I was talking to a friend this week about how, when I taught, a lot of my students didn’t have a concept of what the world was like before they were in it. I did a lot of pop culture and media studies in my classes, and they wanted to write papers about how The Backstreet Boys were the first boy band or whatever. As a teacher, I couldn’t just let that slide, so I confessed to being a New Kids on the Block fan years before The Backstreet Boys even existed. Once a kid named Max made an interesting point about Janis Joplin, and one of his classmates actually got irritated that he was brining up some person she’d never heard of.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I met my friends. My best friend will tell you that I stopped by her dorm room looking for her roommate, whom I sort of knew and was hoping to befriend. But Anna wasn’t there, so I introduced myself to Christi. Only, it turns out, we’d met before. Oops! When I was working a summer camp, a guy introduced himself to the group with this ice breaker: “My name is Christopher, and I had my first taste of synthetic maple syrup last night.” I immediately thought: “I want to meet that guy.” He turned out to be totally awesome. Autumn used to be my boss. When I first met her, she was wearing some wild blue eye shadow, and I thought, “I don’t know about this chick.” But now, I adore her and her dramatic eye makeup.
To the person who has my old Florida cell phone number, I'd like to say: I'm sorry about the calls you've been getting.
A few weeks ago, a guy at the pool asked what I was reading. “Oh” I glanced at the cover a little sheepishly, “It’s called Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets.” I think it was the phrase “killing streets” that convinced him to peddle his small talk elsewhere, and if you ever find yourself hoping to kill a conversation, I’d try working it into a sentence.
My coworker Jill is apartment hunting, and she asked how I liked my complex. It’s fine, I told her, plus there weren’t any other serious contenders. The first place I checked out seemed nice enough until I asked about internet service, and the girl giving me the tour hesitated a moment before telling me: “Yeah, you can only get dialup here.” I stared at her as if she had suggested I keep in touch with friends and family via smoke signals and then, gave my mother a look that said, “I think we’re done here.” Driving out to another complex, we passed the following: liquor store, liquor store, trailer park, cemetery, liquor store. This time my mother was the one giving the look, but I didn’t disagree. I picked the place I’m at now because I could get high speed internet, a decent gym and reasonable rent. Done. Sold. And yet, the ladies in the office tried to seal the deal by promoting the fact that they have tanning beds and lots of single men.
I headed to Fayetteville this weekend and stayed at my friend Autumn's house. It’s always fun to stay with her because in addition to being fun and sassy, Autumn bakes. A few years ago, she started making custom cakes, and there are usually some samples in the fridge. This weekend there were orange creamsicle cupcakes, which I am happy to report were awesome!
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I’ve got a couple of ideas about 4th of July plans, but I know this: I will not be grilling.
Sometimes I pretend I’m a badass. Last night, I went to a rock climbing gym believing that I was a tough chick and left barely able to pick up my keys. Which is not to say that I had a bad time. I’ve only been climbing a few times before, but I like the challenge of it. Of course, I could have gone with my friend Paul a few weeks ago, but we opted for having beer and plates of fried things instead. That was enjoyable in its own way, but kind of the opposite of the original plan.
I don’t like to throw things away. If something can be used, I tend to hold on to it in case I might need it someday. I get this from my grandmother. Once, I had occasion to go through some of her books, and I came across a textbook my dad used in high school that actually had a bullet hole through the middle of it. And maybe the book had it coming, who am I to say? But even though I hate to throw out anything—and that is especially true of books—I was pretty sure that one could be retired.
About twice a year, I get really busy and try to use caffeine as a substitute for sleep. At the point when I feel like my blood has been replaced with coffee, I try to start going to bed earlier. This was one of those weeks. The goal: Be in bed by 10:30 and get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Let’s see how that worked out.
About this time a year ago, I was living in a small town surrounded by a lot of other small towns in southwest Arkansas. One day I was coming back from lunch with my coworker, Tina, when out of the blue, she said, “Girl, I thought about you this weekend. We were all at Mike’s Country Store for the Testicle Festival, and I almost called to see if you wanted to come down and join us.” I froze in the middle of the parking lot and stared at her. I had never heard of such a thing. Did you know about this? My first thought was that this was something for men kind of like breast cancer awareness for women. I was very, very wrong. For several minutes I just kept asking, “What?” and then, as she explained it to me, I followed up with, “I don’t understand. Are you kidding?” In case you are equally unfamiliar with this charming tradition, let me try to explain. Apparently, in the spring, farmers castrate (or according to Tina, “de-ball”) bulls. I’m sure there’s a reason for it, but I don’t know what it is. At the end of the day, farmers have all these leftover cow parts. As she talked, my spidey-senses started tingling.
I promised my former drama teacher and current friend, Kim, that I would start watching more old movies. What I meant was: I’ll watch a half-dozen or so, and if I just can’t get into them, I’ll watch, like, two a year. Kim has good taste, though, and out of the list she gave me, I liked all but one. I hated Bringing Up Baby, and as I watched Cary Grant fall for Katherine Hepburn, I yelled: “Get away from her! She’s totally crazy!” He ignored me, of course, and at the end of the film, after she wrecked a dinosaur skeleton he spent years assembling, the couple end up in an embrace. He couldn’t help but love her; personally, I would have stayed single.
I never really felt like an “Ashley.” For a long time, the name seemed a bit too girly for my taste. It made me think of flowery duvets and things with ruffles, which just wasn’t me. In college, several of my guy friends pointed out that my first name is not exactly uncommon among strippers, and that, too, seemed like a bad fit. I needed a name that suited me. I am someone who wears Gin and Tonic perfume and once stole a book of Leonard Nimoy poetry, who loves Dorothy Parker and television shows on the radio and owns a pair of shoes my best friend calls “the flip-flops of death.” I started going by my last name, which was fine except that sometimes people have trouble remembering it. One summer, I volunteered at a special effects film camp, and kids aged 7-9 called me everything from McKenzie to MacKelly. That didn’t bother me. Unfortunately, the guy who ran the camp couldn’t remember it either, although he refused to admit it. For two weeks he addressed me by nodding in my direction and saying “YOU.” As in, “I need YOU [exaggerated nod] to go help them get on the zip line.” That didn’t bother me either. What bothered me was that there was another volunteer that summer, Meg, and the instructor used her in the vast majority of his demonstrations. I suspected he called on her so often because he could remember her name—he called her “Magic Meg”—and as a result, it was Meg who got to fly, get shot at, and be set on fire.