PlazaJen: The Blog

Riding the Bike with One Pedal.

Category: craziness (page 2 of 9)

Still Kickin’

Busy times ’round these parts! Between work, the house, the garden, the dogs & all the other plans, my birthday came and went, and half the month has already slipped by!

Saw Harry Potter 7.2 or B or whatever, you know which one I’m referring to (unless you’re living on a cult campground, and in that case, WHY ARE YOU READING MY BLOG? Get out! Escape! Cults are bad!) Anyway, the movie was fantastic. I think splitting the book in two was a fitting way to wrap up the series; it made you wonder how spectacular it could have been, had they split all the books in two, but probably not realistic.  James did the big extravaganza, seeing all 8 films over four nights; he asked if I wanted to go, but that pesky “I have to get up and work” thing just didn’t make it practical. He loved it so much, he was totally ready to see it again, and we were not alone – the only open sets of seats when we got to the 10 am show were in the first two rows! Totally captivating, and during one particular scene in the woods, I started to cry so hard I was afraid I was going to emit those terrible uncontrollable sobbing sounds. My dear husband put his arm around me and got me through it. Sigh. The people we love are with us…. always.

Our white-trash pool is doing well, though right now, it’s about as delightful as taking a hot bath in a steam room – this weather is utter crap, and I’m turning into a mole person, staying indoors with fans and the a/c blasting. I had no idea above-ground pools were considered white trash, I think I read it on the interwebs somewhere,  but whatever, I say suck it, because when it isn’t 8 million degrees out, it’s pretty nice to take a dip and have a frozen adult beverage poolside.  Though with all the research I’ve done on pools, and looking at other sorts of pools, I get served up banner ads for pools every single day and it makes me want to put in an Olympic-sized pool AND get a pool boy. Gotta love my bidness and the hyper-targeting of cookies!

I turned 43 and I’m already mentally calling myself 50.  I think it will help ease me into that decade, and then there’s the added bonus of when I remember exactly how old I am, I’m not 50! James made me a fantastic, three-layer chocolate cake, with cream-cheese frosting in the middle & chocolate frosting on the outside. It was going to be four-layers, but a certain Labrador Retriever (Tripper) who counter cruises with his nose along the stainless steel trim decided the temptation of a cooling layer was way too much, and nommed about 1/4 of it off the counter before I realized what was afoot in the kitchen. You can always tell with Tripper, when it’s quiet… it’s too quiet. Like how he snuck in last night and got the corn cobs out of the trash…. such a doofus. Anyway, it worked out, because there wasn’t enough icing for the outside, and so I had a bi-racial cake, with white and chocolate both on the outside. It was delicious and made with love! Later in the week, my knitting friends treated me to one of my favorite digs (BRGR, though we had aberrant bad service, unfortunately) and some wonderful pressies and a huge wedding cake cookie for all of us to share.

 

OK – this post has sat as a draft for five days now, so I’m just gonna hit “publish” and try to do another update shortly! The heat is stupid, I’ve noticed a lot of tempers flaring and crazy behavior – let’s try not to make this the Son of Sam summer, k?

Mind over Maki

I get emails from The Pitch, and a few weeks ago, one contained an invitation to a “Sushi Slam” at Edokku out in Lenexa. The food challenge was to consume 10 sushi rolls (your choice) in an hour, 80 pieces. I immediately sent it on to my husband and brother-in-law, and J-Wo replied within minutes that he’d signed up.

I thought, “Why not? After all, if you don’t finish, you get to take it home, and they charge you, sure, but $31 for massive amounts of sushi is still a great deal!”

So I signed up, too.

And Sunday afternoon, off we went. We were in the second group (joined by Fox4 movie critic Shawn Edwards, who kept saying he was going to eat 80 rolls, which would have been nigh-impossible, but nobody corrected him.)  We were early, and we watched from a distance as they counted down the time, and then as people exited with their plastic plates of sushi, covered in saran wrap. “That’s gonna be you,” egged my husband.  Stubborn as always, I told him where he could shove it.

