"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Yes Virginia, there are indeed Air Guitar World Championships

OK, this can't be real, can it? This is a joke, right? Someone please tell me so. To investigate further, please go here.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Wei Ni hao

The fact that I can laugh about this now--AND share it is pretty unbelievable, since at the time, I do recall this situation being quite painful. But, after my blog post yesterday, a friend (a smart assed one) contacted me to say--c'mon, Andrew--surely you would undo THAT one!!!!

Now, a nicer, more enlightened blogger would change the names of those involved, but seeing as I am dealing with the subject of LYING, I will use his real name. (plus I think only a dozen people read this anyway).

OK, so let us go back in time a little bit--this was before I had moved everywhere--I was still living in NC. Some friends of mine set me up with a very cute boy named Andrew in about 1995 I think. The funny thing is, I was set up on a blind date with him, and we doubled with the friends who had set us up. We go to a party together, and Andrew proceeds to ignore me all night. OK, note to self: THIS should have been a warning. Actually, the three of us left watching him ignoring me were laughing (them apologizing) and thinking that was that.

Imagine my surprise when he asked for my number the next day. (did I mention he was cute?) Somehow, this inauspicious start ended up morphing into a year long dating relationship. (ok, really cute). His family was kind of wealthy--more the country club set- his mother did not approve of me because I once played football with him and his buddies in the yard. And, the whole time I knew Andrew, he was taking Mandarin Chinese language lessons. And to his credit, he picked up the language really fast. He had always wanted to go to China.

So, after a year into our relationship, he applied for a program to go teach English to children in China. I had moved to Atlanta by this point--we were doing a long distance relationship. To my credit, I offered to step aside before he left for China--telling him if he wanted to go over there "unfettered" as it were--I totally understood. He was shocked that I would even suggest such a thing. Needed me- he said, wanted me. Well, hello Andrew.

The plan was for him to be in China for six months.

So, he was getting more shots than I would ever dare to, getting prepared to leave, and we were spending as much time together as possible. Somehow, I found the time to put together a huge care package, send it a month in advance to where he was going to be in some rural area of China, so it would be waiting for him when he got there.

OK, so fast forward to him already in China. Lots of phone bills, finally an email connection. Lots of professions of love or something like it. His mother, I think, hoping this would break us up--images of me playing football in the yard-- haunting her.

Usually when I would call, there was one main phone someone would answer and then go and get the intended recipient. Whoever answered always said "Wei Ni hao" (sounds like Way-nee-ha). Now, if you look up hello in Chinese, the translation is just "Ni hao". But they added the Wei on there, trust me. I am guessing it was a regional thing, or something else.

So after he had been there two months or so--he had gotten his own room with his own phone. I called him about 2am his time, which was the time we usually chatted. So--I call--the long pause--the buzzing ring. Then, an Asian female (sleepy) voice picks up. "Wei Ni hao?"

Thinking I must have misdialed, and thinking I don't know how to say ANYTHING in Mandarin, I just said something like--"Sorry, wrong number--trying to reach Andrew".

Well, Andrew, she understood.

"Who calls Andrew? Who calls Andrew?!?!?!?"

Then, I heard Andrew, suddenly very awake in the background...."hang up! hang up!"

Hmmmmm. Nice.

Then, the best part, and the part that makes me laugh now....about 2 minutes later...my phone rings!

Me: Um, hello.

Andrew: Hey there.

Me: Um, something you want to tell me?

Andrew: About what?

Yeah, seriously, he was trying to play this off. And the hilarious thing now, is that somewhere, in the background were the muffled Asian, angry cries of the other woman. I don't know--locked in the bathroom? The closet maybe?

No need to tell you the rest really. He did finally own up to the woman in the room as a "sick housekeeper" who needed to rest for a little bit in his room. I am NOT kidding.

And the rest of the story goes like this: He stayed there I think for three years, ended up marrying a woman from there and having a child with her. Not sure if it was the "housekeeper" or not. Not sure how his mom felt about all that, either.

One of the funniest things I remember from all of this was actually the next day after the phone call. Of course, being my young, stupid self, I was distraught, not understanding HOW this could be happening. I was talking to my friend Kathryn. We were at lunch, I was sniffling, relaying the whole story to her. Without flinching, without pausing, Kathryn looks right at me and says, "Wow, Andrew had a tough night."

