Thursday, September 30, 2010

Poll Winner: Starbucks Poetry

Ah, a (rare) quiet night at home.  The Husband has flown off and left me again - this time for Florida (again).  Yes, we have another wedding this weekend, this time in Panama City, for our friends Bobby and Sarah!  I've got to get to some stories on the things I've witnessed at weddings.  With those tales I will either convince you to never go to a wedding again, let alone have one of your own -- or make you want to go to as many weddings as possible, just to see what might happen. 

Anyhow, the Husband is kicking it with his high school friends tonight, while I slack off at home before a morning of work and an afternoon of flying.  I've currently got some scones in the oven (you may recall that I'm internally kind of ancient), so I brought my laptop down to the kitchen to keep me company while they're baking.  Otherwise, I would forget they were in the oven and probably go to bed and burn the house down.  Which would be a darn shame, after spending all that time on the bathroom floor.

 For everybody who voted in the poll, thank you for selecting Starbucks as my next haiku topic!  For those of you who didn't vote... tough lattes! :)

Anyway, here are some Starbucks haikus... plus a BONUS limerick (for whoever wanted limericks)!


STARBUCKS LIMERICK
Pray tell me, now, is it insane
To be going to Starbucks again?
I think if they could,
Then I surely would
Have them shoot it straight into my vein.


Now for the haikus....


PERSONAL MUG
I'm eco-conscious!
(But also I just want my
ten cents off... don't judge.)


GREEN TEA
People seem to think
You're healthy and tasty.  Well...
I'm not fooled.  You're gross.


A DOUBLE TALL SOY, TWO-PUMP CARAMEL LATTE, NO WHIP EXTRA FOAM
Could make a haiku
Simply out of this drink name...
Now that's a bit much.


FIRST-DAY CASHIER
Too many buttons.
I could tell you what to push,
But I'd just seem rude.




CINNAMON DOLCE LATTE
Thanks for being you!
Scrumptious, warm, and fulfilling.
You're my favorite. ;-)




STARBUCKS ICED DOUBLESHOT
(Psst... YOU are my fave.
Don't listen to the latte.
You're lighter, too. WIN!)


CHAI
Spice and cinnamon
Hooray!  You are delicious!
... but I need caffeine... :(


DECAF
Why do you exist?
The whole point of coffee is
CAFFEINE, fool!  GET SOME!




FRUSTRATION
You were behind me.
Yes, we ordered the same drink,
BUT THAT ONE IS MINE!!!




WRONG DRINK
I take the first sip -
Crap. They left out the syrup.
This tastes like failure.


I'm going to put up another poll for haiku topics soon, so please vote on what you want to hear next.  Or leave suggestions in the comments... or send your carrier pigeons along.  I'm flexible.  But seriously, if in 2008 you went to all the trouble of registering to vote and getting out of work/class/bed to go to the polling center and cast your vote for Obama whomever you wanted for President, then checking a box on your computer screen should be gravy!  In other words, I want to know what you want to read.  So VOTE PLZ!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"I'm Sorry... Did You Think Bathtime Was Over?"

Our bathroom floor nears completion!  Huzzah!  The Husband is laying the final tiles... while I play with MS Paint and the Internet.  (Crosses arms defensively) Well, I have to repaint the walls later because SOMEbody decided that they didn't like our "Malibu Coast" paint color!  So it's fair.

As I mentioned in the previous post, working on the bathroom floor reminded me of an unfortunate experience upon another bathroom floor, far away and long ago.  For those of you who are weirded out right now, I assure you that this is not some creeptastic scatological over-share.  It is a perfectly legitimate and non-nausea-inducing story from my childhood.  And those are in limited supply, so you just better enjoy it.

By "long ago," I mean to say about twelve years ago.  I was entering my super-gawky tween years, when I began to evolve from a stringbean hopscotch champ to an awkward amalgamation of limbs, which had completely forgotten how to work together to accomplish complicated tasks like walking.  At 5'7 by age twelve, I didn't stick out like a sore thumb.  I stuck out like a sore middle finger.

Anyhow, while I was busy learning how to acclimate to my new status as a tweenaged scrub pine, my baby sister Julianne was tottering around at age two or so.  I affectionately called her "Peanut," because she was like an adorable little nutshell-full of cuteness (and also, she looked like a Peanuts character whenever she threw her head back and cried).

One evening, Julianne had just taken her bath, and our mother had just helped her into her little pink pajamas.  The bathwater had not even drained yet, as Julianne stood in the bathroom, brushing her teeth and chortling to herself, like toddlers tend to do.




Meanwhile, I was in my room, reading a book, when it occurred to me that my tweenaged bladder was quite full.  I hopped up from my bed and hurried down the hall to the bathroom that I shared with my sisters.  The closed door and the giggles from inside the bathroom did not bode well for my situation.




My brothers' bathroom was occupied, and I didn't think I could manage running down the stairs to the guest bathroom.  I waited and waited, thinking, "Surely Julianne's teeth must be clean by now.  She doesn't even have that many of them!"  As the seconds ticked on, I realized that she was a toddler, with no concept of time, and she would continue brushing her teeth for as long as it amused her.




I really didn't mean to be a crazy person.  But I needed the bathroom.  I crossed my legs.  I crossed them harder.  Nature was calling in a very forceful manner.  After a few more seconds, I passed the critical threshold between sisterly consideration and animal instinct. 




However, in my desperate action of bursting through the door, I unfortunately failed to anticipate a vital flaw in my plan.  Julianne, like the majority of bath-takers, had dripped water on the tile floor.  My frantic and uncoordinated feet found one of the puddles on the floor in very short order.  Then, one of them managed to collide with my shocked baby sister.






My poor little sister was flung back into the still-mostly-full bathtub.  It was like a bizarre converse of that old axiom about "throwing the baby out with the bathwater." 

