Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Shameless plug

go here:


listen to the track.

decide it rocks.

rate it a nice, juicy 10.

then go step on some flowers, kick a homeless person, and steal a candy bar. do it all with a clean conscience, because you've already done your good deed for the day.

DOs and DON'Ts of comforting weeping females

  • tell her you're too busy to offer a shoulder and ask her to come back when it's more convenient for you
  • say anything remotely resembling "There's no point in crying, it won't acheive anything."
  • tell her that the reason she is crying is her fault
  • interrupt her semicoherent rablings with questions
  • offer advice unless it's requested
  • point out that she is dripping on your favourite shirt
  • hold her. hold her tightly until she indicates she is ok by gently pushing you away.
  • put the kettle on.
  • settle her on the sofa with a hot cuppa while you proceed to fix a hot, nourishing meal. (sobbing takes a lot out of one.)
  • proceed to tell her all the things you love and admire about her while she is eating her meal.
  • help her get out of her sweaty, stinky, damp, sticky, snotty clothes and stick her in a hot shower.
  • remove the t-shirt she snotted and drooled on, throw it on the pile of her manky clothes, and join her in the shower.
  • give her that little seratonin rush she loves so much in the best way you know how.
  • dry her off with a warm, fluffy towel (when she's got her breath back).
  • give her some your own clean clothes to put on.
  • feed her chocolate.

If you have any further questions regarding the best way to offer consolation to a weeping female, contact the Hairy Man, who is an expert on the subject, as he so ably demonstrated this weekend.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Yet another reason why my country is going to shit:

The bigots are getting sneakier.

And the masses are getting dumber.

I want my goddamn library back

I hate this time of year. Final Exams.

You would think Final Exams wouldn't matter to me, since I don't have any. You would think that, but you'd be wrong.

I don't have Final Exams, but I still have an ass-load of work and research to do. Research which involves using the library - which is now cluttered wall to wall and floor to ceiling with gibbering, snoring, shuffling and vibrating undergraduates. They're everywhere! They're like a fucking swarm of locusts, devouring journals and filling the air with their incessant din. I want them to GO AWAY.

I had to get to the library at 9 am yesterday just to get a table at which to work. If you don't go in until 10 they're all taken. All of them. And there is nowhere left to work. So I have to go in first thing in the a.m. and stake a claim, then leave some stuff there marking my turf whenever I need to use the loo or, god forbid, step outside for a lungful of non-flourescent air and a gob of nutrient.

In a couple of weeks it will be over, though, and then i can have my goddamn library back. I mean, what do they think they are, students or something? Bah.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Beer bread, high 'Cs', and Famous Last Words

By popular demand, I am publishing my no-knead Beer Bread recipe. I wouldn't normally do this, as it ruins the mystique, but you lot are just so wonderful I'm breaking my own rules. See, I don't genrally like people to know how stupidly, abysmally easy this recipe is. It's much more impressive if you just plop a loaf of hot, crusty, homemade bread down in front of a man and watch his eyes and tongue roll right out of their native orifices as he ogles the majestic mound of steaming yeasty beasties surrounded by hardy, golden crust. Mmmm.

But, as I said, you guys are the shiznit, so here she goes: make it, eat it, share it, relish it, but don't let on how simple it was; let people think you put in a lot more effort than you did.

No-knead Beer Bread

3 ingredients:

3 cups self-rising flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
12 oz (1 1/2 cups) good beer*

3 steps:

1. Mix ingredients together quickly. (Dough will be very sticky, so don't worry that you can't get it into a neat ball - it won't happen.)
2. Stuff dough into a greased loafpan.
3. Bake at 375 degrees (Farenheit) for 45 minutes. Remove from loafpan to cool.

done, and done. See how easy that was? No kneading, no rising, and it takes a total of 50 minutes from start to finish. Can't beat that with a stick!

*I've done this with several kinds of beer. I like to try to coordinate the beer to the rest of the meal. For example, once I served this bread with a homemade steak and Guiness pie, so I used Guiness. The bread was dark and malty as a result. If your serving this with a lighter meat, like poultry, I recommend Worthington's. So tasty! But for fuck's sake dont' use Bud Light or MGD or something equally appalling. Generally good, strong ales or bitters work best, but play around with it and see what you like.

High C's

the meme from First Nations: 10 words beginning with C and what they mean to me. (Is it me, or does that sound like one of those lame assignements your teaching gives you on the first day of school, just so they can assign homework even though you havn't done anything in the classroom yet?)

1. Chaucer
(Oh come on, you had to see that coming!) Bastard. Genius. Wrote amazing poetry at the end of the 14th century for the sole purpose or tomenting me with his linguistic style 600 years later.

(by the way, i'm not giving this a lot of thought. i'm just pulling words out of my ass as they come to me; sort of a free-association thing.)

2. Celebrity
n. someone who holds him/herself to be a fuck lot more important than he/she actually is, and lives under the delusion that I give a shit. see Paris Hilton.

3. Clairvoyance
What Darth Vader lacked, and the reason he was unable to locate the Rebels' secret fortress.

4. Clarinet
Instrument I played regularly for 12 years in various concert and marching bands. Source of great joy, frustration, and comfort. Reason my right-hand thumb is utterly useless due to advanced arthritis from holding the bloody thing for so many years.

