The devil's plaything

I've balanced my checkbook. I've switched over to my 2006 organizer. I've cleaned out my old lunch bags in the fridge and alphabetized my professional journals and even dusted my calculator - WHAT DO I DO NOW?????

I'm not used to slow work weeks.


Smoking out a little scoundrel

I just ate an orange out of the fridge at work, and now that the deed is done, I'm starting to wonder if it was my orange that I just ate. Naughty. I hate it when people eat my food out of the fridge. That being said, stealing some stuff is more forgivable than stealing other stuff. For example, bread is only a minor offense. Even if someone takes a few pieces there's usually still plenty left, and it's easy to get at the convenience store on the corner. Same with peanut butter (although this is a little more annoying), jelly, milk, granola bars, etc. But swiping fruit is unforgivable. You just shouldn't eat other people's fruit. Fruit is hard to remember to bring in, and difficult to transport. And not replacable locally in downtown Boston. At least, not replacable at the same quality level.

The orange was a really good one, which makes me think that maybe it was mine after all. Not that my oranges are always good, but I usually get them at Wholefoods, which guarantees a certain something (namely jacked up prices and faux organic labling, but on the plus side yumminess).

The thing about eating someone else's orange is that everyone else can smell it. So if it's not yours, you usually get questioned by whomever's it was. So far no one has lobbied any complaints. I guess I'll just have to wait. For that, and for the parking garage around the corner to find out I tried to scam them out of money last weekend. Hopefully no one will catch on to me and my dirty little tricks. I better learn to fly straight. Waiting around for the ax to fall is brutal.


You say tomato

Jack (my stepfather) and I had this IM exchange today:

LC: okay, great. i will see you on saturday!
Jack: when are you cmming home?
Jack: sat---ok good
LC: yes, saturday. in the morning is when i
LC: will leave. so i'll get home in the afternoon.
LC: and will see you then!
Jack: be carefull check you tires before you leave
Jack: also check oil
Jack: we can replace your back tire if it is still leaking air when you are home
Jack: don't speed police are out on the holidays
Jack: no cell phone that is dangerous
Jack: see you then---i am going to pay a few bills and run-----love j
LC: that is a long list of things to be careful of, check, and not do.
Jack: yes leave early

The language of love is so varied. But after twenty-two years of arguments, head-butting, and stubborn standoffs (on both sides), I can recognize it when I see it.


Thanks TD

This conversation took place over IM this afternoon. I feel better now. Thank god for coworkers who can throw in the word "eureka". That changes everything when you're having a less than stellar day :)

TD: laura whats the word that would say those before you ...pred......
TD: ?
LC: predecessors
LC: check spelling
TD: eureka....thanks
LC: welcome


Quit picking on the small kids

Okay, I need to vent. This is what I have to say: thin people get a lot of crap. And we're expected to just take it.

Never in a million years would it occur to me to comment on someone's weight, exercise routine, or lunch. Yet I'm subjected to other people's comments on each of the above almost constantly. My coworker TD only eats an orange because she's not very hungry today, and no one bats an eyelash. I turn down a late afternoon cookie BECAUSE I JUST DON'T WANT IT and everyone's got something to say about how I never eat junk food. Which, if you know me, isn't even accurate, because I eat dessert on a daily basis. With more regularity than I eat anything else. But the thing that gets me is, even if I didn't, WHY DO YOU CARE WHAT I EAT?

Part of the problem is that we only see in two dimensions. Has anyone ever stopped to consider that someone might be thin and not belong in a treatment center? But here is the crux of the issue for me when it comes to people commenting on anyone's weight, food, or exercise habits: Mind your own business! Seriously. My sister always laughs when she recites what my mom used to tell us when we'd whine about one another. She would very matter-of-factly say: "You just worry about you. That's all you need to do."

So that's it. That's the very simple solution I'm offering up: Everybody just worry about yourself and your own damn cookie. Then we should get along just fine.


A small perk of a loathful condition

BF and I are going to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, on a school night. I love being an adult.


Monday night wish list

I wish:
1. people who litter would spontaneously combust
2. I wasn't scared of the basement
3. someone would fix the @!#&ing escalator at Davis
4. I didn't have staff meeting tomorrow morning
5. my roommate wouldn't use the furniture as a drying rack


Movie magic or should I not even be allowed to watch TV right now?

Okay, The Wedding Singer. When Adam Sandler sings that song at the end, "I wanna grow old with you", to Drew Barrymore? That'd make anyone cry, right? I don't feel like I can trust my own judgment at this point, but that's the sweetest thing ever, isn't it? A three-tissue moment? Of course, I'm not only hormonally questionable tonight, I'm also getting sick. And for some reason just before I get sick I always morph into an emotional cripple. So I could be wrong here.


Tear jerked

The movie Stepmom is on TBS (note, sooooo NOT Very Funny) and I have PMS. Watching this is just finishing me off in one fell swoop. Is there anything more heart wrenching than Susan Sarandon saying goodbye to the children she'll never see grown up while Julia Roberts waits in the wings to take her place? I need a bubble bath, a box of tissues, and some high grade chocolate to recover. Better yet, fighting it is pointless - I'm just going to cry for the rest of the afternoon and call it a day.


I didn't want to see that

The television show ER traumatizes me. No emergency room pun intended.


