All this happened, more or less...

My name is G and these are the true stories of my adventures.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The One with the Crazy Cat Lady

My dad has a cousin who's a crazy cat lady. She's almost sixty years old, but she hasn't left her house in over thirty years. Other than her caretaker, who buys her groceries and checks up on her, she has had very little contact with anybody in all that time. Except the cats. She has approximately thirty-five cats in her tiny, ramshackle house. She spends most of her time watching QVC and ordering things on the telephone. When the packages arrive, she doesn't open them -- she just stacks them in the garage where the cats claw at them, pee on them, and ruin them.

None of this is funny. She's a sad lady, and I wish I knew what made her so unhappy in her own life.

What is funny is that I've been accused of having some cat-lady tendencies as well, and if there's any sort of genetic predisposition, I might be screwed. Let me clarify though, because unlike my kooky cousin, I don't like all (or even most) cats.

I'm really only crazy about one cat.

This is Ben:


I got Ben when I was in college. Like most single, teenage mothers, I had no intention of going down that road, but the temptation overwhelmed my weak moral character. Now I'm all grown and so is he, and in retrospect, I can see that bringing him into my life was one of those glorious mistakes that reaped undreamed-of benefits. Case in point, right now, my toes would be cold if he wasn't sleeping on them.

Reader, I don't usually burden you with unnecessary displays of emotion, but I was rummaging through some old fileage today and happened upon a poem I wrote while I was a college student -- about a year after Ben entered the scene. At the time, he was living with me, my three roommates, and our obnoxious theater major housemates in a rundown place in the stetto (ie, "student ghetto") a few blocks from campus. Don't worry -- this isn't an ode or a sonnet or any other gushy form of poetry. It's a ridiculous parody of Wallace Steven's o-so-serious "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird." Presented here for your enjoyment, with my sincere apologies to Mr. Stevens, who is doubtlessly rolling over in his pine pajamas...


Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Yellow Cat

I. Among seven restless college students
The only sleeping thing
Is the yellow cat.

II. I was of two minds
To sleep or to eat?
The dilemma of the yellow cat.

III. The yellow cat tore through the cluttered room
Upsetting notebooks, papers, empty pop cans.

IV. The couch and the blanket
Are one.
The couch and the blanket and the yellow cat
Are one.

V. I do not know which to prefer
The beauty of sound
Or the beauty of stillness
The yellow cat purring
Or asleep.

VI. An unmindful fly fills the room
With a distracted buzz
The shadow of the yellow cat
Stalks it, silently
Half-hidden, twitching
Eager for the kill.

VII. O thin men of campus
Why do you watch the black squirrels?
Do you not see how the yellow cat
Is a lion among them?

VIII. I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms
But I know too
That the yellow cat
Is also lucid, noble

IX. When the yellow cat drifted to sleep
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles, many dreams.

X. At the sight of the yellow cat
Curled in the sun
Even six shots of espresso
Leave you heavy-eyed.

XI. He scrambled up a tree
With an acorn
Once, a fear pierced him
In that he mistook
The shadow of his tail
For the yellow cat.

XII. The moon is shining
The yellow cat must be prowling.

XIII. It was evening all afternoon
It was snowing
And it was going to snow
I slept
Curled up with the yellow cat.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Assident

My friend Big'n'Tall likes to play with words. He likes to say "apposa" instead of "supposed to", and he calls pickles "piggles". Anything remotely resembling a bucket or a basket is a "busket". He also calls an accident an "assident". This seems like a pretty accurate interpretation to me.

Today, I got in an assident.

I hate getting into traffic collisions. I'm sure no one particularly enjoys them, but any time it happens, no matter what the circumstances, I get that feeling that I'm being sucked into another dimension via a black hole in the pit of my stomach. It's decidedly unpleasant.

Whenever my students tell me a story in which they are ultimately guilty of something stupid or irresponsible, they always start it with the phrase, "See, what had happened was..."

Between the copper, the insurance agent, and my mother, I've already explained this more times than I care to, so here's a little diagram to illustrate. Essentially, I was trying to get home, turned in front of a bus who was stopped behind a Hummer who was trying to turn behind me, and should have waited two more seconds before so doing. For my male readers, I have put everything in military terminology to help you understand.

See, what had happened was...

(Note: References to the Hummer as the "Enemy" are purely due to the fact that I think everyone who drives a Hummer hates nature and ergo is no friend of mine. This is not at all indicative of the driver's behavior before, during, or after the Incident, which was exemplary.)

I actually T-boned the Bogie. My mother thought I misspoke -- in her head, it seemed like the Bogie T-boned me -- but she underestimated the Bogie's velocity, which was a significant factor. By the time I saw the car at all, I was looking through its back window. The force of the impact pushed the Bogie toward the curb, and the driver then over-corrected and slammed into the passenger's side of the Hummer.

Technically, the assident was my fault, which I suppose makes me the ass who caused the dent. I expect, based purely on past experience, that when I'm in an assident, whether I was the ass or not, the other driver is going to bitch me out. It's kind of how people do things around here. I got out of my car fully expecting to get it from the driver of the Bogie, who turned out to be a little old woman on her way to work at the local home for down-and-out teenage moms. The driver of the other car was a college student who was approximately thirty-seven feet from her home when the Bogie slammed into her. Once we confirmed that nobody was bleeding, neither of them seemed upset at all. A bit shakey, perhaps, but nowhere near slapping me or pulling my hair. In fact, I didn't get so much as a dirty look from either of them.

How is this possible? Well, here's what I figure:

I made a left turn without ensuring that the coast was clear and so was guilty of the moving violation that caused the Incident.


The driver of the Bogie was exceeding the speed limit by approximately 20 mph, which is naughty in any case, but she was also doing it while passing a school bus on the right. That's not exactly a crime, but it's criminally stupid, especially considering how much traffic there was.

Additionally, it turned out that the teenage driver didn't have her license! Another big no-no.

When the cop arrived to write the report, we were all hanging around chatting in pretty good spirits. There was no finger-pointing, just calm explanations of what happened. He was so flabbergasted that instead of writing tickets for all of us, he wrote no tickets at all. He just looked at our cars, filled out the report, and took off.

Ultimately, I came up with a new theory of traffic collisions, which is thus: When guilt is equally distributed among all parties and all parties are of such a moral fiber that they accept responsibility for their own guilt, a altercation may be easily avoided by shrugging and saying "Shit happens".

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Home for the Holidays


I spent only one Christmas in Japan. While my family was trimming trees, wrapping gifts, and diving into a double batch of my aunt's famous bourbon balls, I got up as I did every other Sunday morning and caught my subway train at the normal time. In general, the Japanese ignore Christmas, but my gaijin friends and I had taken a few measures to make sure the time-honored Western holiday didn't pass entirely without notice: we had organized a little gift exchange among the teachers in our office; we had begged and bribed the Japanese staff to arrange the day's schedule so that we all could eat lunch together; and Dom had made a dinner reservation for a large group of us at a pub in Kyoto.

I met up with Dom on the subway and we made our ritual morning stop in Starbucks. The Bux in Yamashina is right next to the train station -- the commuting caffeine addict's dream -- and we call it "The Bux" as if it were an old drinking buddy of ours, which it sort of is. Somewhere between the half'n'half and the platform, I got a call from my mother. Because of the time difference, it was still Christmas Eve at home, and I wasn't surprised to have her call me from the treeside with a little holiday cheer.

She wasn't calling with holiday cheer.

She was calling to tell me my grandfather had just passed away that afternoon.


I knew before I went to Japan that my grandfather was dying. I had spent most of the previous summer driving him back and forth for dialysis three times a week and buying him Frosties and ginger ale, since he couldn't keep anything else down. By the time I had my bags packed, he was bed-ridden, and when I saw him for the last time in mid-September, he was so thin that only his ribcage and his feet made any noticeable lift in the bedsheet. He told me to be careful and have fun and send him pictures of Japanese cars.


Working on Christmas Day is depressing enough, but it's unbearable to work on Christmas Day on the opposite side of the world from where your family is coping with the loss of its patriarch. Particularly when you don't have any bourbon balls to help ease the pain. I told Dom what had happened while we waited for our train, then I locked it in a small back closet of my brain to be dealt with at a more convenient time.

