Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Initiate

I clutched my books tightly to my chest as I saw my peers walking around the halls, glops of shaving cream clinging to their clothes, hair, backpacks and books, and looks of humiliation on their faces. I shuddered a bit and averted my eyes, thankful it hadn't happened to me. Yet. A wedgie or a paddling could be lurking behind any corner.

I'd seen the flyers and heard the morning announcements all week long: Hazing of freshmen will not be tolerated!

"Yeah, sure," I thought sardonically to myself.

My destination loomed ahead of me, Mr. Kascmarek standing at the door as we filed inside.

"Top o' the mornin' to ye, ladies!" he said to us, smiling brightly.

"What a dork!" I thought to myself, unable to keep from smiling back as I ducked into the safety of my Astronomy class.

"It's not even morning anymore," I heard one of the other girls complain to her friend, rolling her eyes toward the ceiling. Last class of the day on the last day of the first week of my freshman year, then I could escape to the refuge of my bus.

I didn't hear a word Mr. Kasczmarek said that period. I nervously watched clock, mentally rehearsing my plan and sweating being recognized as an unconsecrated fish. Luckily, I had a secret weapon. All I needed was a few minutes alone in a bathroom to put the plan into effect. Ten minutes till bell time, I got up to ask if I could use the restroom.

"Feminine emergency," I whispered urgently to him. He nodded his uncomfortable permission at me. I gathered up my books eagerly and headed for the door. I poked my head out to scout the coast; it was clear, so I made for the closest bathroom. Empty! I dumped my stuff on the floor, fished a can of shaving cream out of my purse and started applying it to random parts of my body. I was gloating smugly at my own genius when I heard a toilet flush, and with a sinking feeling in my stomach, I remembered too late to check for feet.

"What is this?!" I heard someone demand behind me. I whirled around, my heart leaping into my throat to see a senior girl looking out of a stall at me in wry amusement. For the first time in my life, I wished the girls' bathrooms were doorless like the boys'. The bell rang, and my heart sank from my throat down into my shoes. I was screwed.

The girl positioned herself between me and the exit and was joined by two of her friends after a few moments. I stood there lamely with the can of shaving cream in my hand, wishing I could trip and fall into one of the cracks in the floor and disappear forever.

"Looks like we've got a clever one," one of the newcomers commented.

"Let's go, Einstein," she said, hauling me out of the bathroom by my upper arm. Three boys stood outside, obviously waiting for their girlfriends. They took one look at me and burst out laughing.

"Oh, that's too much! We've gotta do something special for this one," one of the guys said.

"We have to make an example of her," the first girl said, glaring at me, "and I have just the thing." She pulled two rolls of saran wrap out of her backpack and brandished them a bit. I stared uncomprehendingly. What they were going to do with THOSE?


"Fucking perfect," I thought, squeezing my eyes shut against the laughter bombarding me. What kind of person sits at home and thinks up this medieval stuff to do to other people, anyway?! I struggled a little in my saran wrap bonds, trying in vain to free myself, since it was becoming increasingly obvious no one else was going to do it. I felt like a witch tied to the stake as I hung there, plastic-wrapped to the flag pole.

"You could have at LEAST left my feet on the ground!!" I yelled bitterly at the retreating backs of my personal group of persecutors.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Bonnie Situation

That's right, folks, it's time to rant about work! Here's a little background info on the situation:

I am CONSTANTLY being audited by several government agencies and by my own company. Once a year, it's the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Once every two years it's the Board of Pharmacy. Twice a year it's Department of Health and Human Services. And once every trimester it's my own company. My own company is the most critical audit we go through. They nit-pick EVERYTHING with the idea that if we catch it ourselves, an outside agency won't get the opportunity to. It's a pretty sound philosophy and works out well, but it's a really gruelling experience.

I was audited late last month by my company. My company employs a team of 6 people who do nothing but travel around to all the various labs and perform these audits. . . we call them "Auditors" (clever, huh?). Anyhow, there's a new addition to the auditing team, i'll call him "Joe". Most new auditors are really tough. I don't know if they're trying to impress their boss or what, but my lab drew the unlucky straw and we got Joe.

