Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Bridge of Khazad-Dum

Generally when I drive home from D.C., I like to take a backroad that lets me drive two hours straight to my house, and has a peach farm halfway. This has less to do with romantic ideals of lovely backroads (though that is an advantage) and more to do with the fact that I really like peaches.

Unfortunately, I missed the exit. I toiled along 95 and then 64 in a sort of meandering sleepy stagger. I had just found my iPod (with 958 songs I did not put on there--likely remnants of hipper kids sharing their hipper music on my computer years ago) but couldn't recognize any of the songs on shuffle. I moaned, I drifted, I wanted a peach so badly I could almost taste the glorious things. When I grabbed some on the way up, Farmer Joe told me, "These was picked from a tree this morning!" while he handed the boxes of peaches off to me, shotgun over shoulder (I wish this was a caricature. He really greeted me with a shotgun). I didn't care how campy it was, it was goddamn good. I ate one while I was driving up, and my whole chin and chest and stomach, as well as the steering wheel and a few spots on the windshield were sticky with peach. It was the juiciest sweetest thing I had ever enjoyed.

So maybe I was sulking a bit. Grumpy, sleepy, and generally unpleasant to be around, I wandered listlessly across the interstates, staring at the TomTom while it clocked down. My iPod played random, unknowable songs left by hip kids, or 80s hits left by a younger, less-hip me. 

But then a new song shuffled onto my iPod, and everything changed.


So you, too, can experience the transformation:

Monday, June 27, 2011


I recently found out I can no longer consume caffeine. I think I overloaded my heart with it, and now it's on strike and spazzes whenever I have so much as a coke. I go all shaky and pant like Fletcher after a wild night on his wheel, and my heart pretends I'm running. Considering my resting heartrate is 135, I guess I can't blame it. So I'm on beta-blockers and off caffeine, and feeling sad.

To make myself feel better, I made a list of tragic realizations I have had in the last 15 years! Some more recent than I'd like to admit.

The list didn't actually make me feel all that better, though. I kept remembering other things that broke my heart-- Ernest Hemingway was actually a chauvenist jerk, I will never sing like Aretha Franklin, my cat doesn't understand Human and won't defend me against a robber (we're close, so I sorta figured), the magnolia tree in my backyard isn't a banana tree like dad told me when I was six-- I can list painful epiphanies all day, and it doesn't make me any closer to that Baja Blast Mountain Dew. 

Baja Blast Haiku

Taco Bell's Baja Blast
Like tasting rain swollen sky
Or God on my tongue. 

Seriously that's how it feels. It kept vigil next to my worn, broken body every night after waitressing. I'd crawl whimpering to my car and slump in the seat all the way to Taco Bell, where it's taste-- liquid joy-- would revitalize me and transform me back into a human. 

I guess a part of growing up is losing these things. I imagine this is probably what my parents feel as their youngest leaves for college (at least they get to visit), or when you move from a loved home. You're moving on, but you are growing as well. Perhaps I will be a better person for overcoming this, albeit sleepier. 

A montage to Baja Blast. So I can say goodbye.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Sexy Men in Literature

While I was enjoying what I thought was a fantastically engaging discussion about the characters of Jane Eyre, a classmate added "it doesn't matter if he's really genuine or not... he's just a book character".

Just a book character, she says. 

So to spite her I made a sexy collage of some of my favorite hunks of literature. From Harry Potter to Lord Byron, I hand-illustrated a collection of the finest men to saunter onto the pages of a book. Designed to fit into the pages of a magazine, a bedspread, or even become your bathroom's wallpaper, this sexy men of literature collaboration will show her that it does matter if he meant it, even if he wasn't real. 

click to enlarge

1. Faramir (Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien)

2.Ged (Earthsea, Ursula K. LeGuin) --Ideal because he is a solitary man that needs someone to break the cool exterior and find the softer man within. Also he knows magic.

3. Crowley (Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett)-- Mingles badass and hapless into one manish thing.

4. T Cake (Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston)

5. Algernon (The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde)--He's a bit silly and quirky with eccentric taste, and has a solid appreciation for food. I could marry him.

6. Rochester (Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte)--though technically described as quite ugly, he's a hot tamali at heart. Maybe he's a bit gruff around the edges, but his gruffness makes him sexy.

7. Septimus (Arcadia, Tom Stoppard)--He makes puns about science. Sold.

8. Mr. Bingley (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen)-- A little sweeter than our stiff Mr. Darcy, with the right balance of charm and cluelessness.

