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Archive for December, 2008

My cousin called me yesterday to discuss the car crash.  One of the first things out of her mouth was, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, you’d have no luck at all.  I don’t know who you pissed off, but you better hope this ends soon.”

This surmises 2008 for me.  Don’t get me wrong.  Some of 2008 was good.  Actually, while there were some bad things mixed in there – the job I hated and the bullshit that went on there, for example – the first six months of 2008 weren’t that bad, really.  In fact, I think I might have experienced happiness in those months.  And I can definitely come up with a few (though maybe only 2) positives for July and August.  So maybe, in retrospect, really it was just September through that blew.

But boy, it blew hard.

I don’t know what it was about the final quarter of 2008, but it seems like everyone I know has been dealing with something difficult or traumatic. Perhaps this was all the result of that little deal we made with the devil.  You know, the one where we were willing to barter any and every thing so that Barack Obama would be our president, and, almost as importantly, Sarah Palin would NOT be our vice president.

But seriously, if one more person tells me how their best days are behind them or that they haven’t had a happy holiday season in years, I might lose it.

Look, I have been a big downer lately, and the holidays can be frustrating for me even when I’m in a good place.  But good lord!  If at 32 I can’t imagine better days ahead, I might as well just give up right now.  Even as things around me – both for me and for people I love – seem grim or are in flux, it can’t be that good times don’t lie ahead.  And frankly, while the we’re-all-gonna-die mentality may feel good in the short run, it will actually kill you in the long run.

So it’s new years’ resolution time.  Normally, I don’t do things like this because, let’s me honest, it’s weird and I’ve never actually followed through.  I don’t think.  But my pessimism aside, I’m going for it.  A resolution.  And I will do my best to achieve it.

Ready? …

I’m going to put an end to my grim outlook.  I’m going to accept that brighter days lie ahead.  Because I believe that the best of life can be found over good food and drink with friends and family who love you, not in spite of your limitations but because of them, I am going to focus on the people and things that enrich my life.  I’m NOT going to dwell and wallow.  I mean, I probably will a little bit.  But I plan to focus on the positive… you know, as best I can.

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Tales from Christmas

Without much provocation, my family members say and do some crazy things.  Below is a list of comments and/or actions from my time at home over Christmas.

  • My cousin, carrying 5 champagne glasses containing mimosas:  “Can you pull that out before it explodes all over you.”
  • Upon giving my cousin a beautiful beaded necklace, my friend says:  “I got you anal beads.  Merry Christmas.”
  • Because she vowed never to wrap a gift again, my aunt bought a bunch of holiday bags at the dollar store a few years back and recycles them.  This seems like a great idea, except that she doesn’t remove or cover up the To/From labels from previous years and just writes the new To/From information on the old card.  So Christmas morning in her house consists of my aunt’s husband and two kids trying to figure out which gift goes to who.  It is often the case that someone will open a gift to delight only to learn that the gift actually belongs to someone else.  And almost at the same time you can hear the “What?! No!” and “Yes!” from the parties involved.
  • Same aunt sent holiday cards to her sisters with the following note:  “Dear [Sister & Brother-in-law], Hope this note finds you well.  Things are better here now that Jim Bob is out on parole.  Happy Holidays.  Love, Emily, Jim Bob, and the Triplets.”  The return address lists the family’s last name as “Dickwad.”  Though they suspect the holiday card is a joke, my parents continue to rack their brains to figure out who these people are.  My mother says, “Emily and Jim Bob Dickwood?  I don’t know these people.”  Then she says “Emily and Jim Bob Dickward?  Who are these people?”  Then she gets it – sorta, “Wait a minute – does that say Dickwad?!  What kind of name is that?!”
  • On Christmas morning, another aunt who is nearing 80 said:   “I’ve read one book in my life.  Little Woman.  I had to do a book report.  You had to do book reports back then.  You know, they made a movie out of that book.”
  • Discussing the multitude of Christmas cards my mother received, talk turns to the cards with photos.  Zeroing in on one photo in particular, my aunt asks, “What’s wrong with that picture?  I mean, look at that.”  My cousin responded, earnestly, “It was taken on a cell phone.  By the stripper babysitter.”
  • My mother, who outdid herself this Christmas, made the most delicious lasagna.  She even made an extra pan for me to bring back to DC for SC.  In explaining the differences between the Christmas lasagna and the DC-bound lasagna, my mother said, “This one has meat in it.  We’ll eat that on Christmas.  And it’s delicious.  I don’t know what I did but it’s really good.  Then this one – it’s lasagna… meatless.  That’s for you and your friend.”

