Monday, January 29, 2007

"I'm Sorry You Stepped on My Toe!"

My friend Kelly and I were talking the other week about how we apologize too much; how pretty much every request is prefaced with "I'm sorry." A few examples:
*When ordering a drink at a bar: I'm sorry, but could I please have a glass of wine?
*When purchasing cigarettes: I'm sorry, but could I have some matches?
*When buying groceries: I'm sorry, but would you mind scanning my discount key?

You get the idea. "I'm sorry I exist and have needs. I know I'm just asking you go do your job, but I'm really sorry I have to!"
There's also the "I'm sorry it's-your-fault" scenario. That is when you apologize to the person who just did something rude to you: Bumped into you when coming out of a door, stepped in front of you in the elevator, mangled your toe, spilled a drink on your shirt, stabbed you with a pen knife. Another variation on this theme is the "I'm sorry you're such a dick" phenomenon. That occurs when you are dealing with someone unreasonable such as the supervisor from Citizens Bank who refused to issue me a new debit card because I couldn't verify the date of my last withdrawal. In this case, I said, "I'm sorry that I can't remember the exact date that my car loan is directly debited from my account and that I don't know that bank's phone number off the top of my head. I'm sorry that it's been four years since I bought my car and had any one-on-one contact with them whatsoever."

Imagine how this translates in every day situations when you need something that another person is not required to do; i.e. you're not asking for it from a waiter, sales person, or other industry professional. That is nearly impossible.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Rocket Cat brings out the worst in me as a human being. It is not necessarily the fault of the coffee shop; it's the humanity that I encounter here. Last time, it was the people talking loudly about their very personal problems. Before that, the irritating baby that we were all supposed to find precious. Today, it is this guy sitting beside me who should most likely be laid up in bed with Vicks Vapor Rub on his chest, a large box of Kleenex, orange juice, bed pan, and enough cold medicine to knock out a yak. He keeps sniffing and not like a little sniff but one of those snotty sniffs that you know is just barely keeping his running nose from dripping on to his computer. Like, would it be too much to ask for him to blow his nose or to take a cold tablet or to fucking stay home if he's that sick? I think I'm also irritated because he has one of those tiny, puffy soul patches of hair on his chin, as if he has had a run in with a tuft of cat hair. Now he's singing along to Bjork. I keep glancing over at him, but he doesn't seem to notice. I'm not saying that he shouldn't be out--maybe he doesn't have Internet at his house---maybe he lives with twelve other guys who are currently having band practice--it's obviously his right to be in public, but blow your nose occassionally, please. Please, please, please, please. Oh, some girl just came in who knows him. She said, Hey, Joey. He said, Hey, Sarah and then put his Walkman on (maybe so he won't have to hear himself sniffle). Also in here: Bryan What's His Face from the Stray Cats--the blond lead singer. This guy has the same hair, the same rolled up jeans, the same suspenders from Stray Cat Strut. That same Philly type guy I see everywhere--the one with the square tortoiseshell glasses, closely cropped beard and moustache, spiky hair, and expensive sneakers.

It's been too crazy at work to write but it makes me feel lazy if I don't get something written. Remember that undergrad class I was bragging about taking? The teacher wrote me to tell me that there wasn't room b/c a real life undergrad wanted to register. Sorry! I would've been able to formally register too except for the teacher was out of the country and couldn't sign the form. The same thing happened last semester with her. It's too bad because I think it's going to be a fun class and she's extremely interesting. And now I have to rely on myself again to do that writing on my own, which as has been proved over and over again that it's not something I'm very good at. Need to finish revising the book of short stories and need to find a cover and need to come up with ten interview questions and answers to submit and other marketing ideas. Would rather do the Sunday crossword puzzle.

Monday, January 22, 2007

"I'm Bringing Sexy Cat," by Justin Timberlake

That was Shawn's title for the photo to our left.

