Tuesday, December 30, 2008

fun with neon

I love Naples Restaurant, so I don't mean to poke fun at them, but when I came around the corner and saw this I burst out laughing:

Italian rant

A warm, old-fashioned Italian rant, just like Mom used to make.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

the X-Men of jelly beans

I've been given so much candy at work this week that I've filled an entire drawer of my desk with it. Christmas in our office is like "Halloween 2", and there's so much candy flying around that you could actually die if you ate everything you were given at one time. I now think of my top right drawer as "my little coma".

Out of all of the candy I was given, though, these were the ones that most intrigued me:

belly flops

Belly Flops, according to the bag, are irregular Jelly Bellies. The bag goes on to inform me that Belly Flops are not often available, but when they are, "enthusiasts snap them up immediately!"

I greet this claim with skepticism. I know that there are people who collect pretty much anything. I casually collect comics and comic related items, and I'm sure there are people who collect candy instead of jamming it into their gaping pieholes as rapidly as possible or storing it in their desk. In that subset of candy collectors, there is probably a group of Jelly Belly jelly bean collectors, but I have a lot of trouble imagining these people shrewdly haggling over a bag of irregular jelly beans at a candy show. People wouldn't actually pay extra for defective jelly beans, would they? Especially with Jelly Belly already priced at the high end of the candy scale?

Yes, people actually will. An e-bay search for "jelly belly flops" produced nine items, some of them with multiple bids.

Rather than sell mine, I decided to eat them:

belly flops unleashed

They're not just irregular. They're like ten jelly beans melted together. There was one lump in there that was the size of my thumb. There were some that were just one really long jelly bean, some that were round and clearly too big, and at least one that I swear had to have failed the taste testing, because it was so hot that it burned my tongue. Clearly, these were the mutant freaks of jelly beans.

And they were delicious.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

the grossest thing ever

This evening I was driving home when I was stricken by a coughing fit. Since I was in heavy traffic at the time, I couldn't cover my mouth, because I needed both hands on the wheel, but Jeannie wasn't carpooling with me today so I was thinking, "Whatever, I'll just cough."

So I was coughing and coughing, and trying to drive, and all of a sudden this globber of phlegm flew out of my mouth and directly into the heater vent! All the way inside!

Now every time I turn on the heater I'll think about that phlegm globber slowly baking.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


party spread

Yesterday I went to a birthday party for Jeannie's kid, who turned one. The party was mostly their family and a few friends, and I think was more for them than actually for the baby since there was only one other baby there, but it was an ok afternoon if you like standing around for a couple hours watching the baby ignore the other baby and bang presents on the floor.

Over the years I have been accused of hating babies, and I'd like to go on record as saying that's not true. I don't hate babies. It's not like I look at one and thing, "I wish that was on fire". It would be safer to say that I have an aversion to them, and I can illustrate my reasons with this photo from yesterday:

frosted baby

That's how all babies look to me all the time: sticky, smeared with unknown substances, and torn between shrieking and reaching out for you with their dirty hands. I'm sure people who have babies learn to overlook these things, but I can't get past it, like the mental block that keeps me from enjoying raw tomatoes. I don't hate babies; I hate being sticky, and I'm convinced that's totally normal.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Hallowthankmas is almost over, but there's still time to squeeze in a few Christmas parties at work:


Last year Frosty had a dance number, but this year he settled for just hugging. I haven't decided if that was more or less creepy, but I had fewer nightmares this year, so I'm going with less.

We also had a children's choir this year:

children's choir

They were an improvement over last year's R&B singing staff member, who started out singing "I've Got Sunshine" before making a smooth transition into that perennial Christmas classic, "Let's Get it On", but they weren't really that good. They screamed along to taped music that had vocals on it, they couldn't clap together or on beat, and a few of them forgot what they were doing and wandered off the stage during the songs. I applauded politely, but refused to stand when the rest of the room decided to give them an ovation.

Jeannie tried to make me stand.

"Why aren't you standing?"

"They were awful."

"They're FOUR!"

"I clapped."

"They're only FOUR!"

"And? If you start rewarding them for mediocrity now, they'll expect it the rest of their lives. That's how we end up with run-away self-esteem based education and Generation Me kids with overinflated feelings of entitlement."


Whatever. I know I'm right. Clapping was generous, but an ovation was ludicrous based on that performance.

