Sunday, April 30, 2006

This begs the question...

What is it exactly that the Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office needs all those sex toys for, anyway? Clearly their employer is less dedicated to work-life balance than one might hope. Or maybe the county is actually more than usually dedicated to work-life balance. I can't decide.

Seriously, Mr. Davenport, we get it. No, really, we women want to be on your side, truly. Men are totally, absolutely necessary for our sexual fulfillment. It's just that you're so damned unreliable (by which I mean anything ranging from "sleepy" to "absent"), easily tired, and, frankly, just bad at breathing underwater--probably has something to do with that pesky evolution thing. Mr. Davenport... Ralph... I'm afraid this is the very situation for which the phrase, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" was invented. I strongly suggest that you hie yourself down to the local sex toy emporium (or maybe just to the local sheriff's office) and pick out something pretty. Because you're not going to win this one. All you're doing is crippling one of the strongest parts of any community's local economy and making the Internet strong enough to crush you like an eggshell.

But, you know, it's your call.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Jags Only

Tonight I went with a friend to a tony Scottsdale restaurant that we were auditioning for a third friend's birthday dinner. It passed--the food was fantastic, the service was indulgent, and it was worth getting dressed up for, but they still let us eat there. This is important because I never, ever feel at home in a fancy restaurant. I always feel like I'm a millisecond away from being thrown out by some bouncer who'll then hurl my purse at my head, just to make his point. That scene in "LA Story" where Steve Martin has to submit to a credit check and Patrick Stewart's fifteen-point questionnaire about where he "summers" to get in to L'Idiot? Yeah, that's pretty much what I imagine every time I go to a restaurant where you need reservations.

I also dread the recurrence of not one, but two experiences where I have involuntarily hurled bread at a fellow-diner. It's one way to meet people in public, but I wouldn't recommend it, because of the crippling humiliation. Don't look at me like that. Some places have those dinner rolls that are really, really crusty. They're hard to tear, and they can really get away from you. I know I should just steer clear of the bread basket, given my unfortunate tendency to bean the snootiest-looking bloke in the room with flying bread, but I'm addicted to carbohydrates. It's a legitimate condition. Totally beyond my control.

Fortunately, tonight I looked very cute, did NOT order any wine, was NOT offered any bread, and only managed to embarrass myself three or four times. And the waiter was very, very nice about ignoring the telltale ravioli-shaped splotch squarely between the tapas plate and my plate. (Seriously, you can't take me anywhere. But in my defense, raviolis are really slippery.) I had practically managed to overcome my cataclysmic lack of entitlement when I had the quintessential Scottsdale experience. My friend was graciously walking me to my car, and we stood next to it while he finished his cigarette. And then this dude in a jag pulled out of a parking space across the way, stopped about six feet away from us (and about one foot short of making his turning radius). And he honked at us.

This was not Inspector Morse's jag. This was one of those sleek little numbers, sans bonnet leaper. The man had PLENTY of room to pull out, he just wanted to emphasize that we and our Prius did not belong in HIS personal parking lot in HIS personal snooty city. And the best part is that not 30 seconds after we obligingly moved six inches closer to my car and he pulled out, ANOTHER jag pulled into that space (a sleek little number, this time with a bonnet leaper). Apparently the whole of Scottsdale is reserved for dudes with Jags. Didn't we get the memo?

This makes me even more determined to take my friend there for her birthday. That's right, you heard me. The geeks are taking over Scottsdale. Ignore us at your peril (and watch for flying bread).

Friday, April 28, 2006

I am not Dave Gorman

Just when I was thinking that I might not have time for the Daily Show, they do the one thing (well, I'm a consumer whore, so maybe I should say "one of the things") that will guarantee that I will at least fast forward through it on my Tivo--they put Dave Gorman on the show. Last night's program even included one of his trademark charts, which have even more appeal to me now than they did when I first saw them. Once you've seen people present equivalent charts to justify their spending of billions of dollars at an actual corporation, Dave's get a LOT funnier.