5. Company
People who come to your home, eat your food, and content your soul; the inspiration for hospitality and unnecessary kitchen gizzmos; bringers of wine.

6. Chrysanthemums
Cheap flowers your date gets you out of sense of obligation, but clearly thinks is a stupid idea and a waste of money, so he buys chrysanthemums.

7. Chastity
yet another dumb idea, propogated mainly by religious fanatics who's principle motivation is the fear that someone, somewhere, is having more fun than they are.

8. Charity
a tidy little word i use to justify spending thousands of dollars of other people's money that i and they both know i will never be able to pay back. as in "let me buy you dinner, you're a charity case."

9. Council-tenant
Source of aggravation, amusement, and paycheck for the Hairy Man.

10. Cheers!
catch-all, British word used as a greeting, goodbye, thank you, you're welcome, and as a toast. Should not be used on the wrong side of the Atlantic ocean, as this only invites blank stares and accusations of snobbery, lack of patriotism, or even being an "enemy" (read: terrorist) spy.

Famous Last Words

the scene: I'm standing in Hairy's kitchen. I'm dressed to go out, hair and makeup flawless, black lace blouse, sexy t-strap shoes (of Shoegasm fame), sexy Victoria's Secret knickers, and pantyhose (the kind that go all the way up to your waist). My white linen skirt is on the ironing board in front of me. I am attempting to remove some rather unfortunate and stubborn creases before we go out for dinner.

H: nice pants.

me: ta

H: Aren't you hot?

me: why would i be hot?

H: well, isn't it a little warm for tights?

me: ?

H: as opposed to stockings...

me: I am wearing stockings

H: no you're not. those are tights.

me (sensing yet another trans-oceanic language barrier coming on): these? we don't call these tights, we call them stockings or pantyhose. Do you mean the ones that only come up to the thigh and thave the little suspender thingys that hold them up?

H: Yeah! do you have any of those?!? (grins devilishly)

me: no, i don't. sorry.

H (looks crestfallen for a moment, then smiles suddenly): You wanna borrow mine?

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Announcement. (maybe)

Well-timed request, HC. I have just this morning reached what may end up being the final decision. This is by no means yet conclusive. I'm going to try it out for a while and see how it fares.

For the past few days I've been leaning more and more towards...


I know you don't like it, HC, but it just seems to fit, somehow. I think I look like a Mara. It suits me.

It's unusual without being wierd,
elegant without being pretentious,
feminine but not cutesy.
It can't be shortened to anything stupid,
it's easily spelled and pronounced.

My flatmates and I sat around at lunch today and discussed it. B reckoned I should imagine how it would be to introduce myself as Mara in a variety of scenarios, ie at the pub, at a job interview, etc. And I should also imagine how it would sound to me if a man ever asked me "Mara, will you marry me?"

And I must admit, I think it works.

Here's the thing: my middle name and surname both begin with "Ma." So Mara Marie Ma----- just doesn't cut it.


What if I change my middle name? Swap Marie (which is useless) for Mara? I won't have to drop Stephanie, so there's no risk of hurting my dad's feelings (whatever else he may say), and I won't hurt my mom (Mary), buecause Mara, like Marie, is just another variation of Mary. PLUS it makes the paperwork a bit easier, bucause most of my financial institutions et cetera only have my middle initial on file anyway, and that won't change. Easy peasy! And lots of people use their middle names for everyday address.

It'll still be a pain in the ass to change it legally, what with my passport and visa and all. I'll have to see what's involved in that. I'd like to do it before I graduate here, so that my diploma will have my new name on it, but that may not be possible. We'll see.

And I won't demand that anyone who already knows me as Stephanie suddenly do a 180 and start calling me Mara. I can understand why people would find that difficult. If you want to, cool. If not, no worries.

My flatmates said they would make an effort to call me Mara for a week so I can try it on, see if I still like it in 7 days time, but I reckon i will. It's comfortable.

Thoughts? Feedback? Lay it on me!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

What's in a name?

Damn. Dude. You guys are the shiznit. There have been some really amazing suggestions. I'm totally impressed by all the thought and effort you put in. Thanks SO much. There are 52 suggestions in the comments box of the last post. That is AWESOME.

I really debated whether or not to go through and list them all and what I liked or didn't like about each of them, or to just pull out a couple of my favs to discuss. I'm concerned that listing them all and scratching them off for various reasons might seem critical, but I'm going to do it anyway because i want you to know that I looked at and seriously thought about each one before passing or failing it. Granted, most of them got scratched, but I suppose that's to be expected. It is rather a big deal after all, isn't it?

I told you all to be creative, and were you ever! Unforntunately, I had to nix a lot of suggestions because they were just too unpronounceable. Pronounceability wasn't one of my original criteria, but maybe it should have been. The Pronounceability factor killed off

Sclymgeour (sorry FN)
Clytemnestra (that, and it does sound like an STD. or possibly a medication for one. "Clytemnestra! Brought to you by Pfizer!" Nope, not going there.)

Then there was the credibility issue. I'm sure you probably thought that I'd really dig a name associated with medieval literature, and you're right, but it's becuase of my obsession with all things medieval that I need to be able to show my face at conventions of medievalists. I really can't show up with a name like Guenevere (or any variation thereof) or Cressida. Seriously. So credibility killed:

Nimue (that, and I really couldn't stand her character in MoA. manipulative little shrew.)
Morgan (and it's the name of my best friend's dog)
Dido (not medieval, but a pop star, which is even worse.)