Now, for the situation itself:

He spent two days turning my lab upside down, and he found violations a-plenty. I was able to find documentation to negate some of them, but at the end of the day, there were four i couldn't talk him out of, one of which was the daily machinery checks the first run (midnight shift) people are supposed to take care of.

Now, it is the general feeling of the first run folk that since it's the busiest shift, they should be excused from being responsible for the more fluffy chores. To a degree, they're right, but opinion over what constitutes "fluff" is always the subject of heated debate. Machine checks is something they'd rather not be responsible for, but they know they can't use the machines until they've been checked for accuracy and proper function. So there's been a silent, passive-aggressive battle over machine checks since. . . well, ever since i can remember. The usual tactic: "forget" to "enter the data into the computer". Everyone knows this is code for "fuck you, i was 30 minutes late today and i didn't wanna be bothered with it", but because the other technicians will vouch for the fact that the machine was checked and functioning properly, but due to the lack of time the data was not entered, it's hard to discipline.

Up till now, the usual procedure is i'll document the days the checks were missed on my monthly audit (did i mention that i have to audit myself once a month?). Once the audit is complete, i hold a staff meeting to let people know what they need to work on. Every month, machine checks are on that list. I give the techs a stern talking-to, and the checks aren't missed for a few weeks. Then the passive aggression sets back in.

Joe The Auditor, being a pretty clever guy, saw the pattern almost immediately, and suggested that i assign each machine check to a specific person, in order to better track the errant employee. From there, he suggested, i could administer "counseling" as i saw fit. A "suggestion" from an auditor, of course, is just a polite way to say "directive". "Counseling", of course means "write them up". So, under orders of the auditor, i gathered the techs together and divided machine checks up among them. They, of course, argued, harangued, complained, and made a general fuss about this new policy, as they could see exactly where it was going. Unfortunately, this came from over my head, so there was no help for them. I probably don't need to mention that they did not see this as the result of the half-assed way they generally do the checks in the first place (key idea here: consequences they brought upon themselves). They saw it as me picking on them.

Two days later, "Bonnie" missed her check on one of her machines. Bonnie was the most belligerent of the objectors to the new policy, and required the most convincing that the policy was not intended to be directed at her personally. My boss noticed Bonnie's omission and called me into her office where she told me in no uncertain terms that she expected me to make an example of Bonnie. Fantastic.

So i already know where this is going to go. Tomorrow, i'm going to go in with my "verbal-written warning" that i'm going to deliver to Bonnie. She's going to roll her eyes, call me a fascist (or some other dramatic, non-vulgar term she happens to come up with at the time), demand to know why i'm chastising her when [Insert name] does [insert transgression] every single day and gets away with it. After my many attempts to reign in her tantrum, i will have to bring my boss in, where she'll turn into the righteously indignant employee that i'm singling out for ill treatment, and demand some action be taken against me or she's calling human resources.

The whole business will take more effort and energy than the five minutes it would have taken Bonnie to just run the check on the machine in the first place. But somehow, it will become all my fault. She will be completely incapable of seeing that if she had just done the check in the first place, this conversation wouldn't be happening. I don't understand how it is adults can't take ownership of their own mistakes/misdeeds and take steps to correct them. I don't understand why the need to blame and pass the buck persists past childhood.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Unwelcome House Guests

They arrived on the doorstep of their new temporary home. It was perfect! Humid atmosphere, just like they loved; uncrowded, little competition for space and resources; warm, but not hot; and best of all: free! They'd just squat for a while before they were either discovered and evicted or crowded out once they had too many offspring. Then they'd move on.

They moved in and began making themselves comfortable. First, they blocked up the draftiness; they didn't want their babies getting sick! Mrs. was already expecting, and didn't want her first children dying of exposure. Thinking of exposure, they remembered to turn the temperature up. As long as the place was still a bit drafty, there was no need to make matters worse by freezing!

Then they took over the food and resources in the house, fattening up and putting things to work for them. Before they realized it, they had a nice little colony to keep them company. Loneliness problem solved! They'd have all the entertainment and entertaining they could ever want.