I was shocked--I said "ANDREW had a tough night?"

Kathryn: "Yeah, I mean, you lost ONE person, he might have lost TWO. Geez. Where is YOUR perspective?"

And in the middle of my tears, I laughed until I snorted. I love my crazy, sarcastic, girlfriends. Deeply.

So, no, I wouldn't change that, all of it, not even Stupid Andrew. Besides, a few years later, I wrote a little storybook for one of the kids of the couple who set me up. I used photos of people we all knew as characters in the book. I cut the photos out and added hats and whatnot to them. And the little story rhymed, and had some funny twists.

But our favorite part of the book, all of us, I think, is the character of the village idiot, "played" by Andrew. He only makes a brief appearance, but it is memorable.

And yeah, I learned from it. And cried. And laughed.
All good.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

What If?

OK, say what you will about Oprah-- but tread carefully-- she has done, in my opinion, some pretty cool things with her fame and notoriety. I can disagree with some things here and there, but for starters, she got a lot of women READING and talking about reading, and probably then getting their kids reading through her book club...and a lot of what she does focuses on empowering women. So, I have to be happy with that. Especially when you compare what a lot of other idiots out there do with fame and fortune...
But, if you ask me, and this will seem small in comparison, What am I most thankful to Oprah for? I would have to answer--"Introducing me to the writing of Lisa Kogan".
Lisa Kogan is a columnist in Oprah's magazine, and I can't remember how I first read anything of hers, probably bored out of my mind in some airport somewhere...but I am always so taken with her pieces, and there is always something that makes me laugh out loud, in public even--or that touches me to the point of tears. If I could ever touch someone this way with my writing, I can't imagine!
I think part of it, too, is that I often just relate to her so intimately about what she is writing about. It's a little eerie. Maybe it is just that we are of a similar age, of a similar time, but whatever, I totally relate to so many things she writes about.
Her piece this month is especially lovely...and I had been having a lot of bouts of "what ifs" lately. My first love, first boyfriend (I started late--I was a freshman in college) contacted me out of the blue last month- having tracked me down via my LinkedIn account. It was such an odd feeling to stare into my email inbox and see his name--and read an email from someone whom I had deeply loved--who had loved me deeply; we had met each other's families, made a million plans, and then it didn't work out--and poof--you are just out of each other's lives. So here we are emailing a lifetime later--catching up, sharing stories, and revisiting the past a little. It got me thinking about all the twists and turns in my life--and the amazing amount of "what ifs".
I am happy to say, I arrived at the same conclusion as Lisa did here...which is amazing, given some of the things people looking in from the outside would think--well surely, you would want to change that-- or not make that mistake...
But, all the painful twists, all the lost moments, all the mistakes, possibilities...I am actually OK with it all. I like where I have ended up. It was a rough road to say the least, but I really like the view.

The Eternal Question: What If?
By Lisa Kogan

Our columnist on lost jobs, forgotten tutus, the croissant not eaten…and what she got instead.

