27 October 2013

skeleton encounter

A guy wearing a tight skeleton sweatsuit came over to me at the tea shop and introduced himself.

"I just wanted to tell you that you are beautiful and you look just like Rebecca Romijn Stamos," he said. "You are fabulous."

"Uh, thank you," I said.

"I'm gay, so I'm not, like hitting on you," he said. "I just wanted you to know how fabulous you are. You are amazing. You are beautiful."

"Uh, thank you," I said again, and he was off.

Day = made. 

25 October 2013


I forgot to schedule it earlier this week, so I was supposed to have my weekly Skype Spanish hour with a grandpa in Guatemala at 5 pm today. 

It was a parody of Everything That Can Go Wrong.

I was stuck on a phone call at 5 pm, and I had be almost rude to get off the phone. By the time I got on Skype, the grandpa in Guatemala had called me a couple of times and practically sent out an APB.

When we started talking, I realized that Friday at 5 is perhaps not the best time to work on learning a language. I couldn't think in English, let alone Spanish. Words were not happening in either language. I felt like I could hardly hold my head up from exhaustion.

Everything was dim in Guatemala, and the tutor was fuzzy. It was the electricity, he explained. It was very weak, but the computer's battery was fully charged. 

I have some familiarity with electricity's eccentricities as they pertain to internet access, though, and I suspected exactly what happened: after about 15 minutes, the power cut out and we got cut off. 

Meanwhile, my dad was calling my phone, my coworker was coming in asking for snacks, and the grandpa in Guatemala was trying to call again.

 Needless to say, we rescheduled, leaving me free to comb t@rget, r0ss, and goodwill in two states trying to find pieces for my Halloween costume. At least that didn't require thinking, other than remembering how to get back on the highway back to Gone West.

22 October 2013


Pretty much no one who knows me is going to believe what I'm about to tell you, but it's true. It's all true.

My closet is organized by color. Type of clothing, and then color. In rainbow order.

Yeah, I'm... not... quite... sure how it happened either, except that when I moved back to Gone West and was putting all my clothes in the closet, I found myself putting all the shirts together by color and all the dresses together by color, and for some reason I don't quite know, I've kept doing it. 

The good news is that I can tell you definitively exactly how many black shirts is enough that you will be able to look at the clearance shirts at T@rget and decide against another black one: the answer is seven. 

I can also tell you that eight grey shirts is not enough to keep you from thinking about buying more new grey shirts. 

The interesting thing is how completely my wardrobe is dominated by black, grey, blue, and green. There are a few scattered red and pink items, and still fewer purple. I think I have one orange shirt and one yellow dress. My rainbow has a big chunk missing in the middle. I feel like you could guess my skin tone just by the items in my closet. (Very, very few oranges and yellows look good on pale white people. It just can hardly be done.)

It's all very frightening, actually. I've never really thought of myself as the sort of person who would - gasp - organize a closet. Closets are for shoving things into, never to be found again. 

Never fear, though. I'm sure there will come a day when I finally get around to removing all of the items that currently live in the laundry basket and putting them away and I'll be too hurried to put them back with their colors and the natural order of things will be restored. (Ha! Obviously the laundry basket is for storing clean and/or clean-ish clothes that you can re-wear. Everyone knows that. The dirty clothes go in a heap on the floor and then you carry them down to the basement in your arms while the heap drips socks for you to go back and collect and take down on your second trip to the basement.)

Now that you know my opinion of clean-ish clothes, it will not surprise you at all to hear that today some people were discussing the compost bucket and how they can't stand to have it on the counter that is the most disgusting thing ever because the things in it are rotting, ROTTING I tell you, and while I'm not exactly a fan of the very old, stanky container my parents have on their counter, the compost bucket itself, here in my house in Gone West, does not gross me out one bit, as long as it is rinsed out every time you empty it and it hasn't sat for too long with any particular concoction inside it. I could probably eat right while sitting next to it.

(I now have that paint with all the colors of the wind song stuck in my head. And you do, too. You're welcome.)

20 October 2013


Update: after sitting with blue conditioner on it for a while, my hair is significantly less orange. I can now be seen in public. I'm still going to ask them to re-do the top, though. One should not come out of a hair appointment looking like your hair was colored a month ago. 


