the office, I think.

Blog, grant me the strength to soothe my restless mind so I may sleep in peace, wake with a smile and revel in the joys I'm so fortunate to encounter from day to day. I have faith that this will all blow over in a couple days. It always does. It almost always does. In the meantime it helps to unburden myself to you, Bloggers. You are always there, simply to listen and not to judge such a self-indulgent pity party as this one. Thank you for that; I'm feeling better already.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Excerpts from my first foray into the wild world of physical therapy:

PT: "So, Ms. Write, is it alright if I call you Danielle or do you prefer Ms. Write?"
AW: "Heck, you can call me Princess if you want. Everyone else does."

AW: "Do you need me to roll up my pants for this part?"
PT: "No, I can get to your kneecaps through the jeans."
AW: "Are you sure? 'Cause I shaved my legs for this. It'd be a shame to waste it."

That's right, I flirted with my PT. I flirted and I flirted good. More specifically, I spent the entire hour flirting with a strange man while he massaged and manipulated my neck, my hips and my sweet little knees. Or to put it yet another way, Blue Cross/Blue Shield paid a man to put his hands all over me while I fed him coquettish charm, spoonful after lovin' spoonful.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "I am so in the wrong line of work." No, you're thinking, "Why would you do such a thing, you ridiculous floozy with your irresistible goofiness and inappropriate sense of timing?"

Well, I'll tell you, there were two reasons: First, he was cute, in a short-sleeved-buttondown-with-a-tie-like-Detective-Sipowitz kind of way; and second, he flirted with me first.

Okay that second part's not true, I flirted first, but I didn't mean to! I just made a joke to lighten the mood -- he asked, "How's your health? Heart? Lungs? Kidneys? Liver?" and I gave him the thumbs-up and declared, "All present and accounted for!" -- and he laughed pretty hard and I laughed and we realized that hey! we both get it! as in get-it get it, you know? And thus began the flirting. And I know it was flirting because he answered each of my zingers with one of his own. And his ears kept turning red. And I was being adorable. Really, I was in rare form; must be a full moon.

I came away with a short list of stretches and exercises to "retrain my spinal cord" and accomplish a few other things I couldn't even pretend to understand, but I'll practice them faithfully if it means I can keep on running.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got another appointment in two weeks and I need to start thinking about what I'm going to wear.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

my funny, lovingly resentful valentine (and other stories)

My parents dropped by last night to deliver a bag of Valentine's Day goodies on their way to "visit" (read: catch in the act of boozing/smoking dope/otherwise wasting tuition and fucking up his young life) my baby brother at the University of Maryland.

I know, so thoughtful!

I photograph not for the memories, but for the evidence.

But wait -- there's more!
Fragrant strawberries, crisp sugar cookies, cherry-red dish towels and jammies gifted in the tender, passive-aggressive spirit of the holiday. "I adore you," they say, "in spite of your attitude problem. Someday I'd like to spoil your children with cookies and sleepwear. (*sniff* *scowl*) I should live so long."

Um, thanks Mom. I love you anyway too.

It was a good day. For a Tuesday, for a holiday, for any day. About Valentine's Day I will say this: Forget that stupid song. It's better to be with the friends you love than to pretend to love the date you're with.

7:42 a.m.: The usual breakfast. A steaming mug of smooooth and potent Whole Foods Allegro French Roast. Cereal: crunchy. Banana: perfectly ripe. Milk: ice cold. Giada De Laurentiis: mercifully absent from The Today Show's Torino broacast. This is what a morning should be.

10:13 a.m.: Long-distance phone call from my college roommate. They're moving back to D.C.! To stay! After much rejoicing, Auntie Danielle begins to plot the systematic overindulgence of Baby R. Spoiling to commence in T-Minus Four Months and counting.

"Face it, I'm precious. Resistance is futile."

