Friday, August 31, 2007

Furniture delivery

Last night Laura and I wound up at Busboys & Poets. We'd started with drinks at Indebleu, moved on to Zengo for appetizers. And then we decided to walk up to U Street.

I swear, Laura has no fear. She walks all over DC at night by herself. We walked up 11th from downtown to U Street.

I've been mugged - only once, and years ago - and so am a complete chicken walking in the dark. I was so twitchy the whole way. I put on my commuting shoes, stuck my platforms in my bag, and make her walk really, really fast. We practically sprinted.

We got up to U Street and were trying to decide where to go. Somewhere easy and comfortable and not stressful and where we wouldn't have to talk to random men. Because, as I have mentioned before, guys trip over themselves to give her their cards.

She denies this but I swear it's true. I've seen it happen a number of times. Hell, I've been tripped over a number of times.

In any case, we wound up on a super comfy couch at Busboys. Laura was starting to get cranky, so I insisted we get some chocolate into our systems and ordered cake. Good call.

There was a couple sitting on a couch near us. If I'd been good at geometry I'd know the term. Like, if our couches made an L, they'd be one side of the L and we'd be the other. Not facing us but in very close proximity.

Laura and I were turned on our couch facing each other; I had my back to them. In other words, Laura was facing them. This only matters because basically, talking to me means she is also talking at them.

She has today off. And so at some point we were tired, and eating cake and lounging, winding down from the night and just brain turned off silly. So she begins describing her Friday in contrast to my upcoming one.

She began, "I'll probably roll out of bed without my alarm. But still early. Probably about when you're putting on your work clothes and hurrying out the door."

"I love how they put fresh strawberries on the cake, don't you?"

Not deterred, she continues, "Yeah, when you're walking to work, I'll be lounging in my garden. And just as you're getting to the office, I'll just be stretching," and with this she makes a big, lazy stretching motion.

I look away.

"I'll be wondering if I want to make another pot of coffee or go for a run. . ."

I pretend to brush a stray hair off my forehead. With my middle finger.

"And then I'll probably take a long, leisurely shower."

I remark on how delicious my iced chai is. Yum!

She ignores. "Hmm. After that. Ahhhh. I might make myself a nice, relaxing cup of chamomile tea. Maybe I'll flip through a magazine. That's probably what I'll be doing as you sit at your computer.""

"This chocolate cake is amazing. You should really have more."

She continues, "And between 11:00 and 1:00 I'll just hang out and wait for the furniture delivery men.

I pretend to be completely engrossed in the chocolate cake. "I love this cake."

"Yeah. And if one of them is hot, I'll probably just go ahead and have sex with him."

This makes me giggle. "I don't see why not. You have the whole day off."

And then the look on Laura's fact turns to mild horror. She whispers, "Those people just heard me say that! And they think I'm serious!"

I start to laugh. Then she does. We are both laughing so hard we have tears running down our faces.

Because what do you then say? You can't really wave and get their attention just to say, "Heh heh! And heh! Just kidding! Not really going to have sex with the furniture delivery guys! No sirreee! Just making idiotic conversation with my friend over here! Heh!"

I was so glad that this time it was her and not me.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The garden state of did I actually say that? Or, how to turn all of New Jersey into a suburb of New York

I'm slightly hesitant to post this so soon after Miss South Carolina. But I trust you know that the differences between the two of us are far vaster than skin deep.

I know about the maps. I just sometimes don't think about the individual states.

My date the other night - the one whose name I couldn't remember - is originally from New Jersey. (And Dagny, apologies in advance for what I'm about to describe.)

We spent a little time talking about New Jersey. The fact that I don't know much about it. That my sister-in-law is from there but I have no idea precisely where. That the accent is interesting but she doesn't have one. That his is very slight. That I stopped there once on my way to NY and had the best cheese fries ever on the Jersey shore.

In other words, all positive, and not particularly substantive. I never deliberately denigrate the place anyone calls home. Just occasionally accidentally.

As I was eating my seaweed salad, he was talking about missing the amazing produce that he grew up with. Fantastic corn, incredible tomatoes, all kinds of fruits and vegetables. He was, in fact, rhapsodizing about the tomatoes.

"Huh. They grow all those things in New Jersey? Really?"

Agriculture, it turns out is huge in New Jersey. Did I not know this? No.

"What," he wanted to know, "do you think most people in the state do for work?"

Goodness. I'd never given it any thought.

"Well, I suppose I thought they commuted to New York."

"The entire state commutes to New York?"

Hmm. I know I'd commute to New York.

"You do know it's called the Garden State?"


"Why do you think they call it the Garden State?"

That bit I'd actually thought about before. Yes, I'm properly cringing as I write the next line.

"People always talk about how beautiful it is. So I always assumed New Jersey was full of lush green lawns."

"Nice lawns? You thought it was an entire state of nice lawns?"

Well, in a word, yes.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Proof that the US American education system rocks

If schadenfreude is your thing, you'll love this video. It's really painful.

Because my guy friends are who they are, their email conversation around this was not, "I'd do her!" but rather whether she's a Republican or a Democrat. Honestly.

You know how sometimes you get into a conversation about something that has nothing to do with reality? But you take a stance on something, and then when you're pushed, you stand firm. You will, in fact, argue it to the bitter, bitter end. Just because you believe you are right. Even if it makes no sense. And has nothing to do with anything.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about. And it's related to the video above.

Yesterday I had a conversation with Maricel about an argument she'd had with her boyfriend. About their possibly one day sometime far far in the future children.

She'd asked if he'd mind if his daughter were in beauty pageants. He's fairly conservative, and she was certain he'd say no.

But he said he'd be fine with it. "Absolutely! Sounds great!"

"So you'd be fine with her parading around in little bathing suits and high heels on stage. But she wouldn't be allowed to date."

"Exactly. As long as there were no touching, she could wear whatever she had to. And then if she won the pageants, she'd be earning lots of money!"

So Maricel said that she'd have to finish high school before she started entering pageants. And she could do pageants while she went to college.

He said that if she were winning loads of cash, he wouldn't care if she went to college or not.

Maricel was incensed. She wasn't about to raise a daughter with a huge emphasis on looks and none on brains. Their daughter would have to go to college!

This turned into a pretty heated argument. About a fictional daughter.

In a separate conversation, he asked if it would be OK with her if their son ordered a mail-order bride.

No way. Maricel is Filipina. And all she could picture was her son winding up with a money-grubbing, green-card seeking trollop. And there was no way in Hell she would let this happen to her son.

"Why not?" He asked. "What if he'd exhausted all his other opportunities for love?"

So she argued that he actually believes in the sanctity of marriage, and does he really believe one can find love and be happy by ordering someone from

I'm summarizing both fights, of course. They both went on and were long and drawn-out arguments.

She told me both stories back to back yesterday, although it turns out they were conversations separated by days. But they were together in my mind.

And so I had to point out the ridiculousness of the contrast between their fictional children.

"So according to Mike, your daughter is going to be this gorgeous, amazing creature who wins Miss USA. And your son is going to have to resort to buying a wife."

"Exactly. Our daughter is going to be fantastic. And our son is going to be a complete loser."

"Huh. Sorry about that."

And, she continued, "I don't want to have a stupid daughter who thinks only looks are important and people need to have more maps."

"She won't be stupid. You're both bright. She might be really boring, since she'll probably spend all her time with stupid people with the inability to string a coherent sentence together. But she'll be smart."

This was scant consolation to her.

And then I gave it a little more thought.