My mother and my other sister Jenna rushed to the scene.  They occupied themselves with extricating the howling Julianne from the bathtub, while I lay crumpled on the floor.  It was rather epic in its scope of shame.

I don't even remember what happened after that.  Not because I had a head injury or anything.  I think my fragile tween self-image just convinced my memory to block it out.  Until this bathroom tiling project brought it rushing back, that is -- rushing like a gangly twelve-year old who drank too much water.


EDIT:  Just wanted to note that both Julianne and I were absolutely fine.  Save for a set of adorable pajamas that had to be laundered, no injury or damage resulted from this unfortunate incident.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Word about Bathrooms

So, as I've mentioned, the Husband and I have been hard at work lately with the tiling of our bathroom.  Between us and our contractor, the total renovation of the bathroom is a project that began in mid-June and "should be done by early August."  Well.

ANYway, I thought I would share a little bit of this adulthood-induced pain with you, in the hopes that you may be dissuaded from embarking on a similar journey.  Or at least, if you choose to so embark, you will be minimally prepared for some of the challenges that will kick you in the face.

THIS is what our bathroom looked like when we bought our house:





You will note the peeling linoleum floor, the choice of awkward aqua (hereafter known as "awkwa") for the wall tile, bathtub, and commode, and the fact that the *uncurtained* bathtub is RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE WINDOW.  Don't forget to check out the creeptastic shower-cave shoved under the sloping edge of the roof.  Yes, the Husband and I bought this house, looked at the bathroom, clasped hands, and said with all the pseudo-intense romantic glory of a 1980s-movie couple, "we can do this... if we just work together."

Well, the Husband got out a crowbar, and we started romantically destroying things.  After a few weeks of hard (HARD) labor, we ripped out the tile, the tub, the walls, the floor, the ceiling, and the 3000 pounds of concrete UNDER the floor, and our contractor transformed the bathroom into this:


Magic, right?  Well, after another couple weeks seven more weeks, we reached the painting and tiling stage.  Upon receiving the revised "estimate" for the cost of our bathroom, the Husband and I decided that we would rather learn to tile than learn to live without groceries.  Thus began

THE GREAT TILING ADVENTURE!

I started with the bathtub, since it seemed less intimidating (as in, if you are being actively mauled by a Liger cub and a Mama Grizzly, you deal with the Liger cub first. Baby steps).  I studied a seriously helpful, snark-free, pretty much all-around adorable website called younghouselove.com to learn how to Do It Myself, and got to It one night after we got home from work, with a notched trowel and some mortar. 

8:45pm: As I spread the first patch of tub surround with mortar and set a few tiles into place, I feel very capable and independent. 

9:02pm: I want to light the bathtub on fire. 

9:05pm: The Husband (who is priming the walls and ceiling) successfully reassures me that this is not the worst task in the history of humanity, and that I am not going to collapse and expire in the bathtub.  I return to work.  I inexplicably have the song "Golden Ticket" from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory stuck in my head for the duration.  I resist the urge to bang my head into the wall because I will get mortar in my hair.

12:35am: We stop to take pictures.












1:24am: We remember that we have work in the morning.  We seal up the mortar and hit the hay.  Around 6:30, I get up, stumble around like a six-legged unicorn who drank too much moonlight, and figure out how to cover the tile with plastic sheeting so I can shower before I have to stagger off to work.

We finished laying the tub tile the following night, and grouted it a few nights after that.  Grouting basically consisted of smearing a toothpaste-cement hybrid all over our neatly-laid tiles and shoving it into the cracks until they were reasonably filled.  The next morning, I felt like I had filled about sixteen knee-socks with wet sand, handed the socks to a passel of Twilight fans, and told them that I found both Edward and Jacob utterly unappealing.

This was about ten days ago; having had time to recover, we began on the floor yesterday.  The only difference was that, instead of using ceramic tiles like we had for the tub, we were using beautiful rosy marble tiles.  We quickly discovered that the marble was a little more high-maintenance than the ceramic.  Basically, it cracked easily.




However, we eventually got a basic handle on laying the tile in a way that did not encourage it to crumble under our fingers, and it looks pretty good so far!



Overall, it's starting to come together quite nicely.  However, I'm beginning to fear that my sanity may be the price.  I've become increasingly unable to take a normal picture.







Concerns about my sanity notwithstanding, spending an inordinate amount of time on the bathroom floor has made me think of a rather humorous story from my childhood that lends itself well to pictorial storytelling.  Please stay tuned for that post, which will be freely given to you as soon as I dig myself out enough (from work and grout) to finish the illustrations. :)


Happy Monday!

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Week in Letters

Dear Monday,

Why are you so much longer than all the other days? Do you have to be such an attention-hog? Think about it.

Sincerely,
Inky

-------

Dear Tuesday,

WHERE DID YOU GO?!?!?

-Inky

-------

Dear Wednesday,

Why can't you go as slowly as Monday? There's so much to do before the end of the week, yet you run right past me, Wednesday. You run like a smug little gazelle, scoffing at my inability to keep up with you. Cut it out, Wednesday.

Yours Truly,
Inky

-------

Attn. Thursday:

If you go as fast as Wednesday did, I'm gonna kick you all the way to Arbor Day, got it?!  LOOK OUT.

-Inky

-------

Dearest Friday,

I hope this correspondence finds you well!  You look better with every passing week, and your arrival is much appreciated.  You may want to have a word with Thursday, when you get the chance -- whenever there is a three-day weekend that temporarily moves you into Saturday's spot, Thursday starts putting on airs and calling itself, "The New Friday."  This is unacceptable.  YOU are the only Friday, Friday, and I hope you know that.  See you in six days!

Love,
Your Inky

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Dozen Office Haikus

A while back, I polled what I should write about.  One of the things listed was Office Haikus.  I don't remember if it won, but I'm going to write some anyway.  I tried to keep them philosophical.  Enjoy!