I was still feeling the sting of the Scrooge label at the grocery store, though, so I remembered seeing Ina Garten make chocolate bark a couple weeks ago on the Food Network and decided I would whip up some Christmas candy for "Top Chef" night. I haven't worked with chocolate, really, since doing it as a kid with mom a couple decades ago, but it didn't look that hard on TV.

I got white chips, chocolate chips (which I ended up not using), and a container of fruitcake fruit (cherries, pineapple, and candied citrus peels) all diced up into small pieces:

candymaking supplies

The bag of chips said you could microwave them, but something went wrong there even though I did exactly what it said on the bag, and the chips in the measuring cup burned. Not having a double boiler, I set a stoneware bowl above a pot of boiling water, and started stirring and praying:

melting chips

It worked pretty quickly:

melted chocolate

When the chips were all melted, I poured the bowl onto a non-stick pizza pan, sprinkled on the fruit, and pressed it in a little so it wouldn't slide off. Then I stuck the whole thing in the freezer:

candy and fruit

When it was hardened up, I cut it into tiny chunks. I meant for them to be square, but it broke along its own lines, so I just went with it:

finished candy

Jeannie didn't seem to think I was Scrooge when she ate a whole bunch and took a bag home with her.

Monday, December 1, 2008

doll parts

antique doll

That's my grandmother's antique babydoll. At my grandparents' house, she sets it on one of the beds in the guest rooms, and Chester the cat goes up during the day and lays next to it. My parents and I, who each take a room, have a habit of moving the doll from room to room because it creeps us out and no one wants it on their bed.

You probably don't think that doll is all that creepy, but you're not looking close enough:

doll teeth

It has teeth.

And don't get me started on the eyes:

broken eye

Not only are they creepy, but it's one of those babies that the eyes close when you lay it down, so when you're moving it to the bed in dad's room, for example, the eyes roll up at you. I know it's my grandmother's cherished childhood toy, but that doll is nightmare inducing.

Doll exposure aside, my trip home wasn't bad. I didn't have to sit next to anyone on any of my plane rides, which was awesome, but I had US Airways for part of the trip and they charge you for soda and for having a suitcase, which is not awesome. It's still better than Northwest, though.

I landed in Albany, where they have some new art on display in the airport:

punchout camping

blue leaves

I had to fly in there because my parents were at the southern end of the state hunting in the beginning of the week, at camp:

porch view

The view of the Catskills from hunting camp's windows is amazing, as they wrap all the way around the first floor of the house, and it's also filled with antiques to stare at if, like me, you're not hunting and you get bored with your book:


pump organ pulls


Eventually we headed back upstate, so that they could keep hunting there. There wasn't really a lot of snow when I got there, because it rained for the whole first day, but then it got cold again, and the snow started.


It starts out with those cute cotton ball flakes, and you think it's sort of picturesque. Then it starts snowing a little harder:

penny watches the snow

Penny and I sat and watched it for a while, although Penny was mostly watching for birds. The snow stayed pretty steady for a while, coating the trees and covering up the bare spots the rain made:

back shed

By Friday morning, when we went to get an oil change for mom's car, it had progressed to full out blizzard and crushing snowfall:

lots of snow

That's one of the cars in the lot at the dealer. I don't see them making a lot of sales with nothing plowed and a foot and a half of snow on their cars, but that's just me.

I could be wrong, though. People buy all sorts of things that I think won't sell, like deer print Christmas stockings trimmed in safety orange fake fur:

hunting stocking

Only at Wal-Mart, people. Only at Wal-Mart.

Friday, November 28, 2008

lost barn

Every school day for five years, from grades 8 through 12, I drove past this barn twice a day:


I don't really have any stories about it or anything. I've never been inside it, or even been closer to it than that picture from my summer trip this year, but it's a landmark for me. I get lost very easily and am a visual driver, so when I head to my parents' house there's kind of a mental checklist I follow whether I need it or not, and that barn is on there.

I noticed the other day that the barn is gone. It's been torn down, and there is only a small pile of wreckage. I made this observation disproportionately loudly, and rather than rolling her eyes my mom, who is used to her strange child, explained that whoever took it down had been very careful to remove all the aged, distressed wood and to salvage anything within. I guess I'm not the only one who noticed the barn.