And then some. They'd only been there a couple of days and they were already feeling a bit cramped. The draftiness was gone, and the temperature was sitting at a slighty-warmer-than-cozy 102°. No matter, they'd invite a few of them to start scouting out for their next place. The couple sighed at the lovely new place, vaguely nostalgic about it as though they'd already left. They turned their thoughts to the future, excited about how quiet it would be compared to this place. Not all of them would make the move, of course; they themselves were already past their prime. Ah, well. This would be the perfect place to die, if they weren't evicted first.

It started as nothing more than a tickle in my throat that made me want to clear it constantly. I could tell that it annoyed people immensely, but what could I do? Then the fever and congestion set in; I couldn't breathe without effort, and certainly not through my nose at all. I got a sinking feeling in my stomach to go with the stuffy feeling in my head and chest. Yep, I had a cold. Man, I hate being sick! "I'd better wash my hands," I thought, "before I spread it to everyone else."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Web

She stood at the epicenter of her web. It was not a uniform web, some strands were thicker, and others barely there at all. It was not a large web, but it was far-flung. It was not a complex web, few of the gossamers were interconnected by any other means but the center that bound them.

And she was that center. She spun slowly around to gaze down each strand that branched out from her heart, each ending with a person she loved. At the end of her thickest rope was her mother and her father. There was a thicker rope binding the two of them together. She plucked gently at it, and felt of its immutability. This rope could not be sundered. This rope was the iron-clad anchor.

She spun slightly and slid her fingers along the more elastic band of her sister. More flexible than the anchor rope, but equally stalwart. She let her thoughts weave their way down this band, recalling the times it'd been stretched past endurance, and how it'd never snapped. The same sinewy rope that bound her parents together also connected to this strand. She was positive the quality of that strand was somewhat different, but she could not see that far.

Her husband's fiber was different from the rest of the web in that it did not branch away from her, but wound its way around her. It tethered her as firmly as a delicate chain, fettered her heart possessively, but hampered her movements not at all. This chain was not one of imprisonment but security.

The gossamer that bound her brother to her was much shorter, but sticky. They were not related, but she loved him no less for that.

The strand that bound her stepchild to her was invisible. She never spoke of her love for the child that was not hers, but like the strand, it was no less there for all its repose.

Every fiber forged of love branched thusly from her heart, every person who meant something to her at the end of one of the strands. She felt grateful for the web and everyone who was a part of it and her life, but wistful. Today she wished she could gather all the strands in one hand, and draw them all in. Today she wished the web could be replaced with togetherness.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

This Old House

I stood in the doorway to my less-than-beautiful new home, surveying the work ahead of me. It was huge, it was dirt-cheap, it was falling down around me, and it was absolutely perfect for what i had in mind. With a feeling of deep satisfaction and eager anticipation, I stepped across the threshold.

I'd never seen the upstairs. The staircase had collapsed in the center a few decades ago, and the upstairs had fallen into disuse. The realtor said that there were old belongings up there that i would have to sort through and, most likely, throw out. No matter. I walked through the applianceless kitchen, feeling that something beyond the obvious was missing. I paused, and then it came to me: the humming of the refrigerator was absent. Naturally it would be, i told myself, seeing as how there was no fridge present to make the hum in the first place. It's just funny the things you don't realize you look for until they're not there. Through a set of double doors to the north stood the formal dining room. The table was still there, a long, grand, stately affair with nine chairs on either side, and one at each end. Though nothing was left on the table itself, i could half-see a moldering wedding feast, complete with a moldering Miss Havisham lamenting over it.

I continued through the house, noting the plaster crumbling from the walls in this room, the missing baseboards in that room, the water-stained ceilings throughout, the peeling wallpaper; the decay and detritus everywhere i looked. I went back outside and pulled the ladder out of my old beat up pickup truck. I had promised not to do exactly what i was on my way to do: find my way up to the upstairs. My pledge was to completely gut the house, but i couldn't deny the house its last chance to tell its story before i gave it a much-needed makeover. Makeover. No, that was too cosmetic a word. This would be more like a complete reconstructive surgery. It would be unrecognizable. It would be a death and a resurrection, though admittedly, it already had both legs in the grave. It just hadn't leaned far enough forward yet.

