Wednesday, March 29, 2006

the people you meet when you're not paying attention...

"How are you tonight?" I ask as I climb into the van.

"I'm feelin' groooooovy!" is the enthusiatic response, issued in a low, gravelly voice.

And then I realize who he is... and a little tingle of excited anticipation can be detected at the base of my spine.

"Well... you can't go wrong with that, can you?" is my somewhat awkward response to his response...

*clears throat*

"So... you got any jazz for me tonight?" I feel I have waited the appropriate thirty seconds to ask the question that's REALLY on my mind.

"Do I! Just let me call this in- where you headed, Sweetheart?" He is thrilled at the question, just like I knew he would be.

I give him my address and we're off. He calls it in to the dispatcher with the predictable result: this evening's transportation will cost me nine dollars and fifty cents. But the joke's on them. Tonight I get much more than a ride home for my money. I get an education. 'Cause tonight I'm riding with the Jazz Man.

The first time I met the Jazz Man, he was transporting my roommate and me to meet some friends for a beer. We heard the strains of what seemed to be some interesting music playing softly on the stereo, and asked him if he could turn it up? And so commenced our education.

"You like Jazz?" he asked

We nodded and vocalized our response: "Hell, yeah!"

"Well then, have I got something for you!" My roomie and I exchanged looks of curious anticipation as he deftly removed the current CD and flipped through his collection until he found the desired album, telling us all about the music, the musician, and the background to both. And then we listened... toes tapping, fingers air-strumming, and hearts filling to bursting- grins on our faces the whole while. THIS was the shit. Oh yeah.

As the song ended, we pulled into our destination (I noticed that the Jazz Man drove slowly to allow time for the entire song to play... I'll bet the dispatcher just LOVES that! hehehehe). A little sad to go, my roomie and I pooled our change to offer the best tip we could muster, and thanked him, truly from our hearts.

Since that night, I have encountered the Jazz Man twice more. And this brings me back to where I began...

"I've got this one song that you NEED to hear. Let me set it up for you: It's a ballad... kind of corny, but clever. And it's sung PERFECTLY, right down to the last note... Here it is... see what you think."

And so we listen. His fingers playing the piano on the steering wheel. The city lights pass by, and the texture of this amazing music washes over me. The troubles of my day slip away like water down a drain. The harsh-then-caressing sax, the ups and downs of the vocals... they renew me. So I listen.

The song ends and all I can do is nod in appreciation.

"Ooh! Time for one more!" he says.

A fortuitous red light allows for the changing of the CD, and I am once again awash in the music. This one is different- a bit more up-beat. Jazz Man looks at me and grins: "Eh!?" I just nod and grin.

And then we're on my street. Stopped outside my house. We chat about the music a bit, he writes down the name of the musician for me, I pay him and hop out.

As he's pulling out, he rolls down his window: "You have a good night now, and thanks for loving the music!"

No, Jazz Man, thank YOU.

I can't wait to see what he's got in store for me the next time we meet.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The origin of family

I wasn't going to blog today.

Work has been crazy-busy, and I've been feeling utterly uninspired for the last few days (as total and complete exhaustion tends to suck the creative juices dry).

But then I found myself lost in a daydream about having lunch with my surrogate mum.

Hannah is my Mom's best friend, and Mike is her husband. They are two of my favourite people on this planet, and probably two of the best people I have ever met. When I was a kid in Dartmouth, our families lived next door to one another- and my child-size memories tell me that we were all but inseparable- their middle child, Chris, was my BEST friend growing up, their daughter and my younger sister were very close. At times is seemed that all four parents were basically raising the five kids together:

When one set of parents went away for the weekend, the other set would take the kids; we had interwoven Christmas and Halloween rituals, not to mention frequent summer field-trips.

I remember Hannah sitting with me in my closet, talking me out of "running away" when I was six.

And then there was Chris and me being hauled off of the roof of Hannah and Mike's BRAND NEW Volvo by Mike and my Mom when I was seven and he was six... apparently we had thought it was a good place to hold a dance...