Then there are the scads of random, bad associations:

Mira (Sorvino)
Hebe (too close to Herebe. No that you're a bad association, dear, I just don't want to name myself after your web ID. I'm sure you understand.)
Kalliope (pronounced "ka LY o pee," besides breakeing the no ee rule, this is also the name of an organ-like musical instrument played at circuses. My former next-door neighbors used to have one in their garage (it was too big for the house) and drive the neighborhood nuts with it.)
Kleio (a goldfish by any other name is still a goldfish.)
Devi (too close to devil)
Alex (too common)
Lea/Leia (too Star Wars. I love Star Wars, to the degree that I was totally obsessed with it for many years. I would never be able to convince my family that I wasn't trying to re-name myself after a movie character, albeit a kick-ass one.)
Scout (cute for wearing on weekends, but not for everyday wear)
Rowan (Atkinson)
Terrwyn (just don't like the way it sounds)
Morwenna (more what now?)
Branwen (cereal. "Branwen: part of this complete breakfast!")
Asta (a giant grocery store owned by Walmart, who are evil fuckers.)
Bloddwydd (too many ds)
Tallulah (no)
Kyrie (I was raised Catholic. I've sung way too many kyries to think of the word in any context besides the Mass.)
Yamal (my reason for disliking this one is completely racist. I'm very sorry. But it just sounds too... oh god, I can't even say it. too... black.)
Electra (I don't want to name myself after a creepy pyschological complex, thank you.)
Phaedra (another medication. "Phaedra may have some side effects, including drymouth, vomiting, and heart failure. Consult your doctor before taking Phaedra.")
Alison (too common)
Rhiannon (I know one)

That leaves:

Field, and
Dagny (violates the ee rule, but I havn't read The Fountainhead yet, so I'm leaving it on for the time being)

*astericks indicate the ones I especially like. I think Maris and Mara might be real possibilities. There are two more which I'm seriously considering that I came up with a while ago. They are:

Margot, and

Maris might be a little too close to my mom's name, Mary, but I'm not sure yet. Mara also happens to be a Star Wars character, but a much lesser known one. (And a much cooler one, incidently.) But if I went with that, it wouldn't be for the SW association, which isn't a strong connection in my mind. Margot is nice. Different, unusual, but not crazy. I like it. I think maybe it suits me. Onela is one of my favorite names of all time, but I'm afraid I might have to nix it on account of the credibility factor. It's an Anglo-Saxon name, male (not that that matters), but the only known appearance of the name is in Beowulf. Onela was a king of the Swedes. Any medievalist would know that.

There seems to be a trend emerging, anyway, and that is helpful. I definately seem to be gravitating toward 'M' names. Perhaps because my surname begins with 'M' those names sound more comfortable, less alien, in my mind's ear.

So anyway, go ahead and leave your comments regarding the finalists, or suggest a few more names, now that you have a better sense of what appeals. I hope you're finding this at least somewhat entertaining.

Whoo-hoo, interactive blogging!

To be honest, I'm not even entirely sure that if I settle on something I really like that I'll go through with it. It would be an incredibly arduous process. The paperwork alone would be hell, what with my passport and visa and all. But that would be nothing compared to asking everyone I know to suddenly start addressing me by a different name.

I really wish I had thought of this before I came to Bristol. It would have been much easier, at least on this bit of dirt, to just introduce myself as Mara. Or Margot. or whatever. Too late now. Oh well.

On the other hand, I've never not done something I wanted to do just because it looked difficult or frustrating, so maybe i still have some internal doubts. It'll just take some time to sort out in my head.

That said, you've all be really terrific about this. I can't wait to read your thoughts.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Criteria

Wow. You've all really gotten on the bandwagon with this little homework assignment. Props, my peeps. (Except you, Herebe. You didn't offer up any sacrifices to the goddes of my discriminating nature, but you flattered me so i'll let you slide. This time.)

We've had some good suggestions, including

Elizabeth (too common. not common as in 'low class,' but common as in 'there are too damn many of them at all strata of society')
Ruth (sounds terrible with my last name, which i cannot for privacy reasons reveal on this site under any circumstances)
Cleo (= goldfish. i'd just as soon call myself Bubbles or Flipper. Sorry, HC; i know you tried.)
Sharon (Osborne)
Shawn (I already know a Shawn)
Tiffany (sideways move)
Alice (See Elizabeth)
Katherine (see Alice)
and Stevie (tried and failed)


Here are the criteria under which i've been operating. any name i'm considering must instantly pass all of them for me to even give it the 48-hour contemplation. they are:

1. Must not end in the sound "ee." This eliminates all names ending in ie, i, y, ey, iey, ee, or any other fucked up means of spelling long e. Names ending in e all sound cutesey/stupid/girly to me. I just don't like them. They're too much like what i've got.

2. It must be unusual. Even wierd is ok. I'm unusal. Hell, I'm wierd. And i feel rather strongly that any name which suitably reflects my personality must also be (at least somewhat) unusual.

3. It can't be a name that anyone of my acquaintance already has. Partly because i don't want people to think i'm either copying them or mimicking them, but also because i need a name that is free of previous associations in my own mind. It has to be mine, something for me to own uniquely. This has the drawback of eliminating a lot of otherwise likely possibilities, but it does help with number 2.

