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January 30, 2006

Reason #274 Why I Did Not Make My Bed Today

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Posted by laurie at 9:50 AM

January 28, 2006

Ch-ch-ch-changes

A few weeks ago I discovered that I have VH1 Classics, and they play a one-hour block of videos called "We Are The 80s" several times a day. We Are The 80s! I started Tivo-ing this video show, and in the mornings when I wake up ungodly early and it's so, so cold it my little house, I turn up the heat and get under a blanket on the sofa with a cat or three and watch music videos from the 1980s. Because that's how I roll, can I get a what what.

So. Addicted. To. This. Show.

Which isn't a show at all, just a ton of the videos I watched obsessively as a little crunchy-bang pre-teen and teenager. David Lee Roth back before he became Skeletor! Pat Benetar! Til Tuesday! Madonna ... back when she scared our parents. Adam Ant! 99 Luftballons in German. Ahd oh, the Bowie. Time may change me, but I can't trace time

Love. True love.

And I watch these videos and listen to these old songs and it kind of takes me back to when I hadn't even started dating and meeting guys (or driving!) and before college and work and relationships and marriage and all of it.

And I was so burned by his leaving, by the whole wretched past year, I never even considered dating or what life would be like "after." I just couldn't see that far ahead, because it took all my energy to stay focused on one day, one hour, one moment.

But now that the actual final divorce is over, and the holidays are over, and I have relaxed a teeny bit about all of the pressure and expectations and sadness, I'm beginning to see that this new life of mine has its really good points. And one of those good points is freedom. Freedom to experiment. Try new flavors, so to speak. Until now, I've been incapable of even thinking about dating. Too much. Too stressful. So. Not. Ready.

But in the past few weeks I have thought about it.
A little.

And while I was doing this thinking, something occurred to me that I had not considered maybe EVER.

Dating now will be REALLY DIFFERENT than dating was before I got married. Mostly because this will be the fist time I have ever dated just... for fun. Companionship. A nice evening.

Maybe I am a little relationship-phobic, yes. I admit it. I'm not interested in long-term anything or marriage, not now. I was married a pretty long time. And I already played wifey and set up house and did his laundry and dishes and cooked the dinners and made the beds... I did enough of that. NOW I AM FREE. Free to dabble. To date without strings. To... philander, should philandering be called for. Just like guys do! I had never considered this. In my entire dating life pre-marriage, everything was all about Finding The One, meeting Mr. Right. Does he have compatible values? Compatible family background? Similar views on politics/family/religion/money/blah blah blah?

But now, NOW, I have the option to go out with any one I want, anyone. Even if he is all wrong for me. Even if we have completely opposite views on life, or if our backgrounds only mesh at salsa clubs, or if we have one thing in common and that one thing is that we both live in the same city.

I don't have to date men that are appropriate to introduce to my family. I don't have to pick guys that would mesh well with my friends. He doesn't have to have income earning potential, or like children, or want to get married, or have long-term goals. Or if he does, they don't have to match my long-term goals.

This is the most liberating feeling... maybe ever. Imagine a whole world of strings-free dating. I can go out with someone just because I like the way they smile, or laugh, or whatever. Ok, no, I'm still maybe not ready to actually GO ON A DATE, and also, HAVE NOT BEEN ASKED, and also, no, this is not an invitation to ask me out on the internets, but I think it's a good sign that I'm even thinking these things.

Because, like my man Mr. Bowie says, you have to turn and face the strange ch-ch-changes.

Oh, look out, you rock and rollers.

Posted by laurie at 7:33 PM

January 26, 2006

This doorknob is for you.

Ya'll it is so sad. I have truly gone insane. Please don't laugh at me as I am one step away from directing traffic in my nightgown. I blame it on the massive quantities of over-the-counter junk I am using to defeat my Bird Flu. I'm a little loopy.

So. Hi! How are you? Hello! And also, are you thinking about door knobs? Like me?

Every time I have to open a door, I think of all the door handles I have touched that day and how many other people have had their grimy little paws on the same door knob and I weigh the evidence which points to a serious lack of personal hygiene plaguing the downtown Los Angeles area, and I know I have to open the door for whatever reason (to get to work, to leave work, to open the door to the hallway or the conference room or to the coffee shop) and now my own hand is picking up their nasty little bacteria and I start to go a little crazy.

(Start to go crazy? Start?) (Ya'll. It's the Sudafed.)

So then I find myself in the break room washing my hands again and Bill, the receptionist who always seems to be in the break room when I go in there, watches me out of the corner of his eye.

I know what he's thinking. But that doesn't stop me. In fact he ought to take a page out of my book and wash his grimy little germ-infested claws. Nothing personal of course!

Because if you add up the number of doorknobs you yourself have touched and handled today, and then multiply that by the number of others who touched it, then factor in some unknown national hand-washing quotient, mix in some paranoia and Howard-Hughes-esque, boy-in-the-bubble psychosis .... well, then you'll slowly realize that you are essentially placing your hand onto all the same things those other people have touched.

And oh, the things people touch! When I see what people do with their hands when they think no one is looking (or, even more upsetting, when they don't give a shit if anyone is looking) it makes me cringe.

Just yesterday I walked down Hope Street at lunchtime and saw a man in a suit and tie sitting at a cafe table. He sat there picking his nose and reading the paper. In public. Picking his nose. Do you think that when he went back to work he washed his hands before opening the door of the office building? Nosiree bob. And do you think that a man, even one who wears a suit and tie, will bother to wash his hands after visiting the toilet when he can't be bothered to pick his own nose in private? Right.

Then there is the guy in a Lakers jersey who stopped on the corner right outside the 7th Street Metro Center and whipped out his johnson to take a pee, right there on the sidewalk. What doorknob will he be fondling next?