Then we were seated. A guy across from James looked at me and said, “You gonna do this?” and I said, “Yes. It’s mental.” He completely agreed. He kept talking, and I wondered about what might be going on, as he had major bags under his eyes and kept saying the same things over and over. (turns out, we later discovered, he’d smoked a big ol’ joint to get his appetite going.) His plate of sushi arrived, and I looked at it somewhat askance, as the whole plate was full of one type of sushi, and each piece contained fried shrimp. “Dude, that’s a lot of fried food. You gonna eat the tail?” “Hell no, I ain’t eatin’ the tails,” he retorted. Ooook. Good luck there, Cheech.

We were also instructed by the referee that if we chose to dip our sushi rolls into the saucer of soy, any remaining rice in that dish would need to be eaten. I immediately opted not to use my dish.

James’ plate arrived first:

Mine arrived last, so I didn’t get a picture of it. I had errantly ordered one roll that was gigantic and tempura-battered. Fuck. It was utterly delicious, rich, and warm, filled with eel and cream cheese and hell if I can remember what else. I had wisely gotten smaller rolls of simple maki – tuna, eel, etc. The timing began and we were off.
You get two plates – and while I thought it would go quickly, it didn’t. I judiciously took tiny sips of water to keep things lubricated, and tried to enjoy the process as much as possible. About 2/3 of the way through my plate, my husband has already finished his first, and is on to the second. He proceeds to win the entire group’s challenge by finishing in just over 9 minutes. Two plates of sushi. The ref was talking to him like he was trying to make a pass at him, all sorts of praise and complements, it was cracking me up. Apparently he was downing the smaller rolls two pieces at a time. He won a gift bag and a t-shirt, and then sat there and tried to encourage me.

Plate 2 arrived. The previous fried roll was here again, and it taunted me with it’s excesses of warm gooey textures. I plowed back in, grateful I’d eaten very little all day, and then it came down to the big fried roll, and a smaller roll. About 13 pieces. I almost stopped. I thought, it’s ok. $31 is fine. I was starting to get sweaty, and I thought of all those “Man vs. Food” episodes where I’d never fully comprehended just how fucking hard this sort of thing was. A few more pieces and then it happened. One of those horrible moments where your brain is fighting with your body. A sip of water. Rest. There was still half an hour, but as my husband reminded me, rice expands in your stomach, so the longer I waited, the harder it would get. He then hit on the magic solution that saved me: eat some pickled ginger. The crunchy bite cleared my palate, restored a little clarity, and with three pieces staring at me, I told myself paying $10 for each of those pieces was just plain silly at this point. And I polished them off, each with a piece of ginger on top.

For those of you reading this in horror, I completely get it. I was/am pretty horrified myself. I won’t repeat the event, or anything like it, ever again. There were some interesting social aspects to it, too. I’m a fat chick. Big fat chick. Dare I even say, good-looking, funny-as-hell, in-your-face fat chick, sure. And once people are around me and see and know more than the fatness, they tend to enjoy my company and see me less as just a fat person and more for all my parts. But society is just not so much on the fat chicks, and strangers are rude, and kids stare and say shit, and a grandma with dementia once announced to everyone in Price Chopper that That Girl Is Really Big! No matter the bravado and teflon coating, I’m well-aware of the hatahs.  So, there was part of me that felt a little like I was somehow fulfilling society’s stereotype of the fat person, and in participating, somehow adding to the stigma and therefore signing a blank check to insults and stereotypes.  And frankly, as someone who’s had a jillion issues with food and weight over the years, let me tell you how weird it is to have people shake your hand and high-five you…. FOR EATING. That in of itself spoke volumes to me about the messages I have gotten over the years – and the ones I give myself – about food. Nobody has ever said, “Wow, great job! You cleaned your plate!” LOL!

