Sunday, November 02, 2008

That Knock on the Door

At this festively political season of the year, no place of residence is safe from the multi-front attack by canvassers, enthusiasts, and volunteers. As we speak, there is a small delegation from the local Obama camp, whose office is adjacent to my place of employment, wandering around the neighborhood. For a solitary moment, they stopped outside of my building. I was planning my defense. I was comfortably situated on my couch, a plate of breakfast on my lap and curlers in my hair. I figured that I could just avoid answering the door, but the fact they could easily see right into my front window would have probably encouraged them to up their efforts to get me up to listen to their practiced schpeal about their chosen candidate.

I must extend warm thanks to my next door neighbors. In their patriotic desire to support Barack Obama, they acquired a sign from the aforementioned office and placed it right in front of the house. Upon first glance, the building looks like a one-family home rather than a modified three-apartment structure. The canvassers took one look at the sign, figured the people inside were already collective Obama supporters and therefore, speaking to them wouldn't accomplish their goal of convincing people to vote for their candidate. They moved on to another, less fortunate set of individuals.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Friday, August 22, 2008

Temporarily Disabled

About four weeks ago, my mother nagged me into the doctor's office. My foot had been painful to walk on and somewhat swollen for about two weeks without much improvement, and I thought perhaps I had a stubborn sprain that wouldn't heal because I couldn't go for an entire week without at least some minimal walking. To make a long story short, I explained what was wrong to the doctor and he ordered some x-rays.

And it turned out to be broken.

Now, I had never had a broken bone before, so my mental imagery on the subject was rather skewed from the reality--visions of jagged bones protruding through pliable flesh and disjointed limbs hanging in pendulum-like motion apparently weren't entirely accurate. I had a stress fracture on the top of my foot. This meant three days of ibuprofen, four weeks without excessive walking, six weeks out of the gym....and a whole week on crutches.

I may have been carrying my own body weight distributed between two pieces of rubber-padded aluminum, but that didn't mean that suddenly I stopped needing necessities. During the course of my temporary disability, I made three trips to the supermarket--three different supermarkets. Here are my ratings for each of these establishments.

Market Basket
Rank of Three: 1
Customers: Excellent

My first trip, I took with my co-worker, who offered to help me out when I asked him. He wheeled the cart around and I hobbled from place to place to select items. People kindly moved out of the way for us, and some even went the long way around aisles so not to get in our way. I rarely had to stop my momentum to allow people and carriages to pass--many times, people willingly curtailed their own progress to allow us to pass. Some were even kind enough to ask me what happened and to share their sympathies. Overall, a very nice crowd, and I was able to do a fairly large food shopping even without the use of one foot.

Rank of Three: 2
Customers: So-so

I did a quick shopping for a meal's worth of food towards the end of my tenure on crutches at a local Shaw's. I put a backpack on, made sure that the only things inside of it before going in were my wallet and cell phone, and I put each of the items in the sack. I offered to let the cashier to look in my bag to make sure I had taken everything out of it, but she kindly refused with a knowing smile.

There were some snags in this supermarket shopping, however. I was swinging myself along in time with someone directly in front of me walking in the door, and without thinking, she stopped to look at a circular right at the entrance, making it next to impossible for me to get by her. I had to push the crutches together resulting in such a skinny fit that I almost couldn't push my body through them, and at no point did she look up. Although it was difficult, I managed to make it all the way across the store from the produce aisle to the bread aisle (why they put these two common staple categories so far apart, I will never know). Here, I was presented with a conundrum. Although the aisle was wide, there were too many displays down the center of it for me to use that as a transportation channel. On one side, a woman had parked her carriage and was scrutinizing several loaves of Sarah Lee bread, and on the other, a woman had two children in the plastic red car mould attached to the carriage, making it about twice as wide as it would have normally been. Upon approaching this aisle-wide succession of obstructions, I thought if I just paused in front of them, they would notice me and one of them would have moved. After moving close by enough that I could not be ignored, neither of them shifted. I waited a minute--still nothing. Finally, I sighed and literally said "Come on, ladies." That got their attention--both of them moved and one (the bread-examiner)even apologized.

Whole Foods
Rank of Three: 3
Customers: Should not be allowed to reproduce

This trip was absolutely incredible. It was enough to make one lose faith in humanity all together.

I arrived here and parked around the side because every single parking space in any kind of walking distance was taken up by some large gas-guzzling vehicle with four-wheel drive and a luxury logo. On my way in, a young man, who saw me coming and was just a little too far away to beat me to the door at a normal walking pace, actually rushed in front of me to ensure he would have to wait for me to get in the door before he could. I made my way to the back of the store--I only had a few items to pick up and this time, I knew exactly where they were. On my way, I had to maneuver around one clueless guy who was having a very hard time figuring out whether to go for the hot or cold entrees bar with his little, biodegradable carton, and walked in front of me no less than two times in deep contemplation over this topic. After picking up what I needed in the pasta and fish departments, I went over to the produce section. I stopped in front of the bags of salad. I leaned my crutches up against the side of the refrigerated display and shifted about three feet down the way, as the spinach I was looking for was sitting there. No sooner had I picked up the plastic bag and put it in my backpack then a guy, who couldn't be given the consideration of not knowing I was the owner of the crutches, parked his cart right between me and my means of doing any traveling. I couldn't believe it. I had to hobble around him, and actually use his cart to hold myself up, just to get to the crutches. When they were safely under my arms and I was about to move, a conga-line of produce shoppers started to pass by--fifteen of them. I held myself up there while shopper after shopper and cart after cart passed me by and not ONE of them stopped the progress so I could move out of the way. Instead, they looked at me as if my genes would pollute the perfection of the human race with an up-and-down look and an accompanying eye-roll as I stood there supporting my own body weight with my upper half.

