Thursday, June 29, 2006
For instance, did you know that if I were a pair of sandals, I would be platform sandals? Apparently I am funky, urban, and a little downtown & Euro. Well, then.
There's more, too. If I was a superheroine I'd be Elektra, if I were a pinup I'd be Brigitte Bardo, and if I was a hat, I would be a fedora. I have never worn a fedora. How do you think it would look with platform sandals?
Every now and then comes a quiz that shocks the bejesus out of me. www.colorquiz.com offers a free personality test that just takes two screens and a few minutes. Twice, you pick from among eight colour squares, in the order they make you feel the best. I know, child's play.
The quiz is quick, it is lame, it is hokey. It is startling. My results were:
Your Existing Situation: The situation is difficult and you are trying to persist in your objectives against resistance. You find it necessary to conceal intentions as an added precaution, in order to disarm the opposition.
The objectives against resistance part, check. As for disarming the opposition, am I really that calculating? Boohaha.
Your Restrained Characteristics: You cling to your belief that your hopes and ideas are realistic, but you need encouragement and reassurance. You apply very exacting standards to your choice of partner, and want guarantees against loss or disappointment. Egocentric and quick to take offense. Able to obtain physical satisfaction from sexual activity but tend to hold aloof emotionally.
I don't always need encouragement or reassurance, but every now and again it's nice to have. The partner thing is dead on, as is the physical satisfaction. If I'm aloof it's because as you get older, relationships just get all that more ridiculous, and I'd like some feedback before pouring my heart out, dammit.
I used to take offense at the drop of a hat. That was before I learned not to give a shit about what the general populace thought of me.
Your Desired Objective: You strive for a life rich in activity and experience, and for a close bond offering sexual and emotional fulfillment.
Yes. Very much so.
Your Actual Problem: You fight against restriction or limitation, and insist on developing freely as a result of your own efforts.
Since when is that a problem?
Your Actual Problem #2: You want to act freely and uninhibitedly, but you are restrained by your need to have things on a rational, consistent, and clearly-defined basis.
Just come out with it then, I'm a consumerist hog. And how in Zeus' butthole do you come up with all this from picking out a bunch of colour tiles??
Sister, you were born to be Fabulous!
Happy Birthday Pookie! I wish you an absolutely FANTASTIC year, it really is amazing being 31, believe me. And, it's going to get better. There are *huge* plans in store for you, just be patient and let it happen. You know, everything happens for a reason and even though we don't always know that reason, it is there! You're extremely gifted, just be confident in yourself and everything will fall into place. You know I'm your greatest fan, and I'll always be there for you... just as you are for me. Lots and lots and LOTS of love, hugs and kisses, Oli
We all need to hear that sometime, and you always know just how to say it. Thanks, Sis.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Although I've already written you to express my thanks and gratitude for this gorgeous new hairstyle, I've received so many compliments of late and worn my hair down so often, I felt the need for just another quick note.
Why just today, in fact, when I was stuck in a godforsaken part of town with my mother and a flat tire, I noticed thugs and gangster wannabes from all walks of life appreciating my beautiful hair as it blew in the wind.
I got a "Wussup, wussup!" or two, and even a "Girl, you so fine," as I madly dialed and swore at Nissan and CAA. I suppose the look greatly complimented my yelling and colourful language.
In addition, I noticed the tow truck driver winking at me as he installed the spare. My word, man, you've made me irresistible! In godforsaken parts, at least.
I am beyond convinced of your scalp prowess. Count on me to refer friends near and far for, "The Lance Touch."
P.S.: Next time I really, really get to squeeze your tight ass.
Note to Self: My fabulousness is limited if I'm just another stranded, helpless girl screaming into my cell phone. Learn how to change a flat.
I love the holidays, each and every one. Halloween is near the top of my list, mostly because the fall is my favourite time of year. The leaves are russet colours, the air is crisp, scarves and mittens come out of hiding, and apple pies are in the oven.
Halloween itself is a vault of memories for me. Getting excited every year about what costume I was going to wear, which tricks I would play, and all the candy I would get. One more night of spooky fun before the next day when, wouldn't you know it, Christmas was suddenly around the corner.
Outside of North America, Halloween is not a big deal. It's no deal at all. No costumes, no trick or treating, just an ordinary day like all the rest. The one, solitary sign of Halloween in Prague was a large pumpkin in the window of Fruits de France, a boutique Parisian grocery near Wenceslas Square.
October in Prague was when I started to get homesick, and the absence of little ghosties and goblins didn't make it better. I got mopey, and Jess noticed. It's hard not to notice someone's every changing mood when you're in such close quarters.
October 31st was on a Wednesday that year. I remember walking home from the tram stop after work, going up the building steps and opening our apartment door to a huge, orange pumpkin on the kitchen table.
I know my face lit up in a smile. He came out of the bedroom to kiss and hug me hello, and to the questioning look on my face, replied, "It's for you. I got it from the French store."
I was about to tell him how much I loved it, when I realized something. "How did you get it back here?"
"I carried it."
"Jess, the French store is at least ten blocks away. You're nuts."
He rumpled my hair. "I wanted you to have it."
Jess isn't one to express himself through words. He doesn't gush, or feel the need to tell me that he loves me every minute of the day. But, every now and again he does something so wonderful, so heartfelt, that it knocks me off my feet.
This was one of those times. He'd specifically gone out today to find the one pumpkin in Prague, and haul it all the way home, just for me. At that moment, right then, I knew the man standing in front of me would go to the ends of the earth to make me happy.
And that was good.
It is years later, several Wednesdays from that day, and our relationship has gone in a hundred different directions. We broke up in February, he said he was sorry, things have been eerily stable since, and he has pulled another rabbit from his hat: a ticket to Chicago. For me.
Do I want to go?
Yes. No. Yes.
Am I nervous to see him again?
Do I still love the man?
No. Yes. Very.
Am I ready to tell him that right now?
Are people capable of change?
I always liked to think so.
Can he grow?
I want to believe that.
Is there hope for us?
I want to believe that, too.
Can I handle it if things work out for us?
Can I handle it if things don't work out for us?
Yes. I know that now.
Am I going to Chicago?
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
I slept in a little, I enjoyed the rain a little, I enjoyed everything else a lot. The rest of the day fell into place beautifully.
Birthday Rule #1: Go Outside
The outdoors is the glory of our existence. Savour the elements on your day. After my usual one egg breakfast & birthday offering of card + present from moms and pops, I took them and Bluetooth to Dog Hill, a.k.a. the canine heaven of west end pooches. Plunk in the middle of our city's largest park, Dog Hill is a huge, sandy off leash area for any dog and owner willing to brave its happy, cartoon nature. If a dog starts talking or doing anything remotely Disney, it's likely to be here.
After the rain the day stayed gorgeous, and we all had a blast. Didn't stay for long, though - Blue is a bit of a snob and happens to prefer people to dogs. I think he thinks he is people.
I did go downtown later on, and did what I try to do for every birthday I've had since my teen years. Spend a little time alone, and do a little time shopping.
I'm lucky in that I was born in the first days of summer, which is such a great weather time of year. Looking back, I can't remember all that many birthdays without clear blue skies and happy yellow sunshine. The temperature is never too high, which I like, and the humidity usually hasn't set in yet. That's even better.
Birthday Rule #2: Alone Time
Alone time is good. I highly recommend it. Alone time on your birthday is a must, even if just for a few minutes. You've just finished a year of your life, after all, and today is the first day of the next 364. There is reflection, there are plans, there are goals and ambitions, creativity, love and dreams to be had. Even if all you can do is sneak out for a sundae, do it. You'll thank me, I promise.
When my train pulled into the city, I got off at my stop and made my way outside, where I settled myself in cafe seating beside a large fountain. I'd come here specifically for that reason, and commenced on my alone time. As for what I was thinking, I'll just have to give you a smile and a curtsey. That's for me, myself and I, younglings, me, myself and I. I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.
After the alone time came the shopping time.
Birthday Rule #3: Gift Thyself
For pete's sake, give yourself something. This is your day. It doesn't have to be lavish, even if you don't have a nickel to your name, just string together a necklace from macaroni noodles and dance to "Le Freak". There will be other presents, naturally, but who better to treat the star of the show, than the star of the show?
My 30th was especially memorable. I was alone, I'd just turned the fabulous age, there was a wad of cash burning a hole in my pocket and I was determined to be queen of the hour. Fifty-nine minutes and one empty wallet later, I was the giddy owner of a Virginia Johnson print blouse, metallic gold Farylrobin sandals, Me & Ro silver earrings, and fantastically strappy leather and rope Miu Mius on a 4.5 inch heel.
The Miu Mius were and are my favourite of the haul. I was so happy to find intensely gorgeous shoes that fit my duck feet, I didn't think twice about dropping the $200 for them. Imagine my shock and disbelief when, back on the train, I saw the tag with the original price crossed off, which was a rather unholy amount of $500. I suppose I could have been thinking, "Oh man, I just got $200 shoes," but exploding in my head instead was, "OH MAN, I JUST GOT REGULARLY $500 DOLLAR SHOES! THIS IS SO SEX AND THE CITY!"
Good times. Unfortunately, no massive wad this year, but still enough in the birthday fund for some special treatment. First stop: Capri pants.
My relationship with capri pants started off shifty. I hated them because they reminded me too much what of kept happening to my regular pants in the heyday of my growth spurt. Think ankle air, clam digs, Steve Urkel.