All-in-all, it was an experience. I learned that one really can eat so much food you reach the point of physical discomfort and you think you might involuntarily puke all over some stoned-out dude who also apparently hates fake crab meat.  (Oh, you THINK you’ve been there, after Thanksgiving dinner, but friend, unless you’ve done something like this in a timed event, it just isn’t the same. I thought that, too, and this proved me wrong 10x over.)   It also was interesting to see just how much you can use your mind to overcome pain, circumstances and focus on a goal, which is rather heartening when you think about applying it in the reverse direction.

And yes, I still love sushi…. in moderation.

The Melting Pot of KC: Metro Max

We had tickets to the Buzz Under the Stars concert last Friday down at City Market – Cake was playing, we’ve seen them twice already and love ’em – plus I like Mumford & Sons. My rep had told me that parking was going to be a nightmare, and looking on the web site for the Market, the lots were going to cost at least $10 and no guarantee there would be enough spots. So I decided we should take the bus! James has taken the Max a couple times (jury duty, Rockfest) and always had good stories, so we headed up to the Park & Ride in Waldo, and jumped on the Max. I should point out I’m not a stranger to public transportation, as I took the bus the whole time I lived in Minneapolis, and I’ve ridden buses, subways and trains in NYC, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, etc. I think what distinguishes this experience from those is how…interactive people are willing to get with each other.

The Max is supposed to be very timely, and all the stops have digital updates letting you know where the bus is in transit. It runs from 75th and Waldo all the way up to 3rd & Grand, north of the City Market, and back again. For a $1.50, we were pretty happy with the alternative to driving and finding parking.  Our bus driver was talking to his kids on the phone and might have been a minute or two late for departure, but with all the stops that started happening, he began to fall behind schedule. The trip started to take on shades of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride when we hit the Plaza, and instead of getting into the turn lane (which had a red arrow), he got into the center lane and made a left turn around the line of cars. I couldn’t stop laughing at that point, because we were hanging on to stay in our seats as we surged forward and took hard turns. If he’d had a cow-catcher on the front of the bus, we would have left a trail of wreckage as he plowed through slow cars in the bus lane.

Now, James had told me that there’s a whole section of the route that just turns into crazy pants, with the wildest mix of people you’d ever see. He wasn’t kidding. It starts near the Plaza and continues all the way through mid-town and into downtown.  This experience was heightened by the fact it was also First Friday in the Crossroads, and as we sped through the area, we saw a huge wave of…zombies. Yes, zombies. It was totally awesome, apparently there was a hunger/food drive walk and these folks were in full regalia and makeup. (I have a penchant for zombies, I’ll admit.)  The crazy-highlight of the trip, though, was the older woman sitting across from me (I was on the sideways seats, James was facing forward) and she started talking to me about my purple Tom Bihn bag, and that her favorite color is purple. (Despite the heat, she was wearing a jean jacket and purple sweatpants, her face divided by oversized, octagonal glasses.) She proceeded to tell me about buying some bag she just had to have and didn’t care about the stuff that came inside it, she could have thrown that stuff away, but she had to have that bag because her favorite color is purple. I amicably nodded along for a little bit, then turned my head to look around and watch our progress as we surged down Main Street. After a pause, she started talking to me again, but I had already transformed into the blowfish, and my sunglasses helped me avoid further eye contact. Naively, I thought that would be sufficient to discourage her. Oh. No. She leaned across the aisle, pawed at my bag and said loudly, “I LIKE YOUR BAG! My favorite color is purple!”

Oh Lord. “Yes, I know, you told me.” And she proceeded to run through her purple spiel again, while I nodded and avoided eye contact with my husband.

Blessedly, she got off shortly thereafter. After she exited, James reached over and grabbed my bag and informed me purple was his favorite color, too, while we both clutched the seats as we sped off again, trying to make up lost time.

