Friday, November 30, 2007

About a Boy

I had a crush on a boy named Mike during my freshman year of high school. It was a very embarrassing crush, as everyone in my small high school knew about it. (To give you an idea of how small my school was, I graduated with 71 people. Everyone knew every one at East Windsor High.) During this crush on Mike I channeled my inner puppy-dog and hung on his every word. Mike, understandably, avoided me like the plague and eventually I got over my crush.

I began to date one of Mike’s friends, Karl, my sophomore year. We hung out with Mike on occasion, and he became a friend who hovered on the edge of my circle of friends. My perception of Mike changed from object of affection to a cool guy to hang out with. He was intelligent, funny, and had this insanely high level of energy that he could just barely contain.

Half way through junior year Karl and I broke up. The summer after junior year I began to hang out with Mike’s older brother Leon. I ended up dating Leon for my entire senior year, and I hung out with Mike again just because I was Leon’s girlfriend. I went off to college and my relationship with Leon disintegrated with my wanting to explore my life on campus without having a boyfriend at home. I didn’t think about Mike or Leon very much for the years I was in college. Occasionally in the summer I’d bump into either of them when I was home for breaks, but that was just about it.

I graduated college, and Leon and I started up again while I was living at home that summer. I moved to the Boston area, and our boyfriend/girlfriend relationship became that of distant friends. Every now and then we’d call or email to say hi, but that’s it. I think the last time I ever saw Mike was in 1996. I think. At one point Leon had told me that Mike was diagnosed with cancer, but that his energy was carrying him through the grueling chemotherapy, and he ended up in remission. At another point he told me how Mike had moved to the Fort Lauderdale area, and had gotten into kite-boarding.

There was a period of several years where Leon and I didn’t talk. I admit I didn’t think of him or of Mike very much at all in those years. Then last year I heard that Mike had died of cancer. I looked up Leon’s address and sent him a card, and put my phone number in the card in case he wanted to talk about it. He called a few days later, just before Thanksgiving, and we got caught up and talked about Mike.

Since then I haven’t really thought about Mike at all. In March Todd and I went to dive in Fort Lauderdale and we watched the kite boarders from the dive boat, and I wondered if any of them knew Mike. But it’s not like I am sitting here missing Mike. How could I possibly miss him when I haven’t seen him in over 10 years?

Every so often Leon will shoot me an email, and I’ll respond. Last week, the day before Thanksgiving Leon sent me a link for a blog on which one of Mike’s friends wrote in memory of Mike. It was a beautiful entry, and featured pictures of Mike goofing around. The kind of pictures that you look at and wonder how someone with that level of energy could be gone. It was nice to see his face, and I can only imagine how bittersweet it was for Leon to see that entry. To see the wonderful words written about his brother, yet the heartbreak he must be feeling over missing him especially at this time of year. I wrote back, and still didn’t think all that much about Mike.

I woke up at 4 this morning from a dream. I dreamt I was having Thanksgiving dinner with Leon and his parents at their house in our home town. In the dream Mrs. Q, Leon’s mom, asked me to get something from Mike’s room, which they’d left untouched in the dream. I walked into Mike’s room and it smelled like him. I looked around at the room, at his clothes strewn all over the place and smelled the smell of Mike. I haven’t ever really been that close to Mike that I would know what he smelled like. I think I only ever hugged him once or twice. But in that dream I could smell Mike. How could I possibly remember how he smelled when I haven’t seen him in over 10 years and never really stuck my nose next to him and smelled him? It was probably one of those things where in the dream it’s understood that something is one way, but it really doesn’t look that way. Maybe it was understood that it smelled like Mike but it really didn’t. I went back to the dining room table and saw that Mrs. Q was using the bass drum from Mike’s drum set as a side table to hold some of the food, as a way to include Mike in the meal, I guess. How weird is it to have someone I haven’t thought about in over a decade permeate my dream like that?

I woke up from the dream and was lying awake thinking about Leon. This time of year is so hard when you lose a family member. The first Christmas after my mom died I was a sobbing mess straining myself not to cry all day. Each year I am less and less the sobbing mess, and have gotten to the point where I won’t cry at Christmas anymore. I can only hope that Leon and his family will get to that point too.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Aftermath of the Best Conversation Ever

My last post has gotten a few of my readers, and myself, wondering about random things other than the first person to ever dress as a clown. (Though that one still perplexes me. Why would someone do that?) Every time I go sailing, or hiking, or even driving in a remote spot I find myself wondering how the scenery must have looked the first time an explorer sailed up to that spot, or walked up to the ridge to look at the view.