1:03 p.m.: Sushi lunch with my ex at our "usual spot." (We're, like, BFF now. More on that another time. Maybe.) John presents me with a poem, prepared on special ivory paper and tied in a scroll with red satin bow. I wouldn't normally publicize such a thing but he was so f-ing proud of himself he's probably been drumming his fingers in anticipation of this post all morning long. I decline to read it just then on grounds that crying even once in Jonathan's Gourmet is one too many times, and I did enough of that while we were dating.

1:55 p.m.: Exit lunch and spy "sale" sign at City Sports across 19th Street. Find my $140 running shoes (which I've put off buying because they're so freakin' expensive but they're the only ones I'll wear and who the hell made this rule that you have to replace them every three to four months, and if they only last that long then WHY DO THEY COST $140????) on sale for $110, plus the buy-one-get-another-pair-for-30-bucks deal, and they have two pairs left and they are BOTH IN MY SIZE, so basically I get a pair of top-of-the-line Asics for free and I'm set for the next eight months. Which is great because I'm so po' now I can only afford the first half of the word.

2:17 p.m.: Return from lunch. Ask Rosie to humor my irrational fear of sentimentality and read John's poem to me. (Flashback to the day my SAT scores arrived in the mail. "I can't look. You open it, Josh." "But I'm onwy fwee yeaws owd. I don't know how to wead yet." "Damn you, boy!") I weep briefly -- it's quite a poem, even by my hard-hearted standards -- then roll around in the warm fuzzies like a pig in shit. It took John and me four long years to find our peace; A solid friendship with someone who knows and loves me down to my last dysfunctional molecule is better than one thousand displays of romantic one-upmanship from Clive Owen and Ralph Fiennes in a challenge to win mine dainty hand.

5:15 p.m.: Free 15-minute massages at the gym? Score.

9:12 p.m.: Aforementioned family visit. We sit in the lobby of my building and chat a while. On my way back upstairs I wave to the night desk manager, hoping he won't notice I'm in my stuffed cow slippers and shuffling around without a bra. I offer him a cookie from the pile in my outstretched hand. "Your parents spoil you," he says, and takes two. I cannot argue with that.

Happy Day.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

love me, Simple, love me true

If you'll indulge me a moment, I'd like to discuss "The Bachelor" without admitting that I actually watched it last night. If you cannot suspend your disbelief, kindly dismiss my vulgar taste in entertainment as an act of desperation, committed in the absence of cable TV.

1. Is Valtrex a sponsor of this program? No? They should be. All that tonsil hockey, overnight dates in the Fantasy Suite... Only one of those lucky ladies will win the Bachelor's heart, but I have a feeling a little bit of Travis is going home with each of them.

2. I suspect that landing a spot on this show is not unlike boarding the kiddie coaster at Six Flags: If your noggin falls above the line you're not allowed to ride. There is an exception, though; every season one crazy fox slips past the maximum-IQ rule and works the entire mansion into a tizzy with her claws-out confrontation skills, overconfident sexuality and other assorted shenanigans. She's the sort of nutjob I'd just as soon ignore, but the other girls practically invite her to crawl under their skin. The whole experience looks like a psychological stress test gone awry. Oh well, I'm sure the producers know what they're doing. Only a heartless beast would think of ratings when true love is on the line.

3. If I took a sip of beer every time someone uttered the word "amazing" in a single episode, I would expire from alcohol poisoning by the second commercial break. "He's such an amazing guy." "This elimination is amazingly hard, you're all such amazing women." "Our first kiss: so. amazing." "It's really amazing how fast this cold sore erupted, but I'm still totally glad I came on the show. The opportunity to be part of this all was... in a word, amazing." You poor simpletons, what's amazing is that you manage to place your shoes on the correct feet each day. It's a good thing you're pretty. (You too, boys.) Go to Border's and buy yourself a thesaurus. A thesaurus. T-h-e-s-a-u-r-u-s. No, they're not extinct, it's a book of synonyms. S-y-n-o... *Sigh.* Never mind.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

unfinished business

I came home a little on-edge last month after seeing "Munich" (it's enough to make anyone paranoid) and noticed a hair on the bathroom floor that looked too dark to be mine. So I did what any mildly neurotic person would do: I convinced myself someone had been in my apartment doing something disgusting while I wasn't home (I never should've let my contractor hang on to that key) and made a mental note to have my locks changed first thing in the morning.