Of course, my REAL question was why is Dave in New York, and is there a new show that I can see? Alas, no such luck (at least, not according to his website). Which is probably a good thing, since I could barely afford to drag Siobhan to his Googlewhack Adventure here in Scottsdale, where we were probably the youngest people in the not-so-packed audience. No, seriously--we were in the minority that didn't BYOO (bring your own oxygen) and didn't have to swot up on "that newfangled internet thing" before we went to the show.

I keep hoping for "Are You Dave Gorman" (Dave's quest to find "loads" of Dave Gormans--where "loads" = 54--to settle a bar bet with his then-roommate, Danny Wallace, who later went on to found a cult almost entirely by accident) to play on television here again, so that I can force unsuspecting people to watch it. But Dave is managing himself, shrewdly, as a commodity, and has elected to keep himself scarce.

I hope they have Comedy Central in the Home for the Improvement of Those Addicted to Parentheses. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Treadmill, Sweet Treadmill

So I have a treadmill now. The personable and entertaining person came and dropped it off this evening. Alas, we were two helpless women in the middle of a community full of retirees,* so the treadmill didn't make it down the stairs. I'm only mildly put out, though, because this means that it lives upstairs, where my Tivo is a working, happy Tivo. If it were downstairs, it would be in the workout room with the unhappy Tivo, which sulks all day and only watches CBS (it's geriatric, and its channel-changing ability is compromised--I keep telling it that CBS no longer shows Murder She Wrote, and that it should try watching other channels, but it likes Criminal Minds). So from a health perspective, this is probably ideal, because it means I can walk on the treadmill and watch all the programs I'm addicted to, rather than watching them while sitting lazily (albeit fetchingly) on my ass.

And, a bonus. While the personable and entertaining woman was trying to single-handedly load the treadmill into her RAV4 (did I say she was intelligent? well, I stand by that, but she may be ergonomically challenged), she broke a nonessential piece off the treadmill, so she charged me even less for it. I tried to give her the full price, since the treadmill is already a pretty hefty piece of exercise equipment for the original price and is still fully functional, but she dropped it by a full third. This means that I am fabulously wealthy, which in turn means that I can go get dinner.

*The one studly guy in my complex, the one I always see walking his adorable golden retriever, was nowhere to be found. There is never a studly guy around when you need one, or at least, that's been my experience.

Monday, April 24, 2006

In The Desert

So I'm outside this weekend, reading and sipping my tea on my balcony, and this sweet little lady comes out of her townhome across the way. And she sweeps up in front of her townhouse, and comes out with a dustpan and clears up whatever she found out there.

Then she gets the hose.

She hosed down her blacktop for twenty minutes, scrubbed it with a broom, and then hosed it down again. I want to be clear, there's nothing in front of our townhomes. There's an asphalt parking lot occasionally interrupted by a tiny gesture that says "we could landscape here, but as you can see, it's blacktop." All the tiny landscaped bits are watered with an automatic system. Behind the townhomes, it's spectacular--grass and trees and shrubs and water and ducks and fish and turtles. But in front, it's blacktop, and that's all she wrote.

So here are my questions.

Did someone die in my parking lot, or is this just general maintenance? Since this is Mesa, land of the retired, I'm going to assume that there was no drive-by (although the idea of a crochety old dear on one of those runaround scooter things just losing it over some squabble with our HOA, Falling Down style, has a distinct appeal). Does she know why it's called blacktop? I mean, she does understand it's not going to look like a sidewalk, right? Does she know she's in the desert? Woman, seriously, I know you probably moved here from Iowa or someplace where water falls from the sky and then things grow, but in case you hadn't noticed, it takes some serious work to get that water here. And why does she care? Will I care what my blacktop looks like when I'm 80?

Yeah, I agree. It seems unlikely.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

At Two With Nature

That Ikea chair is the best investment I've made in a long time. I'm out on my balcony every chance I get now, and hour for hour by the time the summer gets too hot, I bet it'll be a better NPV than a movie ticket. It's especially nice now, because I get my favorite view of nature--a carefully controlled and picturesque overview.

