Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Neighborhoody Stuff: Chez Gaudy

You may remember that I stumbled on a piece of Paris last week, or what I thought (okay, hoped) was Paris. I thought (hoped) maybe I had found a doorway to Moulin Rouge in its heyday, or the left bank, or maybe even Vienna before WWII, but sadly time travel is still not possible and I didn't find a magical doorway.

I did, however, find Chez Gaudy.

Chez Gaudy is not only gorgeous, warm, sexy, and decadent; it's also delicious and novel. Gaudy has two seating times, 6:30 and 8:30, they can take maybe about 35-40 people at a time, and they have a novel and wonderful way of serving: they charge by the plate like Sushi Land. As you walk in, you can have your pick of five or six cold plate options, laid out on ice, and you grab a bottle of wine out of the wine rack; it's all completely do it yourself. The servers bring glass jars full of silverware, personal hand towels, and water and wine glasses and set you up with bread, and after that it's a completely designed-by-you dinner experience. Throughout your seating, servers bring around trays of hot small plates and salads, and you can take a plate or not, as you wish, filling yourself up with bread and cold plates in between courses. Last night I had mushroom gnocchi, apple and sausage risotto, some lasagna, spicy tomato gnocchi, a salad of field greens with roasted shallot dressing, and a bread-and-cheese course--and two very full glasses of wine--for twenty. freakin'. dollars. I have occasionally spent more than that in one day at Starbucks.

I had hoped to keep Chez Gaudy to myself for some time longer, but since every neighborhood blog and their brother has covered it already, that's become pointless. Go now; take a date or a large group of friends, and walk there and back, for the best experience. It's so homey and DIY that it feels like your kitchen...that is, your kitchen with a bottomless wine cellar, a personal chef, and a lounge. So not really like my kitchen at all; more like a dream that might take place in a kitchen. What are you waiting for? Go!

The author notes that Tuesday is 8-dollar bottle of wine night, and also that trivia at Clever Dunne's starts at 8:45 or so. The author won two t-shirts last night, thanks mainly to a well-answered bible-trivia section, and recommends that event as well. Many thanks to the trivia host Mark Davis and his able assistant.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


My name is Aarwenn, and I'm a hair-twirler.

I've done it since I was little; my hair is naturally wavy, turning to spiraling locks without much effort, and I've always been a fidgeter. When I was smoking, that's what I did with my hands, but now that I'm not doing that, and especially during office or tutoring sessions when I couldn't anyway, I twirl my hair.

The LT finds it funny, especially since normally, when I start doing it, I'm already so lost in concentration that I look particularly crazy. I do it more when under stress, and especially so when I'm trying to think. (Like now, for example, taking a break to write this really bad post instead of working on the two major papers I have due before the end of the year, OR my novel, which I've also sworn to finish.) I do it when tutoring or working on math problems with my girls, although not as badly; it really starts when I'm trying to force myself to be creative, like now. Putting my hair up in a ponytail doesn't help; I just twirl the loose ends.

Although almost all girls play with their hair, I've never lived with another hair twirler--that I can remember--so I really had no idea what it looked like as a habit. I think, when the LT and I first started dating, I stopped doing it for awhile, possibly because I was less stressed while in love or also possibly because you put on your company manners for someone new. Since the habit has come back, however, I'm happy to learn that it doesn't seem to bother the LT. He likes to bug me by trying to twirl my hair, too, when he notices I'm doing it, and this has the added effect of snapping me out of my trance, often with hilarious consequences. I assume it's a side-effect of stress and single-girl-ness, or at least, girl-on-her-own-ness; if you live with someone who makes fun of your bad habits, you tend to temper them. I recently saw my friend S, whom I met through shady circumstances but who has ended up being a long-lasting and very dear friend. We were both on our way to a mall out in Baltimore, my rental car following behind her Jeep Liberty, and I was twirling my hair, lost in thought, when I looked up ahead and saw that she, too, was twirling her hair. And the other day, I was tutoring my new girl Melissa; and as she worked on an identity problem, she, too, was twirling her hair.

So at least I know I'm not alone. There's a disease, Trichotillomania,, but as Trich sufferers actually pull out their hair, I don't think myself or any of the girls around me are actually suffering from a disorder. The Wiki article says that Trich and other associated diseases--OCD, anxiety--are often brought on by stress, no surprise there. Hair-twirling doesn't calm me down; it winds me up like a spring, often making me MORE stressed, and sometimes in an effort to still my twirling, I reach for my cup of coffee, and you can imagine how that cycle turns out. Mainly, I'm just stressed. By the end of this week, I will have flown four round-trips in a month. I have crossed the country twice, the holidays are coming, I barely remember the holidays that already happened (Halloween, Thanksgiving) and am too worried about the upcoming holidays to relax. What's worse, I have a love-hate relationship with stress; some days I'm so tired of being stressed that coffee makes me nauseous and I really do want to start pulling my hair out; other days, when I'm stuck, bored and listless, I want the excitement and adrenaline of stress, although I know it's not actually good for the body. I KNOW I should back away slowly when I start wanting to scream at customer service people; at times like that, hair-twirling seems like the better option.