4. It should sound ok with my last name. I may not have my last name forever (fingers crossed), but i will have it for a while longer, so i might as well work with it. And i might be stuck with it forever. There is that possibility. *sighs*

Interestingly, Ruth was on the list for a spell, but got eliminated because of no. 4, as did Judith, another candidate. (Great namesake with that one.) Of all the suggestions so far, Cleo is, ironically, the only one that passes muster. It's just a shame that's a goldfish name. (sorry HC, i just can't get past that.)

So, with all that in mind, feel free to fire off a few more rounds if you are so inclined. I'd be curious to hear what you come up with. Be a little nuts; that's ok. Names in other languages are fair game (including dead languages or even fictional ones - maybe Herebe can get with the Silmarillion and formulate me some groovy elven potentials*), as are cool words from literature or science or whatever. (Plant names? Names of sea creatures? Why not!) (FN, I know i can count on you to go wild with this!)

You do that, and in a couple more days i'll bung you the only 2 i've been able to think of that i'm still considering. One of them is reasonably normal; the other is totaly out there. I'm eager to learn your thoughts on this.

And thank you all for your Herculean efforts on this. I should point out that even if I immediately remove your suggestions from consideration, it's still very helpful to me. Every suggestion that comes my way makes me re-evaluate my criteria and opens my mind to new possibilites. Every name I eliminate brings me one step closer to finding the one that is right for me.

And wierdly, though I've never believed in The One in terms of romance and relationships (you've heard me rant about that before), I do feel, somehow, that there is just one word out there which is just exactly right for me, and no other. It's just a matter of finding it. It's out there. I can smell it.

*I once had a Siamese fighting fish named Nenraug, which was a compound word i made up in elvish meaning "water demon." I thought that was pretty cool. But then he died.

Friday, May 12, 2006

I, Dentity Crisis

My name doesn't suit me. Never has. As long as I can remember, I've disliked it. People will call my name and it won't occur to me to respond, simply because i don't identify myself with it at all. Never have. Why? It's too girly. It's a name used on sitcoms to denote bimbos. It screams poofy blonde hair, big boobs, and tacky clothes. It's just too damn girly. I'm not girly.

I've never bothered changing it for 2 reasons:
1. Though I don't like the name at all, I like the person I'm named after (my daddy), and didn't want to hurt his feelings.
2. Never had any better ideas.

Recently I had a conversation with my mom about naming babies and the implications of a name and all that. I mentioned that I thought it would be cool if we lived in a culture where people got to choose their own names with the coming of age, since my own name just doesn't fit me.

Here the crazy bit: she agreed.

She said that no, it really doesn't go, and if she and my dad had to name again today, knowing who i am as an adult, they'd never give me the name i've got. That came as a bit of a surprise, so say the least.

So no. 1 doesn't apply any more. My folks would not be offended if I changed my name. Mom even got on Google and started looking at websites of what-to-name-the-baby ilk, seaching for something more fitting to my nature. (!!!)

Now it's a matter of sorting out no. 2.

I've got a few ideas floating around, but i'm really curious to see what you, my blogsome buddies, think of the whole thing. You don't know my real name (most of you, anyway), but you know me through my words, feelings, photos. In some ways, you know me better than most people who know me, because I publicize many of my most intimate thoughts and experiences here.

So what do you think? What do I seem like to you? What sort of name do you associate with the personality you see expressed on your monitor right now?

I've got a couple ideas of my own, but I don't want to say anything just yet because I don't want to cloud your brainstorming.

Fire away. (Names associated with strong women, either literary or historical, will be especially considered.)


I think the first gift you give someone says a lot about your relationship to that person, don't you agree? Technically, Hairy's first gift to me was a toothbrush. But I'm not counting that, because he didn't purchase it for me; it was an extra he had lying around and gave it me so I could brush my teeth one night. (Probably a bit of enlightened self interest on his part - I suspect my breath was pretty foul that evening.)

More to the point, if I acknowledged the toothbrush as the first official gift, I wouldn't be able to tell you lot or my future children* that this was the first thing the man ever gave me:

oh, no no; it's not that easy. you have to wait for it. this one merits some serious suspense.

and if you scroll down to see it now without reading everything, than you're only ruining it for yourself.


i figured he'd bring me something back from Egypt. (Bear in mind that last night was the first time we've seen each other in almost a month, and the first time since I spent that night in terror of his life, when Dahab was bombed and all those tourists were killed. I've known for the last few weeks that he was fine, but through all the wedding and medieval conference proceedings (more on that later. maybe.) i just desperately wanted to get my arms around him and smell him and feel his hair tickle my nose and KNOW he was all right. Does that make any sense?)

I couldn't wait to see him. For one, I wanted to give him the pressies I brought from the States. I found the selection process very nerve-wracking because, as I stated earlier, first gifts say a lot. There's pressure there, mis amigos, mark my words. Too sappy and romantic and he might freak and run for the hills, too funny and cheesy he might infer I don't give a shit about him and only bought a gag-gift to fulfill the gift expectation. I especially wanted to choose something he would really like because the chili-flavoured olive oil I brought him from Italy didn't go over as well as I'd hoped. Though he is using it.