PAPERCLIP
You're on MS Word.
NO I do not want your help!
Be useful, slacker.


MOUSE
Sometimes you're helpful.
Sometimes you get in the way.
You're all right, I guess.


PENCIL CUP
Thanks for holding those!
... Did someone steal my blue pen?
Well, SPEAK UP!  DID they?


KEYBOARD
Finally learned how
To use those accent keys - yay!
What is F9 for?


POST-ITS
Need more syllables
To describe your awesomeness.
In every color!


PRINTER
Where's my document?
Seriously, where is it?
... This is NOT OVER!


THREE-HOLE PUNCH
You're so efficient!
Trouble is, I never get
The holes lined up right. :(


SHARPIE
You don't smell that good
But I'll sniff you anyway.
Life is better now.*

 
KEYBOARD II
Do you really need
All those function keys?  Really?
Can't I just use ALT?


TELEPHONE
Hey there, perk up, sport!
Don't be jealous of cell phones.
You're still, er... useful.


LETTERHEAD
When I print on you,
It makes me feel important.
*Types letter to self.*


STAPLER
Bless your little heart,
You hold my life together.
Please don't stab my thumb.





*Don't sniff Sharpies, kids.  Sniff the non-toxic Mr. Sketch markers.  They smell way better, and they don't turn your brain into a swiss cheese.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Today Was Monday: Did I Win?

It just occurred to me that I ought to come up with some way to occasionally track my day-to-day life -- a sort of self-stalking mechanism for the purpose of determining whether I am conducting myself in a way that promotes ridiculous success and minimizes epic failure. 

Everybody likes points, right?  Unless they're on your license.  So I thought I would try compartmentalizing this particular Monday into point values, and see whether I won or lost this day.  Ready... GO!

  • No breakfast this morning, because I wasted about 11 minutes deciding whether or not to wear a skirt (I didn't): -5 points

  • Made french-press coffee at work: +5 points (net 0)

  • Grabbed Chipotle for lunch!  Splurged on chips and guac, because I needed sustenance for the three-hour meeting this afternoon: +20 points (net 20)

  • Assessed the nutritional value of my lunch, and realized that it added up to almost 1500 horribly delicious calories: -15 points (net 5)

  • No class today, because the professor was out of town.  Normally I would be a little let down, because the class is awesome, but I had a three-hour meeting, so no class meant less to make up: +10 points (net 15)

  • Sat through the three-hour meeting: -4927 points (net -4912)
(You might think that I am exaggerating about the meeting.  I am not.  it deserves its own post, which I will duly write as soon as I have recovered enough to think about it for more than six seconds without my eye twitching.)

  • Went to choir rehearsal, where we started our CHRISTMAS MUSIC!!!!!!!! +519 points (net -4019)

  • Tutored one of my wonderful SAT students: +125 points (net -3894)

  • Finally agreed on a paint color with the Husband, so we can paint our bathroom before we tile the floor: +98 points (net -3796)

  • Came home and opened the mailbox to find my free 

STARBUCKS GOLD
MEMBERSHIP CARD.
+4,000 points (net 4)

I eked out a win today!  Thank goodness I checked the mail.  How was YOUR day in points?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Surviving the Lunacy Motel

I'm still here!

We got back from Florida a couple of hours ago, having spent the weekend in a variety of exciting adventures, none of which culminated in stabbing.  The Luna Sea Motel, for all the ominous undertones of its name, ended up being both pleasant and non-creepy!


However, it should be noted that the Husband took virtually NO notice of my theoretically-valid concerns, and managed to leave me alone in the room WITH THE DOOR UNLOCKED, to go swim in the pool while I took a shower to get ready for the wedding!


Maybe he thought it was only fair, since a half-hour earlier, I had inadvertently led him to believe that I had been thrown in the back of a van and abducted.

Let me back up a little bit.  Earlier that afternoon, the Husband, the Sister-in-Law, and I were driving along to Cocoa Beach from Orlando.  We were going to the beach, and I was kind of super-excited, because the beach is one of my very favorite places, and Pittsburgh doesn't have any.  We got to the Lunacy Motel and checked in, so that we could steal commandeer towels from our room to use at the beach.  As we were leaving our room, I had a thought:

Me: Say!  What are we going to do when we get back from the beach and have to shower?  Our towels will be all covered in sand!
Husband: Hey, you're right.  I'll ask for some extra towels at the front desk.  Maybe you two should run ahead, though, so they don't see you stealing borrowing the towels.
Me: Okay, we'll see you at the beach.

The Sister-in-Law and I did just that, frolicking lickety-split across the road and in between two hotels to get to the beach.  At this point in time, it should be noted that I had the only room key in my purse.  "Come on!"  I shouted happily.  We had all of about seventy-four minutes to enjoy the beach before hurrying back to the hotel to shower and get ready for the wedding, and I intended to use every possible minute.

We sprinted through the hotel parking lot and realized, to our chagrin, that we had run down a dead end.  I wanted to punch the chain-link fences.  How DARE they separate us from the beach, when we were so close?  We ran parallel to the beach for fifty yards or so, and hopped the short cement-block wall of a parking port.  Did that get us to the beach?

It did not.  We instead found ourselves in what must have once been the parking lot of a beachside diner.  When we found it, however, it looked like someone had painted it with dirt and pitched bowling balls at the roof.  We ran warily around the ruined diner, thinking that once we rounded the corner, we would see the sand and the path leading to the beach.