I recently met a lady in an airport security line, one of the ten or so I've been through recently. She was from the East Coast, out here working for the Lazy B same as I was, and we had a lovely time bashing the slowness and cluelessness of a normal Seattlelite. She was surprised to find out I was actually a local. "But you have a pulse," she said, confused. "I thought everyone out here dream-walked their way through life?"

See? I'll take hair-twirling over dream-walking any day, even if I may die young.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Blogging the Relationship: Miscommunication. Plus, more neighborhood Walking.

The LT and I are, sadly, not a perfect couple.

Yes, it's true. I'll allow some time for that to sink in.

The problem is, I think, that we normally communicate so well--between similar educations and similar sarcasm levels, it's not surprising--that it comes as an unwelcome surprise to us when we don't. And I don't handle frustration (crying), disappointment (more crying), or either of those things mixed with surprise (hiccup-y crying) well.

For example. The LT and I were recently trying to make plans for Thanksgiving. And of course it goes without saying that the holidays add their own level of stress and emotional baggage, making even a normal conversation fraught with hidden traps, but even leaving that aside, we were, for some unknown reason, at cross-purposes. And communicating at cross purposes is not productive at the best of times, but particularly not so on while on the phone.

I assumed that we had agreed upon our plans the previous night. He was surprised when I seemed so inflexible to any other plan besides the one we had briefly discussed the night before. He ferreted out the possibility of my hidden motives. And at this point, things went downhill.

Because when I feel that we're not communicating anymore, I start to slow down, trying to figure out where the conversation broke down, and to do that, I start asking a series of truly asinine questions, for example, "Do you plan to come over to my house? Are you eating before you come? You are? Does that mean you won't need food at my house?" (Um, duh?) "Are you taking your car? Do you plan to be in your car as you're driving it?" (Again, DUH.) "Is it 5:30 over there, too?" (WTF?) "What time will you leave your house? Does that mean you plan to be at my house an hour and a half later?" (Only if time travel is not yet available.) And so on.

I'm sure it's annoying for the LT, and when I get to this stage, he starts answering with a long, drawn-out "Yeeeesssss?" Which I assume could be translated as, "Yes, the sky is blue, yes, gravity works, why are you capable of going over the most obvious facts, yet you can call me and say we're invited to a party and when I ask you what day and time the party is, you have no idea, and what's more, you're completely flabbergasted that I would want to know those tiny, insignificant details?"

As I am not in kindergarten any more, the answer "Because I'm special" no longer works. And not all of our phone conversations are this bad. (Sometimes we just sit for several minutes in silence.) (Okay, that's rare.) Most of the time we carry on bright, funny, sometimes even touching, phone conversations, the kind that make people around us want to puke. And I love those, the promise of which keeps me from throwing the phone at the wall after a conversation like the one above. (Or, worse, calling the LT back fourteen times and hashing it out until we both hate the phone and each other.)

Someday, I hope, I'll remember to ask for the important details and not worry about the unimportant ones. Until then, after hanging up with the LT, I like to grab Titan and walk until I'm delirious with hunger or outside air, sometimes both. It's good for me and good for him, and we always see something interesting, not always as interesting as a topiary elephant, but always something worth mentioning. A few days ago I was trekking around the lower part of the 'Hill, and saw a lion, and just a block later I was in Paris. Okay, so the lion was on the side of a building, and Paris was just a restaurant tucked away on a cobblestone street with seating times and lamps out of Moulin Rouge, but it was still pretty amazing. Today I discovered a church that's being made into apartments, and not just any church, this church:

Yes, it's really this huge and amazing in person.

I looked at the site and since the lowest price range is 650-750k, I don't think I'll be buying one anytime soon, but what an GORGEOUS apartment it could be! After I finish my novel and become rich and famous, maybe.

Oh yeah, and Happy Thanksgiving Day to everyone. I hope everyone has a reason to be thankful, and I also hope all the turkeys escape and build utopian societies in a a magical forest, somewhere. Also, I hope for world peace, which I view to be just as likely.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Extended Family: An Ode to Ray-Ray

An only child has to make up a lot of her own family. And that happens, to some extent, in any case--plenty of people the world over have estranged family relations, or have made some change in their lives--come out as homosexual, changed religions, whatever--that produces some tension in the family, and so they make a conscious decision to find family elsewhere. I didn't have to do any of that, thank Blog. My family and I still get along well; my parents and I are friends, my grandmother watches my dog. But I don't have any sisters or brothers, and my cousin and I, although roughly the same age, rarely saw each other. I went all the way through high school fascinated by the concept of family, of siblings. Most of my friends--if not all--had at least one sister or brother, and I envied them and also was happy I was not them. Raising one child is a lot cheaper than raising two, and I got piano lessons and flute lessons (and a very nice flute) and a two-week trip to Europe one summer, because there was a little extra money to pay for these non-essentials.

