Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bloody Weather

Do you know what I miss most about regular, twice-daily meetings of the 3-Martini Break Group? Well, I'm going to tell you.

It was so educational. Billy will agree with me, having only yesterday been exposed to such phrases as "tramp stamp" and "bullseye" for a lady's lower-back tattoo. Me, I just learned what a "shocker" is, yesterday, from Diane. I can't tell you what it is, because my parents are reading; but I was quite shocked (haha!) to discover that Thomas was already familiar with the term. And I thought he was so nice!

It was also from my time in the 3MBG that I learned about crop-dusting, a deplorable practice familiar to many of my friends but never, I hasten to add, known to me in any but the most hypothetical, or at least purely accidental context.

My parents had never heard a more innocent phrase I introduced a couple of years ago, when I mentioned that a clubgoer in a bar my stepsiblings and I visited looked as if she had been "rode hard and put away wet." I didn't get that one from a 3MBG member - why, I've known that phrase for a coon's age - but I was certainly doing my 3MBGly ("threm-BIG-ly") duty in passing the information along to the uninitiated.

Of course, if there's one topic the 3MBG knows more about than practically anyone else in the world, it's the weather, and I'm no exception, especially now I'm in my current job. Any one of us could step up and be a meteorologist. We'd all look quite fetching in front of a greenscreen. I probably need to work on my "push the weather system away" move, but otherwise, I've got it down. So it was with no small degree of authority that I informed Robbie this evening that a weather system, bidding fair to become Tropical Storm Ana, is loafing around near the Yucatan Peninsula - not yet doing anything criminal, just shouting insolent remarks at passing ships, and threatening to spray-paint gang tags on the coast.

"And what hurricane," Robbie asks, "comes after Ana?"

"I don't remember," I said.

We agreed that the next named storm after Ana will probably draw a bead on the Texas coast, moving purposefully towards it, yet never actually make landfall, eventually coldly informing the bewildered coast that it wants no contact of any kind. "Or it will call up at the last moment and say something came up and it can't make it," added Robbie.

"Nonono," I said, "that'd be Hurricane Greg."

Tony gets his own hurricane in - I don't remember which year without looking it up. That'll be a big beefy one. Hurricane Billy would carefully avoid damaging environmentally sensitive areas, ranches and farms, but would completely wipe out every Wal-Mart in the state. "And Hurricane Beth will have two big, beautiful - eyes," says Robbie, who can be pretty smarmy when he wants to be.

I'm glad to have good friends who teach me more than I ever wanted to know. How else would I manage to put up with this miserable weather?

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Kitten Farts: Not So Cute

Noticing a particularly spectacular example and exclaiming "holy chihuahua!" is one thing. Actually hearing the kitten produce the emission is something else altogether, and probably indicates you should buy a different brand of cat food. Check the bean content on the label. And check the fat, because - crowded as my brain may be with generally useless information (a fact which doing a whole book of New York Times Sunday crosswords will tend to point out to you), there are some things that everyone really ought to know - incontrovertible facts, truisms even, pillars which support the very structure of reality as we know it. And high on the list of these is the fact that CATS ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO HAVE BUTT CHEEKS.

It's also not supposed to be this damn hot in June.

I think I'll just ride my bike back to Syracuse. What's a few hills? I love Austin, but farting kittens and weather from Death Valley? I think I preferred when it was raining frogs.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

You Know You're a Texan When...

...your first thought, upon catching sight of the Atlanta airport control tower, is, "Hey, that thing looks like one of these."

Now I want one. A chocolate frother, I mean, not a control tower, and not an airport, and certainly not the one in Atlanta.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

By the Horns

My flight didn't get into Syracuse until just before midnight last night - not too bad for me, as that's just 11 p.m. my time and I'm a night owl anyway. But my dad normally goes to bed at a reasonable hour. Still he came to the airport to pick me up, and then we sat up talking until two.

Don't you just love flight crews with a sense of humor? I thought we might actually give our ATL-SYR flight attendants a round of applause for the safety demonstration. They were great fun, but definitely a little tired; the guy read off the wrong flight number when welcoming us aboard, briefly confusing a few of the passengers. "I'm sorry, that's the number of tomorrow morning's flight back to Atlanta," he explained, "I'm just looking forward to leaving Syracuse."