We were wrong.  Instead, we found a path that led us from the abandoned diner through the backyard of an extremely UN-abandonded house.  As we ran through the yard, I realized out of the corner of my eye that an indignant family was glaring at us.  I crossed my fingers that they weren't gun-toting Deep South transplants who would shoot at a plastic grocery bag if it blew onto their property, and I kept running.  The Sister-in-Law followed.  Our route looked something like this:



Behold, we had found the beach!  It was glorious, hot, sunny, and (at least visually) oil-free.  We had even emerged upon a stretch of beach that was relatively deserted.  Evidently, this was because it was only accessible via death-defying sprint through the dunes, or through Apparation.  The Sister-in-Law and I lost no time in running full-steam into the waves, leaping about, and taking fantastic superhero pictures of each other with our towel-capes:





After about twenty minutes or so, it occurred to us that the Husband was yet to be seen in the vicinity.  I wandered to my purse and dug out my cell phone.  I had six missed calls, all from the Husband.  "Oh, no," I thought wildly, "They've detained him as ransom until we bring the towels back!"  I quickly called him, and it took a few tries before he answered:

Me: Are you there?
Husband: OH THANK GOD.
Me: What?
Husband: I THOUGHT YOU WERE KIDNAPPED!
Me: ... Um. No.  I was taking superhero pictures with your sister.  On the beach.
Husband: WHERE DID YOU GO?!?!?!?!?!
Me: ... To the beach.  We ran.  I was excited.  Are you okay?
Husband: I think so.  Where did you go?
Me: To the beach....?
Husband: But there's no beach access here!!
Me: ... Well, that's basically true.

It then emerged that the Husband had retrieved towels from the front desk and gone outside to catch up with us, but we were probably somewhere between the Diner Ruins and the Lawn of Shame at the time.  He had looked up and down the extremely flat, straight street, and he was unable to see us in either direction.  Since we had not had enough of a headstart to have reached one of the official beach access points, the Husband inferred that we had been scooped into the back of a windowless van by burly surly men with strangler arms.

The Husband had then decided that the best course of action would be to call me -- but his phone was locked in the hotel room, and I had the only key.  He proceeded to beg another key out of the remarkably patient and un-stabby front desk clerk, and ran up to the room to call me.  I didn't answer (obviously) because I was too busy doing my best Super Grover imitation on the Atlantic shore. 

Around this point in the phone conversation, the Husband's tone shifted from panicked to relieved to grouchy.  He said he guessed he would come and find us, so we should make sure to be relatively visible.  The Sister-in-Law and I tanned for a bit, until it occurred to us (once again) that the Husband was still nowhere in the vicinity.  I sat up and looked around, feeling panic begin to creep up on me.  Had the HUSBAND been abducted, just to show me?

As I looked behind us, though, my fears were relieved.  A sullen, towel-covered figure sat sulkily on the sand not thirty feet behind us.  The Sister-in-Law and I went up to the Husband.

S-I-L/Me: We're sorry we worried you.
Husband: (sullenly) mprhpmerphpmnh.
S-I-L/Me: (removing the towel covering the Husband's head) Will you come for a swim?
Husband: (stubbornly) No.
Me: Please?
Husband: ... (with a long-suffering sigh) Fine.

We helped him to his feet and gathered all the towels.  All of them.  The Husband had forgotten that we were asking for towels for the SOLE purpose of having clean towels in the room upon our return.  He had brought them all to the beach.  So I think we all felt a little sheepish.  But he cheered up eventually.


That's what the beach is for!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hoping I Don't Get Stabbed This Weekend

Well, the Husband and I are currently about 30,000 feet above the surface of the Earth, hurtling through the skies on our way to Orlando, Florida. My dear friend Dyan is getting married in Cocoa Beach tomorrow, and I can’t wait to cheer her on! However, I’m a little nervous about after the wedding, when the Husband and I retire to our (almost) beachfront accommodations.

You see, we were a little procrastinatory in making our hotel reservations. Our conversations since I booked the airfare six weeks ago at first went something like this:

Me: We really need to book the hotel and car, dear.
Husband: What? Oh, yeah. Let’s take care of it later tonight?
Me: Sure. Are we staying in Cocoa or Orlando?
Husband: Um. Either?

Our flights were in and out of Orlando International, arriving late Friday night and leaving Sunday around 10:30am. But the wedding was in Cocoa Beach, about an hour’s drive away. Did we want to drive an hour on Saturday night before going to bed? Or wake up Sunday morning and leave Cocoa by 8am? Friday night was covered, because we could crash with my awesome sister-in-law. As the weeks rolled by, I grew more urgent in my nagging, while still remaining mired in indecision:

Me: We REALLY need to book this, darling. The wedding’s in eight days!
Husband: Okay, well book it.
Me: Where do you want to stay?
Husband: (blank stare, as though I haven’t asked him this seven times before) … a hotel?
Me: What CITY?
Husband: Oh. Either?

Well, last night I made up our minds. We were going to stay in Cocoa Beach and awake to the sunrise over the Atlantic, before making a mad dash to the Orlando airport. I really, REALLY hoped that this would not be a terrible decision. Because if we overslept, we would miss our flight, I would miss my afternoon class, we would almost certainly miss the closing-night performance of Phantom of the Opera for which we had scored super-cheap student tickets, and the universe would possibly start to fold up like an accordion. I tend to worry a little too much about the future.

Today at work (yes, the day before the wedding), I sprinted across the web looking for a hotel in Cocoa. I quickly picked an inexpensive, family-owned motel that had pretty good reviews on tripadvisor.com and was across the street from the beach. Even more useful, it was down the street from the church! The thoughts of playing in the surf until an hour before the wedding and zipping in and out of the shower, emerging like a sun-kissed sweet pea in time to cheer Dyan down the aisle, seemed like a terrific utilization of my brief time in the Sunshine State. Then I realized something dreadful.

I had made our non-refundable reservation at a family-owned hospitality establishment with the ominous moniker, The Luna Sea Motel.

Let me repeat that with a little more flow. The LUNACY MOTEL.