Or the time that we broke the neighbour's window playing baseball and Mike marched us over to apologize.

And then there were the family dinners- a huge vat of Hannah's famous Mac and Cheese, my Mom's Apple Pie and good times all 'round.

And then things changed, as things are wont to do.

We moved to a new house a few blocks away. And then they moved to a new house a few provinces away. Over the years, both families have moved around ad nauseum, we've all had our trials, and gone months and months without really speaking, but somehow we've managed to maintain that closeness. I guess that's just how it works with true friends, isn't it?

Last summer, feeling an uncontrollable urge to get-the-hell-out-of-Dodge and to wrap myself in the warm blanket of people-who-love-me-no-matter-what, I fled to Ottawa and set up a temporary camp in their spare bedroom.

It was a wonderful three or four days that consisted of good wine, good food, and great conversation. You could not ask for better company. One day, Hannah and I went to the Glebe, which, for those of you who don't know Ottawa, is an area marked by it's historical architecture, fun little independent shops, tiny bistros, used-clothing stores, and a general lower-middle-class-bohemian feeling by day, and a serious party/pub vibe by night. My kind of place.

We ate lunch at a little place called Von's and window shopped. As we prowled from one kitchen-gadget store to the next (Hannah and I share a weakness for culinary tools of all shapes and sizes... I ended up with a tea-ball, a wasabi grater, and a couple of spoons... she with a bowl, and some really great glasses), Hannah told me stories. I love her stories. She told me about when she was younger- fresh out of nursing school, living with her sister and scrounging to make ends meet, and I saw my own struggles to etch out a place in this world. She told me about the ill-fated turnip cookie incident, and I laughed until I couldn't breathe.

I think it was then that I realized that family has very little to do with DNA or blood. It's the relationships that really matter. (I mean, unless you need a kidney or bone marrow transplant, who cares if you are actually "related"??)

I felt the utter and complete acceptance and comfort of spending time with someone who knows me better than I know myself: someone who knows every little scar, who remembers the laughter, the tears, and all the stories behind them. Someone who has watched me grow up from a bossy little know-it-all snot (a source of no small amount of mortification to me in later years) into what I really really really really hope is a human being who she is proud of. I felt the comfort of being in the presence of a well-loved member of the family.

I am extremely fortunate to have both a biological and chosen family that I wouldn't trade for the world- who love and accept and support me no matter what I do. They have made me the person I am today, and I'm starting to think that this is a fairly good thing. I only hope I can someday return the favour.

I wish everyone the contentment and security of having such a family as I do whether you were born into it, or had the pleasure of constructing it member by member.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Help! help! the lurkers have run amok!


I have heard reference to this activity often of late. It can be a source of great amusement, and I'll admit: I greatly enjoy the occassional lurk.

But there is a darker side to lurking.

Let me tell you about it...

Now, as you may or may not already know, "lurking" (in the new vernacular) is the act of hanging about and making a person distinctly uncomfortable so as to persuade him or her to vacate his or her current location so that the lurker is able to effectively usurp said location. This usually means an invasion of the "personal bubble", making awkward (and unwanted) conversation, etc. It can be a lot of fun to watch people's reactions to lurkers in public places... but there is a limit.

I draw the line at lurking around people's LIVES. You want my table in the coffee shop? Lurk away, but stay away from my home and job, please.

Now don't get me wrong- it's one thing to comment on how nice a person's apartment is and to casually enquire if the current tenant is thinking of renewing the lease, and even to state your interest in the place, but it is quite another to badger the tenant constantly about when he or she will be leaving, when the lease is up, how much heat and lights cost, etc. It's tantamount to waiting for someone to kick the bucket so you can snatch his or her car at a good price. Not cool. Go away.

The same goes for a person's job. It's quite acceptable to casually enquire as to when a person's contract is up and to ask that person to let you know when they're leaving said job so that you can get your foot in the door before the rest of the competition has a chance. Weekly emails and phone calls regarding the person's leaving date (especially six months or more before said date) is NOT acceptable behaviour. I say again, GO AWAY.

