Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How to End a Marriage in Five Years

19 and Counting is this show I see sometimes while I'm at the gym about a religious family with a thousand kids. In the five minutes I could stomach yesterday, the parents were playing mini golf with their daughter and her boyfriend. They had this ongoing discussion about how the guy was a terrible mini golfer, like he couldn't get the ball in the hole, and then, at the same time, they were talking about how the girl wouldn't even allow him to hold her hand. Two teens explained how they were going to wait until they got married to do any of that stuff, let alone kiss on the mouth. The parents were laughing and joking around about how terrible the boy's stroke was and no one acknowledged the parallel. The girl  just said how she's fine with not holding hands or doing any of that icky sinful stuff because she's not a touchy feel-y person. Or maybe she's not into him, which is a distinct possibility. I mean, what if she's gay? Would that be okay? They would pray about it. They would pray for strength in fighting off the devil behind those thoughts.

And the parents were just encouraging their naive, completely inexperienced daughter to marry this similarly clueless kid who requires eight strokes to sink a ball.  It's depressing, because you think how far women have come and then you recall that there's still a huge pay gap and you look around at the people in power and they remain uniformly men and then you see shows like this where the girl is being groomed for disappointment and they're laughing about it. The guy is groomed for it too, but she will suffer more because she will be bound to these other rules they have like no birth control and she will be pregnant right away and always after three seconds of foreplay. If that. Maybe they should make a law that stats that you can't get married until you've slept with one another. Or until you're thirty, whichever comes first. Of course, maybe that's what's attractive about the show--it feels completely out of step with this time period. It's like watching Little House on the Prairie as a reality show except in this version, Ma Ingalls has never learned to push Pa off of her and uses a curling iron daily.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Wherein Tweens Discover that Man Walked on the Moon

Enough with the videos on Facebook that are supposed to make me cry or render me speechless with wonder, because they almost never do. I mean, I still click on them sometimes, but usually only if the subject focuses on a dog or a cat supposedly doing something interesting, and then the interesting thing is usually not all that interesting. It's usually the animal walking on its hind legs. 

But what I see more and more now are links to older videos, as kids born in the nineties discover stuff that happened decades ago. For example, there was a link this morning  to Jane Goodall releasing a chimp into the wild. Jane Goodall spoke at my alma mater in 1991. That's when she was kind of in the cultural spotlight. I didn't watch the video link, because my guess is that she lets the chimp go and then it comes back and leaps into her arms again. I guess if you're still in your teens or early twenties, you may not realize that there are historical milestones most people older than you are familiar with and no longer shocked by.  Just because you never saw it in real life on actual television when it happened (because your parents were still wearing footie pajamas),  doesn't mean that it's not a familiar moment in American history.

It would be like linking to the following stories and thinking your readers had no clue that these things happened:

1. Amazing footage as man literally walks on moon for the first time ever.
2. Horrific assassination of American president, right in front of Jackie O.
3. Crowd goes wild for hip-thrusting star in spangly jumpsuit.
4. Baby rescued from a well turns out to be alive
5. Incredible high speed chase of famous basketball guy accused of killing his wife
6. Did you know there used to be an East and West wall in Berlin?

I can't think of any more, except the obvious ones like Nixon resigning and the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Really, it's my fault for continuing to fall for videos that read, "Heart-warming story of side-burn wearing dog rescued from well after astronaut owner is shot and chased by East Berliners." 

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Pros and Cons of Lambertville

We drove to Lambertville yesterday for a couple of hours to see the sights. In case you haven't heard of it, Lambertville is a small town near the Delaware River, somewhere off of I-95, very close to New Hope, so it's on the border of Pennsylvania. It's a cute town--not a cute little town, because it has a vibrant downtown and thriving antique businesses all over the place. Also, they have a Green Street consignment shop there; so you know it's a real place. The houses are great; these old Victorian style homes vs. the identical condo enclaves you see in Plainsboro and elsewhere.  I'm sure there's an extensive and history for the town, something about how the Lamberts came and conquered it and massacred the native people while wearing Daniel Boone raccoon hats and set up the first post office in 1881, etc.

Oh, actually, I just discovered that you can read all about it on the Lambertville Historical Society website. In my brief skimming of the text, I learned that it was an old factory town where they made everything from underwear to rubber bands, and possibly even scrunchies made of boxer briefs.

It's a good place to live if you appreciate antiques, which I don't. Since I know nothing about antiques and wouldn't ever be able to recognize a rare item, I distrust all antique dealers and imagine they are automatically marking up this junk by 500% so it will seem valuable. For example, yesterday I saw a kind of cool mirror. I mean, it was a little rusty and bent, but in this distressed way, but the price tag read $5,900.  It may be from a palace in Versailles, but unless you are the type of person who likes to explain that the crappy-looking mirror is a valuable jewel, why would you hang it up in your house?

