Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Canada is not in the US

Tuesday morning. 10am. We are leaving for a ski trip to Canada on Friday. I receive an email from Rob with the following message: "Don't forget our passports for Canada!"

Panic sets in. My passport expired on Nov 24. It did not occur to me that this would make it difficult to get into another country. I call Rob. "I'm screwed!" I yell, wondering what the people in my office are thinking.

"It will be ok," he says.

"How will it be ok?" Still yelling.

We get off the phone, me assigned to figuring out how to fix this. I make calls. Many, many calls. I speak to several people at the US passport office, dial into an automated appointment line at the New York City Passport Agency and discover that the next available appointment they have is 2 hours after we are scheduled to leave for Vancouver.

I panic some more. I call the Connecticut Passport Agency and make an appointment for Wednesday morning. In Connecticut.

I call Rob and am mean to him. "This is not going to work out," I say. "Even if I go to Connecticut tomorrow, there's no way they can get me a passport in time. They're closed on New Year's Day and we leave at 7am on Friday."

"Just go to the New York office," he says.

"I can't!" I am yelling again. "I just talked to 4 people who told me I need an appointment. And there are no appointments!"

"Stop yelling," Rob says. "Go to the office. You have to try."

My meltdown continues as I complain that I have work to do, that I could very well spend 4 hours waiting in line at the passport office when I should be at work PLUS if I don't succeed, I still need to go to Connecticut in the morning, thus missing another day of work.

"Well," Rob points out, "if you don't get a passport, you can be at work instead of going on vacation."

I make some more noises into the phone and hang up.

There are at least 3 more phone calls that repeat the above conversation, and I finally agree to go to the New York Passport Agency, which is in the West Village. I must first go home, get my passport, fill out forms, get photos of myself, and print out proof of travel.

Is it anticlimactic to report that when I got to the passport agency, it took less than 10 minutes to renew my passport?


"What is the lesson we learned today?" Rob asks.

Resisting the urge to punch him for talking to me like I'm a 4-year-old, I dutifully respond, "Always be prepared."

"What else?" he says.

"Um...don't panic?"

"That's a good one. What else?"

"Don't be mean to Rob?" I guess.

"That's a very good one."

"What's the one you were thinking of?" I ask, since clearly I have not answered the question correctly yet.

"Leave no stone unturned," he says wisely, at which point I do punch him. In my mind.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Nice save

Tis the season where hair gets dry, skin gets tough, and nails get…well, bitten, but really that’s every season. Over the next few months, I would like to avoid looking like a battered softball, so I decided to pick up some women’s multivitamins.

I chose a brand that is well known for their prenatal vitamins, and all the bottles look virtually the same. When I took my purchase up to the counter, the young male cashier looked at me kindly and said, “How’s everything going so far?”

Upon looking closer at the bottle and registering its contents and the fact that they were not (sorry, mom) baby-related, he then swiftly recovered by adding, “with…the weather?”

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Universe is Reading the Blog

On the elevator at work today, someone asked me what I was listening to on my IPod. Sadly, I had not prepared a suitable lie, and had to admit that Rob's bike mix had just shuffled to Linkin Park.

My interviewer grimaced slightly, but then admitted that he was listening to Legion of Mary, a Grateful Dead side project, despite the fact that he is "not a hippie."

We then agreed that Mama Said Knock You Out is actually an awesome song. So, honesty is not that bad.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

David Sedaris

On Monday night, Rob and I went to Lincoln Center for "A Night with David Sedaris," which was really more like a few hours with David Sedaris, and everyone kept their clothes on. It was a family event, the kind where you might hear words like "fart" and "cockmaster"...but only once or twice.

The thing that is notable to me about David Sedaris is that he will just start talking, like he might say "Please make sure your cell phones are turned off," and people will start laughing. Rob asked me why they were laughing and I said I thought they were either high or they were just so excited to hear David Sedaris read that they were going to laugh the entire time. At everything.

"I thought that I would read something that I wrote 15 years ago," David Sedaris said, and the woman behind us busted up like someone was tickling her armpit fat.

He read several great essays, one of which told of a trip to Costco with his brother-in-law where the only thing in their cart was a bulk box of condoms and a 5-lb bag of strawberries (this because David Sedaris likes to give gifts to the teenagers who attend his readings, and his brother-in-law likes fruit.)