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So in a previous post about the car accident, I suggested that I got a flat and was stuck on the side of the road with SSL.  Turns out I was wrong.  Well, I could be right.  I could have been stuck on the side of the road with SSL, but I haven’t confirmed that yet.  Luckily, however, AEF is a regular reader and, as she is the official keeper of all my  memories, she sent me a correction.

But let me pause for a second.

As I just mentioned, AEF is the keeper of all my memories.  For those of you who kept up with my previous blog, you know all about this fact.  For those of you who missed it, she has a brutally long memory and can recall things from my past that I would prefer she could forget – as I have.  But no such luck for this girl.

Anyway, so AEF emailed me this morning to tell me that she read my latest post on the car accident and wanted to pass along the following info:

p.s.  That was me you got the flat with – hanging out on the left shoulder of I-95 just before the Baltimore tunnel.  It sucked.  🙂

You’d think that this detailed missive would spark a memory for me.  Okay, so I can now remember being stuck on the side of the road with a flat.  And I’m recalling some thoughts of being grateful that we didn’t get stuck in the tunnel.  Because that would have sucked.  As I explained to MJ in the car the other night after she picked me up from the Perryville Travel Plaza, I prefer bridges to tunnels because I would prefer to NOT drown.  Drowning seems terrible.  MJ pointed out that you could still drown if you fall from a bridge.  Yeah, I’ve thought of that.  But I’m hopeful that the fall will kill me.

Anyway, that’s it.  I don’t know how we got out of that little pickle.  Maybe AEF can fill me in when she gets to town in late January.

Yup – that’s right.  AEF is coming for a visit and I can’t be more excited.  She called me right before Christmas to say she was thinking of coming here for my birthday.  I think she just wanted to know that, even if it doesn’t stop snowing in Chicago, she can get out of town for a few days.  Frankly, I don’t care what the reason was.  I’m just looking forward to a visit.  And the roller derby.  HC is forcing us to go to a roller derby match.  Whatever, I’m almost always up for a spectacle.

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The Crash – Part 3

So there I was – at the Perryville Travel Plaza on the side of the Exxon shop in a semi-lite area near the air machine and vacuum with like 87 bags and boxes, which TTG has lined up in a row on the sidewalk.   It was about 6pm and MJ is on her way to pick me and my stuff up to take me to Baltimore where SC would get me and my stuff and take me home.

And so I wait.  It was about 6pm when got to the Perryville Travel Plaza.  Because of traffic and because she was farther away than she thought, MJ is delayed.

So I wait.  Crazy things go through your head when you are waiting, alone, at night, in a semi-lite rest stop, near the air and vacuum machines.  (It is remarkable the number of people who stop by the air machine and vacuum on a Saturday night.  At least four cars came through there in the hour I was there.  Seems so odd.)  Thoughts of being robbed were pretty high.  I mean, come on – I had “Easy Target” written all over me.  I was alone with tons of boxes and bags of stuff.

I should explain that I don’t scare that easily.  I mean, a spider or a ladybug could do me in.  But I generally know how to keep myself safe on the street.  I pay attention to my surroundings, I make eye contact, I don’t go down alleys alone or with others.  You know, typical city-dwelling stuff.  But I was so NOT in the city.  This was a gas station in the burbs near the highway.  It was weird.  And everyone seemed potentially shady.  Plus, there was a truck stop around back.  No good came come of being this close to a truck stop.

So the dark and the cold and the many bags I needed to protect got to me a little.