And then, in the past few months or so, I'm thinking hmm, these are pretty snazzy. They aren't pants, they aren't shorts, and they are oh so cute for summer. Hello, blue Z-Brand Nomads. I got them because I think they are supercool, and because I have never had capri pants. The were adorable, on sale, and a wee bit too small. Hey, there are goals to achieve. I'm not going to buy fat clothes forever.
After the capris came the white gold earrings. Okay, I know *exactly* what you're saying. "White Gold! You said you didn't have a lot of money to spend!" And I don't, my darlings, I don't. That is why I went to the Gold Exchange.
The Gold Exchange is where you take your gold when you want to sell it, then lo and behold, it is melted down to make something else. Secondhand, vintage jewellery in a new package, per se. The place itself is tacky, flea market-ish and sells stuff I wouldn't be caught dead in, like huge rings with the Cadillac logo.
Again, I know what you're thinking. Why would I be in such a tacky place on my birthday? Because, darlings, if you're patient and a treasure hunter, the Gold Exchange can come up with some pretty surprising stuff. And, the need for hoops outweighed the, umm, questionable ambience. I went through the entirety of high school in hoop earrings of various metals and sizes, and a number of years ago switched to ear huggies. Ear huggies are not diapers, they are hoops that hug your ears, or, fit as close to the lobes as possible.
Over the weekend I noticed that Oli had gotten some bigger hoops, and they made me wistful for my youth. Where have all the flowers gone? Long time passing... *Anyway*, I didn't have to dig too long before finding my twisted white gold hoops, all of one inch in width, and I must say, they look smashing. Especially with my hair loose, which is exactly how I wore it.
Oh yes, just one more thing. The latest Donna Hay magazine, which I collect, purchased with part of Pinky's gift: certificate to be spent at big, huge bookstore. She also got me a lovely shell necklace and not one, but *three* (aieeeee!!)) Andy Warhol notepads complete with colourful little pencil! Pinky and I have a thing for paper products.
Birthday Rule #4: Friends & Family
The icky thing about Monday birthdays is the Monday itself. People are busy, the week is starting, bla bla, and so it is a difficult time. I understand that and it's always cool, but the great thing is that the people who matter most will always take the extra step for you. Even if it's just a phone call, it's a couple of minutes from their busy day to let you know you are thought of, and you are important. I like that.
I got calls from all my friends, local and worldwide, every last one wishing me well. I got texts, I got cards, I got presents. I got Oli, Raj and James, easily on Tier One of My Absolutely most Big League Peoples on this here planet taking me out to dinner and showering me with gifts.
Birthday Rule #5: One Special Meal
It's not about sitting in front of a gigantic cake, fork in hand, proclaiming, "It's my damn birthday!" and then chowing down, it's about one of the day's meals being a little better than any of the others. I requested sushi, and they took care of the rest.
James picked the restaurant. Foodie that he is, he knows all the gourmet hotspots from a five-star heaven, to a hidden hole in the wall. Raj and Oli made the plan, and we all met at the mall to go down togther. You'll be tempted to think I am a shopping diva (which I so am), but Oli and Raj both work at the mall.
I don't remember the name of the place, but I do remember the smiley Japanese waitress, James downing his Sapporo, and soup in a conch shell that I spilled all over my placemat. Happy Birthday! I also remember the incredibly fresh hamachi (yellowtail) sashimi, my absolute fave, and rolls so absurdly huge we could barely fit them in our mouths.
'Tis the insult of the sushi restaurant roll: the seaweed makes it impossible to cut or take bites, so when they're that big you're unceremoniously reduced to jaw fractures and chipmunk cheeks. Don't laugh, or you spew rice. I laughed.
Post meal, I found myself surrounded by gifts. Besides last week's hair cut & colour *and* paying for everyone's dinner, Oli got me some extra beauty products and these wowzer patio glasses with straws (aieee!) that you never throw away. I have a feeling i will never be using these straws, because they are beautiful and I don't trust my guests to not chew on them. Stupid guests. I will put them on a pedestal and use them before I die.
She also gave me Corey's gift, who couldn't be there. There was a card, an envelope with a Sephora gift certificate (aieeeee!!!) and another little note that said: "This gift card entitles you to the purchase of any paint of your choice, and all labour to be performed by your future brother in-law. Paint supplies are included." AIEEE! My walls get colour!
Raj said he didn't have time to get me a gift, so I swakked him one on the cheek. A swak is a kiss. I don't care if I get gifts or not, I was just so happy they were there. James put a book in front of me, Good Omens, and said it was a last minute little cheap thing.
Good Omens is a sci-fi book. James is sci-fi. I am not sci-fi. Because I love James, I will do my best to be sci-fi.
Raj then pulls this huge box out of his Gucci bag and says, "This followed us home too."
This is where my mouth fell open. There might even have been drool. The package Raj put in front of me was a jewellery box, from a seriously high end jewellery store, with a "From your Boyfriends" card attached to it. I was almost scared to open it.
When I did open it, no "aieee." I was too busy having a stroke.
It was a necklace. Not just any necklace either, but the silver and gold necklace I have been ogling since its launch in 2002, when some gorgeous Lithuanian model was plastered on skyscrapers and bus shelters everywhere wearing this necklace. MY necklace now. It is nine pebbles, eight in silver and one in gold, hanging down in a straight line from a silver wire around the neck. Atrocious price tag. I've been staring at it for four years and thinking to myself, when I have a better job, when I'm done decorating my place, when I clear this or that credit card, I'm going to buy myself this, just because.
Raj and James have gone ahead and done that for me. I was speechless. Not at the amazing and wonderful gift I'd just received, but that I had friends who thought so much of me, they would go out of their way like that. I can only imagine what my expression looked like. I turned to Raj and said, "Bunny, I love you no matter what you get me, but this is way too much."
He reached over to squeeze my ear and said, "You deserve it, kookoo."
And so, after suffocating them with hugs and smooshy kisses on both their cheeks, I told Raj that just for this, I would listen to his full list of complaints for one week. He laughed and told me, "Darling, I am going to make FULL use of that!"
I know he will, too.
On, the necklace looks gorgeous. I've opened the box a hundred times in the past two days, because I can't believe I have it. Raj can complain for two weeks.
Birthday Rule #6: You are the Celebration of Your Life
On the way home, Oli and I stopped off at a specialty foods store. I picked up some sparkling lemonade, and made it my toast. Happy Birthday, dear girl. You are one year older, one year more experienced, and definitely one year more backwards. It's going to be a good one.
Oh yes, before I forget, there was one more present. Jess bought me a plane ticket.
Monday, June 26, 2006
Everyone is asking me how I feel, and true to form, I answer the way I've done every single birthday before this: I don't feel any different at all. Although if I was really to look back and ponder on it all, I'm sure I feel much different today than I did on the morning of my 19th birthday. Such is life.
There have been some presents, there have been some calls, and I'm sure there will be more of both later on. It's still early. Tonight there is sushi with friends but for now, I want some fabulous time alone with my fabulous, old fart self. There's a city to discover.
The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly and lie about your age. - Lucille Ball
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Jinny was very happy to see me, and we did our usual, "I'll hug you really tight and you pretend you're suffocating okay!" hug, while Joy, on the other hand, was most underjoyed. Kid took one look at me and started to wail, banshee style. She's at that age where strange people are not cool, and being that I don't see her very often, I fall under the strange bracket.
She did warm up to me, though. Took some chocolate and weird facial expressions on my part, but I cracked a smile out of her.
As for the guest of honour, Shawn arrived home on his 40th birthday to 40 guests and the grand affair of a decorated backyard, wait staff dressed in black, and a casino theme. Maggie went all out; hung up lots of lanterns, lights around their pool, fired up the hot tub, open bar, classy catering and a Vegas style night with roulette, craps and blackjack tables complete with dealers.
This is where my story starts to get pathetic. I take a good look around that gorgeous scene, people drinking, chatting, having fun, and realization slaps me a good one:
Every other woman in that room had a husband, fiancee or boyfriend. Everyone. Everyone but me, that is. Couples were draped around each other, mingling as couples and in general, doing that disgusting couple thing.
There are times in life when you feel bad, and times in life where you feel really bad. I fancy myself a Wonder Woman sometimes, I really do, because I know that no matter where life takes me, I'll be able to make it down that road myself without help from anybody else.
I don't want to have to need anyone; I don't like it because there's too much at stake. Mainly, my heart. But there is such a part of me that wants that couple thing, as nauseating as it may sometimes be. I want to be able to lean on someone sometimes, I want to take my significant other to parties like this and laugh with other nauseating couples.
It can really stink being surrounded by that, knowing you're the only one there going home alone.
Well, fuck it. If they're going to do what couples do best, I can do what singles do best. I got me a pack of cigarettes, a handful of casino chips, and made fast friends with the bartender. I smoked like a chimney, gambled my butt off, and drank like a fish.
That's the great thing about the Singles Club. You know you're going home alone and there's no one to answer to, so behave as badly as you damn well please. Membership has its privileges.
Just a quick note, ma petite chou, to thank you for the gorgeous haircut. As I write this, I'm tossing my chocolately chestnut curls from side to side, admiring the bounce and chi chi of it all.