But the big adventure was on the return trip home. We missed our bus by a minute, which was discouraging, as the route runs every half-hour and it was hot, it was just before 10p, and we were ready to head home. We waited it out, got on the bus, this time moving all the way towards the back where the seats are elevated and, I was assured by James, the people-watching was MUCH better.  This time, we were getting an even more interesting assortment of people. A middle-aged black man got on the bus, wearing glasses that had a set of yellow lenses clipped on over them. They were also missing one sidepiece, so they precariously perched on his nose, held in place by only one side wrapping around his ear. I’m not sure what the yellow lenses did for him, I tend to associate that shade with sharpshooters. An angry goth girl with a Jimmy John’s shirt got on as well. Subs so angry you’ll freak? A trio of French girls boarded, and sat behind us, iPods firmly in place. One man got on with a paper plate of pizza, then he got off on the next stop. (Interesting. Dining al fresco and el bus-o?) The bus started to fill up;  an older, skinny black man wearing a wife beater got on, went all the way to the back, followed by another wife-beater-wearing man, head shaved and gauged ears. It took a while to determine they were actually traveling together.  For several minutes, the black man boomed “WHO DAT BE? WHO DAT BE? I CAN’T SEE!” as his pal was standing up in front of him. I just kept facing forward, and noticed I could use the thick piece of plexiglass that was in front of me (between me and the back door) as a sort of mirror, since the florescent lights of the bus brightly illuminated the other side of the bus, while the ones by me were off.

I could see Shaved Head dude swiveling his head around like a parrot, looking out both windows and observing people in the bus. Then he leaned forward and pushed on the shoulder of the French girl who was sitting by herself. “What are you listening to?” he demanded. She pulled out an earbud and said “What?” He repeated the question. In heavily accented English, she answered, “Muzeek” and put her headphones back in. This seemed to anger our unstable fellow, unfortunately. He then spent the next couple of stops sneering and repeating the conversation in an increasingly louder and temper-filled solo monologue. When he and his (WHODAT?!) friend, who at least had stopped his own shouting finally exited, he expelled some extra rage by jumping up and pounding on the bus windows by the girls behind me. Ugh. A guy behind me who’d been at the concert turned and apologized to her, and when someone said he didn’t do anything, he responded with the fact he was from our country and that’s why he was extending the apology. Someone was definitely off their meds, or in desperate need of some new ones.

Meanwhile, people are still getting on and getting off, and at the Plaza, a woman with her arm in a sling boarded, and started talking to the driver, apparently trying to determine if we were the right bus for her. Sadly, her inability to use her left arm also left her unable to pull up her pants, as I did a triple-take trying to ascertain if I had, indeed, just seen a judicious helping of the crack of her ass as her sweatpants drooped badly on her hips. Oh, I had.

Really, I think riding the Max about once a month (or more, if one wanted to write a book) is something everyone should do. It reminds you that the faceless, nameless people who clean your hotel rooms and make your sandwiches and pick up their kids from daycare because they don’t have a car are working behind the scenes to keep your comfortable life comfortable.  That there are a lot of colorful, crazy folks who buy bus cards and go to the library or go out for a slice of pizza and then tuck themselves back to their low-income apartment or halfway house that we don’t see because we’re driving behind our tinted windows, listening to NPR, spending the cost of a bus pass on dinner. That there are people in this city for whom English isn’t their first language, and that chivalry isn’t dead, and people are unabashedly ready to tell you their favorite color is purple. The reminder that 30 years ago, you didn’t see a tattooed and pierced man affectionately touching his equally tattooed and pierced partner on the back, just like a man might pat his wife’s back, while they waited for the door to open. That today you think nothing of it, the new normal has progressed, nobody says anything or looks around with scandal.

That no matter how far away we move to live, in homogenized suburban neighborhoods, surrounded by the sterile blandness and sameness of strip malls and chain restaurants, none of that can hold a candle to the energy of the melting pot that is Midtown Kansas City.

Hang on, Dorothy!

Anyone paying attention to the news lately has seen the devastation and aftermath of an F-5 tornado that hit Joplin, MO on Sunday.  The city is about 2 & 1/2 hours south of Kansas City, and every news station in town has been broadcasting from Joplin, organizing donation efforts, even hosting on-air fundraisers and promoting blood drives. It now is the record-holder for most deadly tornado since they started keeping records.  The images and video have just been horrendous – people in a convenience store, convinced they were going to die, shouting prayers and love; storm chasers narrating what they saw, unable to keep the panic and terror out of their voices.