What about the woman who used her finger in place of a toothpick? Or the one who vigorously scratched her backside in the park? Or guys and their constant personal adjusting, whatever the hell that's about. (Is it some vague reassuring moment, touching your balls to make sure they're still there?) ("Keys? check. Loose change? Check. Balls? Check! Still got 'em!")

So all day I calculate the number of doorknobs and doorhandles and door pulls I have to touch and do some mysterious mental mathematical formula that factors in cleanliness minus populace plus foot traffic and eventually leads me to the answer, which is when I get up from my desk and walk into the break room and wash my hands.

Bill turned to me today, just now, as I did this little crazy person's soap and water dance in my Sudafed and cough-syrup enhanced fugue state, and asked me why I don't use the handsoap in the ladies room instead of the dish soap in the break room to wash my hands. I didn't want to tell him the truth.

The answer is door knobs. You see, the doors to the break room are always propped open, unlike the doors to the ladies room which are closed and you have to push buttons on a security lock before opening the door. With your hands.

And I am a crazy person. Cough cough.

Posted by laurie at 10:01 AM

January 24, 2006

I am silently infecting my coworkers.

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After three days at home with a posse of cats and a hacking cough, I stumbled back into work today because I desperately need human interaction. At some point yesterday I looked at Bob, who apparently spends all day peering out the windows while standing on his hind legs, and for a moment I may have hallucinated that he was actually standing upright on his back legs and about to walk out of the room.

That was all the sign I needed to tell me that I really, really had to get out of the house.

My boss is happy that I'm back, even if I am spreading what is probably the bird flu to everyone at my office. I had chicken broth for dinner two nights in a row -- if that isn't evidence of full-blown bird flu, I don't know what is.

(Also, have ya'll noticed that in addition to making no sense at all, I am also convinced that if I joke enough about the bird flu it will somehow trivialize itself, much like the Great Monkeypox Outbreak of 2002, and will never materialize into the disastrophe predicted?) (Again, with the hallucinating.)

I have nothing to say. Also, I have nothing to say because I HAVE LOST MY VOICE. For some people this is just a minor inconvenience, but for me, A Talker, this is pure hellatious tragedy. I suck at pantomiming and I have about as much energy as a cabbage, so charades are out. What if I need to call someone? What if I need to yell "Watch Out!" to a passer-by? What if I meet the hot fireman of my dreams today and he falls madly in love with my cat-hair-covered, pale, phlegmatic self and I cannot tell him my phone number?

Because that could happen. Yes indeed.

Anyway. I'm off to heat up a tupperware container of chicken broth now, because I'm sure the best cure for the common bird flu is to drink the soup of a bird. And if ya'll see a butterscotch-colored cat with a beer belly walking upright it's just my cat Bob. Tell him to lay off the Meow Mix.


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Posted by laurie at 10:45 AM

January 20, 2006

The Painfully True Story Of Why Temping Ain't Easy

This has been Crazy Week at work (well, Crazy Week in general). We've had all these changes, re-organizations and I'm going to be moving to a new floor and new department and all kinds of stuff. Crazy! Change! But even with unrest and commotion, this is still a very good job because oh yeah. I am not working for the evil minion of Lucifer.

Because I have, in the past, actually worked for the horned beast.

During the dot-com heyday, I left Large Entertainment Corporation, Inc., to do freelance from home and then the dot-bomb happened and the freelance dream died and I went to work for an agency.

The agency would send me ("Qualified Creative Talent") on jobs for companies ("The Client") and my contracts would last anywhere from a few days to a few months. It was like being a high-class call girl for the corporate world. You know, I got dressed up, I showed up, I performed, I got paid, etc. I didn't have to get undressed, but aside from that I was still pretty much pimping myself out for cash. Anyway. Moving along.

It was during this period ("Purgatory") that I met The Satan Boss.

Now I should warn ya'll that this is a horror story, and should serve as a cautionary tale to temps everywhere: you, too, could take a nice little temp job and find yourself working for the horned beast. Bring disinfectant.

It started sometime back in the fall of 2001, when Unnamed Large Company hired me to design a new software they were developing. I was brought in after their last designer mysteriously refused to return to work. THIS WAS A HINT.

Because the project was new, and on a rushed timeline, Large Company placed me in a window office with the woman who was my boss. It became clear to me after a few days that this was no normal boss. But I had no idea ... in my defense, I was younger. Less jaded. I was maybe naive. And possibly very much addicted to shoe shopping. I overlooked things, you know, for a paycheck.

One evening around 6 p.m., I was sitting at my desk trying to work through a mound of project sheets. My boss, Satan, turned around and announced, "I'm bored! My brain is so fried! So ... what are you doing?"

Now, I hadn't worked there long, but prior experience had taught me that Satan was about ten seconds away from rolling her chair over to my desk, looking over my shoulder and offering completely unsolicited advice on how she thought I could do things better using tools she has no idea how to use, but was convinced she understood design software from her passing knowledge of such high-end products as Notepad.

It has happened before. All designers fear the moment an INAD* begins to offer "tips."

(INAD = People who give LOTS of feedback, but always preface it with "I'm Not A Designer, But....")

To head her off at the INAD pass, I suggested she go online to relieve her boredom and take the ColorQuiz, which I was insanely addicted to at the time. I knew it would take up at least five minutes. (A reprieve, no matter how small, was worth it.)

After she finished the ColorQuiz, she turned to me and said, "This is fun! Are there other quizzes online that I can take like this?"

Giving my boss busy work to keep her off my case? Why, yes, ma'am, I can do that!

