Friday, December 31, 2004


I don't normally do this, but this year I have some very specific goals. They are as follows:

1. Regain dignity/financial independence,
2. Move back to England,
3. Get laid,
4. or die trying.

All those who wish to assist me in these endeavours may do so by either

a. Making a large, annonymous donation of cash,
b. Pursuade the British Consulate to let me change my citizenship,
c. or shag me senseless.

oh, and one more:
5. Have my conscience surgically removed.
True story: my aunt (the nun with the vow of poverty) gave me a very large cash gift to help me on my way to grad school. I don't have a local bank account (my bank is located in Texas), and not wanting to put $2000 in cash in the US mail, I gave the money to my dad to put in his account, so he could then write me a check which I could mail and deposit in mine. Simple, right? Apparently not. The teller at the bank somehow managed to count $3000, which my dad, who does not hear well, confirmed. I was not present at this transaction.

At 5:30 yesterday evening the bank was closed and the tellers were balancing their drawers. One came up $1000 short. She deduced it might be related to my father's deposit earlier in the day, and telephoned to confirm the amount. Again, not hearing well, he said she had the correct amount. Now there's an extra $1000 in my dad's account, and I could perfectly easily have him cut me a check for 3 G's. If I don't call the back to alert them to the error, I will have made and extra grand with no exertion whatsoever. The bank will eat the expense, and the dumb dolly probably won't even lose her job. Too damn tempting for words. God knows I need the $$$, and a thou is nothing to sneeze at. Goddamn conscience. I may be a grand richer than i was, but i'm still a million poorer than i deserve. Sadly, that's insufficient justification for keeping a pile of money which cannot in any way be called mine. So if anyone out there knows a good plastic surgeon, point him or her my way. I want my morality amputated so that the next time I get an illegel windfall I can keep it.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Oh, man are you in trouble...

This is bad. This is very bad.* As if it's not bad enough that i've been inflicting my mental drivel on you, now i've gone and figured out how to post photos! Oh, no! Run for the hills, maw, run i say! Now y'all are going to get my life in pictures as well as my incoherent ramblings. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

*Bad: "every molecule in your body exploding outwards at the speed of light. " Bonus prize to the first person to get the reference.

a little winter color (and some fun with the 'close up' feature of my camera) Posted by Hello

frozen fog Posted by Hello

Ansel Adams I am not, but that never stops me from trying. Posted by Hello

Franky's Bar

The phone in the corner rang once, and stopped. That was the tip-off. The coversations floating about the dim room ended abruptly, and the dozen or so patrons looked about uneasily. It was called a 'speak-easy,' but right now no one was talking. Franky threw down the towel he'd been using to wipe the bar and began gathering up the bottles from down below. With a load of gin and whiskey under one arm and me under the other, he dragged me up to my bedroom. Our family lived in the 2-bedroom apartment over the dingey bar on Livernois. I knew the drill. Without a word I laid down in my bed while my big brother stacked the bottles around me. I closed my eyes and tried to relax while he thundered downstairs for the second load. Five minutes later every bottle in the joint was in bed next to me, the covers pulled up over the lot of us. Franky was fast. The customers' glasses had all been washed, hot sludge in the guise of coffee was served, and he was back behind the bar, towel in hand, when I heard the sleigh bells on the front door jingle and several sets of heavy footfalls from down below. I held my breath, and tried not to let the bottles clink.

I've heard that story more times than I can remember. The girl in the story was my grandmother. She was born in 1916, and her family really did live above a blind pig on Cambell Avenue in Detroit, Michigan. When she was a little girl during prohibition, her father and brothers would stash the booze in bed with her, because it was the one place the cops wouldn't check. They were never caught. Prohibition was promptly followed by the Great Depression, and my grandmother's family were the only people on the street not standing in soup lines, because they had made out like bandits bringing in booze from Canada during the 1920s.

I was thinking about all this yesterday as we were driving home down I-94. My family drove into Detroit yesterday afternoon to have dinner at our favourite resturaunt in Greektown, the Hellas. The place has been in business for 103 years, and my mom's been eating there regularly for over 40 of them. It's become a family tradition. As we were heading home, I happened to look out the window up as we were passing Cambell Ave. The freeway runs right past Cambell, and you can still see Franky's old bar. To our collective sorrow, it has recently suffered a serious fire, and looks like it will probably be torn down. The whole upper story at the back of the building was completely gone, and the rest of the structure was chared and sagging. Kitchen fire, probably.

