Archive for August, 2008

Some Random Things

Hey folks. Some random items:

 

  • This post should effectively communicate that I made it to Pittsburgh in one human-shaped piece. I am in somewhat less excellent shape than I was when I got here due to some horrific blisters on the bottoms of my feet. BOTTOMS. Of. My. Feet. I can barely walk.
  • This is not to say that my plane trip was without its tribulations. Las Vegas to Pittsburgh provided me with fine examples of mild, medium, and heavy turbulence. My knuckles are still white.  There were also approximately 9,000 babies on the plane, one of whom screamed the entire 4 1/2 hour flight. I felt bad for the mother while also wanting to throw her out the emergency exit with her devil child.
  • I will be hosting a guest poster here in the Abyss as a participator in BetchFest. BetchFest is an opportunity for bloggers with something to get off their chest to post their rants in a place unknown to their family and immediate friends, or anyone else whom they might not want to read it. I hope that you will welcome my guest when she arrives.
  • I am officially a wuss when it comes to weather. Thanks, Washington, for making me a priss. SO HOT! agh! As I dried my hair this morning, I felt beads of sweat drip down my legs. Ew. I already need another shower.

August 30, 2008 at 8:52 am 1 comment

Leaving on a Jet Plane; Don’t Know If I’ll Be Back Again. (I Might Die)

So, it turns out I can’t sleep, because I forgot that I am terrified of airplanes. I always do that! I think I probably made that irrational fear of mine apparent when earlier this week I beseeched celebrities to do away with their dangerous obsession with small aircraft, but it’s this sort of subconscious, latent dread that never truly surfaces until about 24 hours before take-off.

 

The takeoffs and landings are the parts that really bother me, and I usually release my death grip on my seat and start to breathe again once I am thousands and thousands of feet in the air but can shut the window blind. I happen to know that takeoffs and landings (a great Rilo Kiley album, btw) are the most dangerous parts of a flight, where things are more likely to go horribly wrong. The physical sensations associated with ascension and descension — the tilt upward/downward, the acceleration, the popping eardrums — do nothing to mitigate this fear. I usually have some kind of sedative or anxiety pill to deal with this or I deliberately make myself so tired, by staying up all night, that by the time I board the plane I’m too dizzy with sleep-dep to actually notice that I am in mortal danger.

 

So can somebody please explain to me why I somehow deluded myself into thinking that it was worth it to book a flight with, not one, but TWO stops along the way? Just to save $40? I’m probably going to end up spending at least that in airport bars during my layovers, drinking myself into a stupor.

 

My friends, I beg you: next time you catch wind of my planning a trip that involves air travel, please point me toward this post before I book a flight, so as to jog my goldfish memory of my morbid dread of take-off.

August 28, 2008 at 1:55 am 2 comments

Quirky Amber

So, lovely kdiddy of kdiddy.org and MamaPop tagged me for a meme wherein I get to tell you six ways in which I am a weird neurotic that should be leashed and muzzled in public spaces. Actually, the assignment was to enumerate our unremarkable quirks, which seems like setting the bar a bit low, I think.

The trouble is, much like kdiddy, I am so familiar with my quirks that they’re actually completely normal to me. To me, you’re the freak, because you don’t have all these “features” I have, which you’d be inclined to call “quirks”.

I should also mention that you, the internets, are getting a very special insight into my psyche. Some of these quirks are so quirky, even Andrew doesn’t really know how crazy I am.

 

Quirk #1: If You Talk About Your Injuries in Any Detail While In My Presence I Will Totally Freak Out and Run Screaming From The Room.

This especially goes for anything “infected”. Seriously, if you have a boil or an abscess of some kind, please to be not sharing any of that information with me. Don’t even tell me you have this malady because, while I’m sorry to know you are in discomfort, I am about to add insult to your injury by hurling all over you. 

 

Quirk #2: My Brain Goes From Zero to Morbid In No Time

No matter how benign the thought or circumstance, my train of thought will quickly bring me to a morbid and spooky place that usually involves my untimely demise. Like, if I have dirty socks on, I will spend the whole day thinking about how, if I get hit by a car and die, the M.E. at the morgue will make fun of me to his assistant about how funky-smelling my feet are. Were, rather. God, what an asshole, I’ll think to myself. You carve up dead people. You’re no prize! Really, though, it’s good my brain brings me to this place, because I always have clean socks. 