And asked, "But what I don't get is, if you're daughter is constantly surrounded by all these beautiful, albeit vapid, women, why can't she just set your son up with one of them? How come he has to buy a wife?"

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

It might be a sign to stop dating so much

I wonder if I'm getting too cavalier about the dating thing.

Once I get into this pattern of going on a lot of dates, I get incredibly blasé. I never get nervous. While I do generally try to look presentable and remember to put on makeup, I don't even necessarily bathe beforehand anymore.

I know that I used to get excited about dates. I definitely used to perform my ablutions, and fret about my outfit, and wear cute underwear. Not because I was planning to get naked, but you know, because it was kind of special.

Where am I going with this? I had a date last night. And as I was walking over to meet him, I realized I couldn't remember his name. Seriously. Steve? Dave? John? I was pretty certain it was along those lines but none of them. I was hoping it would come to me. It never did.

Laura happened to text as I was walking, and I texted back with my panic. She said, "Try Asmodious." Helpful. Thanks.

Fortunately, I could just walk up and say, "Hi! Nice to see you!" And all was fine.

But still. I felt like a boor. I was raised better than this.

We met at Russia House. He ordered pierogies because I declined a vodka cocktail, even though one of the best things I have ever had is their horseradish vodka, because I have finally learned that I can't quaff liquor pre-dinner without disastrous consequences. I even told him about drunk-dialing my mother as an example of this. I left out the butternose incident of the same evening.

I always feel slightly dangerous having cocktails at Russia House. As if I might be involved in some nefarious activity. I think this is why I like the place. Me, girl next door blonde bob first born rule-follower. When do I ever feel dangerous?

It was a gorgeous night, so we headed to Perry's roofdeck for sushi. You know August has practically emptied out DC when it's a nice evening and easy to get a seat on the roof of Perry's.

It was fun, and during dinner I forgot that I didn't know his name. He's very bright and interesting and fairly intense. All of which I like. He started a story involving him being told repeatedly that people get tired just watching him, because he moves and talks really fast and never sits still.

The point? "I've never met anyone who moves or talks faster than I do. Except you." He meant this as a compliment.

It's true. My default is fast. People always think I'm late or in a hurry, but the truth is, walking slowly bores me. It takes more physical (and emotional) effort for me to stroll than to walk quickly.

And I genuinely do talk ridiculously fast. My dad is always telling me he can't understand my phone messages. And I need to slow! down! But it takes a lot of concentration to talk slowly.

A couple years ago a friend of mine and I were out with a group of people, including a guy I was dating. He said he looked across the room at us, and we were talking and gesticulating so fast he was mesmerized.

He said, "You never once broke eye contact. And the rate of information exchange was just dizzying."

So. The eating of sushi hampers my rate of information exchange immensely. I'm certain I'm not remotely elegant as I sit there chewing a mouth over-full of rice and fish. But apparently I continue to gesticulate as rapidly as I would otherwise. Charming.

But back to my original point. I came home and looked at my last email from The Date. You know, so I could figure out his name.

Argh! What kind of churl gets treated to a nice dinner by a man whose name she cannot remember?

I do think it might be a sign.

Monday, August 27, 2007

I delete you

I cull contacts from my phone regularly.

If we haven't talked in a while, and I don't have a particular inclination to call, I'll probably delete the person. If I met you ages ago and we thought it was a great idea to exchange numbers, and then neither of us ever called, I'll delete. Even though you can jump to a particular letter, I just don't like having to scroll through too many names.

And I delete men from my phone with alarming alacrity.

You piss me off. Delete. You hurt my feelings. Delete. You disappoint me. Delete.

A good friend of mine has always said this is foolish, that I want to be able to know who is calling. She, in fact, was with me when I got a call from a number I'd just deleted. A guy I'd lightly dated for a couple months. Things got weird, and then it ended.

And I sent a very nice email wrapping things up. Goodbye. And then I deleted him from my phone. Goodbye.

And then, very next morning, as I was leaving Tryst I got a call from a 202 number. I showed it to her. "Anyone we know?" She shook her head.

I answered with a, "Hello?" in the tone of voice you use when you have no idea who is calling. And then I looked at her and said, "Oh, hi! Greg!" She nearly fell over laughing. With an "I told you so!" look.

I've also had to put guys back in - multiple times, in fact. First enough calls from the cell phone and I realize it behooves me to be able to identify the number. So I program that back in. And then the office phone. And then home phone. And I'm back to having all their numbers.

Which may, down the road, get deleted in one fell swoop. Delete contact? Absolutely.

It's obviously not an act of ambivalence. If you didn't care if you saw their name as you scroll through numbers, you'd just leave it. It's odd that it feels like a small victory, in some way. Perhaps it's slightly malicious. Or petulant. Or something in that direction. I realize this.

But still, there's something very satisfying about it. Delete contact? Yes. You might not know it, but I'm done. Goodbye.

Rational? Not necessarily. But how often is that one of my grand claims?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

If you say it, you have to do it

So if you say you are going to call me tomorrow - tomorrow being today, Sunday, which, at the moment, we are almost at the end of, and you don't. . .Then I have to think either: 1. You're not that into me; and/or 2. You're unreliable; and/or 3. Actually, those are the only options I can think of. Unless you got hit by a bus. Which I bet you didn't.

So, when you contact me later in the week, which I imagine you'll do, because we get along really well and your friends like me. And why would you introduce me to your friends immediately if you didn't like me? And why do I actually care, when I barely know you? And what's the point? I don't know.

I mean, I sort of know. And I sort of don't. Because my friend had a rooftop party which I went to this evening. And it was fun. And I spent a good portion of the evening flirting. And maybe drinking these crazy infused vodkas that he'd experimented with. Note: mango - excellent. Watermelon - refreshing. Lavender - much like drinking the sachet in your grandmother's closet. Best avoided.

But anyway, I assumed that when I checked my messages on my way out, there would be one. And there was not.

So at that point, whenever it is, meaning the point of contacting me, if I've lost you at this point. . .At that point, I will have to say that I have come to the conclusion that guys who disappoint me very early on will only really disappoint me later.

Even though I am pretty certain you're a good guy. And so we can be friends, because you're cool and you make me laugh and I didn't actually know what I thought - which is why I wouldn't really do much more than kiss you - but I thought I could probably like you. Like, a lot more than I would tend to admit to. So we can be friends.

Or we can be nothing. But not in a bad way. Since, really, we are not so much in each others' lives. At all.

Because seriously. Texting me right after I see you is cute. But superfluous. You never have to say, "I'll call you tomorrow." But if you say it, you have to do it.

Don't you think?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Heat! Humidity! Sunshine! Home!

I am glad to be home. It was so great to get away, take a complete and total break from my life here. I had the best time hanging out with Maude and Dan and Benjamin. I love them and I miss them already. They're family.

I've discovered, though, that whenever I leave, I realize how much I like the life I have. I love my place, and my family and my friends. It's helpful to sometimes be on the outside looking in to your own life. Particularly if it reminds you that it's a good one.

And I have to say, it felt great to take off my three layers of shirts plus a fleece. It was such a treat to see the sun this morning, and to walk outside in shorts and a tee and be warm. And to get home and be relieved that my place hadn't been broken into, flooded, or anything of the sort.

On a side bar: I'd considered emailing and asking John Neighbor to check in on my place mid-week. But then thought the better of it. Because I am just not sure what I think or want, and don't want to ask favors.

Plus Dan pointed out that the further danger with John Neighbor is that one of these nights I'm going to hear high heels on the floor above me. Click click click. He even did the sound effects for me.

So then I will know full well he's brought another woman home. Or that he's a drag queen.