There is a pond behind my townhouse. It is, by no stretch of the imagination, a natural phenomenon. I live in Phoenix, and so the pond is incredibly and obviously man-made. It is a shade of blue-green never contemplated by nature. It is, in short, a travesty. But it attracts dozens of types of birds, and for that alone I love it. There is a little duck couple that lives at my end of the pond, and they have a little fuzzy duckling whom I get to see from time to time. There's an assortment of noisy little chirpy birds, and despite the fact that the heavily treated pond has an odor vaguely reminiscent of the seal exhibit at a zoo, I quite enjoy it.

But this morning I got two bonus surprises. First, as I was sitting, there was a watery ruckus under the balcony, and when I leaned forward to peer out from behind my tipsy trumpet vine, I saw a goose family clamber ashore. Geese kind of scare me as a rule. They're vicious creatures, as you would know if you'd been chased by one up the path of a manor estate--they look like Christmas dinner, but they're mean, they're faster than they look, and they hiss and bite. But I couldn't help but be charmed by the four fuzzy goslings waddling around and eating grass, their little downy bottoms bobbing up and down in what will surely be the filmic definition of "adorable" when the truly multimedia Hitchhiker's Guide really does come to pass.

I allowed myself to be distracted until they stumbled out of sight, and then renewed my commitment to rid my home of ten outdated publications today (four down, and it's not noon yet). I raised my NYT Book Review so that it shielded my face from the sun and focused on a review of Rich Cohen's "Sweet and Low" (yes, the pink stuff, and nonfiction to boot--his grandma sounds eerily familiar). I was just getting back in the groove when I became aware of a noise like a two-inch helicopter chuntering nearby. When I lowered the paper there was a hummingbird so close that I could feel the breeze from its wings on my face. It just hovered there and looked at me, zipping around a few inches every couple of seconds to get a really good look, and then suddenly it sped away.

I know it's ludicrously irresponsible for me to while away hours out there in my bathing suit when I should be doing laundry or housework. I know that I'm essentially daring skin cancer to have its way with me (for the record, 45 SPF buys a redhead less than 45 minutes). But even if I have to put on long pants and a long sleeved shirt and a goofy hat, I'm going to wring every moment of pleasure out of that balcony and my Ikea chair. It's officially all about the ROI.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Bitch

When Star Trek TNG came out, we were led to believe that when computers talked to us, it was going to be a good thing. It seemed a little implausible, sure (we all remember Hal--didn't that have the ring of truth to it?), but we sort of figured at some stage it would be doable. Certainly it required less suspension of disbelief than, say, Heisenberg compensators. Majel Barrett was going to provide us with essential information and answer our questions, effortlessly deducing our true intent from plain, colloquial English.

Alas, we don't get Majel Barrett. We get The Bitch. The Bitch is that lady who lives inside your electronics, and she is ALWAYS pissed off and ALWAYS convinced she's right. My friend named The Bitch after getting acquainted with her via a GPS system. The Bitch nags you when a turn is coming up--she's such a nag that, like a naughty child, you're pretty tempted to ignore her (especially if, as a human, you've made one of your pesky, on-the-fly decisions--The Bitch has trouble coping with spontaneity), which, I hear, occasionally prompts human passengers to add their nagging to The Bitch's nagging in an effort to get you to TURN HERE! A vast improvement over a human with a map, clearly.

This morning I had an irritating run-in with The Bitch at the grocery store, where she spoke to me from the self-checkout computer. I was thinking, sunny day, new haircut, I'm gonna buy some champagne and have me a few mimosas out on the balcony with some dated reading material. But man, that Bitch really hates me, and she knows how to ruin a party. I can handle her demanding that I scan my cereal again. I can handle her asking me 30 times whether I have my grocery store membership card. But when The Bitch tells me that there is an unexpected item in the bagging area and locks me out of the computer, that's when I lose patience with her.

I can barely deal with human expectations of me, so I'm certainly not qualified to figure out what The Bitch expects to see in the bagging area. It clearly bears no relationship to the items I've scanned, because that's ALL THAT'S THERE. So now I'm holding up the line because The Bitch has unrealistic bagging area expectations. And have you noticed that the store hires a lady who stands there and watches you struggle with The Bitch but never, ever offers to help? Maybe the grocery store has issued a prime directive. Eventually The Bitch decided that I bored her and let me leave with my champagne.