Now, our family sold that bar over 40 years ago, and none of our relatives live in the city of Detroit any longer. The city's been going downhill since the 60s, and our family got out ahead of the rush. Still, there was a shocking finality to seeing the blackened skeleton of that old bar last night. Even though I've never lived in Detroit or set foot in that building, I shared my family's sense of finality. The last tie to the old city has been lost, and there is no longer any reason to return to Cambell Avenue.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Walking in Narnia

After our 6 inches of snow prior to Christmas, 2 nights ago we experiends a freezing fog with a light wind. The result was a white world with every branch and pine needle covered in sideways-standing frost, sort of the way sea-spray freezes on dune vegetation. The sun was shining and it was a breathtaking day (breathfreezing, anyway), so I spend the day in the park with my camera playing Ansel Adams. Photos forthcoming.

Monday, December 27, 2004

New Link

Hey, all. L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg, that most witty and entertaining of bloggers, has crapped out on me for the last time. After the birth of his daughter he had not the time to keep the humor site "Brunching Shuttlecocks" up to date, but promised his faithful that one of the more popular pages of the site, the now infamous "Book of Ratings," a spoof of the "top 10 lists" our bumper-sticker-wisdom-loving culture craves so pathetically, would be regularly maintained. For a while it was being updated about once a month. Considerably less frequent the promised weekly post, but still better than nothing. Well, it's been 3 months since the Book of Ratings has been changed, and I'm officially declaring it dead. It'll probably sit there for a while before Lore gets around to posting the obituary, but I think we can pretty well write it off. So hum a dirge, wish Mr. Sjoberg well in whatever his next pursuit may be, and check out the new link to the 9 Chickweed Lane comic.

9 Chickweed Lane is written and drawn by the same fantastic sarcastic artist who creates Pibgorn. Similar humor, but set in a very real world. Do yourselves a favor and read the last 30 days to get yourself into the plot. It takes a while to get into, but once you're hooked (and you will be, mark me) you'll be glad you took the time. Here's a little background info about the cast to get you started:

Edda Burbur: Lovely, brillaint, talented high school honors student (who makes the rest of us mortals look like drooling underachievers) who inherited her mother's sarcastic wit.

Dr. Burbur: Edda's mother, a divorcee who has finally found love in the arms a co-physician, is torn by conflicting desires to emulate her daughter's free-spiritedness and to please her old-fashioned yet surprisingly insightful mother, who lives with her and Edda.

Gran: Edda's grandmother, a dated and dusty old crank who is often, to the great consternation of many, the voice of reason.

Amos: Geek supreme, Edda's best friend. Amos has been in love with Edda since god made dirt, and being the post-pubescent geek that he is, displays it most often either by insulting Edda or flirting with her friend, Mary. Amos has been doing a lot of growing up in the past couple months, and the changing dynamic between him and Edda is one of the best aspects of the strip at present.

Thorax: Gran's gentleman-friend. Thorax is a characature of the stereotypical New England bumpkin, but with a twist. He thinks he's an alien. Thorax fills the role of the crazy nut-case who is often the most sane person in the room, giving us scathing third-party perspectives on all that's wrong with society today. Think Calvin meets Zippy the Pinhead.

Cat: This Siamese is more than an accessory or decoration. Truly a character in his (her?) own right, the cat is the most well-drawn feline I've seen, and the "Hallmarks of Felinity" will make cat-owners blow coffee out their noses and wipe tears of from thier eyes while moaning "it's funny because it's true!"

Book review: Have His Carcass/Strong Poison

If you're a big fan of Dorothy Sayers, you might take the trouble to read "Have His Carcass." If you're not already a Sayers fan, don't bother. Her language is delightful, her characters addictive (I simply can't get enough of Lord Peter-- who can?), and her plots are, for the most part, rather ingenious. This one was exasperating by page 50, and I spent the next 200 pages wondering when Harriet and Peter would catch up to me.

