31 August 2006

The Shape of Things

I could very easily write an epic post about the my first week back at school, but instead, I'm going to show you some pictures from my late, lamented trip to England (oh, if I could only be back there instead of stuck in my classroom). Well, okay, to be honest, the only pictures I'm going to show you are pictures from Stonehenge and Avebury.

I took an inordinate amount of pictures of all those stones. I love stones, and I love symmetry, and I love the heady sense of history that permeates the air.

So, anyway, this is Avebury:

These stones run a broken ring around the town of Avebury and sit in pastures, as you can see from the wandering sheep.

This stone is actually called the "Devil's Chair" because it has a creepy-looking place to sit naturally occurring on the side not facing us. Silly sheep, grazing so close to the evil rocks!

And, look! It's Stonehenge! I expected it to be a letdown in person, but even though there must have been hundreds of people there that day, it was still awe-inspiring.

(You can really see what the outer ring should be in this one.)

I especially love the arches.

Okay, now I'm seriously ready to pack my bags and take the next flight back across the Atlantic. Anybody want to come? Or, better yet, anybody want to be my long-term sub while I go?

28 August 2006

Move Along, Move Along

Yesterday, I helped my brother move into his third apartment in three years. I don't think he has a yen for the transient lifestyle, but his roommate situation has shifted slightly enough each year that a move was required. First he lived in a two-bedroom with B., then he and B. moved into a three-bedroom with Sy, then B. got engaged and moved in with his girlfriend, so Sy and WS had to move to another two-bedroom.

I have moved three times myself in the five years I've been out of college, so I know the drill. Forage for as many boxes as humanly possible, pack smart (that means "don't put all the heavy stuff in one box"), recruit many friends by bribing them with cookies and/or pizza, and make sure you're at the moving truck rental place when it opens.

Oh, and clean the apartment you're leaving till it shines.

But, wait! I forgot! I'm talking about moving my brother.

This is how it went down:

I arrived at his apartment at eleven in the morning. WS had gathered a small crew: our parents, Sy, Teddy, and N., a friend of ours from summers past. When I entered the apartment, everyone was standing around looking vaguely shell-shocked. It might have been the piles and piles of unpacked stuff.

Or the massive amount of crumbs, Cheez-Its, change, dust, and various other unidentifiable particles on the living room carpet.

"Wow, when was the last time you guys vaccuumed?" I asked, wrinkling my nose in disgust.

WS looked at me blankly. "We don't have a vaccuum," he said.

"Ah," I said. "Um.... how are you gonna get all this crap off the floor?"

Grinning, Sy hold up a mop-- yes, really, one of those metal-handled, sponge at the head mops. I remember my mother using one of those to clean the kitchen floor every Saturday morning when I was growing up. She poured Mr. Clean in the sink and mixed it with water, stuck the mop in every so often to rinse it. It squeaked when she ran it over the linoleum, but it did a fine job.

Something tells me a mop like that wasn't meant for carpet. Especially a carpet as grossly maltreated as WS's.

"You're gonna... mop it up?"

WS grabbed the mop from Sy and began dragging it through the ungodly mess. "See?" he said. "I make piles and then sweep it onto the balcony."

"Don't you mean mop?"

The rest of their apartment was the same. I found enough change on WS's floor to pay his first month's rent. When he and Sy turned their air hockey table upside-down to carry it down the stairs, quarters rained out. (I, er, collected them and kept them for tolls.) None of us would go near either bathroom, especially after my mother enquired after their Scrubbing Bubbles, and WS's response was, "Oh, yeah, I've been meaning to buy some of those..."

See, the thing is, I'm no priss. I lived in a pretty run-down dorm in college. The shower stalls in the bathrooms were a special disaster all their own. I'm talking mildew, mold, and crazy amounts of rust. I took four years of showers there with my arms squeezed tightly to my sides-- so I wouldn't touch the stalls-- and my eyes closed-- so I couldn't see the stalls. Sometimes I dream about those shower stalls; I'm usually flailing wildly yet scared to death some tiny part of me will come into contact with the decades-old rust.