How does that even happen? How, in forty-four years of family ownership, does not one son or daughter chuckle uneasily and say, “Hey, Pops, maybe we should think about changing up the name a little. Y’see, there’s a movie that just came out called Hostel, and…” But no, apparently the luna sea has just trickled down from one generation of the Bates family to the next.

Also, being in business for forty-four years means that the Lunacy Motel was opened a mere five years or so after a little film called PSYCHO was released. Who thought that would be a good marketing strategy? (I mean, I guess it’s worked okay so far, but seriously. Really?)

So basically all afternoon, I’ve found myself wondering, with mounting trepidation, what the Luna Sea Motel will be like. Will there be shady bungalows and a dingy sign that reads “Vacancy”? Will our check-in clerk be all kinds of strange and talk incessantly about his mother? Will there be stuffed birds, winding staircases, and fruit cellars? Will everything be in black and white?

I sure hope not.

Anyways, please wish us luck in staying stab-wound-free for the next forty-eight hours. I’m posting this as soon as we land tonight, since we probably won’t have internet access through tomorrow morning, and I don’t think the Lunacy Motel has wi-fi.

Which makes sense. If you updated your Facebook status with, “Back from da beach, time 2 SHOWER! LOLZ”, and twenty minutes later you tweeted, “I JUST GOT STABBED!”, Norman at the front desk might fall under suspicion. And Mother just wouldn’t stand for that.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Brief Epilogue: PIANO versus RHINOCEROS

So remember how I said that our piano was comparable to a smallish rhinoceros? 

(If you don't remember, read the previous post, lazy-bones!)

In looking for a graphic of a falling piano on google images, I found these little jewels:


Apparently pianos and rhinoceroses are commonly confused with each other!  I WIN!

Also, there's THIS.  If someone could explain it to me, I'd really appreciate it.  You don't have to explain the whole energy-conversion thing -- just explain why this video exists.  Thanks!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How to Move a Piano; or, Why I Didn't Post This Weekend

So two weeks ago, I got basically the best news since Amanda Bynes announced her UN-retirement from acting.  Someone on http://www.freecycle.org/ was giving away an antique Smith & Barnes upright piano!  FOR FREE.  FREE, I say!!!  I emailed as quickly as my fingers could type, because holy-crap-holy-crap-we-just-bought-a-house-and-basically-have-negative-three-dollars-left-for-new-furniture-and-a-piano-is-way-better-than-furniture-anyway!

Well, the lovely woman emailed me back and told me that we were welcome to their piano, which they had gotten from a relative years earlier but had never really used.  We scheduled a time to pick up the piano, on a Saturday when our dear friends from Columbus, Will and Alexis, would be here to help us move it, and arranged to rent a moving van to transport it home.  For about $50, we were going to have a beautiful Victorian piano that was still in really nice shape, considering that it was 115 years old!

So, this past Saturday morning, we woke up, ate a hearty breakfast, and picked up the van from the rental place.  I navigated from my google-maps instructions to get the Husband (who was driving) to the house that contained the piano, while Will and Alexis drove on to meet us there.  I read the directions to the Husband, and everything was going fine, until we were almost there.

Husband: Are you sure this is the right street?
Me: Yes, it's that house straight ahead.  On the phone she said a gravel driveway and a silver mailbox.... oh.



The thing about Pittsburgh is that it is quite hilly.  Mountainous, in fact.  And apparently, our instrumental benefactors had decided to live on the side of one such mountain.  First we met the husband and wife, along with their three lovely children.  Then we inquired as to the location of the piano.  They pointed. 

Up two and a half flights of concrete stairs, a piano peeked around the corner.  An enormous piano.  A piano that could have contained a smallish rhinoceros.  A piano that probably weighed MORE than a smallish rhinoceros.


How could we possibly have thought that eating some bacon and eggs and slipping on our athletic shoes would have enabled us to move this ancient juggernaut of music?  Clearly, we should have been participating in Highland Games, running up the stairs of the Philadelphia Musem of Art, and/or training intensively with Mr. Miyagi to adequately prepare for this day.

We scurried up the stairs, feeling ever scrawnier as we drew closer to the piano.  It surely was a beautiful, historical instrument, with real ivory keys and intricate carvings in the dark wood paneling.  I hadn't taken piano lessons since seventh grade, but my fingers itched to tinker over the keys, playing snatches of "The Entertainer" and "Fur Elise" from memory.  But first, we had to get it all the way down to the truck. 

The following is an illustration of our movements:


1. We attempted first to heft the piano onto the flat furniture dollies that we had brought, in order to roll it about with greater ease.  Our gracious hosts offered us some plywood to ramp the piano down the stairs.  We managed about 1.2 steps before realizing that we could never manage the other 19.8 stairs, and were forced to back it up to the top again.

2. We inquired of the couple how on earth they had managed to get the piano INTO the house when they moved in several years earlier.  They explained that they had dragged it up a series of plywood ramps, up the hill on other side of the house.  We asked if they thought we could manage the same.  They said that it was worth a go, but that they had built up the hill since moving in, and it was now much steeper.  Among the four of us and three sheets of plywood, we managed to maneuver the piano across the back porch and patio to the top of the hill.  Then, David pulled, Will pushed, and Alexis and I steadied.

2a. After about ninety seconds of this, it occurred to Alexis and me that we were standing downhill of the piano, and that it was slowly proceeding to tip over in our direction.  You will note that the pertinent arrow ALMOST reaches the spot marked "DOOM."  Understandably wanting to avoid finding ourselves pinned under about 900 pounds of music, Alexis and I rather shrilly suggested to our menfolk that they move the piano back up the hill, and fast.  It occurred to me at this time that I might very well meet my end by being crushed by a falling piano.  That's the kind of thing you just don't want in your obituary.  It might as well be an ACME anvil.

