Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Grappling with that erratic creature called Success

Whatever's clever.

I feel like a failure today. Like a Paul Giamatti-style failure in Sideways. Which sucks because I'm usually as effervescent as the other guy in Sideways, his best friend who goes to wine tastings with gum in his mouth and crashes cars to cover up mistakes and has no problem with Merlot or even white zinfandel for that matter.

Now I know I'm not a failure per se, and please don't have a seat at this table telling me I'm amazing because I know I am and I hate pity parties. But sometimes my pensive anxiety brims higher on certain days and today just happens to be one of them. I think the anxiety of an unwritten future is what plants that unsettling seed of self-doubt on my off days. (Do any of you feel like this sometimes??)

Anyway J says to hang in there and that "it comes in waves", this feeling of mine that emerges from being tied to no formal definition of success. And I do hang in there because on other days I feel more successful than I've ever felt before. Like I'm unstoppable, and my potential is endless. On these days, which usually outnumber the bad days, I have no dearth of self-esteem.

It's very much a ying and yang, black and white thing. I guess the real question is what is success (i.e., what is success to me)? And for that matter what is "success" to you reader-friends out there? Perhaps my problem is my definition of success is mercurial -- sometimes it can be enough to have just written a book or two (which I've done); other times it seems success should be more measurable, like in the form of a concrete publishing contract or a big house (neither of which I have).

Nevertheless today has been one of those days and usually a tall, lethally caffeinated cup of coffee can pull me out of said doldrums, but it's not working and now I have to ship out in a few minutes here and deal with annoying little gremlins children. (Can I just say after starting this part-time job that I fear for the future of this country?) Ugh, I'm turning into the Grand High Witch in Roald Dahl's "The Witches."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Literary truths: Carroll

"It would be so nice if something made sense for a change." - Alice

Here's a fun fact for all you fellow bibliophiles out there: Charles Ludwidge Dodgson never publicly acknowledged that he was also Lewis Carroll (of Alice in Wonderland fame). He seldom signed his books, and never gave away his portrait. Dodgson did acknowledge his pen name among his friends (especially in the letters to his child-friends which he signed with that name) but publicly denied any connection with the Alice books.

Hence, he regularly returned strangers' mail addressed to him as Lewis Carroll with a printed leaflet that asserted,
"Mr. Dodgson is so frequently addressed by strangers on the quite unauthorized assumption that he claims or at any rate acknowledges the authorship of books not published under his name, that he has found it necessary to print this, once and for all, as an answer to all such applications. He neither claims or acknowledges any connection with any pseudonym, or with any book that is not published under his own name." [Source]
Along with an interest in writing and religion, Carroll also enjoyed photography, but after 24 years of picture snapping gave up the hobby in 1880 allegedly because of gossip about and resistance to his photographing pre-pubescent girls in the nude. (Many historians and biographers speculate that Carroll was a pedophile, albeit a repressed and celibate one.) After 1880, Carroll continued drawing young girls in the nude. [Source]

"I always call him Lewis Carroll Carroll, because he was the first Humbert Humbert," novelist Vladimir Nabokov told Vogue magazine in 1966. (Humbert Humbert was the main character in Lolita, Nabokov's famous novel about an older man pursuing a relationship with a young girl.)

"Have you seen those photographs of him with little girls?" Nabokov said in the article. "He would make arrangements with aunts and mothers to take the children out. He was never caught, except by one girl who wrote about him when she was much older."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A bout of bad luck

I wouldn't call myself superstitious. Yes, I may believe in ghosts (including creepy sets of twins who stand at the ends of long hallways and ask me to come play with them), but I can walk under ladders and pass black cats and open umbrellas indoors and none of it bothers me. Old wives tales, I say.

Yet I'm starting to think that our new apartment in Maryland has come replete with not only high amenity fees, but highly bad luck. I'm talking really bad, considering-going-out-to-the-backwoods-of-this-Okie-state-and-doing-some-crazy-voodoo-to-cleanse-the-place bad.

Consider the following:

Exhibit A: The move from hell.

Need I say more?

Exhibit B: The cookie cutter incident.

In the real world, finding a heart-shaped cookie cutter a day before Valentine's Day would be as easy as cherry pie. In my current, cursed world finding said cookie cutter became a full-fledged medieval quest of sorts, teeming with talking dragons and evil warlocks horrendous traffic conditions and potholes the size of small foreign countries. Our Korean-made steed was up for the trek, though, of what would become the most extraordinary search of my life for something so extraordinarily ordinary.