Party pooped

I'm realizing now that I can't post this until after the fact on the off chance that Boyfriend will read my blog (which he doesn't often, and I don't blame him because I wouldn't either - it's a lingual/emotional minefield in here), but his surprise birthday bash is driving me bonkers! I've got people saving the date, but now I have to figure out what we're going to do with it. I found a drinks/dancing spot, but I can't find a dinner venue to save my soul! All I want is:
1. a reasonably priced place
2. in Central Square
3. that can accomodate 10-12 of us
4. and will let me bring in my own birthday cake

All I can find is a reservation for 5:30pm (way to early), and, oh yeah, and... NOTHING ELSE! It's over a week in advance! Boston is a harsh city. Planning surprise birthday stuff stresses me out. I'm itchy all over :(


Funneling isn't an "additional skill"

I was on the train this morning and I overheard this conversation:

Girl: "So I didn't get the pharmaceutical sales rep job."

Boy: "That sucks."

Girl: "My mom said she read an article about how pharmaceutical companies are more likely to hire people who were cheerleaders."

Boy: "That makes total sense."

Girl: "I bet if I'd put that on my resume I would have gotten the job."

Who is this girl's mother? Who wrote that article?
Sure, that's what they tell you when you join cheerleading or a sorority - that it's a great addition to your resume and will really give you a leg up within the applicant pool. But no one actually puts it on their resume! (I hope.) If you were a cheerleader, all that says about you is that you can be peppy and spirited. If you were a sorority gal (and I can say these things because I was), all that says about you is that you've mastered the fake smile and are probably an easy lay. Not to mention the fact that you choose to self-segregate. Why would you advertise these things?

Generally speaking, the stigma of cheerleader and/or sorority girl are probably more damaging than helpful in most professional situations. The attributes that made you a good Greek are not as marketable once the keggers are over. Although the fake smile does still come in handy every once in a while. So it's not like you didn't learn anything. Knowing how to hold someone's hair back without getting vomit on your shoes and how to tie a cherry stem in a knot with your tongue can be helpful skill sets even well into adulthood.



On my laptop keyboard the letter sticker on the n key is wearing off. Who would have thought that n is the most used key on my keyboard? How many words have n in them? I'd never have guessed that n consistently puts in such a good day's work.


It takes a lot of love (but how much like?)

After a fantastic Thanksgiving feast at B's cousin's gorgeous new house in Maryland (yeah, soooo jealous!), he and his mom and I ended up on the couch at his aunt's Chevy Chase home watching Shennandoah on AMC (the Jimmy Stuart version). While there were several really memerable lines ("What has Virginia ever done for me? When I had my six sons I never once saw the state come around with a spare tit"), the scene that stuck out in my mind was when Jenny's husband-to-be is asking her father for her hand in marriage. Her father (Stuart) asks the young lad why he wants to marry Jenny. He replies, of course, that he loves her. And Jimmy Stuart says "I know you love her, but do you like her? You need to like the woman you marry a hell of a lot more than you need to love her." I hadn't thought about that, but now I can't stop thinking about it. I believe it's possible to be in love with someone you don't necessarily like. But the ones you like are the ones whose happiness you'd sell your soul for.


Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug

I just pulled off an amazing parallel parking feet. With grace and ease. My car practically melted into that spot, in no less than one attempt (with under three "finaglings" to get it just right). My first thought was "I'm an expert parallel parker! It's a gift!" Until I remembered the truly heinous parallel parking job I'd done the last time I planted my car for the night. How can that be? How can I be miraculously good at something one day, and laughably bad at it the next?

There are days when I feel like I missed my calling as a race car driver. I speed along the Boston roadways, weaving in and out of traffic and merging into lanes like I was born behind the wheel. And then there are other days, like the day I almost killed myself and Boyfriend (accidentally of course) and we had to execute an emergency Chinese fire drill downtown because I was clearly unable to operate a motor vehicle at the that particular moment in time. What changes from one day to the next? Well, something. Obviously.

But for me that's sort of how my life is. Some days I'm totally together and ooze competence, compassion, and charisma. Other days.... well, less so (I don't want to be too self-degrading here, but I'm sure you know what I'm getting at, and if you're one of my friends you've doubtless been unlucky enough to witness the damage). And even though I know that's how it goes, I'm still always surprised when I'm either totally on, or totally off. I'd like to say the totally on days make up for the totally off days. But they don't. Today I fell up the stairs at work (you know it's bad when you're not even falling in harmony with gravity), was late to almost every appointment I had, and, when trying to explain to the Healthworks attendant why I needed a towel even though I didn't have the measly $2 to pay for it, actually elaborated on exactly which parts of my naked body I didn't really want other women staring at. Why? Why would I do that? I've thought about it all evening long, and parallel parking merry-go-round mojo is the only explanation I can come up with.


Fool me twice

Today, I was carrying two paper cups filled with Starbucks coffee as I approached an obstacle standing between me and my destination: the heavy glass doors of the campus center, the Little Building (which is oddly enormous). Hmmmm, what to do. I did a quick assessment of the situation in my head. I could either 1) stack the two cups on top of one another and use my free hand to open the door, 2) put the cups down on the sidewalk, open the door, and pick them back up again, 3) wait for someone to come through the door and quickly duck in, or 4) keep both cups in their respective hands and open the door with my pinky. Practicality not being my strong suit, I chose the option involving the most useless finger on my hand.