"Go to emode.com," I told her, "they have tons of quizzes there for you to take." So she registered at emode and started taking quizzes. In the next half hour, Satan became a quiz-taking fool, all out loud of course, telling me what her inner cat was, who her inner rock star was and the name of her ultimate celebrity love match. Apparently, it had not occurred to Satan to waste valuable company time quietly and to herself.

Out of the blue, she started laughing hysterically.

It was an evil laugh.

A foreboding laugh.

"Listen to the title of this quiz!" she said. "It's called 'How Evil Are You?'" Satan started laughing again. "I don't have to take that one... I already know I'm evil!"

She turned her chair around to face me. "Do you want to know what the most evil thing I've ever done is?"

Ah.

Well.

I knew I shouldn't. I knew that fate was tempting me. I knew that whatever I would hear was something I would immediately wish I could un-hear.

But I am a weak, weak woman.

"Sure," I answered. "What's the most evil thing you've ever done?"

She leaned back in her chair.

"Well, once, oh this was about ten years ago..." she says, "I had this boyfriend. I knew he was cheating on me, and I wanted to know who the slut was that he was sleeping with, and I wanted to really give it to him... anyway, I had this guy friend who had gonorrhea. So I slept with him. And I got gonorrhea. Then, the next night, I slept with my boyfriend and I gave him gonorrhea. So I went to the doctor and I got the medicine and I started taking the pills.

"Three days later, when my boyfriend's d*ck was on fire and about to fall off [Ed. Note: THESE WERE HER EXACT WORDS, PEOPLE] he had to come to me and tell me he had gonorrhea... and I ripped him a new one... I screamed at him and he had to tell me who he'd slept with ... and by the end of the night he was on his knees, crying!"

She looked at me expectantly. She was smiling.

"Oh." I said. "Oh."

"Heh," she chuckled, "Oh, I told you. I'm evil. Nobody messes with me."

I excused myself.

The realization of what I had just heard from my new boss who I had known a mere eight days had not fully sunk in yet. I went to the ladies room because I thought I might be sick. But then, as I reached the ladies room, I realized ... I realized HOLY MOTHER OF GOD MY BOSS GAVE HERSELF GONORRHEA.

AND SHE USES THIS VERY LADIES ROOM. And she is my FREAKING BOSS and she's telling me this HORRIBLE STORY at WORK where we are EMPLOYED and expected to have some form of DECENT CONDUCT.

AND I CAN NEVER USE THE LADIES ROOM ON THIS FLOOR AGAIN.

So I then had to go to the lobby and ride the elevator down to the 14th floor and use the ladies room there. I took all the disinfectant wipes from the first aid cabinet and began systematically wiping down my entire workstation. And the elevator keys. And the doorknobs.

Now, I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but it was clear that my boss was indeed the daughter of Lucifer and resided at 666 Avenue of The Beast. I went home that evening and called the agency and asked for a new assignment. There was no way I could return to The Scene Of The Crime.

After all, the ladies room on the 14th floor was still too near the source of germs. I'd have to resort to using the ladies room in the Chinese restaurant downstairs. And before long she might try to get me to sign over my soul, or eat a small child, or bite the head off a kitten.

So, I never returned to the job, and time passed and I found this job at White Guys In Ties, inc., and all was well. Except... every now and then I look at my boss and wonder what's trapped inside. Though in his defense he has never once asked me to bite the head off a little kitten.

Posted by laurie at 12:34 AM

January 19, 2006

Tidbit Thursday

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Knitting
The small, fluffy pink scarf I started out of boredom has ensnared me with it's frilly charm. I love it. Love it want-to-marry-it kind of love. I used two balls of Lana Grossa Pep acrylic eyelashy-stuff in this wacky pepto-pink and white color. I held two strands of yarn together, cast of 16 stitches using size 15 needles and it is a fast knit that I peck on a little each day. It's so soft and fuzzy and this baby is going to Paris with moi. (See how I just used French in a sentence?) (I am probably bilingual.)

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People are strange.
Why is it so much easier to believe the one bad thing someone says to you and discount the 27 nice things? Is this human nature? Are we all just works in progress, some of us able to take criticism and flat-out meanness better than others? I'd like to become one of those women who is confident and tough enough to let mean things just roll off my back. But I'll tell ya'll a secret. I doubt I'll ever be able to change this part of me that's so sensitive to meanness. I get teary-eyed at Kodak commercials for chrissakes.

 



Well, shit, I thought it was funny.

This joke is brought to you by my grandma, who had someone print it out for her and she saved it for me. Thanks, nana!

A highway patrolman pulled alongside a speeding car on the freeway. Glancing at the car, he was astounded to see that the blonde behind the wheel was knitting! Realizing that she was oblivious to his flashing lights and siren, the trooper rolled down his window, turned on his bullhorn and yelled, "PULL OVER!"

"NO!" the blonde yelled back, "IT'S A SCARF!"

 


The Six Week Plan
Well, it was the six-week plan, anyway. But it got somewhat derailed by my mom being here and funeral men and the big birthday party for Shannon. Anyway, I'm re-starting the Six-Week Plan, which is my little experiment on my bodily self to see if I can have a better outlook on life and get more energy just by changing a few variables in my day-to-day.

It's pretty simple, really. I'm just taking my vitamins each day and drinking water instead of coke, green tea instead of coffee, and no alcohol. Yes ya'll heard that part right. I used to detoxify before every trip me and Mr. Ex took, it's just a little thing I do. But this time I'm really trying to make a difference in my outlook on things. I'm trying to get exercise each day, go to bed at a decent hour, and eat lots of organic food. I can be crazy with the health food stuff, no lie. (That's probably why I also lie in bed at night dreaming of gravy. *sob*) I'm reading Healthy Aging (and ya'll know I already have 8 Weeks To Optimum Health because maybe I kind of love Dr. Weil. Maybe.) So, we'll see if six weeks of being the lovechild of Dr. Weil can make me happy and wholesome, like a walking slice of whole-wheat bread. Then I can go to France and eat all the cheese. And drink all the wine. All of it. Por moi. (There I go speaking French again! See how it just pops out real quick like?)