So I got a bunch of little things. Some time ago I had tried to explain the concept of root beer to him, and I just couldn't describe it, so I bought him a bottle. He aslo has a problem with all his flatware sliding out of his drain rack by the sink, and I had looked around here for an attachable basket for the drain rack to hold the cutlerly (a very common and unexciting household accessory back home) but couldn't find one anywhere, so I brought him one.

And finally, I wanted to get him something that was, well, more thoughtfull and less cheap, if you know what I mean. Something that says, "I know your tastes and your likes and dislikes, and I saw this and it made me think of you." (Not that i don't think of him whenever my eyes are open, but he doesn't know that. Eyes closed, too, now I think about it.*) And of course, I wanted it to be something very Michigan. (Sorry, I hate using political regions as adjectives, but there was just no other way to say that.)

Now, Michigan is only known for 4 things: cars, cherries, the Detroit Red Wings, and Motown.

I couldn't buy him a car, and a keychain with a Ford model-T on it falls squarely in the realm of cheap plastic thing i bought just so i could say i got you something. Cherries were a possibility, as there are all kinds of really good local cherry products available: jams, conserves, compotes, syrups, candies, etc. I even considered that I could make a cute little joke about how I always seem to be giving him my cherries, but a) it wasn't that funny and b) Hairy doesn't like sweets. He never eats pudding. or jam. or anything like that. And fresh cherries aren't in season and you can't bring them through customs anyway.

That leave the Wings and Motown. Hairy doesn't follow hockey at all. Scratch one. Motown?

You do know what Motown is, don't you? Oh, very well. (Musicians feel free to skip the following paragraph.)

Motown is a nickname for the city of Detroit, called The Motor City, or Motor Town, or Motown. It's also the term applied to a unique style of pop music that originated in Detroit in the 1960s. Motown combines 60s pop with soul and R&B; it's characterized by it's smooth sound and intricate harmonies. Some of the best-know Motown artists are Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, The Temptations, The Four Tops, the Jackson 5, and Stevie Wonder. This was the golden era of Motown; pulsing, undulating melodies about life, love, and pain, being created when the Detroit economy was collapsing, the city was being torn apart by race riots, and Americans the nation over were protesting the Vietnam War. My mom is from Detroit. She still tells stories about when she used to walk to work from her apartment past burned out buildings and watch the National Guard snipers patrolling the rooftops, looking for (black) looters. (Not that all the looters were black; it's just the National Guard historically doesn't shoot white looters.) I grew up listening to Motown. My local radio station used to have Motown Mondays; all Motown, all day long. Fucking awesome.

I didn't know if Hairy liked Motown specifically (people seem to either love it or hate it, my mother being in the former category and my father being in the latter), but he likes a lot of music from the 60s and 70s, so I thought I'd take a gamble. Also, it seemed personal, as sharing music is a reasonably prominent part of our relationship. When we're in the car on one of his little weekend adventures, we bring along CDs we want the other to hear. And on lazy weekend mornings, we lie in bed, sipping tea, and listen to music together. I love those mornings.

So I went to the record store and deliberated between a compilation of greatest hits of Motown (all the big names represented and most of the most well-known titles), and a collection of greatest love songs of Motown. I wasn't sure how he'd feel about it, if it sent too strong a message, but I went out on a limb and got the love songs.

**** NeRvEs*****

This brings us up to last night.

(You realize of course that all this is just build up. Have you forgotten the original reason why you are here? I'll give you a hint: to find out what Hairy brought me from Egypt. I'll give you a second hint: it's not a plastic pyramid on a key ring.)

I have him the root beer. He smiled and put it in the fridge.
With much fanfare, I gave him the flatware basket. He lauged, kissed me, and put it in the drain rack. The he washed a fork that was lying on the counter just so he could try it out. (Yeah, that man is adorable.)
Then, with much apology and insisting that If he doesn't like it I'll completely understand etc etc, I have him the CD.

And he loved it.

By this time, I had completely forgotten that he said he bought me a present as well. I was just pleased that I had managed to find something to his taste that he would enjoy and would be a little reminder of me during his day.

So he leads me back to the bedroom, puts his arms around my waist and says, "I have something for you, too. You can hang your coat on it."

"Mmm," I smiled, sliding my hands down the back of jeans. "I like those gifts," I said, offering him my mouth.

Without kissing me he pulled away abruptly and got down on his hands and knees and pulled a large package out from under the bed. It was wrapped messily in newspaper and plastic grocery bags. "I had to get one of the fruit sellers in the bazaar to weigh it for me so I could be sure I could bring it back and still be under my weight limit for luggage."

I took the package from him. It weighed a ton! Well, about 8 or 9 pounds I estimate, but that's a lot more than I was expecting. The package was oblong in shape, about 15 inches long and 8 inches in diameter at its widest bit. I was intrigued, to say the least. My first thought was that it was some kind of exotic mellon or something.

was i right? not by a long shot. No, i don't think anything could have prepared me for this...

(keep scrolling...)

(it has to be a surprise you know.)

(can you take the suspense?)

oh all right; here you go:

Oh. my. fuck.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is a hand-carved, 15-inch tall, soapstone sculpture depicting the predynastic Egyptian fertility god Min.


Seriously. Is that not the most incredibly ballsy (literally), crazy, funniest, thoughtful, wickedly cool first gift EVER? You can't tell me it's not.

No one's ever bought me sculpture before.