Here's what happened: my pinky didn't have the strength to open the door on its own, so as it strained, the other fingers clenched in commiseration. The pressure the other fingers exerted on the paper cup caused it to cave in the middle, and the caving caused a rising force from within, which in turn popped the lid off the coffee. Which spilled all over me. Don't you feel sorry for me?

This might influence your sympathy: I've made this same exact mistake about five times over.

So here's my thought. If, after several hot, sticky messes, I can't learn that option #4 will have the least desirable outcome, how long does it take for us to learn from the other mistakes in our lives which don't have an immediately correlative consequence? How often do we repeat self-destructive patterns despite our conscious or subconscious understanding that no good can come? Experience is a powerful tool - its purpose is to prevent us from continually making the wrong decision in the critical moment. But how often is our ability to learn from experience temporarily on the fritz?

I used to imagine that experience is the secret recipe for an untroubled life. If you've been through something before, you're bound to handle it better the second time around. Maybe even flawlessly. And certainly there is some supporting evidence to back that theory.

But it would follow that if we haven't learned from a mistake, which we then repeat, we obviously didn't recognize it as a correctable mistake in the first place. We can't trace the events leading up to that particular personal calamity back to its critical moment. We can't define the instant when things started to go wrong. And so we self-inflict pain, frustration, failure, or sadness, again and again. We can't locate the point at which we discarded options #1 through #3, and chose to go with the pinky plan. And so, we can't sidestep the result.

I've spent the past half hour pre-treating, rinsing, scrubbing, and cursing, trying to get the coffee out of my favorite khaki pants. But it won't come out. It's just another stain - an unerasable reminder of lessons, as of yet, still not learned.


My genes, your jeans

Yesterday I had the perfect night - I left work around seven, drove to my gym, worked out in the near desolation that being at Healthworks late on a Friday will guarantee you, showered, went home and put on my pjs, crawling into bed with some kettle corn and a good book. Before I started reading, I decided to call my dad for a chit chat. I knew Mookie would probably be home. How did I know? Because of my genes.

I remember my stepmom Betsy sighing as she'd leave the house on a Saturday evening. My dad and I, stretched out on our separate ends of the L-shaped sofa, would look up from our books to say goodbye. "You two," she'd say "are never going to be happy if you don't get out more." We'd look at each other, shrug, and return our noses from whence they came. After Betsy would leave, we'd call the dogs to the couch to join us.

I'm never home. Weeknights I manage to clammor through the door at around ten o'clock. On the weekend I'm out catching up with friends, running erands, with Boyfriend, with my roommate - just around. So I live for those moments of downtime. I always have. I'm the center of attention more than I'd like. I'd like to never be the center of attention. I'd like to be wallpaper. I prefer to go unnoticed. But that rarely happens.

My dad and I share many qualities - we look surprisingly alike: same teeth, same nose, same hands, similar lean lanky build. We both read feverishly and exercise religiously. We're both compulsive, in our own ways. We work hard. We're fascinated by cars, gender and sex roles, careless liberalism, and canines. We would prefer to live life in jeans and a t-shirt, but don't. And we've been known to pull a hermit every once a while, and usually couldn't be happier than when we're tucked up in our shells.

So the fact that we were both in on a Friday evening is not surprising. The fact that talking to each other didn't seem like an intrusion in our solitude makes sense - we don't harp on one another for being curled up with some good fiction on date night. We support the occasional reappearance of the inner geek. It fits in our universe, because it's in the genes. Congruent with who we are. Which, when you sum it up, is two people who occasionally pull a shut-in, and share an affinity for worn out, broken-in denim.


'Tis but a scratch

Last night as we waited to convene a group meeting, I sat at the end of a conference table munching on a Subway veggie delite. One of my students, J, plopped down in a chair next to me. "Did you know that some people are allergic to bandaids?" she asked me.

I raised an eyebrow in response. "Doesn't that suck?" she continued. "Something that's supposed to help them ends up hurting them."

I cocked my head. "J, are we really talking about bandaids?" I asked, thoughts of therapists, drugs, lovers, friends, parents, teachers, police, politicians, nutrasweet whirling through my mind. I couldn't tell if she was being metaphorical or simply presenting a bizarre, unsolicited piece of information.

"Yeah," she responded. "I just think that sucks."

I chewed thoughtfully. "Yeah, I guess it does."



Given my current state, I'm feeling a little melodramatic today. But why does biscotti have to crumble all over the place when you try to eat it? Why? I love biscotti, but it's impossible to have a crumb-free experience. Does everything in life have to have a catch?


Is it cold in here, or is it just me?

Okay, this is beyond embarrassing. But today I left for work without any underwear on. You're probably wondering how you could leave the house forgetting something as simple as undergarments, but it's easier than you might think. And as awkward and uncomfortable as you might imagine.

When I get dressed in the morning, I oftentimes try on a few variations per outfit, so I don't put on underwear at the outset. Because I never know what type/color of underwear/bra I'm going to need, since I'm not yet sure which outfit permutation will prevail. Today, I chose the first outfit I tried on. It didn't require a bra because it incorporated a camisole/sweater combination. So that just left remembering to put on some skivvies. Which you'd think wouldn't be so hard to do.