But I'm telling you, the bitchy computers have got to go. Out with The Bitch, in with Majel Barrett.

Friday, April 21, 2006

For the record

So I'm at a team dinner the other night (wherein "team" signifies a group of folks who do systems work, and not a group of folks who possess strength, grace, and coordination--some do, but on this team, I'm not picked last, if you get my drift), and one of the gentlemen starts talking about a nature hike in a forest in the Philippines. It all sounds extraordinary, and just when I'm thinking to myself that this dude is putting me to shame for not having experienced anything much in my lifetime, that's when he mentions the spiders.

"You don't remember any spiders?" he asks the woman sitting next to me, who is actually from the Philippines. She assures him that she's been there several times and does not remember seeing any spiders. "That's weird," he continues, "because there were a lot of them. They were in the canopy. They were pretty far away, but they looked big. Like this," he says, gesturing with his hands to indicate an arachnid the size of a dinner plate, or perhaps a charger. I make an involuntary noise indicating my habitual horror at any spider large enough to be detected without reading glasses. Then my imagination really kicks in (helpfully adding color and heft to the image based on some stories my college roommate told me about spiders you could HEAR walking on hardwood floors in a cabin from her childhood--"They sound like this," she'd say, drumming her fingers on a notebook) and I make another involuntary noise, meant to clearly convey that I would not appreciate being led on a friendly nature walk, only to look up and find the canopy above me festooned with enormous spiders.

And he looks at me and says, "What? They aren't on you or anything. I mean, I didn't see any coming down out of the canopy." He turns back to the lady on my right and says, "They must eat birds."

For the record, that's a sick and unhealthy attitude designed to lead someone to an early death. Spiders the size of dinner plates may be God's creatures, and they may be a natural wonder. They may be greeted with enthusiasm by a person whose job it is to discover a new species of spider, or to catalog all the spiders in the known world. But for an ordinary human to be immune to the instinctive terror that should immediately kick in upon seeing a spider who COULD NOT FIT IN YOUR SHOE is just wrong, wrong, wrong. I'd accept the argument that it's tough for them to hide and jump out at you due to their size and weight. I'd accept a mitigated reaction indicating that your fear has been conquered by testosterone or adrenaline--some kind of Indiana-Jones-style, "Spiders. Why'd it have to be spiders?" But claiming that the spiders are okay because at this moment they're too bored to try to kill you is just silly.

Look, in "Arachnophobia," there's a reason Julian Sands dies and Jeff Daniels lives. That's all I'm saying.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Could it be that I have good karma?

Surely not. But consider the evidence:

I made the shuttle this morning. (This is, in itself, unusual. You may remember my account of actually watching the company shuttle take off as I drove aimlessly around a random rural neighborhood near the municipal airport.) But this morning I caught the shuttle. I even got to sit next to someone personable and entertaining. And then, the personable and entertaining person sold me her treadmill. This is very exciting, since one of my goals for next weekend was to trade my recumbent bike in for a treadmill. Who knew that I'd be so far ahead on my goals by Monday morning?

When I got to Portland, I met my new boss, who shows every sign of being unbearably fabulous. In his "getting to know you" presentation, there was an actual bullet that said, "I trust you to do your job. I do not micromanage." I wanted to weep and hug him, and maybe offer to clean his shoes. He even has a sense of humor (it's not required, but it makes my life a lot easier). My new group is even ENCOURAGING me to get a Project Management certification. It's internationally recognized, and it's free, because they will PAY for it. (Granted, I have to prove that I have 4500 hours of project experience, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.)

When the agenda for today was handed out, events culminated in dinner at a restaurant I loved the last time I was here. I'll admit, my dinner was mildly disappointing, but it was still fresh fish that didn't smell like someone's shoe, and it was followed by creme brulee that was beyond reproach. My new boss even ordered me to finish my coworker's dessert. Seriously, I think he's perfect.