It wasn't until I joined a sorority--and indeed, lived life some more--that I learned what sisters and brothers were, and indeed, what extended family could be. I learned that my close girl friends from high school, although very close to me indeed and certainly part of the family, aren't really my sisters, and I know this only because I know what a sister feels like, and I know they aren't it. I'm extremely close to some of them, call them first with fashion questions or boy problems, would count them definitely among my best friends in the world but we're not...sisters. A lot of my sorority sisters, on the other hand, really are my sisters. We don't always get along, even the ones I'm close to--crowded living with fifteen other girls will magnify a person's good traits and bad ones, so that now even the simplest conversation with a sorority sister can be influenced by the whiff of three years of constant history or more, concentrated and distilled into a perfume, although that's not necessarily a bad thing. And not getting along with a woman--at least not all the time, even though you still love her--is certainly not a trait confined to family-like relations. My best friends and I have had our share of fights. But it's different.

Right now I am lucky enough to have a man I can call a brother--perhaps two men--with no equivocating, they are the closest thing I've ever had to brothers in my life and I look upon them with a mixture of hope and consternation, wanting only the best for them even though I know that's impossible for any human, and other times wanting to give them a good smack upside the head for being such idiots, but at no time ever thinking of not having them in my life. The possibility simply never enters my head, and this idea--the LACK of ability to imagine life without them--may be one of the tenets that separates best friend from family member, although again that's not true in some cases because I certainly can't imagine life without my closest girlfriends; that future just does not occur to me.

But this post is not about my adopted brothers, as great as they are; this post is about my only big sister in the world (adopted): Ray-Ray.

Ray-Ray and I met when I was just out of college and about to move in--or maybe already had moved in--with T-Town, and I was footloose and fancy free and had some disposable income, enough to buy sugar-laden lattes every morning, keep my refrigerator stocked, and splurge on some adult beverages at night. She was new in the apartment complex, and myself and Alex--a guy about our age in the complex, who had a lucrative bartending job at the time and owned a pimped-out Jetta and a motorcycle, converged on her one afternoon in the dog yard and convinced her to go shoot pool with us. It must have been a Tuesday, as it was free pool night at The Swiss, way before that bar got its liquor license, and we went down to the Swiss and planned to shoot a little pool and get to know each other. (I believe, at the time, Alex--who had a girlfriend, although we never saw her--couldn't decide which of the three of us, including my roommate T-Town, he wanted to try to bed first, and so it was mainly thanks to him that we all hung out as much as we did. It's from that example that I learned that men mainly do things--including start wars, develop new computer programs, and lead countries--because they are hoping to really get to know a woman, or possibly a lot of women, if you know what I mean. And I think you do.)

This night was not to be Alex's night, but none of us knew that at the time, mainly because Ray-Ray and I were clueless and also because someone (read: Ray-Ray) had the bright idea, quite early in the night, of running next door to take tequila shots.

Yes. At the time, the Swiss, a fine bar, had no liquor license, so the only thing we could drink was beer and mulled wine. (Not unusual in Tacoma--that is, the beer-and-wine-license, not the mulled wine. The Swiss' mulled wine is a delicacy only available for a few months out of the year, and is a closely guarded secret.) But the pizza place next door had a full bar, so the three of us set up this pattern of playing a few games of pool, running next door for shots, and running back to play another few games of pool.

After a few hours of this, Ray-Ray--a Southern Belle from Tennessee--had become obsessed with a fragrance in the bar, which meant she was walking around taking deep whiffs of the men around us, trying to track down the cologne, and the bartenders at both the Swiss and the pizza place had fallen for her so completely that they were allowing her to take trays of shots OUT of the pizza place and INTO The Swiss, breaking I don't know how many state and perhaps federal laws. Speeding up our shot consumption, surprisingly, did not make any of us more sober, and all the men in the bar that Ray-Ray had sniffed were beginning to take a strong personal interest in her, and about this time Alex and I and Ray-Ray decided we should get the hell out of there.

Ray-Ray and I got into her silver Mercedes, which she called her Grandma Car, and just then, a cop car pulled around the corner, and my heart stopped. (Kids, don't drink and drive!) Amazingly enough the cop kept driving, or would have had Ray-Ray not said, "Hey, he's cute!" And--here's the insane part--rolled down her window and flagged him down.

He stopped and rolled down his window, grinning, as Ray's charm had already flown out her open window and hit him full in the face. "Can I help you, ladies?" he asked, and Ray-Ray was about to answer him when I urgently tugged on her arm. "DRUNK," I shouted, "and we're about to drive to our apartment!"

Whether she heard me or not, I have no idea, but she made some non-committal answer to the cop and he drove off, and we drove home, a terrible idea but let me point out we were VERY CLOSE to home, maybe five minutes, on roads we knew well.