At this point, I add that this type of action would be made ever-so-slightly more understandable if you lived in a city where jobs and apartments were hard to come by... but if you live in a place where both are available in relatively good quantity, apartment and employment lurking is unacceptable, and frankly, a wee bit on the creepy side of life.

So take it from a victim of the dreaded uber-lurking that is plaguing our fair town: if you express interest in a person's job or home, and the person tells you that he or she "will let you know", wait 'til he or she LETS YOU KNOW before planning where you'd put the couch or what potted plant would look good in the office window. Please.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The best thing since sliced bread...

Has got to be the inclusion of carrying handles on the 24 packs of toilet paper.

Anyone who has EVER had to walk home carrying one of those suckers sans-handle knows EXACTLY what I'm talking about.

My life has just become infinitely more simple.

I heart the new handles. I really, really do.

They made my day.

(Yes- I really am that easy to please.)

Friday, March 17, 2006

Sometimes you just need it.

And by IT, I mean a night of pizza, martinis, and a power chick-flick. I'm not sure what the male equivalent would be, and maybe it differs from person to person, but regardless, there are just some days that must be capped off by a healthy dose of mind-numbing alcohol, half an ooey-gooey-extra-cheese pizza , and a movie that causes you to cheer and pump your fist at the screen, even though you know it will have no effect on the outcome of the plot...

Somedays you just need that.

And then you feel better, 'cause you can clearly see through your martini-dimmed eyes that life is better than the bullshit you've recently had to deal with, and so are you.

Then you can go to bed and sleep the sleep that only comes from consuming juuuuuuust the right amount of alcohol.

In the morning, the world is brighter, and you're ready to face the bastards again.

ps- for those of you who are wondering, last night's power chick-flick selection was 'The First Wives Club'. For those of you who haven't seen it, go out and rent it posthaste. Be careful to stretch before you watch it so as not to pull any muscles while fist-pumping ;)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Just say NO to the Snake-oil Seller...

I would LOVE to see Dr. Atkins try to market his diet in Korea. I think it would be absolutely hilarious to watch him try to tell the people of this rice-dependent country that rice is BAD!

What brings this rather strange musing about, you ask? Well, I was teaching last night, and as she will often do, the mother of the family asked me if I would like something to eat? And as I was a wee bit peckish, I said "yes, please!".

Ten minutes later, I was served a white cube in a plastic bag. The cube measured approximately 4"x3"x2"... and it was composed entirely of... you guessed it: RICE! Compressed rice. It was really really good too... sort of sweet with a texture somewhere between a dumpling and marshmallows. As the girls dug into their own cubes-o-rice, I was instructed to just dig with my hands. Most satisfying.

So, as I'm sitting there, munching on this gooey-white-mass-o-goodness, I am also pondering the cultural differences in diet and the perception of what is good for you and what's not. It really is ridiculously subjective.

Most of the people I know here in North America would be astounded (not to mention a bit repulsed) at the idea of eating that much rice (read: CARBS!!!!!) in one go... it's tantamount to what offering a person a cube of pure fat would have been fifteen years ago.

And that, I suppose, brings me to my point... Fifteen years ago (really the whole time I was growing up...) fat was purported to be the arch enemy of the much-sought-after trim-magazine-cover figure. Now, suddenly, fat is ok again and the REAL enemy (so we're told ad-nauseum) is the dastardly carbohydrate.

So which is it?? I'm confused! And perhaps that is the point...

I would like to take a moment here to point out that it is not, in fact, any one element in our diets that is causing people to steadily increase in size and decrease in health, our bodies actually NEED fat, protein, carbohydrates, and simple sugars to function properly. What actually causes us to be so unhealthy is the sheer quantity in which we consume some of this stuff.

I would argue that the solution is NOT cutting one of the four out completely, but rather eating in MODERATION.