When we arrived at the office, we skimmed the daily schedule. Much to my dismay, the staff girls had shifted my lunch hour back one time slot to accommodate a student. This meant that the lunch we'd planned -- with pizza and our gift exchange and the very naughty bottle of wine tucked in my purse -- wasn't going to happen. All the guys still had their break together, but I was scheduled to eat alone on Christmas Day.

I was already resigned to this being the worst Christmas ever, so I sighed and started heading upstairs. Dom, on the other hand, had this interchange with Mariko, the Japanese staff girl who happened unluckily to be nearby:

"Why did the schedule change? Last night, we all had the same lunch."

"O, sorry, Dom-san. The student wanted lesson."

"Well, call the student back. We're having lunch together."

"Eh? No, I can't, Dom-san."

"Mariko, it's Christmas!"

At this point in the conversation, between his bright orange hair and his face flushed in frustration, Dom was starting to look like a human fireball. I don't know if it was nervousness or panic, but Mariko made the terrible mistake of giggling. Then she shrugged at Dom and said, "Christmas... it's not so important to Japanese."

O no, no, no. Foolish girl. You don't giggle at a man who is spending his second Christmas away from his mother and who has put all his excess energy into salvaging some little bit of holiday cheer for this motley crew of gaijin who are the closest thing to a family that any of us have.

"Christmas... it's not so important to Japanese," she said, and she shook her head at him.

Dom drew himself to his full height. By Western standards, he's not a tall man, but he positively towered over that little Japanese woman. I thought he was going to shout at her, but when his answer came out, it was a low growl, dark, and full of danger: "Well... we're not fucking Japanese."

I knew Dom had that stereotypical ginger-headed temper, that he'd been known to say and do things hastily, but I was floored. I knew that he didn't hate Japanese people. In fact, I knew he liked this particular staff girl quite a bit. But she had crossed a line. He slammed the door and remained in stony silence as we rode the elevator up to the fifth floor. A few minutes later, another staff girl came up with a new copy of the schedule.


We had our lunch together that day, and we had our wine and pizza. I gave Dom a scarf and Tasi gave me a plush Tasmanian tiger. And that night we met up with about twenty friends for mashed potatoes and corned beef at the pub. Even Erica, who would normally not be caught dead in public with us, came out for dinner. It certainly wasn't a perfect Christmas, but in spite of the rough start, the long work day, and all the students who stared blankly at us every time we wished them a Merry Christmas, that dinner stands out as one of the warmest evenings I spent in Japan. We were all wretchedly homesick and much more subdued than usual (apart from a brief incident involving a popper and an unfortunately placed votive), but we took comfort in the discovery that sometimes your family is who you're born to and sometimes your family is whoever happens to be close by when you need someone to care about you. It wasn't perfect, but it was enough.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Today is Thursday, the 29th of November, 2007. That means I've been home from Japan for exactly one year, six months, and twenty-six days.

In that time, many strange and incredible events have transpired. Despite all odds against, I finally got a "grown-up" job; I had my first adventure with downhill skiing; I went white-water rafting; I drove down the West Coast; I turned a quarter-center old; and I nearly died from mono, which no one ever nearly dies from.

Today for the first time I locked myself and my students in my classroom to ensure that none of us got shot by a crazy gunman the police (or the "po-po," as my kids call them) were chasing past our building. This is extra hilarious since "running from the po-po" was the first action in our game of charades yesterday.

No, really. In the immortal words of Sir Konrad the Bewildered, "You think I'm joking, but I'm serious."*

I faced an interesting moral dilemma when our building principal came over the PA and announced a Code 1 Lockdown. You see, at the time, I was on my lunch break and having a conversation with a student about whether he should purchase an HP or a Mac. (Silly conversation, I know, but hey, enlightening teenagers is part of my job, as is trying to make them a little hipper every day.) We were just getting into the finer points of GarageBand when the lockdown commenced. The choice I had to make was this: send the student to another room without knowing the nature of the emergency and risk him getting shot on the way; or lock myself alone in my room with a male student for an indefinite amount of time and hope that no one notices the blatant impropriety of the situation.

We went with the second option and had a good laugh about it -- "D's life vs. G's job... such a tough call..."

We were in lockdown for over an hour, but you'll be relieved to know that nobody died or was fired. In fact, the guy whom the gunman shot "repeatedly"** before he headed our way didn't die either. That's how you know you're a truly crap gunman.


*"Sir Konrad" with a "K" is the actual fake name of my ex-boyfriend's ex-roommate, who is a pharmacist by day and a Medieval warrior by night. He has absolutely no sense of humor and is constantly under the impression that we think he's joking about things. We're actually just laughing at the uncanny combination of wire-rimmed spectacles and chain mail.

**Such was the local news report this evening.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Two Bits

first bit:

every now and then i have moments in my job that just leave me without words. in a good way. right now is one of those moments. i just read a paper from one of my students -- a literary analysis on how poe establishes mood in "the fall of the house of usher" -- and it was so good, so insightful, so un-frickin'-believably off-the-hook eloquent that i had to put the rest of the pile down for the night. it simply would not be fair to grade another kid's paper with that one fresh in my brain.


i really do love the little triumphs of my job.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

second bit:

on a completely unrelated note, i bought a carbon-monoxide detector for my apartment. my place is really nice, but only because of work that i've put into it. the building on the whole is pretty shabby and the furnace is less than state-of-the-art. now that cold weather is here and i have to turn on said furnace or freeze my tuchus off, a co detector seemed a prudent way to increase my chances of reaching my twenty-fifth birthday.

like most electronics, my new safety device was sealed in plastic packaging designed to resist all reasonable attempts at opening it. you literally have to lapse into momentary insanity to get through this stuff.

long story short, i sliced my finger open. not off, but open to a point where the bleeding was significant and it'll take some time to heal.

i go to work the next day, and the whole school's a-buzz with the horrifying news that one of the students in our district has the infamous mrsa. we're forced to listen to lectures on proper hygiene and given stacks of pamphlets about how to avoid infection. every piece of paper i look at all day says that people who have been "immunocompromised" (that is, people like me who are recovering from mononucleosis) and people who have open wounds (such as recently sliced open fingers) are especially vulnerable and should take the following precautions: *insert list of seven million things to do, including staying home alone in a box. forever.*

if i get staph infection and die because i cut my finger opening the package of a device that is supposed to save my life, i am gonna be so pissed.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Reentering Society

finally, after months of being under the weather, am feeling like myself again.

mono's a killer -- not in a life-threatening way, but in the headlines reading "beloved young teacher tragically erased from existence" way. indeed, i wondered many times as i lay on my couch watching old "office" episodes how long it would take someone to find me if i did suddenly kick the proverbial bucket. *knock on wood*


fortunately, we'll have to conduct that experiment another time because i'm back up on my feet now. not exactly running my regular rat race of a lifestyle, but i'm at least out of the house every day. at my doctor's suggestion, i'm "easing" myself back into work by cutting my hours down to half-time for a bit. it's not ideal, but there are certainly some benefits, including the following:

1) instead of chasing after a substitute teacher, trying to plan lessons for her, and trying to grade papers based on what i think she's been doing, i've just turned total control of my morning classes over to somebody else. this drops my stress level in a way that no other chemical-free solution can.

2) i get to throw all my energy (which isn't much, but getting better every day) into my afternoon kids, who are loving the extra attention. my first class of the day has only fifteen students, thirteen of them girls. this is approximately half as many kids as a normal class, which raises the quality of discussions and activities through the roof and allows us to move at whatever pace suits us that day. brilliant!