 

Quirk #3: I Probably Hate Cucumbers More Than You Ever Thought Possible

If you are eating cucumbers near me, I secretly despise you for making me smell them. “They barely have a smell!” you’ll say. But remember how, in The Witches, the witches hate children so much that they can smell them even when they can’t see them? And how wretched children smell to them, particularly when they are clean and sweet-smelling to child-approving mortals? It’s kind of like that with me and cucumbers. You think they have a barely detectable smell, while I gag from the stench. Really, it’s a wonder I can even go out for Greek or Persian food since they think everything is better with cucumber. 

Oddly, I love dill pickles.

 

Quirk #4: I Still Have a Baby Tooth

Like, it’s still in my jaw. There was no adult tooth under it, and when I had braces it got sort of wedged in place. It’ll fall out some day, they told me, but I’m 27. This should make it easy enough if I’m ever in a horrific and fatal car crash where they have to consult my dental records to identify my remains, what with my quirky dental x-rays. See, there’s Personality Quirk #2 for you!

 

Body Quirk #5 My Right Breast Is Much Bigger Than My Left

Yes, I know, we’re all asymmetrical. But this is a substantial difference. Some shirts look funny on me, and my left bra cup is usually sort of pathetically…unfulfilled. I’d wear a falsie but, honestly, it doesn’t bother me all that much. Most people say they can’t tell, but I think they’re just saying that so no one thinks they’re constantly staring at my chest constantly like the dirty perverts they really are.

 

Quirk #6: I Have an Irrational Fear of…Moths

I blame The Silence of the Lambs. You know those creepy death’s head moths that Buffalo Bill keeps, because apparently his character wasn’t creepy enough without keeping a bizarre, cloth-eating menace for a pet? The problem is, while I know most moths are not death’s head moths, it’s hard to tell what kind of moth you’re dealing with when it’s dive-bombing your overhead lamp repeatedly, and then your head, over and over. And that behavior strikes me as dangerously tenacious. I simply don’t trust them.

 

 

This is the part of my post where I’m supposed to corral a bunch of you into doing the same thing in your blog, but the thing is…this isn’t LJ, and I dunno who actually reads my humble blog. So, if you’re reading this, consider your ass tagged.

August 26, 2008 at 10:20 am 5 comments

William Frederick Hunter

Yesterday, a fellow MamaPop writer and a wonderful woman, HerBadMother posted an incredible story that I felt compelled to spread around:

[link]

Catherine has a brother she never met. Her mother only saw him once through a hospital window 45 years ago, but she never stopped thinking about him or loving him, yet she was too scared to look for him. Now she hopes that Catherine and her sister will. 

His birth name was William Frederick Hunter, and he was born in 1963 at Grace Hospital in Vancouver. She believes one or both of his parents were professors at the University of British Columbia.

Because I live in the Pacific Northwest and have a decent number of friends in BC, I know there’s a chance, albeit a long shot, that you know someone who knows someone that fits this description, and that he wants to know his birth family.  Perhaps he has only been waiting to be found. Perhaps, if enough people post this story, the brother Catherine never met will discover he has a birth mother who has never passed a day since she gave him up that she didn’t think of him with love and hope for his well being. That, if he wants to know them, he has another family waiting for him.

Be forewarned: that post I linked to is a tearjerker.

August 21, 2008 at 9:42 am 2 comments

Guilty Pleasures, “Food” edition

A while ago, I wrote here about my guiltier pleasures with regard to television viewing. Of course, this post didn’t even scratch the surface, because I watch a lot of crap, but some shames are better kept private. However, I am secretly proud of some of my other guilty pleasures that do not refer to those I watch while drooling and mouth breathing on my couch, but rather those I consume orally while drooling and mouth breathing on my couch.

So, the following is a list of foods I am almost ashamed to admit I LOVE.

 

 

1. Wheat Thins and Easy Cheese (Sharp Cheddar variety)

 

America's #1 Spray Cheese Food Product!

 

This is not only one of my top five guilty food pleasures, but also one of the most frustrating food combinations in the history of food combinations. Because, much like the ratio of commercially packaged hot dogs to buns rarely matches, the ratio of cheeze to cracker never matches. I constantly struggle to achieve the equilibrium that will ensure the last squirt of pasteurized processed cheese food product erupts onto the very last Wheat Thin in the box. As of this writing, I have not yet achieved the golden, 1:1 cheeze-with-a-z to wheat cracker ratio. Still, I persevere. FOR SCIENCE!