And thus was added one more item to the list of things I will never do.

Do universities still award degrees for life experience? Yes? Then label me MP -- master of procrastination -- and sign up for my night class in the fall.

Putting things off is usually harmless, like the pink scarf I've been knitting since December 2002. It's almost long enough now to wrap twice around my neck. I think this could be my year.

In a related crime, I failed to complete the fringe on one end of my favorite green wraparound. I've been wearing it this way for three years. Now I just call it my signature style of crochet: "Soft and unbalanced, just like me!"

My swelling household to-do list is more like a catalog of long-term goals: Patch wall, change light, hang pictures, paint something fun on the kitchen door. And vacuum, for chrissakes! You know it's time to clean when your dust bunnies start splitting off into gangs.

Three boxes of broken and unused backsplash tile have been rattling around the back of my car for close to a year now. All I need to do is find a damned dumpster and heave-ho. So close to a clean backseat... and yet so far away. There are doctors to see, friends to call, chores to do... I've become a consummate listmaker, rolling undone tasks from notepad to notepad as I cross off one item and add three more. It never ends.

For every published post on my blogger account there are a dozen unfinished essays and ruminations saved as drafts and waiting to be rediscovered, like so many half-stuffed teddy bears in a hastily abandoned toy factory. The situation at work isn't much better: My office... You know, I'm not even going to go there. Last week my boss came in, stepped on a pile of annual reports and asked me, "So, um, when are you planning to 'remodel' in here?" Hopefully before she fires me for my disorganizational skills.

The social implications of this behavioral pattern cannot be ignored: For years I've been planting seeds for relationships I've never allowed to grow. My entire love life is a garden sown but not reaped. I might dig up a carrot now and then -- more out of curiosity than desire -- but the bulk of the crop is unlikely to thrive.

Meanwhile, I can't deny that I'm a little hungry. (For the record: I do date. I don't write about it. I think that's a task best left to the experts.)

According to the Tao of G.I. Joe, "Knowing is half the battle." Clearly I'm aware that this is more a problem than a quirk. And that it's really about anxiety, not laziness. And that, at least in the romantic vein, I can't get away with blaming a broken heart or my Paralyzing Fear of Commitment™ any longer. So recognizing all this I should be well on my way to a solution by now... right? But instead I've stopped trying at all.

In December I had grand plans to build a gingerbread house on the large dining room table I never use. Standing in the candy aisle at Safeway with a bag of Brach's Spearmint Leaves in my hand (they make excellent shrubs), I thought, "I'll probably lose interest in this halfway through, and then what'll I do with all that sugar going stale in my house?" Not a rhetorical question, actually; the answer was "I will eat it," and so the project was done before it started. Failure for fear of failure; talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy. At least I didn't eat the candy.

My ex-boyfriend is reading this and finally understanding why I never took to golfing: I was only interested in whacking the ball; the follow-through was of little interest to me.

Until I meet a man strong enough to break down walls, and find a job that pays handsomely for inspiration and not much else, I'll simply have to work on this. My new pet project: "Stop Procrastinating in 2006!"

Now where's that pad of paper... I need to add this to my list.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

cold irony

Under the plexiglass shelter of my bus stop, during rush hour, just after the sun's gone down on this bitterly cold night, a homeless man wriggles into a pair of bright blue pajama pants, working them up inch by inch over the jeans, sweats and thermals he's already been wearing for who-knows-how-long. He mutters happily under his breath, pleased as punch with this new layer of his onion. His fingers are nearly black with dirt and in all the tugging they leave a smudge on the flannel pattern -- dozens and dozens of big yellow circles with whimsical letters that read, "The Good Life!"
It frustrates me to no end when beautiful people dumb down their looks. This woman on the bus today -- she had fine, delicate features, flawless skin, the stature and posture of a ballerina. But everything on and around her person was a variation on the color poo: Shoulder-length brown hair pulled back in a bland ponytail, nude pantyhose, tan pumps, tailored skirt suit in a buff-and-coffee tweed. Sandy coat. Khaki scarf. There are a million synonyms for 'earthtone' but at the end of the day they're all shades of dirt. (And you know how I feel about beige.) This girl was beautiful, if you were looking, but nothing about her getup would ever draw the eye. Every day is Halloween for her, and her costume is "Toast."