At one point, as I mulled over accessories, I thought to myself, "Better put on underpants before I forget..." but I quickly followed that thought with, "What's the rush? It's not like I'd ever leave the house without them."

Cut to 8:15am on the t, when I suddenly got that unsettling feeling that I'd forgotten something. At first I couldn't quite figure out what, and then I felt a breeze blow up my skirt in a way that you shouldn't feel a breeze blow up your skirt. And it hit me. The breeze, and the very very unhappy realization that I was unintentionally going commando. Because there is soooooo nothing hot about going to work commando. That's just unnecessarily skanky. And kind of chilly.

Don't worry - as I write this I'm not sitting here sans panties. As soon as I got off the t I pitstopped at Boyfriend's place on the way to my office and grabbed a spare pair. Thank god for emergency supplies. But I just can't believe it's possible to do what I did this morning - I feel so vulnerable. It leaves the door wide open for all those things I've dreaded, things that make my blood run cold but that I thought could never actually happen. Suddenly that nightmare where everyone is staring at you and you look down and realize that you've gone to class completely naked has been given new credence.


The pointiest little elbow ever

"Oh, god, are you okay?" I asked, watching as Boyfriend cupped his head in his hands, doubled over in pain. "Was that your eye? Are you okay? Do you still have two eyes? What part of you did I hit? Please tell me not your eye!"

For a minute Boyfriend couldn't answer, but slowly he removed his hands from his head to reveal a bright red swelling bump above his right temple. "Owwwwww," was all he said as he headed toward the freezer to get the vegetable medley. Never a good sign. I hate the vegetable medley. Instead of dinner, I now only associate the vegetable medley with runner's knee and sprained ankles - the most typical reasons I get handed the frozen bag of brocolli, cauliflower, and carrots.

Last night after dinner downtown I begged Boyfriend to make a quick swing by the apartment - I wanted to change out of my work clothes before we headed to see The Exorcism of Emily Rose. We only had a few minutes, so we scurried up the stairs and I quickly undressed and redressed. I was in the living room where my overnight bag was thrown into the corner as Boyfriend came up quietly behind me to give me a hug.

I have a very sensitive startle reflex. I get scared when there's nothing to be scared of. I can go from zero to full panic in seconds - I'm definitely what you'd call jumpy. And since at that moment I was gearing up to go see a movie about an exorcism, I was in full-on heebie-jeebie mode.

When Boyfriend grabbed me, I let out a blood-curdling scream and kicked backward. My knee bashed into something, we still can't figure out what. And with a sickening crack, my elbow connected with his face with surprising force.

Have you ever hurt someone you love? It's a terrible feeling. Last night, after Boyfriend went to bed, I stayed up reading. I turned my book light toward him periodically, monitoring the egg on his forehead. I worried that he had a concussion, or that the bruise would continue to worsen throughout the night. I wondered if he had a headache, or if the bump had anything to do with how sleepy he seemed all of the sudden when we got back home. I checked to make sure his breathing sounded normal. Emotional pain is inevitable in intimate relationships. But to elbow your partner in the head just seems like adding insult to injury, no pun intended.


OMG, is she wearing a headband???

Today has been a bad day. Let me tell you about it.

I woke up this morning and stood in front of my closet, wondering what to wear. Finally I decided on a knee-length black skirt, a white peasant shirt, and a thick black headband. But I didn't look great. I futzed around a bit, trying different shoes, different jewelry... but something was just off. At this point I was running late, so I threw in the towel and headed out the front door shouting goodbye to J and thinking to myself, 'One bad outfit - no big deal. It's just for a day of meetings.' And that, right there, was my first mistake.

Well, in truth, the headband was my first, and without a doubt my biggest, mistake. The last time I wore a headband was on Easter. Boyfriend and I went to church at Copley Square and at some point that day, while still in our Sunday best, took some pictures. When we got them developed, I made Boyfriend solemnly swear that under no circumstances was he ever, ever to let me wear a headband out of the house again. He said I looked cute, but I held him to the oath which he reluctantly took. Sadly Boyfriend, and those photographs, were not at my apartment this morning to jog my apparently deeply repressed memory.

My second mistake I realized as soon as I pulled up my schedule at the office this morning: I had a presentation to give that I had forgotten about. Oops. Bad day for a bad outfit. But, it's orientation week for our incoming freshman class, so I put my pride aside and went down to the room where I was scheduled to speak. I walked in, and had started chit-chatting with some orientation leaders in the doorway when out of the corner of my eye I watched three students approaching in matching t-shirts and laden with audio and video equipment: the student news crew. "Oh dear God," I whispered to my boss as the color drained from my face, "They're going to film us and I look like Pollyanna."

Not only did they film us, but they interviewed me afterward. I've been on camera for the college station before, and I invariably either look awful or sound like a complete idiot. Today I sounded quite eloquent and well-informed. Hence... something had to give. I have no doubt that I looked ridiculous in my shiny black headband. Normally I struggle to look like I'm a college graduate; today, I struggled to look like I hadn't skipped out on recess in order to make my television appearance. I have no doubt that it's the most unflattering fashion choice I could have made. I called my sister after the filming and whined. "Why are you wearing a headband?" she asked, genuinely confused as a mother of two small children and someone who barely has time to shower, let alone keep up with trends, "Are they making a comeback?" "No," I sighed miserbly. "They're not. I don't know why I'm wearing it."