Franklin Cluesoe
I have resorted to ambushing her while she is sleeping. Call it payback for the 4:30 a.m. wakeup calls in which she stands on me and meows, loudly, like the world will stop spinning on its axis if she doesn't get love an attention this very minute oh my god I may die of unlove. Le chat es crazee. More French! With a bad accent! And some Spanish mixed in. It's Thursday. Oh-vwar, ya'll.

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Posted by laurie at 10:58 AM

January 18, 2006

The deep-fried truth.

This is a little story bout a man named Jed, poor mountaineer barely kept his family fed. Then one day I was thinking about some food, and ... no. Wait. Turns out Jed is named "Laurie" and works at a bank. But still. Thinking of food!

Actually, this is a story about a group of programmers who got together and created some software that was really REALLY ugly. And then they sold this ugly software to the banking industry, who on the whole are not as concerned with color-coordinated tabs as I am, and eventually someone on the 20th floor asked me to help make Ugly Product pretty, because that's what I do, and I agreed and forms were filled out and banking was happy.

Except that I had to work directly with the outside firm who had created the software, and my contact was an allegedly cranky Project Manager we'll call Trish. And Trish had a reputation for being "difficult." Maybe that's true, I don't know. What I do know is that as soon as I called the reputedly difficult Trish on the phone, I heard her voice and I knew beyond a shadow of doubt that she was Southern.

I introduced myself in the appropriate telephone manners ("Hi, this is firstname, lastname...") and before launching into the business at hand, I asked about her accent and where she was from. Turns out she grew up not far from where I had once lived in The Great Stet Of Loosiana and thirty minutes later we had passed judgement on all things Californian (Los Angeles manners? nonexistent! SoCal accent? painful! City driving? horrendous! The weather? paradise! and on and on.)

And then, finally, we settled upon the subject closest and dearest to a Southern heart. We talked about food.

"Girl, what I wouldn't do for a decent plate of cornbread!" whispered my newfound friend Trish. And I agreed wholeheartedly, adding that "I haven't seen a well-fried chicken since I've been here!" "Hey, girl, do you eat sushi?" "Lord no, girl! Now, you bread that sushi crap and deep fry it, and I might eat it!" "Amen, sister!"

I don't know if this happens to people from other geographic and cultural regions of the US. But if you put two Southern expats together in conversation, within ten minutes we'll be talking about food. She and I got wistful over images of red-eye gravy and fluffy biscuits and hush puppies and creamed corn. We talked about Sun-Drop and snickers bars in the freezer and homemade ice-cream. There was crawfish etoufee followed by fresh pecan pie... or cobbler. Never turn down a cobbler. It's a cardinal sin.

Are Southerners the only people in the country who get religious about food? It's so much a part of my childhood and identity that I can't separate the food from the event and vice versa. Southern food is conversation, comfort and kindness. When we walked into that funeral home last weekend, I instinctively felt I should be holding a pie or a pan of homemade macaroni and cheese. Everyone knows funerals have the best food.

Are we the only ones who do this? Do people from New England, upon meeting in a strange part of Los Angeles, immediately begin to reminisce about baked beans and lobster suppers? Do Minnesotans find themselves sharing a love of ludefisk that bonds them for life?

I can't imagine being from any place else in the world but the South. We may all be crazy as damn bedbugs, but we have an appreciation for food that transcends religion, age and prediliction.

Trish and I finally got around to discussing the project I had called about and she was accommodating and sweet as pie. (Coconut cream pie, or maybe lemon merengue?) My boss thought I was wasting time talking to this "difficult" woman about fish frys and potato salad. When I got four stylesheets modified three days earlier than expected, I walked into his office, triumphiantly waving a confirmation email. "Take that, you nonbeliever! This is what a love of hushpuppies will get you, Mister! Four stylesheets and perfect tabs! Fish fry THAT!!"

He thinks I am crazy. But somehow shockingly resourceful.

I know it was all about the food.


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Posted by laurie at 9:15 AM

January 17, 2006

I got drunk and called France.

I drunk-dialed France. Twice. But that is not even the beginning of the story of my past five days, it's not the end, either, it's just there sandwiched in between "get mad at funeral home guy" and "people at my house are measuring themselves using a pink ballpoint pen on my white front door."

How was ya'lls weekend?

Mine began on Thursday, because my mom was in town and down in The OC with my grandma and Aunt Pam. I could have driven down to visit them, which certainly would have been quicker and easier, so instead of course I decided to take mass transporation. Glutton! Punishment! Sign me up! Over the course of two days I rode on eleventeen types of public transportation. Ya'll cannot imagine the quantity of wet wipes this journey took.

Los Angeles has transit, we do! It's just real hard to get to. Like, you have to drive to the mass transit, see? But I have a car that is real easy to steal, and in fact has been stolen, so I prefer not to park it overnight in strange parking lots. Instead, I walked two miles to the Orange Line busway, which drove me from Encino-ish to North Hollywood, where I caught a subway to Union Station. At Union Station, I boarded an Amtrak train for south OC. Yes. I did this. It was like one of those dreams you have where you keep walking and walking and you never get anywhere. Then suddenly you are naked.

Also, next time you get tempted to say "Oh, no one takes mass transit in LA!" you think again. The trains and buses were PACKED like little sardine tins full of people. (Luckily, no one was naked.)

My mom and Grandma picked me up in the OC, one million hours later, and we went ... directly to the cemetery. My mom neglected to tell me this would be the first stop on my little mini-vacation. THE CEMETERY. Where Grandpa is buried. I thought we might go shopping. Or watch TV. No. WE ARE VISITING THE DEAD.