9. High King Peter (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis) OR Le Petit Prince grown up. Still unsure.

10. Don Juan (Don Juan, Lord Byron), freshly shipwrecked and ready for lovin'

11. Remus Lupin (Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling)

12. Sirius Black (Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling)

13. Stephen Hawking, because his science is sexy.

By no means comprehensive, this list includes the first twelve fictional characters I could think of that I had the hots for, plus Stephen Hawking because I'm reading his book and have a crush on it, too.

So if you have a crush on a book character, pipe up! If not as a comment here, then stand up for your hot tamalis when some chick says they "aren't real" or some other bullshit like that. Because there's nothing wrong with eye candy.

Female list coming up, if anyone has suggestions!

If you Follow me I will feel popular and important.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Camping in Teddy Bear Country

When the Cool Couple, Edd and Ashley, asked David and I to go backpacking on the Appalachian trail with them, we knew we needed to be prepared. We made a running schedule to improve our endurance, planned daily push-ups and sit-ups for upper body strength, and called in our faithful outdoors know-how man, Adventure John, to help us plan the trip. In three weeks, we were sure to be the most able backpackers to set foot in bear country.

To cut a long montage short (and to end what would have been a full three weeks of regular exercise), Adventure John sat us down and gave it to us straight.

He did not have much faith in our ability to survive.

Stubborn adventurers that we were, we persisted in our goal. The four of us, young dreamers all, would pack the essentials of life on our backs and pick up and move from scenic outcrop to scenic streamside as the day progressed. At night, we would skillfully prepare camp, probably next to a waterfall, and sleep under the stars. I had bought a machete from Walmart for $6 and David would bring the police baton his mother gave him for Christmas. We were ready for anything.

Somehow he managed to convince us to rent a campsite instead.

Three weeks later we set off to the Shenandoah parkway, armed with lunchables, apples, and hotdogs.
I got the Cool Couple to myself since David drove separately. We discussed relevant things, like what to do in the event of a bear attack (it involves the rope and pocket knife), and how many hotdogs we could go through in a night. Edd fell asleep in the backseat and eventually Ashley and I fell into a meditative silence.

When Edd woke up, he remembered something very important from his childhood in the Bronx.

The song echoing in our heads and dusk fast approaching, we entered the park.

David found us and we did camping things, like set up the tents and cook hotdogs. The cold lurked at our backs like a chilly black army and gathered reinforcements each passing hour. David and I had a plan. He had brought his family’s four-person tent, an arching affair large enough to frolic in, an air mattress, and several sleeping bags. We would pump the air mattress to insulate us from the ground, and then cuddle into one sleeping bag and use body warmth to see us through the night.

We couldn’t wait for bedtime.

At 11, the Cool Couple left for their cozy two-person backpacking tent, airmattressless. Feeling sorry for them, we dove into David’s tent mansion, unwrapped the air mattress from the box, and dug through David’s bags for the pump.

Despite our best searches, we soon realized the pump was nowhere to be found. Likely it sat unused and hankering for an air mattress to pump in his garage. Still, we had the shared sleeping bag to look forward to.
The first few minutes were bliss. We hugged and cuddled and found immense comfort in human body warmth with the freezing cold just outside the bag. But as we got sleepy, the confined space made it impossible to lie flat. As I mentioned earlier, David is about the size of Abraham Lincoln and his hat. I popped in my earplugs and turned on my side, but as I lay the cold gnawed at my skull until I had to duck under the bag. David’s carbon dioxide ate all the oxygen down there, so I scooted back up to breathe.

David said something, I think to admonish my squirming, but the earplugs saved me from having to feel guilty. The warm arms I’d snuggled up to a moment ago became an unforgiving obstacle. I took a gulp of air, put on a hat, and dove back under the covers. The arm I lay on started to grow numb, so inch by inch, sleeping bag like saran wrap against my body, I rolled over. Only now my whole face was exposed to the cold, so I needed to scoot down to warm it up.

Through the night, I had to remind myself people survived in colder. If it still hurts, I thought, I don’t have frostbite yet. Each time one of us sought warmth under the covers, it wedged the other one’s head out. It was like fighting with a malfunctioning heater. Around 4 AM my plan was to wait for dawn and build a fire. Macabre survival tips from Jack London went through my mind. Kill him so you can warm your hands and survive, my primal instinct said. Selflessly, I fought it. And morning found us alive, if resentful.

Their smaller tent had warmed up to their body heat in about five minutes. They greeted us as perky as if they slept in a cottage. We looked more like the grainy substance at the bottom of Edd's pseudo-percolated coffee.

After breakfast (deep fried hotdog slices and eggs), we decided to hike Waterfall Mountain (actual name replaced by one I can remember). A beautiful, winding hike that follows a stream through seven glorious waterfalls.