I will admit that I slightly panicked when I realized it was shorter than usual, but the bounce factor is there and it flatters very nicely. Applause. I will also admit that when you told me about the "cool bleach thing" you'd be doing in lieu of highlights, I envisioned you pouring a cup of Javex onto my head and was tempted to scram. However, the funky effect that your creative splatters made are most SoHo. Well done.
As for other interesting moments, I will also confess I was completely shocked when you straddled my lap while washing my hair, then dug your hands into my scalp and moaned, "Ohhhhh YES!" for the entire salon to hear. Very When Harry met Sally. Because you caught me completely off guard, I don't remember if that was before or after you planted that gigantic kiss on my lips. Was it as good for you as it was for me?
In short, the trip was a complete success in style and comedy value, and you can count on my continued visits.
Sincerely and very cordially,
P.S.: Oli told me that once you kissed her as well. Are you into sisters?
P.P.S: Give me some warning next time, poopsy, and I'll slip you some tongue.
P.P.P.S: Oli, if you're reading this, and it's about bloody time you did, thanks for the gift. I had no idea it was you calling the salon to pay for my entire visit. You're the best sister in the world, and did you ever know that you're my hero? You're everything I would like to be?
P.P.P.P.S: I only quoted that song 'cause I know you can't stand it. Yeah, well, you're a dumbass too. Much love always, darling.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
With a trip to the salon, of course. Tomorrow I am scheduled for a colour, possible highlights, and possible cut. The possibles I will leave in the hands of the master. It is the start of summer, it is just before my birthday, and it is the start (yet again) of a newer, prettier me.
I am elated. I am elated because very soon my hair will at least be a whole new colour, and that is something to get really excited about. I am also ashamed. I am ashamed because I am a slut. For the first time ever, I am cheating on my colourist AND my stylist.
Normally when I leave a salon forever, it is because hired hair person becomes overconfident and starts slacking. Pilar was my last colourist. I knew it was time to part ways when I asked her to please remove my way, way overgrown black lowlights; they were past my temples already. Pilar, exasperated, wailed, "I just don't have *time* for this!" and proceeded to do a crappy job. All she did was dye my roots bright red, still charged full price, and saw me to the door. Hasta Luego, Pilar.
Funny enough, the drama continued at the totally different place I got my hair cut. Stylist Shoji was continuing his good work, but developed the nasty little habit of talking behind my back. I don't know what he was saying or why, but sweetheart, when your salon is covered in mirrors, as salons usually are, do not point, whisper, and laugh at your clients. Backs might be turned, but we can still see you, you know. Sayonara, Shoji-san.
I am decently happy at my new place, more so because colour and cut are under the same roof. Charlie Brown, my colourist, is flaming fire gay and has a tight ass. Every visit, he sticks it out so I can put one hand in his jeans pocket and give it a good squeeze. Tasty. We talk girl talk, and dish outrageous one liners that would make a priest flail holy water. Best to date has been, "Honey, the only virgin on you is your nose, and even that's been picked."
Roxy is my stylist. Foxy Roxy, plenty of moxy, how does your garden grow? With polish and nails, and children's pigtails, and pretty curls all in a row. I adore Roxy. She is short, British, super saucy, and has hair just like mine. Curly girls, I cannot enough stress the importance of having your stylist understand your hair. It's not just about cutting the hair, it's about being the hair. I have had 58341 haircuts in this lifetime. Maybe 20 were passable, but 11 have been totally stellar. All the stellars came from Roxy.
Tomorrow, I am at least temporarily leaving these people. I should be purged, flogged, then made to wear bright yellow spandex. It's just that in this case, I can't resist.
Oh, Lance. Antsy Lancey, you're so schmancy, biting charm and full of fancy. Lance used to work in the same salon as Charlie Brown and Foxy Roxy and is, in fact, Oli's stylist. Oli looks spectacular, always, so when Lance left salon #1 for salon #2, Oli left with him.
Lance is fabulously gay. Intensely so. This explains why he is so well dressed, and has perfectly plucked eyebrows. Lance has never done anything to my head except wash it once, and what a memorable wash that was. Right when I sat down he said to me, "I give the best hair washes ever." I'm thinking, yeah I've heard that before, until he actually got started. He did this fingertip-twirl thing that made my toes curl up, and I almost climaxed right there in my seat. Heavens to Murgatroid.
Best of all, even if he did give shitty haircuts, which he doesn't, he is very easy on the eyes. The first time moms saw Lance, she dug her nails into my forearm and said, "Oh my goodness, oh my GOODNESS, what a terrible shame if he's gay!"
Sorry mom. For us, a shame it is. The boys of the world should be thanking their ruby slippers. If he was straight, though, I'm willing to bet he wouldn't be half as much fun.
And so, Lance, tomorrow I entrust my crowning glory, my glorious mane to your capable hands. Since you are a rookie in this corner and years of bad haircuts have scarred me for life, I have only a small list of requests by which you must abide at all times:
1) No intense choppage.
2) No straightening.
3) No blonde highlights.
And one more rule, just because you love me:
4) Every so often I get to pinch your tight ass.
When eventually I do run into Foxy Roxy and Charlie Brown, when they see that my curls have been treated by other hands than theirs and I am confronted with their wounded faces, I will lie. I will lie like a cheap rug. I will make up something, I will tell it to them, and it will be so convincing they will believe me. I will lie like a professional, and I will keep seeing Lance whenever my hair screams for more.
Wow. I feel so *dirty*.
What do you add to powdered water?
Why doesn't plum sauce taste like plums?
Did Evian know it was Naive before making those labels?
90% of the world's bathroom stalls have the cheapest, single ply toilet paper without the performations, to save money. How can money be saved when we just end up using 20 times more of it to do a clean wipe?
If people use condoms for preventative reasons, why are they sold in the Family Planning section at the drugstore?
Who exactly inspired the instructions on shampoo bottles?
Why do women open their mouths to put on mascara?
Why do singers close their eyes when they sing?
If the Italian flag is red, white and green, why does the World Cup soccer team wear blue and gold uniforms?
If so many things taste like chicken, what does chicken taste like?
If I suck at gardening but have gangrene in my hand, do I have a green thumb?
Birthdays for kids are fun. They are cake, presents and parties. Birthdays for adults, or, birthdays for me, have become more of a pressure-fest. I still totally dig the cake, parties, presents and nowadays, restaurant outings, sangria showers and overall good times, but my birthday has morphed into something else. It is that yearly milestone day for me to have achieved or failed certain goals, or just to be at an overall great place in life.
For example, my 21st birthday was pure suckage. I was fat, really fat, didn't have a boyfriend & wanted one, and didn't know what the hell I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I was depressed all the time, I cried all the time, and was confined to factory work for the summer.
My 26th birthday was absolutely awesome. I'd just graduated with my second degree, was skinny, gorgeous, and had a boyfriend who adored me. I'd just gotten back from an amazing L.A. trip with him, was about to go to Chicago with him and, in two months time, would be moving to Prague for my internship.
Can't get much better than that.
Last year, for my 30th birthday, I was in a rocky relationship, lived in my parent's basement, and hated my job. Getting out of bed every morning was work, pure work, because there was nothing to look forward to.
Thus, to make things easier, I had only one request of myself: 30 would be the year that I let all my issues go. Not necessarily work through them, understand them or ponder them any longer, just let... them... go.
In four days, it will be my 31st birthday. I have no relationship, live in my parent's basement, and hate my job. I haven't even come close to shedding the poundage I've wanted to, have come nowhere near finishing that freaking cookbook, my loft is bare, and my desk is a mess.
There is more, though. Not too long ago, I got back from the trip of a lifetime. My sister is getting married. I have the greatest dog in the whole world and, every morning when I get out of bed, things seem a little lighter.
Not to say I've found my way. I probably won't even have done that when I'm pushing up daisies, but for now, for some silly reason, it's all... good.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
From glen to glen and down the mountain side
The summer's gone and all the roses falling
It's you, it's you must go and I must bide
But come ye back when summer's in the meadow
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow
Its I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Johnny boy, oh Johnny boy I love you so.
I was in the fourth grade when you walked into my life. You were in the third, and so my sister teased me for months that I was "into" younger men.
You had me at the hello that never came. Dusty blonde hair, big blue eyes, and ears that stuck out a mile. I loved those ears. I wanted to pull on them, and once, built up the nerve to do just that. We were on the playground, I ran up to you, gave the left one a good yank, then bolted. In the ridiculous, stupid signals that kids send, I was saying that I liked you.
You didn't get it. Men usually don't. And so our relationship continued in its perfect, most pure form: you ignored me, and I ignored you.
Alas, it just wasn't meant to be. I didn't exactly come to terms with the fact that you weren't into me, so much as I got bored and moved on. Hey, I was a kid. Kids aren't famous for their attention spans. I'd liked you for at least a year by then, and a year to a kid is like, forever. Besides, I figured that when I was in high school, you'd still be in the eighth grade. How uncool is that?
We went our separate ways, and to separate schools. Years later, I bumped into you at the skating rink. I was with my friends, and you were with your girlfriend. She was short, had long, straight hair, and a squeaky voice. Absolutely everything I wasn't, and everything I would never be.
Oh, well. You were never mine, and so I had no right to be jealous. Every man is entitled to his tastes, right?
Every woman is entitled to her tastes, too. Can't deny that you were hot. But you didn't hold a candle to your older brother.
The point of telling what happened then, is to tell myself that it's not so different from what's happening now. That there is such a thing as being against the ropes, and, odds stacked against me, coming back for a win.