It took a little time, but my daughter and I have finally got our Sunday mornings down to a system. Just as the light starts inching through our blinds and the pigeons start making those peculiar pigeony noises and the hungover 22-year-olds start cursing whoever invented the Jell-O shot, Julia wakes me with words that come in a rush from her heart: "Did you buy me anything?" And "Are you going to buy me anything?" And my personal favorite: "Would you like a list of things you could buy me?" We wash our hands and preheat the oven. I get the mixing bowl down from its shelf while she heads for the box of Duncan Hines muffin mix in the cupboard. We hear a dull thwumph sound from someplace beyond the dining table, where we've set up our workstation. "What was that?" she asks, and I tell her it was either The New York Times being plopped at our doorstep or her great-grandmothers (both accomplished bakers) turning in their graves. I snip the bag of dry ingredients open and she pours it in the bowl. She tells me that her pal Fiona would like to be a pastry chef when she grows up: "She's going to make squillions and squillions of cookies and cover them in rainbow frosting." I ask Jules if she'd like to do that, but she remains committed to a career in the ballerina industry. "I wanted to be a ballerina when I was 5," I say, pirouetting to the refrigerator for a couple of eggs. "So what stopped you?" Leave it to a kindergartner to ask the $64,000 question.
There's the short answer: my distinct lack of athleticism and grace coupled with an abiding love of all things potato. And then there's the longer answer, the one about having the confidence and guts and perseverance to go after what you want. The one about the need for approval and the fear of failure and (in my case) the even greater fear of success. I measure three-quarters of a cup of whole milk and reply, "I turned 6." I like being a writer—you get to wear a lot of black sweaters and claim to be on a hideous deadline when your mother calls—but I do catch myself wondering from time to time about the road not taken. Julia and I hunt for the vegetable oil and I talk to her about what might have been. "Your grandfather was a stockbroker with Merrill Lynch for 37 years. He worked very, very hard cold-calling strangers and turning them into loyal clients, creating a career out of thin air and intense ambition. He never came right out and said it, but I know it would have made him really happy if he could have taught me how to be a broker. The thing is…" Julia's interest trails off somewhere around the Merrill Lynch reference, which I suppose is to be expected from a person in oven mitts and a tutu. Fair enough. How can I expect my daughter to make sense of this allergic reaction I have to corporate life? Do I explain that Mommy doesn't take kindly to management seminars and fluorescent lighting? Perhaps I should simply present her with my SAT scores and leave it at that. We open the can of blueberries that Mr. Hines so thoughtfully includes in every box, drain and rinse them in the sink, then begin folding the berries into the batter.

Julia positions pleated paper muffin cups in the tins. "One for Domingo, one for Jai, one for Loic, and two for Luan," she says, rattling off the names of all the doormen on her breakfast distribution list. I ask how come Luan gets an extra, and she tells me that Luan lets her try on his doorman hat. "I think he's got a big crunch on me," she confides. "How can you tell?" Julia tastes the batter, pronounces it ready, and returns to my question. "Mommy, when a boy likes you, there are signs," says my tiny dancer/relationship expert: "Like if he punches you in the arm and says he doesn't like you, that means he likes you." Now she tells me! As good advice goes, this is right up there with "Stay in school," "Pack a sweater," and "Get plenty of roughage." One rainy afternoon, not so long ago, I ran into a long-lost buddy from my days in advertising. It had been almost 25 years since we'd spoken. I'd gained some weight and he'd lost some hair. We ducked into a little coffee shop to dry off and catch up. He showed me a picture of his wife and kid and told me that the three of them spend summers in Paris. "We just get completely immersed in the culture." I showed him a picture of Julia and Johannes (that would be my boyfriend for those of you who've managed to miss my last 735,000 columns) and told him that the three of us summer in my bedroom. "We just get completely immersed in the air-conditioning." And then it happened: "I always had a little thing for you," he said. And, my friends, I'm not proud of what I'm about to tell you, but here it is: I actually looked behind me to see who he was talking to. "Wait, you mean me? Me? The woman who helped pick out everything from long-stem tulips to La Perla lingerie for your many, many girlfriends? You had a thing for me?" I asked him why he neglected to speak up all those years ago. If this were a movie, here's the part where he'd reveal some incredibly dramatic secret—"The truth is, I was a CIA operative only posing as an account executive. In my heart I knew that you were the one girl I'd be tempted to blow my cover for, and if I did that, my angel, well, we'd all be speaking Chinese right now." But this is not a movie—he thought for a minute, shrugged, and answered, "You know, I honestly can't remember."Julia plants four or five fresh blueberries in each paper cup of batter—our secret trick to make these muffins taste like the real deal—while I wipe sticky splotches off the table and imagine what might've been. I could've spent August boating on the Seine. I could've been bullish on America. Hell, I could've danced Swan Lake. Anyway, that's the fantasy. The reality is I tend to get seasick; I would've pleased my father but lost my mind; and as for becoming the next Dame Margot Fonteyn, there's an excellent chance I'd have jetéed straight into the orchestra pit and crushed a cellist six seconds into the first act. We put our muffins in the oven and set the timer for 16 minutes. Julia announces that she will be using this period "to have three babies and take them swimming." I will use my 16 minutes to shake off all dreams of a road less traveled. You make the choices you make based on what you know about yourself and what you think you know about the world. And sometimes the world will turn around and break your heart, but other times, a 5-year-old will saunter in with three dolls wet from their swim lesson. The five of you will sit down to blueberry muffins, and the reality of what you wound up with will suddenly seem like the only possible choice—it just couldn't have turned out any other way.

