Several months ago I went on a weekend camping trip with a grundle of people, some friends, most strangers. I had a good time, made some new friends, blah blah blah. Anne* started to grind on my nerves after about 3 minutes, she was loud and boisterous and inserted herself into every possible conversation, every possible interaction, and I quickly lost count at how many times she manipulated a situation or a conversation to her benefit, to make her the star, or to try and impress or snag the attention of some new guy. It was pathetic. And irritating.
At one point a large-ish group of us were gathering to go on a water-related activity. Like usual, I made sure to cover my delicate bits and slather up with some more sunscreen. Someone asked if they could borrow a bit for their face, I agreed but half-jokingly warned of the astronomically high SPF. Anne immediately started laughing and said in a voice about 18 octaves higher than normal and with most statements ending, inappropriately, in a question, “Like, no wonder you have, like, blindingly white legs? With SPF like that you’ll always, like, look like the underside of a beached whale!?!” *Cue irritatingly obnoxious cacklelaugh. I politely smiled/grimmaced, made some comment about not minding my albino roots, and continued to apply sunscreen. But Anne didn’t stop there, she started in on my rash guard/surf shirt being frumpy and “like, you’re probably, like, not even a surfer? Like, I lived in Hawaii? And, like, I know how surfers dress? And that’s not it.” I looked at her, hand on her hip, giant sunglasses covering her whole face, unnaturally freckled, leathery skin under her teensy little polka-dot bikini and–with the hope of diffusing the situation–simply said “I had skin cancer a couple of years ago, so I just have to be really careful.” Her response still baffles me. She just scoffed and said–not to me, but to the group of people around us who were uncomfortably but silently shifting their weight from one foot to another–”Well, I, like, had skin cancer too? But, like, I still think blinding white legs are, like, super ugly? And, like, tan is the only way to go. Like.” She raised one overly-plucked eye brow at me–my hand still full of a pool of sunscreen–tossed her hair and flounced off towards a shirtless boy who had no idea he was about to be accosted by flippant, fake-baked stupidity. It’s too bad, too, because if she’d been within slapping distance for about one more nanosecond I would have smacked her 14 different ways with a palm full of sunscreen leaving a very satisfying hand-slap pattern of SPF 85 that would have shown up the next day as her tan deepened to a more orangey orange.
May I please point out that the time of this encounter was this past summer and not in junior high or some teenage, made-for-TV drama. This level of immaturity and girl-on-girl hating was totally inappropriate and flat out ridiculous. However, my girl-on-girl fight was quietly imagined and resolved in my head while hers was barked out with an atrocious overuse of the word “like”, appalling grammar, and punctured with an ear splitting cacklelaugh in front of a dozen peers. Different? Yes. Is my reaction more adult? Yes, don’t pretend like you don’t also do the in-your-head bitch-slap when faced with idiotic bimbos.
There is a woman I regularly interact with in a semi-professional capacity, Sabrina* and I used to be friends, in addition to actual “work stuff” we talked about shoes and clothes and chocolate, we shared jokes and emailed funny links back and forth. It all seemed very normal, even on the friendly side of normal. Then, a few months ago, something happened that changed that completely. I wish I knew what it was, I’ve wracked my brain and even queried the Office Gossip Train for information, but there is nothing. Sabrina no longer speaks to me. The friendly emails have stopped. She won’t exchange elementary niceties like “hello” or even look at me when she walks by. I have had friendlier interactions with a lamp post. The last two or three times I have had the misfortune to be stuck in her same vicinity she has ignored me, snubbed me, openly mocked me, and/or said hurtfully sarcastic and bitchy things half-way under her breath, quiet enough to not cause a scene, but loud enough for me and a handful of others to hear. I haven’t responded, I’ve mostly just ignored her bitchiness because I still have to work with this person on a professional level and to date have kept my cool at previous companies with jackass bosses, inane co-workers, and harassing jerkwads. I can keep my cool with her.
I wish the story ended there, but it goes just a touch deeper. There are several individuals who I used to consider friends, or at least non-hostile acquaintances, who have stood by listening and watching these caustic scenes unfold and don’t say a thing to stop this baffling, bullying behavior. For reasons that I absolutely cannot understand, they just think this Sabrina person is the funniest, most interesting girl on the planet and the life of any social engagement. Because tearing people down to make yourself look better is freaking hysterical. It reminds me far too much of the minions of the high school Queen Bully-Bee who stand by and allow Her Highness to torment someone else because at least it isn’t them. After months of this behavior, both from Sabrina and my other professional peers, I have lost all respect for the minions. Clearly, I need new professional friends.