Whether T-Town was home or not, I don't remember, but I do remember the three of us opened beers and attempted to play Scrabble, a bad idea when none of you can even remember how to spell "what". I eventually threw up and then passed out, waking a few hours later to find them gone. Knocking on their doors the next morning to make sure everyone was still alive, Ray-Ray told me she had gone back to her own apartment and suddenly decided she needed a casserole. "There I was, chopping up onions and browning the meat and grating cheese at 4:30 in the morning," she said, "and then I put the whole damn thing in the oven and passed out, slept right through the buzzer. I woke up this morning to a charred brick, and took the whole thing straight from the oven into the trash.

This was the start of a long and beautiful friendship. We went out when we could, but other times we just stayed in our respective apartments and talked. Of course, she was from Tennessee, and my mama was a Delta Gamma at UT, so we felt like we had some common roots from the start. (As proof, just recently I saw Ray-Ray for her going away party, and she had a few girls from the South there and the first thing she said to them was, "Her mom's a Lady Vol!" (The Lady Volunteers are arguably one of the most famous female college basketball teams in the country; they play at UT.) But the fact that really cinched our sisterhood was when she said I reminded her of her sister, early on in our friendship, and said she had something to show me. She handed me a picture and for a second I though I was looking at myself. It was Ray-Ray's sister, her middle sister not the baby sister, and goddamned if we DIDN'T look almost identical. It was freaky. Liz, being Southern, is actually much prettier than I am; her hair is always groomed and in all the pics I've seen of her, she's wearing light and perfect makeup, whereas a typical picture for me is eating a fry with my mouth open on the way back from a ski trip with the worst helmet hair ever. But we have the same eyes, nose, and chin, and we wear our light-colored hair the same way, hers lighter than mine. It truly is weird.

I saw Ray-Ray for the last time until I go to Tennessee to see her just a few nights ago, and at the end of the night I had a hard time blinking back tears. This is a woman who supported me in my waiting tables but reminded me over and over again that I was meant for better things; who allowed me to goof off and fart around but wasn't afraid to express her relief when I said I had a real job offer from the Lazy B; who indulged my bad habits and taught me some new ones but wasn't afraid to tell me on a Saturday night that she felt like staying in and wasn't ashamed of it. Every time I see her, she gives me a million hugs and tells everyone around her who will listen that I'm the smartest girl she's ever met besides Liz, the girl who's like me, and how beautiful and talented I am, boosting me up until I almost believe it myself. This last time was no different, she grabbed my face in both her hands and said, "I read your blog, and I read your novel excerpt and girl, I had no idea. I mean, I knew you were smart and I knew you were gorgeous, but girl, I had NO idea you could write like that. Write that damn novel, write it, because you're going to be a huge success and I know it."

I would walk a barefoot mile on hot lava for that girl, but of course I don't need to because a more together and attractive woman I have never met, and whatever she can't do for herself--damn little--she could have any number of men do for her. I hope that she has a terrific time back in her home state, and I know she wasn't truly happy here but I'm sure glad she showed up because my life was forever changed because she walked into it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veteran's Day (Observed)

I'm going to work today, although my boyfriend has it off, fitting since he actually fought in a war.

Also fitting, yesterday--on the real Veteran's Day--I spent an hour helping Tut-Tee Claire analyze a song entitled Uncle Sam Goddamn, by Brother Ali, an albino rapper out of Wisconsin. As you might expect from the title, Brother Ali has some big problems with the U.S., and fortunately he has the skill--and the brains--to communicate those ideas effectively and in an interesting way. The song is very long, so I won't reprint it here; mainly, he raps about slavery and its long-lasting effects, the Patriot Act and its effects on Freedom of Speech. He talks about fake press conferences and the U.S. addiction to oil and taxes and capitalism. At no point does he say, "I hate the U.S.", or, "Fuck tha Police", Public Enemy style, although if I had been Chuck D back in the early eighties when a great deal of the NYPD was corrupt, perhaps I would have said that, too.

Analyzing "Uncle Sam Goddamn" gave me a chance to expound--which I love to do--on the government, and to her credit, Claire listened well and nodded at all the right points, Blog bless her. (My tut-tees often get lecturing about a lot more than math, because I have a lot of opinions.) (I won't even make the "bet you're surprised" joke here.) I told Claire who Uncle Sam was, how taxes worked, who the IRS was, the excitement that a tax refund check can provide, the things our taxes go to pay like welfare and government salaries, the differing opinions about why the U.S. is in the Middle East, the differing ways that the curse of slavery has affected this country versus England or Jamaica, and the differing opinions on the importance of the Patriot Act and how safe the Constitution is. Yes, I really did try to present all sides; I always do. It's true that I'm a liberal, probably everyone reading this blog realized that already, but I also grew up conservative and I'm naturally kind of a skeptic and in favor of states' rights--mainly because I believe the behemoth of the American Government as it is now can't be efficient in any way--so I'm liberal on my most optimistic days and pretty torn on my more pessimistic days. But at all times, I'd consider myself a patriot.