If Me the scrawny kid can take on the biggest Goliath in school, then Me the dissatisfied woman can take on a few stupid pounds.
Alright, it's more than a few. But I have to fight this. I have to try. I have to stop making excuses and really try to make that positive change in my life. For that dress, for my happiness, for me.
No pressure. We start slow. One cup of green tea every day; 100 situps, a couple dozen pushups. Up the proteins and vegetables, down on the carbs and fruit. Besides what's in my apples, no sugar of any kind. Eight glasses of water every day, and no eating after 7pm.
It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
For instance, when I was in kindergarten, I had to carry a cushion to every single school assembly, so I wouldn't catch cold from sitting on the gym floor. In later years, kids were so freaked out by the pills in my lunch bag, I had to start going home for the midday meal. They were even more freaked out by the bruises that covered my feet, which were spotted when we were all changing for phys-ed, and even reported me as a possible abuse case to the teacher. Try explaining weekly reflexology appointments to children that didn't even know about the birds and bees yet.
Best of all was the parsley juice phase. Like every parent that is desperate to help their child, moms had read up on this apparent miracle cure, and I had to drink the stuff five times a day. It tasted like burnt grass. Some kid spotted me holding my nose and gagging it down in the bathroom, and told the rest of the class how absolutely grossetating I was.
Yeah, that got me a lot of friends.
Oli was the healthy daughter, the outspoken daughter, the one that never took shit or crap from absolutely anyone. She was also the most protective older sister in the world, and during those horrible times, my guardian angel. When someone called me a name, Oli berated and cursed with such intense vocabulary, she would make them cry. If anyone pushed me around, Oli would rush out, fists blazing, in pursuit of justice for her kid sister. Once, a neighborhood kid pushed me into a mud puddle full of rocks, and my knees were cut open. Oli socked her in the nose so hard, it broke.
I wasn't strong then, not like her. Not nearly. It was years before I learned how to fight my own battles.
Imagine how awful it was for me when Oli left for high school, and I became open territory. Imagine how even more miserable it was when, right then, I developed a stutter. Can you believe it? F-f-f-or a v-v-v-very l-long t-t-t-ime, I t-t-talked l-like th-th-this.
Paula Maria Cecchi, who I'm positive is a wrestler these days, was a year older than me and a lot bigger too. In fact, she was a lot bigger than everyone, thanks to flunking a grade, and her orangutan genes. Paula Maria walked like a truck driver, and wore combat boots and a red bandana around her head. Rambo was her hero.
Paula Maria picked on everyone as a rule, and seeing as I h-h-had a st-t-tutter, I became her special favourite. Lucky me. She knew my sister wasn't around to save me, and for months, took every opportunity to knock my books out of my hands, or trip me so I fell to the ground. She would dance around me while I tried, in vain, to hold back tears, and called me a freaky freak girl. I hated Paula Maria Cecchi.
I started to withdraw, big surprise. Oli and moms noticed and wanted to know what was the matter, but I wasn't talking. I didn't talk much anymore, anyway, but moms kept on me. Mothers have that built-in sonar so they know something is wrong with their kids and, every now and then, know exactly what it takes to make it all better.
I remember I was home eating my lunch, sitting on my hands and blowing bubbles in my glass of milk, through the straw. Moms was drying some dishes when she turned to me and said, "Did you know one of your great uncles stuttered too?"
I stopped with my bubbles, and looked up. He did?
Moms nodded. "Oh yes he did. He stuttered for a very long time. He was a war hero AND a genius."
She smiled. "Really."
Wow. I was so in shock I couldn't eat my lunch. I had a great uncle who was super brave and super smart, and sounded freaky freak just like me. So maybe, just maybe, that could mean I wasn't so freaky freak after all?
That afternoon at recess, Paula Maria attacked from behind, delivering what *could* have been a painful and embarassing slap between my shoulder blades, but I was ready for her. I ducked out of the way, screamed at her to l-l-leave m-me alone, and kicked her in the stomach so hard, she fell over backwards with her skirt over her head.
Paula Maria Cecchi never bothered me again. And not long after, I stopped stuttering.
Now, what was the point of me telling this story?
Monday, June 19, 2006
Oli was flipping through a bridal magazine and saw a stunning, simply cut Pronovias gown, and literally gasped. She held it up and said, "This would be perfect for you. " I saw it, and did my own gasp. Decision made. We based a design on the magnificence of the picture (definitely less lacy), and sent it off to Kathi, designer & seamstress.
This gown is gorgeous. It is stunning. It is a creation like no other. I am completely in love with this dress. I have a slight problem, though.
I am not in love with me in it. If the wedding were tomorrow, I would look like a sausage encased in silver silk.
My weight has not gone down at all since I've come home. In fact. it has gone up a couple of pounds. I'm not surprised, not with that food fest they put us through in Jordan, but I wouldn't change it, either. If they enjoyed taking care of us that way, so be it.
And besides, it could have been a lot worse. It is absolutely nothing to lose two pounds. It's a lot more to lose lots of pounds, which is what I have to do for this dress.
What's the matter with me? I've had opportunity and opportunity, time and again, and yet I do nothing. I don't know if it's the habit, or the laziness, or maybe I just don't want it badly enough.
The model wearing the dress on the website and magazine ads is a stick. She has no hips, no waist, no boobs, toothpick arms, a small head and plenty of hair. She is a human clothes hanger. She completely fits the attitude of this otherwise gorgeous gown that just screams, don't come at me, bitch, until you're a size four.
I don't know if I've made a grand mistake, or set myself up for a challenge I can conquer.
Looking at the calendar, if I really put my mind to it, I can do what it takes to work out, lose some weight and make a healthy life change for myself by the end of September. I could look good in this dress at a size eight. I would look great in a size six. I would be magnificent at a size four.
But then, is this the way I should be looking at things?
Our society is fucked. Half the time you are told, this is your lot and you are done with it. Happiness is self-acceptance. The other half tells you, fight! You can do absolutely anything you set your mind to! Win!
What does this say? That I made a gigantic mistake, and should have another design drawn up for me, something that will flatter *this* body more, before it's too late? Or that I can do anything I set my mind to, and be slim and devastatingly sexy enough by September 23rd to wear this incredible gown with confidence and a smile?
Accept? Fight? Which is the path to happiness?
Or, I could be. I have the option of a second career, and as most second careers go, it starts on the side.
During my time in Jordan, or more specifically, that wonderful day in Jerash, I didn't just see ruins and buy art. I made an acquaintance of the artist, Sinbad, and we struck a deal for me to represent him when I returned home, and pimp his work out to the many galleries available here.
It started something like this: I was absolutely amazed that I'd just picked up an amazing, huge piece of astoundingly good art, and was dumbfounded that it set me back all of 80 dinars. I was dumbfounded because it doesn't work like that in a cosmopolitan place. When you live in a large city and you buy art, good art, be prepared to pay through the nose.
Eighty dinars translated into something like, oh, $120 of my dollars, and I told Sinbad that at home, people buy chalk drawings for over a grand. A lightbulb appeared over my head, the word "Eureka!" appeared over his, and we've kept the relationship going since.
I love art. I especially love bargain art. You'll be tempted to tell me that there is no such thing, but I will seriously disagree. I own two more paintings besides this one; a cubist Romeo & Juliet that Oli bought for me from an Israeli art student walking around with a large portfolio, selling his work from door to door; the other is an abstract chandelier painted on a wooden canvas in purples, browns and whites that I picked up from an elfin blonde girl at an art exhibition. She liked me so much I got the piece for almost nothing, and even though Oli won't tell me how much the Romeo & Juliet cost, she refers to it as "cheap cheap" for such a stunning piece.
Besides, our shiniest icons in history started out as bargains. Have you seen the movie Seabiscuit? It tells you that Charles Howard bought the horse for a "rock bottom" price. Read the book, and it will tell you that was one of the cheapest transactions ever made for a champion. Before the little black dress and Chanel No. 5, Coco started out selling hats. Picasso's first contract was for 150 francs per month. A joke.
We've established that I can sniff out a bargain, but we also know that I haven't gone to art school, and I'm far, far from being an expert in this. Then again, you know I'm always willing to try something new. This should be evident from my ridiculous sojourn into the doggie biscuit world, if nothing else, and so I've been making dozens of phone calls to galleries here and there, making appointments to show off Sinbad's pieces.
Gallery directors are snobs. I always knew this, but I have a whole new respect for it now. Most of them go by the, "don't call us we'll call you" philosophy, and I was just about ready to throw the phone out the window when two galleries showed an interest. I made appointments, packed up all four paintings (mine and the three that Raj & James bought), packed out the pile of printouts Sinbad also sent me, and off I went in the rain.
Note to self and all prospective future art dealers: if you dont have a car or expensive art manuevering equipment, DO NOT take your paintings out in the rain. I'm not so dense to take bare canvases out into the elements and watch the colours distort before my eyes, I mean, I do own one of those plastic, expanding tubes, but I had no idea the piece of shit would leak. Leak! Onto my beautiful art. I'd had half a brain to wrap everything up in tissue and plastic first, so nothing was ruined. But seeing those wet spots gave me 50 coronaries right there.
I sold no art that day, but I got promises of future exhibitions. I think that's something exciting.
