Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Part 6: Vermont

This is the next installment of my trip with MJ & KT to NYC and Vermont. The last episode can be read here.

We had spent the vast majority of the day traveling by subway, train and car. The drive was beautiful, and we saw lots of little, stereotypical New England towns (which was a first for me, as I'd never been north of Pennsylvania at this point). It was very rural, with large white churches, red barns, little dairy farms, Victorian homes--it's a very delightful part of the country. It all looked like something from a postcard. I can only imagine how charming it must be when everything's covered in snow.

We were exhausted by the time we got to Lake Dunmore, Vermont. It is in (near?) Salisbury, VT. I think it's only about an hour from the Canadian border. We were way up there! But the weather was fantastic -- about 75-80 degrees, mostly sunny.

So we were finally in Vermont. It seemed to take forever, but once we were there, it was heavenly. It reminded me a lot of The Czarina's house: quiet, relaxing, lakeside and in the middle of nowhere. You step out of the car and just.....*sigh*. It is that relaxing. Let me share some pics:

Gorgeous, huh? These are all shots taken from the large, lush yard at the house. I can't remember the last time I was on a lawn that was perfect for walking around barefoot. Unlike here in the South, where our yards are baked to death by the hot sun and full of rocks and twigs, Vermont has nothing but dark, rich, soft earth and all the cool, summer rain makes walking around barefoot perrrrrrrrfect.Here's another shot of the house where we stayed, so you can see the wonderful lawn:

By the time we arrived, it was after dinnertime, and we were exhausted and hungry. MJ, KT, Rocky and I threw our suitcases upstairs in the big dormitory bedroom (there were about 4 beds in one room), and went downstairs to forage for food. The rest of the Rat Pack made us dinner: hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill. At first, this seemed delicious, but after eating that for lunch and dinner for three days, I hope I never have to eat a hamburger again as long as I live!

The weekend was spent eating junk food, drinking terrifying amounts of alcohol (not by me, obviously), fishing, napping, swimming, playing wiffle ball, making smores by the campfire, smoking cigarettes, stealing firewood from a neighbor, sunbathing, laughing, going out for breakfast, listening to music and playing drinking games well into the night.

There was even one night where we all went skinny dipping in the FREEZING lake. And wouldn't you know? MJ & KT, those bitches, made me go FIRST!!! :) But it was still fun. Freezing, but fun.

The Rat Pack probably didn't have as much fun as we did, though, because they had to listen to us talk about ponies, sparkles, glitter, ribbons, feeling pretty, bunnies, things that are fluffy & soft, puppies, things that are cute, lip gloss and similar affinities associated with those of the female persuasion. Keep in mind that as we went on and on and on about ponies, we are speaking in voices normally reserved for 4 year old little girls and choir boys, all while laughing our asses off. We talked like this for 3 days straight, and somehow, never tired of it. I could call MJ or KT right now and say, "Ohmygod! Ponies!" and we would pick up right where we left off. The Rat Pack wailed, complained, covered their ears and yelled at us whenever we broke into our "Pony Voices."

This monster of annoyance was created by Rocky, who began teasing us for being so silly in the car on the way up to Vermont. He started using the voice when he began to get annoyed with us for needing to pee and wanting to look at the cows by the side of the road. We took the teasing and ran with it, making it about 1,000% more annoying. That's what he gets for making us pee in the woods.

So really, he brought it upon himself.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I Can't Take It Anymore!

Dear readers, I am apologizing in advance for this post. If you've ever wanted to skip one of my posts, this is the time to do so. This post is total crap. I have been bored stupid all day, I got no sleep last night and I have been reading blogs almost the whole day (not that your blog is boring!), and my brain is FULL of thoughts, post ideas and expansions on comments I've been sprinkling all over the blogosphere. It's causing me to have yet another Conversation with My Brain.

"Ooh! That post you just read brings up that time from your childhood when The Czarina..." says ADD. [She sounds a little like the Band Camp Girl from American Pie. Can you tell?]

"Yes, but--" interrupts The Responsible Blog Writer.

"Omigod! We should blog about this! Right now! Log in, quick!" says ADD, giddily.

"Stoppit! That's not enough for a whole post! Keep it to yourself for now. Let it marinate for a bit, and one day, you'll be able to write a whole post about it. Something timely, concise and well-constructed. Wait for it to happen naturally!" continues The Responsible Blog Writer.

[whining like a 4 year old] "But...I'll forgeeeeeeeeeeeet! We have to type it nooooooooow!" laments ADD. She stomps her feet in indignation.

"Your posts practically give people motion sickness, what with all your randomness. Can you focus the post this time? Or is it going to be another one of your 'organized' lists of total and sheer absurdity?" asks The Responsible Blog Writer, sneeringly.

"It will be good, I promise!!!!" exclaims ADD, her eyes growing large and pleading. She folds her hands together, almost as if praying.

"Ok, fine. You lucked out, because I'm exhausted today. I don't have the energy to argue with you." sighed The Responsible Blog Writer.

"Is that because you stayed up late, kissing that guy?" asks ADD.

"Yeah! And it was awesome!" blurts Horny.

"Shhhhh! Don't kiss and tell! You've got to stop doing that!" hisses Single Girl.

"But that's all the fun," says Pervert, with a confused expression on his face.

"Can I start now? Pleeeeaaaase?" begs ADD.

"Yes, please, before The Readers start asking you about this guy and more nosy questions about your underwear!" says Single Girl.

ADD's Random Thoughts of the Day

1. I need help with this, readers. I need your advice. I try and read all the blogs I can (if you have ever left a comment on my blog, you're on my list of blogs! I'm at about 100), but sometimes I am woefully behind. Sometimes, I get so behind, I'm too mortified to even come back and catch up. I don't want to be a slave to blog reading (I am a real person with a real life), but I also don't want to offend by taking more than I give. Or whatever. You know what I mean. I feel an absurd amount of guilt over this. Thoughts on this? Opinions? Tips for me? WHAT DO I DO???

2. Teahouse Blossom is engaged and is trying hard not to be a Bridezilla. [insert standing ovation here.] I have been thinking that it's weird how nowadays, people seem to put more effort and time into having the perfect wedding than they do making sure they're marrying the right spouse. Seems kind of silly, huh? I have an engaged couple in mind, actually, as I type this. They have no business getting married. It will be one of those weddings where people will secretly whisper jokes about taking bets for when the divorce will happen. (Ok, I know it's no laughing matter...) And their friends are powerless to do anything, for fear of ruining the friendship. Man, I hope I'm never a member of a couple like that.....

3. The Czarina thinks I am going to be wearing her wedding dress when (if?) I get married. Little does she know that I think her wedding photos look like a lace factory barfed all over her. Then, after the lace-barf dried and stuck to her skin, the Industrial-Strength Rubberband Ninja attacked her, clamping her at the neck and wrists, ensuring that the lace-barf will not only cover every inch of her body, but it will also cling to her all day. I can't tell her about the lace-barf, because it will break her heart. She thinks the dress is gorgeous. *gags*

4. Aside from eloping, my only solution to this problem is to try and gain lots of weight the second I'm engaged, thereby rendering the dress uselessly too small. Sweet! Except that I don't want to be Fat Bride VB. It's not like I can tape a sign on my ass as I walk down the aisle that reads: "I only gained all this weight so I wouldn't have to wear the lace-barf dress. I hope you understand. Please try and take all photos from a flattering angle. Thank you."

5. Of course, I could try and alter my grandmother's dress. It's a 1940s pale blue satin dress--MUCH more my style. The gigantic shoulder pads and long sleeves will have to go. And somehow, I will have to shrink 4 inches (The Czarina's mother was a short, bosomy German spark plug of a woman)....oh dear. Maybe I can add some sort of trim to the bottom? Or insert a panel in the waist, thereby making the skirt longer? Ugh. Why in Holy Hell am I even talking about this??

6. I have recently learned about Couch Surfing. If this doesn't show the kindness of strangers, I don't know what does. It's incredible to me, sometimes, how much we CAN still trust strangers.