And so the journey. Yesterday morning at 7:40 am Greenwich Mean Time (because actually, Greenwich is just down the road a bit), I boarded a bus from Norwich to Heathrow. The ride was approximately four hours. I then spent five hours in the airport, very little of which was spent checking luggage, going through security, etc. I was left with a lot of time to entertain myself. Before my eight hour flight.

In other words, my day of travel was a little bit eternal.

Not having had time for morning coffee, I got a latte at Starbucks. The thing is, the prices look the same. But then you realize they're in pounds, so they're actually twice as expensive. Your $2.50 coffee is actually $5. It's like that for everything. Yikes.

I amused myself for a while in duty free, buying chocolates and such. I considered spending 85 pounds on a really charming T-shirt at Paul Smith, but then I realized that that was somewhere around $160, and truth be told, I can't even imagine spending 85 dollars on a T-shirt. No shirt is that charming.

Around 1:30 I realized I was hungry, and spotted an Irish pub. This seemed the perfect solution to my eat in case you die on the plane issue. Dan and Maude had loaded me up that morning with yogurt and cereal bars and Oreos, but those were long gone by the time I got to the airport.

So in preparation for the flight, meaning, my possible impending death, I ordered an Irish breakfast, which they serve all day. Scrambled eggs, thick bacon, sausage, and really good thick fries. Oh, and a tomato garnish and some sauteed mushrooms, presumably to make it healthy. This I washed down with two pints of Guinness.

If the plane went down, I was definitely not going to be under-indulged.

I spent my lunchtime reading a memoir called The Tender Bar, which was a gift from my friend VVK. I found it fitting reading about the role this particular bar plays in raising and shaping a fatherless boy while lunching in a pub. Drinking Guinness. I finished it on the plane. It was a pleasure of a read, and a really nice present.

Betty very kindly picked me up around 8:15, after my gajillion hours of travel. I was pretty certain that, even though I get up all the time on the plane and do stretches and hydrate, I had Deep Vein Thrombosis, because my knee hurt like crazy.

But after a good night's sleep, and waking happily to sunshine and no knee pain, I'm now equally certain I'm just old, run too much, and can't sit for that damn long.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Off to the gynecologist. Or, adventures in babysitting

When Benjamin sees me he gets all smiley cutey flirty. And then I get all delighted. Maude says he has a crush on me. This really makes me happy, because as I've said before, I'm not really a baby person.

Benjamin and I have mostly been having a great time together.

I had a very brief impulse to take a picture of him and, much like LOLCAT, do a LOLBABY.

In the photo he'd be looking at me with his smiley face saying, "Oh, hai! UR prity!"

It would totally amuse me. I, of course, would stoop to this. But I didn't want to stoop little Benjo to it.

The other morning I headed toward the kitchen, then realized Maude was at the sink and Benjamin was on the floor in his bouncy chair. And so instead of walking in, I crawled, making snort noises, until I got to the chair, at which point I stuck my nose in his neck and snuffled. And then of course looked up and said, "Oh, hi Maude."

She hadn't even turned around to see what the snurfly snorting was. She really knows me.

So. I say Benjamin and I have been having mostly a great time, because yesterday we went on a big outing to the gynecologist, and we had a very bad time.

I know you're thinking, Lis, the gynecologist is never a good time. But Maude was the one with the appointment. And I have to say, I'd much rather have had my legs up in stirrups on an examining table that my not great time in the waiting room.

We took the bus to the hospital where he was delivered, which is where Maude had a checkup. She asked if I'd go along to hang out with him while she was in with the doctor. I'm really just here to spend time with them, so of course I was happy to go along. I brought a book. When really I should've brought hard liquor.

Maude had timed it all perfectly with Benjamin and the appointment time - he nursed, he went down for his nap. She'd go in, he'd nap, and I was just going to sit there and read. She'd be out when he was just waking up. Except they were running behind. Way behind. Way way way behind.

And so he was waking up just as they called her. We'd not thought to bring a bottle. Big mistake. He started to fuss a little and she handed him to me. And I said, "Aaagh! What do I do?"

And she said something like, "Do your best!" as she headed through the swinging doors.

So there we were, my pal Benjamin and me and a waiting room full of people. He fussed a little, and I reminded him that we were having a no-fuss afternoon, and rocked him a little, and he smiled and quieted down.

You know, like my cute little Benjamin pal.

And this worked for a good, oh, 90 seconds. And then the gates of Hell opened up in my arms.


Like, if you could bottle these screams, W's cohorts would definitely have used them in places like Abu Ghraib.

So picture us, this little three month old boy screaming bloody murder - WAAAAAAAHH! WAAAA FUUUUUCK YOUUUU FEEEEED MEEE! WAAAAAAAH! - and me, thinking holy mother of god, what on earth do I do? So I headed off down the hallway, figuring at least the waiting room full of people didn't have to be subjected to this. And maybe the walking would help.

No such luck. We walk down a hallway.


And I'm jiggling him and cuddling him and saying things like, "Pumpkin! I know this sucks ass. It sucks for me too. I know. Terrible. Absolutely terrible. Life is terrible." I'm commiserating, sort of, and hoping the words will soothe him, no matter what they are, since he doesn't actually talk yet. And I'm praying that the doctor will hurry up and I can give this little Satan's minion back to his mother.


A nurse comes out of doors and glares at us. "There's a clinic in here! We need quiet!"

I notice that it's a prenatal clinic, and consider telling her, over the deafening roar formerly known as Benjamin, that the women in there might as well have some realistic idea of what they're in for.

But instead I head back to Gynecology, all the while talking about how I know this supersucks and I know he's hungry and we just need to find his mother. I accost the nurse at the front desk. I ask if we can bring him back to Maude. We have to yell at each other to be heard over the screams.

She goes in back and checks and says Maude is about to come out. And so we wait. And I decide to do a lap down the hallway. And he bellows. And bellows. And bellows. I finally return to the desk, scaring her as I round the corner with how loud the screaming is.


I hold him out to her. I yell to be heard, "He's starving!"

She takes off at a good clip. And runs back through the doors with Maude. Who has heard him screaming this whole time. And thinking, holy shit, that's my son! Through the double doors, through the hallways. All the way into the far examining room.

She takes him, and is then whisked by the nurse off to The Quiet Room.

I sink into a chair and pick up my book. I'm exhausted from the adrenaline generated by the hysteria.

And then a nurse comes over and asks if I'm Maude's friend. Yes. Would I like to come back to the Quiet Room? I flinch. Because the truth is: not really. She says Maude has asked for me. And so, very reluctantly, I do.

He's still screaming like a banshee. He's too worked up to eat. Eventually Maude calms him down.

We sit there panting like two marathon runners at the end of a grueling race. She says when she asked the nurse to get me, the nurse said, "Do you think she really wants to come back here?"

Maude said, "Well, I'm kind of worried."

And the nurse said, "Oh, he'll be fine. Just a little upset."

Maude replied, "Yes, I know he'll be fine. It's my friend I'm worried about!"

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Curses and cows. Although you'd think I'd have the cow thing down, having grown up in India and all

Having been born in Delhi and living there till I was four, I learned to speak Hindi and English at the same time. My Hindi was fluent, partly because my mom would let me play with the street children out in the square (much to the chagrin of my ayah, or nanny).

But also because of that, I had an obscene mouth in Hindi. Really terrible.

Apparently I came running in the house one day, bellowing something in Hindi. Betty, speaking no Hindi, didn't understand, but her houseguest was clearly horrified. He translated for my mom. Who was horrified in turn.