I never saw myself as an art dealer, and it certainly wasn't a career option I'd ever considered. Life is full of surprises though, and who knows, this just might turn into something, someday. It's all about the thrill of the treasure hunt, pursuing the ends of the earth to dig in the one special spot that *might* bring up gold. Maybe I found a treasure chest in Jerash that day; maybe I didn't. But one thing that will never change is that I got hanging on my wall is a stunning, jaw-dropping, one-of-a-kind painting that I got for 80 dinars. I'm such a smart girl.
As for Sinbad, he is so excited his work is going overseas, he has taken to calling me "Princess" in his e-mails, and gushing forth about how he knew from the minute we met, that I was a beautiful and special person that would make a paramount difference in his life.
Ten years ago, I would've wilted at the thought of a sexy, foreign artist lavishing me with such compliments, but the beauty of 30+ is, that shit just doesn't work anymore. Less talk, junior, and more painting.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
I was going to go into tremendous detail about why I dislike the subject of this party soooo much, in fact, I went on and on. But then, that made me realize something: this is the kind of person who, if she ever discovers herself to be the subject of any kind of writing whatsoever, will take any and all of it totally out of context, and either a) drag my ass to court, where she will cry and whine, or b) drag my ass onto the Dr. Phil show, where she will cry and whine.
In addition to this, criticism is often the highest form of flattery, no? Can't be caught in that trap, no siree bob. Thus, in short, I will not say one bloody thing.
I am not a lover of children. I love being around them, on my own schedule, and I especially love when their parents take them home. Let them deal with worry and sleepless nights. But I get such a kick from being around those two kids, I can't even begin to tell you. Our times are laughter, cupcakes, shrieking, chasing, swing sets and tea parties. Around them, I can be a kid again, too.
Moreoever, there's a family joke that Maggie, our cousin, gave birth to junior versions of me and Oli. Jinny is obsessed with fashion and chocolate, just like my sister. She has dimples, twinkling eyes, and secret admirers in every pocket of the neighbourhood. Joy has green eyes, crazy curly hair that sticks up in every direction, babbles endlessly, and buries herself in books befitting her age. In fact, the first thing she says every morning she wakes up, and her last request every night is, "book book."
They are, the both of them, full of sass. For instance, last Christmas, little Joy tottered around everyone, pointing her little finger and calling us all by name. Grandma was grandma. Mommy was Mommy. Auntie Oli was Auntie Oli, and I was Sprinkle. Sprinkle is their dog. No matter how much sugar I bribed the kid with, at the end of the day she left for home calling me Sprinkle.
Being the older, Jinny is fully conversational and therefore, can be a lot more, oh, colourful.
Last summer during one of their visits, she was on my bed playing with her Polly Pockets. I don't get the full jist of Polly Pockets, but I know it involves dressing and accessorizing girl dolls. Jinny was attempting to fit on a skirt but was having trouble with it and said, "Stupid skirt won't fit on the stupid butt."
Maggie and Shawn are crazy strict with the language their daughters use. I remember saying "fart" once in front of the girls, and eyes popped out of heads. This is what led to my asking Jinny this question: "Now sweetie, is 'butt' a bad word?"
Jinny looked me dead in the eye and without missing a beat, said "No, but fuck is."
My chin hit the ground and I had to excuse myself to laugh in private. Wouldn't you?
Me: If you ever have an aneurysm again, I'm going to kill you.
James: I second that.
Raj: What the fuck am I supposed to do, these stupid doctors won't let me go home. And look at this hospital!
Me: Yeah, it sucks. Why'd you have to come to this one?
James: Because this hospital is reknown for its Neurology department.
Me: Doesn't change the fact the ceiling tiles are falling down.
Raj: Darling, you and I have to become rich and famous so we can afford only the best and most luxurious care.
James: What about me?
Me: you're a strapping young male, you'll be fine in any situation. Me and Raj are the delicate ones.
Me: So darling, what happened?
Raj: When that bitch walked off with all my money and didn't finish the painting job, I just SNAPPED.
Raj: That bitch gave me an aneurysm!
Me: Easy honey, breathe in, breathe out... I am a hollow reed... trouble blows through me like the wind...
Raj: She still gave me an aneurysm!
Me: Yes, I know she did. But you can't let your temper get the better of you.
Raj: Why not?
Me: Do you really want to stay *here* for even a minute longer than you have to?
(as this is being said, you can hear a patient beyond Raj's curtain coughing up a barrel of phlegm)
Raj: Good point.
I'm a lot harsh on Raj, mostly because he drives me absolutely, interminably, devastatingly insane. A lot of people have driven and continue to drive me insane, but not like Raj. If he catches me at the wrong time and I hear the whining start, my blood pressure hits the roof.
So here's the five cent version. Last year Raj and James did what I had done not too long before, and that was buy their own place off a blueprint. Our town is popping at the seams which in turn sparked a construction boom, so there is no shortage of cool, new condos and townhouses to pick from. It is more sensible these days to own then to rent, however, there's a big catch: buying off the blueprint is much, much cheaper. The minute shovels break ground, prices skyrocket. You may be able to afford what's on the paper, but you definitely can't afford it once it's built. If you want to own, you have to hurry.
Raj hurried. In true Raj fashion, he forged on, full speed ahead, blinders intact, and signed on the dotted line. In true Raj fashion, he flipped out when he saw the final result, and had a series of anxiety attacks.
Raj never falls in love with the place, he falls in love with the vision. Fabulous city condo, barbecues and espresso parties on the huge terrace, which is bedecked with Japanese lanterns. He is the gracious hostess, he is the supermodel, prancing to and fro in Italian hip hugger jeans while we all marvel, "Just how do you do it?"
Reality is not the vision. While the condo is still incredible and glamorous, Raj had no control over the building coming up next door, or the neighbour's terrace that is all of 10 feet away from their own. According to Raj, this has completely spoiled the view. As we should all know, "the view is the most important thing, kookoo."
Well, then. If I operated on this theory, I'd still be holding out for the midtown penthouse with mortgage payments costing 25 cents per year. As it is, I am happy to have what I have.
Now that Raj's view has been spoiled, he does what only he can do best. He calls me to whine, makes James cry, then goes on the prowl for another home. He throws himself into this project with as much ferocity as he does everything else and, what do you know, finds a house he just LOVES, post haste.
Said house is semi-detached, three floors, three bedrooms, and located near a historic castle. But wait! Remember it's not the house Raj is in love with, but the vision. What he sees here is fresh spring mornings on the master balcony, romantic dinners by the fireplace. a hammock in the backyard, and a fluffy white poodle running around. My girls do not have a poodle, and I have banned Raj from even thinking about it. Again, in true Raj fashion, he has heeded my advice, and googled some breeders. I saw a number for one on a sticky note over the desk.
While this vision was all very pretty and sweet, we cannot ignore the fact that the house needed tons of work, and was built on faulty foundations, no less. Raj ignored this completely, purchased the whole shebang, and is now neck deep in the financial quicksand that is home renovations.
Who does he bitch at? James. Who does he bitch at when James can't take it anymore? Me. Who loses it and completely erupts, Mount St. Helens style? Me. Who then whines, puts down every screaming banshee in existence, rants that he is going to commit suicide after killing everyone around him, just because no one in the world understands? Raj. And so on.
In all fairness, some stupid things have happened. The painter girl, formerly a good friend, walked off with two grand after not even nearly finishing the job. The main contractor started to experience "dizziness and nausea," and actually had to be admitted to the hospital, where he still is. Raj even had an aneurysm during this mess, and had to go to the hospital himself.
Anyone, anyone could see that this house is a mistake, that only folk with deep pockets could restore it to its former glory, almost stress-free. It is truly hard to give your friends advice when you know they are walking into disaster, because it is not your money and therefore, not your place. It is even harder not to sucker punch them when you know they are out of control.
At the same time, you can't help but admire the guy for taking on a project so vast, so nerve popping, so completely absurd, for the simplest of reasons: he has a vision to build.
Next on my list of happenings since: the job interview. The entire time in Jordan my cell phone was completely pms-ed, and only one call in two weeks came through. That call was from Jennifer, team supervisor at gigantic movie house in my city. They needed a Closed Captioner, and was I interested? But of course I was, and we arranged to meet the week of my return.
This movie label is housed in a gigantic building in the city, and I guarantee many of you have seen the logo flash across your screen. I dressed in my most professional suit and took the turbo elevator ride up 15 floors, where I was directed to wait in the lounge.
What is your most intimidating experience at a job interview? Here's mine: sitting in an Eames chair and pretending to read the Time magazine in my hands, but instead sweating under the fixed gazes of dozens of Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globe awards lining the walls.
Shucks. Of all days to leave my Oscar at home. Maybe they could loan me one for Worst Performance Under Pressure.
It got better, though. Jennifer came out shortly and led me to her office, where I had what was definitely the most enjoyable job interview of my life. At one point we were even talking shoe stores, and she was showing me pictures of her pets. The boring stuff was first though, like job expectations and what I would be doing. A Closed Captioner watches shows and with a special little computer program, types in everything that is said so it pops up at the bottom of the screen for the deaf and hard of hearing audience.
Oh, the deaf. I wonder how much longer you'll have to suffer me.
There are more perks to the job, Jennifer said, the best one being that after a few months, when the closed captioners get bored of what they're doing, they are asked to write. Would I be interested in this?
I tell you, when I heard this, it took every fibre of my being to keep from drooling and whining while on my knees in the standard begging position, and screaming, "YES!" in the most orgasmic way possible. How could I not be interested in this?