Now the guy next to her in the baby-pink tie -- not a natural beauty, but I found him quite appealing. Yessiree. Smartly dressed in navy with splash of color and an orange scarf to boot. Funky curls. Sideburns. Fabulous European shoes. He had this grown-up Bruno Martelli thing going on. No, I'm not giving you a link for Bruno Martelli. If you're so young that the name Bruno Martelli doesn't ring a bell then you can go look it up. You kids today with your instant gratification... In my day hotlinks were served with pancakes and The 'Net was a clumsy but suspenseful movie with Sandra Bullock and that sexy British guy who must have a lousy agent otherwise I'd remember his name. Back then we had to work for our information. I'm not so foolish as to think you'll crack a book in search of Bruno Martelli, but if you really want to know who he is the least you can do is type it in yourself. (Who am I kidding, you'll totally copy and paste. Punk.)

What the hell was I talking about? Oh -- looking drab. Right. It's like cooking without salt. Even the finest ingredients are inedible if you don't spice them up a bit. As my best friend used to say on her grubbier days, "Ugh. Let's just get takeout and rent a movie. I'm not fit for human consumption today." Exactly, girl. Exactly.

Friday, February 03, 2006

This isn't a cop-out post -- I've got some stuff in the hopper -- I just want to direct your attention to some noteworthy journalism today.

The New Republic did a nice job summarizing the State of the Union speech. Not sure if you can get to it through this link if you're not a subscriber, but still worth a try.

Also see President's Intern's take on things. That chick (whoever s/he is) rocks.

And finally, a bit of wartime journalism on wartime journalism, also from TNR. I always look for this writer's byline because I went on a date with him once (nice guy; intimidatingly smart).

If you can't view the articles and you'd like to, e-mail me and I'll send them to you through the TNR site. Or subscribe -- it's well worth the dollars.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

This is when it sucks not to have cable. Bush's State of the Union (or, as it's known in my house, "The Fine Mess I've Gotten Us Into This Time") is on every. single. channel. All six of them. And you know how I feel about the president taking up my TV time. Thank God for the Internet and its bounty of instant-access entertainment. If you've never checked out Atom Films, I recommend it highly.

Right now, on my computer screen, a claymation Urbunny is being rendered into street meat as he's dragged behind a sedan in rush hour traffic. He's making the most adorable little bunny sounds. It's sort of sweet.

Meanwhile, on my TV screen, a rather animated chimp dressed in people clothes -- I swear, you'd almost believe he was human -- is moving his lips while the audience on his left stands and claps, grinning widely, like so many monkeys with cymbals between their paws. They're not making any sounds, because I pushed the Mute button 20 minutes ago, which is also so. fucking. sweet.

Technology really came through for me tonight.

Friday, January 27, 2006

is that a meatball in your pocket or are you just having a heart attack?

Toward the end of my Wednesday night Torture by Treadmill for Better Health, Rachael Ray took her final quick break from "30 Minute Meals" and left me to suffer through the third Hot Pockets* commercial to air during the half-hour show. And whilst I schvitzed my mind did wander, and I thought to myself: If the Hot Pockets people have developed a "healthier" product (a smidge less fatty but just as likely to kill you) that purportedly looks the same, smells the same, tastes the same ("He doesn't know it's Lean!") and costs the same as the original, why do they continue to sell the one that's REALLY bad for you? Shouldn't the new and improved version render the original obsolete? Does anyone else find this irresponsible?

Stop rolling your eyes. I know I rant about unhealthy food a lot. If you confiscate my soapbox I will only spread my gospel from atop your empty Hot Pockets cartons.