7. What is my favorite thing about blogging? Reading other people's blogs. It is the box 'o chocolates of the Internet. You never know what people will write about! Today I read posts on dogfighting, snot, burying ashes of loved ones and arguments with neighbors. I even got a potato soup recipe. I love it! We are all out there, interpreting our worlds, sharing our experiences and exposing our humanity for all to see. *sigh*

[Apparently, Cynical has the day off. In her place is Idealistic, a part-time Voice who fills in from time to time. She keeps applying for a full time position, but the other Voices cannot stand her touchy-feeliness, and unanimously veto all plans to adopt her into their collective existence.]

8. Do you believe in the Law of Threes? It's that little adage which states that good things and bad things happen in sets of three. I'm starting to think I do. Then again, I'm kind of superstitious. In the last 24 hours, look at what has happened to me: I got an unexpected check in the mail (WOOT!!!), E said she is seriously considering moving in with me and Netflix announced that it's lowering my subscription rates. Ok, I know it's kind of weak, but funny how suddenly the Universe wants to see my bank account do a little better. Unfortunately, now I'm worried that three bad things will happen to me tomorrow....

9. This past weekend, MJ and I saw a foreign film. (Why are people always so surprised to learn that I like "artsy" and "foreign" films?? Jeez, am I that vanilla? I do like culture, people!) Anyway, it was a French film called Private Fears in Public Places. After the movie, we discussed our reactions to the movie and hypothesized about its meaning and message. I think it's about the problems which can result from hiding your true self to others. But I'm sure there are many other interpretations. The acting is very good, and it's set in Paris, so if you're interested in a thought-provoking movie....

There. I feel better now. Thank you for letting me ramble and go all over the place. *breathes sigh of relief.* All that stuff was just up in my brain, accumulating. Had to get it out.

What is wrong with me today? I am a crackhead. I am so sorry. I need sleep. Also, I have medicine head, thanks to my sinus infection.

P.S. to Part 5

I just needed to add on a couple of things to MJ's most recent post (Part 5 of our trip to NYC & VT). So this will be short. If you haven't read her post, this won't make any sense to you. But it's important for you to know about these, so you can see just how ridiculous and hopeless I am.

The morning we left NYC for Vermont, I decided to travel in comfort, and wore a flimsy black skirt. We loaded ourselves down with suitcases and walked a few blocks to the subway station. It was kind of a breezy morning. I was following MJ & KT into a large intersection. This is when I learned a very important lesson about NYC:

Large intersections in NYC tend to be very breezy, so keep a hand free to hold your skirt down.

Of course, my hands were full of stuff, and so I was totally helpless when my skirt completely blew up, exposing my undies to the entire busy intersection. Great. This would only happen to me. I think approximately 563 people knew what kind of underwear I had on that day. Awesome.

Then we went down to the subway, where I learned another important lesson about traveling in NYC:

If you are carrying a suitcase on wheels through the subway turnstyle, PICK IT UP before you go through.

Still following MJ & KT, we got our subway cards and started to lug ourselves and our stuff through the turnstyles. MJ went through. KT went through. I got stuck. Somehow, I managed to get the handle of my suitcase wrapped around the turnstyle bar. Which was not moving, because I'd already swiped my ticket. And since we had all bought single-ride tickets, my ticket was now useless -- I'd already swiped it. I couldn't just hop back over the turnstyle and buy a new ticket, either--the turnstyles are very tall and designed to prevent people from jumping over them. I was in limbo -- neither forward nor backward could I go. I began to panic, because it was time to board the train and Rocky was going to shoot us if we were late, and I would be forced to spend the rest of my trip, crying, stuck in the subway turnstyle.

I look up, and MJ and KT have realized what is going on. They are struggling with the subway doors, getting yelled at for holding up the train. "Come on! What's wrong? Hurry up!" they yelled. "I can't ! I'm stuck!" I shouted back. Seeing that I was hopelessly stuck, they gave up, grabbed their stuff and hopped off. KT dropped something right as the doors were closing. That's when a nice lady on the subway tossed it to her right in the nick of time. (It was pretty cool, actually. Kind of like something from a movie. They had one chance and a 2 second moment to do it.)

Somehow, MJ untangled me. I still don't know how she got me unstuck, because I was lodged in there pretty good. She still doesn't know how I managed to get stuck in the first place. Again, something only I would do.

So just remember that turnstyles are not suitcase friendly. Pick up your suitcases, folks. And keep that hand free to hold down your skirt. Unless you're the kind of person who likes flashing busy intersections full of strangers.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

NYC Trip, cont.

Um, I think this is part 4, but I'm not sure. The last installment is at MJ's though.

One thing MJ and I forgot to share was our token NYC Homeless Person moment. [Note: The taste of this post is in some question. I realize this isn't much different than most of my posts, but if you have a weak stomach or are easily offended, you might want to skip this part. Then again, if you are like that, why are you reading my blog? But I digress.]

MJ and I were waiting outside of a vitamin store while KT went inside to buy some dietary supplements or something. We were still drinking our coffee, I think, when a homeless woman walked up to us.

She had dried snot all over her face, and asked us--actually, it was more of a slurred request-- for money. It was pretty obvious she would use any donated cash for large quantities of alcohol or illegal drug purchases, so we said no. The homeless lady continued on down the street, veering all over the sidewalk. I went back to talking to MJ.

A few seconds later, MJ poked me in the arm, pointed in the direction of the homeless lady, and said, "Look!"

Dumbass that I am, I fell for it. I turned to look over my shoulder to see the homeless woman's ass. All of it. She was scratching it as she walked down the street. Then she yanked her pants back up.

After sarcastically thanking MJ for pointing that out to me, we continued on our way (I believe we were on our way to the Empire State Building??) with KT in tow. As we walked, MJ related a story that Rocky had told her about another homeless woman in NYC.

Apparently, Rocky had seen a homeless woman peeing in an alley or something, and he had been amazed at her technique. As most women know, peeing while standing up, for a woman, means you end up peeing all over yourself. So this little story will actually serve as a PSA for women without toilets everywhere. Keep this in mind for the next time you go camping, girls.

According to Rocky, this woman grabbed her ankles while peeing, causing her flow to project behind her in a totally horizontal way. Not only is horizontal pee apparently something amazing to behold, it's also a very effective way to avoid peeing on yourself.

I am not telling you this to gross you out. It plays a role in the Tale of Our Trip later on, I swear.

Alright, so where did MJ leave off? Oh yes, we met up with Rocky down near Ground Zero to give him his keys. Century 21 was a total zoo. Then we went to Canal Street for some shopping.

I was looking for this, or something similar (big, with a slouchy middle) only in a knock-off version. I found one, but the zipper didn't work. [Insert small cry here.]

After much hemming and hawing, I decided to get this one, since it looked like "me":

Ah, I'm a sucker for metallic leather....anyway, it's supposedly a Tod's knockoff, although I'm unable to find any image of an "official" Tod's bag looking even remotely similar to mine. In any case, it doesn't matter, because I love it.

Exhausted from shopping and walking all day, we headed back to Rocky's (via my favorite, the NYC Subway!!!) to meet up with him and his roommates for dinner. By the time the 6 of us were ready to go, we were starved. As we walked around Greenwich Village, searching for a good place to eat (translation: one on which we can all agree!), KT suddenly shrieked:


(See? I told you this post was in poor taste. Gah, I don't even want to think about the terms that will pop up on my statcounter now....*shudders*)

It turns out that KT loves this adult novelty store called The Pink Pussycat. We were saddened to see that it was closed, but we took a photo in front of it anyway. The guys stood and watched us get excited about this adult toy store. They were confused by our excitement over such a place. Huh? Were they serious? Men, lovers of all things sexual, didn't see what the big deal was about a sex store??? After some prying on our parts, it was determined that they did not realize there were items for them inside these places, and thought we liked the fuzzy bedroom slippers or something.

Um, not hardly. We decided to educate the guys about the joys of sex toy stores over dinner. They had almost no experience with sex toy/porn stores AT. ALL.

(File this under "Things I Did Not Know About Men"!)

Still starving, we needed to pick a place to eat. We decided to go to Tio Pepe's, a Spanish-Mexican place nearby. (Correct me if I'm wrong, MJ, but I think you can see our round table in the foreground of the first picture!) Everyone (but me, obviously) enjoyed their sangria and beer while we waited for our nacho appetizer.