When I was relatively young - 10? 11? 12? 13? Clearly I don't remember - I went along a couple of times when my Uncle E. had a hockey game late at night. If I recall correctly, he would take me and/or my brother along to watch his daughter. After the game, a bunch of people congregated at a restaurant that had huge cinnamon rolls. 

I do remember the cinnamon rolls.

Between that and the cleared-off section of the lake where we would knock a puck around every once in a while when we were back in the US, I have a basic appreciation for hockey even though I haven't been to a game since my ice-obsessed grade school friend and I were both living at home after college and went to a semi-pro game in our hometown. (She was obsessed with both figure-skating and hockey. I always figured that if I had a choice, I would join the sport that involved fighting. It seems that I knew myself, even back then. Also, I can't do figure-skates. They have no support for my wimpy ankles.)

So I went to a hockey game on Friday night, with another displaced Mid-Westerner. I didn't actually know that there was hockey here, but lo! There is hockey here. It was in the same arena where much bigger sports play, and it was really fun.

On the way home, I ran over a couple of smashed beer bottles just up the street from my house. I was paranoid about my own tires, of course, since I have a knack for accidental tire deflation, but I was even more worried about the bicycles that ride down our street on the regular. This street is a bike route.

I dropped my stuff off inside and headed back out, armed with keys, cell phone, headlamp, and broom. By the time I got to the glass, a block and a half away, an older couple had come out, too. The man and I swept the glass of the bottles into my dust pan by the light of my headlamp and emptied the dust pan into a fast food bag that we found on the street. By the time we got done, we'd also swept up a substantial quantity of autumn leaves, but the bicyclists were safe again.

Good deed complete for the evening, I went back and checked my tires. They were fine.

And then I checked them again in the morning, and again this morning. Fine, and again fine.

19 October 2013


I went to get my hair colored at the same place I have always gone here in State of Happiness: a training school for an international company. My hair hasn't always ended up perfect there - they are students, after all - but usually it all goes pretty smoothly.

I haven't gotten my hair colored since May of 2011. It's pretty much all grown out to just a little bit of gold on the ends of the strands. (Periodically people would think I was doing ombre on purpose. Nope! Just lazy.) I was ready to go all out and get it all cutely highlighted.

I used to think of myself as not super picky about my hair, but I have learned two three things: 
  1. The right side of my hair grows faster than the left, and it needs to be cut shorter than the left at the beginning. It doesn't look longer when you just look at it after cutting them what looks like evenly, but trust me, there is a cowlick or something going on there, and if you hold the two sides next to one another, the right side is longer.
  2. I hate it when the framing layers around my face are huge and chunky.
  3. I do not want my highlights golden. I do not want the yellow blonde. I want the ashy, almost grey blonde. Otherwise my face looks a funny color.
This was basically my mantra today: I want an ashy blonde. No, really, really ashy. If you have to choose between having variation of color in my hair or making it more ashy, I want it as ashy as possible.

For someone who is graduating next month, the girl who was doing my hair seemed a little clueless. Nice, but clueless. For example, she wanted to do all the foils with bleach, take them out, and then tone every other piece of colored hair to make it more ashy. (The instructor: "That is basically impossible. Once you take the foils out, you will never find the sections again.")

She set out putting foils into my hair. They were kind of weird, though. I've had them march straight back from the front of my hair, and march up the sides of my hair, but she had a triangle in the front and then pie slices up the side. It wasn't until she was finishing the pie slices that I asked if it was a problem that so much of my hair right at the visible top of my head wasn't getting color. 

"Oh, no," she said. "We can't get right to the scalp anyway."

Erm. Not what I was asking. It was more that the edges of the section of hair were right where my part goes, but were about an inch outside of the foil, meaning that the middle of my head wasn't going to get color.

When she took out the foils, I almost cried. My hair was that awful, brassy, bottle blonde that one associates with cheap Clairol dye kits from the local drugstore, where a woman with her hair that color is sitting smoking on the stool at the soda fountain. 

But. I have faith in the products of this international chain, and the toner was yet to come (toner adds a blue tint to your hair to take away the orange), so I remained calm.

I did tell the story about how I turned my brother's hair that brassy bottle blonde in the summer of 2000, right before we went back to Liberia the first time, and while he and I rode around in the open bed of the pickup we were using (we couldn't stand to sit inside - the shocks on that thing were terrible and bouncing around was less nausea-inducing when you were out in the open air), the kids would laugh and point at us. 

"They are laughing because I have orange hair," my brother kept saying.

