Some of us got together this weekend to play in a trivia contest/fundraiser, and we ended up winning the grand prize: $500. We split it 10 ways, and we each paid to sign up, but even so…YAY! It was maybe even more exciting than the time I won 750 nickels at a riverboat casino. Plus, one of the people on our team was having a birthday, so there was cake.
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Sometimes I think I'd like to live in a big city like Boston or Chicago, but this is always the time of year I know that's probably never going to happen. The only way I'd make it through winter in Boston is if I had a blanket made of Irish Catholic men I could take everywhere I went. I'm a wuss, and I know it, but it's more than just that I don't like cold weather. Bitter cold--much like tequila--makes me mean. At my last job, I got into a little tiff with the guy who was in charge of the thermostat in our building and refused to let the heat get above 68 or even to understand why we would want it any warmer. At one point, I glared at him and willed laser beams to shoot out of my eyeballs, reducing him to a smoldering pile that I could use to warm my hands and feet.
Last week, my mother asked for some book recommendations. She had some time between semesters, and she wanted to pick up a few things to read. I sometimes get a little nervous recommending things because I don't want to suggest something I love to someone I love, only to have them hate it. I've done it, and I've had it done to me. I disliked a movie called Dogville so much, I actually called my friend Ali, who had recommended it, and yelled at her a little.
So, the end/beginning of the year has created an odd rhythm of working a few days and having a few days off. I kind of liked it, since I don't think I ever had to work more than three days in a row, but as usually happens when I get a little time off, I feel like it ruined me just the tiniest bit, too. What's going to happen on Wednesday, when I realize that I have to get up early for a fourth day in row. That just seems indecent.
I'm not sure what happened. Maybe I miscalculated or maybe I forgot to pace myself, but I ran out of Christmas cheer a few days early. I think the main problem is that for the last five years, I've had a minimum of two weeks off for Christmas, and this year I got two days. So, for the better part of December, I've been preparing for my two week vacation without fully getting that that wasn't happening this year. I began stockpiling books and movies. I thought about what I would buy when I had a few days off to go shopping. I've been spoiled, gone soft; I'm a bit of a candy ass around the holidays, and this year, that created a bit of a problem.
I was reading a few weeks ago about book trailers, which are basically the same as movie trailers except for books. I thought it was an intriguing concept, so I decided to check out a few. This one--made by the author himself, I believe--is easily my favorite one: Soon I Will Be Invincible trailer The term "Dirigible of Doom" alone is truly enough to get my attention because I don't think dirigibles get used enough as words or as military vehicles. Is that because they seem a bit cumbersome and slow and lack a certain amount of stealth? Because those could be valid points, but I think they fail to consider the dramatic potential inherent in battling from a giant balloon.
Somewhere around my senior year of college, I used to joke that I was "the last stop on the way to gay." There'd been a brief rash of guys who asked me out or flirted with me quite a bit, and then several months later, they were all happily dating men. One of them was dating a guy from my biology lab that I'd had a crush on, so that street went both ways, I guess. It never really bothered me. I choose to find it flattering that if they were going to take one last shot at dating girls, they'd consider me. Truth be told, I think there are ways in which my gay friends appreciate me more than most straight guys do. I finished reading The Mayor of Castro Street before going to see Milk on Friday, and I found both of them really powerful. The book, much like Randy Shilts' other book And the Band Played On, was smart and funny, impeccably researched and incredibly sad. Shilts has a way of not just focusing on one story, but bringing in a lot of different people's experiences to give a sense of how seemingly small things fit into a bigger picture of what was happening in the country at that time. They are amazing works of journalism. I found myself outraged over and over and by the end I was exhausted.
Over the years, I've learned the unexpected joy in getting a truly weird gift. It's similar to the joy I get from watching some really bad movies, but there are times when you get something so wrong the only thing to do is revel in its inappropriateness. My parents and I were visiting my aunt and her husband, John, in Nashville last year when John came home with a gift one of his patients had made for him. It was a pair of slippers made out of Kotex pads. One sanitary napkin was laid out flat and another was wrapped around the end. There were Christmas tree stickers on the heel of each slipper and red bows stuck on the top of the loop you slide your foot into. My favorite part was the fine craftsmanship that went into it since the two pads were stapled (!!!)
My friend Danielle once pointed out that she and I frequently hurt ourselves doing really mundane things. Like, if one of us ever ended up on crutches and someone asked us what happened, we wouldn't have a badass story about mountain biking or skiing a black diamond slope. We'd say something like, "So, I was walking my dog...."
In tenth grade geometry, I was forced to make 3-D shapes out of cardboard, and decorate them like Christmas ornaments. A few weeks passed before I followed up with my teacher to see what grade I got on the assignment. She looked it up, and said, “You got a C.” People, I did not make Cs. I was a nerd, and I knew that wasn’t a cool thing to be at 15, but the consolation of being a nerd, is that you did not make Cs. If you did, then what the hell were you? I fought to keep from crying at the shock of it all, before she delivered the real kick in the teeth. “You’re not very good with your hands, are you?” she giggled as if this was some joke we shared.