I'll try to write more tonight, but we'll see since I have a hard time connecting to the Internet at home.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Writing class

I signed up to take another undergrad advanced fiction writing class and almost didn't go because the other two courses I attended in the summer (both were entry level fiction) were made up mostly of disinterested twenty year olds who wrote about--well, actually, I can't remember what the stories were about, except for this one girl who wrote a great story about living in Japan that was nicely understated and had a line I love describing the Japanese roommate as seeming to have a head full of "unicorns and rainbows." Anyway, I almost gave up on going to the class because I had trouble finding it and was late, but then I decided I could go at least this one time and sit through a few hours and then never return if I hated it.

The course turned out to be a good mix of people--mostly guys, which is a surprise and two older women (three if you count me) and then two cute younger girls. There are always a few slender hipster girls in these classes. They wear low slung tight jeans or corduroys and have long hair put back in messy ponytails and Converse sneakers with stars on them written in marker and blue nail polish and at least one piercing or tattoo. They make snarky comments in class and then turn around and write really sentimental stories about sensitive girls who no one understands.

Our first homework assignment is to find an example of bad writing and give her three pages of feedback about what exactly makes it bad. My first thought was to turn in a page or two of dialogue from One Tree Hill, but I don't know if I could come up with 3 pages to explain why it's bad--it just so obviously sucks. I suppose I could contrast it to somewhat smarter teen soaps like Party of Five and even Dawson's Creek and especially Veronica Mars. I should do the OTH dialogue except that means I'd have to watch the show again (which I obviously must enjoy on some level since I can't stop writing about it).

I am sorry I have not been better about updating. I tell myself every morning that I'll write for just few minutes before I start working, but then I get sucked into emails and phone calls and things that have to get done now, now, now. Because of all the restructuring going on at work, everything is messy right now and will hopefully settle down once we get more organized. I know I'm stressed because I had a dream the other night that combined two of my most common anxiety dreams. I dreamt that I was back in high school but didn't know my schedule or where any of the classes were and I kept getting lost in the hallways (just like when I was looking for my writing course on Wednesday...). Concurrently,my teeth were falling out. I went to spit into the bathroom sink and shards of teeth fell out and when I looked in the mirror, I could see rows and rows of teeth in my mouth but they kept falling out like ice cubes from a tray. But then you wake up from one of those dreams and at least get the sensation of great relief that it was all only a dream.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bush and One Tree

I have a proposal for the next election—no individual with a Southern accent should be allowed to run unless he or she can at least pronounce some of the basic vocabulary words kerectly. Against my will, I am listening to President Bush’s Presidential Address of EyeRack. He is perhaps the least charismatic speaker I’ve ever heard. He says everything exactly the same. He has no passion. He has no public speaking skills. He is reading the words written by some intern who is cringing underneath a table somewhere in the White House. He is only reading; he has no particular intonation. It seems all he can do to go at a slow and understandable pace. Here are some words I believe a President should know how to pronounce:

Al Quaeda not Al Kahdah

Children not Chirren and Granchirren

Terrorists not Tara wrists

America not Merica

I can’t believe that someone hasn’t given him some speech giving skills. He says “We-owe-it-to-them-to-buyld-a-greater-fuetur-and-ensure-Merica’s-struggle-fer-freedum.”

And why are we even talking about this as a “plan?” The President has a plan. It includes blowing up more people, taking over more land, and destroying our economy and that of other countries. Sending an additional 4,000 troops is not a plan. It’s a step—the wrong one, but it is not a plan. And he doesn’t care if it doesn’t work, because he only has to drag this on for another two years and then everyone can blame the next elected official.

Meanwhile, the other choice of viewing pleasure is the One Tree Hill I already saw—the It’s a Wonderful Life Tribute. Now we have a scene where the forty-year-old high school student (Payton) is sitting on a cement thing under a bridge and the brown haired girl (Brook) sits down next to her as Cold Play eclipses the dialogue. “I thought I’d find you here.”