The show they were filming for is called "Fast Forward/Rewind." Oh, the irony. If only I could rewind back to this morning, and shoot myself.


Have a talk with God

As I was walking to the pool during my lunchbreak today, two young men were skittering across Stuart Street as the light turned green. They were blocking traffic and looked embarrassed, offering the affected cars waves and sloppy smiles of apology as they trotted and scurried out of the path of oncoming vehicles. Clearly, they were new college freshmen, recently imported for orientation week - probably EC kids (because they were dressed like burgeoning artists and appeared to be gay, both of which make it likely that they're my students). When they managed to reach the sidewalk, a car sped by impatiently, and as the two young men again waved an apology, the driver held up his middle finger. Caught off guard, the kids looked at one another, surprised - and laughed.

By now the lights had turned red and the signal told us more experienced, law-abiding citizens who were congregated at the curb that it was safe to walk. A small, bland-looking woman next to me sighed as we started to cross. "People are mean," she said. "I pray for them."

I looked over at her. Talk about hitting the nail on the head. "Yup," I said, even though I don't pray for them. I give them the finger right back. But thank goodness at least someone is addressing the issue of human kindness, or lack thereof, with the big guy.


Color me happy

Today I'm wearing a pink shirt. As I got dressed this morning, Boyfriend argued that it's really maroon, but I think it's burgendy. Regardless of what color the shirt actually is, it's got a bright powdery pink ribbon that ties around it, and so the overall effect is pink pink pink. I love pink. It makes me smile just thinking about it. I love wearing pink. My favorite pajamas are pink. The light, girly shade of pink.

Pink makes me feel like I'm wrapped up in love. Like passion and innocence collided and merged to form a color. Pink is so pretty!

That being said, it's easy to for pink to go from cutie cute cute to a fashion don't, so clothing choices need to be made with caution. But when you find something that's trendy and pink, it's heaven.

So if you see me today and I seem a little more happy than usual, it's the pink. If I could build a pink world I would. Nothing bad ever happens in pink. Bad things happen in black and white, red, or gray. But pink... pink is only sweetness.



This morning, as I was crossing the street to go to Starbucks, I ended up standing next to a homeless man while we waited for the light to change - him, with quiet resignation, me with foot-tapping irritation and impatience. He looked over at me. "Do you have any change?" I smiled, shook my head, and replied that I didn't. This was true, technically - I didn't have any cash on me. But it's hard to look someone in the eye and say that you have no money to spare when you're en route to buy a $4 cup of coffee. "Sorry," I said, managing to feel ashamed. "That's okay." he replied. Then, after a beat, "How are you doing?"

I wasn't feeling very comfortable at this point - being face to face with destitution will do that a middle class overindulged white woman - and I was staring intently at my left sandle. When he asked me that question, though, I looked him in the eye. "I'm doing well." I said.

"Oh, good," he said, smiling at me with a mouthful of unbrushed teeth. "Good, darlin'. You should be happy. That's important. It must be easy for a girl like you. Is it easy to be happy?"

Is it easy to be happy? In front of me stood a man whose very circumstance added unimaginable misery to his daily life. Did he wake up in the morning and watch all of us as we crossed the street to our favorite cafes? With our designer clothes and expensive shoes and highlighted hair, our college degrees tucked neatly under our belts as we headed for a job which doubtless paid enough to keep us safely above the poverty line. Did he see us as we kissed our doting loved ones goodbye, smiled our blindingly white smiles over our shoulders as we parted ways with our friends, chatted on our cell phones to our adoring families? Did he imagine that if only he had money, an education, a family, he would also be happy?

He didn't see the inferiority, the infidelities, the guilt, the pressure. The shoulds and the if onlys that a life of "having it all" leaves us with. The prozac bottles nestled in our purses. To him, just getting by would be enough. To us, there is never enough. We are a new generation and we were groomed to be insatiable.

But today, I felt like I couldn't let him know that the pain doesn't stop regardless of situation. Life might be easier, less dreary, but happiness is still always a lofty goal, just barely out of reach for most people. It's something to chase, and sometimes catch, but to hold onto it is tricky - we're often left grasping at air.

The lights turned red all around us, and the 'walk' signal flashed. "Yes," I said, with what I knew was an open and honest expression on my face even though I was very ambivalent about what I was about to say next. "It's easy for me to be happy. I'm lucky."

He nodded. "I thought so. You look real happy. Good darlin'. It's so important."

With that, he crossed the street diagonally and I crossed straight ahead, and went on with my day. I felt haunted by the white lie, and thrown by the exchange - nothing like a simple question asked by an intoxicated, mentally questionable stranger to knock your whole world off kilter a bit. I took a deep breath and did what years of therapy taught me to do - I pushed the awkward memory from my mind. I wish I'd had a goddamn dollar.



I would never cheat on Boyfriend. But I have another man in my life. I see him first thing in the morning, and he knows my habits well. He takes care of me. He knows what I like. He compliments me. He encourages me to try new things. He's my Starbucks Guy, and we really have quite a nurturing relationship.