3) i get a lot of sleep. a lot. typically about ten hours a night. i think the last time my schedule allowed this, i was sleeping ten hours a night in those one-piece jammies with the feet. this is exactly what my body needs; i feel better every day.


but that's just work.

the other parts of my life (ya know, the important and interesting bits) are starting to normalize too. i actually went out with a bunch of friends last night, to many merry cheers of "G! YOU'RE HERE!" every time someone else arrived. turns out i've been knocked out of the game so long, my friends now have a regular spot in this new pub that i hadn't even been to yet! they know all the bartenders and everything! yeesh! of course, i'm not allowed to have anything to drink because of the meds i'm on, but at least i was there!
got to exchange monotales with big'n'tall and hear about his latest brush with death (i'll spare you details, but it involves a chainsaw and a major artery). most of the other people there were casual acquaintances whom i started spending more time with once liz abandoned me to marry some guy and bizarro moved to iowa to pursue her acting career (really).

i'm sure i'll be talking about them more in future, so i might as well introduce you.

first, there's fay. fay's awesome. she teaches elementary school, so we have a lot of teacher-bonding moments. fay's also one of those low-key, confident people who's supremely easy to be around. she doesn't bowl anybody over or dominate the limelight, but she has a way of being in the center of things without ever pushing or interrupting. i wish i could be more like her. she also has one of those on-again-off-again relationships that i don't even ask about anymore because i gave up keeping track.

her on-again-off-again guy is tom, who is generally quiet but always has one of those wry half-smiles on his face. clever, generous, all-around solid guy. the only weird thing about tom is that he hunts every day of bow season. every day. religiously. i don't know anyone else who does that and i think it borders on a compulsion.

every group of friends has that one guy who sits there quietly watching all evening and then with a totally straight face says the driest, funniest thing you've ever heard in your life. by some gift of fate, our guy is actually a pair of twins. they play off each other brilliantly -- never have i met two people who have their act down so flawlessly. they run a little advertising company and are currently working on a campaign for a gay rodeo. what else can i say?

then there's watz. watz is this crazy, ginger-headed guy who works at a bank, which seems totally out of character to me. i can only assume that the intense energy and noise radiating out of him in the evening are just a reaction to being pent up in a necktie all day. last night, while sipping on a gummy bear martini, watz solemnly declared that he has given up on women. he meant this to be surprising, but it was met with some relief from the ladies present, as we've all given up on him.

there's also another girl -- we'll call her bekah. i never have any idea what she's thinking. ever. this is very unusual for me and somewhat disconcerting. for now, i'll leave it at that and i just won't play poker with her.


Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Big P/T C

so... let's talk about parent/teacher conferences.

the first time i ever went to a parent/teacher conference was when i was student teaching. my mentor teacher, yvonne, thought it would be a good experience for me to come along and listen in, though i didn't really have much to contribute, since i was just a stupid college kid. (my words, not hers.) we sat in her classroom all evening as the parents filtered through and asked about how their little susie or billy or whoever was doing in english class.

three years later, i don't remember much of that evening. i do remember one parent. she came in, quite flustered, sat down, pulled out her daughter's progress report, and burst into tears. TEARS.

for a moment, i thought maybe it was because her child was failing the class.... o no. she had a B. probably even a B+. how unstable of a mother do you have to be to weep in frustration and disappointment over a B? how screwed up will your child be by the time she graduates from college? even the wisest cannot tell.

somehow yvonne talked her down and we all survived the horrifically embarrassing encounter, but i've got to admit: it's sort of tainted my idea of conferences. every time a parent walks up to me, i always think "i wonder if she'll cry. what will i say if she does?"

the building where i work now is absolutely huge, so we don't do conferences in our classrooms. parents just have too much trouble navigating the corridors and hoofing it up and down the four stories worth of stairs. instead we all sit at tables in the gym in alphabetical order and the parents wander around to find us. (incidentally, you'd be surprised how difficult the concept of "alphabetical order" is to a lot of parents.) i was on the lookout for a weeper again this week, but luckily she didn't come.

most of my conferences go well, as i have a lot of high level kids who basically do their work and behave themselves. i was a bit nervous about this year, since i've been out sick -- nervousness spurred primarily by a dire warning i received from a coworker -- but none of the parents took issue with that, and many of them were genuinely concerned about my health. (i've got to remind myself to stop listening to warnings from people who don't have the same charisma points i have. parents friggin' love me.)

at any rate, i did have a couple awkward encounters i want to share with you.

the first was a darling little mexican woman whose son is in one of my writing classes. she sat down and we exchanged pleasantries for a moment. i told her that her son is delightful to have in class -- great sense of humor, really neat kid. then i pulled out his grade report and gave her the bad news. he's not failing. he has a "0%". that's right. he has NO grade in my class because he has turned in absolutely, positively, not one blessed piece of work all year. i know he does his work. i sit there and watch him do it. then i go grade the stack of papers and he never, ever, even accidentally turns anything in. *shrug* i dunno what you want from me, lady.

only a few minutes later, another mom sits down and asks how her daughter is doing in my class. well, i say, i had her last year, so i know her pretty well, and i'm sure she'd be doing fine in the class if she was ever IN the class, but she's not. ever. i haven't seen her in two weeks. at least. she's been marked absent every day and you should be getting phone calls from the attendance office every day. mom looks puzzled. "she leaves the house every morning..." well, yeah, they all leave the house every morning. they don't all come to school.

but the true delight of parent/teacher conferences comes the next day. the "0%" kid hands me a folder with every assignment for the entire year in it, all beautifully done. the truant kid shows up at last, grumbling about how i "hoed" her out to her momma.

:-) i love my job.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Down with the Sickness -- The Mono Chrons Cont.

o yes, i'm still down with the sickness. i was very well-behaved and took three whole weeks off work, but i can't stand it anymore. one can only spend so much time cooped up, you know.

this week, i'm attempting to be back at work half-time. this should actually be less stressful than staying home, where i'm constantly behind on paperwork and trying to chase down substitute teachers who don't return phone calls. sometimes i wish i was a substitute teacher -- then i could get paid $80 a day to show up late, lose things, and ignore all the work and energy the actual teacher has put into lesson plans a chimpanzee could carry out. if anyone had a problem with it, i could just say "well, i didn't know" and that would make everything all right.

okay, enough bitter ranting.

i'm back with my kids in the afternoons, and that's the important part. luckily for me, my afternoon kids are actually my really good kids -- one honors american lit class and two senior writing classes. as every teacher knows, students fall into two basic categories: those who invigorate you and those who suck the life out of you. these kids are the former, so even in my somewhat delicate condition, i actually felt better after spending time with them than i do just loafing about at home.

* * * * * * * * *

in other news, i got a very exciting phone call from one of my brothers yesterday. he called under the guise of asking how i was feeling and then said he wanted to cheer me up. naturally, i supposed he meant he was going to do a little song and dance number for me or recite a little poem or maybe send me a gift of some kind... after all, that's what i do to cheer people up. but no! he had a much better plan.

he called me "aunt g."

then he said, "o hang on, *other brother* is on the other line. just a second," and put me on hold!


i sat there for a second musing. when he came back, i felt it necessary to clarify. "we aren't talking about your stupid cat, are we? 'cuz i'm not that cat's aunt. and we're not talking about *other brother's* new dog? i mean, we're talking about your wife being pregnant, right?"

we were, indeed, talking about his wife being pregnant.

so sometime in mid-april i'm going to be an aunt. i come from a sizable family, but currently, the youngest "baby" in my family (both sides included) is my cousin, who is twenty and engaged, so it'll be quite a change for us to have a little one around.

that is pretty damn cool.
warthog xing

Monday, September 24, 2007

In Search

delicious breakfast

i'm not sure if it's something i miss about japan or just something to do with growing older, but i'm in search of more quietness in my life.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Justice is Served!!

YES! i defy you, microsoft lackey!!
as always, dear reader, thank you for your kind support.

(ps, curly, you are a gentleman and a scholar.)