Our $8 nacho appetizer.

Which had a grand total of 6 nachos on it.

"Good thing we're not hungry!" someone joked.

2 seconds later, those were gone. Feeling the pinch in my wallet at this point, I decided to order an appetizer for my meal to save money. "I'm on a diet, anyway, so it will be good if it's a smaller portion," I thought.

I got the most measly excuse for a quesadilla I've ever seen in my life. It was delicious, don't get me wrong. But the portion size? It wouldn't keep a mouse alive. Apparently in NYC, appetizers are far different from meals. They are called "tapas", which is Spanish for "you will starve". Unlike in SC, where "appetizer" means "a large, cheaper and possibly deep fried meal, disguised by a fancy name".

"Note to self," I thought.

To my left, MJ & KT were enjoying their gigantic, steaming bowls of $20 paella. "We're going to need to-go boxes," they told the waiter. "Dammit!" I thought. Oh well.

We headed back to Rocky's apartment to get ready to go out. Since there were 3 girls and only one bathroom, MJ decided to entertain herself with the xBox while I got ready. She found some strange Burger King game, and began playing it.

Little did she and I know that within a matter of seconds, we'd need many kleenex to sop up our tears of laughter. The game is a total riot. I made the mistake of watching her play while I brushed my teeth and almost snorted my Colgate. I wish I could show you all of the funny things MJ made The King do (like running around in tiny circles very VERY quickly), but I can't. So this video will have to suffice.

MJ and I want to buy an xBox now, JUST so we can play that game. I have rarely laughed so hard in my life.

Once we were all ready, we grabbed a cab and headed to....uh, Chinatown, I think. Or near it, anyway. All I know is, the street garbage was no longer magical to me. Now, it was magically revolting. I almost hurled twice, just walking around. I was so relieved when the guys led us into a bar.

Oh. Right back out again. Apparently, that bar was "dead". Kind of like the fish carcasses again surrounding me in the streets of Chinatown. I think the next bar was called Happy Endings. (I think that's the one with the bar in front and strip club in back???) Surprisingly, it was dead, too. Back outside. We did this about 3 more times until we found a packed place: Piano's. We immediately went upstairs, where there was a dj and a dancefloor.

Although it was too loud to do much talking, we still had a good time, dancing and goofing around. That is, until MJ said, "Uh oh. Those creepy guys are staring at us."

"I know," I replied.

"And we can't make eye contact with them, because then they will come over," she said. I nodded in agreement.

Luckily, Rocky showed up just as we were having this discussion. MJ informed him of our problem. Rocky turns to me and says, "Make out with me."

"Huh?" I asked.

"Just make out with me!" he said.

"Ok," I blurted, surprising myself at how easily I agreed to this idea. (Inner Slut???)

Unfortunately, my mouth made the decision without consulting my brain. My poor brain was caught totally off-guard and so was unable to send the "kiss the guy" command to my mouth. The only command it sent was, "Whaaaaaaa???" So instead of a mildly awkward and spontaneous make-out session between friends, it ended up being an extremely awkward, train wreck of a make-out session between friends. Like, I was 12 again, and didn't know what to do with my tongue. Or his tongue. And all I could manage to do was open my mouth and just sort of.....drool.

Oh. God.

I wanted a re-do, to be perfectly honest. I mean, usually I have a heads up and time to prepare. I swear to God, I know how to kiss! I'm a good kisser! That wasn't me!! That was....oh, God, I don't know what that was. That was possibly my worst, most awkward moment EVER. I was pretty much mortified.

But it worked. The creepy guys left. So, good call on Rocky's part. I guess I just needed a warm up or something.

It was one of those things where you'd give ANYTHING for it to be your little secret. But it's impossible, because you weren't the only person involved. And your friends saw it go down, too.

I had a hard time looking Rocky in the face for the rest of the trip, actually.

Ugh. Can we move on now? Thanks.

After partying there for a while, we left and went to another bar, next door to Rocky's apartment. MJ went to bed, but the rest of us stayed up and sang our group's unofficial theme song: "Don't Stop Believing" -- by Journey. Then Rocky and his roommate tried to find me a guy. They made some poor guy from Romania (I think?) talk to me. As if my night hadn't been awkward enough. He was cute, though, I gotta say. I think his name was Lothar or something equally unusual. Big, tall blonde guy. Mmmm. I like blondes. After some awkward small talk, he left. I turned to Rocky and his roommate.

"Thanks, guys, but I'm ok right now," I said.

"I'm just trying to help you get laid!" said Rocky.

"If you wanted to help me get some, you should have invited The Magician!" I said.

"Oh, he's in Maine," Rocky informed me.


Soon after that, we all went to bed. We had to be up early the next morning to catch a train. The NYC portion of our vacation was almost over. We were going to Vermont for the weekend, where we'd be meeting up with the rest of The Rat Pack.

Stay tuned, readers. Our next installment will use the following phrases:

"OMG! I'm a girl!"
"The Museum of Circles"
"road trip with Hitler"
"grab your ankles!"

and of course,
"Hey, Ahty, wanna go play some stickbawl?"

MJ, it's all you, girl.

Monday, July 23, 2007

*gulp!* Another Conversation with My Brain

Since MJ is doing the next installment of our NYC trip, I will let you skedaddle on over there for more NYC stories.

That way, I can give you the small update about my love life. Yes, it's true. I have an update.

I took the dogs for a short run at the park yesterday. I was kinda sweaty, but realized I needed to do some yard work. "No time like the present," said Little Miss Productive, "You might as well do it now before it gets too hot."

So I was in my front yard yesterday, doing some weeding and watering. "Pee Yoo! I stink!" I thought.

"Just finish up this little bit of weeding, and then you can go inside and take a shower," Little Miss Productive urged.

"But I'm stinky and hungry! And my fingernails are all green!" whined Prisspot.

I went back to weeding. Who appeared out of nowhere???

Cute Neighbor.

"See??!! I told you we should have taken a shower! Now you're stinky! And your makeup has slid off of your face. Stay far away from him so he won't smell your stanky swamp ass!" Prisspot said.

Cute Neighbor and I made some small talk in my front yard. I asked about his dad, he asked about my trip to NYC & Vermont. Yadda yadda. We talked for probably a half hour.

"Ok, this is going pretty good," said Stupidly Optimistic.

"Except for the fact that you currently smell like a buffalo," retorted Pessimistically Paranoid.

"I told you!" shrieked Prisspot.

This conversation with my brain was suddenly interrupted by Cute Neighbor, who was explaining to me how he still had some of the cookies left from when I brought him a plate the other day. "Yeah, I keep them in the fridge so they don't go stale. I eat one per day."

"Wow, that's totally something we would do," said Nerd.

"No it isn't. You could never eat one cookie per day. You'd scarf those puppies down so fast it would make anyone's head swim. What planet are you on, lady?" said Good Point.

"Oops. He's still talking. Pay attention!" said Space Cadet.

Cute Neighbor went on: "Yeah, those cookies are really good. I need to take you out to dinner sometime to thank you for making me all these cookies."

"WHAT?!" screamed Panic.

"Holy Shit! Is that a date??" exclaimed Single Girl.

"You go, girl! Project Cookie Seduction worked!" said Confident.

"OMG, this is a horrible, horrible idea. This will never work. You can't go out with your neighbor. No digging in your own backyard!" said Pessimistically Paranoid.

"This! Is! Awesome! You're going to have such a nice time! He's a super nice guy! And you're a super nice girl! Let's do cartwheels!" squealed Stupidly Optimistic.

"Wait....did he even just ask you on a date? Because that could be interpreted several ways," cautioned Cynical.

"No, that was totally an ask-out! Wheeeee!" said Stupidly Optimistic. [Stupidly Optimistic does cartwheels with Space Cadet.]

"Ooh! Maybe we should go shopping. You need to make sure you wear something devastating. And do your hair," said Single Girl.

"Yes, please do your hair. It looks so awful when you just let it hang there. Kind of like how it is right now," said Inner Mom Voice.

