Saturday, December 30, 2006

What is the Appropriate Level of Irritation?

Look, it's a coffee shop and so people should be allowed to engage in conversation. Right? It's not like we're at a library. If I were in a restaurant with other people, I wouldn't necessarily hear other people's conversations because I would be involved in my own. But...I don't really want to listen to two people hold court on the state of education for children today.

Large woman with two colored hair, a black lace shirt, and a matching fat baby: "I definitely encourage you to um...think about how if a child's behavior is negative over and over, something is reinforcing that."
Thin man, black knit cap, blue camoflague pants, long shaggy goatee and moustache, blue bracelet like tattoo on his wrist, and small round glasses. HATE HIM: "I am really interested in the possibility of pursuing an educational resource for small kids." (Sips coffee).

That's not the best example of the dialogue, b/c I'm just typing what they're saying right now. I did hear her say, I don't believe there are bad children. I believe there are bad circumstances. Now she's giving an example of how she taught her son? daughter? Jessie to dress appropriately for the season instead of wearing his/her pajamas to school in the winter. Why does this kind of thing bother me so much? Well, for one thing, he just snapped his fingers to make a point.

Two Days Left Until Your Entire Life Changes

That is because of this well-known phenomenon known as "New Year's Resolutions" wherein you make a list of all the things you'd like to improve or things to stop doing or start doing or do more or less often. I tend to do well with resolutions when they are fairly manageable. For instance, I have kept three promises to myself, all having to do with personal hygiene and health. I now take a multi vitamin every day, wash my face with soap, and apply face lotion (this last one is all due to Miss Liz McElroy, who persuaded me to buy Vitamin E lotion in the Body Shop or somewhere. I haven't looked back since and boy is my skin moisturized!). It's the more intimidating promises that I never keep. I believe that every year, I write "learn to cook." The closest I've ever come to meeting that challenge is consistently listing it as something I should do.

Meet up with KSK people at Ludwig's last night and I forced them to make their own lists. I wrote Shawn's myself. And you may notice that I have taken some liberty with these, adding other things to people's lists when I felt it appropriate:

  1. Smoke less or possibly even quit altogether.
  2. Love Stuart (his cat).
  3. Give Liz more $ (my addition).
  4. Learn a new skill (he completed this resolution immediately by learning how to text message from his cell phone).
  5. Be more social (I added that because while he was learning this new skill, he wasn't talking to anyone).
  6. Do something risky.

Marty (he wasn't really into this, as you will see):
  1. Exercise every day.
  2. Buy a yoga mat rather than stealing Marian's.
  1. Lose weight (she and her work friends have joined three months of Weight Watchers. She was already able to inform us that the piece of fried cheese or whatever it was Shawn ordered was probably worth 5 w.w. points).
  2. Be more engaged in friends lives.
  3. Learn a new language (I suggested Persian, but she narrowed it down to sign language).
  4. Meet some deaf people (my idea).
  5. Meet a man who appreciates you for you!!!!
  6. Upgrade kitchen appliances--specifically by buying more Cephalon.
  7. Teach others to appreciate country music.
  8. Accessorize outfits with fringe more to get people excited about country music.
  9. Learn to knit.
  1. Furnish new apartment.
  2. Throw a housewarming party requesting gifts to furnish new apartment.
  3. Become sane.
  4. Get a kitten (my idea).
  5. Go out on 5 dates with 5 different women.
  6. Improve work Web site.
  7. Beat up Marty.
  8. Buy a new watch.
  9. Don't go to strip clubs with credit cards.
  10. Don't fall asleep on the train and wake up at the 69th street station.
  11. Decide what to do with your life.
  12. Travel but don't move away.
  13. Buy new glasses (I suggested heavy framed tortoiseshell).
  1. Brush teeth more often.
  2. Clean the house.
  3. Clean the litter box like once.
  4. Be less stingy (Frank added that which I think hurt Shawn's feelings).
  5. Calm down.
  6. Be nicer to Aimee.
  1. Save $.
  2. Write every day.
  3. Stick to a budget.
  4. Birth the kittens.
  5. Exercise 3 times a week or more.
  6. Drink less.
  7. Knit something not square.
  8. Use my sewing machine.
  9. Water plants.
  10. Learn to cook!!!
  11. Floss.
Shawn's list for me:
  1. Get pregnant (though he didn't specify by whom).
  2. Add two more cats to the house.
  3. Get a promotion.
  4. Be a better girlfriend (oh, okay, that's one down).
Look! A new kitty for us:

Friday, December 29, 2006

Coffee, computer, and a new bank account!