I can usually write off bitchy behavior as someone who is just having a bad day or a bad decade, and I can let the stinging comments slide off without allowing the barbs to snag under my skin. I can usually re-categorize a Meanie as someone with low self-esteem who is unable to deal with normal life situations in any kind of healthy way. They probably weren’t hugged enough as a child, or their puppy preferred a chew toy instead of them, or maybe their first boyfriend was a overly pierced, unwashed sleaze ball, or perhaps they just mistakenly take Bitch pills every morning instead of vitamins. They’re just people too, right? Do bullies and bitches deserve sympathy and compassion? Yes, they do. I am (hypothetically) willing to give Anne another chance to see if at her core, this girl is a bitch or just someone who is appallingly incapable of dealing with her insecurities in any kind of normal, healthy way. But, to be honest, I don’t predict I will find an opening in my schedule to willingly put myself in close enough contact with either woman just to test this theory. When someone mocks me, publicly humiliates me, or otherwise bullies me or anyone else for no good reason my claws come out and don’t retract. When someone puts another person down to try and make themselves feel better, or bigger, or more accepted they earn a one-way ticket to the bastard/bitch/bully category (BBB) in my book; it takes a hell of a lot of voluntarily being an overly nice person to get out of that category. You’ve pretty much got to morph into the benevolent love child of Ghandi and Mother Theresa.
Recently, through the wonders of social media, I discovered that Anne has consumed an astonishing number of cupcakes and cheeseburgers since she flounced away from me in that polka-dot bikini. And apparently her teenybopper friends have no sense of edit or restraint when posting photo evidence all over the Interwebs of a beachy weekend where Anne sported that very same itsy-bitsy, teeny-weenie, bulging polka-dot bikini, now with more cupcakes! Yes, it made me feel better because I am not above pithy vindication.
The moral of this story is that, under certain circumstances, yes, I can (and probably will) hold a tremendous grudge. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Do not burn my books, or steal my shoes. Don’t lie to me and don’t hurt me on purpose and we’ll be just fine. Just to be clear, bullying me–or anyone else–falls into the “hurting people on purpose” category and you will quickly find yourself on the blacklist reserved for bastards, bitches, and bullies (BBB).
* “Anne” is a fake-out name and the above story have been scrubbed of identifying information. I’m snarky and can hold a grudge, but I’m not vying for my own listing on the BBB.
**Yes, this post has also been scrubbed of one more example of bullying and general bitchiness. I don’t want to get into the details of how or why or what-have-you.
Last week I finalized my fall school schedule, checked and double checked all my requirements, and applied for graduation for December 2011 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Economics.
And then I broke down crying.
This has been such a long road for me, with potholes and detours and roundabouts and a hundred other annoying obstacles that could be added to the “life as a road” metaphor. I started attending classes at the University in January 2002; even if you aren’t a math major it isn’t difficult to surmise that it has taken me ten years to earn a bachelor’s degree. In that time I have also acquired some excellent work experience, an impressive resume and the ever-elusive Life Degree, in a few months I’ll have the paperwork to back it up.
Rewind to 2004: It was a few months after I got married I was really struggling with school. It wasn’t too hard, I just wasn’t interested in any of my classes, topics, teachers, nothing. I had always loved school, loved learning, and was on the fast track to a earning a 3-year bachelor’s degree. And I hit a wall. Looking back, this probably had something (read: a lot) to do with my tumultuous marriage and home life, but at the time I didn’t link the two. My X and I talked about it for several days and mutually decided that we were going to make some changes in our situation. At the time we were both working part-time and going to school full-time, I decided to find a full-time job to cover our expenses and he would quit working entirely, take on an extra class or two, and finish his degree in the next two semesters. At that point, he would be the bread-winner and I would go back to school with–hypothetically–a renewed energy and a better idea of what I wanted to study. (The long term details of this plan also included both of us earning Master’s degrees.)
I started interviewing and within a few weeks I had landed a fantastic sales position at my same company and started earning far more money on my own than we had both been making prior to our new arrangement. I continued working, enjoying the office setting and the commission checks and my new co-workers. My X? Well, he didn’t do so great at keeping up his end of the bargain, none of which I found out until after I had moved into my own apartment and filed for divorce. Turns out, X was on his last semester of academic probation. He was kicked out of the University a few weeks later but failed to mention it FOR ANOTHER TWO SEMESTERS! He continued to tell me about his classes, homework, tests, fellow students, and there were piles of papers all over the coffee table scribbled with calculus and physics equations. I continued to fund his “required” textbooks and encouraged him to go out to lunch with his friends and buy himself whatever he needed as he worked hard to graduate. I had no idea he wasn’t actually a student.
This little charade went on for two full semesters before–for completely unrelated reasons–I moved out and moved on. And THEN I found out the truth of his situation, and I was no longer upset, I was livid. The money I had given him–thousands of dollars–that went straight to Cheetos and porn instead of textbooks and late-night study-session snack runs made me sick to my stomach, but the idea that he had lied to me for so long really just pissed me off. I hated him for encouraging me to drop out of school with the idea that it would be a good move for “us” when he knew full well that he wasn’t going to be graduating anytime soon. I hated myself for letting him talk me into it, and for not noticing, and for not checking with the University, or even asking to see his report card. He was my husband, I was supposed to trust him. Ha! Lesson learned. (Also, I’ve been through a lot of therapy since this incident and no longer
know think that all men are lying, abusive, manipulative jerks. Lesson (re)learned.)
At any rate, I was still working full-time, earning plenty of money to support my newly single self, so I started taking night classes to finish up my degree. At the time I had no idea just how long that would take. I haven’t attended every semester, I’ve taken breaks here and there, but I kept at it.