The questions started to get more interesting after this too. Jennifer asked about my most difficult jobs, my most demanding requests and unusual editing experiences. She wanted to know what it had been like for me to work overseas, and my five-year goals.
My five-year goals. Where did I see myself in five years? I was tempted to tell her the truth, which was, "Lady, I'm really on a day-by-day existence for the moment," but knew that would get my name crossed off the potetentials list in a heartbeat. So I made it up as I went along.
Here is what I told her: "First and most important, I'm not going to say it's my goal to get married. If you meet the right person then it is what it is, something wonderful that happens along the way. Marriage isn't something I aspire to."
Jennifer nodded in a positive way, and actually wrote that down on her clipboard. I've never been professionally commended on my marriage attitudes before. Keeping up with my on the fly responses, I then said, "In five years, I'd like to be running my own business, living in my own house, and enjoying the days with my dog."
Here is what she said in response to that: "Perfect."
Here is what I thought in response to that: "It is perfect." I don't know how I thought of that future for myself, but whenever I do think about it now, there is nothing I'd like more.
After the interview, I parted ways with Jennifer and was taken to Leigh, who sat me down in front of a computer and gave me a bevy of tests. Typing speed (I aced), editing (I so aced), grammar (hate grammar so, mostly aced), and spelling (in the bag). The last test was actually close captioning with their program for a half hour, and I didn't see anything difficult about it. Leigh praised me throughout.
I was incredibly positive on the way home. Jennifer had basically told me I'd gotten the job, as did Leigh. I all but walked into the house and toasted my brilliance with champagne.
I didn't get the job. The girl that did get it has a PhD in Political Science, and was the first in company history to score 100% on both the grammar and editing tests.
How can I possibly compete with that?
Woofstock is a weekend-long event that caters to people and their pooches. True to most overdone dog deals, it's all about the people. In most cases, I do think the dogs could care less.
There are lots of vendors, treats, and events, like the Stupid Dog Tricks contest, and a Doggie Fashion Show. Dog fashion shows? If you dress your greyhound up in a cheerleader outfit - I saw this, believe it or not - then in my mind, you have issues. If you dress up your chihuaha in a pink bonnet to match her pink ruffled dress - I also saw this - there should be men in white coats chasing you with butterfly nets.
Then again, who am I to talk since I love to spoil my dog? Bluetooth has a winter jacket. I have justified this in that it's black and very basic, and he's just a little 35lb guy in -35C windchill. Yes, my dog has boots. They are very simple and necessary because, sheesh, I can't make him go bare-pawed in salty, icy streets in that such weather.
Bluetooth also has a Manchester United jersey. I have justified this in that Man U is one of the most badass teams in the league, and a dog wearing their jersey becomes a conversation piece with random sexy British men. This has been proven. The day I find doggie Juventus, Rotterdam and AC Milan jerseys, he's getting those too.
Loulou is super talented, and a firm believer in durable, well made, contemporary garments with clean lines. No beading or feathers here. So far, the Biscuit Dog line is higher end hoodies, pea coats, trench coats and bags, all arranged on mint green, bone-shaped shelves. She set aside one shelf for me in our happy little booth near the entrance gates, where we waited for our onslaught of customers. That never came.
Saturday was mediocre at best. Loulou sold a very small handful of hoodies, and I sold an even smaller handful of treats. But Sunday, that was Loulou's day. Hoodies and pea coats were flying off the shelves, and she was very happy. I was glad too, there's such a shortage of decent dog stuff on the market. Plenty of poop, figuratively speaking; not much quality.
Sunday wasn't exactly bland for me, as it was a carbon copy of the day before. I made the exact amount of money both days which, I can assure you, was nothing to get excited about. The dogs loved the samples and plenty of people were taking the "free" stuff, but not many actually wanted to buy.
This had me stumped. I'd spent days making the healthiest, most unique treats that I could think of, and yet people were walking right on by. Not to stereotype, but if you are a city girl or a gay male, you know that buying for your canine is a half you, half dog experience. You want them to have healthy and tasty things; you also want the experience to be fun and unique for yourself. I buy Blue liver treats because he loves them. I buy him Scooby Snacks because he loves them, and I love saying, "Oh, I just had to hop out to get some Scooby Snacks."
Homemade, organic sweet potato maple treats, strawberry treats and banana treats fit my description of that bill. I suppose there just aren't many people out there like me.
In the middle of all this, I started to feel bad about myself. If you've ever been in that difficult place in life, where you've tried so much and achieved what feels like so little, you know exactly what I mean. You try and you fail, you try and you fail, and while you're always upbeat enough to pick yourself back up again, it gets to the point where you really want something to work. You need something to work.
On the upside, I ran into an aquaintance who runs a super successful dog store. So successful, they are flying in a New York stylist to groom the dogs of the area. How's that for insane? He was willing to take a look at my stuff, and told me not to worry if I achieved nothing from Woofstock. It was the aftermath, he said, that would matter. So, maybe mine and Loulou's 1000 flyers advertising doggie parties (yes, you heard that right) would veer towards some kind of future. It's still still too early to tell.
On another upside, for two consecutive days I was completely molested by puppies. Poodle crosses fell from the sky to cover my face in kisses; a two pound Schnauzer licked my chin, and a handful of Boxer bit my nose.
Puppies always make it better.
Monday, June 12, 2006
These biscuits took me one week. When I was done, I waited a day before starting up again, and ignored every yearning in my body to hold a sacrificial burning for that fucking cookie cutter.
It took me another week to flesh out some new recipes, or as I like to call it, fuck up time. I thought out some funky flavours, I experimented, I baked plenty of screw ups but even more successes, and here's what I eventually came up with: Froo Froos, Dumbos, Georgia Blues, Mac Daddies and Johnny Pumps.
Froo Froos look like crackers, and are flavoured with gruyere cheese and rosemary. I call them that because if your dog is eating gruyere, that makes the both of you pretty damn froo froo. They are actually very tasty; Oli couldn't stop snacking on them.
Dumbo was an elephant, elephants like bananas and peanuts, and so I named the banana, peanut butter, honey & oat mini scones Dumbos. If Oli couldn't stop snacking on Froo Froos, she had no limit with Dumbos. Said they tasted better than granola bars.
Georgia Blues are long, thin, crunchy rectangles flavoured with blueberry and peach. Detoxifying, good for their tetth, and as rated by Oli: "These taste like dog biscuits." Duh.
Mac Daddies were the biggest pain in the ass to make, but the most rewarding in the end. Also mini scones, they are chock full of grated sweet potato and maple syrup, and I must admit, is some of the tastiest dough I've ever had the pleasure to try. It was almost a shame to bake. Yes, I caught Oli trying to sneak several in her pocket.
Last but never least, my signature cookie: strawberry pecan biscuits shaped like Johnny Pumps, or, the term New Yorkers use for fire hydrants. Bluetooth's favourite, and my mother's too. Needless to say, everything I made was people tested.
It took another week to make these (hundreds and hundreds) of biscuits, which in the end were all packed into small, cellophane bags, tied with a metallic red twisty and a tag with an animated fire hydrant on it.
The hydrant the logo of my company. Not so much my fledgling company; very much my fledgling attempt.
When I first got Bluetooth, I was like any eager mother making sure her baby had the best bed, toys, clothing, schools, and food. I'm not a dress your dog sort of girl, but winters can be harsh for a little 35lb guy, and I'm a firm believer that every puppy should go to obedience school. The food part I threw myself into, and Bluetooth started out with rice, chicken, sweet potatoes and carrots. Thanks to my mother, anyway, since she spoiled him rotten. But to this day, I get him the finest chow money can buy.
Baking his treats started out by accident. Due to the sweet potato and chicken stews made just for him, Bluetooth is a picky drama queen. Hey, I would be too. Imagine having your own special food made from the best ingredients, and then having some godforsaken kibble shoved in front of your nose, first ingredient, tired cornmeal? It doesn't work. This shitpicking, of course, extended to his treats. He'll either take the most expensive stuff, or nothing at all. The amount of money I've spent on trial treats probably tops my cashflow towards hair and beauty products. As you can see, I love my dog beyond any measure of sanity.
Around the time Bluetooth was turning his nose away from positively everything, I tracked down some dog cookbooks. Boring, lacking, spice-less, the most of them, so I went out on a limb. If you like to bake and can read between the lines, homemade dog treats aren't that much different from people treats. Go through the dog toxicology lists first (i.e., chocolate, onions and grapes = BAD!), then just leave out the salt, substitute butter with oil, and sugar with honey or molasses. Soft treats are fine, but if you want them nice and crunchy, just do a double bake. Bake the treats normally first, then after they've completely cooled, put them back in the oven at 300F for a half hour or so, depending on the thickness. Easy stuff.
Needless to say, anything I made with beef or cheese he gobbled down like a greedy little monkey, then came back begging for more. Happy that I'd done my baby justice, I baked treats in such large batches that even all my friends' dogs had the pleasure of sampling goods from the baker's oven.
This is where my friend Loulou comes in. On the outside, she is everything I am not: short, straight blonde hair, and the body of a lingerie model. On the inside, we are the same person: sassy, outspoken, entrepreneurs born in a family business, and intense love for our pets. In Loulou's case, the object of her affection is Petey, a tiny little Jack Russell who wolfs down my treats, then licks my ear in thanks.