I took the train downtown with Shawn today and am now sitting in a very orange coffee shop/bank. They have a flat screen TV playing CNN and music that's too loud. The screens of the computers are positioned in such a way that you will have a terrible neck ache if you go past the thirty minute time limit. I'm already starting to experience vertigo.

Today reminded me that I wish I still took the train to work. The people watching is great--we saw no fewer than 5 Ali G. look alikes in our car alone (I also saw two different men today blowing snot out of their noses onto the sidewalk. WHY is this okay? Does this behavior have to do with testosterone? I have never seen a woman do this unless she was on the last two miles of a marathon). Another thing about the train is the intimacy of it; public transportation is really the only time you're that close to people you don't know. You can read the titles of the books they're reading, hear the music on their Walkmans, observe their shaving nicks, gray hairs, ragged fingernails, low hanging jeans, smell the shampoo on someone's still wet head, watch people fall asleep, and today, there were three people sitting together and one of the guys suddenly pulled a large soft pretzel out of his pocket and divided it into three parts to share with his friends. Just reminds you that you're in the city. When I drive to work, I'm all by myself and am not paying much attention to what's around me except for other cars and traffic lights. At the end of the day, I drive home and go inside for the night. An entire week can pass without me remembering I live in Philadelphia. My world consists of Temple and Fishtown. I guess I could start taking the bus but I don't like it as much as the train. We might be moving offices and so the Number 3 would drop me off right where I need to be. We'll see what happens.

God, this music sucks: ("My father took me to the city when I was young and he said when you grow up will you defeat them, your demons and all the nonbelievers, the plans that they have made. Because one day, I'll leave you, a phantom, to lead you in the summer to join the black parade.") Pair these lyrics with a repetitious, slow, four note tune. And now they've burst into a drum filled cock rock sound. "Will carry on...will carry on...will carry on." Is this a religious song? Am I in a bank that serves coffee, offers the use of a computer, and brainwashes you to love Jesus? I feel like every mainstream guy band now sounds like Third Eye Blind (?) or Hanson with heavy guitar.

Okay, maybe I'll write more later when I get back to Fishtown and go to the one coffee shop in a twenty mile radius.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Ten days without blog feels like a decade

How have I survived without writing down the miniscule details of my life? Christmas has come and gone again and I am thankful not to have to hear the incessant sound of holiday music for another 8 months (since radio stations start playing Christmas music immediately after labor day). Among many other things, Mom got me a sewing machine and sewing scissors in a clean metal box. and I promise I will actually try to use it, even if only to make pillows. Shawn bought me a pair of really nice earrings I wanted when we went to the NABR Fishtown auction. He also gave me Amy Sedaris' book, I Like You and will be taking me to get a bra fitting in Manayunk since I don't think I've worn the right size brassiere since I got my first one in third grade (not really. It was sixth grade). I told Amanda about it and she said she went to the same place and warned me not to wear a bra I like to the fitting. When Amanda went, the fitter woman forced her to throw away her comfortable cotton bra and wouldn't let her fish it out of the garbage can.

I honestly don't have anything of interest to say. Just went to Circle Thrift and received a compliment on the earrings Shawn got me by some Main Line-looking girl. Many of the people who shop at CT appear to have mild to severe retardation. What does that say about me? One of the things I frequently think of when I'm there is what if you worked in a store and absolutely hated the sound of people pushing the hangers back? You would go crazy. It's not a sound I like and I can imagine that I would have to grit my teeth and tell the customers to be more quiet with the hangers.

Okay, I'm in Rocket Cat and there's a bearded, flannel shirt wearing hipster dude sitting next to me who is knitting something green. And he appears straight. Totally hot. Now he is going out to smoke a cigarette. His yarn is on the floor--oh, wait, he's not knitting, he's crocheting. Less hot. He's back in now and has run into some friends. His name is Patrick. All the little hipsters know each other. Most all of the girls have side ways fringe bangs and often wear pigtails and braids. The mean barrista has been very nice lately and in fact smiled once. I am sure it sucks to make bagles all day, particularly when you are somewhat captive. The other day when I was in here, some guy was asking her about her religious faith. She said, I'm an atheist. He said, But how can you live like that? I forget her answer, but I mean, that's none of his business and she can't escape him though she could throw scalding hot coffee in his face. I am suspicious that someone who works here does a daily Internet search for Rocket Cat and has read my blog and told her about it. Do I really think I have that much influence in the world? Yes, I do. Oh, God, she's wheeling her bike in right now. If someone does read this, are they puzzled trying to figure out which of the customers is writing this? If so, I am the nice quiet girl who tips well and does not have bangs or braids. I also don't wear tight-legged dark jeans or ride my bicycle to the coffee shop in a black knit hat. Now I've given myself away. P.S. Santa picture is courtesy of Shawn.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Li'l Pregnant Orphan