After the nearest Target was cookie-cutter-less, J and I found a neighboring mall 5 miles away on our Garmin. Thinking there had to be a Crate and Barrel or Williams-Sonoma or some sort of kitchen appliance store at said mall we drove the five miles. Three hours later of traffic that would put LA's to shame, we finally arrived at the mall ... and there were no kitchen stores. Silly us for assuming there would be, I suppose. They're only as ubiquitous as a Twilight fan in a Hot Topic slash Wet Seal slash Claires slash Chico's.

We scoured the mall, going into each anchor department store. Nothing. J was a trooper through it all. When even I was ready to throw in the towel (it was my idea, after all) he pursued through the course. Come hell or high water his wife would have heart-shaped pancakes for Valentine's Day or else. After feeling like Frodo and Sam Gamjee on a mission to cross Middle Earth for one annoying little errand we found a second Target nearby that had exactly ONE heart-shaped cookie cutter misplaced in the tupperware aisle. After searching for the better part of a day we snatched it up with delirious eyes and hissed about how it was our preciousssss.

Exhibit C: The Valentine's cake incident

As day turned to night on Valentine's Day J ducked out to Safeway to buy me roses and a fancy chocolate cake "pick up a few things" for dinner.

Unfortunately I did not witness this hilarity go down, but after J got back he was walking across the parking lot when he slipped on black ice ... and everything in his hands went flying (everything including a case of about 6 bottles of wine). He landed hard on his back as bottles of wine went rolling down the parking lot, the bouquet of roses flew off to the side and the chocolate cake went through a quick spin cycle inside its plastic case. Thankfully all the wine bottles remained unscathed and, after they were finished laughing at him, various neighbors chased the bottles down the hill to give back to J.

"Here. There was supposed to be a white chocolate heart on top. I just can't catch a break," he said, as I opened the front door and he handed me what looked like cocoa-colored diarrhea in a plastic cake container.

I suppose the silver lining was that though the cake was indiscernible from a bad bowel movement it was still delectable.

Exhibit D: The baguette incident.

I had cut half a baguette for our fondue dinner that night. Halfway through our meal I took out the other half to slice, put what I didn't use back in the bag ... and it fell straight through the otherwise intact bag onto the floor. The entire half of the freaking baguette. For some inexplicable reason the bottom of the plastic bag just fell open. J and I looked at each other -- thinking of course -- as the baked good bounced off our kitchen floor.

Exhibit E: The hypochondriac slash health-code violation incident.

Since we moved into our new apartment last week the back of my throat has been feeling weird. Not like the I'm-about-to-get-a-cold-weird, but like the I-think-I'm-inhaling-asbestos-slash-black-mold-weird. Not good, kemosabes. Not. Good.

Exhibit F: The "I'm going to make you pay $15 for a bottle of Turning Leaf wine" incident.

Trader Joe's does not sell wine in this state. Apparently there is nothing "merry" about Maryland.

We gawked at the TJ's cashier when he told us that only a limited number of grocery stores get alcohol permits in "these parts" -- and Trader Joe's is not one of them. Neither is Safeway. We checked the ghetto Giant near us and they have a pathetic excuse for a wine aisle that consists of overpriced bottles of vino that should normally be no more than $5 to $10. A $12 bottle of Bella Serra? You've got to be kidding me. And I don't know what kind of peyote you're smoking but back in my day Arbor Mist strawberry zin cost no more than a whopper jr. with fries. I should know. There was a time when I routinely dabbled in both.

There's really no other solution than to cross state lines bootlegging moonshine in our Hyundai, and so we did. My life is now some weird hybrid of Smokey and the Bandit meets Sideways, where we cart not Coors, but two-buck Chuck Merlot from Virginia up into Maryland from a Trader Joe's near the beltway.

Exhibit G: The "let's trash our planet" incident.

My apartment building has no recycling. And it's not like this is some privately owned five-unit bungalow complex. This is a 20-story “luxury” high-rise, with thousands of tenants who apparently toss thousands of plastic bottles and cans into the one trash dumpster near the back. Just thinking about this makes me feel as speechless and flustered as Tim Gunn on Project Runway when that rockabilly chick Kinley sassed him on national television and all he could do was stand there glaring at the ceiling as he muttered some incoherent gibberish and kept readjusting his crossed arms.