Last week my mother in law and I were at the pool at the Holiday Inn. We were talking about the human body, and we both decided that we have no idea why men have nipples. What purpose does the nipple serve on the male body? We all know what a woman’s nipples are for, but why do men have them? A female dog has nipples to feed her puppies, but a male dog doesn’t? (I just now checked both Griffen and Nemo to confirm that they both do not have them.) This leads me to wonder if someday men will evolve to be able to feed their young. With the norm now being a dual income family, maybe natural selection will force men to be able to nurse if the women are stuck at work.

Heidi, one of the commenters on my last post, wonders where the belly button goes. It starts off on the surface of our skin, then leads inside somewhere. When we were fetuses that was where the umbilical cord traveled from our stomach to our mother so that she could pass nutrients along to us. I am assuming there is still some sort of path from the surface to the stomach that has since been tied off by a doctor. If the doctor didn’t tie that off and create the belly button, would we deflate and blow around the room like a balloon that wasn’t tied off? Heidi’s question about the belly button brings up another question, why don’t puppies and kittens have belly buttons? How did nutrients reach their bellies when they were in utero?

Gypsy, another commenter, wonders who was the first one to eat a crab. That’s a great question, Gypsy. Who was walking around at the shore one day and said “Look at that thing scurrying along sideways! That looks like it would be delicious with some melted butter!” But someone somewhere caught a crab, dismembered it, cooked it and ate it. What always impresses me is the way modern man arrived at food preparation. Centuries of process has formed what we eat today. We don’t have to raise a cow and shoot it so we can eat the beef. We don’t have to stretch a net across a river and snare flying ducks with it so that we can eat.

What constantly impresses me is the way civilizations thousands of years ago ate. I remember when I was in Australia I was on a tour in the desert. The guide was pointing out different plants and pointed out a fruit on a particular tree. He said that the fruit is toxic when eaten right off the tree. But early Australian Aborigines discovered that if they soaked it in a stream of running water for a few days, and then roasted it for the better part of a day in a fire it would become edible. How did they arrive at that ritual? I always imagined a group of Aborigines scratching their heads and saying “OK, Gladys died when we sat that fruit in the stream for 2 days. Let’s try soaking it for 3 and see what happens. Who wants to try it next?”

I also wonder if this is the exchange that goes through Todd’s brain when I cook. “The last time she tried a new recipe it tasted very bad. Do I really want to taste this one too?” Maybe that’s why the pizza place is on speed dial on our phone.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Best Conversation Ever

Todd and I spent the week in Vermont for Thanksgiving. It takes just over 4 hours to drive there, and it’s always nice to have all that time in the car together on those trips. We talk about life, politics, our families, our friends, our childhoods and everything else. This afternoon on the way back to Rhode Island we had one of the deeper and more meaningful conversations we’ve had in a long time.

Todd: I wonder who was the first person to ever dress as a clown.

Beej: (Distracted from the conversation with driving) What?

Todd: There had to be a first person to ever dress as a clown, right? There must have been a time when someone dressed as a clown for the first time.

Beej: (Intrigued) Um-hmm.

Todd: So the first person to dress as a clown really was just dressed like a jack-ass. He got all dressed up, went to a party and his friends were like ‘What the hell? Dude, why are you wearing size 40 shoes?’

Beej: And then they’d talk about him later ‘OK, what was up with that? Why did he keep honking that horn?’

Todd: And then before they knew it, there were clowns everywhere.

Beej: Yeah, that’s a trend that the world really didn’t need, huh?

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

With Every Season Turn Turn Turn

Retail stores are forcing the seasons to shift. In the peak of winter, new bikinis hang from the racks in department stores. In the peak of summers, the sweaters arrive and the stores crank up the A/C so shoppers will feel cold enough to raid the freshly folded piles of cable-knit wool blends and buy them at full price.

This fall the Walgreens in my neighborhood stocked the Halloween candy right next to the newly arrived rolls of wrapping paper. Every year I find myself thinking that there is a progression of events that should take place:

Mid-October: Halloween hits the retail stores.

November: Thanksgiving rolls in, turkeys, cans of cranberry sauce and jars of gravy are on sale during this month.

December: Christmas decorations are hung in the stores, carols are piped in through the store’s sound system. Snow should not fall until December. Period.

This year the retail community did not consult me on their plan-o-grams, however. Todd and I wandered into Target before Halloween and were assaulted with Christmas cheer and the “Boooooo” of the automated Halloween decorations simultaneously. As I write this right now, from my in-laws living room in Vermont two days before Thanksgiving, I am watching the snow fall from the sky. It has accumulated to 3-4 inches and is now sleeting.