I think we have discovered why this new girl kitty is so friendly. She appears to be pregnant. She has all the signs. She's very friendly, her nipples are starting to appear, she's hungry and sleeps a lot, and she has somewhat of a Buddha belly. She will most likely hatch 2 dozen kittens in our bed while we are at work. I still think she has about six weeks to go though.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

News Flash: Riding Your Bike in the City Provides Greater Mobility

I just discovered this morning that I can get to Northern Liberties on my creaky British-made bike from Shawn in less than ten minutes. It's a whole new world over here in Liberties Walk.

Fishtown: One coffee shop that serves burnt coffee, has slow service, and plays the same whiny emo music over and over.

NL: I'm sitting in Shot Coffee--a clean and friendly place that give you gigantic cups of good coffee and plays contemporary, slightly pop though nevertheless upbeat music. They have a bowl of water set out for the dogs that may visit with their people.

Fishtown: Good luck tying your bike up to a dying and lonesome tree.

NL: Bike rack.

Fishtown: Stray, starved dogs roam the streets in ragged packs. Abandoned cats dart across the road.

NL: Just petted the biggest, fattest black dog I've ever seen tied up outside one of the stores. He is obvioulsy too well-fed.

Fishtown: Streets and curbs are lined with a thin layer of trash.

NL: Wide streets, trees, and clean sidewalks.

Fishtown: The only place to shop is Circle Thrift. The only places to eat are the many corner delis.

NL: I'm in a shopping area that has a pet store, several restaurants, and a few quirky (though overpriced) boutiques and art stores.

Fishtown: The numerous dive bars are not divey in a diverse way--where you have the old school people and the hipsters . The bar two blocks down from us features mostly the local alcoholics. The last time I was there, someone passed out face down on the floor. No one really seemed to notice or be surprised. It was like, Oh, there goes Bob again. I ended up talking to a couple and the woman had the most crossed-eyes I've ever seen. I didn't know which eye to look into--each was pointing in its own direction and neither was looking straight ahead. It is not unlikely that you could get into a fist fight with a drunk regular.

NL: In the restaurants, they have both food and bars.

God, I sound like a total jerk--superficial and snotty. But honestly, it's depressing to live in a place that is extremely poor, violent, poorly educated, and ravaged by various forms of addiction. It's not the fault of the people living there; the city does exactly nothing to improve the conditions. There are no parks, very few trees, no library, no retail, and too many bars.

Here is a typiccl photograph of Fishtown:

Here is a photo from Northern Liberties:

We cannot afford to live in NL, however. I can barely afford to shop here.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Dealing with Fans and Street Recognition

I am preparing myself for the inevitable growth in my popularity and general fame across the United States and probably also in Germany. It's going to be difficult sneaking out the back of our house, and climbing the fence to avoid the throngs of fans outside of my front door. I have purchased a blond wig, gigantic sunglasses, and a floppy hat--did not wear them out today, as people in this neighborhood are slow to catch on to the latest thing. It's the same old story--person gets book published from small academic press that circulates three hundred copies on obscure Web sites and her life is never the same due to the overwhelming response of the nation.

I am in Rocket Cat again, listening to the inane conversation between the barrista (not the mean one; this girl is nice, she's just loud) and a slight bearded kid in a hoodie. The girl is one of those people with a big voice who periodically does something really theatrical liking yelling, Ta-da! when she pulls a bagel out of the toaster. She just said, I was going to mean to people today and not talk to anyone but I just can't do it! He said, I know! It's not in your personality. (And also, it's kind of your job). Girl: "Is your dad British? Does he ever want to go back to the Motherland?" She thinks she's clever but she isn't.

We're supposed to buy a Christmas tree today, but Shawn has also had a hell week and so doesn't feel like doing much of anything. I have most of my shopping done, but not all. I can't stand to leave things until the last minute, though I will most likely put off cleaning the house as long as possible.