So when the skies darkened yesterday, and the light turned green, I had just thought to myself, “I probably should turn on the tv and see what’s going on,” and at that moment, the tornado sirens went off. I took the dogs and my phones down to the basement, and proceeded to have a bona fide panic attack, as reports came in of tornadoes being spotted and possibly touching down less than half a mile in two directions from our house. All of the systems were heading in our direction, and then on towards James’ school. I knew he was being calm, reassuring and ever-watchful (he’s got a vast understanding of weather); I, on the other hand, was crying and freaking out with a mattress pad cover over my head.

The dogs remained non-plussed. I got a little irritated with them for not taking the situation more seriously, though what that would look like in two laid-back black labs, I don’t know.  They just thought my tears were nice and salty and since I was sitting on the floor, I surely should be petting both of them, all of the time.

It turns out that the worst damage happened in Sedalia, MO – about 90 miles east of us. Fortunately there weren’t any fatalities, and homes and businesses can be rebuilt.  Certainly my own reaction wouldn’t have been so extreme had it not been precipitated by the Joplin events, but I recalled a time when we were living in Knoxville, Iowa; I was about 3 or 4, and a tornado was on the ground. We huddled together in the basement, and I remember my father leaving us to run upstairs to look outside, and I proceeded to have a meltdown of epic proportions, certain he was going to disappear into the swirling green darkness. (He didn’t, and we were all ok.)

I think I’m good with waiting another 40 years to feel that scared again.

If you want to help with the disaster relief efforts, donations are the best way to do that right now.

Off The Chain

Yesterday was such a lovely day, I decided to spend part of my lunch break taking a little walk in the neighborhood. I thought it would also be nice to take one of the dogs along, namely, Tripper, as he is always looking for mischief and could use a little more discipline in his life.

Well. Polly and I did a fair amount of leash work with her when she was a  pup, but we never did the same work with Tripper. So I picked up one of those “gentle leader” gizmos at PetSmart, thinking that would magically transform this brutish boy dog into a model walking companion.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

First, just the experience IN THE HOUSE should have indicated how things would go. Battle Royale getting it on him, and then several SIT SIT SIT matches where I was extracting his paw from being trapped as he maniacally tried to remove the straps around his face. (I even stopped and consulted the guide to make sure it was on correctly. It was.) Out the door we went, and every four steps, it was like I had a swordfish caught on the end of my line – wild head whipping, pawing, general mayhem. I thought, fine, we’ll just keep going and he’ll get used to it. I held the leash high and short, ala Cesar Milan (Proud, like in dog show!) but there was nothing prideful to be found. Gentle leader, my ass. Even my sharp “TSST!” was useless, and all I could think of was the South Park episode, when Cartman goes apeshit on the end of the leash while Cesar counsels his mother to not pay any attention to him.  This concept is great in theory, but when your arm and patience are both being taxed to maximum capacity, while you’re walking in a no-sidewalk neighborhood, watching for cars? Not so much.  We made it as far as the neighbor’s driveway, and I decided my notion of a bucolic midday walk was seriously flawed. Back in the house he went, and I continued to stroll by myself, returning home sweaty, still covered in dog hair.  Quite the sight. I may try Polly next time, maybe. Or exchange the “gentle leader” for “bad motherfucker collar”.

Edited to give you the South Park snippet (only there was no calming down):

A Happy Dog’s Tale

A couple weeks ago, our friend Cindy went out for a walk and came home with a lost dog. The pooch was predominantly black lab,  a blocky-headed, chunky dude named Coal. He had a leather collar with a city and phone number in Georgia, so we all assumed his owners had recently moved to town. After all, Coal hadn’t missed any meals, and he was one friendly dude. Because Cindy’s yard isn’t fenced, we agreed (yeah, I got the puppy-dog eyes from my husband) to a trial run and to help house him for a couple of days, as long as he got along well with our two labs. Plus, we have an outside kennel and doghouse, and a fenced yard – it seemed like the humane thing to do for the fella. James had high hopes he might be a hunting dog, but one toss of the dummy showed utterly NO interest in retrieving. Coal chased after the dummy, looked at it, and ran back to James – leaving the dummy behind. Not a duck dog!