So skip "Have His Carcass," but if you havn't already, by all means do read "Strong Poison." It's the book in which Lord Peter Death Bredon Whimsey meets and falls in love with Harriet Vane (the author's alter ego), and it's as good a detective novel as Doyle or Christi ever penned. The plot is clever and engaging, Sayers use of language is typically stunning, and the blossoming relationship between Peter and Harriet is the most honest, original, fresh, heartwarming, witty, charming romance since Beatrice met Benedic. And be prepared to fall in love yourself, because Peter Whimsey is, as one astute critic wrote, "what God could have done with men, if only he'd had the money." Truer words were never writ.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Manchester in brief

In our last episode, our heroine was dancing like a drunk demon at the AU formal. I won't go into great detail about the rest of the week, but this is as much my diary as it is a publication, so I do want to note a few things so as to preserve them for posterity. (I don't trust my memory any more than I trust Donald Rumsfeld to equip impoverished black soldiers with the latest in military technology.)

Wednesday-- got up, was extremely ill. Combo hangover, graduation stress, and 4 sleepless nights with violently snoring Aunt. Got dressed, looked stunning, went to uni to take care of business. Returned to hotel to pick up family, was given message that surprisingly thoughtful friend had telephoned to wish me well. Attempted to reach surprisingly thoughtful friend, failed. Drank some wine and had a mince pie. Threw fam in van, went to graduation. Sighed mounfully over empty chair in front of me which should have been occupied by surprisingly thoughtful friend who was boycotting cremony in protest to being fucked over by uni. Graduated. Nice ceremony; no Elgar. Went to reception, drank wine, schmoozed with profs. Back into van for dinner. Snoring Aunt bungles dinner reservation. We walk all over Manchester in freezing drizzle looking for food before concert while grumbling. I park van in space so small that I can't open any doors; resort to climbing over seats and signalling random passerby to open rear hatch for me. After tense and hurried dinner, we walk 7 blocks to Bridgewater hall to attend marvelous Christmas concert performed by funny men in late 18th century dress and sing christmas carols. I am exhausted to tears. All I want for christmas is a full night's sleep.

Thursday--I take drugs and sleep on floor of bathroom of hotel to escape snoring aunt. it works-- i get a full 9 hours. Take family into town to see sights and peruse Christmas market. Parallel park van in space with only 6 inches clearance on either end. In TWO MOVES. I am god. Family gawkes at my skill, random pedestrians applaud. Visit town hall, do some shopping. Go pick up friend who is dining with us. Find resturaunt and park with no difficulty, thank god. Note that friend looks characteristically dashing. Have lovely dinner, saw panto of Dick Whittington, laughed pants off.

Friday--Drove family to Chester for one last day of sightseeing. We visit Roman ruins, walk on wall down to river (famliy wants to see where I rowed). Arrived at river front just in time to say "hello" to mubc crews coming in off the water. Wish I were with them instead of dragging geriatric nun around Roman ruins. Sigh. Mom notices wistfull look in my eyes; realizes I'm lost forever. We stop for lunch in local watering hole built in 1660-something, then walk up to cathedral, take audio tour. Get annoyed because they've changed tour and the new one isn't as good. I tell them so, politely. We walk down to main drag, have high tea in Grosvenor Hotel by Eastgate. Drive back to Manchester (naturally, it began to rain the minute we arrived in town) and packed our bags. Family goes to bed early; I spend last evening enjoying company of old friend.

Saturday--wake up several hours before ass-crack of dawn. Drive to Heathrow. Stand in line for hours. Get frisked at security. Wait at gate. Mom asks if I want to leave. "No," I say. Family makes me get on plane anyway. They frisk me again at gate. Either I look like a terrorist or Heathrow security thinks I'm hot and can't keep their hands off me. Not sure which scenario creeps me out more. I spend 9 hours on cramped aircraft with 40 million screaming childrend being taken to visit grandparents for holidays. I attempt suicide, fail. Plane lands. Crap, I'm still alive. And I'm in the United States; a fate worse than death. I resume social life consisting entirely of computer and parents' friends. Merry Christmas, everyone.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

So this is Christmas...

The question "what's the point of all this [Christmas]" has been floating around a lot lately, particularly in my home. You'll always have your cynics* who get turned off by the commercialism of Christmas, and forgetting that there's anything else to it, turned off to the holiday altogether. Then you've got your genuine crisis-of-faith types, who used to believe in the spirit of the season, want to believe in the spirit of the season, but just can't seem to bring themselves round to doing it. That's the bug running around my family at the moment.