 

2. Ghetto Garlic Bread

 

This is the garlic bread of the bourgeoisie.

This is the garlic bread of the bourgeoisie.

 

Some wise person, like Wittgenstein or Oprah, once said that today’s solutions are tomorrow’s problems. But sometimes, today’s problems are tomorrow’s delicious comfort foods! Ghetto garlic bread, for example, would be impossible if not for the once frustrating, aforementioned leftover hot dog bun problem. Don’t throw them away—slather them in butter, shake on some granulated garlic and put that shit under the broiler. This tastes completely different than a fresh italian loaf slathered in butter and minced garlic. But do you want to know a secret? I kinda like the ghetto version better, with all its delicious preservatives, nutrionless white breadiness, and its fakey garlic taste. It really can’t be beat. Thanks, mom, for your unwillingness to let those leftover buns go gently into that dark pantry.

 

An appalling aside: Andrew likes this food amalgamation with the addition of that  “cheese” that comes in a green can. While I am often for “cheeses” that require skeptical air-quotes, this particular form of “cheese” is well beyond the realm of acceptable. Perhaps love does indeed mean never having to say you’re sorry, but I’m certain there’s a stipulation that love for canned parmesan means constantly having to say you’re sorry for having no taste whatsoever. Said the girl who is about to admit to having a deep love for the following:

 

 

3. Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese Dinner with Canned Chili and Cut-up Hot Dogs

 

++      = CRAZY DELICIOUS!!

 

How can something that looks SO! MUCH! like vomit be so yummy in my tummy? Note: you may not substitute other brands of macaroni and cheese dinner for Kraft brand. The chili and hot dogs, however, are interchangeable, and when I was a vegetarian, I very much enjoyed this with tofu dogs and veggie chili. The best part of this is that, while Kraft dinner alone takes on the nastiest quality when you reheat leftovers, the addition of chili preserves the yum for a second, shameful scarf later on.

 

 

4. Microwave Bean and Cheese Burritos the Size of Your Head

 

Some of these confessions are such secret shames, even Andrew doesn’t know yet, so I may come home to an empty house after he sees this post. But I have to get this off my chest. 

 

Even though we live within a two-mile radius of some of the finest burrito-peddling stationary roach coaches in the state of Washington, sometimes, I would prefer to go to my grocer’s freezer, a 7-11, or my office vending machine, and purchase one of these:

 

 

 I know. I KNOW! These things are terrible! Revolting! Nearly tasteless! IRRESISTABLE!

 

If the apocalypse comes, I know I will be able to survive, because, with a pocket full of quarters I will steal from area laundromats, I shall go into each abandoned office building and raid vending machines until I am perched atop a mountain of these wraps that only technically qualify as comestibles, while you shiver in the corner crying for your precious food.

 

 

5. Hostess “Fruit” “Pies”

 

Yeah, sure, your gramma makes homemade pies... but do they GLITTER?

Yeah, sure, your gramma makes homemade pies... but do they GLITTER?

 

Many moons ago, I lived within spitting distance of the Mississippi, on one of the few hills in the state of Iowa. Also down the street, slightly closer than Ol’ Muddy, was a Hostess bakery and distribution center. Late at night, I would sit on my porch, smoking, and breathe deep the aroma of the only good-smelling factory I’ve lived within sniffing distance of. I loved guessing which “pastry” they were cranking out: cinnamon-crumb Donettes, Twinkies or Suzy Qs? Regardless of the confection, the aroma emitted from down the street was what imagine heaven smells like.

 

I can’t lie — I love Hostess products. But of all the shameful, preservative-laden Hostess products, none do I adore more than the Fruit Pie. The flavor is unimportant to me. I love them all equally as I would my children, if I had any. The outer crust is delightfully pearlescent in its thick glaze shell, and beneath each perfectly crimped edge, oozes glistening gelatinous “fruit” filling. I know my food shouldn’t glow like it’s radioactive. But if Hostess Fruit Pies are wrong, I don’t want to be right.

 

 

So, am I alone here? Do you all live on a diet of foie gras and arugula salads, or do you have some shameful secrets lurking in your cupboards? Come sit beside me and whisper in my ear — I promise to hold your confessions sacred. Unless you’re one of those green can “cheese” lovers, in which case it’s torch-and-pitchfork-wielding mobs for you.