And now here I am, six years later, and I have finally applied for graduation. I will graduate with the exact number of credits required to earn my degree. Exactly. I haven’t switched majors, although last year I dropped my Political Science double major and Mandarin Chinese minor to eliminate a few extra semesters. (Dropping the minor also meant switching from a Bachelor of Arts to a Bachelor of Science, which I am a-okay with. Frankly, with a degree like Econ a BS seems to make a bit more sense than a BA.)
I am so very excited to finally be on the home stretch, one more semester and I will have that embossed piece of paper that represents years of struggle and heartache and frustration and analyzing and accomplishment. Dah, I can hardly wait!
Filed under: All about me
It’s August. (I realize this is not news, but sometimes I have to repeat big announcements to myself several times before I actually believe them.)
I don’t know how on earth summer is coming to an end. I am already starting to get emails from my professors for Fall semester, which, by the way, will be my LAST SEMESTER EVER OF COLLEGE!!!!
Nope, not excited about that at all.
At any rate, my summer has been full of travels and adventures, some have been documented here already. (Hi, it’s a link fest, feel free to skip this part, I pinky-promise it won’t hurt my feelings.) I’ve been hiking in Arches National Park, gone on a Arizona-Nevada-Utah Motorcycle Trip, road tripped across Southwest Montana, experienced Yellowstone National Park, explored White Pine County, Nevada, gopne on day trips to the Bonneville Salt Flats and the Spiral Jetty, and visited Portland for the very first time.
(This is where you paragraph skippers can stop with the FF button.)
But sandwiched inbetween those travel adventures has been the rest of my summer, with days and nights full of friends and laughter.
I made my yearly trip to the rodeo.
There’s just something about rodeo’s that I absolutely love. I’m not going to start wearing Wranglers and fake, Rodeo Queen hair anytime soon, but watching cowboys try and take on a bucking stallion, or, even scarier, a pissed-off bucking bull? Awesome.
Add a couple cups of delicious strawberries and sweet cream (this particular rodeo’s specialty) and a handful of hilarious friends and you’ve got yourself one fantastic Friday night. (Flickr set here) (I was surprised at how well my little pocket point-and-shoot camera did in the deepening dusk.
(And this is where my photographic evidence of said summery activities ends. Don’t worry, I am generally fairly decent at describing events without having to resort to photos or Microsoft Paint, although don’t put it past me to do both of those things, sometimes even together.)
I went to my 4-year old niece’s dance concert which was perhaps the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. I’ve also spent a lot of time hanging out with my nieces and nephews, some of the most hilarious kids on the planet.
A few weeks ago I went to lunch with my two brothers, who are rarely in the same state at the same time. There’s just something about laughing and joking with brothers, mine are both older and about a foot taller. I donned 5″ heels for the occasion and we made a very impressive, towering trio.
I have caught up completely on the last four seasons of NCIS. (Don’t judge, I have a thing for Gibbs. And also McGee. And maybe Ziva a little bit. What? She’s kickass!)
I went to a baseball game. And I very nearly stayed for all 9 innings. It was fun to sit on the grass past the outfield, have a hot dog and catch up with a friend.
I’ve been learning a lot about my SLR camera, and taking a lot of pictures, and deleting most of them, and taking some more. I am in no means a “real photographer”, but it has been a really fun hobby the last few months. This fall I’m taking a few more classes from a local camera shop to learn more about the settings on my camera and I am ridiculously excited. I even bought a new notebook just for the occasion.
I have settled down a little. And I’m not talking about donning an apron and baking cookies three times a week, because when you live in an apartment without air conditioning baking cookies turns the kitchen into a sweltering hell hole. So, no, I have not been cooking or experimenting with recipes this summer. Ask me again in October when it finally cools down, okay?
A friend of mine posted this the other day and I really love it, it seems to perfectly describe the last year-and-change of my life. “I might not be someone’s first choice, but I am a great choice. I don’t pretend to be someone I’m not, because I’m good at being me. I might not be proud of some of the things I’ve done in the past, but I’m proud of who I am today. I may not be perfect…but I don’t need to be. Take me as I am, or watch me as I walk away.”
I have started to settle myself internally, I am no longer walking away. I feel like I’m standing still, not in a “lack of progression” kind of way, but in a “I am content” way. For some people this happens with meditation or yoga or some other qi-correcting exercise. For me it comes with being able to just be myself, all the time. To not have to worry that “myself” isn’t good enough, or smart enough, or witty enough, or pretty enough, or submissive enough, or successful enough. I don’t have to stress about saying the right things to the right people. I have been working on projects that are only enjoyable to me and mostly garner raised eyebrows or rolled eyeballs from my peers. And I don’t care. I feel like I am truly comfortable in my own skin. Hell, I have even openly admitted to sometimes slipping into the voice of Sid the Sloth from Ice Age for no obvious reason. I’m happy.
The Fine Print: School and the busy season at work will both start in a couple of weeks and I am sure my life will go topsy-turvy again, but hey, a few months of contentment is the best way to survive the upcoming months of crazy, right? (Please agree with me here, I’ve been purposely “filling me canteen” with a fantastic, relaxy summer to combat the pending Fall of Homework and Projects and CrAzY!!1!)