We walked around and petted some dogs, and then we went to a just opened ice cream shop called OwowCow. You can read about it here and like their Facebook page here. It was so new that the building smelled like paint, which is maybe not something you want to be smelling while eating rocky road.

This is what it looks like on the inside, very modern.

It was a good find, and right across from a natural food store where again everything normal seeming (cereal, toothpaste) is marked up by 500% because it's presented in a recycled box.

My friend from work Adam met us and showed us a sofa he had left out on his front lawn. He also walked us almost the whole way to the town hardware store.

Then I was also able to take a picture of a cat in a window, though I had to make it quick, because the cat meowed loudly at me and I worried the owners were going to appear, demanding to  know what the hell I was doing.

Dan drove us home and I picked a fight about how impossible it would be for us to live there and how that was the only thing I wanted out of my life, alongside some animals and a little time to myself.  The case remains unresolved.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spa Day in New York

Yesterday, Dan, Luke, and I took the train to NY to meet Dan's family to celebrate his mom's 75th birthday. I always forget that you can be in New York in a heartbeat by jumping on a train--we hardly ever go. You have to buy tokens to park in certain sections at Princeton Junction, and for some reason, you must purchase these with cash, and they don't give change. I didn't read the instructions properly, put in a twenty dollar bill, and got back four tokens when, of course, I only needed one. Total scam--I'm sure that happens to people all the time and then you seldom end up using the extra tokens. Luckily, a lady came by and bought two of mine. We were fortunate also to get the top row of the train, which Luke was gunning for.

We got into Penn Station with no problems and headed to Bryant Park to meet everyone. It was a quick walk and the day was so warm and beautiful that I thought about leaving my winter coat hanging on a tree for someone else to find. Seemed like everyone in the park was also visiting from worlds away.

Not a great photo above--I was trying to capture this woman's cute red shoes, which had a heel. I would never choose to wear them to walk around the city, but I saw lots of women in similar styles, so maybe they're more comfortable than they look.

I took this photo because of the woman sitting on a chair to the right--an older lady with a suitcase, hat and coat. She was clearly waiting for someone and she looked like she had just stepped out of an Edith Wharton novel.

This couple was in front of me and it took me a while to figure out that they were mentally challenged. And in love. The guy talked a lot in this loud voice about nothing interesting, and then I wondered about the woman--like, would you get to a point where you were like, Okay, I know I'm supposed to date someone who has a similar mental capacity, but this guy is a blowhard.

We met up with Jodi, et al at Chipotle and then split up, as Jodi, Lillian and I headed for the Red Door Spa on 5th Avenue. Short walk, and we were there, in the lap of luxury. First, they take you back to this room where you remove your clothes and put on a plush robe and slippers (or you can leave on your pantyhose and shoes, as Lillian did. It's optional). Then, they lead you to the relaxation room where you can lay on these soft chairs and read trashy magazines and sip lemon water through a straw. Jodi curled up on a long window seat and fell asleep for 45 minutes, because her appointment was later. When she woke up, she said that really all she needed from her spa day was that nap.

I signed up for an eyebrow waxing and a 25 minute facial. I've never had a facial before, and was a little worried that the woman would spend most of the time popping blackheads. She did not. She told me that I have lovely skin, a little dry in places, and then she put hot wax on my eyelids and ripped it off. Here is me before the procedure. I never noticed before that I seem to be missing most of one eyebrow. I didn't opt for the eyebrow weaving procedure though, so she had to work around it.

And here are two versions of the finished product. I took the first photo and Jodi took the second.

Part of the time I was lying there on the warmed seat (which is like a dentist's chair only comfortable) and the woman was massaging my face and a machine was wafting hot air into my pores, I was split between feeling guilty that I was forcing this woman to pay such close and attention to my face, and thinking about how easy it would be for her to slit my throat. You feel vulnerable just prone there with you arms held down by heavy blankets. I promise that I did enjoy it, but from my usual split consciousness.

After the treatment, the Elizabeth Arden people do an optional make up refresh and Lana, the girl who did mine, had a cute pixie cut and liquid eyeliner. I asked her to make my eyes look just like hers. I tipped her four dollars.

Lillian had a full body wrap and something done to her hair that took two hours. She turned out beautiful.

And here we are in the cab on the way to Scarpetta in the meat packing district.

We all reconnected at the restaurant and everyone was on their best behavior, including Juliette and Emelia--we played tic tac toe and drew pictures and Emelia bested me in hangman several times. The food was incredible, especially the warm bread they brought that had pieces of cheese and pepperoni folded into it. We had something like five waiters taking care of us.

