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Friday, August 31, 2007

Being Flexible

Yesterday I returned to my car in the parking lot in the hell that is the greater Los Angeles basin right now. It was hot and I was cranky after having taught Wednesday night. Night classes are great in lots of ways. In others, they're not. Three hours of teaching tends to make my feet and throat hurt.

Scout-the-dog has a really bad habit of waking up early. Thursday mornings are especially bad for this, as they are our neighborhood trash day. He likes barking at the trash trucks. Ok, to be honest, he just likes barking. Scout-the-honey and I call him the "barkist." When he's out there barking and Biscuit is churning up circles in her attempt to chase off the planes on their approach to the Burbank airport, it all seems a little mental.

Anyway, Thursday morning, he was barking and I was not sleeping and by yesterday afternoon I was close to my limit. It didn't help that I had spent all day dealing with a rather tragic circumstance, calling offices on campus I normally don't call. I did what I could and got things to where I wanted them to be, given everything else, but it wasn't an unpleasant matter.

So, I decided to go home a little early.

I slogged out to the parking lot to discover that a minivan had parked within about an inch of my truck's door. On a campus as big as ours, there was no way of finding the minivan driver. I spent a minute or two trying to piece together what office the driver might be in, based on stickers. Having a "Star Student at XXX School!" was hardly predictive of the driver's role on campus. Nor was the affinity for soccer. What could I do, really, walk into every office in a seven building radius ad ask, "anyone here a soccer mom with an above average child?"

Here's my FJ, for those of you who don't remember it.

So I opened the passenger door and looked in. It seemed to me that I had two choices. First, because the back seats were folded down, I thought I might try to crawl across the expanse of rubberized interior and sort of dive into the front seat. When I though that through a second time, I realized that I didn't so much want my head on the floor and my feet in the air.

Here's the back view. This is not my FJ. If it were, you would see books on CD slopping around and scratches on the rubbery parts from bikes being put in the back.

Here's what the front interior of an FJ looks like. This is also not my interior. If you use your imagination, you can picture mine. Add CDs, dog hair, Coke Blak bottles, a bike bottle, and a cute grey and yellow Timbuk2 bag.

I sat in the passenger seat for a while, then turned the car on. No need to try whatever I was going to try without AC. I started with trying to get my butt moved over first, followed by my legs. Then I remembered what that great faker, Bear Grylls said on Man v. Wild, which is that your legs are strong. So I slung my left leg into the driver's area and then scooted my butt over with it. Now straddling the center console, I had pulled out the rubber cup holder interior, kicked the parking light indicator, changed the A/C from face to defrost and I had a cramp in my thigh.

An aside about Bear Grylls, who turns out to have stayed in hotels and tried to "tame" already tame horses. Scout-the-honey said he was a faker. I should listen to her more often.

Anywho, I managed to get my right leg into position, though more things were displaced (my bag, the other rubber insert for the other cupholder, the other Coke Blak bottle, the radio control, etc.)

I put the car in reverse and silently wished the minivan driver's kids well for a hot soccer weekend. All's well that ends well, I guess. I'm just glad I went with the scoot over mode rather than the dive into mode.

Happy long weekend. My all your second thoughts prove successful.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A short guide to my perspective on Michael Vick

As a child, my dad took us to Falcons games. We had season tickets and my mother made us dress up to go to the games. Like I had to wear pantyhose dressed up. We sat in the end-zone behind the aptly chapeau'd guy we called "backwards hat" who drank beer poured into a two-liter Sprite bottle.

The Falcons were never very good, but there was the occasional glimmer of hope. The "grits blitz" was fun, in a "Po' Folks" kind of way and Steve Bartkowski could throw the ball a really long way. There were rarely guys where he threw the ball, but every once in a while, he'd get it right.

More often, they'd hand off to the fullback for two yards in three consecutive downs and punt. It reminded me of that handheld electronic football game I had.

When I left for college, I mostly left football behind me. I went to a university without a team and lived in a city with a team I couldn't bring myself to like very much.

