Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Steve Madden Hates Me

In my last post I mentioned that I have some coordination problems. Unfortunately for me they extend past dancing and include walking. I fall down. A lot. There’s rarely any sort of provocation, no broken heels or pot holes or cracks in the sidewalk…I just fall down. I also, completely unrelated, have a problem with airports. It’s one of my mildly irrational fears (along with clowns, puppets, and stairs-but I think those three are completely rational). My walking problems and fear of airports have never intersected though...until last September…

I was on my way to Serbia for work and to visit friends. One of my good friends was pregnant at the time and I had offered to bring her baby things that she couldn’t get in Belgrade so I had a lot of luggage on this trip: my biggest suitcase, the large duffel that matched my case, my camera bag (which is a small duffel on its own) and my huge crocodile print red leather shoulder bag-the only one large enough to hold my heavy 17” laptop. I also happened to be wearing my cute new Steve Madden boots. I generally like Steve’s shoes; they’re not as horrifically uncomfortable as many other designers…ahem Franko Sarto. These were also fairly practical shoes for my trip; heading into fall so no more sandals and they’re pull ons which means easy off and on at security. On the whole I was feeling pretty good.

Then, four steps into Dulles International Airport…four steps! I fall down. And I don’t just mean that I tripped and stumbled or landed on my knee or something. I mean that all almost 6 feet of me fell forward like a giant Redwood. I went from being vertical to having my face smacked on the ugly linoleum covered by all my various baggage which somehow all landed on top of me.


Some very nice gentleman ran over to assist me in getting up. Thankfully I was not terribly injured and my glasses had not broken. Landing on my face the way I did that was my immediate concern. I was more embarrassed than anything but grateful that for once the airport was oddly empty. Compared to the THREE HOUR!!!! check-in nightmare of my last flight out of Dulles with United (which is an evil airline; although not as evil as is Delta) there seemed to be no traveling that day. I limped up to the check-in counter eagerly left two of my bags with them, then limped through security; where I suffered additional indignities*.

I finally got through security, was in such a foul mood that I almost belted a lady complaining about “When did they start making you remove cosmetics from your carry-on? That’s such a nuisance. I’ve never had to do that before.” Really lady? Because may I just say…10 YEARS!!

I get my laptop back in my shoulder bag and stuff on my boots before heading toward gate C. The only nice thing about Dulles is the new monorail which is so much better than those awful people movers (which you still have to use when you get off your flight). So there I am, heading to the monorail to take me to gate C when disaster strikes again. The instant I put my foot on the escalator it shoots out from under and I begin to plummet downward. This is not the first time, or even the second or third that I’ve fallen down an escalator. I managed, miraculously, to stop my headfirst dive by desperately scrabbling for a hold on the handrail. However in the process I lost hold of my giant shoulder bag. Which I had not zipped shut. Thankfully there was no one in front of me because as my bag went soaring out flew papers, pens, my passport, ticket, plastic baggy filled with ‘dangerous liquids/gels’ … and a really heavy 17” laptop. After a moment of stunned silence I managed to make a joke about this to all the people on the escalator behind me and all the people on the escalator next to mine.

My immediate concern was my ticket as it seemed in imminent danger of getting eaten by the escalator. In fairly short order I had everything scooped up and back in the back and them limped yet more dramatically to the monorail entrance. While I’d saved myself from falling I managed to strain my hamstrings and wrench my right wrist, shoulder, back, and neck whilst flailing about. After I made it to my gate, limping more heavily than before, I texted my roommate and made calls to my sister and my mom to let them know how pitiful I was. I also stopped at one of the airport convenience stores to buy a small bottle of massively over priced IB Profin.

I am increasingly convinced that I am a walking accident waiting to happen. I swear that I’m not clumsy in the traditional sense of knocking into things; but walking seems to be completely beyond my powers. And apparently when you combine that with airports, escalators, and Steve Madden, I don’t even have a chance.