"Um, ok, he hasn't exactly picked a time and a place, people. Also, he's waiting for an answer. Hello??" said Good Point.

"What? Sorry. I was thinking about lunch," said Space Cadet.

"We need to respond to his statement in some way that indicates interest," said Good Point.

"NO! No reply! Let's just pretend we didn't hear him and hurriedly go back inside! Run! Before it's too late!" shouted Panic. "We can't go on a date! We haven't been on a good date in....shit, a really long-ass time. We're fine just how we are right now. Why mess that up??"

"Look, Panic. Just because we are all terrified of dating in any way, shape or form doesn't mean we have to spend the rest of our lives sleeping alone. Eventually, we are going to have to go on a date again. And eventually, there may even be emotional investment. Not necessarily with this guy, but it will happen. You are going to have to just deal with your fears, and not at the expense of potential happiness, either. I swear, if you don't knock it off with this self-destructive mentality...." said Overly Analytical.

"But it's just going to happen again! The last guy seemed nice at first, too! And look what happened! It's just easier to stay single and alone!" cried Panic.

"Panic's bringing up good points," added Pessimistically Paranoid. Cynical nodded in agreement. "Maybe this is a bad idea."

"Speak for yourselves. We're broke and could use the free dinner," said Cheapskate.

"Um, Pervert and I have a question," interrupted Horny, nervously. "Is there going to be any potential for smooches on this supposed date?"

"NO!!!!" shouted Paranoid, Single Girl and Cynical.

"How about ass-grabbing?" asked Pervert.

"Definitely NOT!!!!" yelled Shy and Inner Mom Voice.

"People. You are worrying about future details. If we don't respond in some way to this, the whole dumb date won't even happen at all. Can we get our act together and give him some kind of reaction?" said Good Point.

[For some unknown and highly arbitrary reason, Shy was nominated to speak for all the Voices in response to this statement from Cute Neighbor.]

"Oh. Uh. Ok. Sounds good," stammered Shy.

*All the Voices roll their eyes.*

I talked to Cute Neighbor for a couple more minutes. He left without making any specific plans.

"Can we take a shower now? I'm icky!" whined Prisspot.

"See???? I told you there's no way he'd actually be asking you out! He was just making small talk." said Pessimistically Paranoid.

"That's ok, he will! Maybe he'll come over tomorrow!" said Stupidly Optimistic.

"Tomorrow???!!!! Oh no!!!!!!" said Panic.

....and that's why it's now 1pm and I still haven't gone to lunch. Cute Neighbor works from home. He will be there. Right near my house, when I'm munching on my sandwich. He might want to talk to me. Ugh. WHY am I so petrified at the concept of going on a date???? We are way past nervous butterflies here, people. I'm totally panicking at the notion of going on a date. I need some reassurance. Or drugs. Something. Help!!!!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

NYC: Part 2 or, A View from the Top

Greetings, readers! MJ wanted me to do "Part 2" of our trip to NYC. I will try to remember everything I can without overlapping too much. We got into JFK around 10:30 or so, waited forEVER for a cab, and got to Rocky's apartment. It turns out I was wrong, thinking he lived in SoHo. He lives in Greenwich Village (or, if you are a New Yorker, "The Village"), right on the west end of Bleeker Street, which is only about a block from NYU and this landmark. (I took some pics of his street, I'll share them later.) This part of NYC is a big maze of streets, full of bars, little restaurants and a few shops. It's a neat neighborhood, full of those red brick, 5-story buildings I told you about in my last post. I was surprised at the number of people who were still out and about, on a Wednesday night. "Oh, right. The city that never sleeps," I thought.

Walking up the 2 flights of a beat-up stairwell (which had pink stairs and smelled very musty) we arrived at Rocky's apartment. It was surprisingly large. Well, except for his bedroom, which might have measured 8x6 -- if that. He calls it his "cubicle". Otherwise, the apartment is generous in size -- high ceilings, hardwood floors, large windows and a kitchen big enough to cook in. Not that the 4 bachelors living there ever used it. And we soon learned that having one bathroom for all of us was very challenging. Anyway, we basically arrived, dropped our stuff and went to a bar (Down the Hatch) with Rocky. Because we went out the night we got there, but wanted to have as full of a day as possible, we went to bed at about 2am and got up at about 7am. Ouch.

Apparently, someone awoke to this, since this pic was on MJ's camera:

This is Rocky, asleep on the floor of his apartment. One of us has placed a sticker on his butt. Tee hee. We were going to go to a Mets game with him the next day, but that idea fell through. We were stuck with shopping as an alternative activity. Bummer, right? ;)

So we got up and got out. The weather was fantastic -- sunny, mid-70s. First things first: we needed breakfast. Specifically, NY bagels with cream cheese. We headed over to the Waverly, a greasy spoon near NYU. (I don't think you are supposed to confuse this with The Wavery Inn Restaurant, which is very "schmeh schmeh" and owned by a Vanity Fair editor). Anyway, we had a nice, big breakfast, and I mistakenly didn't order a bagel with cream cheese. The best part about breakfast was the rumbling. "Um...is that an earthquake or something?" I asked. [Inside my head, I was thinking, "OMG! The building is FALLING DOWN and no one is panicking!!!! Just calm down, VB or you will expose yourself as a tourist! Ask MJ & KT calmly what the hell is going on."]

"No, that's the subway," MJ and KT replied, "There's a station right outside of this building."

"Really? It makes the whole building shake?" I asked, totally amazed. They nodded.

"WOW!" I replied. For the rest of breakfast, I grinned from ear to ear every time the rumbling happened. I just thought it was so cool. I knew I'd love the subway.

And I did! (See last post for why.)*

After breakfast, we got on the subway and headed over to the Empire State Building. Where we waited in line. For about 2 hours. Maybe longer? I don't know. It seemed to take forever. I almost told MJ that we can just forget about it and turn around and go, but I knew I'd regret it if we did.

I'm so glad we went up. The weather was perfect. Not even breezy. Check out the views!

Can you see Central Park in this one? It's behind some of the buildings, almost in the upper left hand corner of the picture.

I like this picture, because it's full of NYC cabs. We had one cabbie who had such a thick accent, I'm amazed we got where we wanted to go. None of us could understand this guy.

This is a shot of lower Manhattan. So we are looking south in this shot. The area where it looks like there's a "gap" in the skyline is where the Twin Towers used to be. I think. To the right is Jersey and to the left is Brooklyn.

Ok, you might have to click on it to get a better look, but The Flatiron Building is near the bottom center of this shot. LOVE that building. Did you know it's only 6 feet wide at the tip?

This is what you see if you lean against the observatory wall and look straight down all 86 floors. Wowza. Teeny tiny, huh? It was funny to me that you cannot really hear the cars from that height, but you could hear the sirens from the fire engines VERY well.

Do you see the Chrysler Building near the right-hand side of this shot? It's so beautiful. The Chrysler Company has never had its headquarters there. I thought that was interesting. It's just a big, shiny advertisement for the company.

By the time we were done with the Empire State Building, we were starved for lunch. Since we wanted to head over to Canal Street to look at designer knock-off accessories, we decided to stop for lunch on the way in Little Italy. We had lunch at one of the round, tableclothed (is that a word?) tables in the foreground of this picture. I could be wrong, but I think it was right on Mulberry Street. Although it was very touristy, I ordered a big bowl of tortellini in meat sauce, and let me tell you -- it was out of this world. I ate every bite. Full from our meatballs, eggplant and tortellini, we headed over to Canal Street to do some shopping in/near Chinatown.

Unfortunately, time flies when you're having fun. It was already mid-afternoon when we finished eating. Our day in NYC was almost over.


Alright, I'm going to stop here for now because A) MJ says my posts are ridiculously long, B) I'm sure I've inadvertently left stuff out, and so I will stop before I get too far ahead of myself, and C) I'm trying to use up a roll of film with more pics of NYC on it so I can share the pics at the same time I am telling the tales of NY/Vermont.

I know, I suck at pictures. I rarely remember to take them, and when I do, they are pretty lame. Yes, I am fully aware that I need to buy a digital camera. And take better pics. Sorry.