The only bright spot in all of this was my next turn into the seasonings aisle. While a store employee had a conversation with a customer in front of where I clearly needed to get, a man approached me and asked me if I were by myself. Since I was, he asked if I needed any help, and I thanked him, but I told him I was Ok. He said if I needed anything, he would be happy to help, and he left. This was the only man in this store who deserved to live.

This solitary bright-spot in my grocery shopping experience was immediately followed by a trip to the check-out line where my successor talked my ear off about the diet she was on and how much weight she had lost.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Excuse Me, Mr. Yeats

I was peeling through some literature compellations, and I found the context for the "woman won or woman lost" quote. I thought Yeats said it on his own at some point (my source, sadly, was The Boston Globe's "Quote of the Day"). In fact, it starts the last stanza of Part I of his poem "The Tower." The poem is really long, so I am not going to post it (if you're interested you can find it here). Here is the stanza it comes from:

Does the imagination dwell the most
Upon a woman won or woman lost?
If on the lost, admit you turned aside
From a great labyrinth out of pride,
Cowardice, some silly over-subtle thought
Or anything called conscience once;
And that if memory recur, the sun's
Under eclipse and the day blotted out.

Yeah for minor discoveries.

In other news: Someone wants to publish some of my pictures--and the stuff I took with the old point-and-shoot, too (not the fancy thing I take pictures with now). Do I get any money? Oh, well.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Does the imagination dwell the most upon a woman won or woman lost?

Quote by William Butler Yeats, from his poem "The Tower."


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Paging Daniel Powter....

Oh, shit.

It's about five to nine in the morning, and I have a meeting at nine. I successfully had organized all I needed for the day, I had opened some windows for the cats, I had even consumed a breakfast that required preparation. What I hadn't done was take my keys off of the chest of drawers in my room, and my expression of frustration and exasperation had corresponded directly with the usually reassuring click behind me as the door knob snapped into place in the frame.

Of course, it had to be the morning I had an important meeting to go to, set up by my boss, that was due to begin in about five minutes.

I was carrying about twenty pounds of stuff, and I had no choice but to walk to work--which isn't that far away, but extra weight paired with inhospitably warm and humid weather conditions made that task a chore to say the least. I cursed the whole way, but I made it. The only drawback was that I was by then wet enough to have been able to successfully vouch for a quick swim in the local river.

As soon as I got the door open, I met up with my boss who was also on his way to this meeting. This meant no opportunity to duck into a ladies room--or any room for that matter--to impose decency on my appearance. I walked into the room entirely conscious that I looked hideous.

About two hours later, I was back where I started.

I met up with one of my colleagues who was working in the basement and asked if he knew where I could find a step ladder. I had done the same thing a few months before, and my upstairs neighbor heard about it, brought down one of his own, and broke into my apartment through an unobserved window. If he could do it, I figured I probably could, too. I desperately hoped that it was one of the lower, more accessible windows that could be opened. A step ladder could not be immediately located, so I returned to my apartment hoping I wouldn't need one.

Of course, the easy-to-get-at windows were impossible to penetrate, no matter how hard I tried to do so. Walking around the side of the building, I noticed that one screen seemed to be slightly obscured from its track. Unfortunately, this window was high. I pulled out a recycling bin to hoist myself up and pushed up the screen. Now the window was open. I lifted myself on a nearby cement pillar, and I was close enough that I could pull myself through the window. As I raised myself up so I was level with the living room, Charlotte, my cat, who was looking at the new found potential source of freedom with deep consideration, spotted me. She was shocked--a classic "what the hell are you doing?!" look crossed her face--ears back, eyes wide, and she backed away from the window. I pulled myself through and collapsed on the floor.

Charlotte, however, retreated to under my bed where she had to mentally regroup from the shock of seeing "mom" climb in the window rather than coming through the door.

I immediately changed my sweat-covered, now dingied clothing in order to go back to work.

My only surprise--there were no messages or phone calls regarding a strange woman breaking into my apartment reported by either my neighbors or the police.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A Few Moments from 1776

Great film from 1972.
Look for the lines:
"This is a revolution, damnit! We're going to have to offend somebody!"
"Those who would give up their liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Saturday, June 14, 2008


When I opened up the storage unit before I moved this time, there were lots of things I didn't remember saving. Some of them were particularly useful--I found about four boxes of kitchen accessories, all well-wrapped and ready to go back to work. I had one panicked moment when I pulled out all of the parts of my futon and couldn't find the nuts and bolts that held it together. I did prove to myself that there are a few ways me-three-years-ago and me-now still think the same way when I figured the most practical spot for them would have been my tool kit, and lo and behold, there they were. Sigh of relief immediately followed that discovery.

I knew that part of that process would become one of those time-capsule-like experiences for me. I also knew that was really cliched and I hated it. Fortunately, I didn't find too much that brought back sitcom-like flashbacks for me. Most of it was an "oh, yeah...I remember that" set of moments. And, I preferred it that way.

One of the things I pulled out was an old wine bottle--Fetzer Chardonnay. I saved that bottle on purpose, and more than likely because I didn't want the details associated with it to transform into a mythical state they didn't deserve.