*A note to all airports: your often redundant and inefficient security lines need to have one line designated for families with small children only! As a very frequent traveler I have my coat and shoes off, laptop out, and my little plastic bag with my eye drops and chapstick sealed inside ready to go. It is annoying; and rage inducing, when I spend a year behind someone who has small children and waits until they’re exactly at the belt to start the disrobing process, take kid out of stroller, break down stroller, go through security, have to come back because screaming child was distracting and parent forgot to remove keys, phone, belt, laptop, liquids whatever.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Lake of the Swans

February 20 is the anniversary of the Bolshoi's first performance in 1877 of Tchaikovsky's famous Swan Lake (which debuted as The Lake of the Swans). It reminds me of the two careers I dreamed of having as a young girl: jockey and ballerina. Unfortunately for me, even before puberty I was both far too tall and weighed way too much to be either of those. That did not, however, stop me from pestering my mom to death until she agreed to let me stay after school a couple times a week for ballet class when I was in the third grade.

I can't remember if I have mentioned this yet or not...but I am completely lacking in grace of movement and coordination. Completely. This leads to many funny stories. But what this meant for my ballet recital was...well was that it wasn't very good. For one thing, I was put in the same class with the first and second graders instead of with the third and fourth graders. I have no idea why. I am a tall person and I have always been a tall person. You know that expression, 'head and shoulders above'...I was head, shoulders, and sternum above these little girls. So my lack of grace couldn't be hidden behind everyone else.

Also, that part about being too fat to be a ballerina has always been true. I have long skinny legs and arms but have had a beer belly since birth. So me in bright pink tights and a leotard was just not a good vision. Also...pink?! I am convinced my mom bought those without my input. I hate pink. And I had a tiara. And to hopefully make this experience as embarrassing for someone else as it was for me...it was my mom's beauty queen tiara.

My class of girls did a short routine to Swan Lake and much like swans in a lake, we were in a V shape for the entire dance. I was in the back. We began with our heads down and arms crossed that the wrist in front of us. The right arm was to then float up and down (head still down), followed by the left arm. Then the right and left arms again but this time our gaze follows our hands. Then there was stuff in the middle on which I'm blanking...then arms in fifth position walk in a tight circle to the right, then the arms come up and with great drama and speed they, and the head, go back to starting position.

It was all to be very graceful and swan-like.

However if you watch the video, which got trotted out for one cousin's enjoyment every single Christmas Eve and of which there are several copies because I threatened to erase it so Mom made a few and hide them...yes if you watch the video you will notice that I looked anything but graceful and swan-like. For one thing, I am glaring death at the little first and second grade bitches on my side of the V. They weren't in a straight line! They were all crooked and higgledy piggledy and I felt very put out. Other than my sour expression I started out pretty well...but then we had to move.

My arms did not so much float gently and elegantly up and down as they abruptly sprung up and down as though hinged at the shoulder. I'm pretty sure that middle bit went similarly. I do remember trying hard to a) not smile and b) not look at the camera as I was sure neither was cool. But then the ending. Oh the ending. I may not do grace or elegance but boy howdy can I do drama. My arms were raised as high as possible and they, and my head, crashed down so quickly and dramatically my body practically vibrated with the drama. I may have also given my neck a mild case of whiplash.

 Thus ended my brief career as a ballerina. The experience did not end my desire to be one; but it sure did smack me harshly in the face with the ugly reality of the fact that I should probably not be allowed to walk, let alone dance.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The sad Demise of Feisty the Third

We had a lot of pets growing up. Cats, a few dogs, rabbits, you name it. We also lost a lot of pets growning up. Some to the cars and semis that speed down our road, some to roaming (and probably bigger animals) and some naturally. When a pet went missing our mom often told us that it had found a wife (or husband) and had gone off to start a family.

I had a series of cats growning up that all looked a like. So they were Feisty, Feisty the Second, and Feisty the Third. The original Feisty must not really have been all that Feisty cause he let me do this to him.

That's me! And Poor Feisty...