Mom and I were out for our morning constitutional through the freezing cold park yesterday, when she radomly asked me if i believed in an afterlife. She's my mother, and the woman can smell a fib from 50 paces upwind, so I answered honestly, "not really."
"Do you believe in God?"
"What's eating you, mom?"
Cue the waterworks. "It's just that I used to believe, and now I don't know what to think! The world is so awful, what kind of God can let these things [ie, republicans in the white house] happen? I remember when I believed, and now there's this huge hole inside me. I've lost my faith, and I feel empty!" *sniff*
She continued, "What do people do on Christmas if they don't go to church?"
"Um, watch the Queen's speech and misbehave at the office party?" I offered, rather unhelpfully.

The thing is, i've never had a lot of faith in the devine, so i'm really not the best person to ask about filling spiritual potholes. I was a skeptic (as opposed to a cynic--that's different) before I made my first communion, and a professed atheist before I was confirmed. At the moment I'm somewhere between Buddhist, Druid, and Jedi. On the other hand, since i've never had a lot of faith in the devine, i may be the perfect person to ask about what us nonbelievers do on Christmas.

It won't be exraordinary; we'll do what we've always done. Go to church to make mom and Sr. Aunt happy (we still have a nun in the family, after all), exchange gifts, eat some fantastic Polish food, and watch a few Star Wars movies (we've been watching Star Wars movies on Chrismas day since we bought our first VCR when I was 10. Is it any wonder I'm 1/3 Jedi?). But what does it all mean? Why bother? Are we just going through the motions? No.

For one thing, tradition is important. Ritual is important. From a psychological standpiont, humans need ritual to mark the passage of time. It's a comfort zone. Rituals and traditions provide us with material for stories and excuses to tell them. Ritual is good for its own sake, and whether you get your ritual from corney family traditions (like eating pierogi and watching The Return of the Jedi) or from religious services, psychologically it all amounts to the same thing.

In addition, merrymaking is an end unto itself. Holidays are great excuses to celebrate and make merry, and that is a good thing. There is nothing wrong with periodically creating excuses to party.

So what to people do on Christmas who don't go to church? Probably the same thing the church-goes do: enjoy time with family, eat some good food, go to a few parties, frost some cookies, give and receive presents as tokens of friendship, love, or affection, and generally have a good time. So if Jesus is the reason for your season, good on ya, mate. If he's not, big deal. Mark the occasion, serve up some eggnog, phone your mum, kiss your missus, and remember that life is, by and large, not to shabby.

*Cynic, n. One who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing. -Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

An American Drives in England

So Tuesday morning Dad and I walked 2 miles to the Hertz rental place in Fulham to pick up the car. We got a minivan because it was the only thing they could give us with an automatic transmission. I know how to drive a stick (feel free to put any raunchy spin on that statement you desire), but I havn't done it in a long time (the metaphor remains sadly accurate) and I wasn't keen to re-lern with the gear shift in the wrong hand while driving on the wrong side of the street. So we picked up our minivan whilst the salesman rolled his eyes at the retarded American who insisted on a bleeding, namby-pamby automatic transmission that only nancy-men drive and headed off into the sunset.

Well, not really-- it was only half ten in the morning. But the whole thing was really rather uneventful. I didn't have any difficulty with the adjustment to the other side, and the sinage was so thorough and consistent along the motorways that navigation presented no obstacles. Mom was in the back seat white-knuckled the entire way to Manchester, but that was a fault with her nerves, not my driving. Basically, the whole thing was fine. There really isn't much of anything to tell.

We arrived at our B&B in Chorlton only a little later than expected (there was a backup on the M6), but I still had plenty of time to get ready for the evening. Call me Cinderella, Granpaw, I'm going to the ball! About a week earlier a casual conversation with a good friend of mine in the MU boat club revealed that the AU ball was being held that Tuesday at the Palace Hotel. I couldn't resist the chance to suprise him and the rest of the gang, so I emailed another friend of mine and asked her to procure me a ticket, which she did with admirable rapidity. Then I went shopping (see previous entry, "Shoegasm").