Picture 3

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


today, in an effort to entertain myself, i logged on to yahoo answers and starting buzzing around solving people's problems. this is a wonderful pastime for me, as i'm a bit of a wise ass and enjoy spreading my wit around.

well, this girl had a question that went something like "AHHHHHHHH! PLEASE HELP ME! MY COMPUTER KEEPS FREEZING!!!" the situation, in brief, is that her pc is as rank with viruses as that meatloaf your roommate has had in the refrigerator since last february. she can't even turn the damn thing off. it freezes completely and to "resolve" the problem, she unplugs it and reboots. she also reported that it made loud noises. yeesh! she's clearly on the edge of a breakdown and had nowhere to turn.

so i gave her the only bit of advice i knew would actually help her. i said (and i quote):

jeez, why torture yourself?
just get a mac.

i thought this response was brilliantly clever, undeniably true, and pretty funny to boot.

only a couple minutes later, i got an email saying that i had been reported for abuse, my answer had been removed, and i lost credibility points on my profile.

for saying she should get a mac?!

i can't figure out what i did that violates the yahoo terms of service or the answers community guidelines.

did i...
*vent, rant, or use hate speech?
*chat or otherwise violate the question-answer format?
*say something mean or obscene?
*exploit the community (via spam or such)?
*cheat (to give myself unearned points)?
*violate the law?
*behave maliciously?
*post things that are incomprehensible or in a different language? (by the by, this is a bit exclusionist of them, isn't it??)
*do harm??

i did not do any of these things.

i don't think slamming pc's counts as a racial slur, and that was a pretty gentle slam anyway. i didn't even post a picture of a naked woman licking a mac! (though it wouldn't be hard to get one, i'm sure.)

if she had logged on and said that orange juice gave her canker sores and i told her to try apple juice instead (because of the lower acidity, obviously), i'd have been commended for a very reasonable solution. she's having problems with a product so i suggested a superior product.

and some sniveling, beady-eyed, little microsoft lackey out there saw it and got pissed off and flagged my comment.

it was pretty mean of him to report me just because we have a difference of opinion. it was even a bit malicious. and it did me harm -- it lowered my credibility and raised my blood pressure (downright dangerous, given my delicate condition).

what a prick.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Pretending to Be Well

Today I went in to work. This is one of the curses of teaching -- I actually care (a great deal) about my kids and what they're doing/thinking/learning. Therefore, even when my head is pounding and my lymph nodes are swollen, I can't spend too many days sitting at home not knowing what's happening at school.

I just wanted to check in with them, make sure they had gotten everything they needed out of last week, make sure they were ready for what's coming next, etc.

Well, we got into a discussion about Native American cultures. The basic idea I wanted them to get out of the reading was the image of time as a cycle -- everything repeats, everything decays and is renewed.

In an attempt to juxtapose that with our Western Civ concept that time is linear -- a constant parade towards *insert your personal philosophy here* -- I asked them how Europeans thought about time.

A girl in the third row raised her hand:

"Don't they have, like, really long lunch breaks?"



It kind of reminded me of this infamous youtube video.


(On a side note, I just realized I'm using capital letters. I don't know why. Hmm...)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Revolution of Updates

in my on-going quest to make my on-line presence as agreeable as possible, i've finally updated my flickr page with all my photos from my california road trip. click the pic below for a link or check out the sidebar where you can find all my flickr accounts!

s.d. zoo

Saturday, September 15, 2007

O No, No, No -- The Mono Chronicles V

last night i made the hideous mistake of having people over to my apartment.

i was feeling a bit better and my best friend liz (who got married last spring and moved far, far away) was in town with her hubby and their brand new labrador puppy. i didn't feel up to going out, but i invited them to come over and bring the little fur ball.

as they were on their way, not one, but two other friends from high school who never, ever call decided quite separately to give me a jingle and invite me out. i declined but -- feeling a bit guilty about never calling them either -- i told them liz was on her way to my place and they were welcome to drop by.

foolish, foolish me.

things i didn't account for:

  • as none of these people had seen each other in ages, there were hours (literally hours) of current events to catch up on.

  • since liz was coming from so far away, the catching up wouldn't begin until after 9 p.m. (my mono-rific bedtime is more like 8.)

  • the delightful combination of a brand new (not quite house-trained) puppy and my spoiled only-child cat would result in hissing and barking galore.

  • the hissing and barking would elevate liz's stress level through the roof, which would lead to shouting and flailing of hands.

  • all noise, stress, and general commotion would make my head pound like a conga.

  • by the time the last straggler cleared out, it would be well past midnight and i probably wouldn't feel like washing a pile of dishes or running to the grocery to replenish my foodstuffs.

  • though i feel like the walking dead, i don't actually look too bad, so all of this would go unnoticed by my guests, who weren't sure why i needed a whole week off of work.

ben does not like puppies.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

It's Not Just Me -- The Mono Chronicles IV

i'm not the only one who hates when i'm sick. today i got this one-line email from a student in my first hour...

"are you almost better? 'cuz we're not getting anything done and i hate the sub."

unfortunately, the doctor thinks i need to take next week off too. yeah, brilliant.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Nabe, Stew of the Gods -- The Mono Chronicles III

in the midst of my very boring week of sickdom, i've been trying to come up with things to write about and i've been getting a little inspiration. what you're about to read is my first official comissioned piece of writing. i'm expecting payment in full by the weekend, adam.


The Gaijin's Guide to Nabe

as the winter season approaches, you're probably asking yourself: what am i going to cook that's warm and hearty and will fill my dinner guests' tummies with culinary glee? unless you live in japan. then you're asking yourself: how the hell do i make nabe?

well, relax and settle in because you're about to be trained in the delicate art of this traditional japanese stew.

you will need:

a nabe pot (this is a heavy ceramic or cast iron pot with a lid. if you don't have one, run to the saty and buy one. if you don't have one or live in japan, you can use a heavy sauce pan as long as you keep the heat LOW. or you can order one from
a gas burner (a portable burner that can be placed in the center of your dining table is ideal. otherwise, you can do it on a gas stove, but NOT an electric stove. if you don't have a gas stove, call a friend who does.)
broth (in japan, there are a few varieties of nabe broth but basically your options are a salty seafood broth, which has shrimp or crab on the package, a creamy soy milk broth, or a kimuchi broth, which is spicy and usually in a red package. if you're not in japan, you might find these broths in a very good foreign food market OR if you live in nowheresville like me, you can actually use chicken broth as a substitute for the seafood kind. it's not perfect, but it'll do the job.)
meat (seafood is best. i like to combine crab and shrimp. you can also throw in chicken or, if you're in japan, look for white meatballs at the grocery. they're a sort of chicken sausage -- very yummy.)
veggies & such (cabbage is a must. beyond that, throw in whatever appeals to you. i, because i'm a gaijin, throw in a lot of gaijin things like onions/scallions, corn, broccoli, and even sweet potatoes. tofu's another good addition and clearly more japanesey. i'm allergic to mushrooms, so i don't use them, but you may if you want to.)

all right, now that you've gathered your supplies, let's get cookin'. you might want to turn on a little music. i like something kind of chill, but you can choose whatever inspires you. just keep in mind that the flavor of the music is likely to end up in the stew, so avoid anything too violent or depressing. (don't believe me? read "like water for chocolate".)


step one: put some broth in your pot and turn the heat on medium (or low if you're not using a proper nabe pot). i say "some" broth because you don't want to use it all at once. you'll need to add more later. i typically start with half the broth and add the rest as needed throughout the evening. (note the unopened package at my elbow. if you're in the big jp, that's what you're looking for in the shop.)

once your broth starts simmering, you want to add the cabbage. cabbage is the staple of this stew; you should keep plenty of it in the pot at all times. this is a good opportunity to throw in your onions or scallions too. i also add the sweet potatoes at this point, as they cook very slowly and need all the time they can get to be perfect. the same is true for carrots, if you happen to be a carrot person.


next, add your meats, keeping cooking time in mind. chicken and/or meatballs take significantly longer than seafood, so add them first. you may even want to put the lid on for a few minutes to give the chicken a head-start before you add the seafood (especially if you're using the meatballs, which are thick and cook slowly). if your shrimp turns pink almost instantly, turn the heat down! they'll be tough and rubbery if you overcook them! this dish is all about patience.


your other veggies and tofu can go in once the meat (especially the chicken) is well started. these things will just need to get hot, so they go quick. also, the yellow rolls in the photo are egg, which can be found pre-cooked in japan. otherwise, you can scramble your own eggs separately and add them if you so desire. once you have everything neatly arranged, put the lid on and walk away. entertain your guests with a rousing round of "would you rather" or invent your own embarrassing party game. (i have lots of suggestions for this if you need some creative help.)