Only, we're not just visiting. No. We are going to visit, and be sad, and give Grandpa some pretty flowers, then we'll all go INSIDE the funeral place and talk about funeral arrangements for my grandma who, by the way, is not dead yet. This also falls into "more details my mom neglected to tell me on the phone before I journeyed by dugout and donkey to Orange Freaking County and WHERE IS THE WINE?"

And, having never chitchatted with funeral-type people before, I was surprised to discover how much like used car salesmen they are. It's all about money. And it was depressing. And these people were not Southern, so they didn't have a natural way about them of putting you at ease. It was a lot like going to Keyes Honda on Van Nuys Boulevard. And THERE WAS NO WINE.

In general I would say I do not handle death-like matters very well. I am more of an optimist, believing I will live forever and so will everyone I know. Planning for death seems quite pessimistic to me. After all, you may outwit it! I've watched six seasons of "Survivor" ... I'm pretty sure if I fly under the radar, I will outlast that bastard Death.

So, needless to say, I am not the rock of support you should take on your next trip to a FUNERAL HOME. Just saying is all.

Luckily, there was a big bottle of Scotch waiting for us at Grandma's house. And before long I was all pink cheeks and happy happy and we had all kinds of people over and then watched Dancing With The Stars in a happy warm fog of Chivas Regal. And I promptly set about killing the brain cells that contained the funeral home visit memories.

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Bus stop; The Orange Line bus is crowded; walking to the subway.


   
North Hollywood red line; some subway knitting!


   
This was my first time on Amtrak; look who's here!


   
Flowers for Grandpa; we all need a drink after this day.


 
Scotch is REALLY strong; me and my cousin Ryan drankin' away.

The next day we did some shopping and had a nice lunch together then I embarked upon a journey back to the Valley, which took many hours and ended with Jennifer picking me up in front of a liquor store in Reseda. Because that is where I hang out, yo.

Jennifer and I sat on my patio and did a little wine tasting, then maybe a little more, and before long we decided it would be a REALLY GOOD IDEA to call the hotel we have reserved in Paris and confirm our rooms and ... uh, chitchat. Ya'll know. Except there were some teetiny roadblocks, like I DO NOT KNOW HOW TO DIAL FRANCE and also, THESE NUMBERS ARE REAL SMALL, and also, MAYBE I SHOULD DRINK ONE MORE GLASS, and then, HELLO FRANCE! I DO NOT SPEAK FRENCH!

Marc at Hotel In Paris: Bonjour.

Me, drunk in Encino: Bonjour! (fit of giggles) um. Hi! Hello! Bonjour! I... kind of don't know French. Whoops!

Marc: Eets okay, I speak English.

Me (giggle giggle): Oooh! Yes! Hello! Thank you!

(insert drunken conversation here about room reservations)

Marc: Ok, everything is good, goodbye now.

Me (giggle giggle): Oooh! Bonjour! Thank you!

Jennifer: (yelling at me): Say Merci Beaucoup!

Me: huh?

Jennifer: (louder): Say Merci Beaucoup! Say it!

Me: Oh yes! Merci! Lots of Beaucoup!

So, in conclusion, the four of us are either staying in side-by-side rooms at a cute hotel in Paris, or we are sleeping on a tablecloth covered in fleas. I DO NOT KNOW. Hi Marc!

And that was just Friday, folks.

Saturday came rather early, what with the hangover and all. And Shannon's birthday party was being held... at my house! In mere hours! And there was a quick trip to the vet (don't ask) and some housecleaning, and also more housecleaning, and suddenly people were showing up and it was time to start drinking again. Which was good because Lord knows I need my blood to be at least 35% alcohol by volume to withstand the germs of mass transportation. And also to speak such excellent French.

And the party was lovely, except maybe I got drunk and insisted I was MUCH TALLER THAN everyone and that never, ever ends well, folks. But it's not a party unless someone is measuring something at my house. I think we let Shannon win the Who's Tallest contest since it was her birthday. I can't really remember.

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That first pic is Shannon talking to Randy who called from Afganistan. The FBI is totally wiretapping my phones now. Hope they enjoy lots of drunken blathering.

   
Shannon, Jane, Faith with crazy halo effect. And see? My fridge does TOO have stuff on it. Geez.

   
Lots of hi, hello with Penny & Shannon, Karman is so cute.

   
There was much measuring, and also some champagne.

So you know, just the normal stuff. Hours of transportation, cheerful chitchat about funerals, way too much drinking and some good cake. Oh, and of course, my usual drunk dial. TO FRANCE.



We all need a vacation from our mini-vacation. Au revoir.

Posted by laurie at 12:51 PM

January 11, 2006

The Tango Lesson

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This is the only picture I have of my bassackwards fridge.
But imagine that on the left, exactly where the photo ends,
there is a protruding bank of cabinets. Cat optional.


My refrigerator is backwards.

One of the little quirks about LA, if you move anywhere (even into an apartment, the cheapest you can find) you have to provide your own fridge. That's how I ended up with mine, and Mr. Ex and I moved it from place to place, each time a little higher up on the food chain, until we landed in a condo in Studio City that eventually sold for more money than I could logically envision. (We rented.) (Or else I'd be writing this column from the comfort of my very own velvet-lined jungle room.)

So I moved into this tiny house in Encino Park, one year ago, and I kept the fridge because I can only assume he made other arrangements. The moving company sent me three fine young Latin men who moved my 2500-square-feet of stuff into this tiny 900-square-foot place, and that was when we discovered all at once the refrigerator doors opened in the wrong direction. To get a beer or a slice of cheese, you do a little dance with the door, it just barely clears the countertops, like a French farce for appliances.