It was something along the lines of "That motherf---er took my toy!"

Motherf---er is a term I simply do not use. One to which I have a visceral reaction. But apparently, as a four-year-old, it was just part of the daily dialogue. With the street urchins.

So my mom asked my ayah if this was true. And she gave my mother an annoyed "I told you so!" look and said, "It's because you let her play with those street children!"

To this day, I've got a terrible mouth. And it's really hard to censor.

Maude's not so concerned yet, but Dan is really trying to be vigilant about not swearing in front of the baby.

Let me just note here that while I adore the shit out of both my nephew Zach and my new pal Benjamin, I do not categorically love kids. I'm never the person in the office, when someone brings in a baby, to rush over and want to squeeze it.

I'm more likely to be all, "Huh. What's that weird rash on its face?"

I am, however, adoring little Benjo, as Maude is calling him. We like each other. We've been getting along so well that I think I'm going to hang out with him tomorrow night while his mom and dad go on their first date since he was born.

And so we are hanging out a lot and I'm constantly tripping over something and exclaiming, "Shit! Sorry!" or "Fuck! Sorry!" Because in deference to his father, I don't want to be all swear-y in front of him.

And so on this trip all my four-letter words are currently polysyllabic - being followed by "sorry!" and "oops!" As in "shitoopssorry!", "damnsorry!" and "fucksorryoops!" Oops! Sorry!

And so I try to remember. But keep, well, fucking up. Damn. Oops.

And then there's all this baby paraphernalia.

I picked up this little book and finger puppet set. It was adorable - a tiny Old MacDonald book with five animal finger puppets. You could hold the book with the puppeted hand and wiggle your animal fingers as you went through it.

"Ooh, this is so cute! Look! Old MacDonald had a farm. . . " and I start going through it, wiggling my fingers. Old MacDonald had a pig. . .

"Waaaiit a minute! What the fuckoopssorry? - is Old MacDonald doing with a giraffe? Sorry. But seriously. He did not have a giraffe!"

"That's not a giraffe. It's a cow."

"It's not a cow. Look how long his neck is."

"Giraffes are yellow. This is white and grey. Have you ever seen a grey giraffe?"

"Fine. A cow. With a big yellow tuft of hair on his cow head."

It may not be a giraffe, but I know from cows. That's no fuckingoopssorry! cow.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The shorthand of friendship

I feel like I ought to write about our trip to the seaside yesterday for proper Sunday dinner. About the train ride, the lunch, the pints drunk before and after walking on the rocky sea shore. About the rocks collected for Betty - she loves rocks - and about the pouring rain, which somehow made it all feel so very British.

I have this documented with photos. As if nobody would believe the downpour on our Sunday beach outing.

But what I want to write about is friendship.

Dan bought The Last Song of Dusk for Maude because one of my readers recommended it. And gave it to me for my birthday. All the other books she liked were books they like, and so Dan thought, well, Maude might as well read it too, and then she and Lisa can talk about it.

How cool is this?

So this led Maude and me to talk about my blog. She said that initially she she felt like the Lisa she was getting through LG wasn't her Lisa. It was, well, maybe a public Lisa. In any case, a different one. Not unappealing, just different. And this bothered her.

And then she realized that she gets a different Lisa from most people, is the thing of it.

And it made me realize how lucky I am to have friends who are closer than close. I don't just mean who know preferences, like what kind of English beer you're going to like based on your love of Sierra Nevada or what you're going to choose on the menu before you even know, or how you're going to react when faced with a particular choice or situation.

Not to say that these aren't indications of close - they are.

But I'm talking close as skin close. Some of this is the product of years and years of proximity. And some of it is the luck, or fate, or whatever it is, of meeting up with people whose souls somehow resonate with yours.

I am talking about the closeness of people, the very few and far between people, who know what the look on your face means, even when you try to hide it. They know, by glancing in your eyes, when you've gone deep inside yourself, and know the instant you come back, even if you were only gone for 30 seconds. And you are walking side by side, not sitting face to face.

You can feel, across a room, their rising impatience. Or see, in the way they walk toward you, some slight disappointment. You might experience their relief as your own. You actually feel a shift in energy, a ripple in the fabric. These are small, inadequate examples that come to mind, indicative of a larger closeness.

How lucky I am to have this. And how much trust it requires, although after years and years, unless you sit down and examine it, as I'm doing now, you forget that it requires trust. Because it just is. But this kind of closeness, oh it does. It leaves you naked; it leaves you open for hurt.

And so I count myself lucky on this score as well. Because while I've not necessarily made the best romantic choices, my taste in friends kicks ass. If I may say so myself.

I choose amazing friends. Friends who not only have their own fantastic personalities, stories, and talents, but who are relentlessly kind, loving people. At least to the people they know best and value most.

My friendships have always been intense. This is shocking, I know.

While we were having pints after lunch, somehow Maude made the joke of having really rough nipples at this point in her breastfeeding career. And so it turned into this joke of Maude always having had nipples of sandpaper. And men thinking she was hot, but winding up with lips that were rubbed raw, and avoiding her because while they thought she was hot, foreplay with her was just too painful. . .All completely idiotic. And we were cracking ourselves up.

I turned to her British friends and apologized, saying I knew they were never going to want me to come along to a pub, because the last time I'd made them all talk about circumcision, and they were surely afraid of where this might go next.

And they reassured me that no, this was funny, and fascinating, and they were just trying to keep up.

Some of it was accent. But most of it was the spoken shorthand you develop with familiarity, the references to associations to tangential connections to prior experiences.

There is something about the physical and emotional shorthand of friendship and closeness that nothing can substitute for. There is something amazing about not having to explain anything. About being able to laugh (or cry, as the case may be) at the smallest thing, and have the other person be right there with you, no explanation needed.

I feel lucky, so lucky.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Which means he's also going to laugh when people fall down

"Hey, Maude, come here! I think he just laughed!"

Maude and I are drinking tea in the kitchen of their charming British house, while Dan is in the living room playing with Benjamin. He's three months old, and this is his first laugh. Benjamin, I mean.

We hurry into the living room. Benjamin is on the floor on one of those mats with lots of colors, and two arches that connect over the top and have a multitude of orange and yellow and blue animals hooked on them, all with their own special texture and sound.

But Benjamin is not remotely interested in the squeaky animals. What is currently fascinating the little boy is his father. Who is making fart noises in his face.

Dan turns to us. "OK, watch this!"


Impressively realistic fart noises.

And Benjamin laughs. A real, ohmygod it's not gas, it's actual laughter laugh.

We giggle. Maude grabs the video camera. "Do it again!"

As if Dan weren't itching for the chance to show off his fart-noise prowess.


Benjamin laughs with delight. Maude laughs. I laugh. We think this is hilarious. Maude has always been a sucker for fart noises, and she loves fart talk and fart stories, particularly when they're humiliating, but only when they happen to people she knows. Like, um, me. She has told my farting on the plane story countless times, she said.

Really, it's Schadenfreude. But she's not unkind. She's more "You don't want to count on me to help you up when you fall down because I'm going to have to finish laughing first."

She's beaming at Dan, clearly so impressed with her husband for his fart-noise making ability.

And then she smiles down at her son. "And look! He's already got my sense of humor!"

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Perfidious Albion

I'm off to the UK tonight!

I have a direct flight from Dulles to Heathrow. With any luck the thunderstorms will roll through, plane will take off on time, and I'll be able to knock myself out and wake up in London.

Unfortunately, I have a cold. I feel craptacular. I am a grumpalicious, sneezy, snot factory. It's making me four kinds of bitter.