I visited the company's website this morning and was not at all surprised to find the following information listed for each product line:

  • Lean Pockets: servings per container; calories; calories from fat; total fat; Weight Watchers points; and a link to the complete Nutrition Facts label.
  • Hot Pockets: servings per container; ounces per serving (nine); and a link for "where to buy."
Clearly they're catering to two different audiences. And I get that -- it's how a multi-product business is run. But isn't there something to be said for doing just a few things and doing them right? Isn't there some inherent value in simplicity?

Also -- and mostly unrelated -- apparently Hot Pockets is holding some kind of t-shirt giveaway. To me there's a significant disconnect between a company that devotes a wing of its website to "Family Fun," and a shirt that labels the wearer "Fast & Easy." (I'm ordering mine today!)

So who's in charge there? Whose is the Great Brain that decided to keep Fat Pockets stocked in your grocer's freezer? And why is his left arm going numb?

I feel better now that I got that out of my system. I suggest all you Hot Pocket eaters do the same.

*This post is in no way meant to condone the consumption of any Hot, Lean or other type pocket. Except maybe pita, but that's really bread.

Monday, January 23, 2006

I think I've got a bad ovary. Lately her behavior... well, it's been erratic. Unpredictable. She's falling behind on the job. Could be booze, could be drugs -- I maintain a pretty strict clean-living policy but you never know what your employees are doing in their off time (and this one only works every other month). Now it seems she's absconded with my period, which is almost a week late and nowhere to be seen. (No, I'm not pregnant. Yes, I'm sure.)

If you run across these two please direct them back to work where they're needed.

UPDATE: A clue! This was in the Post today. The girls might be on some sort of pilgrimage, like hippies hitching to Woodstock.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

the resemblance is uncanny

I prefer to wear blue when I'm kicking ass, and of course I have eyes, but still -- the hair, the lips, the rack, the hips... I think I missed my calling as a crimefighter.

(Thanks 3, who found "Bat-Danielle" here.)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

I wonder, if my orthopaedist's gajillion-dollar hourly fee was being extracted from my checking account and not Blue Cross/Blue Shield, whether he would be quite so cavalier about leaving me freezing and naked in Exam Room 3 for nearly an hour.

It all starts out fine: The nurse asks why I'm there and I describe the sound that issues from my knees when I climb, squat and kneel: "It's kind of like... slowly cracking a celery stalk under a summer-weight quilt." (Dorky, but accurate.) She asks me if it hurts and I say yes, most of the time. Am I taking anything for the pain? No, I don't care for pills. I just use the elevator and try not to drop things on the floor. The nurse scribbles and nods in a way that says, "I feel you, girl," then hands me a paper tablecloth and tells me, "Take off everything but your underwear. Don't forget the socks. This opens in the back." And with a click of her pen, she is gone.

It's cold in that room. Cold and... what's the word I'm looking for... blowy. A blanket would be nice. Maybe some hot tea? The paper 'gown' (and I use the term as loosely as the big napkin fits my form) keeps malfunctioning -- over my shoulders and down toward my lap. I see it's labeled size L; must stand for Linebacker. I could try and fish my sweater from the pile of clothes on the floor but who knows when the doctor will show up, and I don't want to greet him with my gown parted like a curtain and my panties center stage.

So I sit. Stay. Start to look around. Stacked on the air conditioner, for my entertainment: Nine different golf magazines. Who do they think they're dealing with? Oh -- look at that! Medical illustrations taped to the wall behind my head. Fifteen minutes later I understand the inner workings of the shoulder. (Complex! Fascinating!) After 30 minutes I have memorized the knee. If I was staring at the gynecologist's wall I'd have learned to birth my own baby by now. But my gyno never keeps me waiting this long -- she's in and out before I know what's what. Women get that you're on the clock; I appreciate that now.

Why, oh why did I leave my iPod in the office? Maybe there's something to this doctors-on-retainer idea. Housecalls and undivided attention... Though I imagine even that could turn into a cable-guy situation if enough greedy patients catch on. "You say you might be having a stroke, Mrs. Goldman? Let me check the book... Okay, Dr. Berman will be there between 9 and 2 tomorrow."