MJ, did I leave anything out so far???

* SUPER COOL COINCIDENCE: Ok, MJ rolled her eyes when I told her this, but I thought it was cool. I have been watching this documentary about the history of NYC. The other night, I finally got to the part where they build the subways. WHO do you think was the FIRST person to ride the NYC subway???? The mayor of NYC. No surprise, really, right? EXCEPT that he was a distant relative/ancestor of mine. Yup. (My dad's side of the family is from NY, and I recognized the name immediately. I didn't know he was mayor, either!) BUT WAIT! It gets WEIRDER: How about the FIRST place he got on the subway was THE SAME STREET where we stayed in NYC, and may have been the SAME SUBWAY STATION where I got on for the first time, too!!! Yet another one of my small world experiences.

(MJ, where did we get on after Waverly? Was it Bleeker???)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Country Mouse Goes to the City

I'm back! Well, actually, I think I died of utter and total exhaustion about 4 days ago, so I'm actually a zombie version of myself. I haven't had more than about 5-6 hours of sleep each day for a week now. A few nights, I was lucky to get 4. So "tired" doesn't really begin to describe it. At lunch today, I tried to heat up my hot pocket in my pantry cabinet, if that gives you any indication of what I'm like today.

Luckily, my good friend and traveling companion MJ has posted day #1 of our trip over on her blog. She did a very good job at summarizing it. So head on over there to see how the first day went. I'll wait.

Done? Ok, good. The only thing I would like to add is this: OMG I LOVE NYC!!!!

I seriously considered not coming home. (I am not kidding or exaggerating. I might really do it!) Now I understand how my Eccentric Aunt felt when she went abroad her junior year of college. She went to the UK and never came back. That was in about 1969.

Speaking of Europe, NYC reminds me a lot of Rome: old, crowded, dirty, full of amazing architecture and incredibly charming. It was love at first sight for me.

Today, I'm going to give you my general impressions of NYC. Then later this week, I'll get into the details of our trip.

I know it's Wednesday, but I'm going to do a Thursday 13 today. I am so exhausted from this trip that counting to 13 is about all I can do right now. New Yorkers who read this are going to get a kick out of this list, because the oddest, most mundane things were really interesting to me. Here goes:

Thirteen Things I Love/Hate About NYC

1. Magic Garbage -- At the end of the day, you can see all the garbage piling up outside of all the buildings. Some of the piles get really big and/or stinky (especially if you're in Chinatown -- I guess they sell a lot of fish down there??) . So when you're walking around at night, it can be kind of gross. At first, I asked, "How do they prevent raccoons from getting into the garbage?" And everyone snickered. "Um, this is New York. Raccoons are not native. There aren't any animals to get into the garbage," MJ explained. "Oh. Right," I mumbled. Duh, VB!! Ugh, I am such a country bumpkin. But the cool thing is, somehow, in a matter of only a few hours, ALL the garbage is GONE. It's like magic. And everything in NYC is cleared out, washed off and ready for a new day. I think that is so cool. NYC must have very hard-working garbage men. Or a very efficient system for dealing with all that garbage.

2. The Subway -- Everyone on the trip thought I was loony for liking the subway. But really, it was my ABSOLUTE favorite thing EVER. I could ride it all. day. long. Like a homeless person. (I guess that's what bums do -- they ride the subway all day.) Not only is it loud and fast (which reminds me of a rollercoaster, and makes me feel important and busy), it's also reasonably priced. I love the efficiency of it all. No matter where you need to go, there's a subway station only a few blocks away. You wait for the next train (which maybe takes 2 minutes), and you hop on and -- VOILA -- 5 minutes later, you're on the other side of town. It's like magic.

And the whole time, you are traveling with total strangers from any walk of life. For those brief moments, you are sharing an experience with them. An experience which you'll probably never talk to them about. This is so odd to me. (I know you can say the same thing about flying on an airplane, but somehow, this was different. Maybe because you never know where the other people will get on/off?) With every person I saw on the subway, I thought, "I will never see their face ever again. Even if I moved here, the chances of riding the subway with this person again are one in a zillion. Who are they? Where are they from? Where are they going today? Are they happy? Stressed? Homesick? Foreign? Broke? In love?" I would try not to stare as I studied them, trying to learn about them through their clothes, body language or the magazine they were reading. Yes, I know they are just normal people. But unlike Columbia, SC, where everyone is pretty much exactly the same, I could practically SMELL the variety of NYC every time I got onto the subway. (I'm sure New Yorkers who've ridden the subway with a stinky homeless person can say they have smelled it too -- har har.)

3. NYC Women -- I knew that as a world center for the fashion industry that I'd probably see a lot of killer clothes and outfits. And I did. They were just different from what I expected. NY women have an uncanny ability to throw together extremely stylish outfits. It would never occur to me to wear leggings with a sundress, long beaded necklace and a headband. Or a strapless green terrycloth dress with silver Birkenstocks. And to hear me describe these outfits, you might think, "Ew. That would look stupid." When in reality, they looked SO COOL. I could never master this technique of looking so casually put-together and fashionable, yet totally unique at the same time. It was hard not to take notes: "Flip-flops out, cheongsam in. Khakis out, skinny jeans in. Vests and cowgirl boots also in." I analyzed these women, almost like Jane Goodall studied chimps, trying to break down their outfits into their components or to try and define them. And you know what? I couldn't. They weren't preppy or trendy or bohemian or tailored or whimsical. Their outfits are totally undefinable. The best way I can describe it to you is that a lot of the women my age dressed like the Olsen Twins. (Then again, we spent a lot of our time in Greenwich Village, right near all the college girls at NYU, so this makes sense.) Lots of big sunglasses and gigantic leather purses--I really liked that those are in style right now. Lots of black leggings and those high-waisted "pregnancy" dresses. Headbands everywhere. Yet for each girl dressed like that, there were 15 who weren't. And those 15? Each was wholly unique. But everyone looked fabulous. I just wish I could imitate them somehow. I just can't figure out how!

In my fitted t-shirts and baggy jeans, I felt like a total dork. I kept getting my shirts dirty, and it's not like it's easy to run home and change your top. So I had to wear my lunch. And my jeans are baggy from losing weight, so they were not doing much for my figure. I must have looked like a total slob. Now that I'm back home, I'm convinced that Columbia is the black hole of fashion. *sigh*

Oh well. The good news is, when we got dressed up and went out to some bars, I got compliments on my favorite red dress and my silver clutch. At least I'm doing something right.

4. Speaking of going out in NYC, it's not very smoker-friendly up there. No smoking in bars or restaurants. No smoking near the entrances to bars or restaurants. No smoking in apartments, taxis or the subway. So if you want to smoke, you've got to be in motion, walking somewhere.

5. To further inhibit your nicotine addiction, cigarettes cost a whopping $7.50 per pack. Sometimes more than that. Now I know why my college friend would buy cartons before she got on the plane to go home to NJ for the holidays. It's double what smokes cost here.

6. But not everything is expensive. Across the street from where we stayed, there was a bodega (I LOVE that word) which sold coffee and bagels in the mornings. If you don't know what a bodega is, think of a quickie mart, only more cramped and part grocery store/liquor store/diner. They had sandwiches and regular "quickie mart" sort of items, too, but we LOVED that we could get good, hot coffee and a toasted bagel with cream cheese for about $3. The interesting thing to me was that they will put the sugar and creamer in your coffee for you. I guess this is to save time for busy New Yorkers on their way to work. I really appreciated it, especially since my hands were always full. "Why doesn't every place do this?" I thought.

7. I had a love/hate relationship with all of the walking. Imagine walking all. day. long. Then, walk some more. Just a few more miles to go! Ok, now do it with a big purse full of stuff and carrying lots of shopping bags. Do you see why everyone always carries a water bottle with them? And why they wear flat shoes? Yeah. It gets hot. And tiring. I think I saw maybe two overweight people while I was there. I honestly have no idea how anyone could ever get fat in that city with all the walking you do. I mean, yes, riding the subway can cut out a lot of it, but sometimes, you have to walk 10 blocks to get to the subway. And of course, a cab can take you anywhere you want to go. But it will cost you.