Woke up yesterday to find a kitty cat nesting in our window flowerbox. I opened the door, thinking it would scare the cat away, but she leaped out and over the mailbox to butt her head against me. I immediately had to bring her in. Shawn was irritated but also intrigued to see how the other cats would react. Henri hissed and hid, of course, and Ernesto trailed after her, curious. (I think she's a she). She didn't mind--was just happy to be inside and given some food and water. Like Ernesto when we first got him, she immediately fell asleep in the ghetto box top bed with towels in it. This morning, I came back from Circle Thrift to find the cat curled up in Shawn's lap. He's a sucker. He wants to call her Eleanor. She is an Eleanor. She isn't that cute, but has cool orange eyes and meows like Gretel did. We are not keeping her, I don't think. Please ask around to see if anyone wants a cat. Three is just three too many. Stop us before we become this:

Oh, shit, the mean barissta just wheeled her bike inside. Maybe she's just stopping in? She's wearing a self-righteous t-shirt that reads, "I Don't Do Windows and I Don't Do Drugs."

Padhraig is moving to Philadelphia today, or he did yesterday or something. He got a tenure track job in New Jersey and so now he will be within a five mile radius of us. I am sure we will never see each other. That's what happens when someone moves closer, you find it easier to put off seeing them since they're nearby and you can kind of visit them any time. We are going to a party with him and Carrie tonight. I'm attempting to steal all of Carrie's friends (and turn them against her).

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I'd Like to Offer Sincere Congratulations To Myself

Got a call on Tuesday afternoon from some woman with a soft Southern accent telling me that I won the Katherine Anne Porter literary prize for fiction. I was like, Oh, that sounds good. I thought she meant that one of my short stories won a prize. I send out work sporadically and so couldn't remember what I'd given them. She said, So your book of short stories will be published by the University of North Texas Press this fall and we'd also like to invite you to give a reading here. I get some prize money and royalties on every book sold. Please buy many, many and give them to your friends and neighbors. As well as entertaining reading, the book can serve as an excellent door stop. The other cool thing is tha I get to pick or suggest my own book cover. It has to be really, really good for all the shallow people like myself who actually do choose books based on their cover. Just an aside: what does the word "japed" mean?

I also get to choose a back cover photograph of myself. Nick Kelsh, a professional photographer we work with, has agreed to take the picture so now I'm investigating what other authors do. A few more ideas:

Monday, December 11, 2006

It has come to this

I am now for sure a person who posts numerous photos of her cat. It's not totally my fault--Shawn continues to take them. I feel bad for Henri, the red-headed stepchild, who is often neglected and made fun of for his fatness. Still, admire the cuteness that is Ernesto.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

I Have Found Jesus

He was in my old shoebox.

I do not have an update for One Tree Hill because Carrie was over last night and we talked and talked. One of the things I did observe in passing is that it's difficult to distinguish the teenagers from the parents. Many times did I wonder why that one blond woman was walking down the hallway in the high school. I first assumed that she was there to attend a PTA meeting, but then she put on a cheerleading outfit and so I guess she's meant to be a student. Perhaps there was a plot line I missed where she was a high school drop-out who decided to pull her life back together at 30 and enrolled in high school. Or maybe she's an undercover cop posing as a student in order to bust the rampant popper problem at the school. I vaguely recall from this episode--oh, yes, now I remember! After replaying the ridiculous events from the final five minutes of last week's show, they opened with a scene from It's a Wonderful Life. For the rest of the time, Bobby or Chad or Tiger or whatever his name is--the kid who had the heart attack last week, walks around the town with an old dead friend (his father? his older brother?) who is there to show him what life would be like for everyone in town if he died. Here's the bestest, bestest part: the actor playing the dead character is a guy who never quite made it into the Brat Pack in the 80s. He was in one of my favorite movies, Some Kind of Wonderful and he played the bad guy. He might also have been in Lost Boys, but I'm not sure (I feel like every not-quite-Brat Packer was in Lost Boys). Oh, okay, I obviously haven't been watching the show, but according to IMDB, he was in 55 episodes of One Tree Hill. He had by far the worst sort-of-not-really moustache I've ever seen. It was very faint, like a five o'clock shadow, except only above his upper lip. It looked ridiculous.

