Saturday, January 31, 2009

on the road again..blah blah something rhyming with "again"

greetings from baltimore!

(actually, i'm about half an hour or so away, but i figure it's close enough to call it.)

i've road-tripped up here this weekend to see my sibling and attend some of the edgar allan poe bicentennial festivities. john astin will be making an appearance (he's doing a tribute to poe", and i'm wondering if he'll kiss my arm if i say something to him in french.

i took a lot of notes during the trip up, thinking i could use them for a post, but

a. i'm too lazy to go outside and grab the notepad out of my car and

b. since i scribbled while driving, i'm not sure i could read my semi-legible chicken scratch anyway.

so, here's what i recall:

10:10 am: after two trips back inside my apartment, it appears that i've thrown everything i need into my car and i can finally leave. unfortunately, i've also determined during the two trips back inside that pepto-bismol will be riding shotgun today. on the bright side, this could provide invaluable information to other travelers regarding the number of rest areas along I-95.

10:35 am: after visiting two banks (the bosses' and my own), i am finally heading out on the highway. (unfortunately, "born to be wild" is not on my ipod, so i'm settling for "don't worry, be happy" instead.

10:40 am: i'm doing 80 in the passing lane, and this black mustang is practically in my backseat. i finish passing the 18-wheeler on my right, and mutter something under my breath about hoping the speed demon gets pulled.

10:55 am: pass my first cop. the speed demon got pulled.

11:10 am: pass my second through fourth cops. they've pulled over an suv, and it looks like they're dismantling it. can't decide whether they're looking for drugs, illegal aliens, or weapons of mass destruction.

11:15 am: merge onto I-95 from I-20. resolve to count the number of south of the border billboards between here and the border. unfortunately, this is my most quickly broken resolution ever, as five minutes later, i miss a few while counting cops 5-7, who are pulled over with two suvs. there does not appear to have been an accident, and neither of the suvs are being dismantled, and while i pondered this, i probably missed a couple more signs. drat.

11:50ish am: pass south of the border. were i not already running a little late, i'd stop and take pictures with the gnomes.

12:30-3:30 pm: drive to richmond. pass a couple more cops, including one who pulled a car over just past the turnoff for a rest area. (so much for the "sorry, officer, but i really have to pee" excuse....)

stop three times at rest areas and once for gas. observe that there's a sign on the back of the gas station restroom door that offers a free drink if the bathroom's dirty. the bathroom is actually fairly clean, though i'm mildly concerned about the lack of privacy, as there are no walls separating the two toilets from each other or the sink area. also, it seems that the throne i've selected doubles as a thrill ride. you know those little caps that cover the bolts at the base of the toilet? they're are the bolts. that should be good for a free drink or bag of sunchips or something......

3:30 pm: arrive in richmond. follow mapquest's directions to a spot near (because mapquest doesn't always deliver you to the front door) the maggie l. walker national historic site. i'm thrilled, because only one u-turn was involved.

3:30-4:30 pm: after the informative 11-minute video, tour the exhibits and mrs. walker's home. hers is a real "rags to riches" story- freeborn daughter of a former slave and an irishman (by the way, they couldn't marry, because interracial marriages were illegal in virginia at the time) graduates from high school at 16, marries at 19, becomes the first woman to found a chartered bank, as well as the oldest bank continuously run by african americans, becomes wealthy enough to not only own her own home, but to nearly triple its size and, when she became confined to a wheelchair, added an elevator to it. oh- and, as i found out, she converted her carriage-house into a garage, which held her packard automobile.

6:00ish pm: merge onto the beltway. (I-495 N)

6:30ish pm: enjoying the crawling traffic on the beltway, only because i'm catching a friend's radio show on 99.5.

6:50 pm: merge back onto I-95. still can't figure out why traffic was crawling. there was one tow truck the entire time. no hovering spaceships or busted armored cars.......go figure.