Three years ago, a relationship ended, and trust me, it wasn't my finest moment by far. The whole thing had been relatively short, and I would have been foolish not to think that it was going to eventually turn out that way due to a number of circumstances having to do with him and his life. Idealistic me had gotten involved with someone who didn't know who he was or how to make his life better. Instead, in many ways, he just drifted from day to day and suddenly, he was over forty and asking himself how he got there. He was smart, he had a lot of talents, but he didn't have the balls to deal with much, and anywhere conflict came up in his life, he backed away and hid in a corner. In my case, I was just unforgivably pathetic. And, that's why I saved that bottle.

He decided to leave. "Conflict" had come up and he just couldn't handle it. He had misled me to a huge extent, but even more sadly, he misled himself into thinking he was someone and was capable of something he wasn't. I am not going to pretend that I stood tall at that moment--I was emotionally wrecked. I am actually extremely embarrassed about it. After he unceremoniously marched out my back door without any compassion and only thinking about himself, the process for me had only begun. I had to work the next day, and rather than make the practical choice and call out sick, I picked up this then-unopened bottle of wine and consumed all of the contents. This was certainly enough to put me to sleep, and I fell into bed moments afterwards.

The next morning, I woke up on time but realized I hadn't slept off the effects of the alcohol entirely--and this, I must say, was entirely due to my own naivete. I had never gone to bed and woke up still tipsy. Again, my practical mind did not kick in and I still went to work. For a while after this, I went through a rough patch where I needed to pull myself out of feeling emotionally sunk, and lots of people helped me with that.

By the time I really started to regain myself, I decided to save that bottle. I wanted to remind myself what had happened to me--what I had allowed to happen to me.

I still have that bottle, and I remember. And it has not, and will not, happen again.

Now, if only the people down the street would change the volume of the music they are playing so the vibrations from the bass line weren't weakening the foundations of this house....

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Monday, May 12, 2008

Ten Years On

Tabitha turns ten years old this month. I adopted her from an animal shelter as a kitten...the year I graduated from high school.

Which makes this year the ten year anniversary of my high school graduation. Meaning: The Year of the Ten Year Reunion.

So, what was happening ten years ago, in May of 1998 (ugh)?

Top Grossing Films:
"Saving Private Ryan"
"There's Something About Mary"

Academy Award winning Best Picture: "Shakespeare in Love"

Grammy Winning Album of the Year: Sunny Came Home by Shawn Colvin

Top Songs of 1998:
"Too Close" by Next
"The Boy Is Mine" by Brandy and Monica
"You're Still the One" by Shania Twain
"Truly, Madly, Deeply" by Savage Garden'
"How Do I Live" by LeAnn Rimes

On TV:
"Dawson's Creek" premired in January. It is labeled one of the top ten worst shows of the year.

"Sex and the City" will debut on HBO in June.

"Seinfeld" and "Murphy Brown" will end this month in 1998. Other 1998 losses include: "Step By Step", "Family Matters", and "Babylon 5".

Interesting News Bits from May 1998:

Palistinian lawmakers released a "no confidence vote", charging that Yassir Arafat (who has thought about him lately?) and his government were largely corrupt and inactive.

A Constitutional Amendment was on the table permitting prayer in public schools. President Clinton opposed it.

The first degree in ECommerce was kicked off at San Diego's National University.

Bart Simpson makes the cut and lands on Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People list. "People of the Century" named were: Bill Gates, Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II, and Oprah Winfrey.

1998 marked the 30 year anniversary of the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. And yes, we were asking the same questions and making the same comments.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

You Know There's A Problem When.....

....Hannah Montana makes the Time Magazine Top 100 Influential People List.

Or if she makes any list that includes individuls like the Dalai Lama.

This is what you can expect from a publication that entertains a recommendation by Rosanne Barr (see: George Clooney, who I think has fallen a little off the map recently anyway and probably doesn't really deserve a mention by anyone, much less her).

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Finally, the weather was actually inviting one to experience it rather than saying "DON'T be nuts. Stay inside, moron" loud and clear. I was at work, and in a moment of partial procrastination and succumbing to the temptation that looking out the window produced, I walked outside the back door and stood there for a few minutes, leaning up against a brick staircase and watching the traffic go by on the nearby street.

Then, I saw a kid--a boy about six or seven years old--run behind the building, coming from the square around the front. He was shirtless, his shorts a little long for him, and his face was beet red presumably from having been out in the sun. He stopped next to a pickup truck that was parked in the loading zone there, pulled his shorts down, and peed on the pavement there in my full view. I felt bad enough that he entered my line of sight and chose to remain there while he relieved himself that I looked away, hoping that when I turned my head back, his pants would have been closer to his waistline.

After he finished, he walked towards me on the sidewalk, heading for the stairway I was leaning on. As he passed me, he gave me this "what's your problem?" look.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Apology to Self

Dear Self--

I am writing to wholeheartedly apologize for removing a recent post from your blog. I understand why you felt you needed to do that, and this is no reflection on the validity of that judgement. Someone very close to you for whom you care a great deal felt that what you wrote wasn't as balanced as you perceived your handling of the subject you chose to write about. Perhaps that may be true, perhaps not. The point is that I understand you were so surprised at having hurt someone you care about so much, you didn't feel you had much of a choice. It was also clear that other people thought that was "the right thing to do" at the time.

However, I promise you never to do that again.

It is useful here to consider what the purpose of this blog really is, and I know you put a lot of thought into that after you deleted that post.