This weekend, I discovered a new drink. My old standby is a toffeenut chai. Sometimes, to mix it up, I go with a caramel chai. And last week, my SG made me an almond chai, just to give me more variety. He said if I didn't like it he'd make me something else. He makes being adventurous so safe! But this weekend, I went to a Starbucks in Cambridge. SG works in a Starbucks on my way to my office building, on the corner of Boylston and Tremont. But on the weekends, when I'm at home, I tend to stick to my neighborhood. And it was there that I first tried an iced caramel macchiato. Yum.

So that's what I chose this morning. I ordered my drink from LA (same name as me, we discovered). Yes, apparently I have a Starbucks Gal too - I have an entire Starbucks entourage. Who needs friends when you have a beverage addiction? LA doesn't monitor my drinking habits with quite the dedication that SG does, though, so the change went unnoticed by her. SG was making the drinks today. He made my macchiato and then placed it on the bar and called out the order. When I popped my head around to pick it up, he looked at me in surprise. "Is this yours?" he asked. "Yes!" I replied. "New for you!" he said. "I know! I discovered it this weekend!" I told him with pride, thinking he'd be impressed with my ability to break form. But he looked a little bit hurt, perhaps by the fact that I grew so much in the time we were apart. Or that I discovered something new while I was out from under the wing of his expert tutelage. He handed me my beverage with a reluctant smile and a "Have a good day." I smiled back, trying to let him see that we'd be okay, nothing had changed, really. "You too!" I called over my shoulder. As I headed out the door he said, "By the way, you look nice today." I turned back. "Thanks. I'm trying to dress up more lately." He nodded. "I noticed that." And I left. With my caffeine boost in hand, and my confidence boost from the compliment adding a little bounce to my step. He's like a hairdresser, but with more reliable outcomes. Guarenteed to make you feel good. Always attentive and always indulgent.

Yeah, I get that a pusher for a heroine addict probably knows his customer's perferences as well, since that is, in the end, what keeps any good supplier in business. I'm not blind to the fact that I'm buying myself a little sense of morningtime community with each order I place. But in a city, you need all the familiar faces you can get. When people recognize you, the size of Boston shrinks tenfold. It becomes home, instead of a popular tourist destination. I guess really that's what SG is for me - a character in my daily life, a piece of stability. Someone who would notice if I were to suddenly disappear. Or change my haircolor. Or order something different. Someone who sees me regularly. And really sees me. He doesn't look through me, like so many people do as you pass them on the street, or stand beside them on the train, or stand before them at the cash register. He gives you a moment. I wonder if I give other people moments? We should be more giving with our moments. It can make a big difference in someone's day. If you're not acknowledged, espcially in a city, you can start to feel like a ghost, just floating around without having any impact - untethered. So we search for and create tethers everywhere. Things that hold us in place for a while.

Come September, I promised myself I'd once again try to detox. I successfully rid myself of the $4-a-day coffee habit last spring, and it made a huge difference in my monthly disposable income. It's just so hard to give it up. I love the feeling of that green and white paper cup clasped between my cold fingers, I love the smells, the people, the routine of it all. It isn't the same to brew a cup of tea at your desk.

I don't know what I'll tell SG at the turn of the month. I'll feel like I'm walking out on him. I guess I'll just tell him we need a break. I mean, I can't call it quits completely, since I don't know if I can manage without my morning jolt - the detox might not stick. I could just test it out - see how some time apart would feel. I know he has other women in his life anyway - it's a busy store. He'll be fine. The bigger question is, will I? I'll have to walk past there everyday on my way to the office - talk about temptation. It will beckon. I might have to walk on the other side of the street.

The end of an affair is always brutal.


A lesson from Willy Wonka

"It doesn't have to have a reason." Charlie said, matter-of-factly. "That's why it's candy."
From Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Last week I bought Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in hardcover. Usually, I wait to borrow newly released books from the library, or exercise patience until they come out in paperback. But lately I've been questioning some of my self-imposed rules, my personal constitution that vacillates between practical and completely arbitrary. My shoulds. And I came out with this: We need more candy in life. Not to the point of excess, or gluttony. But enough to keep life fun. Because childhood is all about candy, and adulthood is all about responsibility and control. Maybe we need a little childhood in life to keep the soul alive. A hardcover novel on a Thursday night, just because.


In the belly of the beast

Invariably, on my way to and from work on the t, I encounter a broken escalator. Sometimes it's in the morning, sometimes in the evening, always when I'm most exhausted and in high heels. I know I'm obsessed with the t, but if you spend 2 hours a day someplace (rather unwillingly because they won't give you a parking spot at work), it can start to preoccupy your thoughts.

The Porter Square t stop is the home of my worst nightmare - the giant escalator. So giant it feels like you're ascending toward heaven on your way up, and descending into the bowels of hell on your way down. These escalators are HUGE. And I hate escalators. When I was a kid, I had a dream that I was on one, and fell backward. And just kept falling. It was one of those dreams where you can feel it, where your stomach bottoms out and you jerk awake in terror. Since then, I've had a fear of escalators. A realistic one I think, since really, if you were to fall backward, which can't be that hard to do, you wouldn't ever stop falling until you hit the bottom with a sickening crash and then proceeded to get sucked in by the toothy rotating stairs until you're completely mangled and probably, if you're lucky, dead. The only caveat to this macabre ending is that you could take out lots of other commuters on your way down, and thus provide yourself with a protective cushion when you land. But, the nasty twist here is that if you can take out other commuters, you could just as easily be taken out. All in all, none of these scenarios is appealing, or provides any comfort.