The showers in my dorm were the things of nightmares. But WS's old apartment? Way, way worse.

However, his new apartment is shiny and bright. Well, it was when I left yesterday afternoon. I'm a little afraid to think what WS and Sy could have done to it in 24 hours.

Ugh. I need a shower just thinking about it.

27 August 2006


Okay, I am multi-tasking as I never have before-- five, count 'em, five tasks at once. Blogging. Baking cookies for my department meeting tomorrow. Doing laundry so I have something to wear tomorrow (heh, want to know what I'm currently wearing? A slip and a sports bra. Fashionable!). Paying attention to Q, 'cause I go back to work tomorrow and I feel guilty (ain't no love like guilty love). And watching the Emmys.

And while I'm watching the Emmys, Simon Cowell starts doing a tribute to Dick Clark, one of those "let's look back and show how influential and important he was and play super-sad music behind the clips so everyone is sad because he's dead."

Then Simon Cowell turns and says, "And here's Dick Clark." The spotlight turns... and there's Dick Clark!

I honestly thought he was dead! I mean, I knew he was alive at New Year's, but I could have sworn...

Damn, the cookie timer is buzzing and Q is freaking out. But, yay! Cookies!

And, er, a living Dick Clark.

25 August 2006

Oh, Pathos

So, yes, we've established that at this moment in time, I love my job. Probably because it's mostly theoretical right now, in that "Monday is days away" way. And I know, come Monday, I'll be smiles and sunshine (and yawns) because I really do enjoy

(1) the meet-and-greet, how-was-your-summer chatfest of the faculty breakfast;

(2) the inevitable "guess that TV theme song" that my principal puts together, usually with Starbucks cards (score, says the Starbucks-is-crack addict!) as prizes;

(3) the first few hours in my classroom, when I manage to do everything except unpack my five years worth of crap that I only packed up two months ago;

(4) the first department meeting (although I should strike this from my list, because although I usually enjoy this part, this year I actually have to lead the meeting, and that freaks me out);

(5) the aforementioned clean slate.

However, I do not enjoy

(1) the stress of learning all the kids' names in time for Back to School Night in September;

(2) the stress of interims in October, December, March, and May;

(3) the stress of report cards in November, January, April, and June;

(4) the long haul between February's President's Day and April's Spring Break;

(5) the stress;

(6) the stress;

(7) the stress.

And yet... I can't see myself doing anything else.

>waves Teacher Pride banner wildly in all directions and wishes summer were a week longer<

23 August 2006

Five Minutes

"... No...," one of the students says, "four and a half."

Four and a half minutes to convey the absolute horror I feel at being so totally at home in my classroom. Even though it is nearly six o'clock. (Four minutes.) Even though summer is truly winding down and I will have to forgo my two-in-the-morning bedtimes and eleven-in-the-morning awakenings. Even though I have yet to shed the lazy and get my act together on a number of different fronts.

Three minutes.

It's early yet-- students don't come back until September 5th-- but I'm already loving the new year. Clean slate! New students! New syllabus!

Oh, dear God! I love my job!

(Remind me of this in two months.)

21 August 2006

Snakes in a Blogpost

Teddy called on Sunday after I got back from Jess's shower. "So have you decided what movie you want to see?" he asked.

"Yeah," I replied. "I really want to see Snakes on a Plane."

"Wait... Seriously?"




"Um, okay."

I'd been reading about this movie for months now, and I already loved everything about it: the title which was essentially a plot summary ("What's the movie about?" my mother asked me when I first mentioned it. "Uh... snakes on a plane?" I replied); the logo (snakes... wrapped around a plane!); and of course, Samuel L. Jackson, who reportedly signed on as Agent Neville Flynn based on the title of the script alone (and later demanded they change the title back to Snakes on a Plane when some dummy tried to rename it Pacific Air Something-or-Other).

Plus, I'm a real sucker for campy horror/action flicks. Hence my disaster movie collection: The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure (still way better than the remake), The Day After Tomorrow, Independence Day. You name it, I love it.

So Teddy picked me up in his hot car-of-the-moment (an RX-8? Is that a car? Whatever), we grabbed a beer or two, and we went to the 9:30 PM feature.