Basically, I am going to be the person on the plane that I typically loathe. The one who blows their nose every two minutes, who snuffles in the dry (disgusting, recycled) plane air, who coughs, and who is clearly just generally miserable. The one I am certain is going to pass bird flu on to me. Today, my friends, that's me.

Can you tell I'm feeling very sorry for myself?

Maude said it's cold there, and so my bag is full of jeans and fleece. (And liquids in three ounce or smaller containers. Because that really makes us safer.) I have only not been cold in England twice, both times when they were having terrible, tree-killing heat waves. But I'm not going for the weather. I mean, does anyone go to England for the weather?

When I was a kid we used to stop in London on our way back to the US from whatever tropical country we were living in. And the first thing my dad would do would be to take us to a thrift store and buy coats. Because even though it was May or June, we'd be freezing.

I'll be in cattle class, and hopefully I won't get stuck next to a massive nose picker or bickering old couple or enormous stinky man who takes up more of my seat than I do, whose armpit I have to fight to stay out of. Not that I've ever had to contend with that before. Or multiple times.

I know there are dynamic, interesting people who travel. Maybe this time I'll get to sit next to one of them. Although I suppose this time would be wasted, since they're probably going to hate me anyway. I think I'll just hope for a small and innocuous seatmate.

For overnight flights I come prepared. I bring chocolate, sleeping pills, one of those ugly inflatable neck pillows, fleece, and eye shades. I look delightful, as you may imagine.

I take the sleeping pill after we take off (because, of course, you want your wits about you during takeoff in case you need to leap from a burning plane). I used to not want to take them in case of emergencies, but then realized that if you go down over water, you're totally screwed anyway, so might as well mitigate the whole thing with Valium. Best case scenario I sleep till they wake me up for breakfast or landing.

And then, you guys, I wake up in the land of big purple Cadbury vending machines! And delicious beer! And potato chips, which I know they call crisps, in 50 different flavors! And Britpop! And, most importantly, Maude! And Dan! And baby!

I'll take a coach rather than a bus (although I don't know why they can't just call a bus a bus) from Heathrow to Norwich, which apparently takes four hours - marginally longer than taking the tube and then the train. And tomorrow afternoon Maude and Benjamin will meet me at the coach station.

And then, then the fun begins!


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

And then your ex-girlfriend marries you off to Hermann Goering

"World domination," I stated authoritatively, "is very difficult to maintain for long periods of time."

This I announced to a group of John Neighbor's friends last night over margaritas at Lauriol Plaza.

They were talking about superpowers, and how the Brits, and then the US, effectively ran the world for a while. And speculating on who will be next. (Incidentally, yesterday was the 60-year anniversary of the partition of India and Pakistan. This article is fascinating.)

Of the group, I only actually know John Neighbor, and not all that well.

"Hi! My name is Lisa! You people have no idea what you're in for! Can I have another margarita? And do they have any butter?"


On a slight, or maybe huge, tangent, the night of my birthday I was looking through old photos before I went to bed, and in the process came across all these lovely cards B had written me the first year we were together. They were amazing. He really, really loved me and had visions of spending eternity with me. Before I hurt him and made him angry and vindictive.

And so I went to bed sad about him, nostalgic about the nice times we had together, and sad about the fact that we have absolutely no contact now. It's my choice, and it's better for me. But still occasionally makes me wistful.

That night I dreamt that he and I were on a bus, of all things. I don't even think he takes buses. And I have no idea where we were going. But we were stuck together in this confined space. And so we started talking.

We talked about us, and how we would never be together again. He said that he still loved me, but just wasn't willing to open things up again. Ever.

And then, he said, he was getting married. He was, in fact, soon to marry a German doctor. He didn't love her the way he loved me, but she was a good choice and he thought it was a very practical relationship.

I was telling Christine about this yesterday. She asked how I felt, and I said I was crushed, crying as in my dream as we talked. He still loved me. Why was he marrying her? Who was this German doctor I'd dreamed up?

And she said, "You know, I don't think she's anyone in particular. I think she's a conglomeration of your ex-boyfriends. You put them all together in this German doctor wife."

And that, holy cow, I know it's a dream, but that's so unkind of me. Because while they haven't all been Dementors, there are some serious gems to contend with.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

If you're going to read the whole thing in one go, you might want to have a snack and a beverage handy

I know it's not January 1, but I'm treating this as a new year for me.

Usually I love my birthday. I throw my own party. I like hosting, partly so nobody has to take me out or treat me, and partly because I love having a reason to invite people from all these random areas of my life and put them together in one place.

But last year, last year I decided I wasn't having any more birthdays. It wasn't age; it was everything, all together. My birthday fell on a Sunday. Saturday night I had a party. And then late night I had a conversation with a guy friend about dating in DC. Going into the particulars is pointless, but it left me with the certainty that I would always be alone. Forever and ever.

The next morning, Sunday, my actual birthday, I woke up crying. And cried the entire day, save the two hours I went walking down on the Mall with a friend.

My two closest friends in DC took matters into their own hands. I clearly was not about to be cheered up. And so they parked me in the back garden of T's house. And pulled out a bottle of wine. And just kept filling my glass. Until they needed a new bottle. And just kept opening bottles as the hot muggy mid-day turned to mildly sweaty afternoon turned to a mid-summer night's eve. Minus Puck and Oberon.

And I just sat there and cried. I recounted the prior night's conversation. We discussed the state of dating in DC. And the ins and outs of my dating life in particular.

I was hoping for a call from B. After five years, could he really forget my birthday? Did he just not love me anymore? And was this proof that nobody else would either?

I sat in a chair in T's lovely back yard and they indulged me the whole day long. I was in a complete and utter pit of despair.

This was when I decided I'd move to Europe and be a lesbian housewife. And then they both insisted I'd be a terrible lesbian.

Prior to that I was just sitting there weeping gently. This made me wail hysterically. "See? One more thing I can't do!" Further proof that I would always be alone.

I'm not suggesting any of this was rational.

But I felt it so deeply in my bones at the time that if I'd had to choose between two facts, one being, oh, let's say the existence of gravity, and the other being that Lisa would die alone, I'd have looked you straight in the eye and chosen the latter. Because gravity? Who really takes that seriously?

They tottered me home somewhere around 11 pm, and I got a happy birthday email from B. Who went on to say that of course he hadn't forgotten my birthday; I'd told him not to contact me. Remember? I sobbed as I read this.

This is where I was a year ago.

And I can't say that the year that passed between August 13, 2006 and yesterday was easy. In fact, a lot of it sucked ass. I had my own personal challenges. Much of this spring was occupied with massive family trauma.

But somehow, in the last couple months, it all started to settle down. Happy, sunshiney flowers started flourishing in my mind again, eradicating the weeds of insecurity and despair that had taken root the prior year.

A month or so ago, one of my best friends, one of the two who spent my entire last birthday with me, very gently broached the birthday topic. She knew I was done with birthdays. But would I like to have a couple drinks with friends?

This, this sounded perfect.

So she organized a cabal, and we went to Proof, which I have said before is my new favorite bar. Some of my closest friends are out of town - summer birthdays are like that. But I still had some of my nearest and dearest. It felt like a lovely low-key catch-up evening. Except that I got a decadent spa gift from Jen. And birthday toasts.

And a random treat! I got to meet one of my readers. Who gave me a lovely book - The Last Song of Dusk - to read on my upcoming trip. We don't actually know each other. She reads LG, and I know a little about her from her comments. I know this sounds silly, but meeting her felt like a present. I can't explain why - it just made me giggly happy. We gave each other a big hug hello as old friends would and I introduced her to my friends and got to meet one of hers.