Tonight I am going to my 10 year high school reunion. I am not particularly nostalgic about my time in high school and I’m not bitter about it either. I’m over it. Looking back the years from 1998-2001 were not particularly awesome, in fact, they kind of sucked, but not because of the “High school dramaz! I has them!” part. In most ways I emerged from the halls of ACRONYMHS* relatively unscathed (*obviously, not it’s real name) and it was the rest of my life that left the scars.
But, enough of that. No one really wants to hear about high school era woes. It’s old hat, the stuff of bad first screenplays and teenage soap-dramas.
Let’s get on to something a little less blah, okay?
The people that I graduated with have accomplished some amazingly awesome things. We were a very talented class with smarts and chutzpah and awesomeosity leaking out at every turn. Seriously, to be included in the “Top 30 Scholars” you had to have a weighted 5.0, (unweighted, 4.0) and you probably had to have taken at least 8 A.P. classes. One boy earned a perfect score on the ACT test. A perfect score.
And now for their accomplishments, en mass and in no particular order:
- Country musician Susie Brown of The JaneDear Girls who not only performed at this year’s CMT Awards but were also were nominated for ACM’s Vocal Duo of the Year and Top New Vocal Duo of the Year, hanging out among other nominees like Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood and The Zac Brown Band. Yeah, I knew her “when”…like, when she was in Kindergarten through ACRONYMHS.
- My long-time friend, Kiersten White, a New York Times best selling author of Paranormalcy and the newly released (and awesome!) Supernaturally which hit the NYT Best Seller list this week as well! (Also, she’s my date. Squee!)
- My BFF Josh is a ridiculously successful theater teacher and recently some really important people have been confirmed singing his praises. People like Fred Adams, founder of the Tony Award Winning Utah Shakespeare Festival and Michael Barr, Education Director of the Festival. In his field, compliments from these two are the equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize winning author telling you they really appreciate the writing on your blog and the affect it can invoke on humanity. Big. Freaking. Deal.
- Musician Benton Paul and Cambodian documentarist Trevor Wright. (Is that how you say “he made an amazing documentary about Cambodia?” Not sure, but that’s what he did. Check it out.)
- Sam Burgess, hot-shot basketball player and Chris Fogt, Olympic bobsledder.
- (Sidenote: People I graduated with who have Wikipedia pages? Intimidating. And Awesome.)
- My amazing friend Peter who is currently performing on Broadway. Not Off-Broadway, or Off-Off Broadway, but the Great White Way of Broadway proper. And after less than 6 weeks auditioning in New York City. I burst with pride a little for him.
- Annie Thurman-Young was competing the the U.S. Women’s Open Golf Tournament by the time she was 20 and is currently the head golf coach at OSU.
- RG and NW are both working in acronymed federal agencies, ones that, according to my friends in DC are uber-exclusive and with incredibly difficult, intensive interview processes. Basically, these two are the cream of the proverbial federal crop. (Not really interested in outing either of them here, hence the initials.) (Also, if they had Wikipedia pages they would probably be classified.) (So there.)
- Blog sensation Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing graduated a few years before I did, and I have heard an unconfirmed rumor that Tiffany/Amber/Megan/Nicole from the no-longer-updated but still wickedly-satirical Seriously, So Blessed also went to ACRONYMHS.
Additionally, besides this handful of wildly successful and public classmates, there are dozens and probably even a couple of hundred other classmates who have gone on to earn masters and doctorate degrees. They have volunteered around the world and started companies. They are in the armed forces, they are teachers and lawyers and counselors and doctors. They are political campaigners, engineers, researchers and on the police force. They are writers, and artists, and musicians. They are professional, contributing members of society. They are wonderful husband’s and wives, Mom’s and Dad’s, caring friends and dedicated adults.
Will you please give a warm round of applause to the Class of 2001!
Note: this list also has some folks who attended my high school at the same time I did, but may not be part of the Class of 2001. I am no discriminator of achievements by those in the Class of 2000 or 2002 that I have gleaned by stalking the Interwebs-slash-Facebook.
Filed under: Rant-tastic
I had a completely different blog post planned for today; it was written, edited, spell checked, formatted and scheduled to post.
And then something happened that has left me in complete and utter disbelief and, at last internal reading, my blood near boiling.
I am subscribed to a Facebook group where a couple of hundred like-minded people in the same area post things like free concerts, art shows, parties, available rooming options, job listings, etc. I usually ignore most of the content there, but yesterday a “job posting” caught my eye. I’ll just let you read it and then we’ll continue this conversation, okay? Click to enlarge. (Note: I’ve grayed-out as much identifying information as possible to protect the guilty.)
Your reaction here: __________________________________________________________________
Let me recap, this is a job posting for single, male, domestic help to serve meals and clean up at a sorority. The hours are crap, the pay is barely minimum wage, and the employees must agree to be referred to as “house boys.” (Is their uniform a Speedo? Or perhaps a shirtless, cowboy tuxedo like Thunder from Down Under? Neither would surprise me, frankly.) To keep their manliness intact, the employer has thrown in a caveat about being able to earn some extra cash by shoveling sidewalks in the winter. What the hell!? If this advertisement was reversed, and it was a fraternity who had published a job opening for single, female, underpaid “house girls” to help make meals, clean up and “serve” the Brothers you can bet your ass people would be pitching a fit. But in the listing above Ms. A. not only doesn’t realize the ridiculous and heinous nature of her post, THEN SHE SAYS “I think the girls just like having men serve them.”