keep an eye on your nabe pot to make sure it stays at a simmer, but avoid taking off the lid -- you'll let out all that yummy steam. if it threatens to boil over, turn the heat down ever so slightly.


once your guests are sick of playing games or some snarky comment has sucked the fun out of the room (typically about ten mintues), revive the party by taking the lid off of your masterpiece. expect a chorus of "ooo's" and "ahhh's".

serve up the goods in small bowls, keeping most of the broth in the pot. when everyone has their first serving, refresh the pot by adding more of all your favorite ingredients. replace the lid and let the party continue. nabe is the meal that keeps on giving -- as it gets low, simply keep adding and cooking throughout the evening. (this is why the portable burner works best; it's most convenient to have the stew cooking right on the table as you eat.) i usually poll my guests: "who wants more shrimp? more crab? egg?" etc. but don't ask them about the cabbage. just keep adding cabbage like i told you to.

like all japanese food, nabe goes well with sake and should be washed down with generous amounts of the delicious brew to ensure that the evening is a smashing success.



nabe also comes out better if you wear a really cool shirt while you make it, like this "soul-stirring music" raven tee i picked up for a mere 7,000 yen at born free. yeah, i know, i got ripped off. (note: that web page is the actual born free shop in a-square where i bought the raven tee. the internet is magical, isn't it?)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Rigor Bortis -- The Mono Chronicles II

most people would consider two paid weeks off of work a real treat, but this is only my second day of being stranded at home with mono, and i'm already bored silly. i can't do anything but stay in bed and watch old episodes of "the office". about 11 o'clock this morning, i couldn't stand lying around anymore, so i got up and shaved my legs. immediately afterwards i had to lie back down because i felt light-headed and shakey. quite a removal from the daily six-hour long stand-up routine that is my job.

at any rate, being sick at home reminded me of the time i got sick in japan. everybody gets sick in japan at some point. our gaijin blood just can't handle those ninja bacteria, and we all spend too much time drinking and working and not enough time sleeping or eating. most foreigners have only themselves to blame when they come down with some strange asian malady, but i have someone else to blame. i blame dom.


samurai bar in kyoto, where we did lots of drinking and only a little sleeping.

it all started when one of dom's childhood mates came to visit. they decided to live on the wild side a bit, so they took off to thailand for a few days of drinking booze, getting cheap massages, and playing "penis or no penis?" with the locals.

when they returned, dom called me at work and in his most pitiful voice told me that they'd gotten food poisoning from some dodgey restaurant and had both been heaving since they got on the plane. they were back at his place, but they were both exhausted, dehydrated, and feeling very ill.

well, i'm a good friend, so when i finished my shift, i stopped at the 99 shop and picked up some crackers and soda for the little travellers. i hung out at dom's for a while, listened to all their tales of misadventure, and made sure they were comfortably tucked in for the night.

next morning at work, dom was out sick. strange, i thought, since food poisoning is usually pretty short-lived.

a few hours later, i was sitting in a lesson with a ten-year old girl going over all the things you can do at the fair. "i want to ride the merry-go-round. what do you want to do at the fair?" "i want to eat cotton candy." etc. suddenly, i started feeling sort of... not right. sort of clammy and sweaty and... yucky. i stood up and excused myself in my shit japanese, then i made a beeline for the teachers' lounge. a couple of my esteemed colleagues were on their lunch break. i made some kind of gesture towards the door and said something like "kid... lesson... room 10..." before i high-tailed it to the women's room where i spewed and started to topple over. thank god for mikey, who is gay and therefore unafraid of following friends into the women's room to make sure they don't topple over into their own spew.

as you already know, food poisoning is not contagious. however, the wicked thai flu those boys brought home certainly was. i was a train-wreck for three days, and i can't begin to adequately describe the awkward technical difficulties involved in spewing into a japanese toilet. they simply were not designed for it. and unlike the boys, who got to enjoy their vacation before they got sick, i didn't even get a massage to balance the karma.

dom did bring me a box of chocolates shaped like orchids though. that helped a little.


dom and his mate doing celebratory shots of tequila once their stomachs had settled (several days later!)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Getting Sick -- The Mono Chronicles

o reader, i hate to make you worry, so i haven't been telling you everything that's been going on lately. it must be time to come clean.

ever since i returned from my fantastic california vacation, i've been feeling wretchedly under the weather. constant fatigue. achey muscles. lots and lots of headaches.

i nearly blacked out for no apparent reason one night a few weeks ago, so my mommy took me to the med station who sent me to the emergency room, where they stabbed me several times, gave me a cat scan, and told me nothing was wrong with me.

my regular doctor wasn't so sure, so she sent me to the radiology people who stabbed me and did an mri. the mri said there was nothing wrong with me.

but i haven't felt any better and the more tired i get, the harder it is to breathe, which is somewhat alarming and definitely qualifies as something wrong with me.

so i went to my regular doctor again. this time, she said it was just my asthma (darn that asthma) acting up, even though i was neither coughing nor wheezing. she put me on steroids and some other junk to fix it.

none of that junk helped so i called her office yesterday (saturday) and the on-duty guy told me to go to the emergency room. so back i went. this time they stabbed me and did a chest x-ray and told me i might have bronchitis and gave me antibiotics. then they said to come back if i still felt like crap today.

well, i did. in fact, i felt significantly worse today. so in hopes of that "third time's the charm" thing, i found myself back at the hospital today. they stabbed me in a way that made all previous stabs look like butterfly kisses, did a bunch of blood work, and when i literally had cottonballs taped to every available blood vessel, they finally figured out that i have mono.

i ask you, o people of the medical world, did it have to be that hard?


Wednesday, September 5, 2007

... And They're Back!

in the blink of an eye, my summer is over and i'm back in a 100 degree classroom with a bunch of sweaty teenagers trying to interest them in proper subject/verb agreement and explaining what words like "prosaic" and "phantasmagorical" mean.


the kids are completely insane, as always, so i'm sure i'll have plenty of good stories to tell you throughout the year. but who wants to talk about work? not me. not right now.

i'd rather talk about the fact that i'm watching the transformers movie. not the new one; the old one. ya know, the cartoon that came out 20 years ago? it's totally hot.

*humming 80s rock theme*

something about having two brothers who were only slightly older than me made me something of a tomboy as a child. i wasn't butch or anything, but i played with boys all the time, so i played with boys' toys... including, nay, especially transformers. i still think they're pretty sweet and i'd be lying if i told you soundwave wasn't sitting on my dashboard right at this moment. jealous? :-)

i must admit, i got a little nervous watching the movie today. i didn't know how they were going to defeat unicron once galvatron got a hold of the matrix... then of course, i forgot that hot rod turned into rodimus prime. that really turned the tide, eh?

o, you don't care.

you disappoint me yet again, starscream!

by the way, reader, here's a friendly reminder: the new season of the office starts in two weeks. i don't have a tv, so i'm going to have to figure out where i can watch it...




hey, what are you doing next thursday?