* * * * * * *

No one blogs to hurt people--some do so to share information, some to connect family together, some to discuss a certain experience in their lives. The bottom line is that some people will like what you write and some people won't.

Lots of people, I am sure, do not like this blog or perhaps even me personally. You may not like me because I am a woman, or a liberal, or because I like history or because I take photographs you think are horrible. However, I didn't start writing here because I thought that everyone would like what I had to say. If you are upset with me and what I have written, I ask you first and foremost to remember that my intention is NEVER to hurt anyone. Then, I ask you to weigh two things on my behalf--whether you are upset with me because a composition of mine unapologetically levels some kind of judgement on something relating to you in a cruel way without sympathy or whether I may have written something with which you simply may not agree. I hope, sincerely, that if you are amongst those who care about me, people who remind me how blessed I am and thankful I should be, that my asking for this consideration on your part is not an unreasonable request.

First, my heartfelt apology for hurting anyone for whom I care so dear. I am sure it is hard to believe, but it hurts me more to know someone I know was hurt by me inadvertently. Second, however, is my resolve that I have to stick up for this blog and why I keep it. It is entirely understandable that I be asked to be sensitive to the feelings of others. However, it is important for me to be clear--this is my blog and my space here. If I am inconsiderate to you personally, I welcome your checking me on that point without question. If I present an opinion with which you do not agree, though, I only ask that you recognize my right to have that opinion and express it in my space. Many people disagree with my opinions, and every blog post is, in essence, a discussion. There is a "Comments" section at the end of every post. I welcome all insights, and I have never deleted a comment unless it was "spam" or was obscene in language or content.

You are welcome to disagree, but please do not ask me to avoid writing about certain things because we disagree on those subjects. I sincerely hope that my resolve will not alienate anyone I care about, and I believe if those individuals will only do me the favor of remembering my right to have an opinion and express it, even if it isn't the same as their own, there is a common ground of understanding to be found there.

A sincere thank you from me to everyone who pops in to this blog from time to time--people I know and people I have never met in person--and my appreciation for all thoughts and comments expressed on my posts. I enjoy reading what you have to say, on the blogs of others and in response to what I have written here.

Now, it's fabulous outside, so on to the rest of the day.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Between "Asshole" and "Unaware"

When I first moved out here, my mother spent a weekend with me helping me set up and settle in. There wasn't a huge range of stores to choose from for essentials, so we ended up at a local Target for bed linens and bathroom supplies. We pulled out of the parking spot and drove to the end of the row to turn on to the street and head back. In the process, two people tried to skip the stop sign in the other two directions at the intersection and cut us off entirely--or possibly injure us and spike their car insurance rates. I made an under-the-breath comment about the whole me-me-me attitude that has taken the world by storm and the fact that everywhere you go on the road, someone is trying to jump in front of you just to get wherever they're going two minutes sooner.

My mother's reply--"Well, they don't know they're being jerks."

My response--"That is absolutely ridiculous."

OF COURSE we know when we're being assholes. That's why we sheepishly avoid making eye-contact when we sail by someone we think is traveling at a speed that is just a hair too slow for us.

There are times when people do stupid things they don't know are inconsiderate. Take the guy who rushes to get one step in front of you when you're both walking into a local supermarket (that he knows he did). Then, as soon as he makes it past the threshold of the automatic doors....he stops. He stops to look at his shopping list, he stops to browse through a circular he just picked up. He just stops. A minute ago, he was so aware of you he was trying to beat you out. After his mission was accomplished, he has commenced blocking everyone's ability to enter the store after him.

The worst was the other day in the local fabric store. Since the calendar, at least, says that we are leaving the winter season (although evidence of that is hard to find outside), I decided to look through the sale fabric to see if there was anything interesting. I get to the back wall, and there is a larger woman there talking on her electric-pink Motorola Razor cell phone. She gabbed about soccer practice, meeting for lunch, etc. It appeared that we were just looking for the same thing in the rows of bolts. I followed the perimeter of the rows along the wall and around the corner. Two minutes later, I could hear her again....she was literaly tracing my path through the aisles, mindlessly, and still talking. I looked back at her and said "Please don't follow me if you're going to be talking on that phone." She apparently missed this request. And, to make it worse, it became clear to me that she wasn't looking for anything in particular. She was browsing randomly and tracing my path in the store in the process. I decided to look around on the other side of the store. I went into the least-traversed aisle there on purpose, and lo and behold, two minutes later, Guess-Who was there again, gabbing away with a glint of metallic pink at her ear. I gave her a look--a look that made an impression given the taken-aback expression I saw from her in response. I walked right by her, said "Absolutely ridiculous" loud enough to ensure she could hear it, and returned to the side of the store I was originally intersted in. I was not bothered again.

Good News: The neighbors across the hall are moving out due to a techinicality on their lease (a rather big one). The smell in the 2 by 4 foot space between our doors has exponentially improved.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


My Favorite Geico Commercial: The one with the "true Geico customer story" featuring "The Pips" to help tell that story (other guests include Peter Frampton and Joan Rivers).

Yahoo is featuring a story about the top so-and-so-many billionaires with the tagline "NEW face on the list!!!". Get this, Yahoo: I don't care who it is. All I know is that I'm on a decent salary supporting only myself and I still have to think through a practical budget for the necessities.

There is a virus going around that features a scratchy throat and dizziness as symptoms. How do I know? Answer: Personal experience.