"They are laughing because we are the only white people around," I said. "Your hair has nothing to do with it."

"No, they are laughing because I have orange hair," he would say.

My hair was toned. It looked substantially better afterward, and I paid and left.

Then I had a breakdown in a clothing store over whether to buy a coat or not (I've been needing one to wear to work that is not a raincoat or a soft shell or a winter coat), and if I did buy a coat whether to buy the longer waterproof trench-like one that was on clearance or the shorter one that basically offered no protection that was also on clearance.

(Spoiler alert: I bought one.)

(Additional spoiler alert: I bought the trench.)

(Further spoiler alert: I did not buy the $400 slightly warmer trench, but I will have my eye on it when it goes on clearance in January.)

(In my defense for even looking at $400 coats, all three of the considered coats are made by a local company that cares about the environment, blah blah blah, stop it, it's the cheap clothes that are destroying the earth and this sustainably made expensive one will last me forever so there.)

Then I realized that my breakdown was because I was too hungry to think, so I put the trench coat on hold because it was the last one of its kind and I went to a tea place nearby and waited an inordinately long amount of time for a sandwich on gluten free bread. (Waiter, after I have been sitting with the menu closed for about 10 minutes, looking at him impatiently. "Oh. Are you ready to order?" Yes, that is what the STARING YOU DOWN WITH MY EYES means, sir. It's not because you are pretty.)

I found my reflection in the tea shop bathroom mirror a little startling. Why was the hair right around my face so... orange?

I went back to the coat store and bought the trench and got into my car and looked at my hair in the rearview mirror in the light of day and I was horrified. It was dreadful. I looked like I'd seriously misread the instructions on the bottle of peroxide. The rest of my hair wasn't so bad, although my roots are already an inch long because of the weird placement of the foils, but those brassy sections near the front were truly terrible.

I called the place and tried to make an appointment to get it fixed (the answering service told me it had already closed), but they wanted $45 for it, so I went home to pee. Then I caught sight of myself in the mirror, gasped in horror, and googled the place. They were not yet closed.

I got in my car and went back. By the time I walked in the door, I had maybe been crying in my car just a little because, I don't know, I was embarrassed to be seen in public with hair like this? 

Okay, that was a little bit of an overreaction.

But my appointment to get it fixed isn't until Tuesday and in the meantime? I'm embarrassed to be seen in public like this.

The women at the school gave me some blue conditioner to use on the front strands, which is supposed to tone it again. I sat here with the conditioner on my hair for fifteen minutes after I went on a shopping spree to try to solace myself for my hair.

It's really bad. And I have no idea how they are going to fix it. I'm just really disappointed, because I was so excited to go out and make my hair cute again, and now I may have to cut it all off and start over.

16 October 2013


I am sitting on my bed with my feet under the covers. My face is washed, my teeth are brushed, and my sinuses are rinsed. 

The week is more than half over, thank goodness.

I decided to take a sabbatical from martial arts this week. I didn't go today, either. Instead, I puttered. I cut up an apple and ate it with Justin's Maple Almond Butter while perusing the B0den catalog of things I cannot afford. I put pomegranate and pineapple in plastic containers to take to work. I set out my lunch for tomorrow. 

I need this. I need a few days of being able to come home and not rush off to somewhere else. 

I'm also taking a sabbatical from f@ceb00k. It will only last a day or two, but I realized that it has become something I check on my phone before I get out of bed (along with my email), and I'm wasting too much of my day on it. I don't have day to waste right now.

I need this. I need a few days of reading a book instead of trying to find more internet to distract me.

And I need at least one night of turning off the light at 9:29 pm, and really sleeping.

14 October 2013


I skipped my martial arts class tonight for what might be the first time I've ever skipped it just because.

Just because I'm so very tired.

In Universe City, I went straight to fighting class at 5:30 and it was over by 6:30 and I could go home and relax and do stuff and get ready for bed.

Here, I struggle to leave work by six. I get home at 6:30 or 6:45, eat some food, change my clothes, and rush off to fighting class. By the time fighting class is done, it is 9:00, and I have to run whatever errands need to be run, get home, and try to fall asleep by 10:30 or so.

It never works. I can't wind down that fast. And then I don't get enough sleep. And then I start even more tired the next day.

I do not do well on seven hours of sleep, and that's about all I can manage here.

After seven months of this, I'm starting to unravel.