She didn't ask about that, of course. So I talked about the mechanics of the government, generally a safe topic. I told her about taxes. I didn't tell Claire, "Brother Ali has a lot to say about the bad parts of the U.S., but his points are valid and at no point does he hate on America, or hate on the American people, so I can listen to him without cringing." I didn't say, "I can't stand people who hate on their own country just because they think it's the cool thing to do." I didn't say, "I think Americans who hate on America do more to trash the dignity and work of all the immigrants dying to get into this country than all those who are against translating public signs into Spanish." I didn't say, "I also seriously dislike people who refuse to translate public signs into Spanish."

I didn't say, "I start to cry every time I hear 'America, the Beautiful'." I didn't say, "On the other hand, I really don't like the song, 'Proud to Be An American', because I think it's cheesy and because I've mainly heard it sung by people who can't even be bothered to vote." I didn't talk about the time I was at a laser conference and the Brigadier General led us all in a rousing chorus of God Bless America, which I thought was great. I didn't say, "I strongly dislike the few connections between church and state we have left in this country and want them to disintegrate yesterday." I didn't say, "On the other hand, most other countries in the world have it much worse."

I didn't say, "All of the other First World countries--and even some Third World countries--have had female heads of State, and we haven't, and I hate the obvious conclusions one can draw about America's opinion of women." I didn't say, "On the other hand, my tut-tee Amanda--even though she says men are better than women--naturally inserts the She pronoun into every genderless story problem and personal narration , whereas I would naturally say 'He', and I think that's too amazing for words." I didn't say, "I hate how our right to abortion is in constant jeopardy", and I also didn't say, "And yet, we still have it, and that is a wonderful thing." I didn't say, "When my tut-tees tell me they're tired of learning about how to put on a condom because they've heard it three times already by the time they reach tenth grade health, I have to smile hugely, because I think that's wonderful." I didn't say, "And yet I understand the parental fear that supports abstinence only education." I didn't talk about how much I hate censorship--especially in the form of banned books or music--but also how I wished racist sites on the internet could be shut down.

And the final thing I didn't say: "American soldiers die so that other Americans have the right to hate on America, and that's really messed up, but I don't know of a better way, yet. Maybe some day we'll find a better way. I hope it's you, Tut-tees, who do so. I hope you find a way to build a country in which there is may be a need for a Veteran's Day, but never a need for a Memorial Day, or maybe even find a way to build a world in which there is no longer a need for a Veteran's Day, although I don't believe that will happen in this universe. Maybe you can make us believe."

Veterans: Thank you.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Okay, so this post is a little late, as most polling places close by seven and it's already seven on the East Coast. But I'm voting--I'm even driving down to Tacoma to vote, breaking my vow to only use one tank of gas per week (admittedly a new vow). At first, at the start of today, I had assumed I wouldn't vote this year. I live in Seattle, I can't vote for any of the Seattle measures because I'm still registered in Tacoma, and I don't know any of the Tacoma measures because I live in Seattle, AND I made the aforementioned vow that I wouldn't spend more than one tank of gas in a week, and I'm dangerously close. And I hate voting when I don't know anything.

However. It's always handy to have a politically-aware friend who works for the county. After some begging, T-Town spent several minutes instructing me on the major measures so that I feel confident, and then lambasted me for my decision to not vote, and so I came around, and I am sure happy I decided to do so. I will get a sticker that says "I Voted", and many of the things I do, I am motivated to do by the possibility of a sticker.

Also, in the course of my internet surfing exhaustive research today, I found this handy site: Look Up My Vote! You can see exactly where you're registered, IF you're registered, and what years you voted in, sort of pointless but also sort of neat.

So, yeah. If I can learn about state measures in less than five minutes, anyone can.


Monday, November 05, 2007

The Novel Excerpt

At long last, and thanks to some encouraging comments and emails, I have here the very first chapter of my still-unfinished novel. But I swear I will finish it this year--if nothing else, even if I never become an author, I'd like to say at least that it wasn't through my lack of trying.


There are some events that can change a girl’s life forever. It’s usually expected by the general public, including me, that such events are momentous—the day you get married, the day you buy your first house, the day your father dies, the birth of your first child—but I’m beginning to discover that such events only make you more of the person you already are. Were you bitchy before? You can bet that getting married will make you the Shrew of Padua. Were you happy and motivated? Your father dying won’t suddenly make you Kurt Cobain—instead, you’ll be in charge of the memorial service (which will be held at your house), find the perfect black outfit, your kids will wash the windows (“Or be assigned to your room this instant, young man!”), and your relatives will despise you all the more for being so perky in this time of tragedy.

No, it’s the sneaky events that you have to watch out for. The non-events. The so-small-that-you-couldn’t-call-them-events events. The day you went to preschool to pick up your fatherless child, just like every other day that week, and happened to run into your ex who now lives in England but was in town for one night, and you went out for coffee and ended up getting married after all. It’s not the prom, it’s not the event that you’ve planned and dreamed and slaved for. Count on it: it’s the things we do every day that are most likely to affect all the rest of the things we do in all the rest of our days. Strange but true.