There is sooooo much more to be said on this topic... perhaps some discussion on the topic is in order! What do y'all think?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Definitions please...

Ok... so as most of you know, I quite delight in coming up with new words and incorporating them into my daily vocabulary, or, better yet, taking pre-existing words and phrases and changing their meanings to suit my needs.

There are times when I just find the english language to be at a loss to properly express what I'm trying to say, so I have to make something up... Also, I'm not above shamelessly stealing from other languages...

Yes, it is true that this means that it can be very confusing to speak to me at times, but it's always exciting!

(well almost always... I can't be stimulating ALL the time... even adorable geniuses such as myself need a rest from time to time...)

For instance, some of my favorites are:

gorf- this is a combination of 'dork' and 'goof'. If I call you a gorf, do not be offended, it was meant affectionately ;)

goober- similar to gorf, but ever so slightly more loveable.

btw- I know this isn't a word per se... but if you're ever IMing with me and I say this, chances
are it doesn't mean 'by the way' (although it might, depending on the context), but 'back to work'... a carry over from my student days.

- usually seen with multiple exclamation points... this is used to express exasperation and frustration- I feel it works better than "argh!".

gesundheit!- I use this whenever anyone sneezes, coughs, hiccups, burps, etc, in my presence. I know that most people only say it after a sneeze. But I'm weird that way. Deal with it.

homewrecker- addressed to anyone who has just made a mess of somekind. Yes, I know what the conventional meaning of the word is. I reject that meaning and use mine good naturedly.

prolly- used in place of probably. It's just easier to say... I know, I know... this is the bastardization of the english language... Oh well- you know what they say: the only constant is change.

ich verstehe- it means "I understand" in German. It just sounds better... less... condescending... more like the "Aha!" of the lightbulb clicking on...

And then, the other day, I came up with a new one...


As a student of politics, I felt the need to have yet another 'ism' introduced to the world... in reality, I was referring to our pre-humanoid relatives in an incredibly crude conversation about the evolution of our eating habits... it was really grasped because I couldn't think of the word I actually wanted... but now I'm thinking that it's a fun word and I need to come up with a definition... what do y'all think??

Leave me ideas of potential definitions please!

Also, leave me new and fun words!!! (don't forget to tell me what they mean!)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

pitter patter

It's raining, it's pouring. The old man is snoring. He went to bed, bumped his head, and he couldn't get up in the morning.

It's raining today.

But it's a good rain.

It's a spring rain.

The air is cool and fresh, and the rain is falling perfectly: not monsoon, but not mist either.

The River has all but thawed.

The grass is slowly beginning to green up.

I envision crocus and hyacinth bulbs awakening in the soil and commencing their annual journey towards the sun.

Soon we will be able to glimpse little bits of white, yellow, and purple poking out of the flower beds of this town (did you know that crocii always bloom in order of their colour?).

I'm listening to Norah Jones and k.d. lang and have opened my window in the hopes of airing out this over-heated and stuffy room.

I love the sound of car-tires on wet pavement.

Love it.

It's a good day here. Hope it is wherever you are too.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Ancient Greek is Chic. Who knew?

So I'm sitting in the movie theatre with two friends... the VERY front row... craning to see the screen (there was an incident with a taxi that caused us to be lateish- don't ask). We are preparing to watch what we expect will be a fairly serious movie... I'm getting into my serious-movie-mind-frame... the previews have finished... I'm cozy in my seat... and the opening credits begin. The logo for Columbia Studios flashes onto the screen (see pic to the left). I'm all anticipation- set for the flick, when my friend whispers (seemingly to herself):

"Ooooo, I like her dress!"

And I'm done. Totally finished- I dissolve into giggles. I'm pretty sure the guy beside me had murder or some form of hideous torture on his mind... I didn't fully recover until we left the theatre two hours later. It was totally worth the price of the ticket just to hear her utter those words.

You have no idea.

Friday, March 10, 2006

To Joe on His Birthday.

Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday, dear Joeseph.

... and many moooooooorrrrrrre.

See you tonight!