Loulou and I clicked a few years back while working at the same store in a very chi-chi part of town. Later, we toyed with the idea of starting some kind of canine-related business. Loulou has a background in fashion design and does her own sewing, I bake and come up with ideas at a million miles per minute. We whipped up a dozen different scenarios before settling on this one: just this past weekend, Loulou rented out a booth at Woofstock, doggie festival extraordinaire, to show off some flash little peacoats and hoodies. She remembered some cheesy biscuits I'd whipped up awhile back, and asked me to provide a bunch of itty bitty ones as a promo piece. And then, in the middle of my baking frenzy, she also suggested that maybe I should have my own little table of delicacies to sell.
Life takes you in strange directions. Student turned Journalist turned Writer turned Typist turned Dog Baker. Which of these things just doesn't belong? Everytime I mixed up ingredients or took out a paw-shaped cookie cutter, I reminded myself that liking something doesn't mean you'll do it forever. I didn't start out as a canine pastry chef, and lord knows I won't end as one.
But then again, I do love to try new things. So for now... why not?
Thursday, June 08, 2006
I have been back for six weeks now, maybe a little less, and in that time I have gone through a 10 day jetlagged haze, applied for several jobs, went on one job interview, accompanied my sister to a bridal gown fitting, chosen my maid of honour dress, helped out James & Raj with the house renovation gone wrong, been invited to a huge birthday party, been invited to a bridal shower I don't want to go to, had meetings at two art galleries, and baked upwards of 2500 doggie biscuits.
Which would you like to hear about first?
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Schipol airport is great for shopping, so we did more of it. James got cheese, sausage and chocolate, and I got some chocolate. And a T-shirt for Corey. Then we went through our gate, and spent a healthy 15 minutes watching the sexy window washer at work. Tall, dark and handsome. His biceps bulged out of his short sleeves, and you could see the outline of a six pack. Glistening with just the right amount of sweat, too. Sinful.
Two gate changes and a long marathon across the airport later, we are just about ready to board the jumbo jet that will fly us home. Her majesty the flight attendant, queen of the known universe, has different ideas and tells everyone off, including me. Seems I'd put a toe out of line before she'd given permission to board the plane. Alrighty, then. Her Royal Highness declared all needing assistance should board the plane first - fair enough - and an elderly couple came forward for that privilege.
They were roughly in their seventies, and walked at a snail's pace. He had a cane, she held to the railing for support. Ten minutes later they'd barely turned the corner, when queen stewardess let *everyone* on board at the same time.
Until my dying day, I'll never forget the look on that man's face when he turned around and saw hundreds of people rushing towards the plane hatch, ready to mow him down. He abandoned his wife, who yelled out for his help, and did this wobble-run towards the door. He made it in okay, but was plenty grumpy. I know the wife wasn't trampled, I didn't hear any screaming, so I'll just assume she made it onboard in one piece.
The flight back was positively fabulous, especially because we had emergency row seating. All the leg room in the world, more than enough to stretch out. The food was even terrific, some kind of curried chicken and rice dish, and the boy sitting next to James was positively divine. Beautiful, gorgeous man who probably thought I was married, just like everyone else did, so nothing came of it. James and I played Scrabble again, and I completely slaughtered him. Vindication!
There was a bit of admitting, too. At one point James turned to me and said, "You know, I thought we'd be at each others' throats for two weeks."
Maybe if this had come from anyone else I would have been surprised or insulted, but in this case I wasn't at all. Whenever Raj talks to me about James it's usually after they've had a fight, so I get to hear about a lot of his faults. Magnified in the most dramatic of ways. Knowing Raj, I can only assume James has been hearing about me on the same levels. So I did a little admitting of my own: "Me too."
Plane landed, out to customs where I always manage to sweat buckets from pure fear, waited a whole hour for all our luggage to come out in one piece, and then out into the terminal where Oli was waiting for us. She hugged James first and then came over to me, and did a small double take. "Well, look at you!"
"Look at me what?"
Oli threw off her little half-smile, which is always there when she's doing the observing and thinking thing. "You're... radiating."
"But I haven't been swimming in toxic waste."
"Oh shut up. You know I hate the word 'glowing', and I don't know what else to use. You're radiating."
Oli kills me. "Darling sister, what the heck am I radiating?"
"Happiness. Goodness. Lots of stuff. Had an amazing time, huh?"
I didn't give her a half smile, I gave her a huge grin. "Incredible time. I'll tell you all about it later."
And that, in an elephant's nutshell, was my trip.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
The European mentality is a lot more relaxed than ours. They get to it when they get to it. Europeans open stores later, close earlier, have at least five weeks vacation per year, and take time out for naps. Whereas in any major city of the Western Hemisphere, it's unheard of to not have something open at all hours of the day or night.
Nothing, but nothing is open at 6am in Amsterdam, which is when we rolled back to the Leidsestraat. Not a convenience store, breakfast place, or even a Mickey D's which reduced us to wandering around with our carry ons like total morons. It's not that we're hungry, or even thirsty, but it would be really nice to use a bathroom right now.
Remember the All Bran? Almost a week later, and it keeps coming. James called it "The Great Purge," and I couldn't agree more. In my case, combine that with the Airport Neurosis, and Houston, we have a *major* problem. So between the hours of 6-7am, James and I wandered downtown Amsterdam rolling our bags to and fro, frantically looking for open establishments, and squeezing our asscheeks as tightly as possible.
Seven sharp, a very hungover looking waitress opened up a pancake house nearby, and we took ourselves and our luggage inside. James went to the bathroom first, came back out with a sour look on his face and declared it "unfit." I took his word for it. Since nothing else was open and there was nothing to do anyway, we ordered some breakfast.
More comparisons. When you order pancakes in North America, you usually get a bunch of small ones in a stack, or a handful of medium-sized ones in a pile. In the Netherlands, you get one huge, gigantic pancake that overlaps the dinner plate they serve it on, with your choice of toppings.
Holland is expensive. The last time I was here they were on Guilders, which wasn't so bad, but the Euro is crippling. I considered the pancake with strawberries, but no way I was paying, translated into my currency, over $12 for one pancake. Even if this thing was bigger than my pants, there are some things in life that just shouldn't be expensive.
I got a plain pancake. James got a plain pancake. We will each have one topping, and that is Stroop. That's Dutch for syrup. Stroop is way thicker and way sweeter than anything on our shelves back home, and we slathered it on with a vengeance before digging in. Five minutes later, I scraped most of it off with a bread knife. Too bloody sweet. Whatever was left I washed down with a double shot latte.
We learned very quickly that breakfast was a big mistake. All Bran flashbacks, Airport Neurosis, gigantic greasy pancake, shaky caffeine hands and stroop is not a happy balance. If we were squeezing our asscheeks before out of necessity, now it was pure desperation. Jumpy James and Manifested Me stormed around quick as can be until we found a lone coffee shop with a WC the size of a broom closet.
We took turns and after a good hour or so, felt better. And then we had more coffee. Didn't want the waitress to think we were loitering for free toilet credits.
Left the cafe around the time the shops opened up, oh glory be, so I went on a mad fashion dash for Oli. My carry on was almost empty for this, and boy, did my sister benefit. I got her a leather trench coat, a brown linen jacket, and an orange purse. Being a professional shopper on a mission, I did this all in seven minutes.
And, before we went back to the airport, a special present for me: the Lomo Holga camera. Bargain Russian photographic innovation in my grubby little hands. All mine!
Monday, June 05, 2006
Like I said, James had the window seat, I had the middle, and Mass was on the aisle. Right after takeoff I pulled out Scrabble, and it wasn't long before I noticed the hairy little man on my right breathing down my neck. Feeling the peer pressure, I invited him to play.
Mass wasn't the most intelligent person in the world. Not to toot my own horn, but even I know that it's not spelled Kat. James and I hurried things up to get him out of our hair, ate our meal then got as comfy as possible for some shut eye. James leaned up against the window, and I rested my head on his shoulder. I did manage to doze off, and when I did wake up, Mass' head was on my shoulder.
Umm, okay. Perfect stranger whose ass I'd just kicked in Scrabble has decided he wants to sleep on my shoulder. Without my permission. This is definitely not okay with me, and I gently ease him back into his seat so as not to wake him up. My head goes back on James' shoulder, and I close my eyes again. When I open my eyes, Mass' head is back on my shoulder, he's all snuggled up against me, and his hand is completely spread-eagled over the right half of my chest.
Oh, hell no. This does not work with me one fucking bit. I pick up shithead's hand, toss it back into his lap, and shook James awake. His cheek was red from leaning against the window, and his hair was in his eyes.
I snorted. I do that a lot. Then I gestured to still sleeping Mass. "He felt me up!"
Wasting no time at all, James reached over me to tap him on the shoulder. Instead of waking up, Mass made a huge production by snoring and turning around to face the aisle, apparently still in a deep sleep. Uh huh. James poked again. Nada.
You have to know how to pick your battles. What Mass had done was totally wrong and I was totally disgusted, but to the rest of the world that hadn't experienced it, I would be wrong. Why? Dude was asleep. Of course I knew he was faking, James knew too, but it looked pretty real to everyone else. Looks are all that matter sometimes. If we woke him up to tell him off, it would look like we were making mountains out of molehills just because a man in a deep sleep had accidentally put his hand where he shouldn't have. Mass would be the victim, and I would be the paranoid freak.
Sometimes, you just have to let things slide. And so on the grander scale of things, I let this slide. But not completely.