"Hey!" shouted someone from the back of the plane. And I understand. I'd rather be in Syracuse than Atlanta, too.

Perhaps the pilot was tired as well. "Please use caution in opening the overhead compartments as contents may have shifted," the flight attendant read off as we taxied to the terminal, adding after a moment's thought, "especially after that landing."

My dad and I talked about a little of this and a little of that, though somehow we ended up with the relative merits of Mahler vs. Wagner (not that there's really any comparison), as well as the relative attractiveness of Austin Lyric Opera company members to members of other opera companies, and especially to the great opera stars of the past, many of whom apparently never heard that trans fats should be avoided rather than, say, taken intravenously.

"Why is it," my dad wondered, "that Wagnerian sopranos always seemed to be so large?"

The answer popped into my head just as I said it. "They had to be," I said, "in order to make it all the way to the end of the opera without dying of starvation." You see, I don't know if any operagoer has ever maintained consciousness through the entire Ring Cycle - or even just "Götterdämmerung"* - but a little-known fact is that Kirsten Flagstad was always a size 2 by the time she'd finished a performance, and was forced to refuel on massive quantities of smorgasbord to get her ready for the following evening. The sacrifices people will make for their art!

And as I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep, and still much too keyed up, I started thinking what an excellent quick-weight-loss program this would make. The problem would be devoting your life to the study of music and singing so you could become good enough to join an opera company and be cast as Sieglinde or Brunnhilde or Senta or Elisabeth or whoever - and that would take many many years, and I'm sorry but you really need to have already started on it - and then only do one performance, retire from the stage forever, and go have a salad.

You can't do this program in the comfort of your own home. Your helmet would poke holes in the ceiling.

*German for "That God damned ring"

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Get Outta Town!

I'm leaving behind this for over a week of this.*

Oh yeah, and I get to see my parents, too. :)

*If for some reason you are reading this post in winter, do not, repeat, DO NOT click on these links.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Be What You're Like

Do you ever feel that you're doomed to miss your calling in life because your basic nature is fundamentally in contradiction to the things you're good at?

For example, I've often felt that my aptitude in the man department makes me a prime candidate for the convent; yet I'm not religious. It's sort of a shame really.

Today I had so much fun conducting my training class that I was wondering if I could make it as a professional speaker. But there's just no way: feel-good corporate motivational tripe makes me want to yarf. I could never pull it off with a straight face.

The only problem really with being a great opera singer is that it's a lot of work, and you often have to sing Verdi, which I really don't like very much - not to mention ear-splitting new works by such internationally renowned fruit bats as Phillip Glass.

I'd be a famous writer, but...

I do get to conduct another training session tomorrow. I wish you could come sit in. I could try being extra-perky and saying "absolutely" a lot. Maybe I'll make a motivational speaker one day after all.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Here Comes Another One

There's a hole in the ozone layer with my name on it.

Actually, I doubt it. For one thing, I'm not sure that the fumes from printer toner destroy the ozone. They probably do cause some nasty disease I'll come down with later in life due to the months I spent, at my previous state job, with the department's printer in the back of my cubicle. To this day I can only hope I got out in time.

I see a few people from the old place at break now and then - Jason is still there, and Ernest of course, and there's a new guy who's actually 3MBG material - if there were still a 3MBG (sighhhhh). There's still fodder for the group, too; I bump into Coworker-You-Idiot occasionally, though I'm afraid I pretend not to see him. It's not often. I'll pop into the Kwik-E-Mart for a Chronicle, and he'll be there buying State Employee Chow of some kind or another. He's still got the zip-off pants and the antenna coming out of his head, thank God! It's reassuring to know that some things have stayed the same.

As for me, aside from being a little lonely at times, I still feel perfectly normal - but then, I would, wouldn't I?

My recent assault on the environment stems from the fact that I'm teaching a class tomorrow and Friday to a group of employees from other divisions who will come in to help us answer our 1-800 line in case of an evacuation. Most of them are returning, having helped out in last year's efforts, but a few, bless them! are new. This will be our last year to receive their assistance, unfortunately. One of the whimsical outcomes of this past legislative session is that the divisions these helpful people belong to are being removed from my agency and will be set up as an agency of their own.