I was thinking as I went to bed how lucky I feel, and how starkly this stands in contrast to how I felt last year. I have made my way back to the me I like, existing in a space I like.

This is the outlook on the universe that feels good to me - the belief, and more importantly the trust, that random, positive things happen, that strangers come into your life and add to it, that the world is (mostly) a good, kind place. And that life is fraught with possibility and adventure.

So far, it's a sparkly year. I like it.

Monday, August 13, 2007

It's either you are my sunshine or happy birthday

Today is my birthday!

When I'm in a birthday group, I mouth the words, or sing them very, very softly. My inability to carry a tune makes me cringe.

I sing, actually sing, around my family and my closest friends. Only. With Maude I will belt out tunes with wild abandon. But if I don't know you really, really well, you will see me naked before you'll hear me sing.

I know I have written about this before, but being my birthday and all, I'm going to go ahead and indulge myself and tell the same story I have heard about myself 50 gazillion times.

My father can play a song on the piano by ear. Betty plays piano really well too. My brother can sing at least passably. And I have never, since the time I could talk, been able to carry a tune.

Before I realized this, though, one of my favorite games as a child was hey, guess this song!

As in, "Mama, guess what song this is!"

"HmmMM hm hmmmhmm hmm hhhmmm."

"Um. You are my sunshine?"

"No. Listen! Hmm hm hmmm mmmm hmm hmmmm."

It was never hummed the same twice, and it was never remotely recognizable as song.

"Mmm hmmm mmmm hmm hmmmm."

Being parents who wanted to play along, however, they did their best.

"Twinkle twinkle little star?"

I would give them an eye roll and a duh! look. Like, parents, are you really that slow?

"Nooo! It's happy birthday!"

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Consume! Consume!

I went to Target with Laura yesterday. We were looking for an inflatable pool for her back patio. When it hit 90 degrees, she started having visions of pool parties, of her serving cool white wine to friends lounging in her back yard in the pool.

It sounded delicious.

Since it is almost the end of summer, however, pickings are slim. There was a Spiderman pool, but it was too small, and just not, well, quite what she had in mind for grown up backyard parties. In fact, three of the options were just too small. And then there was one enormous one. Too big. Bigger than her back yard. The idea of having a big pool with a ladder in the back of a city row house is pretty amusing. And impossible.

So then we started thinking. Maybe she should just buy an inflatable mattress and hose her guests down. We loved this imaginary scenario.

She'd invite you over, and invite you to seat yourself on the air mattress. And she'd offer you an hors d'oeuvre. And just as you were about to take a bite, psshhhht! with the hose!

You might really irritate your friends, but you could get a great laugh out of it.

I almost never go to Target, and going reminds me of when I was a kid and we'd come back to the US in the summer. Going to the grocery store felt like going to an amusement park.

"Mama! Look! Look at all the cereal! Oooh! Cookies! In a box!"

We just didn't have a lot of packaged products when we were growing up in Bangladesh.

My brother and I would have the best time running up and down the aisles. All the colors! Pretty, shiny, sparkly! All the candy! All the food we never knew about! We had no idea what we were missing out! Until we were in America!

Laura and I gave up on the pool and headed instead to snacks and makeup - two of my favorite sections of any store. We wound up leaving with 45 different kinds of snacks and some fun cosmetics. In other words, nothing we came for, nor anything we really needed.

There is something about consumption that's temporarily energizing. It's really weird. And when there are so many things to choose from, it's so easy to think, ooh, I'll just try one of each!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Breakfast of champions

Is starting a random Saturday with coffee and Cool Ranch Doritos categorically a bad thing? I dunno.

Friday, August 10, 2007

One if by land, two if by sea, bird in the bush, blinders on, etc

"It's probably good practice not to date where you sleep."

Christine said this to me the last time I saw her. When I told her that I'd gone out with John Neighbor and that he'd asked me out again.

I am terrible at adages. I always screw them up. I once said that someone was "kicking himself in the foot." And so it took me a while to figure out how "don't date where you sleep" was a slight modification of a familiar phrase.

She said, "Lisa. You already have an ex-boyfriend across the street. Do you really want to risk having to leave your building with blinders on?"

The answer, this week anyway, seems to be yes.

I went out with John Neighbor again last night. And had a great time. We went to Equinox, which I liked but wasn't blown away. I mean, I loved our server, the wine, and the feel of the place. The food was nicely presented but not amazing.

It's restaurant week, and the reservation we had was late - 9:30. Which is great for feeling all sophisticated and European, but not so great for waking up and going to work the next morning. Since we were eating late we met up for drinks with some of his friends beforehand. One of them is a secret service agent. Like, actually one of the guys who stands on top of the White House with a gun.

We were chatting, and I asked him if he was pro-W. He said, and this makes sense, that they work for the office, not the particular person. They protect whoever is in office. That's that. And so, because I was just itching to know, I asked if I could ask him something inappropriate. Because, really when do I ever ask anything appropriate?

I asked if he has ever had any momentary teeny weeny itsy bitsy glimmer of an instant where he thought, hey, that guy who has our country on a fast-track to hell, he's right there. And I have a gun.

The answer was no, absolutely not. With no hesitation. Which is, of course, comforting in a stability of the nation kind of way. The question caught him off guard, though. Personally, I was kind of shocked nobody else had ever asked.

And then he said that the Republicans treat their secret service people a lot better than the Democrats. He said Hillary was so rude to them, swore at them, treated them terribly. And if she's back in the White House, they anticipate more of the same. The current administration, on the other hand, is polite, and treats them with respect.

I hated hearing that.

Like, have you ever gone out for dinner with someone you think is cool, and then they treat the wait staff terribly? No matter how lovely they are to you, you know that underneath it all, they're an asshat, and you will never go out with them again. Because either politeness and respect for people is your default, or it's an act. I really believe that.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Monkey porn

I used to read Cosmo when I traveled. It was both mindless and fun -perfect for the plane. Little fashion, little dating advice, makeup tips, etc. But the article titles were always so embarrassing, and were in large enough font and bold enough colors that the guy three rows away could see them.

So everyone knew you were reading "Masturbation at the Office! Should You or Shouldn't You?" or "Quiz: Anal Sex - Is It for You?"

Or some such thing that made you feel like a total deviant, just by virtue of the fact that you were holding it in your hands.

I stopped picking up a Cosmo years ago, and instead bring New Yorkers along for the plane. I am always, always behind in my reading. So when I travel, I always have at least a couple in my bag. Plus they are handy for anyone who might seem in need of some TLC.

Anyway, New Yorkers make me happy. The writing is excellent, you learn interesting things, and the magazine is dense enough that it can last you for quite a while. Very helpful when traveling.

So the July 30 issue, which I read on the way to New Orleans, has an article about bonobos, which are similar to chimpanzees, but smaller and happier and more peaceful. They have very sweet monkey faces. And they only live in one tiny area of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

If you Google "bonobos" (with the S - bonobo singular just gives you links) the first thing you will see is pictures of them having sex. Because, according to this article, they do it all the time. Which, it is posited, is why they are so happy and peaceful. They have sex instead of conflict. It's a nice idea, but I was trying to imagine a human society with the bonobo approach.

Like, you have a car accident, and both people are furious.

"WTF?? There was a green turn arrow!"

"You were speeding! Asshole!

"What do you think? Should we just fuck it out?"

Not so much.

So back to the bonobos and the New Yorker. On one of the pages of the article was this large picture of two bonobos having sex. The female is laying on her back, arms back, legs wrapped around the male on top of her. She has this eyes rolled up blissful look on her face.