To ensure that, should I go missing, someone would be able to help the police investigation, I had the follow text communication with SC:

SC: How are you doing?

Me: Wasn’t doing great before and now worrying about being robbed. This is punishment for not going to DK’s b-day party.

SC: You’re alone! How far away is MJ?

Me: Yes. Don’t know-maybe 20 min.

Me: In case you don’t hear from me, I’m at the Perryville Travel Plaza.

Me: And I’m wearing jeans, gray v-neck sweater, and slinky (the toy, not the adjective) t-shirt.

SC: No coat?

Me: Long black coat. Was wearing scarf but got tomato sauce from lasagna on it.

Every 10 minutes, I made the following call to MJ:

Me: Just checking in, you know, to let you know I haven’t been robbed and murdered.

MJ: Oh, good.

Me: Where are you?

MJ: Exit [fill in blank]. I’m getting close.

Me: Okay, will talk to you in 10 minutes.

But, alas, all was fine.  MJ found me around 7pm.  We got to our rendezvous spot in Baltimore – the Holiday Inn Express near the Ravens stadium – by right around 8pm.  We transferred all my stuff from MJ’s car to SC’s car and SC and I were on our way.  Then SC helped me bring all my 87 bags into my apartment. By around 9pm I opened a much-needed bottle of prosecco for us.  It was over.  You know, until I need to go back to get my car from the TTG.

So for anyone who’s keeping track – it took me approximately 8 hours to get from NJ to DC.  This is a record worse for me, to be sure.

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So where were we?  Oh, yes.  I crashed.  The car wasn’t drivable and I was waiting for a tow.

Okay, so the folks in the SUV were super nice.  They were from Long Island and were on their way to Baltimore.  They seemed sickeningly in love.  They kept hugging and kissing.  I’m not a prude.  I just don’t see how the situation the three of us found ourselves in could make you feel randy.  I’m sure that they are either newly dating or were both escaping a spouse and were on their way to Baltimore for a tryst.  Not that I would imagine Baltimore is a hot spot for trysts.  Don’t get me wrong – after The Wire, I LOVE Baltimore.  But not sure it’s billed as a location for lovers to rendezvous.  In any event, the making out seemed a little weird.  HC and I have been together for nearly 10 years now and I can all but guarantee that, if he was present, there would not have been any PDA with us.

But back to the story.

I realize that I am in Maryland somewhere and will need to contact someone to get me.  I call MJ.  MJ is from outside of Baltimore and told me she was going to be at her mom’s place for the holiday.  So I gave it a shot.

First call, she hung up on me.  Okay, that didn’t go well.  So I called again.  Second call went way better.  You know, she didn’t hang up on me.  I explained the situation, she agreed to come get me.  I continued to wait for the tow.

After waiting on the side of the road for about forty-five minutes to an hour, the tow comes and gets me.  I think, great – he’ll take me to his shop where they can do the work and I’ll have MJ pick me up there.  It’s like a Christmas miracle.  Perfect.

No, not perfect.

Tow Truck Guy explains that he is bringing my car to his lot but that nothing can happen with the car until Monday at the earliest.  Oh, and he informed me that I couldn’t wait at the lot.

Me:  So where am I supposed to go?

TTG:  I don’t know, but you can’t wait at the lot.

Me:  So where am I supposed to tell my friend to meet me?

TTG:  I can drop you off somewhere.

[Sidebar:  If a Tow Truck Guy says to you “I can drop you off somewhere” please don’t mistake this for being helpful.  What Tow Truck Guy means is “I will drop you off at the first semi-lite, semi-safe spot I can find and then I’m leaving you and all your stuff there while you wait.  Alone.”  Because this is what happened.]

Me:  Yeah, but I have tons of stuff in the car.