In my life, one such non-event was the day I chose to go to work at my college’s Technology and Policy office—just like every other day in my life. I finished my morning classes in the Brown Engineering Building and headed to work directly afterwards, planning on unpacking my brown bag and eating lunch while gossiping happily with the secretaries. In college life, working in the department offices—every department has one, and with 100 or so departments in any college, there’s plenty of openings—is what’s known as a plum position. You get (and this deserves the capitalization) Free Use of the Copier. This is the Holy Grail of any college student. No one has any money, and the copiers at the library charge ten cents per copy. You can occasionally get your parents to fund the copies if you buy such a thing as a Copy Card, but Copy Cards are notorious for getting lost or stolen, and there’s no way to prove it’s yours or anyone else’s; they’re not tracked electronically. Imagine sinking 20 dollars of your hard-earned money into a Copy Card. You make ten copies. You lose it. Nineteen dollars down the drain. This is a lot of money to college students. And even the most laid-back of parents tire of replacing Copy Cards eventually.

So, like me, you get hired at minimum wage on campus for maximum benefits. In addition, a campus position has the benefit of being very close to where you spend the rest of your day, and your boss understands if you call at one-thirty and say, “I won’t be there today because I need to finish (and even possibly start) a paper that’s due by five.” I probably only went to work half the time, and instead of firing me, as they should have, they allowed me to only work my shifts when I felt like it. If you can name a better job for a college student, I’ll…well…I’ll do something memorable, that’s for sure.

This particular day was a gorgeous, fantastic day in late April—as I crossed the Commons, the sun was shining, bluebirds were singing, bees were buzzing, and horny college students were frolicking, learning about the aforementioned birds and bees. The heat radiated off the red brick Policy building, and it seemed like a sin just to enter the dark hallway. I dragged my feet down the hall as I approached the Technology and Policy (T&P) office, and thought seriously about ditching the shift, just to get a much-needed tan; but since I didn’t really have anything better to do, I might as well make some coffee money—and the thought of sugar plums danced in my head. Leann, the office receptionist/babysitter, was a master cook in that Betty Crocker “I learned my cookin’ from my mother holding me over a hot stove” kind of way, and she brought treats in almost every single day. (Did I forget to mention that as one of the reasons why this job is so awesome for a college student? How the free treats fulfill one of the two major food groups of the college diet?) (The college diet consists of eating twice your fill of any free food, walking everywhere, and eating salads for dinner every day without fail.)

Anyway. I got to the office only ten minutes late, and walked in with head bowed and an appropriately repentant look on my face, expecting a side of exasperated smile from Leann to go with my nutbread, and…the desk was empty.

No treats, no Leann! Is it even been worth coming to work? I wasn’t worried about penalties for not showing—I knew I’d be able to come up with some excuse why I hadn’t shown up for my shift. No matter that I was already, actually, physically present for my shift. Yes, I am so lazy that I will turn around and walk home to avoid work if I think I can get away with it, even if I’m, indeed, already there. It’s a big internal struggle, always is, for me to not do the stupid thing. I am one of the stupidest people I know.

This time, thanks to lots of pep-talking, I convinced myself to put one foot in front of the other, walking slowly on the industrial orange carpet to the rear of the office, where I was usually stationed. My supervisor Mary, the most efficient and busy woman I know (and the most talkative) was in her office, on the phone. She motioned at me to get right down to working with some expressive hand motions. Like most days, I checked in the in-box tray to the left of Mary’s door. Any work that student workers could do—usually something to do with making copies—was left in this tray, with Post-It notes detailing the work needed (i.e., 30 copies, double-sided) on top of each job. Unless, of course, the job was a job from Mary, and then the Post-It would read “See me”, since Mary believed that her jobs alone needed her personal supervision. Jobs like this constituted 75% of the tray on a normal day. Today, it looked like they had completely taken over. I wondered if they had found some way of multiplying, and tried to calculate the danger humanity was in if they had. Let’s see: if this department goes through one ream every two days, and…

“Did you forget how to read?”

I turned around. The primary student worker—Mike Plumerri, who seemed to be going for the record of most student hours worked for the Technology and Policy office—was peering at me over the top of the divider that separated the computer he was working on from the aisle to Mary’s office. I smiled.

“No. I was calculating the danger humanity would be in if papers knew how to multiply.”

Mike rolled his eyes expressively. “Girl, we’d all be ass deep in our own tax returns. What the hell does that have to do with anything?”

“Well, I was looking at The Tray, and Mary’s ‘special’ jobs seem to have taken over. I thought maybe they’d been eating the other jobs at night, and then I wondered if the fuel would give them the energy to have sex, and then I wondered…”

Mike held up a hand. “I’m sorry I asked. I’ve been off acid for three months, and I don’t need to reproduce previous experience by traveling down the freakish pathways in your brain.” He leaned closer, and in a stage whisper, said, “Have you heard the gossip?”