I don't remember much about the Second but the Third was a nice cat as outdoor farm cats go. He died when I was probably 12-13...stretched out across the landing step in our garage. I have this real problem with freshly dead things. It does not matter species or size, I get vertigo and dizzy and just don't feel so great. I'm awful at funerals and usually refuse to do the go up to the casket and pray bit. One of my chores was to take care of all the rabbits. If any of them met a natural death, which were few and far between, I made my dad take care of the dead one before I went in to feed/water/clean them.

So when Feisty the Third died stretched out across the step I could not just leave him there like that. Neither of my parents was home to dispose of him, and there was no way I was doing that, and it was both undignified and icky to just leave him. I got a blanket and covered him with it. I felt better for about five minutes until I realized that to anyone coming into the house, the blanket was just a blanket. I mean, what if my mom came home from the store and stepped on him. A) ew and b) ew. So, I made a sign and placed it prominently on top of the blanket.

This story often gets trotted out by my family who finds it all very hilarious. Was I wrong to not want anyone to step on my dead cat? I think rather not.


After reading this my mom reminded me of the rest of the story; about which I had not only completely forgotton but have no memory of. She did eventually come home from the grocery store (or wherever she was) and after laughing herself silly over my note, went to fetch a box/coffin. We were never the 'have a funeral for our pet' kinda kids...maybe because we lost so many to the road, the woods, or the dinner table, but for some reason Feisty the Third got a funeral.

According to Mom, he was kind of hard to get into the box. He'd died all stretched out and rigour had already set making it both difficult and probably somewhat gross to force into whatever container she'd found. Then we apparently buried poor 'ole Feisty (you don't want to know what happened to the ones that didn't get buried) and my mom sang Amazing Grace. Mom is a trained mezzosoprano. I guess not many people can say they've sent off their pets quite that well.

Interestingly enough she's now the funeral coordinator at my family's parish. I guess Feisty's funeral was good job training.

The person there looking not so amused with the shovel (yes that's a shovel) would be my dad. I'm sure he was not amused or moved in any way by poor kitty's demise.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Blue Streak...or...How my Mom Tried to Kill Us

If you're from the mid west it is likely that at some point in your life you have been to Sandusky, Ohio. There's not a lot in Ohio other than a pretty well kept turnpike, but there is Sandusky, home of Ceder Point. Often people not from the mid west make fun of our mild obsession with the amusement park, but that's only because they haven't been. Cedar Point is awesome. I finally caved a couple years ago and went to Disney World and realized that Disney is about the pagentry. Cedar Point is about the rides. Tt's the only park with four coasters that are taller than 200 feet AND as of 2010 it had 75 rides which is more than any other amusement park.

Suck on that Disney lovers.

We didn't do a lot of vacationing when I was a kid but what we did often involved a trip to Cedar Point. My mom is a big fan of the rides and unfortunately for her usually got stuck hauling around one of us who was too little or scared to do most of the rides. On one trip she had my little brother and they rode the Iron Dragon (one of the first suspended coasters). Poor Brian was scared out of his wits when they got off but the line was so short and mom really likes roller coasters so she told him to just "stay here" and ran around to get back on for one more ride. Two seconds later she realized that he was huddled next to her and asked if he wanted to ride again. No, he was just too traumatized to be alone.

Mom's favorite coaster at the park is called the Blue Streak which, built in 1964, is one of the park's oldest rides (if not it's first coaster). The park's website rates it as a 4-High Thrill. That was not good enough for mom though! Proving its age the Blue Streak does not have one of those over your head harness things or even the bar across your lap. It has seat belts. Adjustable seatbelts. Anytime we rode the Blue Streak mom would tell us "just loosen your strap a little then you'll lift off your seats when we go down the hills".

You can't see me but I'm making a semi-horrified disapproval face.

If you're ever near Ohio during the season you should give Cedar Point a try. The Blue Streak is one of the first rides inside, just to the left of the entrance. It's bright blue, you can't miss it!