[Sidebar:  I had tons of stuff in the car.  Christmas gifts, my luggage, HC’s crap.  Okay, you’d expect all that.  But I also had three boxes of stuff that I still hadn’t taken out of the car from when I moved back from Nebraska, AND I had all this food and wine.  My mother always tries to send me home with food.  Normally, I decline.  It’s messy, you never know how well something is going to be refrigerated, and I hate carting all this stuff back and forth.  Because please believe that woman wants her tupperware back.  But in the winter, I will do it.  Refrigeration is less a problem.  And I told SC that I would bring her back lasagna.  So I had a pan of lasagna, two vegetable breads that are based on my family’s sausage bread but without meat for HC, a bag of my mom’s Christmas cookies, a container of homemade chicken soup which was delicious, a container of homemade tomato sauce – also delicious, a container of breaded broccoli, and a container with 20 bread balls.  Bread balls are based on meatballs, but are made with bread crumbs.  HC and his no-meat experiment has caused my family to resurrect this little treat, which we had all forgotten about.  So you can see, the car was LOADED.]

TTG:  Well, you want to get it out.

Me:  Um, yeah, but where am I supposed to go.

TTG:  I’ll drop you somewhere.

Great – so we’re back to that again.  Fine.  I called MJ and told her that TTG was dropping me and all my stuff at a local rest stop called the Perryville Travel Plaza.  MJ said she would head out.

MJ was on her way and was able to get me to Baltimore.  She very kindly offered to let me stay with her at her mom’s place, but I desperately wanted to get home.  You know, the whole sleep in my own bed thing.  So I called SC.  I was starting to feel pretty broken at this point and asked SC if she would come to get me.  I sounded so pathetic.  I was so pathetic.  SC said yes.  She started to ask me some logistical questions.  I just couldn’t do it.  I explained that I didn’t know where I was, my phone was dying, and could she please call MJ to coordinate.  SC agreed – thank G-d – and I continued along with TTG.

TTG and I get to the Perryville Travel Plaza.  He tells me that I should go through the car and take whatever I want.  I start unloading the car.  Ridiculous.  TTG helped, but still – ridiculous.

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The Crash – Part 1

I have driven from Washington, DC, to NJ/NYC many, many times. Like hundreds upon hundreds of times. Literally. So I know my way around I-95. Sometimes the ride isn’t so bad. My best time was 3 hours and 15 minutes door-to-door. Other times, it fucking blows.  My worst time was 6 and a half hours during one of those brutal summer Sundays.

Until last night.

I was in NJ for Christmas (more on that to follow) and decided that, due to multiple anxiety attacks, it was time to head home to DC. You know, so I could calm down. So I dropped HC off at his parents’ house and bailed on my plans that day, including a friend’s 30th birthday party which I feel awful about, so that I could sleep in my own bed last night.

Well, mission accomplished – I slept in my own bed last night. But good lord, it was a long road to home last night.

The drive from NJ to DC should work out like this: 2 hours to get from the George Washington Bridge to the Delaware Memorial Bridge, then 2 more hours to my apartment. (I can go into more detail, but I will spare you… and me.) This wasn’t even close to how things worked out yesterday.

I set out on the road at 12:30, dropped HC off, and was on the road again by 1:30. Traffic was a wreck. Seriously, terrible. See, the problem with I-95 (or “The Turnpike” as it it most commonly referred) in NJ is that, for reasons that escape me, the two 3-lane spurs of 95 merge into one 3-lane road that then merges down into a 2-lane road. All of this merging leads to ridiculous back-ups. So it was 4pm and I was still in NJ. More than 3 hours on the road and I still haven’t gotten out of NJ. This is not good.

Then comes Delaware. I am convinced that Delaware serves only two purposes: 1) to exhort money at the $4 toll, and 2) to cause the most absurd traffic in just 6 exits, which can’t be more than 20 miles. There might be a third purpose to Delaware – like friendly corporation laws – but that’s not relevant here, so two reasons it is.

Forty-five minutes later, I was still in Delaware. G-d, I fucking hate Delaware. I just don’t understand why Delaware is such a hot mess.