"That's Amore" is the newest dating show on MTV. The only good thing about it is that it's sheer ridiculousness has made even the biggest fan of "I Love New York", "Flavor of Love", and "Rock of Love" realize how stupid it is to get a bunch of people on a show with some kind of theme in order to compete for the affection of some at least semi-well-known individual. The truth of the matter is I have no idea where they picked up the guy for "That's Amore". Does anyone know?

I'm not a Hillary Clinton fan, but I have to hand it to her. She really turned it out last night, regardless of the resulting delegate number (which is still smaller than Obama's). The lack of uncertainty may not be a bad thing for the Democratic party, either. McCain may be the confirmed nominee of the Repulican Party at this point, but most eyes, whether conservative or liberal, seem to be glued to the Democratic race to see what happens there. Sorry, McCain. My recommendation: hair dye is a cheap way to get people to notice you.

Ho-hum, I suppose. More at another time.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Review: The Other Boleyn Girl

Ok, we all saw the book when it appeared in Barnes and Noble and Borders. Some of us may have even purchased it then, before the hype associated with the New York Times Bestseller list.

Then the commercials and the interviews started. You knew the title, perhaps, but not much more. A recent trip to Borders would have confronted you with racks devoted only to this particular novel, swathed in a new cover to promote the release of the new film upon which it is based. In some places, the bookcase would have been strategically placed next to a high-end TV set, running an endless loop of movie promos.

And yes, admittedly, at one point, I thought "read this book, see what you think" in the vain hope that perhaps one author in the present age "has it" and isn't composing trash like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants or The Da Vinci Code on a patronizing 4th grade reading level.

Well, high expectations, or any expectations, are only destined to be disappointed.

The Other Boleyn Girl is not much of a novel, for all 600+ pages of it. The point of the genre of historical novels is to give the reader a more intimate view on a character or an event in the past--a view that the reader can't get, no matter how much history he or she has studied, because that third dimension is rarely plainly there in the documents left behind from that time period. The problem is in this case, Phillipa Gregory tells us a story we already know in a way we already know it, and she isn't even entirely accurate on that point, either. Case in point is the ages of the characters being rather off--Mary Boleyn, the main character and the famous Anne's sister, is hyped up here as the younger sister--younger than Anne by a year, when in reality, she was not only older than Anne, but older, more than likely, than the whole bunch of Boleyns from that generation. If her affair with King Henry VIII, timed in this novel at running from about 1522 to about 1526, would have corresponded to Mary Boleyn's mid-twenties, if not later in her life. Phillipa Gregory, either for dramatic effect or because of bad research, chose to make Mary about 14 when the affair began. It seems to me that she may have done this to further her ends to create the "naieve", young, malleable character in the form of Mary, and perhaps to make what turns out to be a very sad attempt to mould Mary in the form of a literary foil to the quick-witted, strong Anne Boleyn we know from history.

The problem is first, this character does not at all jive with what is known about Mary (who appears quite the opposite, and rather proud of that fact), and second, you can't create a "foil" in the literary world when you are telling a story from one character's perspective. The point is that a balance between the two characters' actions and thoughts and feelings, whether revealed or interpreted by the reader, must be established by the author's treatment of both characters equally. As you can tell, with a title like The Other Boleyn Girl, that balance does not exist.

The biggest problem for me is that I didn't care about the characters--not Anne, not Mary, no one. They were all too two-dimensional for me to care about. It was like I was reading a cartoon strip with pictures and minimal dialogue rather than a book. Gregory may have made her book so long because she filled it with empty words that only seemed to describe short, one-sentence volleys she hopes we consider conversations and events--no character development and no descriptions included.

Unrealistic bits in particular:

I know it offends every female on the planet today to "do the right thing" historically and have women accepting the fact that they are subject to the male authority in their world, but this was indeed the 16th century. Many would retort that "of course Gregory discusses this in the novel", and my point is that she does discuss it. Over and over again. Every other discussion. With something so ingrained in the culture of the world she is attempting to paint, there wouldn't be this much discussion about it by the people who are apart of this world, if any discussion at all. We, as modern readers, would just have to get over it.

Anne's fate gets overshadowed at every point that one could consider "obvious" in the text. We know what happens. Once or twice at powerful moments would be a great literary effect. Five to ten times in the first third of the book passes the "overkill" level on the meter.

The court of Henry VIII was a big place which included lots and lots of people. Gregory gives you the idea that Henry only interacted with the Boleyn family members during diversions. Apparently, this complicated Tudor world only encompasses King Henry, a few nameless ambassadors, a bunch of church people, Cardinal Wosley, Queen Catherine, a group of ladies in waiting--apparently reduced to Anne and Mary Boleyn, their extended family, and a nameless group of other people, and their brother, George Boleyn. Oh, and Mary's husband makes the occasional appearance now and again. Of course, this entirely leaves out the whole group of peers of the realm and their retinues, with the exeption of Henry Percy, who courts Anne briefly, and a random group of "Seymores" we never see a sign of in person (oh, and which serves as yet another reminder of Anne's fate). I cannot imagine that all of these individuals would have been so overlooked and left out in the real court of Henry VIII.

Oh, and I doubt the King of England would have been caught publicly nearly kissing any of his mistresses. Sorry, Phillipa, flirtations abounded at that time, but open affection was rather frowned upon and could have single handedly started a war with Spain while Henry was still married to Catherine in hopes of children. That didn't start, for those of you who are interested, until the court of Charles II when it was clear from the beginning that his wife was barren and he was riding the tide of backlash against the strict Puritans.