The article was interesting but the whole time I was reading I was painfully aware of this picture. I kept the magazine open rather than having the monkey sex picture facing my fellow travelers in the airport.

Look! Reading the New Yorker! Literature! Not monkey porn!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

More Scylla than Charybdis, or how to not get asked on a second date

A couple weeks ago I went on a first date. I know at this point you're like, oh, for Pete's sake, Lis, how many effing posts can you start this way? And do you ever have second dates?

That, my friends, is the question, isn't it?

I had a perfectly nice time with him. He was cute, and big and tall. His only drawback was that he was just slightly delicate - not prancy, just delicate - which is what prompted the conversation with Jen about delicate vs. oafish, and to what degree you might prefer one over the other.

We had easy conversation, except when I said that one of my versions of hell would be to have to do something like hike the Appalachian Trail. Because if I am going to be that uncomfortable and have to camp, it has to be somewhere fascinating, like Nepal. Not somewhere like Appalachia.

This I said to a man who, it turns out, is from West Virginia. And annually camps on the Appalachian Trail.

Ugh. Prying Foot! Out! Of! Mouth! Very difficult with platform shoes on!

But overall, I did have a nice time. He seemed to as well.

This is what I said the next day when Bob asked. And then Bob laughed at my response and said, "So you never want to see him again, huh?"

"What? I said I had a nice time!"

"No. You said, 'I had a nice TIIIMME with him.' Time should not be the most strongly emphasized word in the sentence."


So, anyway. I wondered if The Slightly Delicate was one of those things, like someone's voice, or their teeth, that I ought to learn to look past, to see if I could adore the person within. So in the spirit of "accept another date unless you're repulsed" I would have gone out with him second time. Just to see if he might grow on me.

And then he didn't ask me out again.

And so, as I was catching up with Jen, she asked if I thought it was the fact that I denigrated the camping experience of the Appalachian Trail that made him not ask me out again.

And I said that in retrospect, it probably had more to do with the book.

Because, you see, I had said that I love to write, that it's something I do for pleasure, and something I spend a good deal of my free time on. And when he asked what I write, I said that I'm working on a book. Which is true.

He asked, "What's it about? What kind of book?"

"Oh, well, me. A memoir of sorts."

"You're writing a memoir?"

"It's just one of those people telling their slightly odd story kind of memoir. More sort of funny, kind of nutty, vignettes."

"I hope it's more David Sedaris than Running With Scissors."

It turns out he meant this jokingly. I realize this is not exactly tantamount to saying "Gee, I hope it's more Scylla than Charybdis" - but still, I could've said it was far from both. Except that I in all honestly, couldn't.

And so, when I said, "Welllll, it's probably somewhere in between. . ."

Slightly delicate man was a little alarmed.

Note to self: Have on hand the titles of a couple of fairly innocuous memoirs. Or learn to lie and say you're writing fiction.

Monday, August 06, 2007

A travesty of justice

Whenever I am out with Jen I laugh my ass off. It's true. We are just sitting there catching up, swapping stories, laughing and laughing, until I hear a thud. And I look down and it's my ass on the floor. Once again, I've laughed it clean off.


We went to Proof last Friday night to catch up. (Kristin - if you're reading this - we asked but you weren't there.) It's my new favorite spot. It also seems to be the new favorite spot of much of DC.

So I am telling Jen about the slightly delicate man that I went out with a couple weeks ago. Jen's preference is for big, really big, sturdy, corn-fed men. She starts to think aloud about the extent to which she'd prefer oafishness over a too-high voice or delicate gestures.

She says, "I would rather have a beer-belching, crotch-scratching, game-watching man who insists upon eating at Applebee's. . .and um. . ."

She looks pained.

"You just threw up a little in your mouth, didn't you?"

She nods. I get the point, though. No high-voiced delicate-gestured men for Jen.

Shortly after this I get waved at by a guy I went on one date with last year. He is with a date. I am glad; we won't have to chit chat. I wave back.

Jen has to go to the bathroom and so I describe the fellow, as he is right in her path to the bathroom. There is no way she can miss him.

She asks what he's wearing, and I say a blue polo with the collar turned up, dressy jeans, and cream shoes. He makes a lot of money, and I am sure they are very expensive. But shockingly ugly.

She traipses off to the bathroom, and as she is making her way back, I see her inspecting people along the way. Finally she gets to him, stops abruptly, and looks him in the face. I see her eyes widen as she looks him slowly from head to toe. He is intent on his date and it is crowded, so he doesn't seem to notice. Although I don't know how he missed this inspection.

Two years in China erased any and all American ability to be subtle and pretend she's not checking someone out. She has a look of both alarm and recognition as she reaches the shoes. Her head jerks up and she continues back to our table, eyes wide.

She is laughing as she sits down. "That pink Polo logo on his shirt? As big as my face. You couldn't mention that? You made me look for the hideous cream colored shoes!"

"I just couldn't imagine that he'd be hard to spot! He was right on the way!"

"Why in hell didn't you just say, 'He's not wearing an outfit. He's wearing a travesty of justice!'? I would've spotted him immediately!"

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Alligator ogling, shark petting, fish nibbling fun

Ohhh was that aquarium event fantastic. I've been to some amazing events, like receptions at the Ambassador's residence in various countries and lawyer proms at fancy museums like the Corcoran, but this was one of the coolest I've ever been to.

When do you ever get to sip wine, snack, listen to live music and peer at sharks? And how did I not know before that I love watching sharks? I tried very hard to get a decent picture of the bitey teeth. They've got rows of them!

We wandered around, admiring the sharks, the turtles, the tropical fish, the beautifully colored, serenely floating jellyfish. There was a cute sea otter lounging on his back.

They had a couple furry skins on a table near the otter, and an empty tank, and I wondered aloud if the skins belonged to whatever used to be in the tank. And was hurriedly hushed. See? They should've stuck me in the shark tank.

It was simultaneously serene and lively. There was always something new and fascinating to look at. I took a lot of pictures, but all (obviously) through glass and without flash. So they're a little grainy and murky.

And the food. Grits and sausage and redfish and some kind of fantastic seafood pasta and a bunch of other stuff I didn't even try. And for dessert one of the options was bread pudding.

I kind of believe bread pudding is actually divine. Like, after God was done making the world, on the seventh day he rested. In the morning. Because in the afternoon he was busy making bread pudding. With whiskey sauce.

One of my favorites was the enormous albino alligator. Incidentally, I took pictures mainly for Lira. You know, because unlike me, he was an actual albino. I like this one with simultaneous above and below water views.

He was ginormous. I couldn't even guess how big. I looked him straight in the eye, with just a pane of (super thick) glass between us. And he just stood, very still, staring. Without blinking. In an, "I'll bite you, my pretty! You and your little dog, too!" kind of way.

Ooh, ooh, and I got to pet a baby nurse shark, and sting rays. I am so very tactile, and this was a delight. Shark feels like sandpaper, sting rays feel smooth and squooshy and soft all at the same time. The sting ray guy was telling us how the stingers are like fingernails, and so it doesn't hurt them to have them snipped. And they have to cut them and file them down on a regular schedule.

I asked if they're poisonous, and he said that the ones we got to pet aren't, but the problem with being stung by them is that the puncture wounds are deep. And so if the wound isn't cleaned immediately and really well, it can easily get infected because of whatever bacteria is on the rays. I love knowing stuff like that. I don't know why.

Toward the end of the event, when copious amounts of alcohol and fattening food had been consumed, it was down to a small group. People were talking about where to get drinks afterwards, on this, our last night.