I got to the hotel, and they had a room for me. (Previously, I've found that reservations in no way guarantee a room.) It's an obscenely enormous handicapped room, and it's a very nice hotel that I've never stayed in before. And then, I got a parking space right in front of the door.

Of course, I grew up Catholic, so I have to face the possibility that God is just messing with me. Fortunately, growing up Catholic also prepared me to face things and willfully ignore them at the same time. So check it out--I have some good karma!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Archaeological Study of Procrastination

I picked up my mail today and discovered that I hadn't done that for three weeks. I could tell by the archeological layers in the pile of Book Reviews and Time Magazines. My usual mail routine is to get my mail once a week and, on the walk back to the condo, separate all the recyclable garbage so I can throw it out on my way into the house--especially the catalogs. If the catalogs don't make it into my house, then temptation doesn't befall me. Get thee behind me Satan, Frederick's of Hollywood and West Elm. Then I locate my Time magazine and Book Review, read the good bits, and put the whole mess down and hope I get to it later. If I've recently purged my home of dated reading material, then I arrange it artistically on the coffee table. If not, it teeters on a pile that stares at me reproachfully until I lock myself up for a weekend reading articles, emerging 48 hours later as a stunned but surprisingly articulate collection of fascinating tidbits on an unlikely variety of topics--say, garbage, polar explorers, and endangered tree frogs. Sadly, this weekend involved social engagements and so the teetering, reproachful pile is now reaching Konglike proportions.

The whole strategy has been breaking down for some time. An earlier monstrous pile migrated to the floor next to my bed and is waiting for me to make my way through it, or possibly waiting to be bitten by a radioactive spider so it can attack me during the night. I must have had some wild fantasy that I would dispose of the backlog, and then when I went and got the mail, all the publications in my home would be current, fresh, and exciting. I think we can all agree that didn't work out as planned.

So now I'm reading while I finish up the laundry and try desperately to get motivated to pack for my trip. I'm just NOT excited about it. There are friends and creme brulee to look forward to (not to mention fresh fish--let me tell you, if there's one thing I hate about Arizona it's all the people who claim they hate fish when they have NEVER in fact tasted a fish that hasn't been dragged here kicking and screaming from some far-flung place where it should have been prepared and eaten rather than being shipped to these ingrates). But I just don't want to go. It's sunny and pleasant here, and I don't want to leave my home. I want to wallow in the perfect weather and in the recent discovery of a turtle that's been living in my complex's pond.

The other thing that I'm pointedly not doing is cleaning my house, or, more specifically, my living room. It is the perfect setting for some sort of chick lit disaster. Ransacked boxes of girl scout cookies, fallout from the pedicure I suddenly decided I needed to go to Oregon (procrastination, thy name is nail polish), and the menacing piles of rapidly aging reading material are all just waiting for Bridget Jones to come swanning in with a bottle of vodka and a carton of Ben & Jerry's. All of it will have to go before I leave at 4:30 tomorrow morning. And by the way, the early, early airport time is the ONLY thing making sure that I don't introduce tequila into this sordid equation.

Sometime in the next six hours I need to pack, cut Kong down to a size that assures me that he won't make a mess of the apartment while I'm gone, and make the living room look like an actual adult lives here (in case the plane crashes--it wouldn't do for my mother to know that my girl scout cookies just live on the coffee table in a massive "fuck you" to the concept of portion control).

I think I've discovered the cure for blogging procrastination.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Easy Way Out

Every time I read a Stephen McCauley novel I wonder why I haven't greedily plowed through everything he's written. I love the way he understands the unspoken nuances of our most important relationships, and the delicate touch that outlines them without explaining them. I love the dysfunctional families and the quietly wrong relationships. I love the way even the wrong people in the wrong relationships are introduced without prejudice. And I love a guy who understands that not all high school English teachers' suicides are unexpected.

And then the moment I put the book down I remember why it's taken me so long to pick up another one. It's exhausting. It's terrific, but it's exhausting. The freakish families and their endlessly awful communication strategies, the lover who remembers exactly why he's with his partner and still recognizes the desperate need to leave--it's very real, and it's a draining experience. And when the book is over, I can't just dive into another one. I have to let it sit a while and catch my breath.