It was awesome! Gross in parts-- I'll reluctantly admit to closing my eyes during some of the gorier moments-- but otherwise hysterically funny. I mean, come on, what other movie can top pheremone-laced leis, crazed snakes of a hundred varieties, "snake-o-vision" (where you see from the snakes' point-of-view; apparently, they all see in green and blurry), the classic "oh-god-we've-lost-both-pilots-who-will-land-this-aircraft?" plot device, a true willingness to kill anyone, even the nice characters (someone involved in the production must have graduated from the Irwin Allen school of disaster movies), and Samuel L. Jackson's FBI agent finding love while combatting-- say it with me-- snakes on a plane.

Not to mention Samuel L.'s immortal lines: "I've had it with these motherf***ing snakes on this motherf***ing plane!" And my personal favorite: "Just what I need-- snakes on crack!"


Anyway, Teddy hated it. But, as I reminded him several times, he forced me to go see Wing Commander with him years ago, and that was much, much worse. So as far as I'm concerned, we are so even.

20 August 2006

Another Conversation with my Brother

I'm at Jess' family shower when my cell phone rings. I run for my purse and dig frantically through it, thinking, "Everyone who calls me is either at this shower or knows I'm at this shower. It must be an emergency!"

No, it's WS. "HI!" he shouts into the phone. There is music playing at full blast behind him.

"Um, hi?"

"I was gonna leave you a funny message, but this is better! LISTEN!"

He turns the music up louder. Suddenly I recognize the song. It's "Flashdance (What a Feeling)." And it's right at the lyric...

Take your passion/And make it happen

I start to laugh. WS comes back on the phone. "Did you hear it?"

"Yeah! The greatest misheard refrain of all time!"

He laughs, too. And rightfully so. We used to listen to The Full Monty soundtrack in the car on the way to work when I was in college, and whenever "Flashdance" would come on, WS would sing right along: Take your PANTS OFF! And make it happen!

"That is so not what she's singing!" I said once.

"Uh, yeah, it so is," he replied with such confidence that I believed him. For a long, long time.

"Anyway, it came on the radio, and I wanted to share," he says now. "Gotta go, bye!"

God, I love my brother.

18 August 2006

Teddy Returns

My friend Teddy finally got in touch with me last week. He text-messaged me on my birthday to say:


I text-messaged him on his birthday two days later to say:


He called me twenty minutes later and left a message in my voicemail (it was almost two in the morning):

"Hey, why you not answering? OK, whatever, just gimme a call sometime so we can get together and catch up!"

Ah, yes, to catch up. We only see each other roughly every six months. Sometimes not even that. I think we've gone a year at least without speaking once--and yet we live only ten minutes apart. But it isn't because we have a particularly volatile relationship; we just have a... weird... relationship.

Teddy is my oldest friend. We met when we were fifteen, and the pattern we've found ourselves reliving over and over started at that moment in the theatre room. Teddy had a crush on me; I was madly in love with his friend Matt; and Matt liked my friend Jenny. (Ah, high school.) We had a big falling out when he asked me to homecoming and I went with someone else. And then we mended our friendship, and after we graduated, Teddy became my every-six-months friend.

This is what we do when we get together: drink. Teddy works for a big-time, fancy-dancy restaurant, and what he loves more than anything is to show off his connections with the various restauraunts and bars around town. So inevitably, he picks me up in whatever hot car he's happened to fall in love with, we hit a myriad of bars, he pays for everything (and I really, truly try to buy a round or several, but he tells the bartenders right off that they are not to take my credit card, under pain of death), we talk about our love lives (he, much like my brother, attracts the crazies, and I-- um, am boring) and about how we're just going to marry each other when we turn thirty, because it's not like we don't know and like each other.

Once we got so drunk that Teddy couldn't drive home, so he parked his car in the parking lot of the community pool, opened the sunroof, and turned on my favorite classical music... And I don't remember how it began or ended, but we had an intense, two-hour makeout session under the stars.