It was a really fun night, courtesy of Penny and Bill, who got us the tickets as a wedding gift. We do not motivate well to buy ourselves tickets to things. Thinking about this, Rob said, "We need to get tickets to something else now."

"Why?" I asked.

"Because it was fun," he mused. "And it makes me sound more interesting...except then I run home to watch Monday Night Football. I bet not many other people in that theater were running home to watch football, he said proudly."

Yes, that's right. Rob is now writing his own lines for the blog. I need to rethink this.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

You had me at Hello*

Rob and I went to Washington, DC this weekend to see Penny and Bill and make ourselves sick eating cupcakes. That was actually part of the plan, so when we walked into Penny's shop and ordered a dozen assorted cupcakes, I didn't feel the kind of pre-regret that I might have felt upon ordering a similar amount of take-out dessert in, say, New York. Or, you know, anywhere else. Ever.

We pointed at the various shiny, frosted, sprinkled cakes and they magically piled into a box: carrot cake, strawberry, coconut, rum cake, pumpkin, lemon, peanut butter, tiramisu, mayan chocolate with red pepper flakes, double chocolate, mint, and...I think I'm forgetting one, but I'm guessing the point has gotten across.

By Sunday, here is what the box looked like.

I feel it necessary to confess that Penny and Bill ate not one cupcake. So Rob and I did this. And the beauty of having planned it in advance is that I can look upon this, The Cupcake Massacre of 2008, as something to be proud of. An accomplishment, really.

If you are in Washington, DC, I'm going to have to recommend a trip to Hello Cupcake in Dupont Circle. Do yourself a favor and plan for it. There's really nothing as satisfying as following through on a commitment.

*I stole this line from Bill.

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's this new Brooklyn-based band you've never heard of

I have somehow gotten into the habit of silently noting what song is on my IPod as I approach the office, and then quickly deciding whether or not I would admit that to someone if they were to ask “what are you listening to?” If the real answer could be potentially embarrassing, I then have to make up an answer so I’m prepared under all circumstances.

I should admit here that no one has ever asked me what I was listening to on my IPod. BUT…you have to be ready for the possibility that the truth might fly out of your mouth and you’ll forever be known as the person who listens to LL Cool J on the way to work.

That was just an example.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's not that beautiful a day in the neighborhood, but still...

Today I walked to work with Cameron and Roan, who live one floor below. Roan was a baby burrito, all wrapped up because it was raining. Also, his more-intelligent-than-me mother brought an umbrella along for the walk. I, having checked the weather and listened to numerous rain updates on NPR, still managed to walk out of the building with no umbrella and decided I couldn't go back upstairs and get one because (channeling Harold & Kumar) I'd already gone too far. It was actually easier for me to walk to work in the rain.

It was not so easy, however, to walk home in the rain, but I made it about half a mile before caving and going into Duane Reade to spend $10 on an umbrella that basically broke 3 blocks later. This is the magic of umbrellas. It seemed fine when I put it away, but I am 100% certain that the next time I need to use that umbrella, it will be about as helpful as a colander. Perhaps less, because it will have lost its shape.

When I got up to my floor, my neighbor Earl was taking his clothes off in the hall. He was all wet from the rain and didn't want to track it into his apartment. It seemed completely normal to me. We exchanged pleasantries, like anyone would if one of you looked like a drowned rat and the other one was stripping.

I then called Jay, who was out at a bar, but agreed to watch the cats for the weekend while Rob and I are in DC being gluttons at Hello Cupcake. (More about this next week.)

So now I am actually just sitting here, appreciating my neighbors. I think this is happening because I own all those cardigans.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Tis the Season

I just returned from the grocery store, where they insisted on playing Christmas carols. And not the kind of carols that recede gently into the background, seamlessly lifting your spirits without actually slowing your shopping progress. No, the loud, 12-Days-of-Christmas-kind, as sung by some group of women who have either just inhaled helium or are actually cartoon chipmunks.

I was trying to ignore it, but that song just goes on and on. Then while I was fondling the avocados, the woman next to me began singing along. "Fiiiiive Golden Riiiinnnnggss." Not to be dramatic, but I basically felt like I was being tortured.