I used to think the best thing about Thanksgiving was that it held Christmas at bay for a few weeks because, frankly, two months of love and goodwill toward one's fellow man is just too much. I don't have enough peace and milk of human kindness in me to last from Halloween to New Year's. But Thanksgiving has been falling down on the job for some time now, and this year I saw Christmas cards on sale before Halloween. You guys, I've had it with Thanksgiving.
I just finished reading Stewart O'Nan's Last Night at the Lobster, which is a really lovely little book. It takes place a few days before Christmas, which happens to also be the last night in the life of this particular Red Lobster. The next day, they will be shut down, and the manager, Manny, will break the news to any customers who come by hoping for a little shrimp scampi or those fantastic biscuits.
Shameless plug: I'm going to be reading an essay at the Starving Artist Cafe in North Little Rock next Monday. It's for Tales from the South, and the reading with be recorded and played on KUAR later this month. I'm very excited and a little nervous, but I think it will be a lot of fun. The recording starts at 5:30, so if you're in the area feel free to stop by and say hello.
My best friend was in Arkansas for a month, and as Christi was getting ready to leave, we decided to get some Indian food and watch horror movies. We knew we wanted to watch at least one classic horror film, and at least one really cheesy B-movie. We got a lot of options, and I was particularly thrilled to find a movie about an evil gingerbread man, running wild through a bakery. I talked that one up--it's called GingerDEAD Man, by the way--but sadly it didn't come in from Netflix in time. So, we substituted Plan 9 From Outer Space. We have a perverse love for really terrible movies, so the fact that it won awards for Worst Movie and Worst Director, as well as the fact that after Bela Lugosi died, he was doubled by someone's chiropracter seemed really promising. We watched Halloween for our classic horror, but we didn't actually find it scary. First of all, we couldn't figure out the geography of what was happening. Maybe we weren't paying attention, but we couldn't keep track of who was next door, who was down the street, and who was three blocks away. Second, a girl spent half her screen time running around in nothing but a man's shirt and tube socks. I was just not raised to go outside without any pants on. And finally, why, oh, why Jamie Lee Curtis did you keep leaving the knife behind? Leaving it, in fact, right next to the body of guy who was trying to kill you? Really? I never knew I was such a stickler for continuity and logic, but I found all of those things really distracting.
I'm the kind of person who likes to exercise, so long as I can pretend that I'm not actually working out. I listen to music while watching TV as I run so that there's plenty of stuff to think about besides how much further I have to go. The catch is there are only two TVs at my gym, so sometimes I don't have a say in what I end up watching.
My best friend, Christi, is in town for a few weeks, and she was really excited to go to the state fair. I figured now was as good a time as any for my annual funnel cake, plus we knew some people in the Celebrity Cow Chip Throwing Contest. Since they were going to stand in a ring and throw poo, we felt it was only right that we show up and support them while being thrilled that we didn’t have to participate. In the end, the ladies were well represented as Shannon took home two plaques appropriately decorated with straw and plastic poop. Nice!
I turned 30 in March, and I was a little worried about it to be honest. I decided the best way to deal with it was to spend my birthday hanging out with as many friends as possible. I spent the year before living in Austin, where I knew a lot of fabulous people so I headed south. I stayed with my friend Regina, and she was in charge of making arrangements for a laid back birthday celebration. I told her that I would be fine so long as no one tried to make me feel bad (no black balloons, please) and no one tried to cheer me up (“Thirty is the new Twenty!” or “Don’t worry! There’s still plenty of time to meet a nice man!”) Sometimes nothing can make you feel worse than someone trying a little too hard to make you feel better.
This week is Banned Books Week, so it’s an excellent time to read something forbidden. Is there a better advertisement for any book than to ban it? I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance because I heard there was some controversy about it, and all I remember now is that there was a lot of ado about the true meaning of “quality” and some mechanical tips. I don't recall anything scandalous, and at the time, I felt like I'd been tricked into reading a fairly boring book. I’m fascinated by the reasons sometimes cited for censorship. Maybe it is a sign that I am a disturbed and deviant individual, but people can get upset over things I would never have anticipated.
It's Superhero Day at the Library! Most of my costume decisions are based on what I have hanging in my closet at the time. Which is why my standard last-minute costume is typically "hooker." Make of that what you will. But for Superhero Day, I realized that I owned a Superman tank top (purchased on the cheap for a "rockstar" costume that I must confess was vaguely "hooker with blue hair." It's a fine line with me, really.)
This week we had Prince and Princess Day at the library for some of our young patrons, complete with a tea party. I’m not much of a princess myself. I’m more of a “walking disaster” since I keep bumping into things at work. Just as a smattering of bruises on my leg cleared up, I fell into the corner of a credenza. I had to trade out a chair in my office because it had pointy arms that I kept running into, and two weeks ago, I burned myself on a pop-tart. Seriously. But, the staff was invited to dress up for Princess Day, and to show my solidarity with the children’s department, who do a really great job, I hauled out a long, pink skirt, some preppy heels and a shiny necklace my grandfather won in a Bingo game. Hardly ermine and pearls, but it would do. I topped the whole look off with a construction paper crown that one of my co-workers made for me with a die-cut machine.