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Even inanimate objects are commenting on my eating habits now...

In a recent and unwelcome development at work, I've found that each vending machine has been fitted with flourescent orange triangle of paper in one corner of the window... each of these triangles has a big, puffy heart on it, and script that says "Follow the heart for healthy selections". The idea here is that the 'healthy' selections in the machine will be tagged with a similar, though smaller, heart.

The first time I saw this, I took the advice of the poster and attempted to follow the heart: it was like a 'Where's Waldo' game. Find the health heart in the vending machine! I finally found one lonely little heart tagged under a bag of spinach-flavoured Sunchips in a sea of cheesies, chocolate bars, and danishes.

It made me laugh out loud.

Is it really necessary to point out that pretty much EVERYTHING in a vending machine is the polar opposite of healthy?? I mean, really... who doesn't already acknowledge that?

Since then it's just become annoying: It's like everytime I don't select the Sunchips (which I hate), I'm being judged for my lack of health-consciousness, and I'm beginning to resent that. I'm not buying from the vending machine 'cause I'm not interested in my health, you judgemental SOB, I'm buying 'cause I forgot my lunch and the damn coffee place is closed. So just stop with your stupid little day-glo hearts and GO AWAY!

Geez! Everything's a critic these days...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

trying not to be a chicken-shit (is chicken-shit supposed to be hyphenated?)

A recent conversation with a good friend has brought to light something that I think it is important to articulate. I offer this advice in the spirit that most of my advice is meant- hoping to help others to avoid the mistakes that I've made, or lived through. Ignore it if you like- that's the beauty of advice- you can opt not to take it.

Here it is:

NEVER neglect to make sure that the people you care about KNOW that you care about them. You may think that your feelings are understood, that your actions speak louder than words- and maybe they do- but a little vocal confirmation of your affections never hurts: Really, who doesn't like to hear someone say "I love you", or "I care about you", or "I miss you", or a simple "You look nice today"? (I'm pretty sure that, admit it or not, this goes for men as well as women.)

The human mind is a funny thing- for most, the bad is easier to believe than the good. Thus, if we don't have incontrovertible evidence that someone cares, most of us start to doubt. And doubt is NOT a fun place to be. Even though our friends may tell us we have nothing to worry about (and we understand that they are probably right), if you're not feeling it internally, doubt creeps in.

For some people, myself included, saying the words is an incredibly difficult thing to do. I think it's because actually vocalizing that kind of emotion, no matter how sure you are of your situation, leaves you open to some form of rejection. And we all know that rejection is amongst the scariest of everyday-scary-things...

None of those personal insecurities really matter though- not when you're talking about making sure that the people that matter in your life know that they matter. A little bit of vocal appreciation goes a looooooong way. Never forget it.

So suck it up, deal with it, and make someone's day, you big wuss.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

You don't need God! Sunshine and oranges will save you!

I have returned from the void! Ask not where I've been, just know that I'm back now ;)

This post is a scattered smorgasbord of stuff that I've been meaning to post for a few days and have decided to stick together- an omnibus post, if you will.

FIRST! Let it be known that I have decided that ample doses of the vitamins C and D (in other words, Sunshine and Oranges) are wonderful things and should be administered to all by the public-health nurse, just like meningitis vaccines or something.

SECOND! I have some updates on past posts...

1.) that moron of a governor in South Dakota has signed the flippin' anti-abortion bill into law. Now it's up to the pro-choice lobby to file a challenge with the courts... So it begins...

2.) at the suggestion of some of you, I submitted my post on childcare and the state to all of the local papers. At least one of them (our local rag) picked it up- it's in the February 27th 'Opinions' section! That said, they edited the crap out of it... took out all the fun stuff (apparently you can't say 'fart' or 'screw' in today's mass media...). Bastards. If any of you have seen it elsewhere, I'd love to know about it!