I trudged home in the cold, unloading my groceries to find that the cats had clearly spent their day having a Vomiting Contest and guess who won? Everybody.

Friday, December 5, 2008

As if it matters, since we have been watching football every waking minute for the last 3 months

Rob is out of town, so last night I watched my latest Netflix pick, I’m Not There, in which 6 actors play different versions of Bob Dylan. Aside from thinking it was just a bit too long, which really says more about my ability to sit still for movies, I liked it a lot. Cate Blanchett as the Don’t Look Back-Dylan of 1965 was amazing; she looked just like him. How is that even possible? Heath Ledger as wandering husband/distant father Dylan was heartbreaking in a number of ways, and seeing Christian Bale as the born-again Dylan was mildly disturbing because it was one of the only times that I have ever seen Christian Bale in a movie and not wanted to lick the screen.

Perhaps you are wondering why Rob needed to leave town for me to watch this movie? We have an ongoing argument surrounding our Netflix queue, which basically goes like this:

Rob: More foreign films and romantic comedies? You’re fired from the queue.

Me: Oh yeah, because your picks are so great. Exhibit A: Cellular. Exhibit B: Hostage. Exhibit C…

Rob: Are you still talking?

We have sort of agreed to disagree on this, and whoever gets to the queue at the right time is thereby in control. Apparently, it was Rob last time, which is why we now have You Don’t Mess with The Zohan.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tip me over and pour me out

I got up at 6am yesterday to go to yoga. There is something so invigorating about being up and out in the early morning, before the sun is even fully up, walking past people who have likely not been to bed yet. I was sleepy, but I assured myself that yoga would make me feel better, and would give me the start to my day that sleeping in and chugging coffee on my way out the door would not.

Theories are a nice thing to have.

In yoga, I was completely off balance.

When I got to work, I discovered that the coffee I had made and put in my travel mug had spilled all over, soaking everything in my bag, leaving a big stain on my light pants, and seeping onto the bottom of my shirt.

I was in a foul mood all morning, until I went to Starbucks and got coffee. I had not wanted to go to Starbucks, though, hence the coffee-from-home plan. So that irritated me.

I cancelled a drinks date with a friend.

At the end of the day, I found a recipe for sweet and sour cod with broccoli and cabbage. I bought the ingredients I needed on my way home and got to work, chopping and stirring. The sauce needed 15 minutes to reduce. Somewhere between 12 and 12.2 minutes, it burned in the pan, causing an acrid smell to fill the kitchen and making my eyes tear up. I threatened to throw away the entire pan. Rob asked me not to.

New pan. I tried again, but I had run out of honey and when I put my face towards the revised mixture that was simmering on the stove, I was sure that I had been poisoned. I threw it away.

I texted Superdad Jay, who had honey--and finally a sleeping kid. Take three worked out ok, but not before I spilled my glass of wine into the toaster.

I'm actually not sure I should be typing right now, lest the computer explode.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Lend me some sugar, I am your neighbor

Last night I was cooking dinner and listening to a Nick Cave CD I got in Germany. I don’t buy physical CDs anymore, which is maybe sad, but nevertheless true. I buy them online or get copies made by friends. For my birthday, Amanda sent me an ITunes playlist she had created, which was very cool and a fun way to share music. It included a slow, beautiful cover of Outkast’s Hey Ya by Obadiah Parker that I absolutely love. As an aside (to what might already be an aside), when I was in Thailand 4 years ago and met a group of small kids who spoke no English, my friend Krista and I entertained them by singing Hey Ya, after we ran through our brief repertoire of nursery rhymes.

But back to Nick Cave. I was in Germany. More specifically, I was at the Frankfurter Hof, a bar that publishing people all go to during the Frankfurt Book Fair, resulting in the regrettable fact that we have all traveled intercontinentally to hang out with each other. Acknowledging the pitiful nature of this situation did not stop me from going to the Hof on 2 of the 4 nights that I was in Frankfurt.

Bellying up to the bar, I asked for glasses of champagne for myself and 2 colleagues. I know what you’re thinking. Really? At your exotic American-filled bar in Germany, you thought champagne would be the appropriate choice of beverage? To which I reply, there was one bar that served champagne only, and I didn’t realize it until I reached the front of the line. I peered across the large hall to the other bar that served beer and thought, screw that. Also, there were totally British people there. Now stop asking questions.