What did I realize? Phillipa Gregory's work here will shed a lot of light on why certain authors have been historically classified as "great writers". The answer to that question, nine times out of ten, is good character development, which is something entirely missed in The Other Boleyn Girl. Instead of three-dimensional, real people lost to the past, we watch a fabulous, colorful story fall prey to too much foreshadowing, people characterized by one or two attributes rather than human complexity, and the telling of events, both pivotal and ordinary, in the same, matter-of-fact way, whether it be a day with the children, a birth, a marriage, or a death.

And now for something completely different:

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Route 93 My Friend; Route 93 My Enemy

Northern New England continues to be a winter-sports-lover's dream. However, for the un-athletic world, well, the dreamy lyrics of the song "Winter Wonderland" faded long ago.

Allow me to clarify for those who haven't once consulted a news source of any kind in the last two months. Once a week, every week, there has been a snowstorm that has exhibited the following characteristics: cold weather resulting in the type of snow that either sticks on a surface or blows around into large, poorly placed piles, the heaviest period of snowfall corresponding with either one or both "rush hour" periods without a plow to be seen, and people in SUVs plowing through these conditions at 70 miles per hour regardless of the presence of two inches of snow on the road surface and dozens of other cars attempting to be careful around them.

What amazes me the most is the fact that major highways upon which hundreds and thousands of people a day drive are many times left to the mercies of Mother Nature to the point that travel on them becomes extremely dangerous. Yesterday, for example, I was driving north on Route 93. All four lanes were covered in powdery snow. I was on the road for about 45 minutes and I did not see one plow, let alone one plow actually physically plowing the road surface. Behind me was miles and miles of traffic--hundreds of cars trying to get a head start on the upcoming vacation week at the many available ski resorts. I counted three rollovers on that stretch--mostly comprised of the "I'm invincible with a car bigger than the average motor home" crowd. It was incredible.

On the other hand, Route 93 is also the most efficient way out of here.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Zen of the Complete Apartment

Last night, I passed my first apartment-arrangement milestone: I assembled the last piece of furniture that arrived on my back doorstep as slats of wood and accompanying bolts in a box.

And now, the apartment is pretty much all set up. Well, the bare walls will be my next project--and a significantly more enjoyable task than putting together bookcases and tables.



Ahhhh....the green couch. No, I didn't have to built that, but that doesn't mean that I didn't have additional, exceptional problems with it.

I ordered it from Bob's--there is a surprising lack of furniture stores out here, so my choices ended up being: wait for three weeks for Macy's to deliver something out of their limited selection of styles and colors, be patronized by sales associates at Ethan Allen, live without any seating, or suck it up and go to Bob's. Fortunately, it was quick work to actually buy the furniture there. I recall being dragged to locally owned furniture stores with my parents as a kids and it always took hours in environments where you weren't allowed to touch anything. I set a shipping date for mid-week, and I was assured I would get a phone call a day ahead to give me a three hour window to expect the furniture and I would get another phone call from the delivery truck an hour before it's anticipated arrival. My concern was mainly coordinating my availability with my hours at work, and if all went well, I'd get my couch in good time with limited inconvenience to myself in the process.

Well, as usual, no process that involves people bringing large items into your home who aren't allowed to accept tips will be absolutely painless.

The day before, I got a window of between about 8 and 11 for the furniture. I figured that wasn't so bad--in the ideal case I would get the furniture before I even had to be at work, and if not, I could count it as part of a lunch hour taken to let the movers into the house. No big deal either way.

At 7:30 in the morning, the vibrations of a large vehicle in front of the house gradually dragged my consciousness into an awakened state. I checked my phone--no calls had come in that I missed, and I did a double-take when I saw the nearest clock face. I threw on a pair of slippers and rushed to the door where the anticipated knock had already been laid. I opened the door. One of the two movers entered and asked me where I wanted the furniture to go. I pointed to a few places on the floor.

Oh, and did I ask him what happened to the "warning" phone call? You bet.

The chair and the coffee table came in just fine through the front door.

Then, came the couch. Surprisingly, they tried to move it in with all of the cushions still on it, regardless of having apparently done this for a living for at least longer than 24 hours. They quickly corrected this error and brought the cushions into the apartment first, and then, went back for the frame.

The frame turned out to be a little long. They got it through the front door in an upright position, taking apart an overhead hall light in the process. However, given it's length, they couldn't get it through my door like that--they would have to take it in length-wise rather than upright. The hallway wasn't wide enough to accommodate the length of the couch entirely, so one of them tried to climb up the narrow staircase to the upstairs apartment in order to allow for more room to turn it, and he was now trapped behind it halfway up the staircase.

So, the next logical step was apparently trying to convince me to call customer service and get a refund for the couch because they couldn't get it in the apartment.

I've done a lot of moving, and I am sure you can guess what the chances were for my doing that without a complaint.

My apartment is one of two on the first floor of the building. Across the hallway from me is another apartment, and it didn't take too many functioning brain cells to figure out that if the neighbors would only open the door for five seconds, the movers could back the couch length-wise into their apartment and then pull it into my own. Apparently, there was some kind of a policy conflict with their physically knocking on a neighbor's door to finish their job. Given the position of the couch in the hallway and the position of the movers, there was no way I could do the job on that one. Bottom line, I told them that regardless of minor policy glitches, their primary policy was to move the furniture people purchased into their homes, and they wouldn't be taking the couch back unless they at least knocked on the door opposite mine.

What happened? They knocked, the neighbor opened the door, they quickly pulled the couch into their living space and then, straight into my own in about half a minute's time.