article courtesy of Oprah.com

Image courtesy of http://xkcd.com/17/


Friday, August 22, 2008

Comic Covers

As I have mentioned before, since I started this blog, my eyes have been opened to so many fun websites, blogs, and other distractions on the world wide web. I stumbled upon this one via another blog in their list of favorites. Basically this is a site of old album covers, the wild, the bizarre, and the random. Oh, my...where to begin. I chose a few that caught my attention, but you have to visit the site to get the full effect.

Ok, first of all, is she naked? I mean, I know that's how I like to watch my man play the piano, in the buff with just my jewelry. And, um, note the hands on the keyboard there. Is it me, or does Jonathan there have two right hands? I mean, I know that piano players do the whole crossing-one-arm-over-the-other bit while playing, but Mr. Edwards does not seem to be using this maneuver. Hmmm, maybe I am missing something, but still.

First, love the pantsuit. But, anyway, this whole scene does not read "relaxing" to me. Just sayin'.

Poor, poor Chad. I am not going to say anything about the teeth, because were it not for braces, I might not have been far from this toothy spectacle. But, Lord, that with the hairdo. I just don't get that if that is him in the other, smaller photos, why the agent or publicist, or um, his mother, or whoever, chose THAT photo to be the main one. Yes! this is the one that will sell the records!

We can't blame anyone for poor fashion and bad hair, really. I mean, everyone looked that way then. But the title of this album, we can blame them for.

I am going to tread carefully here, but I guess at least I would like to think we have come a long way in how we, er, identify folks nowadays. Everyone looks pretty happy, though (and pale--very pale).

See, remember how I promised to return to my biting sarcasm after my more somber last two posts?? I did, didn't I?


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Into the Night

When I was little, I worried a lot. Even more than I do now--which might surprise some of you that know how much I can worry! But I carried a lot on my little shoulders--and thinking back now--whew!--what a load for a little one.

I had this secret thing I did--that I never told anyone about. I think it started when I was about 8 years old. When I felt too overwhelmed and couldn't sleep...I pulled a blanket out of the hall closet and crept outside through the back door into our backyard. Usually it would be late--after 11pm or midnight. I grew up in NC, so three seasons out of the year, I could do this.

I would spread the blanket on the grass and lie down, and look up at the canopy of stars. I can remember so vividly the sounds of the crickets and bullfrogs, the small breezes in the summer, the smells of the first leftover chimney smoke in the fall. But mostly the quiet. I would soak it all in and just let the world gobble me up for a little while. I would look up and think that there had to be something bigger than me, bigger than what I was worried about, and feeling small at that point was a good thing. Every now and then, I would glimpse a falling star and would wish my little heart out.

I remember returning to bed, not really having solved anything-- just being tired and and able to sleep, and maybe a little relaxed--a few wishes behind me, my pajamas damp with the night air, the music of crickets humming in my ears.

It has been a rough couple of days, as is probably evident by the more solemn tone of my last few entries. I promise to return to my biting sarcasm in a day or so. But last night, I could not sleep, not really worried, more hurt and and a few other things...and I did something I haven't done since I was that little girl many years ago. I grabbed a blanket at about 3am--more grown up time I guess, and headed out to my deck. I unfolded the blanket, spreading it out, and laid down, taking in the stars. The sounds were different, but the feeling was the same.

I have had much bigger worries than the one I am dealing with at the moment, and I will be fine. This one just hit a little close to who I am -- making me wonder if always seeing the best in people is truly the blessing people are always telling me it is. And if it is, why I end up in pain, feeling stupid, and laying on a blanket outside on my deck at 3am trying to figure things out.