Bing Crosby never crooned longingly for a white Thanksgiving. It sure is pretty, though.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Magenta on George Street

I just finished an online creative writing class. I've never taken an online class, and it was interesting to get my work reviewed without actually speaking to the professor in person, and not get a paper handed back to me with writing in the margins and a grade on it. The class was interesting, and it forced me to be aware of certain things about my writing as well.

I am posting my final essay here for you all to see. Enjoy.


I walked to Circular Quay to pick up a milk crate from behind the snack kiosk. Wearing my flannel shirt, torn jeans, and my magenta dyed hair, and my guitar in a cardboard box tucked under my arm. My straw bag slung over my left shoulder, with a canvas hat inside along with the only key I needed that year I lived outside of Sydney, Australia.

I set the crate down in front of the Duty Free shop on George Street, under an overhang that not only kept out the rain but also amplified my voice. I set up shop by tossing the hat onto the sidewalk, and and dropping a handful of change into it. I took the guitar out, tuned it and began to play. My voice carried up George Street, and people came out of the bars and tossed coins into my hat as they walked from one bar to the next. Some of the people passing by gathered around to listen to me play. For those times I saved Australian classics like “Beds are Burning" by Midnight Oil, or popular songs by bands like U2, so that the crowd could sing along. As the night wore on, the people wandering along George Street were more and more drunk, and looser with the change in their pockets. A man walked up and set a fifty dollar bill in among the change.

I stopped playing, mid-strum, “That is way too much money, I cannot accept that.” I bent down to hand it back to him.

“He’s a millionaire, it means nothing to him,” another man whispered into my ear. I agreed to accept the money in exchange for a song; they listened then walked back the way they came. I tucked the fifty into my pocket, smiling at my luck when not even a half hour later, the millionaire came back.

“I have a fifty dollar bet with my friends that you won’t come out with us,” he said, smiling.

“Look pal, I don’t even know you. Buzz off,” I shot back, prepared to give the fifty back, wondering what expectation was attached to fifty dollars.

“Come on, go to Jackson’s with us,” he cajoled. “You can always leave if it gets weird.”

I shrugged my shoulders and thought, “What have I got to lose. He’s right. If it gets weird I can leave. It’s a public place.” I scooped up my hat, which was half filled with change by now. There's even a key in there that some drunk probably didn't realize they'd tossed in. We walked to the snack kiosk to put the crate away, then we walked to Jackson’s which was a block away from Circular Quay. We walked into the bar, and a group of men cheered for him. One of them opened his wallet and handed the millionaire a $50 bill.

The millionaire tried to give me the fifty, and I refused it. He tried to stuff it into my bag, and I told him I didn’t want it. If I was wondering what his expectation was for $50, now what would it be for $100. I refused the other fifty, and he finally relented and shoved it into his pocket.

“Are you hungry?” he asked me after I’d finished my beer. Across George Street was the Regency Hotel, with its five star restaurant just off the lobby. We walked through the lobby toward the restaurant; the concierge looked me up and down and visibly grimaced at my attire. We sat down at a table by the window, and the millionaire ordered a bottle of Pinot Noir. We spent the next few hours eating, drinking the wine, talking. It turns out the millionaire is chairman of the board on a few banks in Australia and New Zealand. Just that day he’d closed a deal with the government of China that he seemed to be very happy about. I figured it wasn’t polite to ask specific questions about the deal, but I was under the impression that the deal would make him an even richer man.

We finished dinner, and drank the whole bottle of wine. I hate wine, but I politely drank a glass while he drank the rest, downing several glasses of water to kill the taste of wine in my mouth.

“So, wanna go to a club?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said checking my watch. The last bus for home left the QVB at 3:30 am. It was just after 1 AM.

“Great, let’s ditch that guitar, my room’s upstairs.” The thought of going to his room didn’t bother me, though I spotted the fire stairs when the elevator landed on his floor. The only thing remotely resembling a weapon was the key in my bag, which I decided I could slip between my fingers and puncture his skin with it if I needed to punch him.

We went into the room; he sat on his bed and I stayed between him and the door. He asked me to play for him. I finger-picked a Suzanne Vega song, and sang softly so I wouldn’t wake up the neighbors. He dozed off. I looked at my watch, it was nearing 2, and I would have to walk several blocks to the QVB the 2:20 bus, or else I’d be stuck sitting at the stop until 3:30. I began to write him a note, thanking him for dinner, and then I decided that a note wasn’t going to suffice.