I'm counting metacarpal bones on The Human Hand when Dr. G finally breezes in. He really is a nice man, and a good doctor. He asks, he listens, he does the hokey pokey with my kneecap and even indulges me in a bit of light gossip. (Suburban Jews know all the same people.) His parting gift: A hypochondriac's smorgasbord -- 23 local physical therapists from which to choose. But (this time) the problem isn't in my head, it really is in my knee. "Most of your cartilage is worn away," Dr. G says with matter-of-fact sympathy. "Not much we can do to fix the damage, just try and stop it from getting worse." And then he shrugs, grins and pats me on my paper-clad arm. "Welcome to aging, young lady. It's all downhill from here."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

rants, raves and a river in Egypt

Lunchtime, Wednesday, January 18, 2006: Building on last evening's post, I'm declaring this Rant Week here at Always Write. Every day this week -- which is that week, in case you hadn't noticed -- I will deliver a fresh tirade on an arbitrary topic. At least I'll try; this week (again, that week) I tend to be lazy. Just know that Bitcherella is reporting until Mary Sunshine returns. And don't knock me for being cranky -- at least I'm trying to harness the creative power of my horrormones.

Today's disgust is inspired by the big brains at Fox Broadcasting Company.

I'd like to think that if I had cable TV I would not have succumbed to that wasting disease called "American Idol" last night. Jesus, what a freak show. I couldn't look away.

My favorite characters are those not content to embarrass themselves in a musical fashion, or even in a fashion fashion. There is no such thing as bad publicity here; it takes a tantrum to make damned sure, for better or for worse, that America never forgets the name... uh... you know, they all looked the same to me. One by one they stumble from the audition room, eyes moist and lips trembling, and play to the camera one last time: "But everyone tells me how amazing my voice is!" "You people don't know what talent is." "When I'm famous, y'all ain't invited to my show." And the one I never tire of, "Fuck you, Simon!" And then comes the thrashing. The swearing. The choking, hiccuping tears. It's as if these young hopefuls have just learned a cherished pet was creamed by a speeding bus outside. Only that pet is a dream of stardom. And that bus is reality. Climb on board, kiddies, or be run down.

I blame the mothers. (I know, I always blame the mothers.) Those omnipresent stage moms in their stirrup pants and Bedazzled sweaters, pacing anxiously outside the audition like expectant new fathers in a hospital waiting room. "We done spent all Lurlene's college money to fly out here from Shitsville, but we made it. And now I'm here to watch my baby rise and shine like the star she is. This is it! I can feel it! She's gonna go all the way this time!" We should all be so sure of something at some time in our lives. No wonder Mama looks so shocked when her songbird is spat without ceremony through the doors of the inner sanctum. But come on. She wailed and flailed as if under a voodoo spell and yet you encouraged her to "keep on singin', baby, somebody gonna discover you 'ventually." Shame on you, stage mothers. You pump your talentless children full of false, unflinching confidence and send them careening into televised humiliation like lemmings into the sea. Oh, the humanity!

I will say this, though: It took a few years, but that Seacrest boy is starting to grow on me.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

cookie push

You love your kid, and I get that. It's a beautiful thing. Really. I understand your desire to watch your baby girl grow into a winner, to see her come out on top, though of course you'll adore her even if she doesn't.

But please, I'm begging you, get off my case with those goddamned Girl Scout cookies.

You offered, I declined. "I know they're delicious, but I don't keep cookies in my house." That should have been the end of it; that should have been enough to pull me out of the drop-by rotation and off the distribution list.

But today it continued: "Subject: Help Lucy stay the top cookie seller in Brownie Troop 1685!"

It was kind of you attach the order form for my convenience. But I take my fats unhydrogenated, and I'm still not interested in buying any cookies.

Surprising me in my office will not change my mind.

"The lemon ones are low in fat!" They're still junkfood.

"Randi bought three boxes!" Randi could eat five.

"Buy them for a gift, then!" Nobody I know eats this dreck.