August 19, 2008 at 12:00 pm 12 comments

Pittsburgh

I am very excited to visit one of my favorite cities in two weeks: Pittsburgh.

 

Ah, Pittsburgh — The ‘Burgh, Iron City, City of Bridges — how I love your Gothic Cathedral of Learning and your converging rivers, and the fact that every time I tell someone my summer mini-vacation is in Pittsburgh, you evoke a sideways glance and the question: “…Pittsburgh?”

 

Sure, it seems a little silly to visit a city in the summer that has a worse climate than the one you presently inhabit. For example, in my neck of the woods, it’s considered unbearably hot when it’s 86 degrees and breezy, and the natives all look like Job wandering in the desert, gnashing their teeth and wailing at the sky for reprieve. These people know nothing of humidity. I laugh when they declare a day “muggy”, knowing most of them have never lived east of the Rockies and have no idea what that word means. 

 

Even so, I will not allow the threat of unbearable heat and humidity nor the shaming, incredulous stares of my friends and coworkers mar my excitement. I love the old buildings, the towering, stone universities and the fact that it has more bridges than Venice. I love Squirrel Hill and the view of the skyline from Mt. Washington. I love that it seems at once metropolitan and cozy.

 

I visited Pittsburgh for the first time six years ago, and ever since, I’ve wanted to live there. I mean, look at it. Wouldn’t you?

 

 

View of the city skyline from the incline railway up Mt. Washington

View of the city skyline from the incline railway up Mt. Washington

 

 

 

Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University

 

 

 

U Pitt's Cathedral of Learning - my favorite building in the U.S.

U Pitt's Cathedral of Learning - my favorite building in the U.S.

 

I am also excited to report that, in four days, I will no longer be a customer service administrator. Instead, I will be…unemployed. But only for 10 days! Then I will start my new job as coordinator of the university’s LGBTA. I think my first order of business will be to change the name of the office from LGBTA (Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender Alliance) to something a little bit more inclusive and less…acronymy. I’m thinking it should be called either the Queer Alliance or the Queer-Straight Alliance, to make it clear to students that it isn’t just for queer folk, but also for allies to the queer community.

August 18, 2008 at 7:00 am 7 comments

Bang Bang, I am the Warrior

On Friday night, whilst out for a few beers and fried snacks, I decided I wanted to shoot a gun. I don’t know if it was the beer or what, but I found myself asking my friend Michael to take me to the firing range the next day. Hell, I’m doing lots of things I haven’t done before lately, so why not go do something that absolutely terrifies me? I figure I can work up to my bigger fears later and maybe jump out of an airplane next weekend. 

(I am totally not jumping out of an airplane next weekend.)

 

I don’t think being terrified of guns is an unnatural fear. Guns kill, or at least the bullets they fire do. Sure, knives kill too, and I’m not at all afraid of knives. But then again, it takes a great deal more intent to do lethal harm when wielding a knife than when wielding a gun. I mean, people are killed accidentally with guns all the time. So, I suppose it’s not really guns I’m afraid of—it’s the humans that hold them. And I think I might be more scared of stupid or careless humans than I am of evil, murderous ones, because the former seems so much more abundant.

 

 

at this point I'm not scared, just nervous.

at this point I'm not scared, just nervous.

 

After I changed into my best Annie Oakley skirt and boots, we drove south for a few miles until we arrived at the Plantation Rifle Range, and turned left into the range for pistols and smallbore rifles. I heard the firing range before I saw it, and the sounds of explosion after explosion made my heart spin around in my chest a little each time – not unlike a spinning bullet chamber.

 

We brought foam earplugs for us both, but it took only a half minute on the range to realize the puny things weren’t going to cut it. I asked the parks employee who staffed the booth if he had any better ear protection, and he supplied me with some very stylish ear  muffs.

 

 

Note the position of our target to everyone else's. We are terrible shots.

Note the position of our target to everyone else's. We are terrible shots.

 

Michael seemed to want to throw me right in, but I told him I’d rather he fired a round before I did. We awaited the “cease fire” light to put our target up. Michael put the target up at 10 yards, which made me feel like we were losers, since everyone else had theirs at least 25 yards away.