7:05 pm: arrive at sibling's house. congratulate self on finding it the first time and not having to call for rescue. (though, to be fair, i had mama on the phone, and i can't say she didn't guide me in.)

total number of cops seen: 10

total number of rest areas visited: three

total number of pepto chewables (i think i still prefer the liquid) chewed: 4

total driving time: 7:45 (take that, mapquest! so much for your 8:15!)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

a glitch in time

i seem to have missed the boat....or maybe another form of slow-moving transportation would be more appropriate- but i'm getting ahead of myself.

last year, for christmas, i was blessed with not one, not two, but three wall calendars. two wound up (strangely enough) on walls, and the third i regifted or sent to goodwill or something equally appropriate.*

this year, sadly, i received not three, not two, not even one calendar.

in my kitchen, i'm still looking at december 2008, which involved photos of new zealand's south island. the useless tidbits i normally write on my kitchen calendar (which hours i worked for which job, when it would be best to approach me with dark chocolate, pomegranates, and my name is earl on dvd), are being scribbled on little pieces of paper- generally the backs of last year's page-a-day calendar- and stacked on my desk for transfer to the wall calendar i've yet to get.

above my desk hangs december 2008 (for once i'm only a month off)- denali national park. i don't actually write anything on this calendar, and since i hang my copy of the call schedule on this one (so i don't relay the voicemail messages to the wrong physicians on their days off), i'm seriously considering flipping back to january, tacking on this month's schedule, and calling it good.

however, i can't really reuse my kitchen calendar. i've scribbled all over it.

you would think that calendars would be fairly easy to find at this time of year. stores should still have surpluses (surpli?), which should be marked down by at least 20%.

with this in mind, i ventured out to my nearest bookstore this week. i didn't see any calendars there, but managed to find a few other items of interest, since they were going out of business and everything was 40% off. i staggered up to the counter with my treasures (as i told one of the employees, i carry everything in my arms, because when i run out of room, i know it's time to check out.), and whe i mentioned that i'd entered the store in search of a calendar but didn't see any, i was informed that they had two kinds- fuzzy baby kittens and something or other from the new yorker.

i'm afraid that neither of the above is really my speed.

i thought i might find something during yesterday's impromptu road trip to charleston. SO and i drove past a barnes and noble, and i gently suggested that maybe we should stop in and check out their selection.

ah, so young- so full of hope.

sadly, even i am a little too old to be interested in high school musical 3 (though i must admit to harboring a small crush on corbin bleu), and i'm afraid the only thing the "sci fi and fantasy heroes" calendar said to me was, "wow- are you really that desperate?"

the only other option at barnes and noble was- and i could see it in a state like, say, kansas, where i once blew 25 cents on the most scenic postcard i could find- a field of wheat (i kid you not)- tractors.

oh, yes- twelve glorious months of tractors. i didn't check to see if there were any action shots, but i can assure you that there were neither hunky, farmers wearing halfway undone overalls or comely milkmaids marring the view of these fine pieces of machinery.

sorry, but if i'm going to spend a year staring at a john deere(tm)**, there had better be some decent scenery to go along with it.

there was a ginormous hallmark store in the same shopping center, but that did not prove any more fruitful. (i'd warned SO when he suggested it that, having once worked in a hallmark store, the calendars they were likely to have in stock were not likely to be my style, as i am not into fuzzy baby kittens, especially as "painted" by thomas kinkade.)

so, when i get home from work in roughly another 9 hours, i will add yet another scrap of paper to the pile on my desk. i'm hoping i can stumble into something when i'm up in baltimore next week (visiting my sibling and attending the second weekend of the poe bicentennial). otherwise, i may have to ask SO to pick up the tractors after all......

*if you're reading this and received a calendar from me last year, rest assured that it wasn't yours. your calendar was picked out for you specifically with your tastes in mind. i mean, would anyone have known that you like fuzzy baby kittens, as "painted" by thomas kinkade? i think not. it would take an awfully thoughtful friend to hit that nail on the head......

**though, it should be noted that this was not the official john deere(tm) calendar, they probably were john deere(tm) knockoffs, and not actual john deere(tm) tractors.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

at a loss for words

i'm working on something.

actually, i should be working on several somethings- decluttering my apartment, scribbling on avon brochures, cooking something for dinner, working on my billing stuff- but i figured before i started any of those projects, i'd work on scribbling something to submit to newsweek's my turn column.

i had a topic of interest, and i've managed to pound out about half of the 900-word maximum.....

....but i got stuck.

here's the most frustrating part: the article i'm attempting to write is about language.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

better make that screwdriver a double- my contacts are cruddy

i could lie to you and tell you i've sat down to write something new several times over the past couple of months....though, come to think of it, that's not really a lie, as i've sat down to pound out the annual holiday letter and numerous emails, and i've handwritten my fair share of thank you notes and checks to pay the bills.

so, let me simply say that this is the first time i've sat down to post something new to the blog. (fair enough?)

my trip up to maine for the holidays would have made great fodder for a post, but the notes i scribbled furiously (ok- maybe i wasn't furious at the time, but there were certianly moments when i felt a wee bit inconvenienced) fill enough of my journal that i doubt you would care to set aside half an hour to read the post. it's more a "chapter at bedtime" length, and at the rate i'm going with my bestselling autobiography, we'll all be heading for bed in the nursing homes of our choice before the words will be in print.