I'm not a tree-hugger; I'm not a big fan of tofurkey; and the only thing granola about me is what I buy in cookies at Mrs. Fields in the mall (though I do admit to having a love affair with a certain pair of leather Birkenstocks, but it was 1995, people. Back then even scrunchies were acceptable.) For what it's worth though, not recycling is not an option for me. I mean, seriously, what decade is this? The '70s, pre that PSA with the Indian guy by the freeway and his single tear elicited from people throwing trash out their car windows? No, it's 2010, and this is Washington DC, not Guangdong.

To a Californian this no-recycling bit is about as blasphemous as saying there are no fire exits located in the entire building. Just the idea of casually tossing my diet coke can in the trash makes me cower a bit in fear that either God will smite me or I'll attract bad karma and end up disfigured in some horrible car crash. Well, I refuse to let that happen if I can help it; I like my facial features where they are thankyouverymuch.

So I've been painstakingly taking the extra steps to save all my recyclables in my tiny shoebox of a studio kitchen to later transport to some yet-encountered (and possibly non-existent) recycling center nearby. I'm all about helping the planet, but the thought of bad karma alone is enough to make me do crazy things.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Current obsessions

Claudia Cardinale

That profile. That hair. That obnoxiously fabulous eyeliner. Along with Marilyn (who I also adore) she's one of the undisputed sex kittens of the last century and I'm not going to lie: She makes me want to move to Italy, do away with my car, buy a Vespa and take up chain-smoking cigarettes as though they were going out of fashion. (Did I just admit that out loud? Cigarettes are BAD, people. Terrible. But it's people like her and Draper that make it look so sexy.) Love her in the original Pink Panther and as Marcello Mastroianni's muse in 8 1/2. They just don't make women like her anymore.

Case Study Houses. Remember that scene from Charlie's Angels where Drew Barrymore goes over to that young millionaire's house and ends up dangling from a bed sheet out his giant shattered picture window over the Los Angeles skyline? (Don't lie, you know exactly what I'm talking about.) Well that to-die-for house was one of the original Case Study Houses, which were experiments in American residential architecture between 1945 and 1966. These houses are so yummy to look at, I can spend hours staring at pictures of these pieces of art:

These coffee mugs:

Designed by Peter Ibruegger.

Goat cheese. Nothing makes me feel more like a beret-ed farmer living in a country cottage in the vineyards of France quite like a good ol' log of herb de Provence goat cheese. Or like a goat-herding Spaniard in the foothills of the Castilian region. Not that I want to be a goat-herding Spaniard, but if it landed me in Spain for at least one summer I would not rule it out. It can come plain, on eggs, on Sour Patch Kids -- I don't care. Give me goat cheese and I'm a happy girl.

The Oatmeal. The Internet begins and ends with this website. It's like someone scraped some of the most un-PC humor I have hidden away in my brain and jotted it down, with illustrations. The creator, who writes and illustrates everything on the site, is a genius. My favorites are "How Twilight Works" and "The 9 Types of Crappy Handshakes."

The amahzing typewriter J bought me as a late xmas present. I say "late" because there was no way he was going to lug 30 pounds of heavy steel to California and back, so he just had it delivered in late January when we were back on native soil. I love this little machine; it's captured a piece of my retro-obsessed heart:

Best of all? It's 100% Internet-free. No distractions, no low battery. If I could I'd cuddle with my 1958 Royal Futura 800 on the couch every night and laugh at Leno and take it for long drives by the beach in my non-existent sporty convertible, top down of course.

Valentine's Day. Ugh, no words. It's fantastic, it's extraordinary, it's a brilliant way to celebrate any kind of love, in all its hybrid forms. Contrary to popular belief one doesn't NEED to be in a relationship to make the most out of this holiday -- in fact I've had some great Valentine's Days where I was completely single. Those were the days when I could eat a whole tube of raw chocolate chip cookie dough without a.) gaining any weight thanks to my now-faltering metabolism, and b.) did not have to endure any mockery or criticism of my peculiar raw cookie dough slash brownie batter habit. (Ahem, J).

Anyway, I will vomit in my mouth a little if one more person rolls their eyes at the mention of Valentine's Day being a "holiday created by Hallmark" that feeds purely off consumers pressured to show their loved ones how much they care. No one says Valentine's Day HAS to be that way (besides, isn't that what Christmas is for?). If you feed into all that tripe that's your problem. What's wrong with a day to remind yourself that love is all around? Insert the cliche retort, (in my mind most often said in an acerbic British accent): "Well, you shouldn't need a day for that. You should remember that all year 'round." That's a given, honey child. Why don't you sell crazy somewhere else; we're all stocked up here.