As I gave the bartender my order, a bouncy-haired sprite (aka a publisher I have never met before) came out of nowhere and asked me if I could order 2 more glasses of champagne. He wanted, he informed me, to present one to an author of his who had just won a major award. He would give me cash for the champagne.

So I changed my order to 5 glasses of champagne, for the bargain price of 75 Euro. And that cash that he was going to give me? Yeah. He handed me a Nick Cave CD and said conspiratorially, “Only 200 of these were made. Enjoy.”

I am enjoying it. But I’m not sure it was worth 30 Euro.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Ground control

Rob and I returned from Arizona late last night, and it was a long day of travel. We left Phoenix around 2pm, connected to another flight in Salt Lake City, and rolled into our apartment after midnight. Here's what happened in between:

At the security gate in Phoenix, an attendant checked our IDs and boarding passes, then nodded towards a line of people to our right. "This one's actually shorter," she said, comparing it to the line we would have headed for, which looked shorter.
"It just looks longer, but there are two belts, so it's fast."

We got into the shorter line. The woman was either stupid or a liar. Or maybe she has some kind of reverse sense of time. We stood there, unmoving, watching people breeze through the other line. Several times, Rob turned to look directly at the woman, who would not meet his gaze. I believe he was debating how good it might feel to walk back to her and ask her to define "shorter." And then spell it.

As we finally approached the front of the line, where it still split into two more lines, another airline employee was yelling, "All laptops need to be taken out of their cases. This is NOT a suggestion!" Opening with excessive aggression, I thought, is certainly one method for dealing with the masses of holiday travelers. We heaved our bags onto the belt and as soon as my oversized yellow tote disappeared, I realized that I was the bonehead who had just sent two bottles of water through security.

"Bag check!" screamed the woman at the screen.

"I'm sorry," I said to her."I forgot I had water. I can throw it out. Or you can throw it out. Either way."

"It won't be me," she snapped. "It will be someone else."

Apparently I had offended her by suggesting that her status at the airport was that of a lowly liquid tosser. I stayed quiet.

"Bag check!" she yelled again, and I had a flash of Frau Farbissina from Austin Powers, screaming "SCOTT!"

Slowly, an old man ambled over, seemingly walking straight out of 18 years of retirement to check my bags. "Are you aware," he asked accusingly, "of our policy on liquids and gels?"

"Yes," I said, "I'm sorry. I forgot I had water. You can throw it out."

"What is this?" he asked suddenly, pulling hand lotion out of my bag.

"That's hand lotion."

"It's too big to carry on. You can't take it."

My hand lotion, which has been back and forth across the country several times, and has also traveled internationally, is 3.5 ounces. Perhaps 1/3 of that is left.

"How big can it be?" I asked.

"3.4 ounces," he recited.

Ok, it's no big deal. The lotion had a good life and it wasn't very pricey. But it's moments like these when I really have to question the arbitrary liquid/gel rules put in place after 9/11. That point one ounce of lotion that isn't even in the bottle anymore is somehow a danger to homeland security? Preoccupied with this thought, I absentmindedly moved to put the lotion back into the plastic quart-sized freezer bag I never go to the airport without.

"Ma'am," the Airport Octogenarian admonished. "I just told you that is too large to travel."

"Sorry," I repeated for the 27th time. "I guess I'm still working through my disbelief."

Next he grabbed a small--I mean miniscule--container of lip balm I had taken from our hotel room in Venice. The thing is the size of a quarter and I don't even want it.

"This needs to be in a plastic bag," he said.

Do not ask me why I then said, "Why? It's not a liquid or a gel."

"Yes, it is," he said.

"Noooo," I said slowly. "It's chapstick. It's just not in a tube. I thought chapstick was ok."

Let me interrupt myself for a moment to say that if I was the person in line behind this conversation, I would have killed me.

"It's a salve," he said, secure in his authority.

"Fine," I sighed wearily and put it in my quart bag. "I'm sorry that I wasted your time. I don't usually carry on, as you can tell."

"You aren't wasting my time, ma'am," he replied. "I get paid to be here."

I had a sudden rush of gratitude that I did not get paid to be at the airport, and that I would very soon be leaving. I applied some lip salve, and saluted the man who had just rifled through my underwear.