This is where my jaw hit the desk and I came thisclose to poking my left eyeball out with a bendy straw. Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.
Look, I’m all for equality for women, I support equal pay and equal rights and feminism and girl power and everything that goes along with those issues. But in no possible way does that mean that women are allowed to turn around and degrade men. You don’t get to punish them for their father’s and grandfather’s and great-to-the-infinity-great-grandfather’s oppression, and you don’t get “to get even.” IT’S NOT OKAY! Is this really what that job posting is about? PROBABLY NOT! Is this just some dumb, 22-year-old with access to the internet–and no discernible filter–who wants a cabana boy in her sorority house? CLEARLY, YES! Is it mind boggling anyway? HELL TO THE YES!! AM I DONE RANTING ABOUT IT?!? NO!! (I’ll stop shouting, I can rant at normal decibel levels and in lower case letters.)
Listen, I am sick to death of commercials and advertisements aimed at women that portray this bumbling, stupid, idiotic husband/father who can’t complete even the simplest tasks like washing windows or wiping up a spill without his soccer-chic wife rolling her eyes at him. This isn’t okay. I used to work in advertising and I realize I probably pay more attention to subliminal messaging in ads than the average person, but isn’t that the point? As an educated adult shouldn’t you be able to pick out the manipulation of your emotions and purchasing power, even if it’s shiny and glossy and airbrushed? The subliminal stuff is what urges you to make decisions to buy one, particular product or service, and it rarely has anything to do with the actual product or service being advertised.
You’ve head the saying “Sex Sells,” right? Of course you have, you’ve seen thousands of sexy ads for tires and lotion and shoes and hamburgers. But do you also realize that sex isn’t the only thing that sells? There are dozens of other subliminal messages carefully tucked into commercials and bill boards and magazine ads that speak to your subconscious and (usually) encourage you to spend your money on something specific and thus give the company revenue and profit. In the last several years, a lot of that subliminal advertising has been some variation of “Men are the stupidest creatures on the planet and can hardly accomplish basic tasks like changing their socks or watching the dog, or helping with homework or figuring out that Yoplait yogurt now has low-fat flavors called “Boston Cream Pie” and “Chocolate Pudding” and that he can lose weight TOO if he eats those instead of steak and beer and nacho’s. We women, we are smart and noble and homogeneously dressed, and we must deign to live with these Neanderthals and so we are allowed to manipulate them into submission.” This? This is not okay! NOT OKAY! If the message was “Women are the stupidest creatures on the planet and can hardly accomplish basic tasks…and as men we are allowed to manipulate them into submission” would you laugh? Would you giggle? Would you go out and buy the socks or the yogurt or the electronic gadget or the cleaning product? No. You wouldn’t. You would be offended. If you made no other protest to that advertisement other than not buying the offending product you would have stated your case; companies hearts are in their coffers and not buying from them hurts their feelings. So why is it somehow different when men are the ones being targeted? Do you support that kind of advertising? That kind of mentality? Do you laugh at that kind of discrimination and degradation? Where do you draw the line? DO you draw a line? Because, frankly, at the rate we are going I wouldn’t be surprised if Geico’s next slogan is “So Easy A Man Can Do It!”
The whole thing makes me all ranty inside and flabbergasted by the women (and men) who think it’s perfectly okay to further this kind of degradation. I am vehemently against the degrading of women, but I am just as against degrading men. One should not be reduced to the status of “underpaid houseboy” due to their gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation, or whatever else happens to be in question. It’s called respect. R-E-S-P-E-C-T, (thanks Aretha). You give respect to others, you get it in return; you don’t stand by when others refuse to respect, and you stand up for those who need it. Riddle me this, if you want or need something from a someone (man, woman, child, boss, employee, dog), do you get it by telling them they are stupid and sluggish and ridiculously slow-minded and absolutely incapable of evolved thought? No. You don’t. So stop telling the men in your life that they are worthless and tell them they are awesome. You want equality? Treat men–and racial minorities, and religious people, and gay people, and dogs–the way you would want to be treated. I think Confucius said that first; Westerners refer to it as The Golden Rule. (It totally wasn’t Confucius, but I’m gonna attribute it to him anyway.)
You don’t want equality? Well, I know of a place that is hiring, and you get FREE mealz!!1!!
Last week I experienced first hand one of the awesome things about People On The Internet. See, my friend Mona had a link as her gchat status for Piano Across America, the website of 24-year old Dotan Negrin. Mona heard about him from a local news program while she was in Montana last week. Dotan has spent the last 4 months dragging an upright piano around the country, playing on street corners and at national landmarks with his adorable dog Brando. So far Dotan has traveled from New York south down the East coast, from Florida to California, up to Seattle and is now on his way south and east, back home to New York.