My town changes. It seems odd to make that observation in light of what I wrote the other day, but it's true. New buildings go up, houses are painted a different color, somebody landscapes the park in the summer, but I only feel weirdly unsettled when things are taken down. It's probably a sign of my realization of my own mortality, or some such psychological crap, but when my landscape is different my brain worries at it like your tongue poking into the spot where a missing tooth used to be. The mental checklist now has a gap, a dead spot, and instead of driving past that barn I drive past the spot where that barn used to be. It's not an important difference, but it feels like it is.

I get the same feeling when people from high school or earlier contact me on facebook and myspace. All of the people I know and all of the places I know are pretty much frozen in the head since I last saw them, so now I find myself constantly caught off guard by missing barns and eighth grade classmates with four children. Someone wrote to me that I've changed completely, and I couldn't believe that was true. I know I've gotten fatter and I used to have hair but other than that I have trouble pointing to any aspect of myself now and thinking, "That part of me was totally different ten years ago."

I realize that some things are different, but I've lived with them for so long that they don't register. They're no more surprising to me than the absence of a barn that was torn down three months ago is to mom, but that's because I lack the outside perspective. It's weird to think that I'm someone else's missing barn, but it seems to be true.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

our town

I'm currently stranded at my parents' house in upstate New York. I use the word "stranded" because I flew home instead of driving, which means I'm pretty much stuck at the house unless I can convince someone to drive me somewhere. While I'm here, though, I've been reminded by a discussion with Stan that I never finished talking about my June summer vacation, and now that I've got nothing to do but read and walk around the house taking pictures of normal objects on extreme closeup, I may as well address some of that.

(Stan is probably reading this and scratching his head, since the only discussion we had was whether or not "upstate NY" was the same town it had been in high school, but my brain took that and ran with it.)

My relationship with my parents' town, Philadelphia, New York (not to be confused with other, larger Phillies that may spring to mind when you hear that name) has always been sort of contentious, my impression forever colored by the one summer I spent there between freshman and sophomore years of college. That was the summer I tried to get a job in the village, and found out that the local gas stations, stores, and village summer recreation offices freely admit that they only hire females, relatives, or some combination of the two. Since then I've pretty much always viewed the town as a backward collection of prejudiced nepotistic inbreeders, and do my best to avoid interacting with actual townspeople whenever I happen to be here. I never spent a summer here again, and don't intend to.

Given that I view the village through a somewhat biased lens, it's surprising that I still find parts of it attractive. I have, for example, always been fascinated with the cemetary in the elementary school outfield:

outfield graves

It's not in the best repair:

fallen stone

broken stone

I've always wondered why, since the cemetary seems like the oldest part of that area, the baseball field and the neighbors' backyards are pretty much right in it:


Wouldn't it have made some kind of sense not to build those things so close?

Besides my trip to the cemetary, I walked over to the boat launch, where I saw gorgeous views of the Indian River:

indian river

Not surprisingly, I also managed to find a hate crime:

hate crime

I'd like to point out that, while I expect the village to be filled with hateful, small minded people, I totally wasn't looking for that. All I did was go out for a walk and there it was. Given that the paint doesn't look especially fresh, I can only conclude that a number of village maintenance workers have viewed that and either agreed or at least not been offended, but that's to be expected from people whose minimum qualification for hiring was "cousin".

To make matters worse, I realized when I walked down to the launch that there was additional anti-Jewish vandalism on the side of the bridge, in much plainer view:


You'll need to click the picture to see it, but all I had to do was stand on the dock and turn my head. Again, it's in a pretty visible location, and it's not a small swastika, so I can only assume that the town either condones it, ignores it, or is somehow incapable of removing or painting over it. It's still a nice view, though, if you stand so the tree blocks that part out:

pedestrian bridge

I also saw a number of large tadpoles developing in the water, although my shadow kept scaring them:


me, with tadpoles

At least the river isn't poisonous.

My trip this summer was also the first time in years that I was in town for Quaker Days, the annual (except for one year that my mom says they skipped) festival celebrating our founding:

quaker festival poster

The Quakers, apparently, were big fans of cotton candy, games of chance, and a flashy midway. The people of Philly, on the other hand, didn't seem very interested when I stopped by:

quaker festival midway

There were random collections of people at the rides, but it was mostly deserted:


scat machine


Tiff and I were the only ones betting on the cake wheel:

number 4

cake wheel

And we still didn't win! Not that I needed a whole cake or anything, but it would have been nice to win just the same.