I swear, the vehement hatred toward Valentine's Day usually comes coupled with some subconscious shortcoming slash insecurity on the part of the perpetrator. Perhaps they just need a hug? *Chases them down if necessary and forces bear-hug on to them.*

It doesn't take a lot to make V Day fabulous for me -- throw me some spicy cinnamon hearts, swath me in red and pink, let me watch Casablanca and I'm set. This year, like the past few years, J and I plan to have a special, but low-key, V Day. On the docket are heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast, Swiss fondue for dinner, cheap champagne (taking it back to the pre-J days of 2003 with the Andre Brut, people) and an in casa screening of Paris Je'taime. If I wasn't so lazy I would attempt to make this cake:

...but I don't have the energy (at least this year) to undertake such an endeavor. If any of you dolls do, let me know. Here's the recipe.

V Day is what you make of it. So instead of knocking it, try to make it great. You'd be surprised at how great it -- or most things -- could be with this method.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snowpocalypse 2010 (or "The Move From Hell")

So I told myself I'd never utter such a stupid nickname for a pending snowstorm after I saw the the term "Snowpocalypse" sprout up on Twitter and the local news. I've lived in Boston, people. And let me tell you, you "hardcore" DC-ers haven't begun seeing snow until you're enduring blustery Nor-Easters with 5-degree windchill on what feels like a weekly basis.

"Ha! What idiots," I said to J over the phone the night before our move. "They're only forecasting a foot of snow and people are acting like it's Armageddon. People are so dramatic sometimes."

We'll show them, I thought. We'll move in it, as planned. Because we're renegades like that and nothing, not even inclement weather, can stop us in our tracks.

Oh how I was wrong.

Turns out the word snowpocalypse was an apropos way of describing the current conditions. And that saucy minx of an anchor I was watching on Channel 5 Local News? You know, that Ron Burgundy-wannabe with the frosted tips who looked like he'd spent way too much time at a hair salon slash tanning booth? Well he wasn't kidding when he said this was going to be a "doozy" of a snowstorm.

We woke up bright and early Friday morning and though the sky was a bleached white, there was nary a snowflake in sight. "I knew it," I thought, satisfied that I hadn't bought into all the hype. "We'll get a few flakes, people will panic, it'll be over before we know it."

Fast forward to a few hours later: J and I are sitting in our little Uhaul truck near the top of a snow-covered hill somewhere in DC, our back wheels furiously spinning, our truck going...nowhere.

J and I had just dropped off the first of two trips of furniture slash boxes. It took us two hours to unload the truck up in Maryland (thankfully this included all the big stuff like our couch and bed) and we were back on the road at around 8pm, navigating the 15-mile maze of DC streets to get back down to Arlington, Virginia. The sun had set hours ago; the snow and wind were picking up. No trucks were out plowing or salting the streets. The streets, in fact, hadn't even been prepped for the forecasts. Our truck kept sliding all over the place, but it was too late to turn back. We were exactly halfway between our two apartments, and we'd left Lola down in Arlington. We had to go back for the rest of our stuff, if not just for the furry little white kid.

So there we were, sliding sideways on a hill in an empty Uhaul truck. J stays cool under pressure, but I see it as an opportunity to play out my inner actress.

J (his hands white-knuckled on the steering wheel): "GREAT. We're not moving. We're stuck. I knew this was going to happen..."



J: "What? Why are you shouting?"

Me: "Oh. I don't know."

J: "You were just waiting to say that, weren't you?"

(We laugh and peer around in the cab for something, anything, to help us. I'm not sleeping in a rental truck in the middle of a blizzard, no matter how comfortable these vinyl seat cushions are. I grab our empty 7-11 paper coffee cup, taking off the plastic lid as I hand the cup to him.)

Me: "Here. Start digging behind the back tires with this. I'll use the lid."

J: "Um, no? That won't do anything. The problem is there's ice under this snow. Nothing's been salted."

(Meanwhile the snow is picking up outside. I sigh loudly, like Sundance irritated that Butch Cassidy is -- once again -- being the "realist", and run outside to the rear right tire near the curb, using my foot to clear out some snow in front of it. I hop back in.)

Me: "Try that."