I propped the ladder against the landing and braced it at the bottom with chunks of the ceiling that'd fallen down. Eagerly i climbed up, carefully pulling myself up on the landing. It held me up, though i could hear the floor protest and the dust my weight caused to flake off the ceiling below me. Gingerly, i walked up the next flight of stairs, my foot only going through one of them. There was a hallway with several rooms to either side, and a pull-down set of stairs at the end leading up into an attic. I opened the doors as i came across them. There were five bedrooms altogether, a water closet, a linen closet, and a small room that gave access to the upper part of the chimney, presumably for the sweep.

The first bedroom was nothing but a large hole, the contents of the room splintered and broken in the room below. I'd already seen it during my previous walk-throughs, but from another angle. The second and third bedrooms were intact, but obviously unused guest rooms. I was starting to feel a little disappointed at the lack of payout for the risks i'd taken just to traverse these rooms. The fourth room was a nursery. The walls were painted a once-bright blue, with fluffy white-turned-dingy gray clouds all around. The paint was streaked and running, giving the illusion of a sunny day turned to storms. The nursery contained all the usual trappings of an infant's room: a crib with an animal mobile, a little dresser, a rocking chair and a small chest. The chest contained various stuffed animals. Odd, the realtor hadn't mentioned any children. Just the old man who'd died peacefully at the breakfast table, reading his Sunday paper and sipping his Sunday coffee. The fifth room had to be his.

The fifth room was his. It was the smallest of the bedrooms, and the tidiest. The twin bed was made, though the sheets were stained from a leak in the celing. The dresser had a few ordinary photographs of various family members, and very little else. All in all, the room was extremely utilitarian: A bed for sleeping, a nightstand for holding medications, a dresser for holding clothes, and a closet for storage. Very disappointing in its lack of personality or secrets. I moved on to the attic.

. . .which took five minutes out of my day. I popped my head up to a completely empty attic. I didn't bother ascending all the way before making my descent. The house had no story to tell, so it was time to lay it to rest before i breathed new life into it. "I'm already up here, i might as well start here," i said to myself, pulling a spray bottle out of my knapsack. I stood in the center of the room with my eyes closed for a moment, then i raised my arm and began unhurriedly to spray. In my mind, i saw the dust, dirt and details begin to drip slowly down the wall. I sprayed more liberally and opened my eyes. Everywhere i sprayed, detail ran in rivulets down the wall and collected on the floor. A clean blank canvas was the only thing left behind. Eager to get to work on that canvas, i began to spray away the old existence of the house, mentally composing its new face as i went along.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I Hate Doing Dishes

It's funny how events happening to you while you're asleep affect your dreams.

I was standing over my sink, washing some dishes up after supper. The dishes were stacked up to the ceiling in piles all over the kitchen and i was afraid i'd never catch up before i had to make dinner again. It was a reasonable fear, i thought, as i eyed the stack of coffee cups teetering ominously over my head. I thought i'd do those next before they finally fell over onto my head and buried me in a mountain of ceramic. I was positive if that happened, it'd take years to unearth me.

I finished the plate i was working on and put it in the rinse water. I briefly wondered what happened to that dishwasher i had just bought last year. Ah, yes, it became disgruntled with overuse and ran off, leaving a drippy note behind that i could barely read. The ink had all run together. Poor dishwasher; i could certainly commiserate with it's feelings of unappreciation right now! I wished i'd been a better friend to the poor thing, and maybe it'd be here now to help me. I snickered at my ridiculous thoughts and returned my attention to the task at hand.

I climbed up a rickety ladder to get to the top of the stack of coffee cups and tossed a few down into the water. I was thankful i'd replaced my regular sink with a bottomless one, so i didn't have to worry about breaking the cups as long as i aimed carefully and didn't throw them down on top of each other. I gazed down at the distance to the floor. I saw the tiny black speck that was my dog nosing around one of the stacks of plates on the floor. I sighed, thinking if i didn't get down from here, he'd start licking the plates. Being in no mood to disinter my dog from underneath a pile of broken Corelle, I climbed back down and shoo-ed him out of the kitchen. Then i tackled the cups, which i knew wouldn't take too long as coffee doesn't really stick like baked stuff on a pan does.