Finally, I hit Maryland and decided to stop at the Chesapeake House rest stop for gas, coffee, and a snack. Because holiday weekends bring out people who don’t often do these long drives and surely don’t know the rest stop etiquette, pulling off the road for a minute did not make me feel any better. I mean, who the hell leaves their car at the pump, goes inside the shop, and THEN pumps gas? Worse still, who the hell sits in her car while her husband goes into the shop for an outrageously long time and waits for him to come back so he can pump the gas? Fucking absurd.

Okay, back out on the road and hoping things might be better. But see, the fog situation in Maryland last night was pretty bad, which made the traffic pretty bad. Okay, just put on a good tune and hope that you get home, you know, today.

Then it happened.

CRASH!

Fucking fuck!

In all the years I’ve been doing this drive, I’ve never had an accident. I think I had a flat once back in college when I was in the car with SSL, driving back to school. But that’s it.  Generally, it’s a pretty uneventful drive.  So my 14-year record was broken just like that.

Luckily, no one was hurt and the other car, an SUV, wasn’t damaged much, if at all. My car, on the other hand, was leaking water and was smashed in on the drivers’ side. Couldn’t drive it and needed a tow.

Great. This is going to be a long night.

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I have zero social skills right now.  Between the holiday bullshit, my own bullshit, and my general discontent (or is it malcontent?), I can’t seem to have a normal social interaction with a stranger or anyone who I don’t feel completely comfortable with.  So when I had all sorts of plans on the agenda yesterday, I should have known – not smart.

The day started out rough.  I had a little too much vodka the night before and was a tinge hung over.  But because I had made plans with my friend MJ to learn how to use wordpress in order to beautify my blog, I couldn’t just stay in the bed.  I learned a lot about wordpress, but then I slid off the rails.

MJ asked me a pretty innocuous question like “How are you doing?” and, because I’m as fragile as a glass figurine these days, I briefly mistook MJ’s cute studio for a therapist’s office.  Three hours and four tissues later, MJ was like “So should I show you how to customize your header?”

I apologized for the antics and figured that maybe, because I took several hours to get out some of my woes on poor, unsuspecting MJ, this would help me interact with strangers later.  You know, without being rude or tearing up.

Yeah, turns out not so.

Before the party, I went to see my friend SW who was watching a football game with friends.  I was completely rude.  I was there to meet her friends.  You know, to talk to them, get to know them, etc.  But I barely talked to anyone other than SW.  And SW’s friends, who were all perfectly nice, tried to engage me.  But I struggled with the small talk.  Then I left without paying for my drink.  Stellar first impression there.  SW may never invite me out with her friends again.

But it didn’t end there.

HC and I went to the holiday party with some of his friends.  The party was in a really nice apartment with delicious food and drinks.  I tried – truly, I tried – to muster up some holiday cheer.  Or at the very least tried to hide my contempt for holiday cheer.  It was okay.  Until…

Mistake One:  I talked to a stranger.  Don’t know how this happened.  I think HC went off to talk to someone about melting ice caps or something. The stranger asked me a very common DC question – What do you do?

Mistake Two: I answered honestly.  I don’t know what the hell my problem is but I said that I was currently unemployed but looking for work.  The stranger responded, “Not a great time to be unemployed.”

Mistake Three:  I took the bait.

First, how the fuck can you possibly think that telling an unemployed person that, hey, not sure if you’ve been under a rock or in a coma for the past 3 months, but we are headed for the Great Depression Part Deux.  And, oh, not sure if you caught it, but massive layoffs and job cuts are sweeping the nation and the world, unemployment is at record highs around the country, and the housing and financial markets continue to suffer.  With no end in sight.

Yeah, I got it.

Because I have been spending time exclusively with people who I can be utterly myself with (thank G-d for these people), I have no ability to “play nice” in this type of situation.  I turned to the stranger and said in the nicest way possible (read: seething and through grit teeth while trying not to swing at this sprite), “Well, I’m pretty sure any time you’re unemployed is a bad time to be unemployed.”

That’s it.  I’m out.  No more dealing with strangers for a while.  At least, not until 2009.  And, if absolutely forced to deal with strangers before then, I may just have to medicate.

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