Tuesday, January 31, 2006

On Death and Taxes, and Other Minutiae

John's uncle, Tio Humberto, died yesterday after suffering some time with an assortment of ailments. It's very sad to know that he won't be around the next time we assault Esther with our loud presence. I was totally enchanted by him and his stories of a pre-Castro Cuba. Of course, the real passion and diatribes were about the post-Castro Cuba, and those stories were just as entertaining, as they were seasoned with his immense bitterness and total distaste for the man, the regime, and the circumstances that left him unable to practice his life's work, dentistry. Sometimes when we encounter these old birds unable to relinquish the past, it's easy enough to dismiss them as eccentric, or unkindly, as crazy.

In Tio Humberto's case, however, I was lucky enough to be entertained by his lectures on "the situation." I was never a captive audience, although I can appreciate that it looked that way. A simple question usually resulted in an extemporaneous analysis. Call me weird, but I enjoyed hearing from the vast storehouse of his knowledge and personal assessment of all things Cuban. May he rest in peace.


So I finally got my W-2 and the sad and pathetic information that it carries. Really, I think it's time for a new American Revolution to get rid of the tax code. I vote we throw Chai tea into Biscayne Bay. Who the hell drinks Chai tea anyway? It tastes like potpourri.


Vicky is not only driving, but has a car thanks to my parents' generosity (and my mother's desire to have a snazzy new Camry). Thanks Mom. No, really, I mean it. Thanks.

I hear Chai tea is really good for the nerves.


The weather outside is frightful...oops, wrong season. We've settled into the typical winter weather around here. Cold. Wet. Windy. The big bonus has been a couple of sunny days, but that doesn't last. May is so far away.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Redneck "Bikini" Wax

Every once in a while I am reminded that we moved to our town on purpose. Somehow, it makes the encounters with the fauna all the more distressing (or amusing, as Robert T. informed me that I was full of angst and regretting the move--NEVER!). Anyway, in the years that we've lived here I have been subjected to, exposed to, and interacted with a number of people that I would never have encountered while living in such a culturally diverse town as Miami. You have your weirdos. It didn't take me long to discover that we have ours.

The trouble with living in a big city such as Miami is that you do develop a sense of ennui towards the inhabitants. Like those awful high school days where everybody fit neatly into a clique, you eventually break down your vocabulary and refer to the people who are NOT like you as THEY. The thing is, Miami has an awful lot of THEYS.

In contrast, moving to the country offered an opportunity for anonymity (I don't like a lot of people) and a certain romantic delusion that the rural life is slower and somehow more pure and simple.

What I didn't count on is becoming a THEY myself. Indeed, the revelation took a long time. It started subtly, with people asking if I came from up north (contrary to popular belief, they don't really say yankee). Then, I was mistaken for Mexican. A multitude of times. Now, I don't carry a grudge against Mexicans, it's just that, if someone is going to label me, I'd like it to be the right one. I drew the line the day a drunk, cigarette smoking, trashy white woman asked for a ride back to the trailer park. The implication in the question was of course, that I belonged there, too. That was the last time I wore hiking boots with shortie socks. I try to match, too, when I go out in public.

So, in spite of seeking a purer and simpler life here, I've just traded the kinds of THEYS that I encounter. Just when I thought I'd seen it all and could close my classification book, I was graced with the greatest ever spotting of the Weird and Bizarre. I was sitting outside in the sun (it's cold as a witch's tit today, but very sunny) waiting my turn for an emission test (thanks for the car, Mami) when I see a man walking up the street. He was going at a pretty good clip, too. The first thing I notice is that he's not wearing a shirt. Then I see that he's got a blond mohawk. I had just chalked him up as weird when I noticed the bizarre part.

This guy had a black hairy chest, and as he passed me, I saw that his back was pretty hairy as well. OK, that's gross, but not bizarre you say. Aha! That's when I processed that he wasn't hairy in some spots, and that it was pretty symmetrical.

My mind was slogging along much slower than he was moving, so it took me a moment to grasp the implication of the pattern on his chest and back. As soon as he got to the door of the Quikmart, he pulled out a wifebeater that was stuffed in his shorts, and disappeared inside. Naturally, when he emerged a few minutes later he was carrying a cube of Budweisers. At 9:38 in the morning.

That's when I connected the hairless pattern with the wifebeater. He very graciously confirmed my observation by removing the shirt as he passed by me.

Excuse me while I go throw up.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Waffle House, BLTs, and The Charlie Daniels Band

In a wave of exhaustion and sick tummies, dinner at the Johnsons was a pathetic affair: two people opted to just go to sleep, and one heated up some canned soup.