Oscar was 19 years old, one of the moving men. A reformed cholo with the tattoos to prove it, he was a tall Latin man who could rescue a damsel in distress. (A tall Latin man!) He offered to come over the next day and fix my refrigerator. On his own time. Payment? Dinner. We made arrangements for 7 p.m. the next evening.

Oscar never showed.
It was for the best.

I would have taken any shred of affection back then, I was so wounded by my husband's abrupt departure. A sideways glance, any kindness, and I could have been yours. It was fate and serendipity that The Refrigerator Repairman, as he became known, never appeared. Who knows what path I may have taken out of sadness and hunger.

That appetite we have for desire, it never leads to good when it's steeped in sorrow. This much I know for sure.

So, to this day, my refrigerator doors open the wrong way, and one day I will fix them myself or I will move and either decision will be better than relying upon the kindness of strangers, a'la Blanche Dubois.

I think about this sometimes as I do a little tango in my kitchen to get the milk for my cereal. All those little quirks about Los Angeles, and divorce, all those things you learn as you go.

Posted by laurie at 9:21 AM

January 10, 2006

Ribbed -- for her pleasure!

After waxing euphoric about Patons Up Country for so long, a few folks have emailed me with something like, "Hi Aunt Purl! You forced me to buy this Patons Up County, and I forgive you for that, but what the hell do I make with just one (or two) skeins of this crap? Help me! This is your fault!"

I'm paraphrasing of course.

Well then. May I suggest a hat, madam? Here I have the ever-popular "Silver Mist" (the only color currently available on elann.com) paired with a tiny bit of leftover charcoal grey from my stash. However, you could substitute any comparable yarn for a stripe -- I particularly like Lana Grossa "Caldo" in solid or prints since it knits in the same exact gauge and has the same level of softness and lopi-like structure. But a solid hat would look good too!

upcountryhat1.jpg


The Easy Roll-Brim Hat Recipe cooked up many fine fuzzy hats on the internets and if you haven't ventured into the world of hats yet, I dare you. Trust me, if I (a.k.a. "Scarf girl" a.k.a. "Garter Stitch Lover") can make a hat, so can you. Plus, it's the easiest pattern ever! In three simple steps! Then... maybe 17 more steps. But I talk a lot. Ya'll know.

However, if you're ready to move from the roll-brim hat to something a little more wintery, or masculine, may I suggest a fine and dandy Easy Ribbed-Brim Hat?

Easy Ribbed Brim Hat Recipe
(Saying "ribbed brim" so many times makes me feel all dirty inside.)

1) Read the Easy Roll-Brim Hat Recipe to figure out how many stitches to cast on.

2) INSTEAD of casting on with your normal-sized needle, cast on using a needle one or two times smaller. The thing about ribbing is that it can kind of puff out on the brim of the hat. If you use smaller needles -- just for the ribbing -- your brim will be perfect. And ribbing stretches a lot, so don't worry about it being too tight.

upcountryhat3.jpg
I should have used a size 10 needle on the ribbing, see how it puffs out a little bit?


3) So, OK, cast on. Then start your ribbing. For the hat in the photo, I am doing a wide knit 4, purl 4 ribbing. Just continue knitting in the round, doing your ribbing for a few inches. This ribbed portion will be the fold-up brim, so make it as long as you think fits the hat.

4) When you're all done with your ribbing, switch to the larger sized needle, the one you measured your gauge on. In step One. Because I know you did not skip Step One and you read the Easy Roll-Brim Hat Recipe and know all about knitting a swatch, measuring your noggin and so on. Yup.

5) Just knit in plain stockinette (all knit stitch in the round) and decrease and bind off just like your roll-brim hat. Perfecto!

upcountryhat2.jpg

I do love hats. I believe I could be happy knitting nothing but hats and scarves all my life. I know. I know ... ya'll go on and on about the joys of socks! The happiness of sweaters! But me... I'm a hat girl. Perhaps because they are quick 'n dirty. Perhaps because they hold infinite possibilities: stripes, colors, two yarns held together, then pom-poms, or earflaps or beads, oh my!

I love me a hat. Especially a ribbed hat. For my pleasure!

Posted by laurie at 10:10 AM

January 9, 2006

Picture-perfect weekend

jenparty-group.jpg
From L-R, clockwise: Penny, Rachel, Amber, Karman, Shannon, me, Jennifer, Gloria.

Hi! Hello! Monday. But the weekend was so nice, can it last a little longer?

Friday was Jennifer's birthday party, and she made a lovely French bistro-themed meal and at one point, Shannon turned to everyone and said ... we will soon be eating in restaurants IN PARIS!! And it is true, because Shannon and Amber are coming to Paris, too, and Gloria will be coming in midway through our trip, and this vacation will be NOTHING like visits to Paris in the past, because I will be with a whole gaggle of girls. Let the shopping commence!

More images of the party, click to enlarge:

 
Bread, crusty and tres French; Fondue!


 
Penny is so adorable; Shannon is a supermodel!


Then on Sunday, my mom flew into town. I miss my folks so much and seeing her is a treat! I wish my dad could have come, too, but he sent along some Cavender's Greek Seasoning (which she produced from her handbag) (hello, airport security! this is my greek seasoning!) because I can't find it in the stores here. My dad wants to make sure that any attempts I make at cooking are encouraged, and he could not allow the dirth of Cavender's to deter me.