(He gasses it, the tires spin till we slide a few more inches and finally bump against the curb. We use the curb, as our tires are burning out, to inch up the hill. This, we thought, could take all night.)

Suffice to say, it didn't. We finally reached the top of that hill. The worst was behind us but it was just as scary (dare I say, exhilarating?) through the rest of DC. Down Constitution Ave., past the White House. It was desolate and empty and eerie, like we were on the set of The Road -- except there was no pushing of our wares in grocery carts or wearing of shoes fashioned out of trash bags. For all I know we could have been partially driving on a sidewalk since everything, I mean everything, was covered in a blanket of white.

Finally we crossed the Potomac River into Arlington and had one, final, steep hill to climb near the Air Force Memorial. J zig-zagged the steering wheel up the entire thing as the back tires spun out incessantly, leaving behind jagged tracks that looked like the pattern across Charlie Brown's shirt all the way up the snow-covered road. But it worked. We made it. We slid up as far as we could into our Archstone parking lot and rolled into an open space. J inspected the truck few minutes later and realized WHY we had such traction problems: The back tires were bald. The front ones -- the ones that zig-zagged us up that hill -- were fine. Sigh.

It took us 2 hours to go 15-miles. By the time we got back to Lola and our nearly empty apartment it was 9pm. Though I wanted to try and make a go of it with a second load of boxes, J said it just wasn't happening. Carpet picnic, anyone?

That night we set up a bedsheet and our down comforter on the floor, listened to the news on the radio and played Blackjack. (For anyone interested, I won. Muwahaha.) Oh and sleeping on the floor really isn't that bad, especially when you're using a shared seat cushion as a makeshift pillow.

We woke up the next morning and the conditions were even more severe. And the move? Well here's how the next few days of the snowstorm went down:

Day 2 (Saturday): Arlington. Completely snowed in. Conditions are abominable. Snow is blowing sideways, everything is covered in white. The main road by our apartment is completely unplowed and overrun with people bundled up and walking to CVS to get their fix of Swedish Fish and other gastronomic delights they forgot to stock up on. After a few hours of packing we join them. The rest of the day is spent packing, but this -- true to form -- always takes longer than usual.

Nighttime. Still snowing. We're exhausted...and cold. Heater has stopped working. Cold Domino's pizza is not helping our mood. We stand huddled in kitchen over oven to keep warm.

Snow eases up around evening. We must dig giant Uhaul out before snow turns to ice. We have no shovel. An hour later I'm convinced you haven't lived till you've used a plastic office trash can to dig out a vehicle. But they only go so far. J grabs a particle board from an Ikea desk we're leaving behind and digs the entire truck out with the 1' by 3' board. Bare-handed. This takes him about two hours.

Day 3 (Sunday): Why is there still so much clutter not packed up? Bobby pins and candles and souvenirs from Rio de Janiero still litter the floor. Our bodies ache from the two and a half hours of shoveling last night. Still more shoveling left to do, but luckily this afternoon a neighbor lets us borrow his snow shovel. Finally ready to start filling up truck, but first it must be turned around so we can get to the rear. Bald tires spin profusely on ice. People keep walking by and telling us we're crazy for moving this weekend. Yeah buddy, thanks for clarifying that. We totes planned all this, you know, because we like making moving thatmuch harder. We're masochists like that. Bastards.

An hour later we finally get vehicle out of spot. Starving. Walk to McDonald's for the second time in two days for dinner. Want to barf at how much fast food we've been eating in a 48-hour period (Domino's: 1, Five Guys: 2, Mickey D's: 2). We finish and walk back. Another three hours later of walking up and down snow-covered steps with heavy boxes and the truck is full. House is still a mess, but I convince J that the rest of our small mound of clutter will fit in our Hyundai tomorrow. He reluctantly agrees.

10pm: Pile into packed cab of truck, ready to head back up to Maryland. The wind has picked up, temperatures are now in the single digits. Tires screech against what is now thick ice. We're stuck -- again -- in our parking spot. I want to die.

11pm: Finally get car out of spot by chipping away at ice under tires with a screwdriver. Poor J's fingers are frozen and red. I get out of cab without gloves to spot the truck as he's backing out. When he's clear he drives away. I pick up a shelf we accidentally left behind in the snow and run after him, not knowing what he's doing.

11:05pm: Fingers are freezing and scaly. Have begun to cry. Can't find him anywhere. Finally spot him at the top of the lot. Turns out he was circling the parking lot, looking for me, too. He said he was just turning around and didn't see where I'd gone. I yell at him. This night can't get any worse.