I picked up the first cup and my sponge, when i noticed something odd about my sponge hand. It looked like my hand, and felt like my hand, but it'd taken on a surreal quality that i couldn't readily identify. I flexed it a few times, and though it was a bit sluggish to respond, it was definitely my hand. I couldn't decide if i was trying to distract myself from the heinous kitchen duties or if there really was something amiss with my hand.

Hand? Really, now that i paid attention, it was my whole arm up to my elbow that was looking more and more like a badly made prosthetic. I moved it around easily enough, but now when i tried to flex my fingers, nothing happened. It was starting to take on that karate-chop pose that a Barbie's arm perpetually had. It was DEFINITELY looking plastic now. I tried to drop my sponge, but couldn't; it was caught between my fingers that seemed to now be fused together. I put the cup down and felt the arm with my other hand. It felt like flesh to that hand, but seeing as how i couldn't feel the pressure or touch on the afflicted arm, it felt like someone else's flesh. Now that was just downright creepy.

I continued watching my arm become fake. As though that wasn't alarming enough, it began to blur a bit around the edges. Now it looked like a mirage of a badly made prosthetic arm. It was even shimmering a bit, like the heat coming off a desert road in the distance. I'm watching my arm disappear!, i thought in a panic. I wanted to call out for help, but i was absolutely fascinated by the process of my arm becoming incorporeal before my very eyes. As i noticed that the sponge still looked perfectly real and solid, it slipped from my grasp and fell into the water. It didn't exactly slip so much as my hand became so insubstantial that it could no longer support something so tangible and real. I looked from the sponge back to my arm, and it was gone.

I looked from my arm that ended in a nub at the elbow back to my other arm a few times. I was numb. I couldn't even feel shock. I felt curiously lopsided as i stretched my arms out together, one being double the length of the other, and terminating in a hand, where the other was smooth where it should have continued. I wondered dumbly how i was going to finish the dishes now.

When i woke up, i was laying awkwardly on my arm, and it had fallen asleep.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Evil Begets Evil

Seven years ago today, an evil deed shook this nation to its core.

This event launched us into a misguided war with an uninvolved country.

This tragedy continues to this day.

Commemorate the day.

Honor the memories of the fallen, and the soldiers still falling.

Write to your Congressperson.

Tell them we've had enough evil in our lives these last seven years.

Monday, September 8, 2008

There's Something About Time

I woke up Monday morning with a heavy feeling in my belly. This was it. The last day. The time had been far too short.

We trudged across the street, cars packed and ready to head out after breakfast to eat together before going home. The smiles were few and small, the conversation low and serious, the laughter sporadic. It was as though if we'd moved more slowly ourselves, Time would notice us lagging behind and walk more slowly with us.

Inevitably, we finished eating, paid the check and walked outside. I wanted one more picture, but didn't want to mar my photo album of our good times with this sad moment. No, i would keep this one in my memories, i decided. We gave our hugs, said our good-byes, and drove off.

I thought about my new friend i'd known for the last fourish years. I thought about the progression of our relationship from two people who didn't like each other to people who tolerated each other in order to be able to work peacefully toward the same goals with a minimal amount of drama.

I thought of the event that would make me realize she wasn't so bad after all, and the person who brought that event to pass. I gave him a silent thank-you. I thought about how even though i had this epiphany about her, she could have easily held herself aloof after the way i treated her, and how she didn't do that. I gave another silent thank-you. I thought of how easily we could've lost contact after she cancelled her subscription, and about how we didn't. I remembered how awkward it was to talk to her outside the game and outside the context of the game and laughed at us a little bit on the inside. I remembered how eventually, we stopped talking about the game altogether, because while it mattered, it didn't matter at all.