I am sure my neighbors wonder what in the hell is going on over here. So do I.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

How we are who we are

I have had a bad day...ok the king of bad days today, and sometimes when that happens, I get a little lost in thought, so be warned: long, rambling blog posting ahead. But, please also refer to my About Me description--"aspiring writer"--ahem, yeah, that's me. And this comes with the territory.
My parents don't know about my blog, my mother would absolutely die and worry herself to death that every ax murder in the tri-state area could somehow track me down via this blog. But mostly they don't know about it so I can post about anything without worry or censorship.
I am constantly perplexed by how I have become who I am...how I managed to hold it together through some things in my life--and not in others--and form the belief systems I have, the career, the hopes I have for myself and my future.
Some of it starts with where you start--where we start-- our families. I look at some of my friends, these amazing people, and some have these amazing families that mirror their success. I can see this person or that person and say-yup, that is the result of that strong, loving, caring family-- they share the same tight-knit bond--all of them--in this large circle.
Others come from cobbled, maybe dysfunctional backgrounds where only part of the family is the strength, or none at all. And yet, a fantastic person sprouted from that.
So, most of you know my background, some of it is still a mystery to me at times. But the real mystery to me is that we are who we are--so singular--so independent-- so apart from some things that should be ingrained in us.
I remember when I was little, I played at a friend of my parent's mother's house. She lived in this big, beautiful old white house and sometimes I spent the night there--sleeping in a bedroom at the top of the stairs. There was a wall hanging in the room--the title read "Children Learn What They Live". To this day, I can remember that wall hanging, the colors, everything. For some reason, I used to be captivated by those words and the ones that followed the title. I guess because there was a lot going on with me when I was little, and I don't know, I guess I saw something there--and I remember thinking of the things I did and didn't want to learn by living them.
And while I do think that is true-- that children learn what they live--for the most part--sometimes they have the power to not learn those things and to persevere and then teach something far greater.
I think of things that my parents learned growing up in a much different time and a much different place, that are well, wrong. And somehow, even with their belief systems so firmly in place and more than pushed on me, I grew up with a totally opposite set of beliefs about things--and it was always that way for me. I never saw these issues the way they did. I saw them with my own eyes--and to me that is fascinating.
Now, I still have my issues--trusting people too much--and too easily (uggh-today, people), this whole perfectionist thing, the worrying thing, being a bit of a sap....well the list goes on. But out of the lot I could have ended up with, this list is pretty decent.
I am also made more aware of this as I begin to volunteer again with the Guardian ad Litem program here in NC. (I first did this back in college--WAY back in the day) This organization is near and dear to my heart--being a child's voice in court. But watching these kids hopefully NOT learn what they lived through, but learn what they have survived and conquered instead, now that's worth watching.

There are varying versions of Children Learn What they Live on the internet, and the one I remember was pretty long. Most show the shortened version. Here is, I think, a close version with the important ones highlighted:

by Dorothy Law Nolte

If a child lives with criticism,
She learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility,
He learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule,
She learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame,
He learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance,
She learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement,
He learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise,
She learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness,
He learns justice.
If a child lives with security,
She learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval,
He learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship,
He learns to find love in the world.


Monday, August 18, 2008

The Friendly Skies

If you haven't flown with me before, you may not know that my sometimes "unusual" luck bleeds into my business and personal travel. It is not an exaggeration to say that I have had my fair share of horrible seatmates on airplanes over the years, and some of you may already be chuckling remembering my post-flight grumblings or stories. Part of this is simply the fact, I think, that traveling solo sets you up to be seated next to the other solo oddballs left behind after all the couples and families have been seated; and then there is that fine line between being a frequent traveler (which I am) and an uber-platinum-super-human-road-warrior (which I am not). Just being a frequent traveler will get you seated closer to the front of the plane and guaranteed an aisle or window, and maybe upgraded to first class every now and then. This leaves you to be seated next to the center seat folks-- the non-frequent fliers--and in my case, the crazy, reading-over-my-shoulder, singing-out-loud-with-their-headphones-on, or just --in most cases--psychotic-- seatmates. (for my old friends--can we all please recall the rare coin dealer from Atlanta??)