Which is why, having just finished "The Easy Way Out," I'm slightly peeved to discover that McCauley has another book out just this month. This is especially improbable because it has been AGES since he published a novel (okay, not ages, but 5 years--long enough for my book metabolism to go into starvation mode and store my unread McCauley novels like fat for the winter). I know I'm being punished for the neglected stack of weeklies on my coffee table, one of which surely would have tipped me off about the new book, "Alternatives to Sex." I know I should have known this ages ago, when I could have chosen another book to read this week. But I don't care. I'm going to sulk and read something by Sven Birkerts, and nuts to McCauley's new book. I'll read it when I've forgotten how much I like him, and he'll just have to learn to live with the disappointment.

And in the meantime, like a bad dieter, I am sneaking snippets from his blog. What? Too hypocritical?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Performance Anxiety

In the past couple of weeks at my soulless job in a major corporation I have experienced the shame and the drugged complacency of corporate America.

I attended a two-day conference where the chair punished tardiness (yes, he called it “tardiness”) by forcing the tardy participant to sing and dance in front of the group. This sadistic policy was enforced without mercy (bear in mind that those who were on time were being punished as well) despite the fact that several of us were not even invited to the conference until the week before, making it difficult to cancel conflicting meetings or arrange coverage for ongoing projects. The funniest thing was that even if you weren’t tardy you were required to participate in several humiliating “teambuilding” exercises, like one in which everyone was lined up and had to perform a noise and action in concert with the person ahead of you in line. I think it was supposed to demonstrate something about cooperation. To me, it demonstrated that some people long for a social hierarchy that runs on humiliation, and that if they are deprived of such an environment, they will produce one in your workplace.

But recovery is possible. I attended a meeting this morning at 7 a.m. (I know, it’s hardly cruel and unusual punishment, but honestly, I still haven’t had breakfast). The meeting included a survey of our business and our performance. It then moved on to a presentation exhorting us to use Work Life Effectiveness tools to achieve Work Life Balance. And truly, I am Borg, because I believed the presentation. Yes, I believe that my employer wants me to work from home so that I may enjoy my life more fully. No, I don’t remember drinking any Kool Aid. This morning’s meeting ended with a game wherein we identified members of senior management by their baby photos. I think that would have been fun if I’d been sufficiently caffeinated—further evidence that I’ve been assimilated. At one point during the presentation, the microphone wigged out and an echo started feeding the presenter’s words back on a ten-second delay. The strategic group’s manager looked at me and said, “I think that’s the most annoying thing I’ve heard in my whole life.” I looked at him fondly and thought, “You should have seen the tardy people performing `I am a little teapot’ at my last big meeting.”

So that's what I've been doing wrong!

I've got to get me a car-driving Kangaroo.

Space Mountain doesn't sound that bad, either.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Mini Skirts After 35

The What Not to Wear people can bite me. In July, I will be 35 years old, and apparently I'm supposed to come home the night of my birthday, drain my celebratory glass of champagne, and march upstairs to set fire to my beautiful mini skirt from Banana Republic, because it is a sin to wear a skirt that hits above the knee after 35 years of age.

I'm not entirely sure I understand their argument, but I believe it runs something like this. Women who wear skirts over the knee after the age of 35 are trying too hard to recapture their youth, and only end up making themselves look older. It's aging at best, and at worst, it ends up making you look like a slutty Mrs. Robinson wanna-be.

Well, fie on them. That skirt was an extraordinary coup. It's wool, it's purple, it's plaid and I adore it. Nothing could possibly make me look less like I'm trying to be a 16-year old or a seductress. (I can prove it--anyone who thinks wool is a youthful and seductive fabric, raise your hand.... The defense rests.) I can't look like either a teenager or a femme fatale if I TRY, and even if I do try, I still won't achieve enough of the effect to give people the impression that I'm trying. I wore this skirt over the holidays, and not one but two of my former professors said I looked "all grown up." Let's gloss smoothly over the Pandora's box of horrific extrapolations that spring to mind when we hear that statement (as Graham Norton says, "don't stumble on sadness"), and instead use it as support of the claim that I don't look like I'm trying to recapture my misspent youth as a Catholic schoolgirl* or seduce a hapless Dustin Hoffman away from the plastics industry.