 

I was even terrified at this point that someone from behind the bench would accidentally start firing. After all, the light is confusing! Green means “go” and red means “stop”, so surely CEASE FIRE should be red, not green. What if someone were to be confused? OMG MICHAEL BE CAREFUL OF THE MADMEN BEHIND THE BENCH!!! 

 

 

Much like 80s band Scandal, Michael is shooting at the walls of heartache.

Much like 80s band Scandal, Michael is shooting at the walls of heartache.

 

I calmed down and realized that no one was even touching a gun and had no intention of opening fire on all these nice people setting up their targets. When the red LINE HOT light came on and the ranger let us know we could all begin firing our lethal weapons, I stood by as Michael shot a round. 

 

This thing is not a gun. It is a friggin hand cannon. Everything about the experience felt amplified—the decibel of the explosion, the weight of the gun, and the amount of recoil. Even when Michael fired the gun I was taken aback by how much of a kick it gave each time he fired.

 

 

After firing my first round, my smile is replaced by an expression that seems to say, "HOLY SHIT, I'M SURROUNDED BY LETHAL WEAPONS!"

After firing my first round, my smile is replaced by an expression that seems to say, "HOLY SHIT, I'M SURROUNDED BY LETHAL WEAPONS!"

 

 

To add to my anxiety, every other gun firing around us was spitting out its spent shell casings, some of which flew into the stall we were in. Luckily, a revolver is nice and tidy and keeps the shell in the chamber. Michael showed me how to remove them after firing the round, and then told me to load the barrel. I trembled, trying to put peg A into slot B and, after a minor freak out, I handed the revolver back to Michael and made him do it.

 

The first round was terrifying, and I shot the second round so fast, I barely remember it. I resolved to go slower on the third round as Michael put up a target that only I would shoot at, so I could see what kind of target shooting prowess I have. 

 

 

Why yes, I did hang my target on the fridge. Please note the grouping by the lower 9.

Why yes, I did hang my target on the fridge. Please note the grouping by the lower 9.

 

This will probably come as a great shock, but the answer is: not that great. I am happy to report that I hit the target most of the time, but since that target was 10 feet away and the size of my refrigerator door, I’m not sure I can really consider this an achievement. I do have a pretty nice grouping near to the middle, so I think with practice I could be really scary. And the amazing thing is, I think I actually would go again. 

 

What’s funny, though, is that I’m still afraid of guns. But the nature of my fear is changed, to something less like seeing guns as a bogeyman and more like seeing them as powerful instruments to respect, and I now have a grave respect for that power having wielded it. 

 

 

This is what I was shooting. Everyone seems extremely impressed with the loudness. I was. again, VERY grateful for the ear muffs.

This is what I was shooting. Everyone seems extremely impressed with the loudness. I was. Again, VERY grateful for the ear muffs.

 

What also occurred to me, as I sat with Michael over coffee after we left the range, is just how emotionally taxing it must be to be in the military or to be a police officer; to know that in your line of work, you will likely (with varying degrees of likelihood between the two professions, obviously) have to discharge your weapon at some point. That, when you do, it won’t be at a paper target on a piece of plywood. You will probably not be wearing ear protection. You will be scared far more than I was shooting at that paper target, because the reason you’re firing that gun is that, if you don’t, someone else will. At you. You will need to, as Michael puts it, turn off your human brain and turn on your lizard brain, to do your job. I’m not sure I even have a lizard brain to speak of, but maybe I do. Maybe we all do. Maybe it’s just something automatic we switch on when our only other choice is to lie down.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I had fun when all was said and done, but it was a very new sort of scary fun, not like a roller coaster or speeding down a hill on my bicycle with my arms up. Because it wasn’t just the risk of hurting myself that made it scary, but the fear of hurting someone else. And I must admit, that fear is far greater that I could ever have imagined. It was a humbling experience, as terrifying and chilling as I’d expected, and I kind of can’t wait to do it again. 

 

 

 

Actually, that’s not true. I think I’ll need a while. But I definitely want to do it again, to see if I can improve my control and breathing and the involuntary trembling of my hands. I figure, if I can shoot a veritable hand cannon without losing my shit, and manage to do so with a fair amount of accuracy, I can handle just about all the stress I’ll most certainly incur this upcoming school year. The perspective alone would be tremendous, since I can be grateful that in my line of work I’ll never have to discover whether I have the mettle to fire a weapon at another human being.

 

August 11, 2008 at 7:42 am 4 comments

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