I gotta tell you, I looked stunning. When I get the photos back I'll see what I can do about posting one of them up here, because I am a firm believer that justified boasting is entirely acceptable. Before I arrived I had all these marvelous fantasies involving me standing on one side of the ballroom of the Palace with a drink in my hand and all the savior-faire James Bond in a finishing school, while my friend gallumphed his way into the room with startling grace (he's always the best-dressed man in any room), greets a few people, and makes his way to the bar. He orders a drink, and while the bar tender is filling his order, he looks about blandly, not expecting anything out of the ordinary. His gaze meanders over me, not consciously registering what it's seeing. (My friend believes I am at this instant, on another continent altogether.) He pauses, his head roates back the other way. He fixes on me (I don't move, but meet his eyes and lock them there), forgets his drink, and begins to approach me from across the room. His pace accelerates as he nears me, his kilt swinging. God he's sexy. I could huck up that kilt and straddle him then and there. He reaches me and embraces me. He doesn't ask me why I'm there; he doesn't care. I am there, and that's all that matters.

Well, it wasn't quite like that, but it was close. I did surprise him, pleasantly (thank god he hadn't brought a date), and his eyes nearly fell out of his sockets. Then I got pissed and danced like a demon til dawn. It was a great night, and I managed not to be completely hungover at my graduation the following day.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's exiting edition, "The Graduation that Didn't Completely Suck."

Monday, December 20, 2004

You do it to yourselves

Alright, I wasn't going to do this, but you talked me into it. The last blog was clean, too clean. It was the dirary entry that I could publish without embarassment. Fuck that, that's not what this is for. This is for me to vent the shit i'm really feeling, not write resturaunt and museum guides for London. There's a tourism bureau whom I'm sure gets paid for that sort of thing. Until they start paying me, I'm going to write whatever the hell I want about how the vacation really was. This is going to be juvenille and whiney. This is going to sound like I don't love my family. Deal.

I'm a fairly sympathetic and patient person. I have great empathy and tolerance for people who get screwed by chance, fate, fortune, the government, or any sentient body. I have no sympathy/patience/tolerance for people who knowingly fuck up their own lives and then use their fucked up lives to justify fucking up other people's lives. I'm talking about my aunt. She's a nun, so I'm probably going to hell for this, but like Billy said, I'd rather live with the sinners than dies with saints-- the sinners have much more fun.

I spent my entire graudation week being treated like a secratary, servant, and personal valet by a 65 year old woman who destroyed (and is still destroying) her health, and using her feebleness to manipulate people. For an hour, it's aggravating. For an entire week, it's intolerable. For the week that was supposed to be my joyous and triumphant return to England to celebrate the completion of my Master's degree, it's justifiable homicide. Couldn't she have ruined another week of my life? Why the hell did she have to pick that one?

My parents love London. The last time they were there was 30 years ago shortly after they were married. They were really looking forward to this. I have a very dear friend who just happens to be in London at the mo. I've mentioned him before, back in September. He's a lovely lad, and I havn't seen him in years. Mom, dad, and I all had things we wanted to see and do. Did any of us get to do any of them? Nope. All I wanted was 30 minutes with Eric. Do you think my self-absorbed geriatric relative could spare me? Guess. She had things she wanted to do, too. She got to do all of them. Never mind that in the last 10 years she's had 2, 2-week, all expense paid trips to London, thanks to her job.

How does a woman get to be so lazy that when she's sitting in the bathtub and she drops the soap, she calls me in from the other end of the flat to come in to the bathroom, lean over the tub, and pick up the fucking soap for her? When she needs somthing, it doesn't even occur to her to cross the room to get it. It never enters her head. Her first reaction is to order someone else. She acutally had me pick up her fucking soap! She was sitting IN the BATHTUB! Gah!

All week it was the same thing. We couldn't do any of the things we (the folks and I) wanted to do because she's too feeble to do them. We couldn't walk around the walls of Chester because Sr. Aunt can't walk that far. The question here is, why? The answer is that she's a morbidly obese, an insulin-dependent diabetic who refuses to wear comfortable shoes because she doesn't like the way they look. She could help herself, but she's so lazy she refuses to make any effort or change any aspect of her life.