Afterward, it was cool. We laughed about it and went out drinking the next weekend, too, after which he tried to teach me to drive stick. (ETA: No, I mean that literally! His car has a stick shift. Much thanks to Jess and Steve for pointing out the double entendre and not laughing at me... too much.)

Then he disappeared until my birthday weekend.

See? Weird.

So anyway, I called him back on Wednesday night, and now we're supposed to get together for a movie on Sunday. I'm hoping I can convince him to go see Snakes on a Plane with me, because (1) no one else will and (2) there is nothing better than seeing a schlocky horror flick with Teddy. We're those terrible people who sit in the back and giggle throughout. Mostly because we drink copiously beforehand.

In the end, Teddy is a terrible influence and really not very dependable, but I do love him dearly. Even if it's only twice a year.

Inanimate Things I Love #101

My parents got me an iPod nano for my birthday. I love, love, love it with all my heart and all my soul. Well, no, part of my heart belongs to my gold sandals, and part of my soul belongs to my books, but the rest is in the cold, slim hands of my iPod.

Ye gods! My materialism is at an all-time high. It's really time for me to go back to work...

13 August 2006

Conversation with my (Drunken) Brother

This weekend I turned 27. I could go on and on about how I hate the thought of being in my mid- to late-twenties, but that seems silly. I have no control over my age, so why should I rebel against it? It would just be whiny.

But I haven't felt this way about my birthday since I turned 23. That was the year I really freaked out. I remember driving with T2, the guy I had just started dating (not to be confused with T1, my college boyfriend of the same name), and having what can only be described as a meltdown in the passenger seat. (To T2's credit, he talked me off a ledge and continued dating me for many months more. I think he found the whole thing kind of charming. He was great that way.)

Anyway. This year I did not freak out in any discernible way, but I have felt tailed by a certain melancoly since August began.

And then my brother, WS, called on Saturday morning. He left this message: "Hello, birthday girl! Where are you? Why aren't you picking up? I can't believe you're 27... Man, you're getting old. Okay, I'll talk to you later!"

Compare this to the message he left me last year: "Hi, birthday girl! Happy 26th... Now you're in your late twenties. All right!"

He means well. He even made a cameo appearance at the birthday party which Jess was cool enough to host-- how fantastic is she? So WS brought me a bottle of Boone's Farm ("'Cause I know you like fruity!") and Glen Ellen ("For old time's sake!"-- we used to sell it at our old summer job). He said his round of hellos, then left to "drink a couple brewskis before I head out to the city."

It was a little after 11, and two V&Ts later, when my phone rang. It was WS. "Happy birthday, birthday girl!" he shouted.

"Um...," I said. "Didn't I just see you? Why are you calling me?" (This sounds harsh, but it isn't-- WS only calls me if he needs something or if we haven't talked for a while.

"Just to say 'hi'! And to see if you and your party posse want to come out to [insert bar name here] with us!"

"My party posse?"

(In the living room, my friends hear me and start laughing.)


"Have you been drinking?"

"Well, we did a power hour before we left... And now we're walking!"

"Okay," I said. "That's good. That's better than driving, I guess."

"Yeah! And you know, if we were like eighteen and under, we'd be like a gang!"

"Um," I said.

"And if your party posse would come out, you could be like the rival gang!"

"Um," I said. "I don't think my party posse would be too into that tonight, but thanks."

"Okay!" he replied. "See you later! Bye!"

And he hung up. And that is the first conversation I have ever had with my drunken brother. Even now it makes me giggle and forget that I am indeed 27 and almost-- but not quite-- in my late twenties.

07 August 2006

The Perils of Trashcans

So I bought a new trashcan on Thursday in preparation for hosting Jess's bridal shower this weekend; in fact, I whiled away a significant amount of time in Bed, Bath, and Beyond picking up new pillows for the couch and other householdy-type things. I only do this twice a year: clean my apartment to the bare bones of shiny newness and buy a round of appropriately seasonal tablecloths, etc. This time around, I started on Thursday and didn't finish until Saturday morning. This might be because the last time I really settled in to clean my apartment from top to bottom (or should I say front door to bedroom window?) was just after Thanksgiving, when I put up all my Christmas things.