3. Quickly growing tired, we managed to get the piano back to its original position, where we re-assessed our options.

4. Realizing that our options were limited to abandoning the piano, hiring professional movers, or possibly killing ourselves in an embarrassingly humorous manner, we made one more brief essay toward taking the piano down the stairs.  As soon as we had convinced ourselves that building a piano out of popsicle sticks and chewing gum, using only our feet and elbows, would be easier than moving this goliath, we apologized to the kind (and apparently, very patient) family, and said that we would try to find professional movers who would be less inept than we were.

Well, I could go into greater detail at this point, but it's late and I'm getting a rather funky headache from the fumes from the grout sealer in the bathroom across the hall.  (Man, is this what Joaquin Phoenix feels like all the time?)  Long story short, I found a piano moving company that was able to move the piano earlier this evening, and when I returned from a tutoring session tonight, I found a beautiful, enormous piece of Victorian furniture in my dining room! 

The Husband and I went to work on it with some furniture polish and Old English for the scratches that a wicked cat had made on one side at some point in the past 115 years.  Behold, the fruits of our (preliminary) labor!





At some point amid the high-fiving and squealing with glee, I sat down at the piano and began to tinker with "Fur Elise" and "Chariots of Fire."  Recalling the last piece I learned from my piano teacher in middle school, my fingers drifted through the opening bars of the Titanic theme. 

It occurred to me that the instrument upon which I was playing was made almost twenty years before the original Titanic sank.  In all seriousness, that was a pretty incredible thought.



In slightly less seriousness, however...






















I'm just pretty gosh-darned excited.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

WANTED: Suggestions for the "New Finger"

According to the little poll on the sidebar, my next topic should be "Rage against the Bus Service."  While I am looking forward to unleashing a catharsis of verbal butt-kicking upon the Pittsburgh Port Authority in a longer post in the near future, I thought I would just go ahead and get started now, while my ire is freshly-stirred. 

A little while ago, I was on an extremely overcrowded bus -- as they usually are -- and I was trying to get to my stop.  I was running late, because my bus and several others had gotten stuck behind a broken-down bus -- again, a pretty common occurrence.  I elbowed my way to the front of the bus as gently as I could.  I managed to get to the front one stop early, about a block from my corner.

As the bus halted with a jerk, I realized that the driver was sitting at a green light with the doors closed.  Hopeful-looking people waited on the curb.  I glanced over my shoulder at the full bus behind me.  Was the driver not going to let these people on?  Because I could get off right then and walk the last block.  I felt a super-speedy guilt rush for taking up space on a bus that would be more fruitfully occupied by a sweet little old lady, or a brain surgeon on the way to work or something. 

I shifted my backpack and politely asked the driver, "Are you letting anyone on at this stop?"

With the disdain of a British talent show judge, and the boorish snarl of a cavetroll, she roared back at me:

"WELL, ARE YA GETTING OFF OR NOT?!  Either get off or move! I ain't got time for yo'unz farting around at the front of the bus and blah-blah-blah-blah..."

Shocked and frozen for a second, I then stepped backward and almost took out a sweet little old lady behind me.  I flashed my bus pass at the driver and hustled off the bus, as her troll-like rant followed me out the door and onto the sidewalk. 

As I got off the bus, I was met by an almost overwhelming urge to extend my middle finger in her direction.  However, I held back.  As the bus waited at the now-red light and I walked past it, I again resisted the urge to flip the bird at the maltempered ogre in the driver's seat.  I hurried down the street to my appointment, and though the bus beat me to the corner, it had to wait at another red light while I crossed the street in front of it.  This presented one more golden opportunity to offer up the one-fingered salute, but I swallowed my anger one last time as I sauntered past her bus.  Why?

I have never given anyone/anything "the finger" -- not even in middle school, when everyone was trying out swear words and rude gestures, did I give it a go.  Over the years, when the impulse to demonstrate my feelings in this manner has arisen, I have always stifled it by balling up my hands into fists or something.  It seems to have become a point of pride with me.  Maybe I crochet so much because my fingers need to release their repressed emotions...  In any case, being a "flip-off" resistor has been a silver bullet for games of "Never Have I Ever." 

However, today was different.  I really WANTED to flip off this bus driver!  She really deserved it!  If I talked that way to someone at work -- anyone -- I would fire MYSELF.  But I just can't bring myself to actually do it when the situation presents itself.  My middle finger seems to suffer from performance anxiety, and I fear that the finger might just feel a little... used afterwards.  That's the reason that I'm posting.

I need a Middle Finger Alternative.

This is a 100% serious request, Internet.  I can't find myself caught in another situation like today.  I need to be prepared with a satisfying angry gesture for the next Gorilla/Human hybrid that verbally assaults me.  Here are some of the eliminated contenders:

1. Sticking out tongue: First grade called.

2. Thumbing nose: Takes too much hand-face coordination.  Also, rather juvenile.  And too British.

3. Angry shrug: Too easy for target to ignore.

4. Smacking own butt as if to say "BOO-YA!": A little dated.  Also, doing so on a public bus is like sending an open invitation to the spank-party to all bus patrons, including the super-creepy ones.

5. The "Hand over Fist" thing: Again, takes too much coordination.  Also, requires both hands.  I need a gesture that can be executed with one hand, as I am usually juggling bag, books, and coffee on the bus.

Please give me your suggestions with instructions for execution.  I'll try them on for size and let you know what I implement.  Thank you for your time!

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Moral Ambiguity of Vending Machines

My goodness, I meant to post this last night.  However, the Ohio State football season opener was last night, so I was a little busy.  Not watching the game, unfortunately, because apparently we don't get the Big Ten Network (which is going to change as soon as I figure out how to work the magic buttons on the FiOS).  Instead I stared at the game tracker on espn.com, which was roughly as unsatisfying as playing paper football with a goldfish.