It's great to have a big, bad James. He's huge to the average person, but to a little person, he's a mastodon. He doesn't say much, which is brilliant, meaning he's all the more intimidating. Mass might've gotten away with first base, but he knew he screwed up. He also knew James had over a foot and 100lbs on him, and he stayed "asleep" for the rest of the flight. He didn't even crack an eyelid until the plane had come to a complete stop, and then he got up, collected his things, and stormed right on out.
He sure walked fast for a guy with a limp.
But right now I'm in Queen Alia with super horny James, whose lover has fondled him the entire drive here. To answer your questions, yes, I was staring out the backseat window for the whole drive. James and I have said goodbye to Raj, who will be coming home all of two hours after us, via London, and have done the airport procedure thing. We have checked in, had our luggage weighed, gotten our seats and gone through security.
Security for James was going through the beep thing, then being scanned up and down by a portly gentleman. Security for me was the portly gentleman pointing me to a large, metal-like tent about 50 feet away where, once I passed through the heavy tarp curtain, a woman veiled from head to toe probed me with her giant magnifying glass. I was okayed to leave, and that I did that oh so quick. Didn't need to see Stage Two of the process.
With some time left to kill, James and I did what all people do when they are bored in the airport while waiting for their flight: we shopped. Queen Alia actually has a pretty decent shopping section, with a lot of imported everything from everywhere. James fell so in love with a blue Energie shoulder bag, or as he calls it, a "Murse" (men's purse), I got it for him as his early birthday present. I fell in love with plenty of things, but only bought breath mints. I'd had a silver slaughter that morning, after all.
Almost time for our flight, but we're still bored. We had to occupy ourselves, and so James choked on a mint while I plastered my greedy face against the frosted glass of the Crown Class lounge. Sheikhs, gold money clips, Eames chairs. No naugahyde here.
When it was finally time to board, I got redirected to yet another metal tent, heavy tarp curtain, and ninja security lady #2 who probed me with an even bigger magnifying glass. What the hell? With all these checks and probing, I was seriously happy I hadn't worn my Punk Royal pants with the logo across the bum for the return trip home. I passed the test and she waved me out, but my luggage was another story. Up onto the metal table went my carry on where smiling, mustachioed guard unzipped, poked through and then recoiled in horror. He'd found the most sickening thing, the most dastardly contraband ever found in any suitcase, anywhere: Travel Scrabble.
That's right, I got to hold up an entire plane full of people because of Travel Scrabble. Dude didn't stop at taking it out either, he had to open up the whole bloody thing and even go through every tile. Individually. There are 100 tiles in a Scrabble bag, and in the travel version, they're as big as Tic Tacs. After fucker was done with Travel Scrabble, he took out the next illegal thing: the holy water from the Jordan River. Apparently, it had the same size and shape as a pipe bomb, didn't you know? He even uncapped it to have a sniff.
Ordeal done, I took my bag back, swore at the guard in a language he couldn't possibly understand, and stormed onto the plane with James. We found our places, I stuffed James into the window seat, took the middle, and prepared for takeoff.
This is total cheese, but whenever I'm sitting in a plane on an airport runway about to take off, I think about the place I'm about to leave. I think about everything I've done and experienced, and, if it applies, the difference it has made in me and my life.
Needless to say, it usually applies. And so, here was my Jordan prayer:
Raj, thanks for the invite.
Myself, to save enough for the ticket.
Mummy and Papi, your hospitality. I'll never forget you.
James, you're one of a kind.
Marco, if I was a goddess for only an hour, it was because of you.
Zuzu, march on.
Jerash, peace of mind.
Ocean waters, my heart.
The desert, my soul.
Amman, I'll be back. But in the meantime,
I'm ready to go home now.
Takeoff was very smooth. We got a meal shortly after, I'll assume it was eggs, and after dozing off for a couple of minutes, I woke up with a man's hand on my boob.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
What James wanted was a wedding seal. Imagine a great big ring, I mean huge, two to three inches in length alone, with a large, flat stone on top. On that stone are Arabic carvings to symbolize one's marriage. It's what you stamp the documents with after you are declared Husband and Wife.
The wedding may have been put on hold, but it'll happen one day. James wants to get something special for his little monkey and that magical moment, and so he bought a pair of matching seals. It's going to be a secret from Raj until the moment he and James are declared Husband and Husband.
And what was I to do, while James was busy in that shop, picking out mementos for his beloved? Well, the proprietors, a brother and sister from Jerusalem, were so happy with my purchases yesterday they brought an entire bag of new goodies for me to look at. Including a decades old antique Persian wrist cuff, a think, chain link bracelet with dragon heads on each end, and a ring set with an orange stone. Of *course* it had to all come home with me. Cha ching!
Quick cab ride back (which we were able to secure ourselves, we were so proud), and we were back at the apartment. Everyone wanted to know where we'd been, but we wouldn't tell. Raj just gave us a *look* and said, "You two are up to something." After that the whole family gave us a *look*. They probably thought we were playing dirty games in the bushes.
Lunch, our last one here for at least awhile, was more special this time because the whole family came to bid us farewell. Not just that, but they brought us gifts. Can you imagine? You visit the most wonderful people who pour their hearts out to you, give you everything within their power, treat you like royalty, and they give you presents on top of it all. I was beyond words. Nadia and her family gave me a necklace, Laila's family got me antique earrings and a beaded belt. Mummy and Papi gave me a crocheted blue cushion that I'm only supposed to put out once I'm good and married.
We had a couple of hours left to kill, so Raj's youngest nephew coerced James and I to his lair to play video games. "World of Warcraft" for James, and "Need for Speed" for me. I love racing games and I love speed, and what a fantastic way to let go of everything. I really think some imaginary illegal street racing and crashing some pimped up rides loosened me up, and my Airport Neurosis. Note to Self: purchase a portable PSP. Even if all it does is occupy me at the terminals, it occupies just enough to let go of the freak in me.
We have to get back to the apartment, but there's just enough time to for some final goodbyes. Mummy and Papi cried when we left. So did I. They'd treated me like their very own; how could I not be sad? We promised to take excellent care of Raj, and we promised to come back. We also twisted their arms to come and see us during the summer.
Raj's nephews, brother and sisters said goodbye, and Nadia gave us what was probably the best compliment of all: "You two, you're different. You're not like foreigners, you're more like... us."
Thank you, darling. We consider you, all of you, our family too.
With that it was back to the apartment, and some last minute packing. Not much to be done, since we'd worked so hard at it the night before. James' suitcases weighed a ton, and so did Raj's, who would be taking a different flight home a few hours after us. You know you're a girl traveling with a gay couple when, of the three, your suitcases are the lightest.
10:30pm-ish, we rolled our way back out and to Queen Alia airport. But not before a goodbye toast: we had some breadsticks and cheese from the jar.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
Someone else is singing a song, and that's James. James is singing a song not only about me, but a song that refers to me as Satan. Here's how it started: James said something to me after I hauled out of bed and made my first hallway appearance of the day, I don't remember what exactly, but I do remember that I answered back in the most snappish way possible.
SHE'S BACK! James remembers very well what I was like on the flight here, and he now knows how totally titchy I am the 24 hours before I set foot on a plane. In short, James has been a victim of Airport Neurosis. Once you are a victim of Airport Neurosis, you make sure to know ALL the telltale signs so you can a) get the hell out of my way, or b) run like mad.
Well, we were both in the same space, so there was no running, or even getting out of the way. James chose to sing, and better yet, was gracious enough just this morning to provide me with full lyrics. Sing the following to the tune of, "It's Beginning to look a lot like Christmas":
She's beginning to seem a lot like Satan
Every time she flies
Just a look in her flaming eyes
And toddlers start to cry
Get in her way and kiss your ass goodbye
She's beginning to seem a lot like Satan
As boarding time grows near
And the freakiest sight to see
Is the harpy-like lady
Screaming in your ear
Clutching my ticket I'm dragged through the thicket of passengers, feeling remorse
Hear objectifications on failed vacations to Minsk and the Azores
While stewards and pilots can hardly wait for her wine to run its course
She's beginning to seem a lot like Satan
Every time she flies
Would much rather be in Hell
Or far too drunk to tell
Pitying looks from all the other guys
She's beginning to seem a lot like Satan
On a jet powered foray
For lucidity it's a must
To have a misplaced sense of trust
That her fare's one way.
Poor James. I made a mental note to be nicer to the guy this time around, after all, he's been my husband and table scraps buddy for almost two weeks now.
Our first stop this morning is to Mummy's and Papi's apartment once again, but we barely set foot inside when Papi ushers James and I right back out the door. It's a gourmet kind of morning and Papi, that connoisseur, is taking us out for bread. Not just any bread though, but specially baked rounds with various toppings like egg, salami and cheese, wild thyme, etc. I get one and James gets one but magically, when we get back to the apartment, there are a half dozen in the bag. Note to Self: learn more Arabic for the next time around, I just get too easily swindled.
This bread, along with a bunch of other delicacies on the table, is our breakfast. Once we have stuffed ourselves to the gills and declared breakfast to be over, we are informed that lunch is in two hours. Never fear, James and I have figured out a creative way to work off those calories and best of all, our first sojourn in this city without Raj.
We are going to have SEX! Nah, just kidding. He's bent and I'm straight, it could never work. But we are going downtown, us whitefolk, and we're doing it by ourselves. We have a quick mission to accomplish, and one that Raj must know absolutely nothing about.