“What gossip?” It’s possible that I said this too loudly. Suddenly, the office was too quiet. I could hear Mary say, in her nasal Pittsburgh accent, “Could you excuse me for a minute?” to her caller, and Mike popped back into his seat so fast that I imagined a gigantic rubber band leash, holding him to his computer. This could have explained the preoccupied daze on my face, which was not a choice expression when Mary leaned backwards out of her doorway, hampered by having to hold on to the phone with one hand and cover the mouthpiece with the other. Both feet in the office and leaning her chair dangerously far back, she gave me the full Mary glare.

“Are you working?” she hissed. “Have you checked The Tray? You either need to work here or get out!” She swung her legs down and around, sending her rolling chair spinning, and, with one well-aimed kick, slammed her door. I rolled my eyes (albeit carefully, believing that Mary could see through doors) and beat it.

After visiting the bathroom, sighing at my hair in the mirror, applying lip-balm, walking up and down the hallway outside the office, and reading the bulletin boards three times each, I braved the office again. Mary could be understanding about student stress, demanding professors, and missed shifts—but she was a big believer in efficiency, and I could see that she was a little stressed out today. Finally I crept back to Mike. “What happened?” I whispered.

He cut his eyes towards me. “Hon, you need a filter on that mouth of yours, or you’re going to get yourself in trouble.”

I grinned. “Too late for that, and trouble finds me anyway.” This is certainly true. I have a genuine talent for getting into trouble. You need a scapegoat? I’m your girl.

Mike looked up at me from his chair, then swiveled left with agonizing slowness towards Ellen, one of the office women (read: not a college student). Ellen is a little plump, with a propensity for cats and books and a know-it-all attitude that saves her personality from being a cliché. She probably lives with her mother and thinks Thomas Kinkade is the best artist since Michelangelo, but she’s a fantastic source of gossip and owns an old-fashioned gumball machine filled with peanut-butter M&M’s. She and Mike have a friendship that’s not well-defined; apparently they hang out even outside the office, and that alone would be suspicious—I mean, a thirty-something single woman and a young, supple male college student?—if it wasn’t that Mike is openly, flamingly gay. In my opinion, this doesn’t stop Ellen from wanting him to change his mind and make love to her, but hey, if she wants to chase the impossible, more power to her.

“I don’t know, Ellen…should we tell her?”

Ellen made a big show of looking me over. “Hmm…maybe if she promises to buy the candy next time.” Ellen was always looking for people to defray the cost of keeping her gumball machine filled, but it was also obvious that she and Mike were dying to tell me. I played along, my head on one side.

“What if I promise not to tell that you ‘appropriate’ the soda from the conference room fridge?” I teased. Mike grinned, and Ellen looked around wildly.

“C.J.! No one can know about that, especially today! Watch it!”

I rolled my eyes, exasperated. “Why not today? Just tell me, already!”

Ellen pouted, but she agreed. “WELL,” she said, drawing out the intrigue, “it turns out that a certain member of this office has been stealing money from the university!”

“NO!” I was truly shocked. “Not Leann?” So that was why Leann hadn’t been there!

Ellen nodded, eyes dancing. “The very same.”

I took an overly generous helping of M&M’s and fastened my attention on Ellen. “Dish.”

“Well, I was late this morning because my cat, Boopsy, was sick all over the rug—he’d gotten into the garden yesterday…” Mike sighed so loudly I thought Mary would fling open her door.

“Ellen! Do you think C.J. wants to hear about your cats? For God’s sake!” He took some M&M’s out of my hand. “Girl, I walked in this morning at nine o’clock and the place was in an uproar. The Head’s office” (shorthand for, “the Head of the Department) “was closed, but I could hear Leann inside, crying and carrying on. Two rent-a-cops” (the campus policemen, not always respected by students) “were at Leann’s computer in the front, unplugging it and packing it up. I asked them what was up, but they completely ignored me, as does everyone else in my life.” Ellen and I rolled our eyes at each other—Mike, a drama major, often complained that no one listened or paid attention to him. As we were both currently hanging on his every word—and spent most of our office hours doing so—this was patently ridiculous, but no attention would ever be enough for Mike.

“Anyway, I gave up on them, and I got the idea that this would be a touchy subject that Mary wouldn’t be crazy about sharing, so I listened in the old fashioned way.”

I nodded. “The window.”

“You got it.” The Department Head office has a window that overlooks the grassy strip outside, called “The Commons” by students, faculty, and staff alike. Sometimes Mike and I would sneak out of the office and sit peacefully under the window, which was usually open this time of year. We got a fair bit of our gossip this way.