Just in case anyone reading this isn't already somehow related to me and/or knows my mom I would just like to say that other than a couple incidences (like that time that she locked the van doors after my finger got slammed/stuck in the sliding door) my mom was a great mom and rarely tried to kill us outright.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

新年快樂! Welcome the Year of the Rabbit

After university I lived in Taiwan for about a year. One of the best experiences ever and I kick myself pretty much weekly for ever leaving. In honor of Chinese New Year today I want to recount one of my favorite stories from from that year.

Everyone goes home for Chinese New Year to celebrate with their families. Even if you are second generation born in Taipei you go back to where your family is from. This means that Taipei was pretty darn empty over New Year when I was there. It felt very creepy, kind of like a war zone after the army has left; largely empty but with bursts of fire crackers. I lucked out though, the weather turned pretty warm so I could at least enjoy walking around the eerie city.

New Year night I was the only one home. One of my roommates had gone south to the beach and the other was out with friends. I was in my room reading, reveling in the fact that I could stay up late since there was no school the next day. At about one or two AM I heard this really odd noise; like the sound a towel makes if you rip it apart and tear the threads from one another. I paused, cocked my head to the side, and though "Huh, that's weird", then went back to my book. A few seconds later I heard it again. This time I put down my book and swung my legs over the bed only to see...

A GIANT bubble in my tile floor. A giant bubble with a pulsating center. It pulsated.

I completely lost my head and ran out of the room to take refuge on the couch in the living room. Stupidly forgetting to shut my door behind me. I'm not sure how cowering on the couch would save me from whatever was coming through the floor if I'd just left the door wide open. I called my mom at work (she was 11 hours behind me) to tell her that there was something trying to escape from my floor. My first fear was rats. There was a rate cage perched on the entertainment center in honor of the rat problem the apartment used to have that was supposedly "taken care of". Mom told me to just go back in the room and jump on the bubble and crush whatever was under there. Which a) easy for her to say and b) gross. I compromised and set the big heavy floor fan on it. And the pulsating tipped over the fan. Completely freaked out at this point I went back to the phone and tearfully told my mom that it hadn't worked and that I was convinced this was not a rat but a demon. After my startling revelation mom told me she had to hang up because it was time for her to go.

Seriously?! I have a demon infestation and you have to leave?!

In my room being utterly horrified by the pulsating floor monster.
 Ok, deep breath, I can do this. I have watched six seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I am Catholic. I know what to do about this.

Cower some more on the couch with my feet drawn up until William comes home.

He got in an hour or so later and I immediately pounced on him to go kill the demon. I think since he was slightly inebriated he did not fully appreciate the situation. However, after jumping on the tile bubble did absolutely nothing to make it go away I think he understood. And while we were both staring at the bubble, him in puzzlement me in fear, the bloody thing cracked and caved in. And then, "it" sped across the floor and under my bed pushing up tiles in its wake. The only way I can really describe this is to say 'think Bugs Bunny'. We were both pretty creeped out so we left the room (remembering to close the door) and I slept on the couch. Nicky came home at about 5 AM and was surprised to see me sleeping on the couch and even more so when I sleepily mumbled something about demons in my room.

The next morning Nicky and I huddled together while William took our heaviest skillet and went into my bedroom to kill whatever it was. He eased open the door, skillet at the ready, and prompty started screeching like a girl and ran out of the room. Which of course made Nicky and I cling tighter together as we screamed with him. Then the jerk started laughing hysterically. When we trooped in we saw that the tunnel that lead from the bubble to under my bed had expanded. Looks like the demon had turned so there was now a tunnel running under the length of my bed. Awesome. Not only was there a demon living in my room but it was under my bed. That, combined with the section of my closet that I didn't use cause it creeped me out was like every childhood nightmare combined.