12:30am: Highways are still unplowed and covered in ice. Takes us another 2 hours to go 15 miles but we finally get up to our apartment in Maryland. The walkway to the rear entrance of the complex is covered in a solid, uneven, pot-holed ramp of ice. The flat-bed cart they loaned us can barely traverse this course. The night has just gotten worse. We pile our things onto the rickety cart, little by little, and J pulls it up the ramp, our things sliding around and off the cart bed. It's official: We now definitely feel like vagrants in The Road. It's about 9 degrees; I can't feel my face.

3:45am: After 27 cart trips the truck is finally unloaded. Should have only taken an hour in normal temperatures. With icey ramp and cold it's taken us a lifetime. We're starving, and oh how convenient: the only place open near us is a -- wait for it -- McDonald's. I reluctantly order a hamburger, and choke as I force down each bite.

3:50am: I look at my nasty, cut, red fingers. Feel like Scarlett O'Hara in the second half of Gone With the Wind, when she makes a dress out of her green curtains to try and con money from Rhett Butler, only to be shot down when he sees her cut-up, blistered hands and says they aren't the hands of a lady. Note to self: Get a manicure after this is all over.

3:51am: Second note to self: There are no manicures in your budget. Slather on some cheap Vitamin E oil when you get a chance and quit complaining.

4:35am: Time for a nice hot shower. Turn water on...high-powered spray spews from shower nozzle like a pressure washer. Feels like I'm being given a prison shower. Skin feels like it is being peeled off with a thousand angry needles. There is only one setting on this nozzle and this is it. Note to self: Buy new shower head.

4:55 am: Bed is not in order. Someone kill me now. Consider passing out on floor, if there was any open floorspace between our piles of boxes to pass out on. There is not.

5:00am: Rip open bags like a crazy woman looking for bedding, toss linens on to mattress, and fade to black.

Day 4 (Monday): Ah, bliss, the last day of moving! Light at the end of the tunnel and hallelujahs and what have yous. The worst is behind us, we think. It has to be.

11:30am: Hyundai is covered in a couple feet of snow from not being moved for two days. We have no shovel. J says he "is not using the board again" and we're off to find a shovel...but every store is sold out. Are you there, God? It's me, Crystal. Please throw us a bone.

12:35pm: Standing in front of the empty shovel wall at Home Depot, we decide to buy a 4-inch wide trench digger. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Trench digger costs $25. I curse under my breath.

1:00pm: J starts digging out Hyundai with all the energy he can muster. Shovel, though not that wide, is more effective than we thought. But I suppose anything would be to a couple who previously used a trash can and a board.

1:15pm: We realize this is going to take longer than we thought. And we have until 6pm to clean slash turn in the key to our other apartment across town. Insert expletive here. I call apartment office, tell them what's going down and they agree to let me drop off the keys in a drop box that night. Crisis: averted.

2:34ish pm: Car is finally snow-free, but only after I shift it in neutral and J wedges himself between our car and adjacent Oldsmobile to push off on our front bumper and roll me away from snow bank. This results in him creating a human bridge between the Hyundai and Oldsmobile, which then results in him landing face-first into the snow once I roll away:Hilarious.

3:10pm: Return Uhaul truck. Ecstatic to finally have the thing off our hands. Now off to Arlington for the last time, to pick up the rest of our things and clean.

4:00pm to 10ish pm: Pack. Even more. Working through our severe exhaustion makes us feel like we are eternally condemned to hard labor, like Sisyphus pushing the boulder up that mountain only to watch it roll down every time. Sometime during this 4-hour block we make a quick trip to McDonald's (again!) for dinner. While we're gone Lola gets into our kitchen trash and eats a whole waxy rind of Swiss cheese. I take solace in knowing that we both ate shit for dinner.

10:05pm: Light bulbs and random pairs of scissors surface here and there; a bride's maid dress I never wore; a barbecue; a Christmas tree stand (which, out of frustration, J later throws off the balcony like a large frisbee into the snow); a giant French clock that I refuse to part with. All these things we didn't account for thinking they'd fit in the car. The clutter is never-ending. As we amass the last of our things in the center of the empty living room we realize we should have included much of it on the truck bed since our Hyundai is so tiny. I want to punch myself in the face (and nickname myself Sisyphus).