Monday, August 27, 2007

It Starts... Again.

i thought i'd get through at least one day of work without having stories to tell... then i walked back in that building.

if you've been enjoying my ramblings about summer vacation, then i must apologize. this is the last week of august and it's time for me to get back to the dry-erase board. i don't have any kids yet (which is why i thought i wouldn't have any stories) but i did get to spend a marvelous day in pd *translation: professional development, ie "six hour of my life i'm never getting back"* with all the teachers in the whole district.

just to give you a little background: teachers hate pd. especially the week before school. we all sit there thinking of all the billions of things we need to get done while whatever presenter drones on and on about things we already know. thankfully, as is always the case when you shut hundreds of human beings in a room and leave them there all day, a source of entertainment presented itself before long.

on monday, entertainment presented itself in the form of one of the middle school teachers. it's not unusual for teachers to bring a little something to help them get through the day -- a book, a notepad to doodle on, some knitting. (i didn't make up the knitting part. i told my colleague aaron that i aspire to live long enough that someday i'll be so old i can bring knitting with me when i go to meetings. i just said that to make him laugh -- i'd much rather die than knit in public.) well, this middle school guy took it to the next level.

did i mention that we all hate these meetings? we do. but this guy swaggered in (late), took an aisle seat alone about five rows in front of aaron and me, and proceded to put on quite a show. first, he took his sandals off. then he slouched down in his seat and propped his bare feet up on the arm of the chair in front of him so they hung out into the aisle. next he pulled out a book -- "a salty piece of land" by intellectual giant jimmy buffet. then he popped in his ear buds and flipped on his ipod. then, oblivious to all the disapproving glares, he pulled out his cell phone and started a text message conversation with some friend of his, apparently another diligent member of the workforce.

we've just had three months of paid vacation. we get two weeks for the winter holidays and at least one day off every month. so... i think this guy's a jackass and if i was his boss i'd tan his arrogant hide. but i'm not his boss, so i don't care.

however, the two crabby old ladies behind me cared. they cared a lot and erupted into shocked and indignent whispers.

"oh, sue! look at the guy! he's got his stinky bare feet all over that chair. who IS that? do you know who that is?!"

"no, i don't. i've never seen him before. is he a TEACHER?!"

"i don't know. who IS that?!?"

"look! he's got his cell phone out too! why i never!!"

"who IS that? ask jim if he knows who that is."

"jim doesn't know either. he must be from the middle school."

"well, honestly. look at his feet all over that chair! tell jim to go talk to him! that's disgusting."

"jim! tell him he has to clean his sweaty bare feet off that chair with a moist toilette or something." (i'm not making this up! she really said "moist toilette".)

at this point, jim, who is one of the high school administrators, walks down the aisle and stands about four steps behind the guy. then he turns around and comes back with a shrug.

jim: "i don't even KNOW that guy!"

"o honestly, if that was one of the kids, you'd read him the riot act."

now another lady who's a big gun at the high school goes down the aisle and actually does whisper something inaudible to the exemplar of professional decorum. he grunts at her and puts the cell phone back in his bag.

"well, didn't she tell him to sit up!! geez, he's still laying there like he's at the beach!"

"can you believe the gall?! who IS that?!"

"he must be new."

"doesn't anybody know who that is?!"

aaron turns around and interjects that the guy is listening to an ipod too. this news is met with gasps of horror and more whispers, as they didn't notice the ipod before. we determined that old people can't actually see ipods; such gadgets are outside of their realm of reality.

eventually, the middle school administrator comes down the aisle, apparently sent from the opposite side of the auditorium. he too leans down and interrupts margaritaville with a mumbled reprimand. another grunt, but this time the fellow actually does sit up and put his shoes on... a few minutes later he walks out of the room altogether.

all this transpired over the course of about an hour, during which the two old hens behind us never stopped talking about how offended they were that this young man was being so disrespectful to the presenter. incidently, they were talking so loudly and with so much prudish passion that aaron and i couldn't hear a damn thing the presenter was saying. hmm... irony makes my toes tingle with delight.

in all fairness, i wish i was still on the beach too.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The PCH, Loads of Adventure, and Overdraft Fees

it's all sandra's fault, really.

well... some of it is k.c.'s fault.

along the pch

it occurred to me months ago that i needed to go to california and run around with sandra. she was by far my best girl bud in japan, and i'd been missing her and her shenanigans like crazy. all school year, i'd been promising myself that i would make good use of my summer holiday, and a trip to california sounded like the perfect way.

enter k.c. we met several months ago and have been getting on wonderfully ever since. when i started making noises about going out west, he started waxing nostalgic about the two years he'd spent living in san diego. the weather is so perfect, the people are so great, there's so much to do, etc. he would just really love to show me around san diego.

the only little problem is that san diego is a mere ten hour drive from where i was planning to go in california.

after a great deal of discussing, debating, and counting the pennies in our piggy-banks, we decided we would indeed fly to sandra's... then make an epic journey down the pacific coast. and that is what we did. we saw everything from tahoe to the governator to pandas at the zoo, not to mention the drive down the pch (pacific coast highway) -- the most glorious ten hours i've ever spent in a car. courtesy of a good contact, we even spent a night at bacara, which was clearly way out of our income bracket.

here are some photos to make you jealous...

sandra & kc

sandra and k.c. hiking at lake tahoe. tahoe was absolutely gorgeous -- bright blue and clean, tucked way up in the mountains -- and freezing cold. we had a blast hiking around emerald bay and climbing all over rocks like these.

we stayed at sandra's for three days of eating japanese food, randomly bursting into song, and hearing sandra's childhood tales of jew camp. then we took off at four o'clock in the morning to beat the rush hour chaos between sac and s.f. it's a good thing k.c. is a morning person because i'm really not fit to drive until at least nine.


random stop along the pch -- driving down highway 1 (also known as the pacific coast highway) redefined the term "scenic drive" for me. the only thing we had determined when we left home was when we would fly back. this left everything in between a blissful blur of spontaneity, which we took full advantage of, particularly during this drive. we stopped often and very randomly whenever the notion struck us.

first official pic of me in the pacific ocean

getting our toes wet at carmel -- we stopped at carmel because we saw a sign on the highway for the "historic mission" and thought it might yield some good photos. we never found the mission, but we did find a beach and decided that was good enough. this is the first picture of me in the pacific ocean. (my toes are the pretty ones; k.c.'s are the big man toes.)

hearst rose gardens

rose gardens at hearst castle, san simeon... thank you, i thought it was a great shot too.

funny story about hearst castle: the castle's on the side of a mountain in the middle of a huge piece of land that used to be the hearst ranch. when you get to the visitors' center, they put you on a bus to ride up the mountain and on the way, you listen to a recording about the history of the place. part of this is a little blurb about hearst's menagerie, which included thirty types of exotic grazing animals that roamed free on the ranch. a few ancestors of these animals are still living wild on the property around the castle. (this is the part where i got excited.) some of them are zebras. can you imagine how frickin' cool it would be to see a zebra just hanging out in california? so i decided to spend the rest of the day keeping an eye out for the zebras...

well, if you've followed my adventures in the past, you'll know that i'm not very lucky with spotting creatures of the woodland realm. in a scenerio sadly reminiscent of my moose-tracking expedition in the adirondacks, i didn't see any zebras.

but i could feel their presence.

ocean view at bacara

admiring the ocean view at bacara -- as mentioned earlier, we went to the fabulous bacara resort & spa near goletta, ca. the resort was everything they promised and so much more. the room was wonderfully luxurious, the views were breath-taking, and the staff were downright cool. the food, though shockingly over-priced, was pretty scrumptious. the spa itself, however, was a bit of a let down. not to sound like a spa slut, but i've had better.


the national cemetery at point loma -- when we arrived in san diego, k.c. was thrilled to be back on his home turf and our entire stay was high-lighted by his always comical and unpredictable "this one time..." stories. as we drove up to point loma, he told the story of the one time that he took his scooter up the same very long and steep hill at about five o'clock in the morning. the story mostly went "so i was pushing and pushing" on the uphill parts and "here i was coasting" on the downhill parts with a few interjections of things like "here's where the navy guys passed me in their jeep and told me to go home..."

the pandassan diego zoo!

we also went to the san diego zoo, which was very cool. and here i did see zebras, but it wasn't the same.

o yeah!

and my very own photograph of one of the most photographed spots in america. i don't really like l.a., but we stayed here in hollywood for several days and had a pretty good time, in spite of the pollution, the traffic, and the general over-population.

so now i'm home. i have no money and some overdraft fees to pay, so it's a good thing that school starts up again next week.

until next time...

- g

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Shifting, Still

So MJ moved to LA.

I knew this was going to happen eventually. He hates *small town*... Actually, to be fair, I'm sure he hates all small towns. There just isn't enough action here. But he told me like it was supposed to be a surprise, like he was dropping a real bomb. I think he even started with your classic "We have to talk" or "I have to tell you something" or some other line like that.

"I'm moving to LA."

"O yeah? When?"

"In two weeks."

"That'll be awesome. Good change for you. Cool."