My Aunt Pam and my Grandma picked her up at the airport, then they met me at Olvera Street for an early lunch and some shopping. Olvera Street is one of my favorite places in all of Los Angeles. It's big and bright and noisy and there's tons of shopping (all the dia de los muertos stuff that I am addicted to) (if given the opportunity, I would decorate my house like a Tijuana brothel) and the food! Mmmm. The food. I took a picture of my food, but it was blurry... maybe because I was trying to eat and photograph at the same time?

weekend1.jpg
My mom. Ya'll wonder why I am the way I am? hee hee

weekend4.jpg

weekend3.jpg


More pictures from Olvera Street, click for bigger:

   
Aztec dancers; all the Mexican wrestling masks you could ever want! Mucha Lucha!


   
Sweet shop; dulces; L-R: my mom, Aunt Pam, Grandma.

   
I love you, Los Angeles.


And now, Monday. Can ya'll believe it is already the NINTH day of January two-thousand-SIX?

No? Neither can Roy!

weekend-roy.jpg


Posted by laurie at 12:10 PM

January 5, 2006

There are impediments to bus knitting.

typical-evening.jpg
This image has nothing to do with the column.


Help me. I think I may be infected with old man germs.

On the bus, I had the great misfortune of sitting across the aisle from a very grumpy old man who sneezed loudly, wetly and with a gusto that belied his advanced age. These waves of germs erupted about every ten seconds. Even after washing my hands five times with antibacterial soap in the office germfest known as "the 19th floor ladies room," I am convinced I will soon find myself growing bushy eyebrows or sprouting nose hairs or overcome with an insatiable urge to wave my cane at someone since the old man germs were sprayed dangerously near me, repeatedly, in a very contagious manner.

The perils of mass transportation are many and varied.

I could not actually get up and move far away from sneezing Grandpa Grumpy for the following reasons:

1) Had already changed seats twice, once to avoid the very loud Talking Lady and her friend, Also Incessant Talker. And then I had to change seats again because I found myself sitting next to a non-survivor.*

2) As I missed both the 5:35 and the 5:45 bus, I found myself on the extremely overcrowded 6:00 bus and there were no more available seats for my Musical Crazy-Girl Chairs.

3) Was flummoxed, yes that is right I was flummoxed, ya'll, by the notion that people crowd onto a bus at SIX FREAKING O CLOCK in the morning. Flummoxing takes time, apparently, and dulls the response mechanism.

4) In some very sad way, I was afraid of offending the sneezy, drippy old man even though I know it is weak and docile of me to worry about feelings of germ-infusing grouchy man.

5) He was grouchy, and I do mean GROUCHY, the persnickity sort who probably would have called me out for moving away from his germ shower, and it was morning and I was uncaffeinated and unprepared to deal with crazy so early and also... I am maybe cowardly. And still busy with the flummoxing.

* The "survivor" element: I scrutinize every train and bus and elevator before getting in to see if the people on board look like survivors. I ask myself, "If something were to happen, something BAD, and we are thrust into peril, would these people survive LIKE ME or would they start crying for their mommies as they trampled each other to death in a panic?" It's more of a snap decision really. I also do this on airplanes (in truth, you have less flexibility to get off an airplane, but I do eye my seatmate suspiciously for signs of the survivor instinct.)

Obviously, I have some issues regarding germs and outdated notions of politeness and fatalistic visions of myself caught in metro bus crashes.

I know that in therapy I would have to discuss these issues at length and then discover I'm suffering from some form of psychosis. I would have to cry a lot and get to my root issues. Luckily for me, I do not have a therapist, having given up counseling once I realized it was about as effective on my problems as control-top pantyhose.

I am, however, going to trust that old man germs can be deflected by antioxidant qualities of coffee and the restorative, healing powers of a fun-size snickers bar, which is the Breakfast of Champions I plan to eat this morning.

Right after I wash my hands.

Again.

Posted by laurie at 9:23 AM

January 3, 2006

January 2006 Hor-O-Scopes

I met a lady once on The Farm in Summertown, and she was telling me about the different stages of Venus. I was eight years old. Because all eight-year-olds like to hear about planets moving into their house of so-and-so, right? My childhood. Normal as pie.

Anyway, this lady's name was Barbara, and she wore long skirts and ankle bracelets and had a fondness for zucchinni bread that I still do not understand to this day. She believed, as some do, that the date of birth does not define you astrologically, that in fact the date of conception makes you who you are.

Therefore, if my predicitions are off, blame it on all the zucchini bread, the retrograde of Venus, all the drugs they did back in the 60s ... and on you not knowing your date of conception! (Like I would ask my parents that. EWWWWW.)

Happy January!

---


AQUARIUS (Jan. 20 - Feb. 18)
There is nothing like a bikini wax to prove that beauty can be painful. And don't get me started on high heels, pantyhose and the torture we endure known as the thong. So, what is this metaphor and why is it in your horoscope? In January, you discover that nothing is effortless, even artful disguise. The beginning of a new year is daunting to Aquarians because it seems like there's just so much work to do. Luckily, all the effort (and pain) will be accompanied by some possible romance, especially as Venus retrogrades through February. Don't push yourself to make an unnecessary choice... but consider the pain/gain compromise. Even the dreaded thong cures panty lines.


PISCES (Feb. 19 - March 20)
Your scars are a legend of the places you've been, the roadmap of adventures you have had. The deeper your scars go, the more you need to use them as signposts and monuments to your personal travels. You've seen this month's pitfalls before. Look clearly at your emotional compass and you'll see you're about to run right back into a dead end. The upside is that I caught you just in time, and if you stop, and do a little turn to the left or right, you'll be off in a new direction. Pick your next steps carefully, especially around the new moon on the 29th. Your choices will color the coming months, and you'll either be repeating history or charting new territory.