He certainly got along with our dogs -manic play time and Coal showed no interest in challenging either dog for pack leadership (another oddity, as he was still intact, and I fully expected aggression between the two males.) No such thing, though by day two, Tripper was attempting to hump him, proving once and for all he’s got a madcap gay puppy inside him just howling to get out! (j/k!) We decided to get our P.I. friend in on the hunt for Coal’s owners – since the GA number rang into a fax, and faxes sent to the machine were unanswered. She quickly identified the name of the owner of the former number, and we even thought we’d found a residence -not too far from where Coal was found. Alas, no such luck. Cindy called vets in the Georgia town, and found Coal’s former vet – who confirmed the name we had was indeed the owner. They supplied a KS number, but that person said they weren’t missing a dog. I started to believe his owners had dumped him, and it made me so sad – and angry. To me, dogs are a commitment for their lifespan, not a couch you decide you’re tired of and put out on the curb. But I digress.

My new knitting friend Shawnna graciously agreed to foster Coal on a longer-term basis, and asked if we could call the vet back to get his records (for immunizations, etc.) Cindy obliged – and the vet faxed everything over. Unlike people medical records, apparently you can just send the whole kit & caboodle – and lo and behold, there was another (GA) number on the paperwork! Cindy called it – and it went through to the owner’s mom! Who was beside herself and told Cindy that her son and his wife LOVED that dog, and she would alert them immediately. Sure enough, they called, arrangements were made, and Coal went home that very night! Big smiles reportedly abound, and the only request that was made was to UPDATE HIS COLLAR. (I would have also suggested a surgical snip-snip, but that’s probably not my bidness.)

For a short time, I was afeard we’d have ourselves back up to three dogs, and at one point, Coal was sitting pretty on the back deck, begging to come into the house. I saw James behind him, with an equally hopeful look on his face. Yes, he was well-mannered, and a sweetheart, but no, I wouldn’t let him in. I’d watched that dog attempt to mark every bush, tree, and blade of grass in the back yard, long after he’d run out of “ammo”, and I could only imagine what would happen INSIDE the house. After all, it was Tripper’s error in judgment that fateful day he lifted his leg on our comforter and got his balls moved to the top of my to-do list! So I like to think that Coal’s reunited with his family, and his fellow dog, and he’s probably already put the weight back on that he lost at our “spa” – what with the massive exercise of playtime, and no people food.  Truly an all’s-well-that-ends-well.

But I do still wonder when a puppy might wander into our lives…heh.

How I Came To Detest Neil Diamond

I got a lot of flak on Friday when I posted on Facebook via my phone that I was going insane at the nail salon, as they were playing Neil Diamond songs back-to-back. I was panicked because I couldn’t find my headphones, but eventually did, plugged them in and drowned out the insanity with some Mumford & Sons.
Turns out, a lot of people really love Neil Diamond, judging from the comments. (It never got ugly, these friends just started peppering me with lyrics as a form of torture.) So here is the backstory for why I am NOT a fan.

It started when I was very young – 6 years old or so? I would get off the school bus at my babysitter’s, who had a son in my class. I clearly remember two things about my babysitter: she had an impressive collection of nail-wire “art” in her living room (you know, like big ships at sea or animals, made from wire criss-crossing on a black background) and she had an undying love for Neil Diamond. She was SO EXCITED when she picked up a new 45 and she would play the song over, and over, and over again. I particularly remember when she got “Reverend Blue Jeans” (as I thought he was singing, anyway, the song was  “Forever in Blue Jeans”, no matter how many times I heard it. Which was a lot.