I think I hurt his feelings. He said something about how all his "other girlfriends" were mad at him because he was leaving them behind.

I'm sorry, MJ -- I didn't mean that I wouldn't miss you. I certainly prefer you to any other guy I've dated, and in this tiny town where good friends are few and far between, you are one of my absolute favorites. But you are truly miserable here. You need to go somewhere more exciting. Half of our friendship is spent on the telephone anyway, and you can still call me for free, so no worries.

mazda concept, naias 2007

Mazda Concept at the 2007 NAIAS, where MJ taught me everything I know about cars (still next to nothing, but it was a valiant effort).

In other news, Bizarro is moving to Iowa. This is a blow. A deep one. And I did tell her not to go because I would miss her too much. There were tears. This may mean I am a better girlfriend to Bizarro than I was to MJ. Oops. :(

Anyway, for our last big blow-out weekend, Bizarro and I went to my alma mater and saw a play starring my former biology lab partner, who remains the only musical theater major I've ever known who has actually been acting consistently in the four years since graduation. Of course, the best part of the evening for me was regaling our whole party over dinner with tales of our scientific endeavors, especially the time that we went on opposite diets -- me, vegetarian; him, all meat -- then came to the lab after two weeks and compared our piss. I won't bore you with the details, but inquiring minds can email me if you really want to know.

I cross-bred fruit flies with this guy and now he's soakin' up the limelight. I'm so proud.

But Bizarro is leaving Sunday and I'm kind of glad that I'll already be gone on vacation and won't be here for a big dramatic good-bye. I'll be in Sacramento at S's, thinking happy thoughts about reunion and not about more transience, more uncertainty, more people shifting in and out of my kaleidoscope life.

And I'll be there with KC, the Batmanesque hero who rescued me when I was stranded at Bill's auto shop. So that can't be all bad.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Uterus Tax, ps

remember how bill had initially told me that all four o2 sensors on my engine needed to be repaired at $130 each? then when i was pissed off, he changed his story and said only two were bad?

well, out of curiosity, i gave paul a call today and just innocently inquired how many o2 sensors there were in a 1995 v6 mystique.

funny -- there are only two.

go to hell, bill.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Uterus Tax

one of the things i miss most about japan is the trains. you just can't beat 4db6scd
the ease and reliability of japanese public transport. and honestly, who doesn't want a commute to work that involves zoning out with your ipod, texting novellas to your friends, putting on your make-up, and drinking your coffee or beer (coffee on the way in; beer on the way out) in total safety and serenity. it's an extra twenty minutes of responsibility-free lounging before you arrive at the office and hop back on the hamster wheel. not to mention the infinite joys of train games such as train surfing, shown here. incidently, this is the same day that marley, the indian/trinidadian/canadian wonder on the right, got shoved off the train. poor marley.

(see the addendum to The Anti-Climax for an explanation of why american trains don't cut the mustard.)

well, dorothy, we're not in japan anymore. here in the u.s. of a, if you have places to go, you need a car to get there. americans love cars. almost as much as we love guns. nothing gets us off more than having a gun in the back seat of our car. it's the american way.

enter my car. she's a mercury mystique -- notice how we love cars so much, they get to be called "she" instead of "it" -- a 1995, which is far from new, but her only previous owner was a little old lady who drove her to the grocery store and to church and nowhere else. when i got her, she had a staggering 30,000 miles on her. unbelievable. and o so beautiful. an added bonus: mystiques normally come with a little four-banger engine, but mine has a v6. this means that i will kick your ass in a drag race any day of the week. try me.

however, at the end of the day, a twelve year-old car is still a twelve year-old car, so we obviously have a few maintenance issues. right before i left for new york (literally the day before), one of these issues chose to rear its ugly head. it happened like this...

because i'm a delinquent cat parent, i often drop him off at my mother's when i decide to skip town in search of adventure or when i'm running from my creditors and crack dealers. on this particular occasion, i just get him settled in for another stay at "grandma's" and am about to pull out when the coolant light on the dash comes on. ok, no biggie. i stop the car, pop the hood, and sure enough, my coolant's a little low. i bee-bop into the garage and grab a bottle, top it off, and think i'm set to go. o no, no, no. as i start her back up, my mother comes running down the driveway after me.

"wait! i know why your coolant was low!"

"other than because there wasn't enough coolant in the tank?"

"don't get smart with me. it's leaking. it's dripping all over the driveway."

"well, i'm supposed to be in *insert name of other, slightly cooler town* in half an hour for dinner with *insert name of hot guy*, so... i don't care."

"well... you could take some coolant with you and top it off again later, but if the hose goes... especially since you're driving all the way to *other town*... you should really have somebody look at it before you take it on the highway, honey."

somehow by adding "honey" to the end of things, she always sounds so reasonable. so since she's my mom, i do what she says and i head over to an auto shop. the two auto shops we use are actually kitty-corner from each other on the same intersection. i randomly chose one. for our purposes, we shall call it "bill's".

bill checks out the car while i wait. a good twenty minutes later, he returns with bad news -- it's not a leaky hose; it's the water pump, which circulates the coolant through the engine. this is a biggie. if i had gotten on the highway, i would have basically toasted my engine and had to thumb my way home. thanks, mom.

but the news gets worse. a mystique is a smallish car and it turns out that the location of the water pump is somewhat problematic. bill tells me they'll actually have to take the engine out of the car in order to reach the pump, a job which will take four to five hours. i'm already late for dinner. did i mention it was dinner with a guy? and that he's hot?

bill insists that the car's in really bad shape and i shouldn't even drive it home. well, so much for dinner. i call my mom to get a ride home. one ringie dingie... two ringie dingies... no answer. hmm, i muse... how curious. i try her cell. same story. then i remember she had said something about mowing the lawn... dammit! it'll be at least an hour before she gets a message. so i'm going to be at bill's reading last january's "better homes and gardens" for a while. i call my dinner date to cancel and explain the situation, hoping he believes me and doesn't think i just bailed.

"*long explanation of my current conundrum*... so i guess i'm not going to make it up for dinner. i'm really sorry."

"where are you now?"

"at the auto shop."

"is someone coming to get you."

"no, not yet. i left a message for my mom, but i think she's mowing the lawn."

"what's she doing mowing the lawn? that's a man's job!"

"*laughter* i know! tell that to my dad!"

"well, stay put. i'm on my way."

the tone with which he says this conjures vague childhood memories of batman on the red phone with the commissioner and inside i swoon a little bit. on the outside, i protest -- it's too far and he really shouldn't go to all the trouble... but he's already walking out the door and before he hangs up i can hear his car starting.


so dinner was saved, but i had to abandon my car at bill's while i was in the adirondacks. when i picked it up a week and a half later, his $500 estimate had lept to $650. yikes methinks as i write a check. that's gonna leave a mark. just to make my day a little better, he stops me on my way out and explains that they also found a problem with the o2 sensors. (o2 means oxygen, he explains, as if i didn't pass fifth grade science.) there are four of them -- three are completely shot and the fourth is going, so they all need to be replaced. he estimates $90 per part and $120 in labour, which will be another $500 by the time you add tax and such. brilliant. i sigh and set up an appointment to bring it back in.

i take the receipt home to file it with other work we've had done on the car and i am astounded to find another receipt from the auto shop across the street -- paul's -- for the exact same job early last fall. my parents have had this car for a while now, and less than a year ago, they replaced that same water pump. this raises a wide variety of disturbing epiphanies. first and foremost, the water pump paul installed was under warranty, and thus if i had taken it back to him, he would have replaced it for free. $650 thrown to the wind. but it gets better.

the overall job at paul's cost only $400, a whopping 40% less than bill's version of the same repair. confuseb and a bit irritated, i start looking at the fine print. $110 for paul's water pump; $160 for bill's. $15 for a belt at paul's; $30 at bill's. $15 for fresh coolant at paul's; $25 at bill's. 2.8 hours of labour at paul's vs 4.5 at bill's. for the same bloody job! that's $180 for paul's labour and $280 for bill's. then my favourite -- as i'm looking at the charges on bill's bill, i notice something kind of funny: less than $250 in parts plus less than $300 in labour plus $15 in taxes magically equals more than $650 total. you don't have to take non-euclidian geometries to figure out that that's bullshit, and i f*cking aced non-euclidian geometries.

i'm flying into an apoplectic rage about now. i leap back into my g-mobile and all six cylinders buzz me over to bill's to read him the riot act. i try to be polite to the receptionist 'cuz none of this is her fault, but she can probably see the plumes of donald duckesque red smoke billowing from my ears.

bill is, of course, shocked and appalled at the mathematical "error" and slyly attempts to blame it on the receptionist who has conveniently left the room. almost instantly, he pulls the difference of $100 out of his wallet in cold, hard cash and thrusts it at me, all the while blubbering about how his accountant would have caught that mistake. she surely would have called me in a day or two.

then let me ask you this, bill: shouldn't you give me my refund in the form of a check so that you have some written record to show your accountant when she comes asking?