Afterwards, Dan, Luke and I hopped into a cab to head back to Penn Station, and I was reminded of my first time in a cab in Chicago, how precarious it seems, and how I just had to keep thinking, well, if we crash and die, I probably won't feel anything. You just have to go with the flow, man.

We caught the 8:03 train, which was crowded, but a nice man moved so that Dan and Luke could sit together. This is him. The woman sitting next to him later asked if she could borrow his laptop to look up something, and he very politely said no, he didn't have much of a charge left and needed to finish something before he arrived at home. It occurred to me that if he hadn't been so nice to us, I might have made the assumption that he was a jerk. The moral of this story is that saying no doesn't make you a jerk, it just means you know your limits.

Here's Luke and Dan on the ride home. A good time was had by all and now I want to go back next weekend and the next and the next.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Tessa Hadley Explains Her Odd Short Story in The New Yorker

I just discovered the coolest, nerdiest thing--I wanted to write this blog post about "Under the Sign of the Moon," which is the latest Tessa Hadley short story in the March 17 issue of The New Yorker. I was basically going to write something about how I didn't understand the story--and then lo and behold, the online version has a section called, "This Week in Fiction" where they interview writers about the stories that have just appeared. I haven't read the author's explanation yet, so I'll say that the story starts with this older woman, Greta, who is on the train, going to visit her daughter in Liverpool. While she's traveling, she meets an odd young man dressed in this old-fashioned way, who seems to take an interest in her that's beyond the normal polite conversation. There's something about him that's unsettling, and he seems like he's spent lots of time in the company of older people. She tries to avoid him so she can just read her book, and she's also distracted with memories of her first love, this man she used to know and their love affair in Liverpool. That man, Ian,  is now dead and she's with someone else, but there are a few scenes of her remembering her time with him. I guess this sets us up for her encounter with the present day young man, but he seems very different from how she's described Ian. So, she eventually encounters the kid again at a bar and he has brought her a book, and all along, she doesn't quite trust him--she feels like he's putting on his behavior, acting like a chameleon of sorts to adapt himself to whomever he's around, but then you wonder if she's right or if she's projecting somehow. The story ends with him leaving in dismay after embarrassing himself by spilling a drink on her and then making a pass at her, despite their 30 year age difference, but the book he gives her has her name written in it, even though he didn't know her name from the train. It was his mother's name, he has told her earlier. But I don't know what to make of it. Is he some kind of ghost symbol from her past? But now, see, I can read what the writer has to say about it and try to find the answer.

Here is the interview, if you would like to read it for yourself. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Adam Made This

I see Kathy B. every day and she's the best. Here she is discussing her typewriter as captured by Adam's Videolicious app (the jury is still out about whether or not we like this app).

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Stealing Sugar

Stealing Sugar seems like it should be a title for a young adult novel about a girl and her quarter horse. 

But what I'm talking about is this part of me who still remembers being poor in Chicago--not poor like impoverished or needing food stamps, but poor like having five dollars in my checking account and a week left until pay day, living off of a waitress' salary and tips and somehow managing to pay rent and never really having any savings to speak of except for the annual $20 my grandma used to send me for my birthday.

And honestly, until Obama was elected and offered that tax break to buy a new house and I got $8,000 back, I never had more than $1,000 in savings. Getting that lump sum all at once somehow made it easier to squirrel the money and spend a part of it on house renovations.

But why then, when I'm nearly out of Sweet and Low for my morning cup of coffee, does my mind first go to the arduous task of stealing packets from the coffee shop? Not like a lot of them--you know, two extra with each purchase, while rationalizing that Starbucks can afford it. But then there's the elaborate palming of the extra packets and then, like, trying not to look around to see if anyone is paying attention and attempting to make it seem like this is the extra sweetener you will add after you've settled in at your desk. And then I'm thinking, but this only covers tomorrow's coffee--I'll have to keep up this sugar packet crime spree on a daily basis or go without.

And then this weekend, we went to the grocery store and I miraculously remembered to look for the packets in the baking aisle. And they're not at all expensive. You can buy 700 packets of Sweet and Low for about $1.36. I bought them and put them in my sugar bowl and thought, okay, we're safe again for at least another two months. Same goes for coffee filters, to an extent. I am almost out of them, and they come in packets of 500, so the last time I bought them was a year and a half ago. Also, they are practically free to purchase, but I was already calculating if maybe I could take some from work, after all, I bought those for work a while ago, so they are technically mine. Just go buy some more!

This is why people shop at Costco and this is why people get on the show Hoarders. Multiply my minor coffee-accoutrement anxiety by 1,000 for a real trauma, like having your house burn down when you were six and all of your pets dying and your stuffed animal collection turning to cinders and you can see how it would be difficult to let go of things.