So, if you're broke like me, you do a lot of walking. I credit the walking with the fact that I didn't gain any weight while we were there. And I have to say, there's no better way to get a feel for the city than walking its streets. You can take the time to window shop, study the architecture, people watch and think. It's probably the most entertaining walking I've ever done. There is no shortage of things to see, smell or hear. "Sensory overload" doesn't begin to describe it. If I ever move there, I'm going to walk every single street in Manhattan, just like Caleb and Thomas did. It would be my new hobby. (Notice how Caleb is a librarian? I thought that was pretty cool.)

8. I also spent a lot of time waiting in lines. There were lines for taxis at the airport, the Empire State Building, in the clothing stores and for some of the bathrooms. There are just....a TON of people. People people people as far as the eye can see. Manhattan alone has about 8 million people on the little island. That is almost 3 times the entire population of Ireland. There's over 26,800 people per square mile. Think about how many freaking people that is. There are about 25,000 students at Indiana University, where I went to college. In NYC, that entire, huge campus would have to fit into ONE mile. Wowza.

We noticed how, even at 1am on a Sunday night, Grand Central Station was still full of people. The good news is, you're never alone. The bad news is, sometimes you want to be alone. And unless you make big bucks, you're going to have roommates. So I'm curious to know how/when New Yorkers can be alone. Or is being an anonymous face on the street enough for them? Do they just find a quiet spot in Central Park? I get stressed when I cannot be alone ever. This would be an issue for me if I lived in NYC.

9. I was amazed at how many people had dogs. And I saw people with big dogs, multiple dogs and old dogs. And it wasn't just a few dogs I saw. I saw LOT AND LOTS of dogs. French bulldogs were especially popular. As a dog owner, I can tell you, owning a dog requires a certain amount of personal sacrifice -- you have to drop what you're doing and go home to let the dog out. And in the city, you have to pick up the dog poop, too. Ick. Not my favorite job. So it's amazing to me how many NYers are willing to do this. Perhaps they live near where they work? I know they have dog walkers sometimes, but that is expensive. They can't all have dog walkers. But it's good to know there are lots of animal lovers in "The City" and that it wouldn't be out of the question to take Sammy & Toby with me if I went.

10. My other favorite thing about NYC was the architecture. I think this trip has actually given me the building bug-- I want to learn so much more about architecture now. It plays such a role in the history of an area. The "City that is so cool, they named it twice" had a huge population boom in the 19th century, so you can see a ton of buildings from that era everywhere you go. They generally look like this building--red brick, 5 stories, fire escapes, long narrow windows. But NYC has its fair share of new buildings, too, especially in lower Manhattan. I was surprised at the amount of new construction going on throughout the city. Imagine buildings as far as they eye can see, the vast majority of them being absolutely beautiful. Being the complete nerd that I am, I completely geeked out before going--watching a documentary history of the city, reading my travel guide cover to cover-- so that I'd know what I was looking at when we were walking around the city. As we walked around, every so often, I'd interject, "Hey, guys, did you know that's the such-and-such building? And that so-and-so built it because of blah blah? Yeah, it's the something-est building in the whole city!" and everyone would turn and look at me, with facial expressions that could only be saying, "Um. Ok, VB. Whatever."

Sometimes I'm amazed I have friends.

11. One of my least favorite things about the city was how dirty it was. I had no idea it would smell so bad or be quite so dirty. The airport (JFK) was filthy. The streets, like I said, were really gross at night. The stairwells were musty and dirty. The subway wasn't too bad, but it did make you want to bust out the hand sanitizer when you got off. I do think this is something I'd get used to. And having lots of little parks scattered all throughout the city really helps to break up the seemingly endless dirty, concrete blocks.

12. While New Yorkers are very nice, can be chatty and even helpful, they are the kind of people who you'd have to ask in order to get some assistance. You won't see people holding doors open for you. You won't see anyone giving up their subway seat for a pregnant woman. And if you're carrying something heavy, you won't get any help lugging it up or down stairs. This was kind of weird to me, as I don't think I've touched a doorknob in public in about 3 years. Ok, I'm exaggerating. But you know what I mean. I almost began to look around for the Southern Gentleman to fall from the sky and save the day.

Although I didn't much like it, I didn't take it personally. First of all, everyone is in a hurry. As a fast-paced walker myself, I can understand this. Secondly, there is an incredible amount of independence in New Yorkers, so they are the kind of people who expect you to carry your own weight. Third, in a city where you're surrounded by total strangers day in and day out, it can be dangerous to have interactions all the time. It's a good way to get mugged or duped by a con artist. It's safer to just mind your own business. So this is another thing that would take getting used to on my part.

13. Probably the most amazing thing about NYC is that it has everything. There is no shortage of cultures, activities, restaurants, neighborhoods, stores, events, interesting museums, crazy homeless people or delivery options. You want it? You got it. You could spend the rest of your life, just in Manhattan, experiencing something new every single day.

I never thought a city could ever possibly top Rome, Italy. But I think New York may have just reached the top of my list of Most Favorite Places.

Except for the whole no smoking thing. THAT got old.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Leaving on a Jet Plane....

I've been tagged! cmk is having me do the "8 Weird Facts about Me" thing again.

Although I've done this one before, I'm really glad to be tagged today, my brain is about as organized as this right now:

So it's good for me to have some structure today. I'm feeling a little giddy/anxious. So this will be a NYC-Trip-Theme list. Because I'm incapable of thinking about anything else.

Since I got up this morning, I keep saying, "D'OH! I forgot...." or "OH, sh*t! When am I going to...?" since today is the day I'm leaving with MJ & KT for NYC/Vermont to hang out with the Rat Pack. I'll be fine once I'm on the plane and I'm LaGuardia-bound. *takes deep breath*

Let's see. What to share...from my disorganized, ADD brain...

1. Songs I'm into at the moment: "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" -- The Darkness, "Used to Love You" -- John Legend, "Start Me Up" -- The Rolling Stones, "Sour Times" -- Portishead, "Vacation" -- The Go-Gos, "Bag Lady" -- Erykah Badu, "Tambourine" -- Eve. We will be listening to these (hopefully?) on the drive up to the Charlotte airport.

2. Books I'm bringing with me to read on train/plane: The Truth About the Irish -- by Terry Eagleton and The Hungry Years: Confessions of a Food Addict -- by William Leith. I always bring more than one book with me, in case I can't "get into" one of them. And yes, I am both Irish and a food addict. Luckily, both of these are supposed to be funny. We will see if they compare to David Sedaris, world's funniest writer (IMHO). I'm also bringing a travel guide to NYC (duh).

3. I am trying to remain calm about getting on an airplane today. Believe it or not, although I do fear heights, I am totally cool with flying. I love it, actually. Once I'm on the plane. You see, getting to the airport on time and making sure I don't get strip-searched (yes, I am paranoid), or miss my flight or get on the wrong flight altogether STRESS ME THE EFF OUT. Really, it's just not normal, the way I agonize over airports and flying. I triple-check everything, I'm hyper-aware of my surroundings and I'm sure my face has a look of sheer panic when I'm walking around the airport. I live in fear of boarding a plane, only to hear the pilot announce (once we are mid-flight, of course) "Ok, folks, we'll be landing in Beijing in about 45 minutes, and remember, your $3,000 tickets are non-refundable."

Not that Beijing would be a bad place to go. I'd like to visit China some day. But if that's not my destination, hearing an announcement like that could quite possibly send me into a grand mal seizure. Or a catatonic state. Or something crazy like that.

I'm really hoping I won't break out in buckets of sweat and smell like B.O. ("platinum strength" deodorant my ASS), get supremely dehydrated and practically scream at the flight attendant for more water or do anything stupid when I'm flying this time. I also hope I won't have to run to my plane like I did last December. And I hope I don't have to sit near any of these people. Ugh, just thinking about navigating the "friendly" skies makes my heart flutter and my shoulders tense up. Where are my cigarettes? And WHY can't you smoke on planes anymore???? Don't they know that for some people, flying is extremely stressful??? Perhaps I get stressed out about it because I have a subconscious association?