I clicked around his site for a while, watching a few of the videos and admiring his musical talent.
I liked his page on Facebook and an hour or two later I went to lunch.
As I was walking out of my building I heard piano music, good piano music.
Yep, Mr. Piano Across America himself, right there on my street. I sat and listened for a while, walked down the block, got my lunch to go and came back and listened to Dotan for the next 45 minutes. I gave bits of bread to his dog and asked him about his travels. I love what he’s doing, he doesn’t have sponsors or expert marketers. He’s just a guy in love with music who wants to share it.
Go on, check out his website. Like him on Facebook. And if you happen to see a guy playing a map-wearing piano, stop and listen. Say hi to Dotan, pet Brando, and let him in on the coolest places you can think of for him to play. I am hoping he takes a little detour back west to play on the Salt Flats, but then again, I’m particularly biased about the flats.
**I don’t usually post twice per day, but this amazing coincidence needed to be shared immediately. The Internet? It’s awesome.
I’m sure by now you have heard that it is Shark Week, right? The Discovery channel is airing dozens of slots of shark-related programming, and I have found myself DVR-ing episodes that go into great detail about shark sightings, shark attacks, and all other subjects in which sharks and people do not mix. I cannot NOT watch this stuff! Am I afraid of sharks? Yes, yes I am. The thought of them gives me an uncomfortable tightness in my stomach. Seeing footage of gaping mouths of teeth–even though they are safely contained in my TV–makes me shudder. I have nightmares about being chased by a shark, or having one use me as a chew toy. That Bruce character in Finding Nemo freaked me right out. I have never seen Jaws and I think it is safe to say that I never will. I have to look away when they show the “scary” or “gruesome” parts during Shark Week. On public television. Aimed at educating children. “Scary” to me basically means anything where teeth or jaws or blood is involved, which means I spend most of any given program with my face buried in my hands. Four year olds see more of Shark Week than I do. Have I ever met a shark? No. Have I even seen one in the flesh? Um, no. Not really. Baby-sized ones that are sometimes kept in an aquarium, yes, but never a “real” shark, the kind that could chew your arm off. Does this make my fear of sharks slightly irrational? Uh, yes, probably. I live in a landlocked, desert state; the chances of me coming face-to-face with a hungry Great White Shark are minimal/non-existent. I am SCUBA certified, but I have never gone diving in the ocean. In fact, when hanging out on an ocean beach I rarely get in the water at all. I don’t really care for salt water in my eyeballs/on my face, and the chance of coming into close quarters with a) clingy seaweed, b) stingy sea creatures, or c) sharks, is more of a risk than I am willing to take. I’d much rather hang out on the beach with my nose in a book, carefully tucked up under an umbrella with a sundress covering me shoulders-to-my-knees and the rest of my body completely slathered in SPF 85. Sexy, no?
Ha! No. Not really. Well, not in the way that any advertisement, fashion or beauty magazine published in the last 80 years would lead you to believe.
The thing is, do you want to know what scares me more than sharks? (And bobble-head dolls, but that is another post entirely.)
My sensitive dermis baking under sweet, sweet, sunshine.
Like many children, I had white-blonde hair as a kid. Unlike most of those children, when I grew up my natural hair color never really darkened and still hovers in the distinctly “platinum” part of the color wheel. My skin is a fair, creamy white and mostly freckle-free. My foundation color is “parchment” for heaven’s sake. I’m a pale person. And unlike many people who share my coloring, I don’t make any efforts to darken my pasty-white skin. I have never been inside a tanning bed. I have never “laid out” or gone sunbathing. I am terrified of the idea of getting “that healthy glow” or even “a little color.” I don’t know if I can properly convey the fear I associate with my own skin being a “healthy”, “sexy” bronze shade, or, frankly, a shade that can be described by any color not resembling printer-paper.
You probably think I am overreacting. I’m not. I’m not being irrational, or even overly fearsome. Allow me to explain:
About 25 years ago the University of Utah–a premier research institution, particularly in genetics–did a massive study to see if there was any genetic linking to skin cancer. (The short version: there is.) For several years they studied hundreds of families, choosing ones who had multiple cases of melanoma. My mom’s family was chosen. My dad’s family was chosen. As a result, all of us kids were tested; I was 3 but I still remember that day. My oldest brother was 13 at the time and the researchers were shocked–SHOCKED–to discover a chunk of skin cancer on his shoulder. He was the youngest person to ever be diagnosed with skin cancer; it was such a big deal that it made the cover of the Wall Street Journal, and his case was the subject of professional medical conference keynote addresses for years. THE COVER OF THE WALL STREET JOURNAL!! It
was is a Big. Freaking. Deal. Yes, this was twenty-five years ago and in the years since there have been more cases of skin cancer discovered in younger children (a trend that is disturbing enough on it’s own), but please understand that this very real, tangible fear of inherited skin cancer has been ingrained in me–and for good reason–for the last two and a half decades. I am a carrier of the melanoma gene. I inherited it from both my mother and father. While I have always had regular check-ups with my dermatologist, have gone back to the University of Utah for follow-up studies, and I have been vigilant in sunscreen application; I am still scared.