ARIES (March 21- April 19)
If I were eavesdropping on your psyche I'd wager you're grumbling about success, and measuring sticks, and possibly wondering why the vision of your life that you dreamed up so long ago seems to pale in comparison to so-and-so's life? Or maybe your own goals and expectations have you feeling about two inches tall? It's all the same thing. January looks challenging, because someone in your circle will find a way to point out your failures while simultaneously tootin' their own damn horn. Rest assured, you may not actually see the Karma Police in action giving citations to the creeps in your midst, but I dare you to outdo them. Success truly is the best revenge, and it is within your reach. You are way more than two inches tall. I promise.

TAURUS (April 20 - May 20)
You have had the psychic flu for way too long. Get out the hot tea and the emotional remedies that worked last year around this time and start doing some serious recuperating. Your addiction to the past is gonna put you in deep inner-rehab, and we can only hope you'll emerge like Drew Barrymore coming out of the Betty... a beautiful butterfly with a great comeback career and toned thighs instead of that withered old worm in the bottom of a fifth of Cuervo. It's your choice, really, and the sooner you realize that health and recovery are all in your own hands the better. The new moon on the 29th is your absolute final bottom-line "snap-out-of-it" day!



GEMINI (May 21 - June 21)

What a contradiction, like the way your eyes change colors when you get sleepy or tired or mad as hell. And how you always manage to have a striking good hair day the same exact morning you have an appointment to get the whole mess chopped off. Some people would call it bad timing ... I say it's a hidden blessing. Smolder. Have bed-head, why don't you. What you see as awkward and shy about you is someone else's vision of mystery and gamine charm. Always work the charm angle, it will endear you to women and make men fall at your feet. It isn't manipulative if you really are charming ... and I trust you to be polite and seductive at the same time. Yours is the only contradiction in the zodiac worth exploiting.


CANCER (June 22 - July 22)
Did you know that approximately 3 billion people on the planet have never made or received a telephone call? That's half the earth's population. So before you get run-down and stressed-out and feeling like the world is passing you by on broadband cable while you're stuck on a 28.8 dial-up, take a deep breath and think ... "At least I'm in the phone half." See, you're already way ahead of half the world. Feel better? Understand that you will never know as much as you want to or reach every single goal or even have a perfectly clean house. Forget being in complete control. Take a deep breath make a list of things to do. Throw away the list. Have a cocktail and just breathe.


LEO (July 23 - August 22)
Ever noticed what someone might recommend as "good" for you often feels like opression? This month the only advice to take is your own. You're kicking ass. I hope you aren't kicking mine. Lethargy and numbness are stalking you and you're fighting them off! I'm amazed. Bottle that energy and sell it. Hell, I'll buy it. Seriously. I'll buy anything. Financial troubles, romantic tension and too many obligations left you feeling drained after the holidays, and your energetic reach for a fresh start is admirable. But stalkers have a naughty tendency to be tenacious -- and Mr. Lethargy and Ms. Sloth are all over your neighborhood. Use your ass-kicking skills to banish them until summer, when you'll be ready for a well-deserved rest. June will be the best time to plan a get-away, so if you start saving now the whole trip will be virtually free.


VIRGO (August 23 - Sept. 22)
I have a very good Virgo friend who once told me that she's a member of the "most boring sign in the zodiac." Say it ain't so. I think there's a simmering discontent right under your skin. You feel like a big slug right now, but you're just going to have to rouse yourself out of your rut and shake a tailfeather, baby. If you try to bury your head you'll end up with car trouble, financial worries and an ulcer. Besides, your namesake planet is retrograding, and even the word "retrograde" sounds sinister, don't you agree? Make like a good Virgo and spend some time organizing your life, un-retrograding yourself. Once you start, you'll feel infinitely better.

LIBRA (Sept. 23 - Oct. 23)
Imagine your month as if it were a playoff game in the NFL ... hopelessly unfeminine, brutishly strong, and played out in front of a crowd, half of whom want you to lose and half of whom want you to win. You have a cheerleading squad, and a coach, but when it comes down to it the whole game is up to you -- whether or not you drop the ball is all on your own shoulders. Or shoulderpads, as the metaphor would have it. You'll be caught up in a huddle of competitive spirit and the game can go either way. Remember you'll need your team's support for this to work out in your favor, so don't alienate those who are trying to help you.


SCORPIO (Oct. 24 - Nov. 21)
Wanted: One slighty smoldering Scorpio, visionary ideals intact, for a month of romantic possibilities. Charisma a must. A desire to take the lead will get you everywhere. Prefer a strong communicator who makes the first move in January. Artistry and intuition will put you ahead of the competition. Underappreciated Scorps encouraged to apply. No phone calls, please, all daring escapades must be made in person. January is an equal opportunity calendar month for you.


SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22 - Dec. 21)
Car metaphors. Your wheels are turning. Your engine is heating up. Sure, in the cold and long winter months it may take more to get you going than in the sunroof-down-days of summer, but your motor just needs some TLC. I know you have every intention of revving up the new year with your horsepower blazing, horns at the ready, map in hand. Do not get discouraged when the first half of the month brings you stop signs, traffic jams and possibly a moving violation. You still have the keys, you are in the driver's seat, and the road may be curvy, but it;s a lovely view once you get beyond the full moon of the 14th. I'm telling the rest of the zodiac to brake for Sagittarious in January.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22 - Jan. 19)
I have a paint-by-numbers vision of who you want to be, but your actions -- your brushstrokes and sketches and ink blobs -- are making the picture muddy and here I am left with paint on my fingers and still no idea where you are. Where will all this avoidance and barely-below-the-surface frustration get you? (Abstract art usually makes the artist rich post-mortem.) (I don't know what that means, either, but it sounded profound.) What I do know is that you must try to clear up the picture and make some bold color appear, after all -- you are the artist here, not me. January is your month to draw a whole new picture of your life, if you choose to see it that way.

Posted by laurie at 3:48 PM