4. In any case, perhaps I can dig up a Xanax to take as we drive up to Charlotte to catch our direct flight? That would help me a LOT. I heart Xanax. This would be a good time to take one, since I would be zonked, but I would have traveling companions to make sure I still get on the plane. This will be the first time in 10 years that I have traveled with someone. It will be nice to not have to talk to strangers. Traveling alone is not nearly as fun.

5. There is some comfort in knowing that, for the first time EVER IN MY LIFE, I did not overpack. (Thank you, MJ! It seems that having someone help/watch me pack is the key to solving my problem!) No struggling with 3 bags, no kicking myself for bringing stuff I didn't even wear. Of course, this inevitably means I will spend the whole vacation saying, "Dangit! I wish I had brought my [insert something vital here]!!" I am also comforted by the genius that is MJ, who booked a direct flight. WHEW!

6. This weekend, I will be at a lake somewhere in Vermont. The water will be cold. I'm wondering if it will be like the lake I visited as a child, in the mountains of North Carolina. That lake had (I am not making this up!) teeny tiny freshwater jellyfish in it. I don't think they stung, but I remember being amazed at the concept of freshwater jellyfish. See? They do exist!

7. Souvenir Purchasing Goals include: a fake one of these, a pair of big silver earrings (all my pairs are little or casual. I need some big, shiny, dressy ones) and a cool t-shirt.

8. Food Eating Goals include: lots of NY pizza, a real bagel (they are surprisingly hard to find in the South), authentic Italian anything, and some Vermont ice cream.

Ok, I just re-read #3, and my heart is POUNDING. Even just reading about airports raises my blood pressure. I am ridiculous. Of course, Mr. Chertoff is NOT helping today!!!

Cool! Time for lunch now. I will be boarding the plane in about 8 hours! WOO HOO!!!!

Oh, if you want to do this meme (admittedly, I didn't do a good job at it....it was supposed to be weird things....well, maybe I accomplished it. I dunno.), help yourself.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


"I can't wait to help you decorate! Your place is going to be so cute!" exclaimed The Czarina the night before driving down here.

"Ok, cool! Thanks, Mom!" I replied.

The Czarina, her best friend and Smurf (my little sister) all arrived in record time on the morning of the 4th. "Let's shop!" she said.

Boy, she wasn't kidding. The Czarina is quite the penny-pincher most of the time, but when she gets excited to shop, she goes crazy. And luckily, she and her best friend not only have fun decorating, but they are really good at it.

For 48 hours, we had a home decor binge-fest: Target, Wal-Mart, Linens n Things, Bed Bath & Beyond, Staples, TJ Maxx, Marshall's, Ross (like a TJ Maxx or a Marshall's), craft stores, fabric stores and even some online shopping. We shopped so much, that I think for the first time in my life, I am shopped-out. I have been sitting at home all day today, loving the fact that I do not have to drive anywhere. After shopping all day, we would come back to my house, order some take-out, unpack everything we bought and begin moving furniture around. I think that the entire time they were here, we had about 2 conversations which weren't about home decorating. We were obsessed. But it's ok. It worked out well.

My bedroom looks fantastic -- we added shams and a bedskirt on my bed, managed to fit in my white wicker chair and moved the tables around. Now, it is a cool combination of willow green and white. Very relaxing.

My living room looks fantastic, too -- we adjusted the original color scheme at the last second. We were going to go with chocolate, light blue and paprika.

Instead, it will be white, light blue, lemon yellow and a soft leaf green. I am awaiting some pillows with a paisley pattern encompassing all of these colors -- The Czarina is making them for me. If there is one thing in this world I love, it's a paisley pattern. My lame vertical blinds (which were ugly and made a lot of clattering noise) have been replaced by gauzy, white curtains, letting in a lot more light. We also got almost-white slipcovers (we tried everything, but were unable to find white ones) on my couches. It's amazing what 2 slipcovers can do. Even though they are an oatmeal kind of color, it still looks great. I finally bought the lamp I've been craving for eons and it looks fantastic on my glass table. Combined with the pale blue walls, my living room is "bright and floaty and beachy", according to The Czarina.

And yes, I will take pictures and share. Eventually. You should know by now I'm not a huge picture-taker.

While she was here, we also hired a landscaper to re-do the urban jungle that is my backyard. You know it's bad when the landscaper sees your backyard in its current state and laughs. *sigh* Anyway, he's going to put in some white crepe myrtles and red azalea bushes, and sod the rest of it. I can't wait. And he wasn't nearly as expensive as I thought he'd be. Then again, my yard is teeny tiny.

"This is your early birthday and Christmas present for the next 3 years," The Czarina said.

"Yes ma'am. Thank you. Don't worry, I'll change your diapers when you're old. Would you like me to rub your feet when we get home?" I replied.

We had a lot of fun and were so exhausted by the end of each day, meeting up with my friends for dinner or touring around town to see the sights was just out of the question. So hopefully, my friends aren't upset that they didn't get to meet The Czarina. *crickets chirping* I'm sure they would have done the same thing, right? I mean, let's let the woman shop!

She was in a really great mood, and we didn't get on each others' nerves like we usually do. It felt more like shopping with girlfriends than with my mom. I think it's because her best friend came with her, and she served really well as a referee. At one point, I was getting frustrated, because Czarina kept trying to get me to put fake plants in my house (if there is one thing in this world that I hate, it's fake plants). And since Czarina was the one buying most of what we got, I felt weird telling her how to spend her money. I mean, if someone's offering to pay to spruce up your house, you don't argue. You just say, "Yes, please!" -- right? Anyway. Somehow, my mom's best friend not only picked up on my total disgust at the idea of fake plants, she also managed to talk The Czarina out of it. WHEW.

"Next time, we'll come back for a social visit and meet your friends and go hit all the sights," Czarina and her best friend said.

"Hopefully, that will be a calendar year from now," I thought. (I am also Mommed-out)

Don't get me wrong. I love my mother. Very much. I mean, look how awesomely generous she is. It's just that she can be a little.....domineering. And at age 28, I'm getting a teensy bit tired of it. But I just try and take deep breaths and remember that it all comes from love. And yes, I am grateful that I like 90% of her decorating ideas. That saves us a LOT of irritation.

Now that she's gone, I am left to finish up a lot of her great ideas: I have about 4 pieces of furniture to paint, so they will look better in my house. But I'm going to hold off on these little projects until I get back from my New York City/Vermont trip.

3 days and counting! WOO HOO!!

P.S. Cute Neighbor update:

Just before I sat down to type this post, I was walking the dogs. Who approaches me? Cute Neighbor. Yeah. He walked over as I was heading back inside. He apologized for being MIA on Lasagna Night and then explained that on the same day, he had found out his dad has cancer and there isn't anything that can be done. So I'm thinking that's about as good as excuses get. I told him I was sorry to hear the news.

Ugh, poor guy. I can tell he's bummed out. "I didn't mean to come over here and bum you out," he said.

"It's ok, I sort of know how it is," I replied. Then I told him about WLF (my dad) and Gulgie (my baby brother) and how they died 8 months apart. We talked for a while about what it's like to lose family members and I told him about my NYC trip. He told me about playing the drums. Just casual conversation. I could tell he was mainly thinking about his dad, so we didn't talk long. It felt too weird to change the subject. He just left a few minutes ago, and said he's definitely in for the next lasagna night. Which I have suddenly scheduled for tomorrow.

Just kidding.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Back to the Drawing Board


That is the word I would use to describe my life right now. Isn't that also the name of the Britney/K-Fed reality show? I think it is. Don't worry, I haven't shaved my head or anything. Not that I haven't thought about doing it, considering the high number of bad hair days I've been having lately.

It's been one thing after another, these past few weeks. I've got trips and parties and get-togethers and time off, all things which are making me super-busy. I need a vacation from my vacation! *sigh*

Add to that: work has been a little busier than usual, insomnia for two nights straight, medical issues and being broke.

I am so exhausted and have so many things floating around in my brain, this post will probably be choppy. I feel like I'm losing my mind, and after you read this post, I'm certain you will agree.