10:35pm: I start vacuuming. Vacuum belt breaks. In a perfect world I'd pick up the vacuum cleaner and hurl it through the window, which I start to do but then stop myself. It would come out of my deposit, after all. Floor is in desperate need of vacuuming; most stores are closed. Then it dawns on me -- there's a Target nearby open till 11. Finally, a light at the end of the Godforsaken tunnel. We pile into car and head out, hoping they have the right belt.

11:45pm: Became side-tracked by the Valentine's Day aisle at Target, but we are back home with two vacuum belts in hand. J puts one on; it breaks right away. We're down to last belt. Sweat beads slide down our fatigued faces as we hope this one will stay in tact. It does. Victory.

12am to 3:30am: Cleaning.

3:30am: Start packing car. Yup, J was right. Not everything is fitting. Have to leave barbecue slash bride's maid dress slash Christmas tree stand slash myriad other things behind. Feels like we are literally throwing our money away. Not a good feeling, but hey, at this point we can't even feel our own swollen, blistered fingers. That's not a good feeling either.

3:35am: Lola gets diarrhea. She should have thought twice before giving in to her weakness for Swiss cheese.

4:30am: Car is crammed full. Every square inch is taken up by something, be it a computer printer, bags of clothes, or tubes of gift wrap. J tells me my giant French clock won't fit. I refuse to believe this and shove it in the inch-tall gap over everything in the back. He says if we get into a car accident the thing is taking our heads off. I say I'd rather not have a head then leave my French clock behind. He is speechless. Lola looks at me, then him, probably trying to tell us she'd like some Pepto Bismol.

4:45am: Time to drop keys off. We put them in the drop-off envelope and J is about to lick the edge to seal when he sees little hairs and linties stuck all over it. "That's been on the floor. Don't look at me, I'm not licking it," I say. We just want to get the hell out of there. He shuts his eyes, about to lick it anyway and deal with the consequences later, but then decides to just spit on it. Seals perfectly. We drop off and we're outta there.

5:30am: Though it's still freezing the roads are a bit clearer. When we reach our new apartment we leave everything in the locked car and head up. "What if someone steals something?" I ask. "For all I care they can take the car and drive it off a cliff," J replies.

6:00am: Sleep. Finally. End.

So that's my story. Like all good stories it starts with a moving truck and ends with a flatulent poodle. We woke up the next afternoon (yesterday) at about 3pm. J's fingers were swollen and he couldn't make a fist. Our legs were so sore we could barely move; my eyes were puffy from the cold and exhaustion. Not quite conducive to blogging, but we're better today...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

These...are the days of our lives

Breaking the news that we have to move.

Tomorrow is moving day. And as I sit here surrounded by boxes, using the last of my Internet before the Comcast Nazis shut it off at midnight tonight, I can't help but feel a little sad.

I'm used to moving. In the last five years I've lived at six -- yes, six -- different addresses including this one. Packing up and leaving is modus operandi for me though always a little bittersweet. But this time that sucrose savoriness lingers a bit more than usual and I have a sneaking suspicion that it's because this is where J and I started out as a married version of "us."

When we left the west coast with 16 boxes and the rings on our fingers we didn't know what would be in store over the next three years of our lives here. Would he survive law school? Would I survive law school? Would we get to take weekend jaunts over to Europe now that we lived on a closer coast and plane tickets had to be cheaper? (The answers to these questions, consecutively, are yes, yes, and no.) We still have four months left in the DC area, and I suppose this post would be better suited for when we leave for good, but we've lived at this address for two years and I think it deserves some accolades.

This apartment has been the setting for some pretty fabulous memories, including intimate fondue dinners and epic tickling wars, dinner parties, Friday movie nights (thanks, Netflix) and dancing with J to the Bee Gees after he'd get home late and exhausted from class and still make an effort to make me laugh, a testament to what a good man he is. Oh and it was also here where monumental arguments between us would take place, making Lola -- who's very sensitive to volume and tone -- cower under the dinner table in fear. (Don't worry, pup: You know as well as we do that these arguments always end in laughter over how ridiculous we're being.)

It was in this apartment where we first brought Moneypenny home after adopting her, where my sister (who stayed with us summer of 2008 for her internship) ended up sleeping on the floor of our bedroom for a month after barricading the doorway because she was terrified of cats. (Suffice to say, as obese as Moneypenny was she still cleared our tall cardboard box hurdle. Hilarity ensued.) This is where I was first introduced to the Wii (grr), the best Bordeaux I've ever tasted, and everything jurisprudence-related (whether I wanted to know it or not) as told to me by J. This is where I woke up on the morning of Obama's inauguration, when we walked from our front door down to and across the Memorial Bridge, so we could stand on the National Mall with thousands of others in freezing conditions to hear the man give his speech.