Ten years ago I had two moles taken off my head in a routine check-up, one came back positive for melanoma. I was 19. I hadn’t had a sunburn or even a tan line in at least six years. But there it was. Cancer. On my face. Can you imagine your 19-year-old self? Now imagine her going to the doctor by herself to be scrutinized head to toe and everywhere in-between for questionable moles. Imagine the doctor carefully cutting off a few tiny bits of her face because they looked “a little suspicious.” Now imagine 3 days later–Dec. 23 2002 at 4:30 pm, to be exact–when the doctor calls her to tell her that the moles were malignant and cancerous and “I am having my office staff come in from holiday on Dec. 26, first thing in the morning to cut out some more of your face. We need to make sure we get it all.” Imagine that 19 year old girl sobbing into the phone, thinking she is far too young to have to deal with this kind of news. (I still get choked up when I think about that phone call. The fear was palpable then, and even now it makes me breathe faster and my chest become tight.) I am lucky, my dermatologist caught my case really early and was able to cut out the offending pieces of my face, his plastic surgery skillz left only one small scar near my hairline that is hard to see, even if I point it out. I didn’t have to go through chemo or radiation or spend months of my life in a hospital. Yes, I am lucky; or more accurately, I had been vigilant my entire life, luck really had nothing to do with it. Even so, it was still far too close a call for me to be willy-nilly with the sunbathing and beach time. Like, ever.
I wear sunscreen every single day, even if all I’m doing is walking from my house to my car to go to work. SPF 30. Every day. No matter what. (Except that one time I forgot, I am still kicking myself for that. In fact, just thinking about it gave me a knot in my stomach.) Outdoorsy activities will have me bump up the SPF to 45 or 65, with 85 on my face and shoulders. (I don’t want to hear any arguments about how “oh, anything after SPF 30 doesn’t make a bit of difference.” I. Don’t. Care.) (And who made you an expert on hereditary melanoma anyway? I’d like to see your degree and credentials.) (Also, to all former boyfriends–you know who you are–who cruelly and publicly mocked my beach wear, with full knowledge of my genetic misfortune and medical history, I hope you get testicular cancer and have to go through life as a One-Balled Wonder.) (And to the irritatingly, insipid women who make fun of my summer sleeves and long skirts–especially those claiming to have also had skin cancer but not caring about getting sunburned–you are ridiculously stupid, shallow and naive. And douchebags. Sadly for you, getting a tan won’t eliminate any of those qualities. *smirk* I hope you have gross, permanent sun spots on your face and hands by the time you’re 30.) (/rant.) (Man, it feels good to finally get all that off my chest!) (/parentheticals.)
I have been told by my doctors–ones who are experts on my skin, genetic skin cancer, and my family history–that even if I live in a cave for the rest of my life with absolutely no sun exposure whatsoever and develop those creepy, beady-white, cave-dwelling-eyes, I will still contract melanoma again by the time I’m 40. Cancer. Again. Sometime in the next 10-15 years. No matter what. On the upside, my team of dermatological experts tell me that my lack of tanning will make me have fewer wrinkles and clearer, smoother skin as I get older. So I suppose when I’m 40 and going in for Round Two (or three) of having skin cancer removed from my body the medical staff will think I’m only 29. Hey, at least I have something to look forward to! So, while you and your blessed olive skin can prance around the beach or pool in SPF 4 (now with coconut oil!) and a teensy little bikini without a care in the world, I’ll stick with the SPF>45 and a drop cloth. I am not olive, or brown, or tan, or even beige. I am pale, the color of parchment, and always will be. And my bikini has never seen the light of day. True story. It has taken itself–and me–out for some night swimming on several occasions. But obviously in a pool and not the open water, because–honestly, don’t you ever watch the Discovery channel?–night time is prime feeding time for large, carnivorous fishy creatures who are drawn to white, glowing, reflective surfaces (see: heidikins’ entire body) and WHAT ABOUT THE SHARKS!?!)
Filed under: There and Back Again
Sra and I decided to hit-up the Portland Art Museum and while I am yet again reminded that I don’t understand or appreciate most modern art (as in, the last 20 years, Picasso is awesome), the museum had an absolutely fantastic exhibit of old cars.
It looked like The Great Gatsby’s parking lot with Bentley’s and Rolls Royce’s standing in all their V8 glory. Goodness, they were shiny.
I’m not really big into cars, but you can’t help but be bowled over by a hunk of machinery that weighs 5,500 pounds and has the engine of a hot rod.
These dozen or so beauties were my favorite part of the museum, hands down.
Gazing and drooling over these automobiles (they are so much more than “cars”) made me want to throw a flapper-era party with fancy drinks and costumes required.
Eventually, Sra had to go back to work and I had a day of my own to explore the city. Left to my own devices there is really only one place I will end up: book store.
Oh. My. Gaaaah! Powell’s isn’t just a “bookstore”, it’s book heaven.
There are rooms and rooms full of books, but I found it fairly easy to navigate due to their excellent organization. I browsed the economics aisles, the feminism aisles, the fashion section, the cook books, the novels and poetry, the classics and travel sections. After several hours of happy browsing I walked away with a dozen new-to-me books to love.