Fast forward 15 years. I’m out of college, and working at Carson Pirie Scott’s Menswear department – dress shirts and ties. The music that played overhead was Muzak, and it was pretty much the same dreck every day. And it never failed that there would be an hour of Neil Diamond music, done to Muzak, and for whatever reason, it just made me crazy. Because it’s earwormy to begin with, and then you mash it down and take out the words and synthesize it and now you’ve created a shadow monster, something that is ten-times worse than it’s source, like artificially-flavored chocolate chips. Better to have none at all than that lingering chemical taste in your mouth, I say.

I do make an exception for the hilarious Will Ferrell send-up of Behind the Music on SNL. That’s a case of improving on the original, imho.


Neil Diamond Storytellers
Uploaded by JimGoodwine. – Click for more funny videos.

And here’s a great example of the art I was trying to describe. I’m pretty sure she had a big ol’ ship over the sofa.

I know there are plenty of superfans who love Neil Diamond. But I was raised on the Beatles, the Stones, Bob Dylan, folk music and protest songs. Balladeers like Neil weren’t welcome at our house, and his music is like fingers on the chalkboard of my soul. But I also know that not every Neil Diamond enthusiast embraces wire ship art, either. So let’s celebrate what we can agree on – and I’m betting it’s a universal dislike of those faux chocolate chips!

For the Love of a Bestie

It’s never been a big secret, my dislike of musicals. It’s not that I hate ALL of them, certainly – in fact, it surprises even me, the number I’ve seen and enjoyed. Chicago, Sweeney Todd, The Producers (the original), Rocky Horror Picture Show, Rent…. I’m sure there a couple more in there, but as you can also see from that list, I’m not into classic musicals and apparently, if it’s not got twisted humor, then there should be death.  OK. So, my BFF, Beth, has teased me forever about musicals, because she loveloveloveLOVES them, and Moulin Rouge is her favorite. She even told me the other night at knit night that she now had it on Blu-Ray so the original DVD could be mine for a low low price.  It’s always been a funny piece of our friendship.  So much so, that on October 22, 2010, she sent me an email with this text:

I’ll quite pestering you about watching musicals if you make me these.
Not an easy bargain for either, but you might win in the end.

(Pattern linked to designer’s blog so all can access. Ravelry pattern link here.)

Yes, Moulin Rouge MITTENS.

Now, what made this even funnier is that I have never been much for colorwork, the technique required to create these things. In fact, I think I’ve even been heard to proclaim how much I hate it. But a seed was planted. A challenging seed. And as I continued to knit on my holiday presents, my brain thought and buzzed and finally concluded I could knit these things. Not to end the banter, never, but because it would be a fantastic present.  A present knit with adoration and humor, and hopefully, not too garbled and jacked up, since my skill set in the technique category was low.

I won’t lie and say it was easy. Especially at first. I started out using Knit Picks Palette, as three of the ten photo-containing projects on Ravelry had been knit with it, and I was ordering some other yarn for holiday knitting. Egads. First of all, it’s splitty as hell. Second of all, even on a Size 0 (that’s tiny, for the non-knitters who have read this far), they were coming out grotesquely huge. I made a mistake in the chart, and decided to start over. (This was giving me some practice on my stranding!) Second attempt? Still came out huge. I couldn’t believe it. So I turned to the trusty folks at the Loopy Ewe, and ordered yarn from their new solid series of “house yarn”. Barn Red and Sand. And oh what a difference yarn twist can make. I’ll confess, there are a couple rounds here and there that are a smidge tighter than they ought to be. But in the end, they made a certain birthday bestie very happy, and I’m damned proud of the knitting accomplishment – because in the process, I came to enjoy knitting colorwork, and even have plans for some other projects now.  What’s especially funny to me is that I watched a TON of MI:5, the British spy drama, while knitting on those, and it often feels like the things we watch are knit up into the stitches, as we look at something we’ve made and recall what we were doing while they were created – so they truly capture both of our passions.  May she wear them for years to come!

Moulin Rouge Mittens

Wut?

I was so focused after my lunch meeting, I auto-piloted right on past Aldi’s, where I wanted to pick up some olive oil. (We’re making duck confit at the NuWo household. FANCY!) So I pulled in to the ghetto Price Chopper, which is fine for quick trips. They are not an expansive store, by any stretch.