A few days later was Tuesday so all Nicky's and my friends were over. They came over every Tuesday to watch Sex in the City in HBO and then we had self-guided bellydance/salsa/merengue dance lessons. And sometimes tarot card readings. If everyone had money that week we got pizza. If not then we boiled a mess of frozen dumplings. I decided that before there could be any Sex in the City I had to get rid of the darn demon. So, armed with all the knowledge given to me by the brilliant Joss Whedon, I got me some supplies and forced my friends to help hold an exorcism. Someone suggested that this whas surely an Asian demon and I should use a Daoist priest. But I'm not Daoist and hat would not make me feel better. Besides, I firmly believe that Latin is a language of authority to which all respond.

So we placed candles around the "infected" area, all the girls held a candle, and I had holy water.* With O Fortuna from Carmina Burana blaring in the background, at exactly midnight everyone light their candles and started enthusiastically chanting the Latin phrase I'd given them while I flung holy water about my room screeching more Latin.

Then we had a bellydance lesson and read tarot cards. A good time was had by all.

I felt much better after the exorcism. a few more tiles here and there had been displaced before all the Latin but after there was no more pulsating, no more tearing sounds. My landlord never did fix the tiles so I had a constant reminder; of how I kicked some demon butt.

*Ok so I didn't use holy water per say...while holy water is basically free for the taking, it seemed slightly sacraligious to me to use holy water on a civillian exorcism. So I figured since I am practically perfect if I could just use tap water and boil the, heh, hell out of it. Also, I only had one semester of Latin at university. It may have been an advanced class but such phrases as "In the name of Christ I expell you! Demon I charge you to return to Hell!" were not part of our lessons. My friends all chanted something like: Puella nautea rosa in agri dant! which basically means "The girls give roses to the sailors in a field".

Also...it turns out that what "really" happened was a result of that nice, warm weather I mentioned. It seemed that when the temp suddenly spiked, the cememnt to which my floor tiles were glued expanded then contracted thus tearing away from the tiles forcing them up. I still think it was demons.

Happy New Year everyone! 新年快樂!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Flight of the Bumblebee

My siblings and I were weird kids. I blame it partially on my parents and partially on where we grew up. Small town, yes, but we weren't even in the town. We lived between two small towns (right on the school line actually) in the middle of no where. After school, weekends, and summers were spent entertaining ourselves as our friends were all spread out so much. Growing up in Michigan we also learned how to play both in and outdoors since eight months out of the year Michigan has winter.

One of the things we used to do for entertainment was listen to classical music. Yes we did. Our mom is a clasically trained singer and I think we can all verbatim quote Verdi's La Traviata. In the original Italian.  A favorite tape, yes I grew up when not only cassettes but also records were still used, was Hooked on Classics and our favorite piece was Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee". It was also my mom's favorite or most hated piece, I'm not sure. Either she hated it because we played it all the time and were really annoying when we listened to it, or she loved it because it exhausted us.

How could a classical piece of music exhaust a bunch of kids? you might might ask. Well I'm glad you asked. We were sedate children who sat quietly on the couch experiencing early music appreciation lessons. We played to the music. And really if you don't know the piece, check out the Wikipedia link and listen to it so you can better understand our game. And was was our game? Glad you asked!

We ran around and around and around in circles.

And around and around and around some more.

And then we stopped the cassette, rewound it, and did it again. A lot.

Wikipedia says: ""Flight of the Bumblebee" is recognizable for its frantic pace when played up to tempo, with nearly uninterrupted runs of chromatic sixteenth notes. It is not so much the pitch or range of the notes that are played that challenges the musician, but simply the musician's ability to move to them quickly enough, because of this and it's complexity, it requires a great deal of skill to perform."

In addition to running around and around and around in circles we also raced to see who could do it the fastest. Not that there was a start and end point by whcih to judge this, I think we just decided that you had to pass the other two more often than they passed you. It got somewhat rough and my brother, who is the youngest, probably took the brunt of it.

He's 6'7" now. We no longer play this game with him.

The moral of the story is that if you want to both tire the heck out of hyper kids AND give them a deep appreciation for music...encourage them to run around madly while listening to the classics.

The depiction there of my living room does not do the rough, dark brown, wood paneling and the red and black shag carpet nearly enough justice.