“It turns out,” Mike continued, “that Leann has been embezzling money from CMU for some time; they estimate two years. The officers, by the way, seemed to be impressed with her scheme: she actually opened a small business account at a bank, and called it Staples and Clips, Inc. Then, she ordered almost all office supplies from this company, and wrote the checks, which seemed to be going to a perfectly legit business, and deposited them into her account. To actually replace our supplies, she used her administrative power to get a bunch of keys from different department offices made, and she took their supplies, a little at a time. I guess she actually had a schedule drawn up, detailing the best way to lift supplies without getting caught.”

I was stunned. “And she got away with it?”

Ellen snorted. “She sure did, on a grand scale—close to seventy-five thousand dollars.”

“Seventy-five thousand dollars!” What couldn’t I do with that much money? “How’d she finally get caught?”

Mike grinned even wider. “You’ll never believe it. It turns out she was TOO good at lifting supplies from other departments. She began to lift the really good stuff, better than the supplies we usually get.”

Ellen, Mike, and I rolled our eyes simultaneously. The low quality of our department supplies was a constant grievance. The computers were absolute dinosaurs, Apple computers that didn’t even have resale value. This was especially frustrating for Mike and me; not only were we PC fans, but we spent all our days in campus computer clusters—on one of the most wired campuses in the country—and at home in the dorms, and the slowest operating system in both areas was Windows XP. Having to manipulate our way through the convoluted Apple OS, and then waiting for ten minutes between each command—it got old, very quickly.

But Mike was continuing: “The Head liked a certain brand of new pen so much that he asked her where she got them. She said she got them from ‘Staples and Clips, Inc.’, so he looked for them on the web. When they didn’t have a website, he looked for catalogs in her desk. Not finding any, of course, he would have thought no more about it except that very day he happened to lunch with his friend, the Head of the Statistics department, and when his friend signed the receipt, he had the same pen. Our Head went through the normal, ‘Hey, nice pen, I have one too, where’d you get yours?’ routine, only to be given a strange look by his friend.”

I shook my head. “Stop, don’t tell me. They were made especially for the Statistics department.”

Ellen nodded, taking over the story. “Bang on the nose. ‘They’re made especially for the Statistics department,’ his friend said. Our Head looked more closely at his pen and, sure enough, the pen had ‘Statistics-The Future in Numbers’ engraved on the clip. Then his suspicion was aroused.”

I took more M&M’s. “Leann. I can’t believe it. I wonder why…” Mary’s doorknob began to turn, and this time I was on the lookout.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Blogging the Relationship from Boston

It's a lovely Thursday morning and I am stuck in Logan in my own private hell. My face (and hair, and body) is unwashed and my bare feet are slucking around inside clammy, dirty shoes, because I only brought one pair of socks to Boston and I've already worn them twice, and now, to add insult to injury, someone has set off some alarm that no one has turned off for twenty minutes.

Yes, I'll repeat that. No one has turned off the alarm. It has gotten to the point where complete strangers in this airport wing are overcoming their New England reserve to talk to each other, saying, "Can you BELIEVE that NO ONE has turned off that GOD-DAMMED ALARM??"

So my brain is trying to claw its way out of my skull and I can never take my shoes off again because of the stench. How is YOUR Thursday going?

The LT and I have been, for some weeks, trying to figure out if we were going to attend the wedding of one of my closest friends from college--hi, Anna! Or, at least, I knew I was going to attend the wedding, but the LT is trying to sell his house, buy a new house, and look for a job, all at once, and even the most financially carefree person might pause during these endeavors. And as I've been on travel six days out of the last ten, most of the conversations about this have been by phone.

Monday, Anna helpfully called me and reminded me that she really did have to know if LT was coming or not, and no, we couldn't just surprise her. And as a way of helping me decide, she reported that most of our other sorority sisters and generally all-around cool girls were ALSO not bringing their significant others, and I dutifully called the LT and reported this fact.

Me: "So, if none of the other boys are going either, then I'm not as concerned if you don't go." (Please ignore the HORRIBLE grammar here, SAT students.) "I mean, I'd love to have you come, but if it's going to be mainly girls, then..."


Me: "Baby?" (Wondering: Is it possible that I've insulted him by saying he doesn't need to come if none of the other boys are going either? Does he feel reduced to arm candy? Is he insulted that I'm implying he'll get in my way during nights out with the girls?)

LT: "I'm stuck. Because if I come, then I'll be only the only boy in a crown of girls looking for trouble, making you look like a pimp, which might be what you want. And if I don't come, I'll be allowing you to hang out with your girls on your own, which might be what you want. I don't know what the right answer is! GAH!"

Me: (laughing hysterically) "I say...pick the second option!"

LT: " I'm not going?"

Me: "Yes! You're not going! Congratulations!"

LT: "Whew!"

I found this dialog hysterical, mainly because I'm always surprised and pleased every time I realize how much time HE spends trying to make the "right" answers. I have known for many years that most boys see we girls as diabolically complicated machines with hundreds of switches and several thousand known bugs in our code, which predicates completely surprising answers, but I still get a chuckle out of the idea.