Well, the final score was 45-7 Buckeyes, so it all worked out fine.  Anyway, I meant to write about vending machines.  So let's try that.  I was in the Cathedral of Learning the other night, around 8:30pm, on my way to an a cappella rehearsal (which ended up being in an entirely different building), and suddenly my stomach reminded me that I hadn't tossed anything into it in about EIGHT HOURS or so, and that maybe I should consider improving that situation.  I sped across the ground floor of the cathedral towards the bank of vending machines.  It was then that the trouble started.

Vending machines are curious mechanical beasts.  You might consider them magical, if you enjoy shoving paper/metal into slots and receiving something delightful in return.  You might also consider them EVIL (as I do), if they routinely eat your money and proceed to mock your gullibility (as they do to me).  However, the other night I had no choice.  It was either send my dollar bill into the Great Unknown, hoping that it would bring me sustenance, or wait until 10pm to eat.

I stood in front of the vending machine and attempted to assess my options.  What had I had for lunch?  Chipotle.  Crap.  That meant that I had already consumed approximately a thousand calories, plus the big cinnamon roll that I had for breakfast... I eyed the bags of fat-free, taste-free wheat crisps and low-sodium pretzels, but then my eyes wandered to the salty, sugary, fatty goodness that lurked all around them.  CHOCOLATE-COVERED COOKIE DOUGH BITES!  I almost went for them, but they were 95 cents apiece.  Why on Earth would I shell out that much money for a handful of miniature chocolate-covered salmonella farms?  Then, I spotted something which immediately seemed like a great idea:


Someone had recently had my usual brand of bad luck with vending machines, it seemed, as a package of Swedish Fish dangled precariously at the end of the metal coil.  THERE I could employ my hard-earned 95 cents and possibly get TWO packages of Swedish Fish!  I was about to slip my dollar in, when I thought to myself,

"WAIT."

"Someone ELSE worked hard for their 95 cents and got cheated out of their Swedish Fish.  You know how that feels.  Are you really going to profit off of someone else's misfortune by greedily hoovering up the gummy, artificially flavored goodness that is not rightfully yours?  Are you REALLY that kind of person?  Why don't you just skip on down to New Orleans and LOOT something, you selfish monster?!"

In case you couldn't tell, I have a little bit of a guilt complex.  Finders-Keepers doesn't really work for me.  The last time I found a five-dollar bill, I turned it in at the lost and found.  I have to turn off the TV whenever the Sarah McLachlan Humane Society commercial comes on, because I will otherwise hate myself for not immediately calling the number and adopting a dozen cats and dogs, or at least donating my entire bank account to the SPCA.  I accidentally squished a tiny lizard while I was walking in Florida (in college), and I cried for several hours and wore black for a few days.  Maybe they should sell Valium in vending machines, and then I could at least mellow out before making the weighty decision to steal or not steal someone else's Swedish Fish.

A teeny little voice -- probably my inner selfish monster -- tried briefly to rebut the guilt complex:

"Well, if they left them behind, then they must not want the Swedish Fish all that badly... those poor Swedish Fish have been abandoned because they couldn't move fast enough!  You should let those fish know that they are wanted and valued! ... besides, the machine might only give you the loose package and leave the rightfully-yours fish for the next person.  And why should they get YOUR Swedish Fish?"

Well, I thought more about it, and I decided that
1. I didn't want to eat someone else's Swedish Fish,
2. I didn't want someone else to eat MY Swedish Fish, and
3. If only one package came out, then I would have just paid 95 cents for Swedish Fish and might as well have been savoring my overpriced, chocolate-covered salmonella-balls instead. 

So, I sidestepped the moral dilemma entirely and got a Rice Krispie Treat.  I think I made the right call.  Then I went to a cappella rehearsal, came home, and thought about vending machines -- what ingenious and morally ambiguous devices they truly are. 

I did a little research on the interwebs, for your information and amusement, and here are some interesting tidbits that Wikipedia has about vending machines:

"The machines in ladies' restrooms typically sell some form of absorbent device for menstruation such as a pad or tampon. The machines in men's rooms, when they are present, are most commonly used for the sale of condoms, though in some locations they may be found dispensing cologne, medicine, small candies, or even pornography."

SAY WHAT?! What kind of sexist nonsense is this?!?! 
Not that I would LIKE to have rubbers or a Hustler on hand, particularly in a public restroom, but COLOGNE?!  MEDICINE?!?! CANDY?!?!?! 
I've never seen candy in a ladies' room, but if you ask me, it would be a welcome addition to the tampon dispenser.  ESPECIALLY if it was dark chocolate laced with Midol.  That might even result in making the men happier, too.  Everyone wins!


"In the past, vending machines were used at American airports from the 1950s until well into the 1970s to sell life insurance policies covering death in the event that the buyer's flight crashed."

... So it was kind of like buying a lottery ticket.  Only you didn't want to win.


"In Australia, where gemstones are commonly mined, vending machines selling gemstones have appeared. The machines, usually converted candy machines, sell gemstones for approximately A$2."

Okay, this is just not FAIR.  Why does AUSTRALIA get all of the cool stuff?  They have kangaroos and koalas and dingoes and two-dollar gemstones and Nemo and -

WAIT.  They get THIS too?!?!?!

Son of a billabong.


"While the majority of machines in Japan are stocked with drinks, snacks, and cigarettes, one occasionally finds vending machines selling items such as bottles of liquor, cans of beer, fried food, underwear, iPods, porn magazines, sexual lubricants, live lobsters, fresh meat, eggs and potted plants."





















I never thought I would see a claw game used in this manner.  Did some overly competitive person in Japan mistakenly think that Swedish Fish were actually real fish, and decide that they had to be outdone? 