It was in this apartment where I first discovered what would become my overarching obsession: Mad Men. It was here where, when I'd finally had enough, I made a career decision that two years ago I never would have dreamed of taking. This is where I started my life over because I realized it was never too late to push the "reset" button. This is where I competed in (and won!) my first Nanowrimo. And this is where I finished my first novel:

Did I think we were going to stay here forever? Of course not. It's an Archstone for Christ's sake; the clientele is as variable as Madonna's next musical persona. And I know that everyone has sentimental, sappy memories woven within rental walls, but these are mine and they're worth noting before Comcast clips the end of an era.

Anyway, at this point in our marriage we are without a home, complete unknowns, like rolling stones -- which is all fine with me. J brought up a good point the other night: We've built our life to be completely mobile, to pack up and leave whenever we need to wherever our next destination is. I'm glad that I could happily agree.

I think I've mastered the art of never getting too comfortable in one place. You just never know when you'll have to leave. Some might find this sad or scary; others may find it exhilarating. I think of it more as the latter. Every time you move you're embarking on another adventure. Even though I'm married I'm still young, malleable and open to change, which is the way I've been for the last 27 years. I hope I stay open to forms of change for the rest of my life, because I think that's what rounds you out as a person. If I dug my heels in at every opportunity to remain status quo I wouldn't be as happy, and I'd miss out on things I never tried.

Take moving to DC. It was definitely not on my to-do list (I'd lived here before for a congressional internship and had had my fill then), but I came back because of J and though it isn't my favorite place in the world it also hasn't been altogether terrible. If I hadn't come back, for instance, I never would have realized that this is truly the land of the personalized license plate. If I didn't live here I would never get to be cut off by the pretentious Mister "MasGolf" in his navy blue BMW almost every morning on Constitution Ave. while taking J to school. Or, after getting cut off, inevitably find myself behind Mister "JoeBama" in the brand new yellow Beetle. Again, DC has not been horrible. It's just another place that's been filled with new experiences and new friends that have shaped who I am. Contrary to what J might think, I have no regrets.

(Well, okay, one teensy regret: I have yet to live in a foreign country. I mean really live, not study abroad or visit or anything like that. I hope this'll change later this year when, money and careers permitting, we take up living in Buenos Aires for August. Oh, how I want to be an ex-pat, even for short-term. *Crosses fingers.*)

Anyway, as I mentioned in an earlier post, to save money our last four months here we decided to discontinue cable at our new apartment (funny social commentary that we own a 42'' plasma television but no cable). Luckily I've found a few places online that stream the shows (probably illegally) I watch but it's not my fault that laws in Malaysia and India aren't as strict as ours. We'll have Internet, but only God knows when since J just contacted Comcast today about scheduling an appointment, meaning we'll probably be connected in, oh, about three weeks.

So, until we meet again -- quite possibly sooner than later using free WiFi at a coffeeshop -- I'm off to Silver Spring, Maryland in a Uhaul truck tomorrow in the region's second-biggest snowstorm this winter. Let the good times roll.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Are you afraid of the dark?

So generally I carry a pink case of pepper spray when I walk Lola. And though I've never been attacked, I've always wondered "what if...?" Especially here where muggings are as common as a pair of fake boobs in LA. Usually I won't walk Lola at night unless J comes with, but even then, what would happen if we ran into some roving band of machete-wielding crazies? My little vial of pepper spray would totes not come in handy. Which brings me to what I found yesterday, the perfect companion for a nighttime dog walker slash late-night metro rider slash garbage-taker-outer:

LOL. Terrifyingly brilliant, and in the ranks of Monty Python comedy in that the guy demoing it acts like it's just any another normal invention, like a potato peeler or a high-speed onion chopper. I mean, usually those stocking stuffers in the "men's wardrobe" section of Target around the holidays always have some sort of 5-dollar flashlight doo-hickey (i.e., flashlight slash compass slash beer bottle opener). But with this invention you not only have a flashlight, you've got a SEMI-AUTOMATIC HANDGUN and -- best part of all -- when folded up it fits in your back pocket! I'm dying over here, people. Dying. What's next? A can opener that doubles as a ninja star? Waaaait a second....
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