“JJ,” I said shaking his shoulder, “I have to go now. I have to catch my bus. Thank you for a lovely evening.” I kissed him on the cheek.

“Huh?” he said groggily, “Wait, let me call my driver, he’ll take you.”

“No, that’s OK. I always find my own way home. Thank you.” I closed the door to his room, pushed the button labeled “Lobby” in the elevator. I walked past the sneering concierge, and onto George Street.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Jet Lag

I am often amazed at the concept of time. It’s a measurement when we tell someone “I’ll be there in five minutes.” It’s a reference point when we talk about something that happened in the past “I was 16 when I got my driver’s license, which was 17 years ago.” I remember joking with my field hockey coach in college, because I was late to practice and had to run a lap for every minute I was late, “Really Coach, time is all relative. I mean, whose watch is right? Mine says I am on time. What do you say we split the difference on the laps?”

We turned the clocks back on Sunday and daylight savings time is over for the year. It is 5:16 PM as I write this, and it is pitch dark outside. In a few weeks it will start to get dark at 4:30, even in the late 4:20’s.

It’s this time of year that Todd and I find ourselves more tired, as we are adjusting to the early darkness--kind of like we’ve flown into a time zone on the other side of the world, and we need to adjust to that. It amazes me to think that somewhere in the world right now the sun is rising and it is morning, and somewhere west of here the sun is setting right now too. All at the same time.

When I was a kid and my sister lived in Arizona I used to marvel at the idea that over the winter the Mountain Time zone was only 2 hours behind us in the Eastern Time zone; then in the summer she would be 3 hours behind because the Mountain Time zone doesn’t fall behind or spring forward. My mom would look at the clock and wonder if my sister was home from work yet so she could call her.

When I lived in Australia my junior year of college I arrived in Sydney in July. It was summer in the US, and winter in Australia. I shivered as I walked to the bus from the terminal, as I was wearing a rayon sundress and a jean jacket, yet when I got on my plane in LA, it was hot out, the peak of summertime.

It was morning in Sydney, and I had no idea what time my body thought it was. I had just spent 15 hours on a plane from Los Angeles to Sydney. I had 2 suitcases that weighed something like 80 pounds each. I arrived at my dorm, and of course my room was the furthest possible room from the front door, and the dumbwaiter in the building wasn’t working. I scoured the building for a clock, trying to figure out what time it was, as my watch was still set for Eastern Time. In the US.

I set my watch and called my parents, after figuring out how to maneuver Australian pay phones. “What time is it there?” my mom asked. We figured out that I was 14 hours ahead of her. It was still Saturday at home, but it was Sunday where I was. I joked with my mom that calling me would take a lot more calculation than it would to call my sister.

Then daylight savings time ended on the east coast, but started in Sydney. The clock at home turned an hour back, the watch on my wrist in Sydney turned an hour ahead. Now I had to calculate 16 hours behind to know what time it was at home, so that I wasn’t calling my parents in the middle of the night.

Right now in Sydney it’s 9 something in the morning. The Australians are just getting to work on what we consider tomorrow morning, while the Americans in the Eastern Time zone are going home from work on what the Australians consider last night. I think I just blew my own mind.


Saturday, November 03, 2007

What Are You Doing Here

It's November, and the bushes in front of my house are blooming. Not that I am complaining. But it's funny that my bushes think it's spring again, as if someone DVR'ed winter, and fast forwarded through it like it was a string of commercials. Maybe Rhode Island has been placed momentarily into the southern hemisphere and we're in spring with our pals in Australia and New Zealand.

This picture is interesting. There's a flower in bloom, and a tree in the background whose leaves have fallen off. Is it fall? Is it spring?


Thursday, November 01, 2007

I'm Marge and In Charge

Finally I managed to get my pictures off our digital camera. I have documented not only the whole becoming Marge process, but took pictures of what it is to party like Marge Simpson as well.

This is what it takes to be Marge. A lime green sheet, fiberfill, blue spraypaint, red necklace and shoes, a tube top, spray adhesive and a baseball hat.

Now the making of Marge's blue hair. My friend Tonya was nice enough to give me a bag full of fiberfill and spray adhesive that I was able to fashion into the wig. I cut the bill off a baseball cap, and glued the fiberfill to that to the remaining part of the hat.

Marge's hair, before paint.
Bluing up the hair.

This is me, before the Margification began.

Post Margification.

Margification involves lots of mascara, a tube top, wrapping the sheet around me, and loads of safety pins.

Marge and Maggie.

Austin Powers (a.k.a. Jeff) and the Pirate Wench (a.k.a. Tonya)

"Oh behave!"