Lately, I've been enjoying football more. Between the excitement that Mr. Vick brought to the Falcons and the naked hilarity of Blogleague football, it's back in my life. Not enough to prompt me to wear my hat backwards or drink beer out of large plastic containers, but around in a pleasant way.

The other issue in Vick situation, of course, is animals. Let me go on record. I like them. Not all of them, mind you. I've encountered unpleasant ones here and there, but as a rule, I like animals. Dogs especially. In my adult life I've owned a dog for all but about a year and a little.

Aside: Scout's mother claims that she heard that Vick used kittens as bait in training fighting dogs. I'm opposed to people making up things that aren't true. Also to kittens as bait.

Anyway, this morning I was listening to Vick's apology. I was waiting for the obligatory part. Not the apology to the kids, or the league, or the owner. Nope, I was waiting for the shout-out to Jesus. About halfway through he said,

"I'm upset with myself, and, you know, through this situation I found Jesus and asked him for forgiveness and turned my life over to God. And I think that's the right thing to do as of right now."

Whew, I thought, Took him a while to get there. But get there he did. Here's the thing. If he didn't do the shout-out, I would have been disappointed. It's not that I don't buy it (though I kinda don't), it's that I don't want the apology speech without it. It's like having a full breakfast without grits. Sure, it still "counts" as breakfast, but I KNOW there's something missing.

Here's the primer:

I like:


Blogleague fantasy football=a lot

Getting the Jesus shout-out in when facing prison=obligatory

Dogs=a lot

Kittens=a lot

I don't like:

Dogfighting=at all

Kitten baiting=at all

Vaguely racist stories about kittens=at all

Oh, and what do I think about Vick? I hope he meant what he said today.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Losing bicycles

When Honey got home last night, she saw the box in the garage. "Don't I get to say goodbye to it?" I tried not to cry.

A year ago my life changed and I became a permanent member of the faculty at a fine institution. The weekend after I interviewed and before I got the job, Honey and I went to NorCal and I bought a bicycle. It was an impulsive decision.

Since then, I have ridden it, but not very much. I am, as some of you know, not an insubstantial person size-wise. In my brain, both consciously and subconsciously, I always kind of thought I might break the damn thing. It didn't help that the reviews of it on Roadbikereview cited a tendency for the carbon on the seat stay (that's the tube that runs at an angle from the bottom of the seat to the rear wheel) to break for no really good reason. And there I was giving it a reason to break.

I finally, with some help from Honey, who is wiser about me than I am, realized that my ongoing tweaking of the bike (saddles, stems, seatpost, etc.) was really a way to make myself feel better about the bike. I loved it, but I did not trust it. So, I strayed. I bought an all steel urban assault machine. No carbon weenie parts to break, no worries. That thing is a tank compared to the old one. Here it is. The color is called "bean green." :)

Last week, I listed the NorCal bike on ebay and it sold yesterday. I got less than I wanted (really, I kinda got hosed), but when I got home, I packed it up right away and had the box taped shut and ready to go before Honey got home.

No, she didn't get a chance to say goodbye. This morning I took it to UPS and sent it to its new home. Ironically, the buyer lives on NorCal, fairly close to where I bought it.

It's just an object really. A pretty one, but an object nonetheless. Why, then, am I sad?

The new bike hangs where the old one did on my bike rack. It's a blast to ride and on Sunday, I found myself jumping off little curbs on my tour de ducks. (Where I ride has a pond with ducks and geese at a great take-a-break point). I'll fall for the new one. I like it a lot already. I'll miss the idea of the old one. I hope its new owner loves it and rides it the way I never could.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A gastronomic thought (or ten)

When trying to branch out of lunch ruts, I have learned a lesson or two (or ten):

* Wandering around Trader Joe's doesn't help. They have what they have.

* Foil packets of Indian food and microwaved frozen naan seem like a good idea.