I often play this game while I am seated in the waiting area before a flight: I look around and when I see the craziest, loudest, scariest, smelliest, or meanest looking person, I predict the odds that they will be sitting next to me. I usually choose first, second and third place finalists, and I swear, I am rarely wrong.
But, this past weekend, I had a rare round-trip of lovely seatmates. I made a cross country trip this weekend--so I had long flights over a short period of time. This can be a deadly combination. I can, um, get a short fuse after too many delays and then long flights with bad seatmates. There were delays and rude people in the ariports themselves- but once I was seated, it was a whole different story.

One the flight out to the west coast, I had slept for the first hour or so, and the woman next to me was reading. We started talking almost accidentally, and then for the next three hours, we didn't stop. What was sweet and so--well-- real, was something about her, she just needed to talk to someone. She was a mom of a daughter heading off to college-- and a son of 17. Her husband and kids were a few aisles up. She talked about how she had lost her identity because she had quit work to be a mom, how she had been her daughter's anchor--and now she was leaving--how her husband didn't see her as what she was. I know it sounds crazy--but she wasn't this whining person. It was just a moment when something happened, and she needed a voice --someone who didn't know her story-- to hear her.

I couldn't believe she felt all those things, because I saw this amazing, beautiful, dynamic, together person who had so much to offer the world. That was my first impression of her. I told her all that-- and her eyes welled up. There were some other really neat connections-- through a company I used to work for --between me and her--but she and I left on such a sweet note. We talked about how, as women, we short change ourselves so much. We forget to see ourselves as what we are--the good first-- we automatically tally up the negative and start from there. I do that, my friends do that, we all do. She said her sister says a lot of the same things to her that I had said, and it was a little sad that she needed a stranger to say it for her to hear it. But, it was also sweet.

OK, so yeah, I am a sap. And yeah, I can talk to a lamp post, I think everyone knows that. But, I love the moments in my life like that, I wouldn't trade them. The day I stop being able to connect with people like that every now and then, I'll know I have lost something.
And I guess that means that I have to take the crazies with it sometimes, too.

Oh, well. It all evens out.


Friday, August 15, 2008

It's About Time

I don't know about all of you, but I have been really concerned about this issue for a long time. I mean, it's always on the news, small fights are taking place in every neighborhood, we all know it is an issue, it is just about time this is now a law on the books somewhere.
I mean seriously, haven't we all heard about a hog-dogfight gone wrong recently?
Unfortunately, I did a little googling, and this is more prevalent than I want to believe. But, it is restricted to the southern part of the US it seems. Hmmmm. Go figure. And I think you all know, I don't want any animals hurt, furry, fuzzy, or curly-tailed.

But, good Lord. Can they not keep this stuff out of the papers so that everyone doesn't think this is an accurate representation of the south?


Charges dropped in SC hog-dogfighting case
The Associated Press
Posted: Friday, Aug. 15, 2008
More Information
CHESTER, S.C. The attorney general's office has dropped charges against two people accused of participating in hog and dog fights in Chester County.
Chester County's former animal control director Vicky Land and Arthur Parker Jr. were indicted in 2005 on charges involving fights between hogs and dogs.
Parker had been charged with ill treatment of animals, possession of a dangerous animal and possession with intent to distribute marijuana.
Land was charged with being present at animal fighting and misconduct in office.
Attorney general spokesman Mark Plowden told The Herald of Rock Hill the charges were dropped because hog and dog fighting was not clearly defined as a crime under laws in place at the time.
The law now specifically makes hog-dog fighting illegal.

article courtesy of charlotteobserver.com


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Southern Charm

I finally took a vacation--at least a few days this past week, and went to Charleston. I didn't feel much like getting on an airplane- I spend enough time on those for work. This was only a three hour drive. Plus, I love Charleston, and I had hotel points to cover my stay at my favorite hotel there, The Mills House. Everything is within walking distance from that hotel.
The weather was perfect, sunny and warm (well hot) during the day, and then a thunderstorm and pouring rain almost every evening to cool things off for a nice evening stroll. Just perfect. I enjoyed some great rest, got a tan, did some writing, reading, and ate some incredible food. Such a nice mini-break. Now, back to reality on Monday.


Saturday, August 2, 2008

Morning at my house

This is a pretty good reenactment of my mornings here. The cat in the video would be Lilly, most of the time. Baxter sometimes plays a supporting role.



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