She's been given a diet by her doctor, and she claims to follow it, but then declares that it's unreasonable because it forbids her from eating thick pieces of white bread smeared with 3 Tablespoons of butter and huge globs of jam for breakfast. "But that's what one eats for breakfast! What do they expect me to eat? Fruit? Cereal? That's for rabbits! I've eaten bread and jam for breakfast my whole life! Why should I change now?" Um, because it's killing you?

Sweating, mind you, is unladylike. She won't take any excercise of any kind. She lives 1 block, yes 1 block from church, and she drives there. It's undignified for a lady to be seen walking down the road.

Her feet are sore. She's spent the entire day trying to keep up with the 3 of us (who have been walking so slowly our backs hurt) in a pair of $200 flat Italian dress shoes. (What vow of poverty?) She claims that because they're expensive and Italian, they are supposed to be comfortable for wearing all day. She won't wear sneakers (unladylike) or even black leather shoes with orthopedic support (they would make her look like an old nun). She's spent so much time worrying about her image and trying to stay young that she's aged prematurely and destroyed her image.

If you are debiltated by some disease or circunstance beyond your control, I will go to the end of the world for you. I will cheerfully undergo Herculean labours to increase your comfort, make you laugh, clean the wax balls out of your ears or the jam from between your toes. I will give you a kidney, a piece of my liver, or a bottle of my bone marrow. But if you take a 38 police special, point it to the floor, and blow off one of your toes, don't bother asking me to fetch you the goddamn fucking newspaper. Taking care of your health is not only the best thing you can do for yourself, it's the best thing you can do for those who care about you.

Ah. I feel better.

The week in review, days 1 and 2: London

Salutations, loyal readers (both of you). Now that I have returned from a (mostly) wonderful week in Jolly Olde, I will take a few minutes to indulge myself in relating some of the week's highs and lows.

The purpose of the visit was to drag my family over from the states to attend my graduation ceremony from the University of Manchester. Not that I really had to drad them-- wild horses couldn't have prevented them from coming. We arrived in London, Heathrow at 6 am on a sunday morning. It shouldn't have taken us 4 1/2 hours to get to our flat in Fulham, but it did. I'll spare you the aggravating details. Suffice it to say that if my aunt walked any more slowly she'd be going backwards. I've seen snails ascend mountains with more rapidity than that woman can muster. Oy vey.

We were pretty knackered on sunday, but we only had 2 days to spend in London, so sleep could wait. We ditched our bags and hopped the tube to the Victoria and Albert museum, which struck me rather like England's attic. It's crammed full of all kinds of random stuff, from plaster cast replicas of Richard I's tomb and Michaelangelo's David, to a 3500 year old Egyptian glass vase, to an original copy of William Morris's edition of the Canterbury tales. Weird, but cool. The art isn't displayed very well because there's so much packed into such a small space, but it has the advantage of allowing people with limited mobility to see a lot of stuff in a relatively short time.

Back on the tube to Fulham, where we had dinner at (and pay attention here, because this is important) the best Mediteranean resturaunt in which I have ever eaten. (Bear in mind I spend 3 weeks this summer travelling around the Mediteranean in Italy, France, and Spain, so I know whereof I speak.) If you ever find yourself in London, take the District Line to the West Brompton station, turn left out of the station, walk down Lilly Road 1 block, cross the street, and enter the Golden Horn. You will not regret it. The ambiance was quiet and pleasant, the wait staff was stupendous, the menu varied, and the food indescribably good. And all the entrees were under 8 pounds. I'm trying to rack up some business for these guys because the place has only been open a few months and I really want them to make a go of it. We had them bring out the chef so we could give him a standing ovation. He seemed tickled.

Tuesday was a trip to the Cabinet War Rooms (the audio tour is informative, but difficult to follow, and the admission is rather steep, but if you're into WWII history it's a must-see), then took a cab to the theatre district to have dinner at The Ivy (the food was excellent, but the menu was limited, the wait staff was snotty, the dining room cramped and noisy, and the prices were disproportionately high for the experience. I understand that The Ivy is the place to be seen, but I thought the Golden Horn was better). After dinner we wandered up and down Jermyn and Bond Streets for some decadent holiday window-shopping, and then went to the Savoy to see Penelope Keith in Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit. Marvelous play, beautiful set, well-acted, and Penelope Keith is perfectly cast as the eccentric, happy-go-lucky medium. (We know her from her Manor Born days, so it was a thrill to see in her person and still performing so well.)