So last night I got off at Porter Square. On my way out of the station I noticed, with little surprise, that an escalator was broken. One of the giant ones. Which is not atypical. But in fixing it, the work crew had completely dismantled it, and for the first time ever I saw what the inside of an escalator looks like.

I expected it to have bells and whistles. Intricate computer chips. Layers of crossed over multicolored wires. Small gnomes scurrying around on gerbil wheels generating power. Something. But it was barren inside. There were two tracks running vertically up the giant slope, and perpendicular to that were rows of horizontal metal bars, and that's it. It was dark and simple. This, I thought with alarm, is what I mount in order to get from down here to up there? Or up there to down here? This?! This is it???

I didn't think it could get any worse but it has. I'm all for simplicity, but not simplicity in my modest Honda Civic engine, or the 747 which jets me to the south of France, or the train that shuttles me to the office, or the escalator I take to reach the street level. These things, I want to be stunningly, bafflingly complex. I want the escalator floor plan to numb the minds of laypeople. I want the technicians who slave over them to have gone through rigorous amounts of specialized training. I want it to be incomprehensible to me how exactly escalators run.

I wish I hadn't looked down as I passed the crippled escalator. I wish I'd never peered into that empty shaft. I feel a chill thinking about it. I just keep remembering the rules: don't look down, don't let go of the railing, don't leave your shoelaces untied. Whatever you do, don't trip on the dismount. Keep these things in mind, and you might make it out okay. But if something goes horribly awry, don't count on sophisticated modern technology to ensure your safety. It's not in there. There's nothing in there. I've been inside. And it's frightening.


Life, summed up

A story in this morning's Metro describes a man who is trying to visit every Starbucks in the world (apparently there are 5,715). Not surprisingly, another man wants to capture this in a documentary. The Starbucks road warrior, who goes by Winter, said this about his adventures: "Every time I reach a Starbucks I feel like I've accomplished something, when actually I have accomplished nothing."

Wow. That's how I feel about most of what I do too! Except more stressed, because I go to work, maintain a relationship, and am accountable to a myriad of friends and family. But if the final outcome is the same, maybe I should stop trying so hard and just consider a caffeine roadtrip as well. Winter, you may be on to something.

How many chai lattes do you think I could drink per day without throwing up?


A little faith? Nah, prove it.

Faith. I always thought the only thing a lack of it deprives you of is a Sunday morning trip to your chosen place of worship. Now I'm wondering, is faith something you need in order to believe in more than just God? Is faith something you need in order to survive your relationship?

As a standard courtesy, do you owe your significant other a little unconditional faith? Or is it fair to demand proof? Proof that they're loving, loyal, kind, and dependable. I say bring on the incontrovertible evidence. I like proof. But I wonder if I'm not missing in my relationships the same thing I'm missing in my search for God - a little of the F word.

So really, what's at stake here? Say you have faith in God and you're wrong. The apocalypse comes, hell descends on earth, and God forsakes you despite your devoted servitude. What do you lose by having faith, even if it's misplaced?

Unfortunately, I say you lose a lot. Because you get let down. And getting let down is just an awful feeling. I'd do almost anything to avoid it. I hate to be disappointed. I've always tried to keep my hopes low so that they don't get dashed. Life is full of so many disappointments (especially for us idealistic types - the road from childhood to adulthood is just littered with crushing realizations about how life really is once you lose the rose-colored glasses). It seems a shame to set yourself up for any more.

I'm not sure what's worse - the strain of not having faith in someone or the vulnerability of having faith in someone who you aren't quite sure of. Faith is a tricky thing, in any aspect of life. You have to completely let go, and give in, to believe in something or someone. You have to abandon rationality and offer up your trust, blindly.

When I was pledging Alpha Phi, my college sorority, we went away for a weekend retreat up in the mountains. While there, we played a bonding game where you form a line, put your hands in the air, and then pass people back through the line over your heads, to foster teamwork and build trust. I got dropped. I don't weigh a lot, but I was the first to go and everyone had been drinking (a more commonly accepted teambuilding and bonding exercise).

My point? Having faith is hard, and sometimes maybe it's not the smartest bet to place. Is it reasonable to expect a little bit of proof once in a while before trusting in someone? I mean, I had faith in a bunch of drunk sorority pledges. Was that brave? You might say so - I exposed myself and was willing to be vulnerable. But probably, you'd just say it was a stupid calculation, and in the end I deserved what I got: mud on my ass and a bruise that healed eventually, but really stung.


Free to be you and me, but what if you suck?

Someone brought something to my attention this weekend. A fellow AMC hiker who had hitched a ride with me up to New Hampshire for a Mt. Morgan ascent said glibbly during our two-hour car ride: "We're all so different, you know." And while, theorhetically, I knew that, somehow it still really caught me off guard.

The context was important. I had been explaining that I can't really imagine that some people just don't care about being good. I wish I had a less active moral compass, but I can't believe that some people just might not care at all. I've heard that theory, but I can't believe it. It's so foreign given my day to day experience.

When I started my grad program, the first question they asked us was "Do you think people are inherently good and evil, or do you think they become good and evil as a result of things that happen to them?" It was important because it would presumably influence our counseling style. But I'm not talking about people who are diagnosable - people with antisocial personality disorder or a very real emotional disconnect. I'm talking about normal people who just don't give a shit. Is that genetic, chemical, or is that a conscious choice to ignore the little nagging voice in your head?