I remembered her suggesting we meet the year previous, and how i shrank from it, all the usual What-Ifs running through my head. I wished i hadn't, but what can ya do? I thought of how lucky and unlucky i am to have a good friend like her in my life, yet not in my life. Why is it the people i get along with best live nowhere near me? This is the second time in my life this has happened to me. It's easy and difficult for me to lament this. After all, i should count myself lucky that i've gotten the chance to know this person, and even luckier that we were able to all get together and have one of the best weekends i've ever had.

But there's just something about Time that makes me greedy for more. There's no need to be greedy for it, as it'll come again, probably before i know it. In the mean time, i'm glad i got to know you and spend time with you Ang :) I'm looking forward to our next get-together!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

I Feel So Violated . . .

I woke up this morning to find that sometime during the night, my car had been vandalized and burglarized. Nothing vital was taken (no doubt, because they couldn't FIND anything vital in the great trash heap that passes for the interior of my car). They pried the face off of my cd player and put out a cigarette in the guts of it, tore off my glove box and rifled through the contents (which was mostly an up-ended bag of sunflower seeds and old insurance cards), took the change i had on my dashboard and kind of tossed the contents of the rest of the interior around. Nothing major missing or broken, certainly nothing that can't be replaced or fixed.

It's mostly the idea that this happened in my own driveway that bothers me the most. I don't live in the picture of suburban perfection, but my neighborhood's a pretty quiet one. Modest houses, modest people. I realize it was probably some bored teenagers passing by looking for money and something to do, and this isn't the first time my car's been broken into, but i can't help feeling somewhat violated.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

We Can Always Turn Around!

"We can always turn around!"

Little did we know, this would be the motto of the whole evening.

It was about 3:30 in the afternoon. Me and my new friends i'd known for the last fourish years were in my hotel room, perusing restaurant guides for Springfield. I knew from the first moment we discussed dinner options that we'd be good friends; no one could decide what to pick ;)

After staring at the laptop screen for another few minutes, we decided to get in the car and wing it. We piled into the car and went left. We passed up Mike's Family Diner, as none of us are particularly fond of that sort of restaurant. That would be the last non-fast food, non-closed-down restaurant we would see for the next hour.

We drove for a while and ended up in a residential area. "We can always turn around," Angie said. And turn around we did. . . and that's when we noticed that there were more auto parts stores in Springfield than almost any other kind of business. We backtracked back toward the hotel and passed it by. We passed some more auto parts stores and wound up in another residential area. Time to turn around. This time we went right. . . right into the ghetto.

"Is that an O'Reily's?!" Rob asked. "That's two in five blocks!"

We twisted and turned and found ourselves near down town. Score! There's always good restaurants downtown, right? Wrong. Every time we spotted a restaurant, we also spotted the neon 'open' sign, and the fact that it wasn't lit. Somehow we twisted and turned our way back to the hotel.

I suggested we get on the highway. If nothing else, there's always restaurants listed on exit signs, and we could always pick one of those. So we got on the expressway, and within five minutes, we were out of Springfield and on our way to some other town. Unfuckingbelievable! We surrendered the expressway, and exited onto some random road. We drove straight on that road, flanked by corn fields and bars through a couple of small towns. By some weird miracle, we found we'd turned around again and wound up back at the intersection our hotel sat on. By this time, we just wanted something, anything edible.

Fuck it, we decided. We parked the car and hit Mike's Family Diner.

Later That Night. . .

After our foraging expedition, we went back to the hotel to decide what to do with the rest of our day. What goes perfectly with good company and good conversation? Live music and a beer! We endeavored to find a bar and let our hair down.

We decided getting in the car and winging it was a bad idea after what happened that afternoon with dinner, so we paid more attention to the city guide and picked an Irish-sounding pub (the name of which escapes me). We got directions, jumped in the car and headed off.

It was an easy bar to find, thank goodness, though we missed the turn the first time and passed it by. "We can always turn around," Angie said, and we all snickered. As we walked in the door, we saw that it was actually more restaurant than pub. Angie and i looked at each other and just busted out laughing. "Where the hell was this place four hours ago?!" i demanded. It was also packed with people waiting outside in the vestibule. We decided we'd find some place else.