I must apologize if this blog begins to read rather like a review of London's and Manchester's resturaunts and theatres, but that's what my family does when it travels-- eats and goes to the theatre.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's exciting entry, An American Drives from London to Manchester.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


I bought a new dress today for a party I'm attending next week. I was going to wear an old one, but I found this one on sale at 40% off and it looked stunning on. Naturally, I needed shoes to go with it. Store one: nada. Store two: same thing. Store three...

Bear in mind that I have very specific requirements here. I'm not easy to shop for, particularly in the shoe department because I have good taste and very large feet. I needed something cute and strappy to go with the dress, but I also wanted closed toes because I insist on wearing proper hosiery. I could have gotten a pair of strappy winter sandals, but then I wouldn't be able to wear stockings, and in my world that makes you look like a ho. So we need cute, strappy, closed toe, preferably closed heel as well, in a size 10 and reasonable price. Tall order.

Store three: bingo. They have a closed toe and heel, a modest, comfy vamp, a thin T-strap (which will also look stunning with the 1940's style dress I'm wearing to graduation), and a perfect heel (not too high, not to skinny). I began to get warm. I looked for my size. There was the 10, right there on top. My breath was becoming heavy, my pulse rapid. I'm sure my pupils were dialiting by this point. I tried them on. Not only did they fit, they were comfortable. The salesgirl asked if I was all right. I thought she was being helpful, then I realized I was making small moaning sounds. I got the shoes off (they returned the favor momentarily) and took them up to the register, becoming increasingly self-consious of the beads of sweat forming on my chest. I needed to pay for the miracle shoes and get out of there. I got to the register and the sales girl scanned them in. They were half off. I... I... I didn't know... oh, my god... know it could... oh, Oh my GOD!... happen this way! OH, MY GOD!!! AHHHHH!!!

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Tree Hunt

Today my father and I put the multi-coloured, trendy fleece sweater on our oh-so-fashionable beagle, threw the axe in the car, and hit the road in that most exhilarating of Christmas traditions: the hunt for the perfect tree.

First of all, let me 'splain something. We are not one of those families who pop down to the corner lot on december 22nd and purchase a moth-eaten, long-needled fir that was cut in September and spray painted "forest" green from an under-weight santa with Boonsfarm on his breath at a tree lot with macabre X-mas lighting. Oh, no. we go traipsing all over the county, crunching our way through fresh December snow over field and farm to find that perfect, shining spruce tree with a straight trunk, strong branches, and symmetrical boughs, all the while singing carols (badly) at the tops of our lungs, while our geriatiric, J-Crewed canine has so much fun smelling the runny babbits she can't decide to shit or go blind. Then we sieze upon that angelic tree and laugh merrily at the doleful tears of Bambi who weeps while we drag the most perfect Picea ever pollinated out of the enchanted forest.

Not really. Yes, we do cut our own tree. But that is because we are fortunate enough to live in a state that is cold enough for tree farms. All the poor saps south of the Mason-Dixon have no choice but to turn their homes into tinder boxes each year because all the trees for sale down their came from tree farms up here. And they were cut in September and painted green (I shit you not). So we head out to Joe's X-mas Tree farm on Reynolds Rd, 'Merry Christmas from Manheim Steamroller' blaring all the way, and the first tree the dog pees on, we buy. It's a tradition. Then we load it in the trunk, drive it home, and spend 3 hours trying to get the thing straight in the tree stand while mom says "No, a little to the left... not that left, the other left...that's it...a little more...a little, back the other way...etc..." That's a tradition, too.

And for all you braindead environmentalists out there (I'm an environmentalist, just not braindead), farming Christmas trees is far less destructive to the land than growing wheat. It's not cutting down forests, it's agriculture. Specifically, long-term agriculture that gives farmers some reasonably secure, long-term investment possiblities, unlike a seasonal crop, which can bankrupt a family with just a couple of consecutive bad years, all the while creating some decent wildlife habitat.

So today Dad and I did our bit for the environment, Joe's family, the Christmas spirit and the beagle's bladder. It's on the porch, sitting in a bucket of water and aspirin to keep the xylem open, and it's perfect. (That's a tradition.)