I knew that it would be busier here. I knew that I would work more hours. But I think what I underestimated is how much longer everything else would take. I ride the bus because I can't afford to pay for parking downtown and I want to take care of the environment and the bus is RIGHT THERE, but it means that I can't just leave straight from work and go to fighting. I have to come home first, to get my car, or I have to take the train out to fighting and then not get home until 10 pm.

It was different last time I lived here, because 1. I worked exactly 40 hours a week, 2. I never took work home, mentally or literally, and 3. I didn't try to work out.

I fought with myself, even walking back from the bus tonight. I should go to my class, I told myself. I should. I should.

But instead I gave myself a break. I came home, and I put on some lentils and rice to eat for the rest of the week. I worked on some Spanish homework. I updated my computer. Such little things, but things that I usually don't have time to do in this life I've bought myself.

I'm not sure how long I can do this.

12 October 2013

pustulent pus

Warning: this post is about to get medical and possibly gross.

A couple of weeks ago, the skin around my fingernail swelled up and started exuding pus. I squeezed the pus out with a sense of satisfaction, as one does, and went about my life.

Only, the swelling came back today, and I squeezed out even more pus, with an even greater sense of satisfaction, and then I started wondering if recurring pus in your cuticle is a problem. 

So I googled, of course. Apparently when this type of cuticle swelling is bacterial, which it usually is, it tends to be strep or staph and you need a special kind of antibacterial ointment because Neosporin doesn't tend to work. 


Warm water soaks it is!

11 October 2013


Africa finds me, even here.

I could tell that the guy who sat next to me on the bus was from Africa, and so when he said hello, I took out my headphones.

"DRC or Republic of Congo?" I asked when he mentioned Congo.

"DRC," he said. "The former Zaire."

"Which part?" I asked.

"Lumumbashi," he said, and we both said, at the same time, "In the middle." "In the center, in the south."

"I lived in Rwanda for a couple of years," I told him.

"In Kigali?"

"No, in Kibuye."

"By Goma? In the west?" he asked.

"Yes, on Lake Kivu. Halfway between Goma and Bukavu."

And as so frequently happens, he said, "You are African!"

"Two years can't make me African," I said.

"No, but so few people from here go to Africa that once we give you the stamp, you are African," he said.

I've always wondered about that.

06 October 2013

back (forth)

I took a nap this afternoon. It was lovely.

I would say that it was a nap kind of day, but really it was the beautiful sort of day that should have been spent outside and instead I woke up in Universe City, packed up my stuff, said goodbye to my friends who had lent me their basement room, had tea with a former coworker, drove to Gone West, had a Spanish lesson, went to Trader Joe's, came home, took a nap, made lentils and rice to eat all week, and walked to the bookstore, where I picked out a Spanish verb book, Spanish flashcards, and a new journal before realizing that I'd forgotten my wallet at home and the store was closing right then. So it was more of a sneak-a-nap sort of day than a nap sort of day.

My trip to Universe City was primarily for an event on Friday. A good friend and colleague of mine received a very high honor, and there was no way I was going to miss the ceremony. I talked to hordes of former coworkers and opposing counsel types, and more than once people mentioned that my old job has an opening again and do you think...? 

I thought about it, surrounded by all of these familiar, wonderful people.

I thought about it pushing my friends' baby in a jogging stroller up and down the hills in the neighborhood one over and one down from where I used to live, while they cleaned the house for a kids birthday party, while a former opposing counsel stopped and yelled hi as he drove by.

I thought about it getting chai at my sunny old coffee shop, where a former colleague just happened to be getting coffee and we chatted for half an hour.

But then she left, and I sat alone, and I felt again the break my heart took in Universe City, and I knew that I didn't want to couldn't go back to living amongst all those reminders.

Still, later, drinking tea outside in the warm sunshine with the honoree from the day before, the thought crept back.

Reading book after book to little A. while the football game played in the background, bouncing baby J., eating E.'s delicious glazed drumsticks, sharing a fuzzy blanket with I., the thought came again. 

And drinking Two-Buck Chuck with J. and L. in their familiar kitchen, there it was yet again.

But this morning I knew that it was impossible, even as I hugged one more former colleague. I can't go back to the life of wondering whether I'll ever hear from a certain boy again. I can't go back to being three flights away from my family. I can't go back to one of the worst places on the planet for my allergies. I can't. I won't. I am gone. 

There are some places you can only revisit. You can't go back.