Jim whipped out his iPhone and pulled up a listing of bars in the area. We picked Shamrock Tavern and hoped it'd be more tavern than restaurant as we set off to find it. It was a little bit farther into the residential area, but still easily located. We pulled up and looked at it in disbelief. It was an old house that had been converted into a bar. Not ones to judge a book by its cover, we got out of the car and went inside.

We were greeted by bright lights, white walls, and blaring country music from the jukebox. "Shamrock my ass," i muttered under my breath. It was exactly what i hoped for, though, in a non-specific kind of way: It was certainly all bar and no restaurant. We politely ordered a drink and got out of there. Remembering some neon beer signs in a window on the way, we decided to backtrack to a bar we passed by to get to the Shamrock. "They should be forced to change the name of that place," Angie remarked, "It's so misleading!"

This bar is toooooo countrified!The Shamrock Pub.  What a misleading name.

We parked outside the new destination, and it looked and sounded promising. Lots of neon in the windows and hip-hop style music you could hear from the street. I'm not a huge fan of hip hop, but i like it a lot more than i like country, so we went indoors in high spirits.

. . .only to realize that it was the equivalent of a locally-owned Chuck-E-Cheese. There were kids EVERYWHERE, screaming, playing video games and doing goofy kid things. Fantastic. It was a huge let-down, yet really funny at the same time. Rob remembered spotting another bar next door, so we walked over.

This one was the polar opposite of the last two we'd been to. It was dark, quiet, full of wood paneling and men in dockers and ties. We entered in our jeans-and-tshirts feeling vastly uncomfortable. The guys ordered us some drinks and we took a seat by the piano. It was so quiet that Angie and i were barely talking to each other above a whisper. She said something funny, and we both burst out laughing, the result of which all the Dockers and Ties stopped talking and stared at us. We piped down like a couple of schoolgirls who just got busted talking in class and snickered under our breath. We drank our drinks and were trying to get the hell out of there when the bar tender told us about this metal bar she tends called The Planet. Live music (metal, to boot!) and $2 drinks (our tab for our two drinks at this bar was $20). Score! She gave us directions and we were off once again!

And this bar is too artsy-fartsy.Everyone in this place wore really nice clothes, except us.

It wasn't very far from where we already were, and we could tell from the music we heard from the street that our sojourn was at an end. We went inside, paid the nominal cover charge, and had a blast. The atmosphere and music were awesome! The bar tenders had sat down earlier in the afternoon and just started pouring stuff together till it tasted good. The result was Planet Punch, which Angie and i drank all night. The main band on stage was Us Against Them (
Us Against Them Check em out, they're pretty awesome), which featured a really hot girl on the electric violin. All the fun we had at The Planet made the trek around town SO worth it.

Rob at the Planet.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Electing The Anti-Christ Is A One-Way Ticket To Hell

I have a lot of things i want to blog about right now, but before i do, i thought i'd share this conversation i had with one of the guys at work today. We'll call him "Bob".

It started with me and a friend of mine (we'll call him "Paul") discussing Mrs. Palin and her daughter's current plight. Paul was giving his opinion that he didn't think it would affect the Republican vote because all they care about is whether she's going to keep the baby and get married to the father. I was expressing my skepticism at her ability to sell this to the Family Values Save-It-For-Marriage conservatives.

Bob was bringing me a basket of freshly opened syringes when he politely interjected himself into the conversation (which i didn't mind, Bob's a pretty nice guy and the conversation was far from private). He asked, "Is it going to cause you not to vote for Mc Cain?" I laughed a little and said i'd never been planning to vote for Mc Cain, but even if i had, then chances are a teenage pregnancy in the family wouldn't have been a deal breaker for me.

Bob looked aghast. "You're not voting for him, are you?"
Me: You mean Senator Obama?
Bob: Yes, him.
Me: Actually, i probably will
Bob (looking sadly at me): Well, gee, that's too bad. I really liked you, Christie.

Well, that certainly creeped me out, but i kept the smile plastered on my face and asked: What do you mean by that?