At least someone found a new favorite spot, with or without furniture:

Oh, and it's snowing out here.....seems to do that a lot.

Monday, January 21, 2008

In Memoriam: Harriet

Harriet died this morning.

I adopted Harriet about five and a half years ago from an animal shelter nearby my parents' house. I was moving out, starting an internship in another state, and I couldn't imagine living in a house without at least one cat. Of course, there were plenty of cats to choose from, and as any animal lover knows, a trip to the shelter means having to fight the urge to take each and every one of those animals home.

Harriet caught my eye here. She was obviously displeased sharing a living space with so many other, less intelligent cats, and some who even cried to beg for the attention of a passing potential adopter. She was curled up towards the back of her cage, but upon being approached, she was aware--she acknowledged it in a way that later on, after getting to know her better, I could only term as characteristically Harriet. She didn't open her eyes, but she did start to purr, and she flicked her tail in response to every statement I made to her.

It was only a matter of time before I took her home. I brought her with me to my internship, and she moved with me into and out of two different apartments. She put up with a number of roommates in the meantime, and she never minded them. In fact, she seemed to prefer to be around other cats and actually made an effort to "get to know" them. As for humans, well, they could generally be divided into two groups--people she liked and people she eventually decided to put up with.

It's hard to tell when animals get older sometimes. The passage of time is different for them than it is for us--five years isn't much to a human being, but to a cat, it could be a significant part of a lifetime. Her black fur greyed slightly, she slept a lot more, and she was even more disagreeable when she had to be taken to the vet or treated for her diabetes. However, Harriet still greeted us at the door when we came home, she still would try and chase the reflections that watch faces made on the wall from the sun, and she still commanded the position of queen of the house--a position none of the other cats dared to tread upon. She understood a large vocabulary of words. She always looked worried when we scolded her, and upon pairing that with her terror when I moved out of my last apartment, we thought that perhaps her previous owners had abandoned her--and, as much as we would like to think that animals aren't affected by things the way we are, whatever Harriet had been through had made an imprint on her that she never forgot somehow.

Three kittens came into our home while Harriet was with us. No matter how annoying they must have been at times--jumping on her, running over her, making endless amounts of noise--she was never impatient. Only when a young, naive Charlotte tried to vie for "alpha-cat" did Harriet promptly quell that rebellious spirit by knocking her clear across the kitchen floor at an unanticipated moment--which was never forgotten by Charlotte. Emily, Charlotte's sister, took a particular liking to Harriet and would follow her around, nap with her, rub up against her, and just generally did everything that Harriet did. Emily's shining moment was hopping into a laundry basket with Harriet after Harriet suffered a glucose crash and was without the ability to move or see on her own. The other cats kept a safe distance, but Emily snuggled up with Harriet, and Harriet, not one for a lot of affection, acknowledged her kindness the only way she could at the time--by echoing Emily's purr.

Harriet was well known at the vet. After a recent surgery, the office called and we were informed that "Harriet had a procedure done today. There were no injuries to the staff."

Well, Harriet, for all the bowls of soup we shared, for the times we sat on the couch together, for the selection of dead mice you brought me as "gifts", for putting up with my roommates both feline and human, and for having the strength to be entirely unapologetic about who you were--something a lot of people cannot do--I bid you a formal, affectionate, and tearful good-bye. I hope that you understand somehow that although I had to do things like give you daily insulin treatments and shave your matted fur, I love you very much.

And, if I learned anything at all.....that there will never be another Harriet.

And I prefer it that way.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Hello, Can I Help You?

There seem to be two main reasons why companies--mostly big-name ones--provide some of the worst customer service imaginable. One is just sheer arrogance on the part of the company. It's the same kind of scenario you find on a small scale on the high school dating scene. You've got the hot guy or the hot girl that everyone at least finds attractive, and when you conjure up a vision of him or her in your head, arrogance tops the list of non-physical attributes. Similarly, you get a big company that has lots of customers and provides lots of services, and the "big head" phenomenon isn't too far behind.

The other reason is our fault--the consumer. Too often, we're willing to let them charge us all kinds of ridiculous fees for their services, we let their problems become our inconveniences, and we just say "oh, well" without thinking for a second how amazingly ridiculous the concept is.

Case in point:

Date: Today
Company: Verizon

Last week, I ordered Verizon TV, Internet, and phone service online. I sent them all the information and got the confirmation e-mail right away. However, the next morning, I got an additional e-mail informing me that I would have to call the "Welcome Center" at such-and-such a number to confirm the order. Ok, not a problem. I did. The operator explained to me that their credit check system had not been working properly when I placed my order, that she had confirmed the information with me by phone, that I would get an e-mail in the next 24 hours regarding the service installation, and that everything was all set for the date I had selected.

Ok. No problems there. Yet.

By Monday, no e-mail had come. Odd. So, I called Verizon again to see whether they forgot to e-mail me or something got lost in translation.

I called the Welcome Center again. The operator told me that the credit check had not yet been processed (so much for the accuracy of the first operator). He told me that he sent the order out through the proper channels, but if I wanted to confirm they received it, I would have to call them myself. So, apparently unable to transfer me over the phone, I had to make another call.

I made the call. Five times. The line was busy for a full 45 minutes before I got a free line and sat on hold for 20 minutes listening to a loop of repeating elevator music. Finally, after I had lost all hope that I would be helped, an operator came on the line. I gave her a confirmation number that she got wrong, of course, but after that was worked out, I explained to her what the other operator had told me.