No one can take my cute purple skirt. Instead, I'm steeling myself for battle. Bring it, fashion mavens. So's your momma.

*Tragically, I have to admit that my youth was in no way misspent. In fact, my youth was actually hoarded via totally misguided compliance with all kinds of idiotic rules which, much like this whole miniskirt rule, can now kiss my shiny white Irish behind.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Who says money can't buy happiness?

After several days of painful health problems and a pretty mopey afternoon, I went to Ikea and bought a new patio chair. My old patio chairs were covered with beautiful purple canvas, and although they were gorgeous and comfy, they were requiring a lot of maintenance before I'd actually enjoy sitting in them (I'm talking a good hour with the vacuum, which would then have to be cleaned afterwards). This makes me sound clinically insane, but bear in mind that this is Phoenix, land of dust. Those who know how much I enjoy the vacuum know this ceremony didn't happen very often, and it was driving me crazy because part of what sold me on this townhouse was the balcony.

The balcony is sunny in the morning (when one might want to go outside with a good book or the New York Times Book Review and a cup of tea) and shady in the afternoon (when one might sit and surf the internet with an Italian soda or a glass of wine). It overlooks a pond that is full of fish and attracts lots of chirpy little birds. Growing up from the patio on my ground floor is a very pretty trumpet vine that attracts curious and friendly hummingbirds. The balcony even gets stellar reception from my wireless network.

So I finally decided that I needed a lower-maintenance deck chair, and Ikea had some that didn't inspire hysterical laughter or cruel and unusual punishment of sales clerks. I should really have two deck chairs, but I had a Sophie's choice moment at Ikea. I could buy the deck chair that I really wanted and the ottoman that would clearly be fundamental to my future deck chair bliss. Or I could buy two sub-optimal deck chairs and no ottoman. I totted up in my head the number of times anyone has actually sat with me on the patio and made my choice. It's much easier to blog with your feet up.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Mean Reds

When Holly Golightly talked about the Mean Reds, I never thought she meant malevolent wines. But after Friday night's run-in with an unusually violent Rioja, I have changed my tune. It was very polite when we first met, but then while I slept it unscrewed the top of my head and struck my brain repeatedly with an anvil. I know, I know. You're thinking it's a hangover, but after only one glass, that seems like cruel and unusual punishment. I now recognize the problem as the dreaded red wine headache, but a headache sounds so inconsequential ("Not tonight dear, I have a headache"), whereas this was a real headsplitter that took away my will to have fun with my Saturday.

So Sunday I felt obligated to recover with some chick lit (Emma Gold's "Hard," which has been sitting on my to-read pile for well over a year). It had the hallmarks of chick lit I've enjoyed in the past. A little "girl beats sexual harassment" a la Bridget Jones telling off Daniel Cleaver. A little too-real description of depression a la Marian Keyes. The gay roommate a la...well, let's face it, he's been a staple for ages. And the kind of too-reasonable good guy who exists chiefly in romantic fiction. But the torn foreskin and recreational cocaine use sort of killed the mood for me. I know, I'm a party-pooper. And a hypocrite, because I had absolutely no problem with the cocaine in "The Big Chill" and lots of other films and novels. And some of my favorite people have done cocaine, not that there's anything wrong with that. But seriously--the only way for the character to know that her relationship with this totally perfect guy isn't all about the sex is for him to suffer a torn foreskin during a bout of cocaine-inspired enthusiasm? How...romantic.

So now, to recover from the chick lit, I'm watching "Saw," eating hot wings (thank you, Mark, for addicting me to these fatty excuses to eat hot sauce), and drinking beer. Well, okay, cider. I should totally have a date, but in the meantime, this is mighty tasty. And I get to eat dinner in my XXXL flannel pajamas. Sometimes it's almost worth being single.