One of our meeting planners, who I have just recently gotten to know, and to whom I was earlier lamenting my lack of boyfriend, is 24 and just so cute and hilariously funny. It was the end of a long, long meeting. A meeting in which she'd had massive amounts of responsibility and had done a fantastic job. And was finally letting down her long blonde hair.

I said I was tired. And she turned to me, reached over, and pulled out the top of my purple tube dress, and said, "But you have to come out! You're so much fun! And you've got this kick-ass figure and hey, great breasts, by the way. Let's go out and find you men to flirt with!"

And then looked totally stunned. "I'm so sorry. That was totally inappropriate. I don't know why I just did that."

For me, that solidified my liking of her. It's the kind of inappropriate thing I have thankfully not done in a long time. It made me laugh loudly.

And that was the evening. We gorged, ogled fish, drank wine, and toasted the end of an exhaustingly long meeting.

I passed up one last chance to flirt with the men of New Orleans. Instead, I took my alleged kick-ass figure back to the hotel, packed, watched Entourage, and went to bed.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Paddling with the tide

Why is it that when something wakes you up at 4 am, no matter what it is, everything feels soul-crushingly terrible? Is it the dark? Is it the hour of the morning? When it feels like the entire universe, save you, is still and sound asleep and peaceful? Is it the quiet?

It dissipates with sunrise. That's always how it is. Nothing feels as insurmountable when the day arrives. Sometimes all you can do is force yourself not to lose your shit, and to just wait for morning. And breathe. And then the sun rises and the cold fear subsides, and you can organize your thoughts in a positive way. Suddenly everything is more manageable.

I cannot even remember what woke me. But I jerked out of a dream heavy, breathless, my eyes searching wildly in the dark. The first thing I thought of was a phone number.

My friend Andrew called my parents' house last night, and they called me to give me his number. He's an old Peace Corps friend of mine and we caught up several years ago for the first time since saying goodbye at the Lima airport years ago. During the time we were out of contact, it wasn't that he was ever out of my life; he just wasn't in it. If that makes sense.

Anyway, he emailed yesterday, and apparently the tone of my response made him want to talk to me, to know for certain I was fine. And he'd lost my cell phone number. When we were chatting he listed the two numbers he had for me. The 202 one that he rattled off went straight to my stomach; it's B's number. Long deleted from my cell, but not from my mind.

And so, in the blind panic of a 4 am awakening, massive responsibility and regret suffocate me. I should've this. I should've that. My mind is filled with horrible should haves and could haves. One leads to another. To another. To some I've never even thought of before. I have a litany of things I've done wrong, mistakes I've made, decisions I would re-do in a heartbeat.

And then I start thinking about the story Andrew told me last night about paddling through the Everglades. He takes a week-long camping trip there every year, sometimes with friends, sometimes alone.

He said that it's too easy to get up every morning and drive to work, and go to the gym every day because you need to stay fit, and go to the movies every other Wednesday, and watch Jon Stewart every night, and catch up with the same friends, friends you dearly love, every Friday, and do your grocery shopping Saturday mornings. . .

You see where I am going with this. Sometimes you need to shake things up. To remind yourself that the universe is vast and life is short. And travel, particularly when you travel alone, teaches you so many things about yourself and the world.

(I didn't say why camp alone somewhere that they might never even find the alligator that ate you to fish out your remains?) I said I would be flat out terrified to go to the Everglades alone, much less camp there for a week. Andrew reminded me that I'm strong. And that I have traveled plenty alone, and I realize how empowering it is. But the truth is, I'm strong but not that strong.

Where am I going with this meandering missive? Here is where I'm headed.

He said that when you canoe in the Everglades you have to paddle with the tide. You go in with the tide; you come out with the tide.

He wanted to get to a particular spot. And when he sat down with maps and tide charts, he realized that in order to get in and out with the tides, he couldn't paddle both ways in the light. Either in or out would be in pitch dark. For where he wanted to go, those were the options. He decided to canoe in in the dark.

He managed both in and out with no problem. It was fantastic, although he had a momentary crisis when pulling up against what he thought was a mud bank but turned out to be an enormous alligator. Who promptly swam away. But holy shit!

Anyway. He decided to go to the same spot the following year. He had a GPS, and he knew all the coordinates from before. And it was fine until he second guessed himself. He stopped to check, turned on his lamp, temporarily blinding himself (in the pitch dark!) and didn't realize his canoe got turned around. So for a while he was paddling the wrong way. It all wound up fine. But there was a lesson learned.

And so this morning, when I awoke hyperventilating, skin pricklingly hot, arm hair standing on end, and berating myself for poor choices, and reminding myself to breathe, and breathe some more, the phone number led to Andrew led to the Everglades. And to paddling with the tide.

And what I realized is that I think I've finally learned to do that. For a long, long time I was either stuck swirling along with the current, whichever current was strongest, or battling against it. I didn't realize you could pick your current and paddle with it, and it would make things smoother along the way.

I'm not talking about taking the path of least resistance. I'm talking about figuring out the paths that work for you, the ones you like, and then paddling with them. And sometimes you have to paddle in pitch dark and trust that you have made the right decision.

It's not that my 4 am existential crisis burst immediately into chirping birds and rainbows. Far from it. But I did have a little epiphany. I have, slowly slowly, been choosing paths that I like. Ones that come naturally to me and make me happy.

Of course, sometimes I capsize, and come up sputtering and splashing. Every once in a while I am terrified of drowning. But more and more I think I am paddling with the tide.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Relativity. With butter!

I flew back from New Orleans yesterday. We stepped off the plane at Dulles and you could feel all 93 of those Fahrenheit degrees sweltering through the walls of the walkway.

Someone complained about how incredibly hot it was.

And I said, "Yeah, but the good thing about DC is that at least it's dry heat."

The Hell? Is the look I got. From more than one person.

If you do not live here, let me assure you that these are words you will never hear from another human being in the entire DC metropolitan area.

But honestly, in the moment, I totally meant it. And it felt great walking to work this morning! It's such a reminder that everything is relative. I swear New Orleans is twice as humid as DC. You walk outside and your glasses fog up to the point where you cannot see three inches in front of you. It was like having some giant dog following you around panting on you. Ick.

You are just perpetually soggy. Your everything sweats. You walk outside and even your face is quickly covered with a thick film, and you only realize it when the condensation of your own perspiration becomes so great that it actually drips.

That is, of course, the sweat that can squeeze through your pores. Because you know I believe that the butter sweat just will not fit through those itty bitty pore holes.

You know the day after a long night of drinking? When even though you've showered, at some point you get a waft of alcohol, and then another, and you finally realize, holy cow, it's emanating from your very own self? You realize you are a walking, talking, sweating, gin distillery.

And it occurs to you that maybe the best course of action is to fill your bathtub with tonic water and tuck half a lime behind each ear and just run with it. Or maybe that precise scenario doesn't occur to you. But it's what I'm going to do next time, anyway.

This is how I feel about all the butter that was in and on every last morsel I gorged on the last five days. I wondered aloud yesterday if you can actually consume so much that everywhere you go you leave a scent of butter in your wake. Or maybe you could leave butter footprints.

I have a date tonight. And because I am unable to let go of anything absurd, I was thinking, now, if I actually did smell faintly of butter, it could go one of two ways.

Either it could subliminally remind him of baked goods, like chocolate chip cookies, and that could make him feel all warm and fuzzy and happy. Or he could sit there thinking, "Yeah, she's cool, but there's just something, I dunno, kind of sautéed about her."