"Just a couple boxes of Do-si-dos! I know you love your peanut butter..."

Don't pretend you haven't seen me trudging out of the office in my running shoes every night for months. You know how hard I worked to lose those 12 pounds, how determined I am to lose eight more. What you're doing here? It's like pushing blow on an addict. There's a special place in Hell for people who prey on the weak and vulnerable. Especially those who do it on behalf of their kids. Does it make you feel good to know you'll be spending the afterlife with ambulance chasers and slumlords? No? Well, it tickles me pink.

Friday, January 13, 2006

this is the last I'm gonna say about it (alt. headline: "Call Me Che")

Sunday night I wrote a post about some... unpleasantness with my mother. Tuesday morning I took it down. Some people have been asking why. "Was there a nuclear fallout? Are you out of the will?" No, and probably, but the thing to understand is that I didn't write that post for entertainment, I wrote it out of frustration. It was a hard thing to do. And I didn't publish it out of spite, I did it because I was desperate, because it seems that this public medium is the only one through which my mother will absorb important information in any lasting, meaningful way. It's a simple matter of communication style; some people listen better without the distraction of talking. I'm the same way. Once my Mom read what I had to say, my point was made and I could take the post down.

Preliminary data collected through the grapevine indicates that I may have only fueled my mother's indignation, and angered a bunch of her friends to boot. Long-range results are anyone's guess. To be fair, when we got together last night neither the blog nor the tantrum were discussed, and my Mom was being extra sweet. I'm just not sure if she was making an effort or gloating under the mistaken impression that I un-published the story out of shame.

Here's what: I've always borne the brunt of my mother's rage and been the only one to stand up to it (one of many reasons I am considered "the difficult child"). Last weekend my entire family was involved and affected, and while the discomfort was nothing new, it was, for me at least, the last straw. I felt that to tell the story of our latest altercation, in all its ugly detail, was the only way to make Mom realize that maybe the problem lies not just with the lazy, ungrateful children who give her no choice but to roar her terrible roar and gnash her terrible teeth. (Again, in the interest of fairness: There's no shortage of love and praise there. She's proud of us and tells us all the time. She tells everyone all the time.)

My family backed me up on the post, but our solidarity lasted only a day. The storm blew over, the mess was swept away, and as usual I'm the only one still tripping over debris.

So for now, it's done. At least I can say I tried. If the rest of my family wants to keep the trailer parked in tornado town, I guess I'm stuck there too. To unhitch and move away would mean leaving them behind and for me, for now, that just isn't an option. Even in the path of occasional destruction, there's no place like home.

(Can you tell I saw "Wicked" last night? So good. There are monkeys. See it if you can.)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

another irate customer

It is inevitable, as I invite people to read my blog and hope they're entertained enough to come back and read some more, that this little corner of Web space should cease to be my own. Sharing is, after all, giving away a piece of what's mine.

For the most part the blog has overflowed with unexpected benefits: My boss and some co-workers read, which may help make the case for my own column in our quarterly magazine. Some of my oldest friends read, which lets me keep in touch over long distances without bringing The Dreaded Telephone Machine into play. My immediate family reads, which has fostered a level of understanding between my mother and me that did not translate through the Language of Fighting in the first 30 years of my life. And as for the rest of my friends and relatives, I hope they derive some pleasure from my musings, come to know me better -- no small feat, I'm told -- and perhaps, as a result, find me a little less scary, standoffish and/or strange.

The unfortunate flipside to all these pros is that what started as an uninhibited catharsis has evolved into an exercise in self-censorship. My mother gets upset if she feels I've crossed a line. (Though that could be a simple misunderstanding based on careless reading.) My Grandma doesn't use the Web, but someone else in my family gets his knickers in a twist over a few stories I've told about her. (And to think, I was holding back.) I obviously can't write about work, not that I would anyway -- I think we all know where that road leads. I second-guess every post that covers weight, religion or lifestyle choices for fear that I'll offend a friend or, worse yet, destroy a friendship. Basically I'm no longer free to say what I really think about anyone or anything. Even though I sometimes say it anyway.