This to me says
  • You're mature enough to appreciate this as art without giggling, but have enough of a sense of humor to still be entertained by it.
  • I went to a lot of trouble and effort to bring this rediculously heavy, monstrous gift to you in my hand luggage.
  • I may be a lot of things, but boring ain't one 'em, baby. boo-yeah!

Got comments? Oh I know you do! (I hope that was worth the wait.)

*"I only think of you on two occassions. That's day, and night..." You know you got it bad when cheesy-ass tunes like this start sounding profound. Shoot me now before i decide Michael Bolton is a great 20th century philosopher.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


I am at "home."

I use the term ironically, because it really isn't my home anymore. Turtle-like, I carry my home on my back and set up shop wherever I land. And land I did. Very bumpily. In a gusty (ie unpredictable) crosswind that smacked the plane around like a tetherball in a prison yard. And that was the better of the two landings. I threw up on the first one. As did several other people. Then I laid down on the floor of Liberty Airport in New Jersey to try to recover my equilibrium, which I'd almost succeed in doing before they stuck me on the second flight of my sojourn which ended in the aforementioned crosswind that reduced pitch control to a figment of the pilot's imagination. (The bruises on my arm where the stranger sitting next to me clutched me for dear life have nearly faded.)

That was tuesday before last. Got home, slept, woke up, unpacked, repacked, got in the car and drove to Wisconsin. Whew!

Now, I must at this point go into a wee bit of detail about the drive. Normally I wouldn't deign to bore you with such minutae, but in this case i'm afraid it's rather critical to the plot. And the title of the blog.

So we're toodling along down highway 60 through some beautiful spring countryside, admiring the redbuds in bloom and that lovely light shade of chartreuse green that's dusting the early-leafing shrubs and trees. The fields are tilled and planted and smooth, but little green shoots have yet to make an appearance; the soil is dark and rich and eager.

Due to the impending birth of several babies, the mothers of which we are aquainted, we got on the subject of children's literature. I mention that my favorite book was Vanuk Vanuk. This comes as high praise indeed, as I am someone who knows from children's literature and can recite The Lorax and The Giant Jam Sandwich from memory.

Vanuk Vanuk was an awesome book. Once in a great while near the village a huge flower would srping forth from the ground with a tremendous "BOK!," all at once like, and this was cause for great rejoicing among the villagers. But the Sacrapanti would hear the BOK! and come and steal the flower, which is VERY BAD. So the villagers decided to build a huge cage over the next flower that bloomed and then drop it over the invading Sacrapanti when they came to steal it. The villagers called this cage The Trapamonio.

The mention of this book, a long-time fave with my parents as well at myself (it was very satirical of western society), got us all suffixing everything with blank-"amonio!" It became a running gag throughout the weekend's festivities. We declared it the jokamonio. (You can see where this is going, can't you?)

So we're tootling along, and we see some cows. "Cowamonio!" we cheer. We see some (really tacky*) modern sculpture. "Artamonio!" we declared.

yeah. that's my family. and we weren't even drunk. (yet.)


we arrive at the hotel (of which we've booked 3/4 of the total rooms for guests of Marley's wedding). We begin unloading luggage. Mom is carrying her dumbells.

"I never argue with a woman who packs her own weights," sayeth the night clerk at the desk. Good policy, me amigo. Me pater and I exchange conspiratorial glances. "Bitchamonio" we agree, smiling.

My parents, being the bloody eskimos they are, immediately turned on the air-conditioner and opened the windows in an attempt to get the temperature of the room down to a balmy 50 degrees. Farenheit. (That's 10 Celcisus for all you metric-Nazis.) I kid you not.

Sadly, this hotel room only had 1 bed. I got to sleep on the pull-out couch. Not a problem, except that the pull-out doesn't come with a duvet, only one of those icky, hotel-foam blankets. Touching them creeps me out. And they aren't very warm.

I immediately began shivering. Mom, in a streak of unprescedented generosity, offered to get me my own room. She even went to the desk to check the availability. They had 1 room left. Did I take it? You bet your sweet bippy I didn't. Oh, no. Me and my fucking Catholic guilt. I didn't want to be a nuissance or a burden to my parents. I wanted to be grateful for what I had. I went to the front desk to get 2 more gross hotel-foam blankets. I was fine with this decision until 2 nights later when I had a hot, single groomsman in my clutches but both of us were sharing rooms and had no place to go. God. Fucking. Damnit.


that was wednesday. thursday went by in a bit of a haze. I know i went over to the lake and ran around it a couple times (5 miles total). Oh, and I spent most of the day wrapping gifts for the bride. Not gifts to be given to her, but gifts she was giving to everyone who helped with the wedding but she didn't have time to wrap them. It took me 6 hours, 2 trips to Che Target for more supplies, and about 70 yards of ribbon, but they all got wrapped and dressed with hand-tied bows. None of this pre-packaged buisness for my new sister-in-law. That would be tacky. And clash with the cheese cubes they served at the reception.*** I do remember going with my dad and the bride's dad for lunch to a german brat haus. There are a lot of germans in Wisconsin. I don't know why either. But i'm not complaining. I "heart" wurst. All kinds of wurst. Big, thick, long, meaty, juicy...

erm, yeah.

so anyway...

Friday. The rehersal. I was assigned the tasks of a) carrying the crucifix at the head of the procession, and b) reading the first reading.