"o no," he's floundering big time now, "not necessary. i just prefer cash 'cuz it's faster."

yeah, that's the same thing my crack dealer says.

next i set my two receipts on the counter side-by-side and demand an explanation of the pricing difference. why is your water pump worth $160 when paul charged me $110 for the same part? and the belt? the coolant? the labour??

blah blah blah, bill tries valiantly to explain something about the quality of the parts and warranties and such.

this is hard to swallow since i was just on the phone with paul who assured me the pump and belt both have lifetime warranties. the pump, in fact, is the newest model they can get their hands on, absolutely 100% satisfaction guarenteed. through the whole ordeal, paul's a total star and even though i took my problem to the guy across the street, he's willing to refund me the cost of the defective part. he is in no way obligated to do this. he's just nice.

bill's voice is starting to remind me of charlie brown's mom and i know that the 100 bucks in my pocket is the only useful thing i'm going to get out of him, so i start to collect my papers and walk out. in the last death throes of our customer service relationship, he changes strategies and offers me some "good" news -- it turns out he was wrong about those o2 sensors. only one of them is really bad and a second one going, so i'll just have to have two of them replaced instead of all four.

i almost laugh aloud because he has got to be a cokehead if he thinks he's ever touching my car again.

i've heard other women complain about the uterus tax that you pay when you take your car to a shop yourself, instead of having your husband/boyfriend/father take it in for you. i always thought it was sort of an urban legend. well, somebody call "myth busters." of course, some of the additional fees on bill's water pump job were probably related to the fact that i was going out of town and not just the fact that i don't have a penis, but in total they amounted to $250 worth of bullshit charges, not including the upcoming $500+ o2 sensor replacement.

unfortunately for bill, i'm ballsy enough that i pulled right out of his parking lot and into paul's where i had him run a scope on my car. you'll be relieved to know, dear reader, that my o2 sensors are just fine.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007


this made my day. thought i'd share...

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Great American Pastime

I don't care how popular it gets in Japan -- there is still nothing more American than a game of baseball.


I remember the strike. If you're American, you remember it too. 1994 -- dispute between the players and the owners over a salary cap; players went on strike; no major league baseball. That year everybody watched football and basketball and hockey instead, and ever since, Major League Baseball's been just a little bit... mrah :-/ And it doesn't help that now that they're back in the game, they're passing the 'roids around and every good player's suspect.

So here's what I say:

Screw Major League Baseball.

That's right. I said it.

Real baseball doesn't happen in huge stadiums under florescent lights with $8 (cold) hot dogs. Real baseball doesn't happen where you're so far up in the nosebleed section that you have to watch the game on a TV anyway, even though you came to the game. Real baseball doesn't happen where the ref can make a call and you can't scream about how blind he is because you couldn't see it either. Real baseball doesn't happen where the advertisements on the wall are four thousand times the size of the damn ball.

But have no fear, gentle reader. This is not the death of America's Favorite Pastime. ©

Real baseball still happens all the time.


In fact, as you read this blog, in a sunny local park somewhere in America, real baseball is in full swing. You won't find many 90 mph curve balls. The players won't be sluggers like Hank Aaron or Barry Bonds (with the exception of a few guys like the one shown above, whose current batting average this season is somewhere around .850 -- meow!). There are sometimes cheap uniforms, sometimes not, sometimes good old-fashioned shirts & skins. When it gets dark, they won't turn on the lights; the best they can do is grab a yellow night ball and finish out the inning. Expect multi-tasking -- in addition to the throwing, batting, catching, and running involved, they'll also be drinking beer (cheap American beer) and eating a wide variety of grill-able meats. And you can't buy a cold hot dog for $8, but you can probably bum a hot one for free.

None of these factors should be used to judge their passion for the game.

Instead, consider this: the entire 1994 postseason (including the World Series) was scrapped because of a dispute over money. Owners wanted to keep more of it; players wanted to get more of it. So they argued. They all got pissed off. They all took their balls and their bats and went home. This, as you well know, is the quintessential metaphor for a retreat in the face of opposition, reserved only for the most bull-headed and infantile of men who pound their fists in rage at the very thought of negotiation, cooperation, or (God forbid!) compromise.

On the other hand, somewhere in a little corner of the Midwest, there is the Beerball League©. These guys show up faithfully every week (including on holidays, on rainy days, and yes, even on Mother's Day). They are deterred neither by the cold nor the heat, scorching sun nor the falling darkness. At the end of any given inning, at least one of them will walk off the field bleeding from that perfect slide/tag/collision/pile-up. They keep painfully intricate stats on every aspect of play. A bad call by the ump will result in the dropping of jaws, the throwing of gloves, and profuse streams of profanity, but never ever in going home. They come for nine innings and they play nine innings come hell or high water. And as the name suggests, the major difference between the Beerball League© and a standard league is that in Beerball©, every fielder is required to have a beer with him at all times.

And like amateurs all over the country, the Beerballers keep playing week after week, year after year, for one reason and one reason alone:

They frickin' love this game.

first base

Friday, June 29, 2007

I Do Mountains


There's just no keeping me at home anymore. As soon as I have any money or leisure, I take off somewhere, which is just as irresponsible as it sounds. I spent this past week in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York.

Maybe it's my roots in the tragically flat Midwest, maybe something deeper, but I've always been drawn to mountains. They're intoxicating for me -- wild, exotic, overwhelmingly beautiful.

indian lake

After a week of residency, I now consider myself an Adirondack expert. Here are some useful things to do if you're headed this way:

1) Go to Lake Placid. For starters, Lake Placid is one of very few cities in the world that have hosted the Olympic Games more than once -- 1932 and 1980. The 1932 games were only the third time the modern games had been held and the first time they were held in the US. The 1980 games were, of course, the site of that famously "miraculous" hockey game.

Just outside of Lake Placid lies Whiteface Mountain, the fifth highest peak in the Adirondacks and the highest that is accessible by car. Go. It's fantastic. And don't take the elevator to the top, you pansy. climb. My mom did it; you can do it too.


2) Go white-water rafting down the Hudson. Be extremely careful if you're going in the early spring -- they open the river the first of April -- because the standing waves can be up to twenty-five feet high. For you metric system readers, that's, um... well, it's really high.

Our go wasn't quite that intense, but it was pretty fun. We had one especially exciting moment when we nearly capsized going over a rapid -- my aunt went overboard and we had to haul her back in by her life jacket. At another point, the boat behind us got hung up on a boulder. Our guide ordered us over to the bank so we could wait and make sure they got free. When we got to the edge of the river, he yelled that one of us had to hop out and hang on to keep us from rushing further downstream. When it became apparent that the three grown men on board had checked their balls at the front desk with their car keys, I jumped out, crawled up on a rock, and held the raft. Once the other raft was on their way, I lept, with the dexterity of a gazelle, back into my place and we were off again. Quite an thrill, I must say.

One note of caution: If you do go, bring your balls with you so that the little girl behind you doesn't write sh*t about you and publish it on the internet.

3) See a moose. I haven't managed this, even though I researched the best times & places to see them and how to make moose calls (which I'm getting pretty good at). Try coming in the fall. That's what I'll do next time.


If this sign were being honest, it would say "No moose for the next three months."