Bob (looking around him briefly before whispering): Don't you know? He's the Antichrist!
Me (doing my best to keep a straight face): You really think so?
Bob: YES! I know it's not in the bible anywhere, but i'm pretty sure you're going to Hell if you elect the Antichrist to public office.
Me (refusing to look at Paul, knowing i'll burst out laughing if i do): Huh. Well, i suppose the election of the Antichrist probably won't work too favourably with the Almighty at all. It's definitely something to think about.
Bob (smiling at me and patting my hand): There's a good girl.

Now, don't get me wrong, i wasn't really laughing AT Bob. It was just a very strange conversation; I never really thought i'd be having a conversation about the pros and cons of electing the Antichrist to office. And he was so very earnest about the whole thing! I couldn't help but giggle a little on the inside.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Second Ugliest Shirt In The World

I love thrift stores! I've come to believe the old adage that one man's trash is another man's treasure after spending some time in these second-hand depots of once-treasured items.

I figured I'd give Goodwill a try since I've been to a couple of Salvation Army's and a privately owned thrift store already. I saw quite a few things at the Salvation Army that I would have liked to buy, but they didn't accept plastic, and I rarely carry cash. I left empty handed, making a mental note to visit an ATM before returning.

At the thrift store, I found my reading chair and a few other odds and ends.


The Goodwill was a cool store, though a little more expensive than the other thrift stores I'd been to thus far. By "more expensive", I mean a shirt was $5 instead of $1.75. Not exactly a budget breaker, but a lil' more expensive. I found lots of wonderful things here, and I had to take care not to just purchase every interesting thing I saw. The two things I just couldn't pass up are this cool little tea pot


and this pretty tea cup (I just love tea cups and coffee cups!).


The tea pot is particularly awesome because it has a fine mesh strainer going across the inside of the spout, so you just throw your tea leaves in with the water, let it brew, and pour right into the cup. Ingenious! I paid a whole dollar for it, wondering how someone could have no longer wanted that little gem! The cup I bought holds the exact right amount of liquid dispensed by the tea pot. Lovely!

My boss has recently started enforcing a business casual style dress code on me, so I chose two business casual type shirts to wear to work (if I have to buy clothes specifically for work, I am NOT spending a lot of money on them). Nothing really noteworthy, just a couple of shirts. After I picked up the shirts and was preparing to leave before the next little bit of awesomeness could catch my eye and beg me to take it home with me, I saw It.

It was hanging in the 'plus size' section (which I still peruse, though I don't need to buy plus size clothing anymore). It was hanging a little off by itself, with a sister. It was the ugliest shirt I'd ever seen in my life. It was a size 4XL button down shirt with a collar and these big floppy sleeves with no buttons on the sides to tether them shut. Oh, no, these sleeves were free as a women's libber burning her first bra. The shirt itself was a diagonal plaid motley of mismatched colours. The predominant colour was a porta-potty shade of aqua, interlaced by pea-green and neon orange stripes. There was also gold thread outlining each of the green stripes. It was absolutely hideous! I picked it up, marvelling at the aberration of fashion in my hand. The tags were still on it, meaning someone had actually bought this ugly duckling shirt for someone. I could only think it HAD to be a joke. People walking past me were making, "Are you seriously thinking about buying that?!" faces at me. I didn't know. WAS I going to buy it? I set it down to check out its sister.

The shirt hanging next to the Thing That Should Not Be was not quite as ugly, but a real close runner up. The only thing that saved it was the decently-matched colour scheme. It was diagonal striped with several shades of pink ranging from dark to light, and then white stripes, with silver thread outlining each stripe. It had the same free-flapping sleeves as its sister; in fact, it was the exact same shirt, only bigger.


I decided this was definitely the second ugliest shirt in the world. I looked at the two of them, side by side. I had already made up my mind that i was going to buy one of them. I almost chose the Ugliest, until I noticed how coarse and scratchy the material was. I had plans to wear this shirt around the house as a comfy-shirt, but if the shirt wasn't comfy then the purpose was defeated. The Pink Uglie was much softer, so I picked it up and took it with me.

I paid $8 for that shirt. That's right, I paid $3 more than the average (and better looking) shirt sold in that store for this abomination. It's now my favourite thing to wear around the house.