I was put on hold. Hold time: 3 minutes.

Apparently, the credit check was in the exact same state it had been since the beginning. I explained to her that the other operator had sent over the new information in order to speed up the process and ensure that I could get my service installed tomorrow, as was originally planned.

I was put on hold. Hold time: 2 minutes, 33 seconds.

Well, no, it couldn't work that way. It was seemingly as if the whole order had not been placed at all as the computer system told the story. I asked her why two other operators had told me differently in my previous conversations.

Her answer was to put me on hold a third time. For four minutes.

When she returned, she wanted to redo the whole order. She also explained that I couldn't have the services installed the next day because the credit check takes a full day to process. The best she could do was give me the 17th. I asked her why their computer problems were ultimately inconveniencing me even though I took every step they had required of me correctly. I also asked her why her company seemed to think that the average person who works Monday through Friday from 9 to 5 every week could clear his or her schedule on the fly to wait eight hours for their technician to come. Her reply was to label these legitimate complaints as "venting" and tell me "she would do what she could."

And then....she put me on hold. For what seemed like ten minutes.

Well, needless to say, she had no new information when she came back. The best she could do was still Thursday. I told her that Thursday was out. I asked for the 21st--Martin Luther King Day. No, she didn't have any time that day. I told her that this was completely ridiculous. Verizon first expected me to do all the work myself to get my credit checked properly, which isn't any of my concern, thought I could be home any day of the regular working week for all of regular working hours, and figured that could be done any day they had available regardless of customer convenience and schedule. I said that I had an installation date for the 15th, and given the amount of trouble I had been through already, I expected Verizon to find a way to do it--oh, God forbid--on my time, not theirs.

The operator apparently found this absolutely shocking. She explained she would have her supervisor call me and asked me for my number, which I gladly gave to her. Then, I ended the phone call.

Ten minutes later, I thought: why not see what Comcast can do for you? Comcast had similar rates, similar services, and a similar price range. I figured it couldn't hurt to give them a quick call. Perhaps appealing to them, referencing my unsuccessful call to Verizon may help things out a bit as well. I placed a call, and it was picked up in about thirty seconds by a Comcast operator. I explained what I wanted to order, he put the order in the computer and waived the installation fees. I asked him if they installed on the weekend, and he set me up with an installation on Saturday. He also gave me a four hour, as opposed to an eight hour, window for service. Then, came the credit check. When he asked for my social security number, I thought that the game was up. Ten seconds later, the check was done and everything was fine. Before I ended the call, I had to thank him for providing great service, and I told him that I was happy to be a Comcast customer.

Oh, and did that mysterious supervisor call? I think not.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Time to call in a U-Haul

Wow, it has been a while. I was still pilgrimming on to the Thanksgiving season when I last wrote. In fact, in the meantime, The Rock of Love turned out ugly--no shocker there given VH1 jumped on The Rock of Love 2 without allowing us to take a Poison-free breath, Tila apparently chose a man after bringing the options down to a man and a woman who one could easily mistake for a man, and New York has a new love that we have yet to see make it through the Reunion show. I wish my dating life were that exciting.

So, I got a new job (Applause).

What that means is: relocation, relocation, relocation, and in no way can that be equated to Thoreau's similar three-pronged invocation of simplicity. This meant taking the entire weekend to try and find a place near my new epicenter of work. Here are some of the highlights of my search:

My first apartment go-see landed me fairly close to my job, which was a plus. Unfortunately, that was the only plus. As soon as I pulled into the parking area shared by two adjacent buildings, I was given the immediate once-over by two individuals on their porch smoking, both of whom could be mistaken for the instigators of the latest hold up at the local liquor store. The landlord couldn't show me the apartment--she had apparently dropped the keys somewhere in the snow days before and had neglected to tell me that when I committed to see the place. I rescheduled the appointment, but when I decided to take a pass on the combination of a disorganized landlord and neighbors who have probably featured on the show COPS, I figured she would have lost my phone number anyway and therefore, I stood not a chance of getting the "where are you?" phone call from you when I didn't show up.

Later on, I saw a place on the other side of town where a lot of students live. Of course, that generally translates into appauling living spaces, exhorbitant prices, and lots of unwanted company. No shocker that was exactly what I found there. The house overseer was a little nervous because he thought the carpet looked shabby---but that was the least of his problems. The apartment included out of date appliances about to break down at any minute, rusty baseboards, ceiling tiles he was loath to replace because "the new, brighter tiles wouldn't match the older ones", an exposed patch of insulation in wall on the outside where the air conditioner was mounted, walls full of old nails and an older paint job, and a healthy dose of undisposed-of dog crap on the front step. Since I had contacted the man days before I intended to visit, at least he could have taken care of the latter problem.

Yet another landlord sent on his kids--his daughter and his two sons--to show us a place in a larger complex. They collectively arrived over twenty minutes late and because the girl didn't know which units were available, she needed to use my cell phone to call her absent dad and double check on that.

I drove a distance out to one place, took one look at it, pulled a U and came back, and I didn't pick up the phone when the landlord called to ask me where I was and whether or not I had gotten lost getting to the place.

Did this result in some good prospects? Valid question, but the answer is a hopeful "absolutely."

And, I stayed in the same hotel as John McCain in the process--unknowingly until he showed up in his bus. I didn't see him, but I did end up sharing an elevator with his wife, which confirmed my suspicion that he indeed did not marry her for her clever quips and quick wit.