Where to begin? Hmmm. Let's start with catheters in my bladder. Who doesn't want to read about that? The good news is, it didn't hurt a bit. Seriously, it was no sweat. But I can tell it's one of those procedures (like, say, drawing blood) where, if the person doesn't know what they are doing, it would hurt like crazy. I lucked out.

The bad news is, there is still too much protein in my pee. So I am awaiting my referral to a urologist. Which means: $$$$$$ and probably more catheters. Oh the joy.

I just keep repeating to myself: I. Do. Not. Want. A. Kidney. Stone.

And since I don't want any cavities either, I went to the dentist yesterday. "Oh, I see we have to update your x-rays today!" said the hygienist. I thought, "Oh.....crap. $$$$$$$$$$$" And then, as she was cleaning, and lecturing me about how I am not brushing OR flossing enough/properly, I thought, "I am paying this woman to not only torture me, but to also give me a guilt trip second only to The Czarina's."

Then she hit below the belt: "So, Virginia..........do you smoke?"


"Yes, sometimes..." I confessed, weakly.

"I can tell. There's some stain discoloration," she deadpanned.

Ugh! What is it with these people?! As if just paying someone to scrape your teeth with metal utensils isn't bad enough, they have to throw in a guilt trip, too. I bet that's a course they take in dental hygiene school: "Guilt Tripping 101" -- it was probably taught by my mother. If I were a dog, my tail would be between my legs during every trip to the dentist. I think people who work there are actually BDSMers in white lab coats, who have managed to figure out a way to support themselves by preying on the phobias of the general public.

After an hour of scraping and scratching, I was finally free to go. Ashamed of myself, I collected the fragments of my dignity and walked out to the front desk. "That's it. I have reached the end of dental humiliation. I'm going to be Superstar Tooth Nazi until my next appointment! And quit smoking, too!!" I thought.

"Ok, that will be $105.00," said the receptionist.

There is a direct relationship between my age and the level of unpleasantness experienced at the dentist's office. Now, not only does it hurt my gumline, it hurts my wallet, too. Oh how I miss the days of my childhood, when a trip to the dentist's office meant only that I got to play with the giant, toy teeth and give the hygienists heart attacks with my sudden fits of giggling. (You see, I have extremely ticklish gums, and when they'd polish my teeth, I would erupt into uncontrollable laughter. I still do it, sometimes.)

Speaking of laughter, I had Lasagna Night on Sunday. MJ, KT, Mr. & Mrs. Bill, J-Rich and Mack Daddy came. We had such a good time. I don't think anyone went to bed hungry! We had a really good time. The only downside was that Cute Neighbor never showed. He never came over to tell me he couldn't make it, and he hasn't come over to apologize for being MIA, either. I find this very rude. Not to mention, a little insulting: it's not like it would be a ton of effort for him to tell me. He wouldn't even have to get into his car.

I don't get it. If your diet consists mainly of Healthy Choice frozen dinners (he told me that's pretty much all he eats), and your cute & single neighbor invites you over for a free, homemade meal, and all you have to do is basically fall out of your front door and grab a fork, then what is the problem? I mean, even if you aren't interested in her romantically, at the very least, you're getting a free dinner. And free beer. Men make no sense to me. And I think I've hit a new low in my pathetic dating life: guys won't even get up off their couches to mooch free food from me. WOW. I am, apparently, just that repulsive.

So, it's back to the drawing board again.

Speaking of drawing....MJ invited me to an art show this past weekend. Four local artists displayed their work, and there was even one piece on which all four of them collaborated. It was fantastic. All four artists have different styles, but their styles meshed well together. MJ's dating The Artist, and his art is....really just incredible stuff. You have to look at the pieces for a looooong time before you can soak it all in. It's been described as "post-modern", but I would describe it more as "Picasso meets Dali meets Pollock meets Dr. Seuss". Normally, I don't "get" modern art, but I really dug his stuff. I wish I had a little extra money lying around, because I would buy something from him. I wish I could find some pictures of his stuff online so I could show you some of his work, but I'll have to let you imagine it from my description above. (MJ-- you need to tell him to set up a flickr account or something!)

We are slowly but surely getting our details worked out for our NYC/Vermont trip next week. I am still so excited, I'm about to burst! Want to see what we've got lined up so far? Here is a photo quiz. Can you guess?

This sounds really stupid, but I'm actually really excited to ride on the subway. And to take the train to Vermont. There isn't much public transportation in SC. So this will be really interesting to me. Heck, this will only be the 5th or 6th airplane trip I've ever been on, so even that will be fun! I'm one of those weird people who gets waaaaay too excited to get on airplanes. I even like the food.

I have always defined a vacation as: "Going somewhere, other than a conference or my mother's house, which requires me to board an airplane to get there." By that definition, this will be my first vacation since Rome, Italy in 2000.

I told MJ I would embarrass her in NYC by asking every waitress/waiter if the restaurant serves grits or mashed sweet potatoes. If she doesn't want me to do this, she should keep my mouth full of some of that delicious NY-style pizza. Mmmmmmmmmmmm......can't wait.

But instead, I think I will stare straight up as we walk down the streets, proclaiming in the thickest of Southern accents, "Well, gaaaaawlee, I ain't never seen no buildin' that high! Shucks!" -- Huh. That came out more like Gomer Pyle. Perhaps I will practice my impression before I get on the plane......I will charm the pants off them "city folk". Hopefully, the cute and single ones.

Oh man. One can only hope......de-panting hotties is one of my favorite things to do......*daydreams*

I have no clue what to pack. I'm tempted to bring nothing but stilettos and cocktail dresses, but I'm sure that's entirely inappropriate. LOL But aren't I supposed to look like this in order to fit in?

I certainly don't want to look like this.....*shudders*

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Before I go to NYC and Vermont, I am being visited by....

The Czarina. *cue Darth Vader theme song*

And Smurf and Czarina's Best Friend are coming, too. They will serve as a no-fly-zone, because otherwise, The Czarina and I would drive each other bonkers. We need referees when we hang out.

The good news is, she wants to buy me some stuff for my house. And I think (fingers crossed, people!) that I can talk her into giving me some money for my NYC trip. Because, if she doesn't, I might have to dig through NYC garbage cans to find something to eat. Oh well. It will be good for the diet if I don't eat for 5 days, right? Maybe I can just eat hot dogs from those street vendors.....

Where was I? Oh yes. The Czarina is coming, with her best friend and my little sister in tow. She hasn't been to Columbia since the day I moved here, 5 years ago, almost to the day. She finally gets to see my house. We will be decorating mi casa, which is nice. We will be visiting some local historic homes and dining out at some of my favorite restaurants, like this one and this one. They will get to meet my coworkers and some of my friends. I think I will give them a little tour of my favorite spots in town. I am thinking we should probably hit the Columbia Museum of Art, since they just got a couple of Renoirs on loan from Chicago, and they have recently expanded their late-Renaissance Dutch painting collection.

And what are my favorite kinds of paintings?????

Anything by Renoir and anything Dutch.

In order to prepare for their visit, I have to take deep breaths, have a cigarette binge, practice nodding my head and saying, "Yes, Mom, you are absolutely right!" and clean my room. I have also stocked up on The Czarina's favorite diet foods:

low-fat cheddar cheese
diet tonic water
low-fat cottage cheese
whole wheat bread
bagged lettuce

Ugh. No wonder she's always so cranky. Wouldn't you be, if that was what you ate, 90% of the time? And she wonders why I cannot lose weight. It's because I'd rather be fat than eat that stuff, day in and day out. But this topic deserves its own post, so I will stop there with that little difference in opinion between mother and daughter.

Which reminds me......I need to hide all my "bad" stuff: twizzlers, oreos, birth control pills, ashtray & cigarettes....what am I forgetting?? Oh, those condoms in my purse....which were actually a gag gift, I swear on all things holy......I know you don't believe me, but they were. I just laughed at my friend W's joke and absent-mindedly stuck them in my purse. Oh, come on! You have to believe me. Like I'd even get a chance to use those things, at the rate I'm going. [See paragraph about Cute Neighbor, above.]

The Czarina will be here tomorrow afternoon. So I don't know how often I'll be able to post until she leaves on Sunday. This long-ass, rambling post will probably have to do ya for a few days.