* Foil packets of Indian food and microwaved frozen naan are NOT a good idea.

* Nausene is just cola without the carbonation.

* Coke is better than Pepsi for everything including stomach upset.

* Diet Coke doesn't help much with stomach upset. Neither does Fresca. Both are
good at other things. Mostly providing no calorie, tasty, carbonated beverage

* Mints do not function like Tums.

* Neither does Advil.

* Do not undertake a rut break-perunity without Tums

* Tums smooth dissolve mint flavor taste like party mints AND helps stomach upset.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

In line at Fancy

Honey and I like a restaurant in the heat pit they call the Valley that we both refer to as "Fancy." Fancy is not. It is a really good Mexican restaurant, the older, but smaller sister to another really good Mexican restaurant right around the corner. (I'm trying to give Valley/L.A. people a hint about location).

Fancy has seven or eight tables inside and another six or so outside. The food is reasonably priced, fresh, and good.

Fancy? Not really. Your order from the counter, get your salsa in little plastic buckets, and they call out your number in Spanish and English. The folks who work there are nice and it's one of those L.A. places where people from all sorts of cultural backgrounds sit next to one another, including those who by birth should know good Mexican food. It's next to an express lube place. Why do we call it Fancy? Because it is. To us.

Fancy is on the way home from work for me and since Honey has been commuting by bike, I've been trying to take up more of the cooking slack. My two choices tonight were cooking fish and picking up Fancy.

So, I walk into Fancy and there's a line. I get in it and stand for a few minutes as it inches forward. Then out of nowhere, a young woman in truly ridiculous shoes steps in front of me and says, "I was in line."

I look at her in shock and amazement. "You were?"

She gestures impatiently behind me. "Yes, I was over there."

I turn to look and realize that she had been sitting (though I did not and could not have seen her) in a chair five feet away from the end of the line hidden behind a stack of high chairs.

"You were sitting there?"

"Yes and that was how I was in line."

I glance down at my feet (clad today in Teva sandals) to think for a second and notice that she is wearing five inch teeny spike white high heeled sandals.

Now, what I want to say is:

"If you didn't have on those stupid shoes, you could actually STAND in line like the rest of us."

What I actually say (trying to sound deeply contemptuous):


I'm so brave in my head.

Fancy still tasted terrific and Honey enjoyed her tostada without ever having to see those stupid shoes. The sacrifices I make for love. It's how I'm so brave. In my head.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


I am not a particularly graceful person. I often sport bruises attesting to my lack of deftness at things. Every time I get on my mountain bike, now repainted a lovely pearly white (with blue undertones), I see the small splotches of green on the crank and the front tire from where I tried to touch up its previous paint color and failed. I tried to keep my hand and mind steady and clear.

While we were at the beach last week, I got my shoelace caught in a bike chain and down I went. As I was falling, I slowed the bike with the brakes and tried to will myself to put my left foot down first. (I always put my right foot down first in normal cycling contexts). "Left foot!" my conscious mind screamed, but my kinesthetic responses weren't there. I have the scrapes and bruises (on my right knee) to prove it.

I try to be graceful. I try to be coordinated. I can catch a ball in a glove and hit one reasonably well with a bat, but ask me to do any higher order movement and I will fail.

Today, I was presented with a problem. It was more annoying than anything. I learned about the issue at noon. It took four phone calls and some persuading on my part, but I solved the problem by 4pm in such a way that everyone was happy and contented. No cross words were uttered. I was apologized to (by the creator of the problem) twice, thanked five or six times (by all involved) and am feeling satisfied.

Truth be told, it was a graceful.

I was just reading a piece my honey wrote about em dashes. It was a less boob titled version of this post from her blog. The grace with which she wrote this piece (and many other things) was really amazing.

It's nice, I think, to occasionally rediscover small pleasures in life. Grace, it seems to me, comes in a variety of ways. When it comes, I want to spend a little more time appreciating it, if only for a moment.

If only my knees didn't have to suffer my lack of grace otherwise.