I am never going to win Housekeeper of the Year.

But back to the trashcan. So I fell in love (as much as one can love an inanimate object-- which is a lot, I guess, considering the fierce devotion I show my books) with a stainless steel cylinder trashcan at B, B, and B. It's taller than my now-dumpstered plastic one, and very sleek. It fits in my very tiny kitchen and takes up the absolutely minimum amount of space. It is, in a word, fantastic.

Q hates it.

As soon as I took it out of the box, he started barking and didn't stop for forty minutes. And he only stopped because he was so worn out from all the barking. He just collapsed in front of the door and looked at me as if I had brought a dog-eating monster home.

I told him he would just have to get over it. I even tried to force him into a confrontation with it; waving a Greenie around that night, I said, "Do you fear the trashcan as much as you love the Greenie?"

He refused to come near the kitchen. I knew then that this was bad. Rejecting a Greenie? Seriously?

Q spent the weekend with my parents (there was no way he would be allowed back to the apartment until after the shower, what with all the copious amounts of dog hair he would no doubt shed on my vaccuumed and shampooed carpet), and when he returned, it was with renewed fear of the trashcan. He barked all night.

It finally occurred to me around nine that his food and water were in the kitchen, blocked by the scary, scary trashcan. So I moved them beside the front door, and Q fell on his food like he was starving (probably from all the barking, again), and since then, he seems to have made his peace with the trashcan.

By which I mean he won't go within ten feet of it. But the barking has blessedly stopped.

03 August 2006


I say this every summer-- but c'mon already, fall, bring on the cooler weather!

When I left for London two weeks ago, it was 100 degrees here, and I remember saying to my father as he dropped me off at the airport, "Well, at least it'll be cooler over there."

Ha! So wrong! As soon as I was on the plane (sandwiched between two very nice but very space-invading guys), the pilot announced the current time at our destination-- midnight-- and the current temperature-- 100 degrees. I turned to the guy on my left and said, "That can't be right."

Oh, but it was. England was undergoing a heat wave no one seemed particularly prepared for. Every few hours I would buy (1) a bottle of water and (2) a iced juice thing from one of the many coffee chains dotting the country (my favorite was Costa Coffee's Summer Berries). I dreamt of swimming every night. When I got to Portsmouth after two days in London, I was so excited to discover that my B&B was about a five minutes walk from the seafront. The first thing I did after unpacking was put on as little clothing as I could get away with. Then I walked down to the seafront promenade, where I seriously considered stripping down and diving into the sea even though it never crossed my mind to bring a bathing suit.

(I didn't strip down, unfortunately, because there were families enjoying their vacations everywhere. Instead, I rolled up my jeans, sat on a set of wide stairs that led into the water, and read for about two hours while the sea washed up against my feet. Mmmm, not swimming, but close enough.)

Here is what was good about the sun: I got a simply fantastic tan. (And I was finally responsible about wearing sunscreen-- thank you, Glamor, for freaking me about about skin cancer!)

Here is what I learned while I was away: The Tourist Information Center doesn't always know even the basic stuff about their city. Case in point-- I had no clue where the Bath youth hostel was, so I dragged my bag all the way to the Bath TIC and asked.

The (admittedly very nice) woman explained and said, "It's about a twenty-five minute walk."

I looked at her and said, "Uphill?"

(If you've ever been to Bath, you know why that's an extremely important question, as the city almost spirals out and up around its center.)

She replied, yes, it was uphill.

"Okay," I said, "is there a bus I can take there?"

Well, no, apparently not, because it was up around the university and in a "bad area." Fabulously encouraging!

I couldn't face a twenty-five minute uphill walk with my bag into a "bad area," especially as I had forgotten the directions as soon as the TIC woman had said them, so I did a little detective work myself. I went to the bus station and looked at all the bus schedules until I found a bus that not only went up Bathwick Hill but also had a stop right outside the hostel.

After I showered and changed (into as little as humanly possible but still decent yet again), I went back to the TIC, and they were actually very helpful in other ways, so I try not to judge them too harshly.