Fr. Nazi (more about that later) expressed concern that a woman was carrying the crucifix. Apparently it's rather heavy, and as a rule he only allows men to carry it.

"Fr. Nazi, I'd like you to meet my ego, and it's girlfriend, my right bicep."

"You really think you can carry it? You have to hold it quite high, for effect and all. And it is rather heavy."

"I lift weights."

"How much can you bench press?"

"How much do you weigh?"

"Are you suggesting you can bench press my weight?"

"Why don't you lie down 0n the floor just there and we'll find out."

"Um, perhaps you should just carry the cross."

"That might be simplest."

It went downhill from there. My relationship with Fr. Nazi, that is. The rest of the rehersal went fine. ish.

Fr. Nazi likes having the ENTIRE wedding party standing around the bride and groom while they exchange their vows. I think this is silly. I think it distracts the attention and focus away from the bride and groom. I think it makes the wedding ceremony look like a Homecoming Court at a high school football game. But no one asked me.

So there's Fr. Nazi lining up all the bride's maids and groom's men in a V-type formation that made them look like migrating geese. I've know some of the groomsmen for 15 years or more, and I was seated quite close by, so naturally I started whispering snide remarks to them for their amusement. While Fr. Nazi was adjusting the formation (he spent 20 minutes of a 60 minute rehersal telling groomsmen to move a foot to the left or take a step back, then he'd walk to the back of the church, gaze upon his hadiework, and mutter things like "no, it's not quite right." it took a third of the rehersal because obviously whether the best man is standing behind or next to the potted plant is the most important part of any wedding), I was saying things like "the problem here is that we don't have any hash marks." This is funny because the dude to whom i was whispering this was the one who had to go to band camp a day early every year to paint the hash marks on the field. he thought this comment was hilarious. when fr. Nazi told them to all turn to the left, i gave the old command: "Band! Left hase!" And the ex-bandis in the wedding party all whispered back "Left hase, one, two!" and then had giggle fits. Good times.****

Did I mention I looked great? Yeah, I looked great. I know so because Flirty Groomsman (the one I nearly managed to score on the wedding night and who henceforth shall be referred to as FG) told me so repeatedly. Right after he pulled my chair out for me at the rehearsal dinner. I always said the best thing about having an older brother was his friends. (Flirtamonio!)

FG and I have known each other for ages, but we only see each other about once every 2 years or so. We've always gotten along, and he's a hell of a flirt. I'm not nearly the flirt I used to be, but FG brings out the best in me.

(I thought you might appreciate a visual aid at this point. FG is the chummy-looking bloke in the red shirt. I'm the stunner next to him in the halter dress. That's Fr. Nazi on the left in the yellow shirt, and the very arian couple beside him are the bride and groom.)

So we're at the rehearsal dinner (fantastic German resturaunt), and the maid of honor and I managed to scare Fr. Nazi away from the table with our lewdness. I think it was the comment about the Groom's Dancers (bridesmaids designated to get nasty with him on the dance floor after the parents have left the party) rubbing up against him (the Groom, not Fr. Nazi) that was the last nail in the coffin. We didn't see him again after that. He just sort of disappeared suddenly. *taps fingers together* Excellent, Smithers.

Saturday. The Big Day. First order of business: hair. (naturally)

The bride made arrangements for every female even remotely connected with the wedding to get her hair done on saturday morning at a salon that served champagned and danishes to really large groups getting primped for a special occasion. I did not want to be foofed, teased, primped, or crimped. I just wanted a hair cut. I hadn't had one since december and my hair looked like a diseased marsupial climbed on my head and died there. After I had consumed an appropriate amount of alcohol and danish (it was only 9 am), it was my turn. (*mentally play opening chords of Beethoven's Fifth at this point.*) (Hey, how appropriate. Beethoven had a fifth, and so did I that morning.)

She gave me a really good cut, I can't deny that. But I have short hair, so I couldn't get the big sausage curls and wipsy tendril thingys that the other girls were getting. My stylist asked me if I wanted it more curly or smooth. "Smooth" I said. "Very sleek, very shiek. NOTHING POOFY."

You should have seen her definition of "nothing poofy." I looked like a poodle that stuck it's toe in a light socket. Welcome to the Midwest, i thought.

Still, all the other girls were telling me how great it looked. I'm genrally pretty resistant to change when it comes to my appearance, but I thought "hell, they all seem to think it's nice. maybe i'll leave it, just for today." (Blech- hairamonio.)

So I'm sitting with the bride while she's getting her makeup done, merrily having a one-way conversation, when one of the other stylists walks past. "Aren't you getting your hair done, dear?" she enquired.

"I've just had it done," I replied.

"Oh," she said.

Well that clinched it. Yikesamonio. As soon as i got back to the hotel I hit the shower (for the second time that morning) and attempted to scrub all the hairspray and mousse out. I had to stand under the jet of water for 5 minutes before my hair was even wet, it was that heavily coated and sealed with all-weather, tefflon, extra-super-hold product crap. Seriously, that shit was more water-proof than the under-body sealant coating on my Subaru.

So anyway...