I don't see any sort of carrying device or container in this picture.  Are you just supposed to walk around with live lobsters in your Vera Bradley knockoff?  Or stuff a live crustacean into your back pocket and hop onto the subway to take it home for dinner?  Come to think of it, that might be a fine way to prevent THIS.  But how the heck do you get it out of the machine in the first place, after you hook it? I'm guessing lobsters would be kind of ticked off after being dropped down a chute.

Still, though...


Better lobsters than crabs!



Anyhow, I suppose the takeaway lesson from this discussion is that you should never trust a vending machine.  If it doesn't fall on you and crush your gall bladder, corrupt you into a life of Swedish-Fish-Thievery, or promote general skankery, there's still always the chance that it will leave you with a lighter wallet and nothing else.  Unless you're in Australia, where apparently everything is awesome.  You have been warned.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"The Woeful Tale of the Porcelain Vessel, Publicly Savaged by A Flatulent Villain"; or, "The Cosmic Fart"

"But soft!  What wind through yonder library breaks?"

WARNING: The subject matter of note in this post is rather crass in nature.  Namely, it involves human flatulence (A.K.A. Air Biscuits).  I have weighed at length the issue of discussing flatulence in a blog that purports to be "Grown Up," but I have determined that the comedic potential of sharing such a story outpaces the danger of sounding juvenile.  Furthermore, I will essay to make this account as formally and classily worded as possible, as if Dickens himself were to write about Cutting a Melon:

Upon a merry afternoon, not so very long ago, I found myself in the position of tutoring a lovely young woman.  She was preparing to take her Scholastic Aptitude Test, and we were working quite diligently together towards that end.  On this particular afternoon, circumstances necessitated our meeting at a different location -- the public library.  O, had I but known what a fateful setting it would become, I would have surely determined another place: a school, a coffeeshop, the corner gas station... any would have been more bearable.

I arrived early, with my satchel full of books and exercises that would (hopefully) advance my young charge, whose scores were indeed quite promising.  I settled myself at a table near the entrance, as it would enable me to spot my student upon her arrival.  At that present time, knowledge of my general proximity to the restrooms did not even enter my mind, so engaged was I in my preparations.  Permit the following diagram to evince my location within the library:



















My student was slightly tardy, as a consult of my pocketwatch (rather, cellular phone) informed me.  Whenever the front door was opened, I therefore raised my glance to observe the entrant; but alas, none was my pupil.  Presently, a portly man of middle age crossed the threshold.  I shall never forget the look of absent, yet intense concentration upon his visage.  He wore a flagrantly purple shirt, his head crowned by a close-cropped thicket that had begun to recede from his shiny forehead.  His stance and gait were of mild interest, only due to their unusual, stiff manner. 

Our curious visitor ambled toward the circulation desk and reluctantly inquired (I can only imagine) as to the location of the public toilets.  The young volunteer, weary from providing that very answer to so many previous patrons, pointed in my general direction.  He wandered towards my table, before spotting the restroom signage.  Pray note from the preceding and succeeding diagrams that I was not seated exorbitantly near the Water Closet.  He abruptly made haste towards the men's room, slipped through, and shut the door.  I have traced his path thusly:



















For a moment, all was silence.  In retrospect, it seemed slightly akin to the calm before a strike of lightning, or a starting pistol, or an atomic bomb.  My senses were composed and relaxed.  A dozen or so patrons browsed and selected books from shelves, while staff members relaid the books that were no longer desired.  The atmosphere seemed at utter equilibrium.

Suddenly, from the men's bath chamber, there arose an unholy sound like none I have ever heard, or should hope to hear again.  It seemed to be a medley, a cosmic cacaphony, an amalgamation of all the variants of flatus production: the low volcanic rumble, to the unmuted French Horn, to the brassy trombonic slide, to the equivalent of rubbing two latex balloons against one another.  (Imagine THIS, only from the other end. That's what it was like.)

The wicked noise was sustained for some moments, to the point that I began to question, in my incredulity, whether it really could be flatulence after all that time.  It was. Oh, as my still-tender nasal passages may testify, it was.




















In the silence that followed the conclusion of the unholy noise, every one of us within earshot were united in our shock.  We proceeded to eye one another, cautiously, quickly looking away if eye contact was made, for fear that our mad laughter would escape us.  I wavered more than once, desiring nothing more in that moment than to breathe clear air, to guffaw enormously, and to somehow un-sense what my ears and nose had just witnessed.  As the seconds slipped by in painful silence, the wait began.  When would the man emerge from the restroom?  And in what state?  I shielded my nose as discreetly as I could and watched out of the corner of my eye.

Seconds turned into minutes, and I began to wonder if our gaseous guest was all right.  Could he have lost consciousness?  Burst into flame?  Poisoned his own lungs?  My fears were allayed, however unpleasantly, by further confirmations that the man - or at least his digestive tract - was still alive and well.  After several minutes more, it became clear that he was now trying, at the conclusion of his expulsive episode, to remain in the bathroom long enough that we would forget that he was still in there.  But I could not forget.  I can never forget.

He emerged from the restroom some time later, skulking into the main room with all the caution and subtlety of a five-year old hide-and-seek player, his face now a melange of caution and unabashed relief.  I did not meet his eye, but I watched him walk boldly out the front door, without offering so much as a moment's attention to a single page of a single book.  My blood fairly boiled when I thought of the unwarranted suffering inflicted upon the poor men's room toilet, and upon all of our senses.  Could he have not selected a noisier/more odoriferous location, in which his bodily functions would have been better camouflaged?  An Eat'n'Park, a Dunkin' Donuts and a CVS were right across the street!  And he chose the LIBRARY, a place renowned chiefly for its SILENCE.  I would have gladly followed him out the door to dole out a piece of my mind, but his emission had temporarily left me with limited lung function. 

Anyhow, at that moment my student arrived and seated herself at the table.  Her nose involuntarily wrinkled.

"Hello!"  I brightly greeted her.  "That wasn't me.  Shall we begin with Critical Reading?"