After all that book-hunting, it was time for lunch. I had heard rumors of Portland’s famous food carts and set off to find them.
After some excellent Mexican food and the most delicious rhubarb frozen yogurt, I was off to do some more shopping and wandering. I found a few vintage stores, hit a funky-shopping jackpot at Tender Loving Empire, and found a long-sought after turquoise necklace at Ray’s Ragtime thrift store.
Satiated with my finds, I hopped on the train up to Washington Park to visit the Japanese Tea Gardens.
While the Chinese Gardens were very relaxing and peaceful, the Japanese gardens were traditional and had layers and layers of green.
Honestly, it was surreal how green this little corner of the world was, it was absolutely gorgeous.
I still can’t get over the moss that covers everything in Portland. Utah doesn’t have moss, a little lichen in the mountains, but no moss.
After wandering around for a while, I decided to head down the hill to the International Rose Test Garden, also in Washington Park.
My great-grandmother loved roses, and she taught my mom how to take care of them. While I was growing up the entire east side of our house was a rose garden with probably two dozen different bushes. My mom picked roses for their scent, not their look, and during the summer she’d cut a hundred blooms from that garden every few days. Our house always smelled like fresh roses, which is a completley different smell than the roses that come from the florist.
I loved walking through the rows and rows of roses, inhaling the sweet smell of “real” roses.
I only took a hundred pictures of flowers while in Portland, but hey, I couldn’t help it! They were everywhere!
Before heading home, I met up with Rhi for breakfast and Lindz for some Starbucks, and was again reminded how the people in The Internet are so awesome. A millions thanks again to Sra for a wonderful weekend! See the rest of the Flickr set here.
Filed under: There and Back Again
Portland, Oregon. City of Roses, home of Powell’s Books and famous for treehuggers and food carts. A few years ago an old roommate of mine, Sra, got accepted to law school in Portland and a few weeks ago I decided to take advantage of a long weekend and her generous hospitality and spend a few days in the Northwest.
First up was the Portland Saturday Market, a giant craft market where you can buy everything from handmade clothing or soap to a hand-carved sculpture of your face as a garden gnome. I wish I was kidding about that, but no. Garden gnomes are rampant at the Saturday market. I wish I had the room in my suitcase to bring a few home as white elephant gifts. After stopping for an extra-delicious pita sandwich from the Beirut Cafe stand (seriously, recommended), Sra and I, with her boyfriend in tow, headed out to see the rest of the market. My favorite stand was the stand that sold carnivorous plants, Venus Flytraps and this tube thingies that would trap insects and gobble them up. I don’t know why I’m so fascinated by these, but I have had this twisted love for insect-eating plants since I first learned about them in grade school. If there was any chance of a Flytrap surviving in the harsh Salt Lake winter I would have bought one in a minute. As is, I simply oooh’d and aaaah’d over them and headed to the next booth.
Temporary Tattoo-ing. Everyone is doing it.
After watching several people get spray-on tats, I decided that hey, why not. For only $3 dollars and a few days commitment I decided that a prancing pink and purple pony would be perfect. (And I swear that’s the last time I will use that much alliteration in one sentence.)
Mr. Tattoo Face (probably not his real name) didn’t even crack a smile when I told him what I wanted, in fact, he very seriously asked me specifics on what kind of shading and coloring I wanted on the pony mane and tail. I think everyone should respond that way when I tell them I want a pony.
Cute, right? Granted, it only lasted for a day and not the 3-5 that was promised, but I’m not complaining. I loved seeing that prancy cuteness peeking out from my wrist all day long.
What is that voodoo that you do for donu…okay, that doesn’t rhyme. Whatever.
We wandered through Chinatown to Voodoo Doughnut’s, but one look at the line that zig-zagged back and forth across the sidewalk, and we opted to go to Sesame Donuts instead. With absolutely no line and delicious donuts, no harm no foul! (I did go back to Voodoo later on my trip, and frankly, while they win on funky decor and charm, their donuts were no more delicious than Sesame. And now you know. You’re welcome.)
Our next stop was Uwajimaya, an Asian market and grocery store that has absolutely everything you can imagine. They have hundreds of types of mystery food, with labels in Japanese, Korean or Chinese I had trouble identifying what they were, exactly, but I did come away with some fantastic kitchen accessories and a package of lavender noodles. I’ll let you know how they taste.
Sra and I decided to check out the Chinese Gardens in Portland. I wasn’t expecting much, and was kind of blown away by how tranquil and peaceful this little block felt.
There were pathways and ponds and bridges and terraces and little pavilions tucked away in half-hidden corners. I wish I a) had a block of ground to translate into a Chinese garden and b) the funds to hire a little Chinese man to make it as beautiful as these gardens.
I loved all the intricate, dark trim on white buildings and cool tile.
Sra and I settled into the Tea House for a little refreshment after a long day of walking. Jasmine flower tea for her, and a red bean Mooncake for me.
You know, before you think Portland is all tranquility and mushy gooshing about gardens, there are also plenty of crazies, lots of funky-colored hair, and Portland has learned to embrace their, well, weirdness.
Portlanders: Just keepin’ it real, yo. See the rest of the Flickr set here.