THIRD! Funny randomness that is, apparently, one of my many trademarks ;)

So! This morning I decided to walk to work. It's an absolutely GORGEOUS day, and since I am feeling rejuvenated (and didn't want to pay bus fare), I stuck a mixed CD in my portable disc-player, threw my sneakers on, and proceeded to bee-bop my way on up the hill.

I was doing great until I hit a patch of ice about a hundred feet from my office. Fuck.

It's all good, though! I recovered quickly with my dignity and muscles intact.

I love this time of year.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


Let me set the stage for you:

An office.

A beautiful young woman, let's call her... Jane... is walking towards the out-going mail box, sheaf of out-going mail in hand.

A nameless co-worker rounds the corner, whilst initiating what looks to be a massive sneeze.

At the last second, the nameless co-worker, realizes Jane's proximity (too close for comfort) and cuts sneeze off (quite a considerate, and no easy thing to do! I'm sure you'll agree.)

Nameless co-worker: (disappointed) Aw. You made me lose my sneeze!

Jane: (confused while feeling grateful for the lack of sneezage in my..oops, I mean her... general direction) I'm sorry... is this a bad thing?

Nameless co-worker: (indignant) Yes. I don't like to lose a sneeze once it's started! (walks off slightly miffed.)

Jane: (standing at the out-going mail box, staring bewildered after her nameless coworker) Okaaaaaaaaay....

to self- Really... is it THAT big of a deal? Really?

Jane shakes her head, deposits her outgoing mail in the outgoing mailbox, walks back to her desk -taking care to give her co-worker a wide berth and thereby eliminate the need for 'losing' any more sneezes- and returns to her incredibly productive day.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Some Pride, Some Prejudice, and Some Pancakes

Happy Belated Pancake Day!

Ok... ok... I know that's not the technical term for the last Tuesday in February (Shrove Tuesday! Mardi Gras!), but being the heathen that I am, I feel inclined to limit my acknowledgments to PANCAKE DAY.

Mmmmmmmmm... pancakes.

I was too perturbed yesterday, what with the misogynistic actions of the South Dakota State Legislature and all, so I felt it best to leave my poetic pancake waxings to another day. And that lucky day is today!!

So, like many of you, I was craving those wonderful spheres of fluffy yumminess all the live-long day. But alas and alack, I was unable to partake in any of the 650 gagillion pancake breakfasts/lunches/dinners offered around the city owing to the facts that a) I am not a religious person and therefore have no connections with any church... and b) I had to work from 8am until 8pm, and thus effectively missed every one of those damn breakfasts/lunches/dinners anyway.

So I craved, jonesed, whatever you want to call it... until 8:30pm... sweet, wonderful 8:30pm, when I arrived home (my sparkling, pristine, just-released-today copy of Pride and Prejudice clutched in my hot little hand) and proceeded to commence the crafting of my very own batch of the coveted flap-jacks.

It was as if the stars had aligned just for me and my pancakes: JUST the required amount of baking soda left; my big cast-iron skillet finally cooperated with my stove and me to heat up to the perfect pancake-cooking-temperature, and not a degree more; and I managed (without any real effort, I might add) to pour the batter to the proper size so that the recipe actually made the coveted EIGHT medium sized hot-cakes.

I temporarily considered getting adventurous and adding something crazy like corn or raspberries (not together of course), but quickly threw that idea aside. No. This night was a night for unadulterated fluffiness.

So I poured and then carefully watched the batter for the signal that the first side is cooked- the infamous popping of the surface-bubbles, got out my trusty flipper, and flipped away- with flare even. And then they were ready.

So there's Tobin and I, quarter after nine in the evening, situated on the comfiest-futon-in-the- world, huddled over our respective plates, positively maowing down on buttermilk pancakes soaked in butter and maple syrup, whilst avidly watching the hate-to-love progression of Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy (oh yes- his name really is Fitzwilliam, even though it's not mentioned in the book... an Austen expert tells me it is so...). Who could ask for more really?

So here's to Pancake Day, whatever your religious affiliation! And here's hoping you all got some!

(pancakes that is... get your brains out of the gutter. Geez)