I cannot, for example, rant about religious hypocrisy or cheapness or wastefulness or boob jobs, bypass surgery, infidelity, ostentatious weddings, extravagant gift registries, children I can't stand or spouses I despise in enough detail that the subject of my discourse -- if there even is one, sometimes I'm just generalizing -- might get a clue he or she is on display. I am, however, welcome to describe any scenario that flatters the mind, body or soul of those in my family and their extended circle of friends. Be honest; be funny; but for God's sake, don't ruffle any feathers.

To some -- like those who aren't that close to me -- I say if you don't like it, don't read it. I'm opinionated and I use real-life examples to back up my claims. It's just sound journalism. And except for a few recurring characters I'm not naming names. But things get a little more dicey with the people I care about. The last thing I want is to hurt them, even if they are being hypersensitive. I once read an interview with a celebrity whose mother used to shame her for being a timid child: "Why do you shy away from people? Do you really think they're that interested in you? Don't be so arrogant." It sounded like the most awful thing in the world when I read it, but it's sort of the point I'm trying to make: I don't think anyone is arrogant for taking my opinions personally, but they should bear in mind that what I write on this blog, it's not really about anyone but me, what I think, what I feel. I'm not going to drag the skeletons from anybody's closet or ruin anyone's life (except maybe my own). Nor will I tiptoe around every topic that has the potential to start a little fire. That would be dishonest, and incredibly dull.

So yeah, I've got some of juicy stuff I'm not sharing. I'll just have to save it for another time, another audience, another, more anonymous blog. Which is fine with me; The Internet is a big place, with plenty of room for everyone. And most of my opinions, too.

If you're tempted to point out my hypocrisy, don't bother. I wear it on my sleeve.

Monday, January 02, 2006

I was sifting through my archives tonight and noticed that October and November were especially fertile months. I was writing a lot, and a lot of what I wrote was (if I may toot my own horn) pretty darn good. Because I was feeling good. And then came December, and lo, the pickins, they got slim. It isn't just work or the holidays, it's me.

I am not out, but I am down. I am struggling to remain emotionally and socially present, to be a worthy sister, friend and child. I'm afraid I am failing miserably.

To the people in my life it probably looks like "Danielle's entered another one of her funks," which they'll tolerate until I tumble out the other end like I always do. Whenever that may be. I feel fortunate to have friends and family who stick around through my rough patches. Then again, I work pretty hard to make things look smooth. I don't think anyone realizes how hard I'm kicking just to stay afloat and participate, even minimally, in life. I realize others exhaust themselves treading water the same way I do (especially bloggers, such a sensitive bunch of navel-gazers we are), but it's an exercise in self-isolation so I may as well be the only one out here.

If you're frustrated with me, try to understand: It takes tremendous effort to break my routine (work-gym-dinner-write) and spend time with other human beings. That routine is my anesthetic. Even if you're not a hibernator you might be numbing yourself too -- those of you who are always running shopping talking driving going going gone. You know who you are. We all do what we must to evade our demons when we don't feel strong enough to face them. In all the time I've spent lately hunched over my Powerbook, starting dozens of essays I can't flesh out beyond the first few lines, I've said I feel emotionally constipated because I haven't been able to write. In truth I haven't been able to write because I'm so corked up.

I almost just apologized for posting such a downer, but hey -- this is my blog. I've lost sight of that lately. It's still my space in which to speak my mind, and this is what's on my mind today.

I've been accused before of caring too much what other people think. Well, I don't really care if airing these unhappy, unfunny sentiments makes you think me crazy or tragic or brave or pathetic. I do care that it makes you think about those who are bumming you out with their moping and withdrawn silence. Realize that they're treading water and help them stay afloat -- not by doing something but by just being there.

There is much more to say on this subject; A history with medication and therapy and what I still think was a sound decision to stop taking pills and manage my depression in other ways. I started an essay about it two months ago and I will post it when it's done. Whenever that may be. But I've got plenty else to blog about in the meantime. Writing, even writing I never finish, seems to be the best therapy.