....but i digress, and it would be unfair of me to hook you with such a tempting title and not deliver, right?

yesterday started as my fridays usually do: i'm still trying to get caught up on my full-time work after returning from my vacation, so i woke up early and put in a couple of hours on my most urgent project. after a snack and a shower, i headed out the door a little later than intended. (to borrow from tom jones: it's not unusual.)

after loading three boxes' worth of avon orders into my car, as well as all of the stuff i'd need for my work across town, i plopped down in the driver's seat (the place to be when one intends to drive), plugged in the ipod (current obsessions: foxboro hot tubs, the soup dragons, and scissor sisters), and fired up the ignition.

except, for the car to actually go anywhere, something has to happen when you put the key in the ignition- and this does not include giving the car funny looks, muttering under one's breath, or throwing something. in fact, it's rumored that once the key is turned in the ignition, assuming feet are on the proper pedals (if required), the car customarily makes the next move.

my car did nothing. not a damn thing.

so, i did the logical thing. i took the key out and tried it again.

still nothing.

so, i did the next most logical thing; i called for help.

fortunately, my dad is retired, and in between international travel and fixing things around his houses, he has little else to do with his time than sit around, waiting for me to call for advice.

(ok- maybe not completely true, but i think he likes this whole "giving advice" thing- especially since, during my formative teen years, i was loath to take any advice he tried to pass along.)

sorry- digressed again. it happens- especially when i go so long between posts.

anyway, the first thing he said was:

"okay. haul out your screwdriver. flathead would be ideal, but if you only have a phillips head, that could work in a pinch."

now, i ask you: how many of you keep screwdrivers in your car?

exactly my point.

so, with daddy still on the phone, i locked the car and walked the fifty yards and two flights of stairs back to my apartment.

in retrospect, it would have been helpful if he'd mentioned at this time that i might need to also grab a wrench or pair of pliers or some other torque-producing tool*, but he saved that little tidbit until after i used the screwdriver to scrape the metal battery terminals and the car magically started.**

while i walked back the fifty yars and two flights of stairs again, this time for the pliers which, by the way, are currently riding shotgun in my car, i asked if it would be possible for me to run my other errands (avon deliveries, bank, work across town) before getting the car taken care of. i'll spare you the details, but let's just say that my dad advised that i keep the stopping to a minimum until after my "contacts are cleaned".

i pointed out that i wasn't wearing my contacts- i was flying blind. (i like to think my family, particularly my dad, appreciates my smartass sense of humor.)

i made a couple of stops ("slow-downs", really) on the way to triple a, where i found out that my car couldn't be seen for another 2 1/2 hours. i called the boss across town to advise him of this, and he told me not to waste my time and money- he'd take care of my car when i got there. since i had my now-trusty screwdriver (i'd had to scrape the contacts when my car wouldn't start after my second tool-retrieving trip to the apartment) and pliers (though i suffered from the inability to loosen the bolts enough to pull the clamps off of the contacts), i figured i'd throw caution to the wind.

three stops, two phone calls to male friends who might have experienced this predicament firsthand (i bet neither of them carry tools in their cars), and one more screwdriver-scraping later, i pulled into my boss's driveway.

three hours, two retightened clamps (turns out one had been really loose all along), and one sheet of sandpaper later, i pulled back out of the boss's driveway.

since everything was taken apart and scraped with the sandpaper, i'm not sure there's any real reason to carry the screwdriver around anymore though i suppose, if i get frustrated enough then next time my car won't start, i can hurl the screwdriver, and then use the pliers in the event it becomes stuck in whatever i happen to hurl it at.

*i have no clue if "torque-producing" is even accurate, but since i'm now driving around with tools in my car, i'm trying to sound like someone who knows technical stuff about these things, unlike someone who, prior to this, carried an emery board and a tire pressure guage thingy and nothing else remotely toolish (toollike?)in their chariot.

**after i put my key back into the ignition. i mean, it's not like i'm driving chitty chitty bang bang here.