It puts us in a real bind, because those divisions are really the only ones, besides us, who have direct dealings with the public. Even assuming we could cut through enough red tape to be able to request much-needed seasonal assistance from some other division, I'm not sure we'd want it. Picture Coworker-You-Idiot handling emergency phone calls. You know he'd hit on all the female evacuees. If it were me, I'd take my chances with the hurricane.

So I've done lots of research, I've compiled updates to the manual, I've printed up enough copies that I may now personally be responsible for the destruction of more trees than Ike was, I created handouts, and it goes without saying that I put together a kick-ass PowerPoint. This is the fun part of my job - well, this, and most of the other parts, of course.

Oh yeah, and for the other thing, I can't figure out how you're supposed to put your name on a hole, seeing as how a hole is where something to put your name on isn't, capisce? Still, sorry about the ozone layer.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Why Yes, I Do Call Myself a Geographer

And suddenly I'm eight years old all over again.

I remember the name of the elementary school in Ann Arbor where I went to the first half of third grade. I used to walk there every day, it was just at the end of my street, whatever that was. But Google-Map the name of the elementary school, and look at the surrounding street names until one sounds sort of familiar, and drag the little street-view guy to about where you sort of maybe remember starting off from, 32 years ago, and... bam.

I didn't remember what the house looked like, but I do remember the railed-in patio above the family room, which is what that sunroom on the right is. My parents rented this house; the owner was a gourmet chef, and had a locally-produced cooking show that was filmed in the kitchen. It was a nice kitchen. Mom loved it.

I remember a little powder room directly off the kitchen, wallpapered in New Yorker covers. It had a laundry chute to the basement. So did all the upstairs bedrooms. My room was blue...

The house was furnished; I thought the grand old wooden hall tree in the entryway was a throne. It didn't suit my stepfather's taste, which runs to Hobbit Post-Modern. (Or perhaps Post-Apocalyptic.) Our regular coffee table was a slice of a knot from a redwood tree, wild and beautiful and (from the perspective of a small child in close quarters) perhaps needlessly jagged. The Coopers had antiques. I think this is about the cutest house I have ever seen. When we left it, my parents bought an A-frame on two acres of land in Ypsilanti, where all the furniture fit right in - though Mom always complained the exterior doors didn't fit quite right, and it used to give her nightmares.

The washer and dryer here were in the basement, where all the laundry chutes led. Oooh, but the basement was scary. It had a looming shadowy cistern, and was dark and dank and stone-walled, as required by Federal law. Wooden treads led down from the kitchen, just behind the powder room.

And I remember the detached garage, and that it had a clubhouse built up near the ceiling in the back of it, accessible by a ladder. (The family we were renting from had boys just a little older than me.) And I made best friends with a girl named Jenny who went to my school and lived a couple of blocks away, because we were exactly alike: we both lived in rented houses, both had clubhouses in the garage, and both of us had stepfathers who used to joke about selling us to gypsies. (Does anybody say that anymore?) Our parents were friends. Later, when we moved to Ypsilanti, and Jenny's family moved somewhere or other on the shores of Lake Huron, we'd still get together every couple of months. Jenny's mom had a baby girl - Whitney - and thus ruined our perfect symmetry, until my own mom got pregnant a couple of years later, and my sister Jessica was born. But by then we were in San Antonio, and I don't know where Jenny's family went.

One morning on our way to school together, I remember, we got distracted by a full-sized igloo in a neighbor's yard. (This was Ann Arbor, remember - you think school was called on account of a couple measly feet of snow?!) We were entranced, and stopped to play, just for a minute, and lost ourselves in fun. The igloo was just packed snow, but the architects had made windows by pressing and steaming up part with their breath until it turned to clear ice. I have no idea how long had passed before Jenny and I suddenly looked at each other and said "Oh shit!" (or the eight-year-old equivalent thereof). We had completely forgotten about school!

It really blows my mind how I could see something like that, on my computer screen at work - I only took an idle look, in a slow moment - and so much comes rushing back. All the changes and losses of the intervening years gone - Mom making chicken marengo or boeuf bourguignon in that kitchen - she was a great fan of Julia Child and used to watch her program religiously. Looking at that picture I can almost smell her cooking.

It's been a rough spring, this year. Funny to stumble across a simple image like that and feel it all blur away.

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