We set out with our hearts full, whistles around our necks like Adventure John suggested, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in our pack. 

We had failed to realize that 3 miles downmountain was not the same as 3 miles upmountain. By the end of the hike, my legs transformed into wooden sticks ending in nubs. We shuffled to the car and slumped inside. I could smell my own stench as vividly as I could smell everyone else’s. We were rank. David rolled the car windows down, so we left a noxious trail that probably stunned wildlife for miles.

We ate at the Mountain Diner near our camp so we could sit instead of having to do strenuous things, like walking back and forth from the fireside to the table.

After lunch, we visited the Mountain Museum. David called his job while we were in a service zone, and I joined the Cool Couple in educational videos. One, about the majestic black bear, caught our eye.

We left, traumatized by education. David hadn't seen the video, so our unprecedented paranoia of sudden sounds and shuffling footsteps did not affect him. 

Deep fried hot dogs and kielbasa later, we piled into our tents. Edd and Ashley had spotted a skunk sniffing around the bear locker earlier, so we carefully removed everything from toothpaste to chips from our tents. Then we lay the limp rubber airmattress over our feet. In a separate sleeping bag this time, David drifted off as smoothly as the Cool Couple did, unphased by educational horror movies. I stayed awake, listening. A song tickled the corners of my brain, and played over and over in my head as the wild started infiltrating our camp.

I heard scuffling outside our tent, and sillhouttes of deer against the moonlight walked past. Something munched not a foot from my ear, low to the ground. I lay rigid. I heard human footsteps, regular, cross the dead leaves near our tent. I woke David. He grabbed the police baton and I clung to my Walmart machete. We breathed short, quiet breaths, listening until our ears rang. The human footsteps crossed back and forth as a late night camper carried supplies from his car. A baby started wailing, a thin warble too similar to the creepy Voldemort baby for my comfort. I imagined the Voldemort baby made the footsteps fluttering past the cloth walls. Cloven feet passed on either side of us, and a bear locker clanged in the distance.

 The next morning dawned as terribly bright as the first. And the Cool Couple slept without fear of wildlife.

I managed to exaggerate a good portion of this, and tweaked some incidents to protect privacy. But I believe in freedom of speech, and I feel I shouldn't have to hide my experiences. So I have included an illustration of what actually happened while camping.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Old Cats

My cat Tigger, who I got as a kitten for my 4th birthday (hence the name), is sort of like a frail 98 year old who is upset because no one talks to her anymore, so she makes a lot of noise and occasionally drools. Since she’s gotten old it’s harder for her to nuzzle her scent onto other things, so it kind of drools out whenever she’s getting pet. Since she is too old and lazy to rub her scent onto inanimate objects, she follows us around the house and mows at us in a voice that sounds like Samuel L. Jackson is trying to be a kitty.

Her favorite time for this is when we are in the middle of emotional conversations, or yelling at one another. She seems to think that loud vocalizations = someone wants to be pet, and she sees a mutually beneficial exchange and adds her voice to the carnage.

Tigger also refuses to bed without being tucked in. She will nap all day, but come 9 PM she wanders downstairs and yowls until someone goes to pick her up and calm her down. Once someone (me) reaches down to pick her up, she’ll dart a few steps towards the stairs. This proceeds until someone (me) gives in and follows her to bed. She moves at the pace of a wounded tortoise, but if I try to pick her up she goes rigor-mortis-claws-extended on me.

Once we get to bed, the real battle begins. Everyone in my family is allergic to her, so naturally she prefers to sleep on the pillow. This may have something to do with the fact that she was my pillow for the first eight years of her life. Though she struggled then, now asking her to move is like telling an old general his service was a failure. She sulks, then plans a counter-attack. So when I help her onto the bed, I pet her until a small nest of fur surrounds the foot of the bed and she falls asleep. Then gently, softly, I move to the head of my bed and read. 

Two chapters later, I turn off the light, roll over—and find myself eye to eye with Tigger.

I just want to clarify, this is physically impossible. I believe a combination of fierce determination and wisdom have enabled Tigger’s tiny old cat body to teleport, because otherwise I am certain I would notice a mammal sitting on my arm.

So I dump her at the foot of my bed again and prod her away with my feet whenever she tries to sneak up. This continues until either she is too exhausted to keep up the assault, or I get too tired and hide under my covers. Either way, at roughly three AM, I feel warm dampness on my cheek accompanied by a congested purr. My eyes and throat itch, and I wake up to Tigger drooling over me like I’m a dead mole.

Then she starts meowing to be pet, or fed, or picked up so she can claw me, or maybe mowing so I’ll keep still and quiet so she can continue drooling over my prone body.