I'll just hold that grudge against my town for a few years, too, in case I ever forget about that summer when no one would give me a job because I was from out of town.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Feliz... um, birthday!

Somebody had a birthday yesterday!

birthday door

It was me!

Jeannie, my carpool partner, organized a birthday dinner at Cancun's, where I had never been, and twenty or so of my friends and coworkers came.


That's when the margaritas started.

two fisting!

And then the servers came with tambourines and a sombrero, and put the sombrero on me while they sang... and then inexplicably smeared whipped cream all over my face:

whipped cream

I guess it's a Mexican tradition, maybe?

To make up for soiling me with dairy products, they prepared a special shot.

flaming shot


"Is special shot!"

See that lit match next to it? About one second after that photo the shot was on fire, and about two seconds later it was in my mouth.

Yeah, it was a good birthday.

Monday, November 17, 2008

topical, weighty political thoughts that have been chewing up my stomach


I don't live in California. I don't have any foster children. I don't have a husband. If my history of picking boyfriends is any indication, I will never have a husband, because my boyfriend will be a jerk. Despite all of that, I've been walking around since the election with this kind of hollow, punched in the stomach feeling. I know I should be celebrating because the Democrats won, and everything will be all right now. I know everyone says this is a victory for civil rights and equality and oh my God, all our prejudices have been triumphed over and fallen away, but the truth is that Tuesday the 4th really blew for gay people. It's hard to feel happy when you feel marginalized and betrayed.

I left out shock, but there was a lot of that, too. Out of all states in the union, you would think gay rights wouldn't have a problem in California. California, the land of fruits and nuts, the home of the gay mafia and the liberal Hollywood elite, the state where gay people have been getting married for months without the world coming to an end or the institution of marriage collapsing entirely. Sure, they have that Republican governor, but California is a blue state. How could they have trouble in a blue state?

It's the blue state part that really stings. As a gay person, I've always thought the Democrats were my friends. They're about inclusion, and tolerance, and liberalism. They want to help people, and lift people up, and watch out for the little guy. Yeah, the Democrats gave us "don't ask, don't tell", but it was so easy to blame that sad compromise on the Republicans, because everyone knows they're evil and corrupt and wrong. Democrats stand for change we can believe in, and hope, and all that happy holding hands rainbow coalition brotherhood kumbaya, but based on the election results, Democrats also stand for exclusion. Democrats stand for stripping people of their legally granted rights. Democrats stand for inequality. 52% of California decided that the thousand legal rights granted freely to anyone with a marriage license should only be available to people who insert Tab A into Slot B, and at least part of that 52% of California is solidly Democratic.

Maybe I should just register as an Independent and be done with it.

I know it's the word "marriage" that throws a lot of people, but that's not a term a lot of people asked for. "Marriage" is the term the United States applied to the union that lets you file joint tax returns, and be the designated next of kin, and receive spousal pension benefits. I want nothing to do with the marriages that go on in church. Church and me, we don't always get along, and it's best that I avoid them. The marriages that go on at the courthouse, on the other hand, should be open to all people who pay taxes, and vote, and want to join themselves to another person. "Separate but equal" should be abolished, not enshrined in the constitution of California or any other state. The majority of the country should never be allowed to decide what rights the minority is eligible to enjoy. If anyone tried to strip marriage rights from Asians or right-handed people or anyone over the age of thirty five the public outcry would be defeaning, but this election has taught us that homophobia is the last acceptable social prejudice.

A black man can be President, but he can't bring a First Husband with him, and those two things were decided on the same ballot. Is it a triumph, or a failure?

On Saturday a group called Join the Impact scheduled over 300 nationwide protests, rallies, and demonstrations. There was at least one in every state, and they were all scheduled to start at exactly the same time, 1:30 PM EST. I wasn't expecting a lot from ours, since we live in the red end of a pretty red state, but I went anyway. I don't live in California and I don't have a husband, but I have a voice, and I would like for it to be heard.

local high schoolers

protestors and sunsphere

protestors (1)

I don't know if we accomplished anything on Saturday. I don't know if it changed anyone's mind or made anyone rethink their vote or even gave anyone a moment's pause, but I feel better knowing that I did something, and took some kind of action to combat my sinking feeling of disbelief that the most democratic country in the world, a republic of the people, for the people, and by the people considers me a second-class person.