And if it is just a conscious choice, why are some people free to make it and I have to spend my afternoons in therapy because "I should have been nicer to the homeless guy on the corner"? God, it's exhausting to be me.


"Excuse me, Keanu, but could you point me in the direction of Hades?..."

"And, I mean, probably not, but is there by any chance a Starbucks in Hell? Just wondering, you know how it is..."

This past weekend I watched the movie Constantine. Horrifying on so many levels, not the least of which is simply that it stars Keanu Reeves, an actor who I find painful to watch on the big screen. Or any screen, for that matter. I can feel the strain of his effort to act. It makes me so uncomfortable. No one has told him that he can't act, or else he refuses to listen. Either way, he continues to do it, and it's as if he's completely unaware of the damage he leaves in his wake as he plugs away.

So, Constantine is a really bad movie. Really. Bad. But, for some reason it got under my skin. Constantine (Keanu) is a man who committed suicide but was brought back to life by doctors in an ER. Constantine died for about two minutes, and in that time, because it's a sin in the Catholic church to kill yourself, he was banished to Hell. Upon visiting Hell, he decides to spend his life fighting off demons and Satan, in the hopes that this will get him back in the Big Guy's good graces and buy him a ticket on the Acela train out of Hades when he dies again, presumably without emergency medical intervention and thus for good.

I've never spent much time thinking about Hell. But let me tell you, as depicted in this movie, it's a very icky place. And for the first time ever, I got scared. I don't really want to go there. And certainly not for eternity.

I wasn't brought up Catholic, so after my baptism, I didn't get much Hell in my daily life. It wasn't really on my radar screen until I watched this movie.

Prior to this weekend, my thought process was as follows: If there is a Hell, then God is mean. If God is mean, then I don't like this system and therefore I won't believe in it.

Now my thought process is this: If there is a Hell, then God is mean. If God is mean, then I don't like this system but actually there are lots of systems I don't like or believe in that really exist...

Is God, and Hell, another one of these? Is it like our prison system, where you can disapprove all you want of the created laws but you'll still have to go there if you break one? The laws make sense to me, so I don't argue with the prison system (much). But God's laws seem to make sense to lots of people. Am I just the renegade in the religious society? Am I thumbing my nose at a system that in the end has the power to lock me up and throw away the key regardless of my staunchly held disbeliefs?

I started to think... church on Sunday, a couple of confessions... is that a big price to pay for the security of knowing you aren't headed South to the Fires after you kick it? Maybe not. It honestly never occurred to me that Hell could exist without my belief in it. It could just exist. And if it does, then I haven't really taken the proper precautions. I'm a compulsive person, and a woman, and these two things together mean I get my Hep B vaccine series even though I 'probably won't need it', I wear sunscreen, and I wash all my fruits and vegetables before I eat them. I don't take chances. So am I taking the biggest chance of all by blowing off God every weekend for a lie-in and a lazy brunch?

What frustrates me the most is that Keanu Reeves has cast a shadow of doubt over my carefully innoculated world. I hate that I got scared by a B-rated movie and some shit special effects.


The boys are back in town

What is it about sharks? I'm not sure of the clinical criteria for obsession, but I think I've got one. The Oak Bluffs Monster Shark tournament just took place on Martha's Vineyard, and with recent shark attacks off the coast of Florida and Texas, the shark buzz has begun. The New England Aquarium is featuring an IMAX movie called Sharks 3D. The Devil's Teeth is the literary thing to do. It's Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. Maybe it's just a natural summer phenomena - the weather gets warm, the beaches get crowded, invariable one or two unfortunate souls lose a leg or their life, and shark mania descends upon us all. And I get swept away with it every year.

Naturally it's on my mind, because tomorrow I'm going kayaking in Rockport, followed by a day of play at Horseneck beach on Sunday. My weekend leaves me vulnerable to an encounter with our toothy friends. Yeah, I know how slim the likelihood of that is. I've heard the stats. I could just as easily win the lottery apparently. But what people seem to brush over is the fact that someone always wins the lottery, no matter how slim the chances. Someone gets that ticket. So when you suddenly find yourself nestled in the jaws of a great white amidst the crowd of a heavily populated beach, would it really matter that your chances were so slim? Would it matter that you could just have easily been stuck by lightening? Not to me it wouldn't. I'll tell you, my luck's not great. If it's gonna happen to someone, I'd say the odds seem to favor that it's gonna happen to me. Statistically, that might not be true. But anecdotally, it sure as hell feels true. Especially on the crap days.

But what's so frustrating to me is that I'm at once totally revolted and mesmerized by sharks. I can't take my eyes off the newspaper photos from the Monster Shark showing. And for anyone else, that might be okay. But I'm afraid of sharks in a swimming pool, or in a lake. Rationality has little to do with my worldview. So for me to start watching Shark Week is asking for trouble. I can barely swim in fresh water and I have the scientific impossibility of a shark attack on my side there. In the ocean, there's no stopping my overactive imagination because there's possiblity fueling it, however improbable. I'm not sure my finely-wired brain will be able to handle the beach on Sunday. My head might just explode from the sheer, self-created terror.