Back at the hotel the bride had arranged to have lunch delivered to everyone in their rooms, so people helping with the wedding wouldn't have to go out in search of food. Very thoughtful. (I should mention that my brother and his wife are so totally fucking organized that at the rehersal they actually handed out an Excel spreadsheet with all the times and places that everyone had to be and when on the day of the wedding. So not only did each person know exactly where he or she needed bo be at any given time, but could also look and see where everyone else was. Holy type-A personalities, Batman! Talk about analmonio.) So i'm getting ready and there's a knock on the door and my sushi arrives. It sounded like a really good idea the night before. I really like sushi. But raw fish is not something one wants to confront when one's stomach is already in knots. I admit it; i was nervous.

The church. The Big Moment. (*mentally play opening chords of Get Smart*)

The best man and the groomsmen were absolutely charming. They greeted, they ushed, they knocked us all over with thier dapper good looks. What a great group of guys.

I led of the parade, erm, procession with the crucifix. (It was heavy, but that's ok. It made my biceps ripple in the sunlight. I figured if it got too heavy I could always hoist it over my shoulder for that authentic look. Actually, it would have been worth doing just to see the look on Fr. Nazi's face. But I wouldn't do anything to disrupt my big brother's big day. And believe me, that was the only thing that kept my tongue and behaviour in line!) Everything went fine. The music was uninspired but inoffensive, and basically the ceremony was ho-hum, but it wasn't acutally the fiasco the mater and i were anticipating.

To be fair, the exchange of vows was very moving, and that is, of course, the most important bit. Thankfully it was the bit they got really really right. Both Marley and Miss Happy said their vows calmly, sincerely, and with great self-assuredness. They both sounded as though they knew exactly what they were doing and meant to do it. Of course I cried. I kept looking at this blonde, balding man in a tuxedo standing in front of me and thinking "This is the same person who used to push me off the dock into the lake at summer camp. This is the same guy I built blanket forts with on snow days. This is the guy who taught me how to decorate my bicycle with crepe paper and ribbons for the 4th of July Bicycle Parade, who gave me bunny ears in every family photograph. How can this be that guy? Where did he go?" And then I started giggling. Wanna know what set me off? One word that crept into my head, univited:

(wait for it...)



Moving swiftly on.

The Party.

Damn, what a party!

The reception was fabulous. My prime rib was over-cooked (if your prime rib doesn't arrive mooing and sitting in a pool of blood, it's over-cooked), and there were cheese cubes (foul abominations of nature), but that shit doesn't matter. What I remember is how much love there was in that room. If you just sat back and listened, everyone was having a good time, everyone was happy. There was great dancing. Lots of old stuff - Sinatra, Armstrong, etc. I danced with my dad for the first time in my life, and with my godfather, and my great uncle Frank (88 years old and flew up from Arizona for the occasion). I polkad with my mom and my brother (bless him he can't dance), and everyone was just so full of love and joy I don't know how to describe it. It was good family fun. The flower girl danced on her grandfather's shoes, there was a couple dancing with their 6-month old baby. Everyone was happy. The whole thing was just so, I don't know, life-affirming. It was a celebration of life, and a celebration of the only thing that makes life worth living, love. Life and love. And free booze. Now that's what I call a party.

This was my first time at a family wedding. Marley and I are the only children of our generation in the family, so there hasn't been a wedding in the family since my parents got hitched in 1972. Great uncle Frank came because, as he put it, "we need to get the family together for something besides funerals." Amen, uncle frank; amen.

It was teriffic. After the old folks left the DJ put the house on and wedding party, twenty-somethings, and other singles got down to the serious drinking and dancing. I'm not posting those photos. I still have my dignity, you know.

And that was it. I wish I had some big, grandiose, profound, "My Best Friend's Wedding"-esque conclusion, but I'm not a very good story-teller and there's really nothing exceptional or extraordinary about this wedding (except that it involved my nerdy big brother that no one ever thought would get married). It was a nice wedding, everyone had fun, and the happy couple are, at this moment, driving around Ireland in a rented Toyota Prius and stopping periodically to admire the sheep.

The fam, including my new sister. From left to right are dad, mom (hiding), Aunt Sr. Pain-In-The-Ass of Manchester fame, Mrs. Happy, Marley, yours truly, and Aunt Nene (second old nunny bunny in the fam and life-long partner of Aunt Sr. PITA).

*this particular piece of sculpture by the roadside came complete with its own life-size bronze admirers. I kid you not. I wish to GOD i'd had my camera. They actually made people standing around gazing at the sculpture. Barfamonio.

**yes, i blatantly stole the "ahem" technique thingy from Babs. What can i say? Immitation is the highest form of plagarism.

***Cheese should never. under any circumstances. be SQUARE. end of chat.

****If you are not, or have never been, in marching band, you won't understand any of this. Just trust me that it was hysterical. I give you my word as a section leader

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Why, blogger, Why???

Why do the copy and paste functions not work while creating posts? GRRR!!! Anyone out there know how to make those work?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Personal to B:

I'm returning on Tues, May 9, around lunch time. (I thought I put that in the note I left. I'm sorry if I forgot to say so - I wrote that note at about 3 am.)

I hope the bad news isn't serious. Are you OK? Ezri, Ceri, and I think Tom, all have my email address. If you would like me to call you send me an email with your phone number and a good time to reach you and I'll be happy to call. If there's anything I can do of course I'll do it.

See you next week. Take care, darlin.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Hi y'all!

Post coming up with all the wedding bits. I'm working as fast as I can. I hope you find it worth the wait.