So it was no surprise when, at 9:08 pm, John heard Vicky negotiating a trip to IHOP in the morning. He missed most of the conversation, hearing only the reference to his comfort food, breakfast. In a moment, everybody was out of their pajamas and standing in front of me, disbelief in their eyes that I would not accompany them on an adventure to Waffle House.

Let me clarify that one does not go to Waffle House for the food. I mean, the waffles are good enough, and the coffee, when it’s not burnt, is adequate coffee. Everything else, eggs, bacon, toast, is pretty standard stuff. If you’re hungry, it’ll work. If you’re hungry for entertainment, you’ll hit the jackpot.

I must point out that none of the Waffle Houses in our little burg are easily accessible. The population is growing at breakneck speed, the roads are expanding, and the three Waffle Houses have suffered the fate of over development, resulting in terrible access for the roadside diners. I say this merely to make the point that one does not casually end up at the Waffle House, there must be intent and execution.

Our choice did not fail us in the entertainment department. Evidently, there are plenty of people with nothing better to do at 10 o’clock Thursday night. I can’t speak for the employees, who have to work (well, that actually opens up an interesting topic: just how desperate for a job are these people, to isolate themselves in an industry that requires tips?). My fears for their earnings were unwarranted, since there was plenty of activity. I’ll forgo mocking the very countrified waitress, and her obvious frustration with a new, and very inept short-order cook. There would be no fanciful orders for scattered, smothered, covered and chunked hash browns tonight.

First, Vicky immediately hits the jukebox, so she can torture me with Johnny Cash songs. A glance around the diner tells me that the other patrons just might share my opinion. Understand that the Waffle House, open 24 hours and usually situated next to an interstate, is probably accurately referred to as a truck stop. The thing is, I rarely see truckers there, if we’re going by stereotypes.

The booth next to us was occupied by an African-American couple, and the woman’s mother. I recognized the man from a billboard advertising a local church. He must be doing well because I don’t know many people that drive Jaguars, dress to the nines, and eat at Waffle House. Then again, we all save where we can.
I couldn’t help overhearing their conversation. The mother was dissatisfied with her order. It seems they forgot to put meat in her BLT sandwich. Um. Yeah.

Our own repast was momentarily interrupted by a young, hip-looking, equally well-dressed man. If I threw out the stereotype about the truckers, then the notion that urban blacks only listen to rap quickly followed. He wanted to know the title of a song that we played. Something with a really good fiddle. "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" by the Charlie Daniels Band!

Waffle House never fails to deliver. We came, we saw, we ate. Where else can you get cheap dinner theater?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

"The Internet is for Porn"

Mami, if you're reading this, sorry for the title. Everybody else, maybe you recognize the headline as the title of a song from the musical, Avenue Q.

At any rate, I quite innocently discovered that there is an abundance of porn on the internet. OK, well, specifically, hosted by this blogging thingie. I'm not offended by it. I mean, it's disgusting, but it was my fault.

If my inexperience as a blogger could be measured in the same way fans of The Rocky Horror Picture Show call out people new to the midnight showing, then I would be pelted by pieces of toast and called a virgin. There's nothing I can do but blog on and learn along the way.

In the meantime, I suggest that y'all avoid mashing the "next blog" button at the top of this page.

I'll get my cup of coffee now, sit back, and wait. One of you knuckleheads is going to do it. I know it. Just don't complain to me about the assault when it happens.

Shave and a Haircut

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I finally took Jonathan to get a haircut. His hair was the longest it's ever been. I didn't know he had curly hair, but I guess that's no surprise. We went to the usual place, Toney's Barber Shop, in the old part of town. I love that barbershop. It's cheap, but the truth is that I love the ambience.

OK, so maybe ambience is not a word you would associate with a barbershop, and definitely not this one. It looks like it popped out of Mayberry. Where's Emmett? The walls are vintage paneling, and full of old photographs and hand-lettered signs exhorting fear of the Lord via verses from Isaiah, and one big sign warning "NO profanity allowed."

The barbers, yeah, BARBERS, wear the light blue surgical-looking shirts. Very retro, but you know they are like 70 years old, so it's really just the way they dress for work. They actually use witch hazel, and my favorite part is when they pull out an air hose (the regular mechanic kind for compressed air) to brush off the hair.

It's across the street from the county court, so there are a lot of men in suits getting trims. Very Mayberrry indeed, because there's also a lot of the small time politics going on there. In short, it's like taking a little trip into the past.

Too bad you can't get a shave and a haircut for 2 bits.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Where's the Common Sense?

Today I was unable to get any grading done in the work room because I couldn't help overhearing the phone conversation between a new instructor and the disabilities office. It was weirdly entertaining in that way we are drawn to slow down to catch a peek at an accident. I knew the whole thing was a trainwreck, but like the art patrons staring at Kramer, I just couldn't turn away.