Anyway, the whole show was about Chad seeing what life would be like if he were dead and listening to dumb cliches from Craig Sheffer. What would've been awesome is if everyone's life improved drastically after his death, but no, I believe they were all heartbroken, down to the bus driver who knew him in grade school. But, okay, the parallel between this show and It's a Wonderful Life doesn't quite work because the whole point of It's a Wonderful Life is that George (played by one of my favorite old time actors, Jimmy Stuart) thinks his life is worthless and that no one would miss him. He's actually standing on a ledge of a bridge in the beginning, ready to plunge to his death. Seeing what would happen to his family and friends and business partner if he were to die is what saves him because the central conflict is that he thinks he's worthless and the angel shows him that he's not. As far as I can tell from my three episode expertise, Chad has it pretty good and knows it. It's not like he's debating whether he wants to live or die. Right? So, what's the point in showing him how crappy the world would be if his heart gives out? I don't know what happened in the end, but he probably lived or came out of it suddenly while everyone from his high school was gathered around the hospital gurney. They may have mixed movies and had him look around in wonder, saying, "I had the strangest dream. And you were there. And you, and even Toto was there too!"

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

This must be brief

I have 14 thousand meetings today. I hate meetings. No one really wants to be there. I also hate doing interviews (and we have one of those today). It's so fake. It's the worst kind of equivalent of a first date without the meal. I hate asking the stupid questions as much as I ever hated answering them:

Question: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Honest Answer: I have no clue. I don't really have a plan at all. I just really want this job so I can make some money.

Question: What would you say is one of your weaknesses?
Honest Answer: I procrastinate. I like to surf the Web and sometimes feel like work gets in the way of that.

Question: What are your strengths?
Honest Answer: I can tell you pretty much anything you want to know about Paris Hilton.

Question: Why are you interested in leaving your old job?
Honest Answer: I'm bored and want to make more money and I hate my boss.

Question: Why do you want to work at XXX?
Honest Answer: I have no idea. I looked at the homepage for about 5 minutes at midnight last night and so I'm not really sure what this place is about. Also, I can't quite remember what job I'm applying for here. I just randomly sent my resume out to a ton of places.

Question: Why should we hire you?
Answer: You really shouldn't. Knowing me, I wouldn't hire me if I were you.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Have a Heart? Donate it!

I’m trying to write a story about organ donation and it’s impossible. I know a thousand horrible, engrossing stories from working at an OPO. I could write about a family whose three month old baby died of SIDS, about the hostile doctor who didn’t want to pronounce brain death and about the family on the other end—the family with a baby who needed a heart transplant in the next twenty four hours or would likely die. What else? The twenty year old at a football game who kept ingesting something which he thought was innocuous but what actually contains cyanide. If you were to have maybe ten of these things, you would be fine, but he ate them by the handfuls and died. A teenage who accidentally impaled himself on a sharp instrument trying to stimulate himself by sticking it where it shouldn’t have gone. Dozens of pedestrians and bicyclists who weren’t paying attention or driver’s who were talking on their cell phones and didn’t even see it coming. Drug overdoses, suicides, drive by shootings, drownings—you only have a one percent chance of dying from brain death but working at this place made it seem as though it were as ordinary as catching a cold. But it’s not something you can write about—at least not in fiction. I could probably write an essay, but I never actually went into the O.R. to see a donation. I did go out on a case once—an Hispanic family whose mother was brain death. I saw her laying on the hospital bed, looking like an ordinary sleeping person except for the ventilator that keeps the oxygen going in and out and the machine that keeps the heart pumping since the brain can no longer tell the body what to do.

More later.

Friday, December 1, 2006

For KG

My friend is dating a guy who is doing almost everything wrong. I came up with an initial list of things that are immediate deal breakers. You must break up with him if he:

1. Refers to sex as "making love."

2. Burns you a CD with love songs on it and a cover he made himself from scratch ("see the paper? I cut down a tree at my parent's cabin and made it. Then I took a newspaper and carefully scissored out the letters to spell 'Our Love is King' and then I Photoshopped the images on top of all of that. I had to buy Photoshop to do it, but it was worth it").


4. Says "I love you" before you've known each other a minimum of three months.

5. Buys you jewelry--even if it's a Christmas gift. I'm sorry--guys do not know how to pick out jewelry. In fact, I don't even know how to. Same goes for the following Christmas presents: any type of underwear/bra/nightie (ditto anything uber sexual like some type of "costume" or cinnamon jelly that heats up when you add champagne. ), absolutely anything he's made himself (but most specifically a scrapbook of, like, the one photo he's taken of you while you were sleeping with cut-out of his head glued on next to it), anything from the Winnie-the-Pooh collection (but most specifically sweatshirts), something that is way too expensive an inappropriate like say a diamond, a trip to any location outside of a five mile radius, cooking utensils/apron, any appliance, any object that is engraved with your name on it. I think it would be funny if you purposefully got him something totally insulting like a self help book, Co-Dependency and You.

Please add your own.