Grabbed the oil and a couple other things and went to checkout. The cashier said something I couldn’t understand, so I looked up, smiled and said, “What?”

She said, “You know, for those pouch things you wear around your waist.”

My smile kinda froze. First of all, it’s a fanny pack, I’ve never worn one, and …WTF? Did I just plummet to earth into someone else’s body and we’re having a conversation about how to travel in Europe as Ugly Americans?

I kind of half-nodded, smile frozen, my lips sticking to my teeth as the air dried them….and uttered a very non-committal “OooOohuh,” as I am rapidly hitting all the buttons on the pay station so I can sign my name and be done.

“Good for when we take our dog hiking, you know, down by the river, we do that when it snows.”

At this point, I’m pretty sure I’m dealing with The Girl Who Slipped Through Screening, and I’m just bobbing my head in an up-down-angle-side-to-side, lips frozen still in smile, and I’m trying to push the cart forward, grab my groceries and go, still making some sort of neutral “Ahhhhhhhh” sound.

I still have no idea what’s going on there, but I figured I’d at least blog it. I’m not sure if she was talking about the advantages of plastic bags? They fit in a fanny pack, and certainly would be handy when walking your dog down by the river.  Girlfriend needs to buy herself some segues, along with a few more sentences. Of course, any observer might have thought I was the crazy one, what with the demented smile, ooooohing and ahhhhing, nodding and bobbing like a boxer. They might be right.

Hello, Neighbor…

No, I’m not talking about Crazy Cat Lady, though she had her own personal  festival of lights last week, courtesy of the emergency-service vehicles lined up in front of her house. I’m just feeling very…. Mr. Rogers. Won’t you come in? I should put on a cardigan. (Actually, I really should, I’m kinda cold.)

Starting off 2011 very differently than I started 2010. For one thing, I’m unemployed again, as my part-time employer unceremoniously gave me the boot the day after Christmas weekend. Of course, I could have been surprised, but when you advertise for a junior buyer on internal job boards at a local agency, I’m connected enough to find out within fifteen minutes. (That happened on Dec 1, ironically, my one-year anniversary there.) I was given a nice platter of prevarications.  I tried to accept them at face value, but, frankly, there had been enough lies before that point (nothing like having to keep from the client you’re only part-time and they’ve been told you’re full time) to know that it was time for something new, shiny and distracting to take my place. I got in touch with one of my co-workers, and let him know what was going on – and warned him some of the things I’d seen and heard might mean he was next. Sure enough, he came back from vacation and got axed today. I told him when he called to just keep feeling the relief, of not having to sustain the impossible anymore.

So what does that mean for me? Well, I have some opportunities for freelancing, and I’ll certainly be pursuing them as much as I can. I’ll have unemployment for when that’s not active, and I’ll keep my health insurance current. I think what I learned from the last go-round is that when you feel like you’re losing your integrity, just by walking through a door, you may be losing a salary, but you’re starting the process of regaining so much more. I also learned that as much as I worried and fretted and stressed, it didn’t make one bit of difference. I feel a strange sense of calm, and assuredness, that is really rather surprising. I have great friends in the community, former colleagues, vendors and clients. And as my father said in the worst of times, it will all be ok. I’m glad I don’t own a business that is hemorrhaging money and worrying about if I’ll make payroll and what happens if one client leaves, will it all go under. One of these days, I’m going to write down all the sordid stories, and they will astonish you, children, they really will. The advertising biz tends to look a lot more Gordon Gecko and not so much Melrose Place.  (I remember my father asking me, “This business? Does it have any NICE people in it? It doesn’t seem like it does.” Yes, dad, plenty of nice people. Just not the most honorable, as some are merely glorified con artists.)

I may need to take up violin lessons, though, all my appointments for fiddling when Rome burns and whatnot. Heh.

Well, that’s all for today, kids. I’m going to enjoy my zen, while others chug the Maalox. It’s a new year, and I just have a feeling, it’s going to be one of my best.

xo

jen

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