The poor guy took the document that details the educational approach for a particular disability, and went down the list, item by item, clarifying the points. One example absolutely cracked me up because this guy, a good ol' country boy, wants to be compliant but is astonished by the things he has to do.

He quoted from one of the directives to "give all oral assignments a corresponding written directive." He wanted to know, "So if I tell my class to turn to page 141 and read, do I have to write it down for the student?"

I don't know what is funnier--the concessions and adaptations, or this guy's to-the-letter compliance.

When did common sense get thrown out in favor of legislated bureaucracy? I'm sorry for this teacher, but more sorry for the student with the disability who hasn't learned how to adapt to life.

Drama Begets Drama

So after a great deal of drama, Vic walked away from the drill team yesterday. Yep, she walked all the way across campus to the drama room, where she auditioned for a play. She figures that at least this drama is on purpose. Stay tuned for updates on that front; there should be plenty of secrets to share about "The Secret Garden."

Christy started Lacrosse, which is good. She'll burn some energy beating people with a stick. After a successful run with "Beauty and the Beast" she's ready for something else.

Meanwhile, Motley Crue has picked up a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and Alito is up for approval. Busy day ahead.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Gloomiest Day of the Year

I've often wondered how some people get the funding necessary to proceed with important research. You know, finding a cure for cancer, eliminating AIDS, even finding a vaccine against colds would be a cool thing. It turns out that a British scientist has developed a mathematical formula to determine when people tend to be depressed.

TODAY is this most depressing day! January 23rd! Not the 22nd (my dad's birthday--I guess that's a good thing). Not the 24th!

TODAY. Who understands the statistical bla-bla? In a nutshell, this guy figured that by the 23rd most people had broken their New Year's Resolutions, and by then were more than broke because the bills from Christmas were probably coming due. He also factored in that the weather tends to be real stinky this time of year, too.

Voila, he published a report, and is getting all kinds of attention, while I sit at home scratching my head and wondering why I never get around to doing something like that.

Thus, here I am posting away whatever random thoughts pop into my head. If Andy Warhol said we all get 15 minutes of fame, I'm going to get my money's worth. Welcome to my Blog, a very random and assorted collection of my thoughts for your perusal and entertainment.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

January 20, 2006

A little bit of chapstick and a re-release of Ramsey Lewis' greatest hits from the 1960's transported me to my childhood faster than I imagined possible. I know from experience that a smell or a song has that effect. In fact, I've often read in women's magazines that vanilla candles are so soothing because they remind people of the smell of baking when they were children. Hmmm. That makes me a little paranoid about the memories I'm creating for my children, because I have a propensity for burning dinner. Oh well.

Anyway, I was listening to the CD in the car, enjoying the jazzy piano and toe-tapping beat. I found a tube of chapstick sitting in the ashtray (who smokes anymore?—it's a coin tray!) and put it on. Now, consider the variety of chapstick flavors. I've seen grape and cherry, and all kinds of moisturizing blends with aloe, unscented, medicated—the combinations are endless. But my favorite is the one that is very creamy and has some medication that makes my lips tingle. Gotta love that tingle, it means that it's working. In fact, that tingle is addictive because when I have that kind of chapstick I use it all the time. For about a week I have some nice plump luscious lips, and then I lose the tube.

So here I am listening to "Wade in the Water" and applying chapstick while zooming along at 70 mph headed into the city. The minute I got the first smear of goop onto my lips I knew that it was going to be a blast from the past. This wasn't the good stuff; it was the plain waxy original! I didn't even know it was still sold. You know the one I mean, with the black label and the weird crayon-like textured 'why doesn't it go on smoothly" glob. It even left little lumps where the wax had clumped around some of the dead peeling lips. Gross.

The smell: its unique waxy paraffin-like smell awakened my mind to something that had a similar scent. I didn't have to think long before I remembered. I was instantly transported to my childhood days in Pastorita, the nickname for the neighborhood where so many Cubans settled when arriving in Atlanta. There, I experienced the joys of eating Pirulis that my parents would buy from the bodega en "el Rinconcito" which catered to us. They have a hunk of wax on the bottom, holding the candy in place. Did you ever bite into that? Ewww. I also experienced the melting pot firsthand, learning from my new American friends the wonders of Wax Lips. They were great fun to wear, but after a while, we bit through the mouth piece. I had friends who would chew the lips. Another gross thing. I could never bring myself to do that, which is why I hate chapstick today.

The flood of memories was better than any morning show. I remembered people I hadn't thought about in years, and remembered a time in my life when pretending and having a good time was my job. I still had to go to work, but it sure made the commute more enjoyable.