Clich├ęs used: Life’s too short…No one has ever lost sleep over…It was another lifetime ago…You picked the wrong day to…Are you just going to stand there…Suit yourself…Find your way…Just breathe…It’s going to be okay…Ya know I love ya and I always will, but it’s time for me to go.

Oh, apparently, he saw this really angry Goth chick at school and it was Brook as she would’ve been if he hadn’t helped this one old lady across the street in front of her. Because Bobby was the best version of himself, she didn’t become this disgusting Goth chick standing in front of a grave that we see now. See, that’s what happens if you’re not a good person. Others around you will become angry and disillusioned and make horrible fashion choices. Now the almost dead guy is listening to an i-pod sponsored by Verizon. Here comes another song. I can’t hear what the characters are saying. Probably something like, “You only get one life, son. I may not have told you all the things you needed to hear, but I tried as hard as I could to let you know how much you mean to me. If you have a shot at the gold ring, you’ve got to take it and never look back. A bird in a hand is worth two in the bush, Danny. I know you’re trying to make it right, but a rolling stone gathers no moss, okay, Danny?”
That’s the other thing about these shows that’s hilarious; they always use each other’s names. ALWAYS. Just in case you can’t tell them apart (which is a challenge):
Yeah, Danny, do you remember that, Danny, okay?
Shut up, Michael, okay, Michael, just shut up!
Danny, what are you saying, Danny?
I’m saying that everything’s going to be okay, Michael, for you and for Haley, okay, Danny?
Wait, I’m Michael, Danny.
No, Danny. It’s Danny.

Oh, the knocked up girl just regained consciousness and now her boyfriend is laying on top of her on the hospital bed with all of his hunky brown haired basketball player weight, even though she’s got her leg in a sling and a bandage wrapped 100 times around her head.
Now that guy from Some Kind of Wonderful is hugging goodbye the thirty-year-old blond man and zapping him with jumper cables. I love ya, kid. I love ya. (Please, God, don’t let him do the whole ET thing, pointing at his heart and saying, I’ll be right here…) Photo montage, more fake Indy crap music, voice over narration, and “Look into your heart, it may be flawed physically, but it’s a good one and it’s what makes you you. Open your eyes, Luke, open your eyes, Luke, open your eyes, Lukey, open your eyes, Lucas. Goddamnit open your fucking eyes!”
Maybe Bush’s speechwriter should change places with the writers of One Tree Hill. That way, the President could speak to the people in their language and the characters of the WBCWB could sound moderately intelligent, particularly since they know how to express emotions like almost real people.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Get in Your Naughty Chair

We watched our favorite nanny on Monday night trying to help a husband and wife with five boys ages 9, 8, 6, 5, and 3. If I had been Super Nanny, my first suggestion would've been to get rid of a couple of those kids--any child under the age of 7 would immediately be dropped off on the doorstep of UNICEF or Sally Fields' house. But SN instead decided to sit the parents down and show them videos of themselves being bad parents and then they had to talk about why they hated each other so much and write down a list of what they despised most about the other person and then burn it up on the front lawn with the kids watching, telling them, Mommy and Daddy are going to try not to get a divorce and split all of you alls up. The father was told not to yell at his two stepsons so much and to have quality time with them. He took them out front and made them wash his taxi cab and splurted water down their pants. They loved it. Later, the whole gang went to the park and played soccer. By the time SN left, everyone loved everyone and would remain in harmony for the final thirty seconds of the show.

They have this part at the conclusion of each episode called "Family Update." I always wonder how long after the show was taped that they go back and have this positive report. One day? Fifteen minutes? If you really want to convince me that SN is worth her weight, go back in six months and see how the family is doing--if Daddy is still playing Chutes and Ladder with the kids every night and Mommy is not weeping incessantly in the corner of the living room. I wish they would automatically include a year of family therapy because you know that some of these families are dealing with more complex problems such as addiction, abuse, huge debt, past trauma, etc.

I do love Jo-Jo though. I love how she's British and how that makes some of what she says sound like she has a speech impediment or has taken elocution lessons from Barbara Walters. And when she cries, "Well done!" to the kids, I feel like clapping and bouncing up and down, as if I did something good too.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Living in a Suburban Ghetto

Shawn's dad bought us a very nice gigantic outdoor grill for Christmas and so we went to Super Fresh last night and got some meat and threw it on the grill and then ate it all up like the all-consuming carnivores we are. Meanwhile, because we are in the midst of global warming, our windows were open, allowing us to hear the screeches of the wild packs of teenage gangs in flip flops who streak through our neighborhood. I happened to glance outside and counted nine fourteen-year old boys as they ran, one after the other, past my window toward some drama on the corner or away from some drama on the other corner--it's hard to say which.

So now I'm at Rocket Cat listening to Belle and Sebastian and trying to get motivated to write fiction--even just a little teeny tiny itsy bit. The nice barissta is here--she's small and wears a knit cap over her short curls and she moves quickly as if it actually matters that you're waiting.

Though I won't go into details, we are currently experiencing a lot of changes at work and it's making me have a stomach ache. I don't like the unknown and am scared of change and don't like to have to assert myself to be sure that I'm protected when things are sort of falling apart. I wish, wish, wish I could write more about it, but I can't as I am trying very hard to be professional. Good news: I may have a new office with a window! Bad news: I have no idea when that will happen, what I should do in the meantime, and who I'm supposed to report to with any concerns/crisis/fears/anxieties/temper tantrums. I keep having work dreams that also involve kittens. Last night, I dreamt I was talking to one of our VP's about these 3 kittens that I'd help to birth. In a very professional tone, I explained to him how the mother cat was refusing to nurse her kittens and that we might have to find an alternative source of breast milk. He seemed sympathetic.

Just finished reading Francine Prose's Blue Angel. I didn't like it at first because the first person narrator, a47 year old writing teacher, was an unsympathetic narrator but I was compelled by the situation--he starts finding himself more and more attracted to one of his talented writing students, Angela Argo--this tattooed, multi-pierced mess of a girl who may or may not be a pathological liar and expert manipulator. Reading it reminded me of this story I started awhile ago about a teaching assistant who finds herself dating one of her boy students. My friend Irina and I were brain-storming humilating scenes: she finds herself at a frat party doing a keg stand, they're unable to go to a bar because he's underage, they go shopping and someone mistakes her for his mom, etc. And then he breaks up with her. He has to. Like, through a text message. And then she's faced with giving him his final grade. In real life, there were times as a TA where I found a student attractive and interesting, but--well, wait, I was just going to say that it was never anything too serious or too in danger of being more than a crush, but that's not true.

There was this kid in one of my upper level writing/rhetoric classes who had a full beard and was really smart and funny and mature. We actually hung out together a couple of times outside of class. I distinctly remember one time when we went to The Creamery to get ice cream and ran into another one of the kids in the class. That was strange. But we never went out at night and we never were alone in a room together and I never had any real designs on him, though I definitely had a crush. I'll have to think harder about other students; I'm positive that there were male students I looked forward to seeing and possibly imagined kissing, but the divide between teacher and student is so large...You'd have to have a fairly aggressive male student; someone who was brave enough to be direct and the power dynamic makes that difficult and weird--you're still grading them, after all.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

The Deceiver

Well, it turns out that Miss Sprinkle Face Mumu Kitty Cat is not in fact pregnant. How do we know this? She is currently trying to mate with everything in sight--a shoe, a towel, the Christmas tree--everything except for the other two cats, who look on with great embarrassment as she caterwauls and sticks her butt in the air like a little hussy. We must now get her fixed and fast because no one can sleep with all of her yowling. Jodie took a great photo of her this morning which I'm hoping she'll add to her Flicker page, but here's one Shawn took this morning: