Bite Me

“Bite Me”
This much is a given: I need to lower my body into a large vat of rubbing alchohol and remain suspended there for some minutes.
What has not yet been decided are the logistics of the lowering. Obviously, I need some sort of harness, right? And while I suppose a bathtub could suffice as the vat, I’m afraid I may need a submersion tank with greater depth (I need a Ted Koppel-type tank, not just the Matt Lauer easy-dip bathtub). Do you think David Blaine has any equipment he’s not currently using to enter a state of hibernation and non-defecation for three weeks while promoting the Target brand?

See, here’s the thing: since getting back from Guatemala (did I, um, mention we went to Guatemala?), my right hand and now arm have been developing some suspicious bite/wart/mini-third-nipple type thingies. First two little bites popped up on my thumb. They didn’t phase me; I named them Madison and Cody and painted little matching outfits on them. Then, approximately 40 hours later, two inches down on my hand, up popped Auntie Clementine, looking suspiciously like the twins. But denial exists for a reason, and so I soldiered through another 41 hours until Uncle Festus came out to set up a lemonade stand on my wrist.
I’m giving it just another 40 hours. Or 80. Or at the most 120. But then, most certainly, I’m going to face this marauding horde and take them to the vat of rubbing alchohol (trust me, I’ve already tried the ingestible stuff, and neither Pumpkin Ale nor Riesling is anti-biotic enough), whereupon we’re going to play end-of-the-school-year carnival dunk-tank, like in the finale of GREASE, during which John Travolta in his new letterman jacket dunks the teacher who is responsible for his imminent summer school make-up session.
Sure, others among us–let’s call them Wusschester United–would go to the doc. Trust me, the fact that I inadvertently put my toothbrush under the tap water two times in Guatemala and drank pop containing non-pure water ice cubes leads me to think I may actually have some sort of doc-suitable parasite (we’ve all seen TREMORS, ja? I imagine such wormy beasts under my skin, laying their eggs, snaking around my veins).
Then again, I may just have a workaday case of pest infestation. However, if you’ve read this blog back far enough to remember when a bat moved into my house, you’ll know that I don’t suffer any infestation lightly. I often take to the bathroom for hours upon end, where I enjoy unfettered weeping and agitatedly rearrange the tampons into small village communities.
This particular infestation, though, doesn’t make me feel weepy. It just makes me feel scratchy, as in “I got this huge paper cut on my toe, slathered it in honey, and then jammed it into an ant colony on the savannah for twelve days” itchy.
As I peruse the Walgreens to see how many bottles of rubbing alcohol it will take to fill the vat, and as I scratch the whole family of bites to infernal bloodiness, I harken back two years to when I was pretty sure I had fleas.
We hadn’t been on any cross-contintental dashes, and we didn’t have a pet. Of course, I might’ve picked the fleabies up from a shrew, vole, rat, or leashless dog (all the creatures with whom I have daily involuntary contact). With the fleas, the itches got to the point where I couldn’t even sit and type, much less grab the remote control at night to tune into THE APPRENTICE and scream at what a weenie Donald Trump is.
All I could do was scratch and scratch; my skin was covered with bites–around the ankles, up to my knees, around my waistband. I was in a constant state of being about to scream, like cresting the highest peak of a roller-coaster called the Entangled Entrails.
During Flea Infestation 2004, I tried really hard to be rational and relevant in daily life, but I just couldn’t stop scratching.
Maybe it wasn’t fleas. Maybe it was hives. Or maybe I had scabies. Or chiggers. All I knew for sure is that all attempts at heightened personal hygiene (I even washed the sheets, and it wasn’t even February) resulted in more scratching.
Most definitely, I was glad my husband was already committed to our gig as a lifetime dealie, or I’d have been certain that I was about to be alone forever, just me, my fleas, my big crocheted rainbow-colored poncho, my John Travolta tote bag, and a lot of bus rides up and down Superior Street to the city bus transfer station, where I would spend my hours, scratching and whimpering, alone in the middle of a crowd.
So today, as I sit scratching, instead of looking up the doc’s phone number, I find myself searching for enough change to hop on the bus, where I will be among My People.
Public scratchers of the world, gather ’round. And then strap on a harness. The vatting won’t be gentle, but won’t it feel good when those top layers of skin peel off for once and all?
Host no more!
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Ah, Sweet Relief

“Ah, Sweet Relief”

About six years ago, my dad was staying with us for a week. After a few days, I saw a post-it note stuck to the front of a book he was reading. Naturally, because I am governed by a set of conveniently-flexible boundaries, I went right over and plucked it off the cover.

In my father’s handwriting, it said:

“What this house needs:

Kleenex
TV trays
Afghans”

This note is interesting for a couple of reasons.

First, it reveals a lot about my dad and his needs/values. Even four years after his death, I imagine him sitting in his big loung chair, an afghan draped over his skinny shoulders as a shawl, a tv tray next to him, supporting a box of Kleenex and the remote control. When it was time for Jeopardy, I was free to join him, but I wasn’t free to interrupt or to lurch towards that remote on its stick-legged, blonde-wood island. His entire existence was predicated on the items in that post-it note list.

Secondly, the list reveals what was *not* important to me at age 33. My nose didn’t run much; I didn’t need small tables that could escort me around my house; and I was generally lit from within by a warm spiritual afghan.

Six years later, I find myself here, tonight, with a tv tray next to my bed (gotta prop the latest Ayun Halliday book on something), blowing my nose repetitively as I hack the last of Guatemala City’s pollution out of my respiratory system, huddling under three fleece afghan-like blankets (our tv room thermostat currently reads 58 degrees. We are damn cheap, even when it’s torturously cold outside).

At any rate, it would seem that my dad’s post-it note was rather Nostradamuseun in its forecast of what I would need. As an homage to my dad, I give you now my post-it note for the country of Guatemala.

“What Guatemala Needs:

A few roads that aren’t built entirely on a curve. The occasional straight bit of asphalt, allowing for speeds exceeding 45 miles per hour, might keep first graders from vomiting and turning pale at the very notion of getting into a vehicle that could, even by accident, start to move down one of those roller-coaster highways.

On a related note, some emissions standards wouldn’t hurt. All those diesel fumes pouring into following cars are enough to make anyone take out an empty popcorn bag and hold it in front of him/herself for a three-hour drive, just in case of a fume-inspired yackattack.

Fewer firecrackers. I can tolerate the exhuberance for fireworks in general–heck, viewers never know what explosion of color will blossom forth next, and what is life without mystery?– but firecrackers give no visual bang and simply serve to keep awake unwitting visitors to the country for hours and hours and hours. And then another hour.

Again on a related note, the country could use more rooster casseroles, liberally sprinkled with potato chips. Roosters, as a rule, should die. I realize most of them are pretty tough and sinewy, so the casseroles might involve some complex slow-cooking of the bird (flavored with a bay leaf) in a crockpot first, but such labors are worth the end result, which would be no more roosters crowing at 4 a.m., even though the sun won’t arise for two more For-the-Love-of-the-Sandman hours.

Natives who do not worship all things American, and by this, I mean Folgers coffee and chain restaurants. Indeed, Guatemalans themselves do not think to purchase or drink Guatemalan coffee; Folgers strikes them as the prime choice. And we learned, when we treated a native preschool teacher who had showered us with kindness to a birthday dinner, that her reaction to our urgings of “No, really, you can choose any restaurant in the city. Whatever you like. Don’t worry about expense or convenience” was to run through the posh-est possibilities (“Em, TGIF is good. So is Chiles”) before landing on the best she could imagine, “Oh, yes, Pizza Hut for sure.”

Drunk people who pass out instead of managing to hang onto consciousness all night long. Those who stay awake while inebriated feel compelled to crank terrible, bass-heavy music starting at 2:45 a.m. and ending half an hour before the alarm to get a travelling family off to the airport begins its beeping. Conscious Guatemalan drunks are unerringly able to choose music that is only heightened rather than diminished when an intrepid visitor goes so far as to turn on a fan and put earplugs in. Conscious drunks manage to sing wildly and off-key for a minimum of four hours, deaf to the sounds of the quiet weeping of the neighbors, audible through the thin walls. And without a doubt, as is the case in every reported story of conscious drunks in said country, such wired drunks have guns and love to fire them randomly…so protesting, banging on the wall, or slipping a note under the door is unadvisable. Indeed, dear Guatemala, my heartiest wish for you is that your drunks stop carrying guns and start passing out after three sips of your terrible 3.2% Gallo beer.”

Photo: A Guatemalan Kleenex, which could be draped over an unconscious drunk

———————————–

So would it really be so much to ask, O Hospitable Guatemala, that you straighten your roads, lessen your pollution, drown your firecrackers, kill your poultry, promote your tamales, and hobble your drunks?

On the other hand, if you did, you’d be a whole lot less fun. Uninterrupted sleep and functional lungs are the province of the passport-free.

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Stop Trying to Chop Off Your Sister’s Head with Your New Toy Axe While She’s Vomiting onto the Floor of the Shuttle

So we did it. Guatemala hosted us well and remains intact, despite our tear across its kidneys. All in all, I’d say we had a near-perfect two weeks there, particularly considering our respective ages, the ever-present noise of cars, birds, firecrackers, and drunken revellers, and the kids’ certainty that they would never, ever eat a corn tortilla. Oh yea, and considering that Girl got car sick for the first time in her life during a four-hour shuttle ride (and, yes, her berserker Viking brother did try to Anne Boleyn her during the regurgitation).

More shall follow in upcoming posts, but for tonight, as it’s late and I’m revving up another semester starting tomorrow, I’ll just smack y’all with this unabashed photo-log–a visual greatest hits, as it were. Here and there, the photos are in chronological order; the randomness and lack of strict order are my homage to the Guatemalan custom and character.

I bought everything you see here. Plus a lemonade.


This volcano photo, taken from a moving shuttle, is blurry due to the speed of the van. And the vodka in the lemonade.

We visited Xocomil, a waterpark. I know. I know. We went to Guatemala and visited a waterpark. But in our defense, I’ll say that it was perhaps the most “native” thing we did there, as we were just about the only gringos there, and this park was built by the Guatemalan Workers’ Association. Little-known fact: Guatemalan workers really dig ginormous turtles.

Up ’til now, I haven’t used photos showing faces much, but I guess I’d like to make the point that we were actually there, and I didn’t just get a passle more photos off of flickr.com, as in my previous post. Plus, I like to document each day that I wear a black bra. So here I am with Girl and Wee Niblet, who discovered that his legs didn’t work (he must’ve contracted polio from the pools at the waterpark) on this, the trip where we walked everywhere, all day long. Here is my solution. First, I tied him to my back. Then, when he really made me crazy with his refusal to pedal his own 45-pounds of pudge, I tied him to a chair in the hotel room.
I can’t even tell you how beautiful the textiles are. I probably don’t need to. But I can tell you that they are even more dramatic and bright back here, in Minnesota’s dreary January. People with Seasonal Affective Disorder should just drape Guatemalan fabrics over their heads for three months of the year.
Here are two guacamaya. Translated: indigenous birds that like avacado sauces.
 

With so few green spaces in Guatemala City, they close down a main boulevard for a few hours every Sunday, during which time every blasted person puts on rollerblades and/or brings out his/her four-year-old on a bike with training wheels. Or, in our case, puts the three- and six-year-0ld in a goat cart.
They DO eat green eggs and ham, by the way, dear Sam I Am. They eat them in a boat and with a goat. And in a cart.
We bought this table runner for our in-laws. I’m pretty sure my husband is their favorite son now.
Check out this shop featuring wooden masks and, um, big rat pelts.

We visited my sister’s “American Style” school one day. Here, you see Groom asking some students if they’d like to supersize their education.


Look! Cloth! And it’s hanging!

My sister reads way supermuch, bigmany good books to her kiddles. I want her to be my kindergarten teacher. She is my own Miss Bindergarten–although she’s not freakily anthropomorphized, as is that particular kiddie lit heroine.

These busy workers are drying, turning, and stepping directly upon the coffee that will be featured at your local Starbucks in two weeks.

I so much like this devil dude, who holds court in the Mayan Cultural Center outside of Antigua.

I’m pretty sure this photo of bananas is upside down. This is what upside-down bananas look like.

Here’s a typical street in Antigua. Check out them cobblestones. Now picture all the women in the city wearing three-inch mules around town while simultaneously carrying their groceries on their heads. I am possessed of a luggishness that makes me unable to imagine such feats of coordination.

This is the hallway outside our hotel room in Antigua. It did not suck.

Back to the coffee. You know how you seek out and covet “shade-grown, organic Guatemalan beans”? Here they are, being grown. Add to the packaging: “composted with only the best trash.”


Pwitty, pwitty fabric.

This tight little vehicle saved me from throttling Wee Niblet many-a-time. It’s called a Tuk-Tuk, and we took-took them all over. We’re considering opening up a Tuk-Tuk business in our own town now. Who doesn’t need a three-wheeled motorcycle with a comfortable cab area?

After a long day of hitting the market stalls in Panahachel, we needed to cool down our tootsies in Lake Atitlan.

Yea, cotamundis (Wee Niblet calls them “locamotis”) freak me out, too. After admiring it in the nature reserve outside of Pana, I sold the pelt of this one to a wooden mask store.

Trash + coffee beans = a $4.50 latte.

Spider monkey, spider monkey. What I wouldn’t give to have had evolution let us keep those crazy tails.Look at this business. It’s water. Falling.

Here’s our hotel in Santiago Atitlan. It was idyllic. Then, a hundred yards down the road, there was a huge field of trash coffee plants.

I’ve got to practice standing up in our canoe this summer. A few good capsizes will only help the kids master the breaststroke. And they can look for the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald while they’re down there.

I should have taken more photos of food. I love food. I loved this food. It was eggs in tortillas, and I have that food all the time here in the States. But it’s much more glamorous when you take a photo of it. And the fruit was killer good, except the papaya, which tastes like poo.

I was uncommonly taken with this field of cabbages. Cabbage is too-oft neglected. The leaves would make great Dr. Scholl’s footpads, for instance.


The Kiddles would follow my sister anywhere, even down a dusty rural path, next to a cabbage patch (she had just explained to them how the stork is a big myth and showed them where they really came from).

Wee Niblet croaked at me seventy times that he wasn’t tired and then did this. I like him so much when he sleeps. Plus, it’s easier to tie him to the chair when he’s limp and unconscious.

Upon our return home, we found that our neighbors, who had kindly not ransacked our house or made off with the silver in our absence, had assured themselves lifelong good karma by leaving a rosemary chicken dish in the fridge, a loaf of bread on the counter, and a bottle of wine chilling. I will be more than happy to shell out thousands of dollars on plane tickets from this moment forward, now that I know it means someone will have scampered into my house and left Chardonnay, thereby saving me the long drive down the road to the bottle shop.

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More Centrally American

“More Centrally American”

This may be my last post for a couple of weeks, for Groom and I, some months back, bolstered by a few shots of whiskey slammed down during a State of the Union address (by the end, we were channeling David Byrne, chopping on our arms, and slurring, “This is not our beautiful country”), decided to take Wee Niblet and Girl to

well,

yea,

*Guatemala* for two weeks.

Really, what better place to let The Kiddles have their first international adventures (not counting Thunder Bay) than a country recovering from a civil war? If they’re going to make it in this world, they need to know early and young that good coffee comes from countries where indigenous people have been “disappeared” through guerilla warfare.

We haven’t even been teaching them any helpful Spanish or Mayan phrases but instead have been honing their pronunciation of a single French term: “coup d’etat.”

Last weekend, for further preparation, we took them to see Mel “I hate Jews, but only when I’m drunk” Gibson’s APOCOLYPTO. There’s nothing sweeter than hearing my three-year-old son’s voice, piping up in the darkness: “Mommy, what’s a human sacrifice? Is that like the time I lost my Martian Manhunter action figure?”

All right, so actually we’re planning a rather-benign family vacation to visit my sister, who teaches at an “American-style” Guatemalan school in Guat City (“So, as long as we’re reading Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse, would anyone like fries with that?”). We’ll travel to a waterpark, a volcanic lake, and the town where my sister gets her eyelashes tinted. I predict, as well, that many a local market will benefit from our desire for gorgeous, colorful fabrics and folkart.

Along the way, I’m sure I’ll take a header into some lava or mangle my Spanish attempts and end up asking a waitress for “more green knuckles in my shoehorn”; in short, when I get back, you can be assured of a few new Jocelyn As Traveler Dork tales.

(Them ain’t puffs of smoke coming out of those volcanoes; them is word balloons in which Jocelyn is screeching “YEEEEOOOWWW, but lava stings my suppurating sores!”).

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The Best You Can Hope for in the Hoosegow is a Sealy Posturpedic

“The Best You Can Hope for in the Hoosegow is a Sealy Posturpedic”
Consider this story of misdirected holiday hopes, broadcast last week on NPR:
Richard Perez of Lake Station, Indiana, wanted to impress his beloved wife by giving her a plasma television this Christmas. The rub was that he didn’t actually feel compelled to *pay* for the TV.
At this point, a little Grinchian ingenuity kicked in, and Richard brainstormed: “Hear me out on this, brain: I work as a security guard at the Radisson, and that’s a company, right? And it’s companies what sell stuff, right? And sometimes they don’t even sell stuff but even give it way, right? Plus the really good companies sometimes call that giving away dealie ‘a holiday bonus,’ right? And can I even help it if the Radisson Company Place is too busy or cheap or confused to sort out its holiday bonuses this year? Well, I can kind of help it, I suppose. I could help them bonus me because they are, after all, a Company Place, and I do work there. Has anybody seen my box of wine? I got the Peachy Reunite’ the other day on clearance at the Chug ‘N Drop.”
Enjoy the wine, you criminal genius; that job at the Radisson? Not for long, Poor Richard. Not for long.
His mind made up, Perez punched in at work (“If I’m on the property, I’m on the clock, baby. Hey, how long ’til my break? I need a Marlboro but bad”) and shortly thereafter, forgetting all about the hotel’s surveillance cameras–as a security guard, why *would* he remember?–he enlisted the aid of his favorite righthand man and best friend: an empty luggage cart.
Entering an unoccupied room, Perez loaded up Best Friend with a 42-inch plasma TV and a Sleep Number bed system (one of those doohickies that can adjust mattress position and firmness). Knowing that a plasma TV and a Sleep Number bed system might, *cough cough*, look suspicious on a luggage cart, especially as he rolled them out of the hotel and up to his idling van, Richard cleverly disguised the cart by draping a sheet over it. (“In all my years here at the Radisson as a security guard, I know I’ve never stopped anyone and asked ’em, ‘Yo, what you got under that sheet on your luggage cart, Mortimer?’ I don’t dis people like that, and plus also the customer is always right, and some people might just need a sheet over a luggage cart, like me tonight as I bonus myself.”)

On tiny cat feet, he then slyly hoisted the goods into his getaway vehicle, drove home–gunning it to 80 mph all the way–and wrapped up the TV for his wife (in my mind, she is named Carlene), sticking it under the tree with a card that read: “To Mom, Honeybunny, from Big Papa, Daddy.” Then he retired to the comfort of his newly-positioned and firmed mattress, watching the old TV and hollering, “NOOOO deal” at Howie Mandel, until…

…the police showed up, warrant in hand, to cuff Big Papa (reading him his Veranda Rights), ruin Carlene’s Christmas, and take a quick joy ride on the Sleep Number. In true Spinal Tap fashion, they were overheard directing Newbie Officer David St. Hubbins, “Crank it to Eleven!”

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An Acceptional Tail

“An Acceptional Tail”

I read and grade papers for a living. While I was recently compelled to poke a hole in my eardrum with a mechanical pencil when I read the 9,543rd paper on “why bow hunting rocks,” for the most part, my job has its perks: a great schedule, lots of autonomy, and an office door that locks.

One of the non-contractual perks, though, is cackling at student errors. If you are one of my students and are reading this right now, rest assured I would never chuckle at *you*–no you are all that is triumphant luminosity and startling genius; it’s all the others to whom I’m referring. Most certainly, you would *never* struggle with subject/verb agreement or rely on spellcheck over what your human instincts might tell you.

I used to keep a comprehensive list of these nuggets, but then, after the time a student wrote an essay, quite tearily, about how her family had just buried her grandmother with the things most important to her–her Peekapoo (euthanized) and her bingo dauber–my spirit for list-keeping sagged like K-Fed’s Calvins.

Nowadays, I keep a casual Hall of Homonymic Fame jotted down onto my gradebook:
“I hate it when they put someone up on a pedal stool.”
“Chris found a rancid note, asking for a thousand dollars, or his hamster would be killed.”
“The mother had many paternal feelings for her child.”
“The veranda rights suck.”
“All my life, I’ve wanted to attend the Super Bowel.”
“Americans have no work ethnic at all.”

———

The jokes make themselves, really, don’t they? In fact, my reactions to these errors morph into a kind of sound-alike story problem: “If we put the kidnappers up on a stool and then pumped them up really high, how many stench-filled threats could they throw down? And if your mother is both a cop and a tranny, how many hours does it take her to gently cuff the perps while also serving them mint juleps? Further, if we add in one person worshipping at a colon, can we then arrive at a country that has built itself on the backs of its working ethnics?”
Today, however, I had to reorder the trophies on the Hall of Fame shelf, clearing a space in the center for this one:
“Victoria’s Secrete hasn’t done this country any good.”
Hmmmm. I dare venture the opinion that many, many people are grateful for Victoria’s secretions, even now, in cold and flu season.
As I ponder the possibility of models, doing the slinky walk and oozing from all orifices, even those covered by their million-dollar lingerie, all I know is that I’ll take reading error-littered student work anyday over a job as the mop-up guy after Vickie’s televised runway show.

(EWWW. Just look at the work awaiting Mop-Up Dude #3; the floor is slick with it)

As I return now to my grading, I find myself

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Downward-Facing ADHD Doggie: Frantic Yoga

“Downward-Facing ADHD Doggie:
Frantic Yoga”
I may pride myself on being a hearty soul, but the truth is that I host a puny inner wuss, a very small person who lives inside me and who doesn’t like scary or creepy things like:
voles;
people knocking on my front door wearing crisp white shirts and neckties, travelling only in pairs, wielding a fistful of “literature”;
headless Barbies;
leggings underneath dresses;
lots of shots of Jagermeister;
J. Lo’s ghoulish husband Marc Anthony (leader of the Latin Vampire Cadre–“now serving blood-based salsa in the Green Room; all those with backstage passes, prepare to meet your fate”);
Texan housewives, with their big red mouths continually yacking and shellacked hairdos never moving, even under the duress of rhetoric blown at high, unthinking speeds out of their husbands’ mouths;
gaggles of Red Hat Society Ladies, out for tea, having rented a limo for the afternoon;
alligator on-a-stick (attendees of the Minnesota State Fair know whereof I type)
————-
Such things make me shriek like Nicole Ritchie, all smoked up, seeing flashing lights in the rear view mirror. And then we both grab our cell phones and call our publicists (Nicole: “Um, yea, so I smoked some pot, and then took a little blue pill, and I really had to drive because I absolutely had the munchies, but I can’t actually eat anything cuz I already had my tic-tac today, so I thought maybe I’d just go stare at the Hollywood sign and think about how it looks like it could be made of Twizzlers.” *** Me: “Omigod, I totally just slapped that Texan housewife when she told me I should wear more gold. How can we spin this to The Duluth Tribune?”).
But what if my publicist is out for cocktails at PURE with Pamela Anderson and Jamie Foxx and doesn’t pick up? What to do then?
Well, I could assuage my fears by attending a calming yoga class, right? I mean, through controlling my breathing and working through a series of sustained poses, I could cleanse my chakras and free myself from the willies engendered by women who wear too much make-up; I could re-center; and I could get back to what’s important (like how the Hollywood sign looks like it could be made out of Twizzlers).
So one day, after a run-in with a headless Barbie (that’ll teach me to vacuum under the beds), I was forced into an emergency visit to yoga class–all I needed was that reliable, gentle atmosphere and a few warrior poses, and the mantra of “no head, no head, Skipper had no head, no head, no head, but she had on excellent pumps, but no head, no head, no head” would be banished from my brain.
Upon entering the room, I noticed the teacher had not yet arrived, so I spent a little time sniggering at a couple of the other class attendees (not so very yogic of me, I concede), especially the woman in full make-up, sporting a sternum full of jewelry and one of those off-putting coordinated gym outfits. What the pajeebus is up with women like this? Naturally, I assumed she was a Texas housewife, visiting the city to see how we do our downward dogs north of Ye Olde Mason-Dixon line.
Suddenly, however, this woman reoriented her mat and welcomed us all to class. Wait a Mary Kay minute, but she was the teacher! After a few words to greet newcomers and a couple tips on how to use a flatiron for best effect when straightening hair, Mary Kay Yogi started class.
What ensued made me long for more quiet, quality time with Headless Skipper; at least she and I could stay focused on each other for more than ten seconds at at time. Mary Kay Yogi, though, moved through each pose in rapid time–we barely held “Free Pink Sedan” pose for a nanosecond– keeping us moving at a staccato pace for an hour while we held each pose “for five breaths” (if those breaths were coming out the mouth of a mouse in Mile 18 of a marathon). I would no sooner hit a pose than she’d dismiss it, calling, “Okay, let’s shake it out.”
I don’t know much, but I know this much is true: in yoga class, the words “let’s shake it out” are antithetical to everything that the holding and breathing and shaking and sweating are supposed to be about. No, no, no “let’s shake it out.”
Normally, I leave a yoga class feeling refreshed and cleaned out, ready to face the Red Hatters of the world, but that day, after my mandatory post-class makeover, during which I learned the proper application of false eyelashes, I felt, well,
Texan.
Go, um, Spurs?
(shout out to Rocco)

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East or West, My Couch Is Best

“East Or West, My Couch Is Best”

More adventures from the “Jocelyn As Idiot Runner” Files:

I am the kind of person who can get lost between my house and my job (where I’ve worked for six years). I can take a wrong street on my way to Cub Foods and end up doing an 18-point turn to back myself away from a creek I never knew existed. I can head out, confidently, to find the mall, only to discover that I’m in a small touris town 26 miles north of here.

In short, I’m severely directionally challenged. It’s so bad that my Wee Kiddles, small children who can barely get themselves onto a toilet without help, are able to call out, as we drive, “Maaaa, you were supposed to turn right back there.” Yea, whatever. At least I can myself onto the toilet unaided–knock wood.

So it was with no small trepidation that I challenged myself to undertake a new sport last year: orienteering. An overview of orienteering would go like this: throw yourself out into the woods with only a confusing map and a compass and try to find small, hidden flags as fast as you can. There is a reason why all competitors are required to carry a whistle: HELPPPP, I’VE FALLEN, AND I CAN’T GET OUT OF THE LUMPY HUMMOCK!

Before starting my first orienteering race in Big Woods State Park, I made darn certain that my husband was acquainted with the sound of my particular whistle, so he could come find me after 10 hours had elapsed and before my need for a hamburger and chocolate caused me to wring the neck of a squirrel and cobble together a spit on which to roast it.

And then I was off. The clock started, I copied the “control” points onto my topographical map, and I dashed, with great enthusiasm, into the woods.

Several moments later, I re-appeared, turned in a circle several times, scratched my head, and then dashed off into the woods again…in the opposite direction.

And then, for the next hour, I stopped, scratched, and dashed with regularity, looking over the map and cross-referencing what I was seeing in the woods with the symbols on the map. Was I standing in a “dry ditch” or and “erosion gully”? Was that mound in front of me an “earth bank” or a “small knoll”?

Eventually, I managed to find all seven control points and punch my little orienteering card each time (and I am big enough to admit that I only found a couple of the control points by tagging behind other muddy souls who were in my same race).

At the end, when I came blistering out of the woods into the bright sunshine, I felt as though days had elapsed, not a mere hour; the journey had been that complex. I was a new woman, one who had learned deep lessons while under the canopy of the oaks: nature is confounding; some people either “got it” or they “ain’t” when it comes to directionality; and I should never again leave the safety of my couch.

——————
By the way, if you have any extra time today, please come find me. I’m lost.

All I wanted to do was walk to my kitchen after writing this, but now I’m in a really small, dark place…wait a minute, I just pulled a Batman action figure out from my armpit…ooh, and there’s a Blue’s Clues camera resting on my clavicle…and some legos stuffed up in my nostrils…I guess I’m in my kids’ toybox.

Bring food. And a compass.

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“Tell Me I’m Pretty, Then Watch Me Cling: Lonely Hearts and Icy Lungs”

“Tell Me I’m Pretty, Then Watch Me Cling: Lonely Hearts and Icy Lungs”

Yesterday on the Western Waterfront Trail:

-10 degree wind chill + an hour of trail running = me, in the clearance bin at the Lunacy Mart

That’s the new math.

Three minutes into the run, I was giving myself a serious dressing down: “Okay, this blows like Mt. St. Helen’s. This sucks like a Dirt Devil hand-vac. This bites like a curry powder donut.”

Then I sneezed, and all my teeth shattered, so the rest of my ravings were just gummy mutterings. Suffice it to say, I would rather have been one of Britney Spears’ neglected children (well-dressed and warm, if illiterate) than out in that cold.

But I was determined to continue, as I have a complex and semi-deranged mental process through which I “earn” late-night sweets by moving my body during the day. And I knew there were warm brownies coming my way at 10 p.m. So I continued to run. And curse. And feel like the wind was a State-Fair-demonstrated Ginsu knife, cutting and piercing and peeling and flaying my bits, all to the amazement and applause of the onlooking trees.

Changing tack, I decided to try role-playing, something normally best saved for dominatrixes and couples therapy, but essential in this situation. So I pretended I was Will Steeger…and then Anne Bancroft or Liv Arneson…and then Robert Scott…and then I had a revelation: pretending to be a polar explorer, about to die of scurvy, hunger, and frostbite, was some pretty dumb motivation. Rather, I should cast myself in the role of a down comforter or a pair of fleece underwear.

There, that was better. I was a pair of fleece underwear, nestled in some Scandia down. Much better. I was even able to admire the amber weeds, frozen in the bay, and the enthusiastic lone hockey player out on the ice next to me; he’d set up his own goal and was skating, shooting, and then raising his arms triumphantly in the air with each “GGGOOOOAAAAALLLL!” Yea, this fleece underwear business was going okay.

And then I yawned, and my jaw broke in twelve places. The coldness had not receded…and did not until I started paying attention to the NPR story playing on my headphones, a story about a new book compiled by David Rose (They Call Me Naughty Lola), excerpts from which had me cackling to the point that the icicles dangling from my nostrils finally cracked and fell to the ground with a melliflous tinkle. The book relates the phenomenon of personals ads in The London Review of Books; these ads have become a showcase for clever people who, instead of writing notices that detail their love of long walks on the beach and dedication to playing Scrabble, portray themselves as idiosyncratic, even repugnant, misfits:

‘They call me naughty Lola. Run-of-the-mill beardy physicist (M, 46).’

‘I’ve divorced better men than you. And worn more expensive shoes than these. So don’t think placing this ad is the biggest comedown I’ve ever had to make. Sensitive F, 34.’

‘List your ten favourite albums… I just want to know if there’s anything worth keeping when we finally break up. Practical, forward thinking man, 35.’

‘Employed in publishing? Me too. Stay the hell away. Man on the inside seeks woman on the outside who likes milling around hospitals guessing the illnesses of out-patients. 30-35. Leeds.’

‘I like my women the way I like my kebab. Found by surprise after a drunken night out and covered in too much tahini. Before long I’ll have discarded you on the pavement of life, but until then you’re the perfect complement to a perfect evening. Man, 32, rarely produces winning metaphors.’

‘My ideal woman is a man. Sorry, mother.’

‘Your buying me dinner doesn’t mean I’ll have sex with you. I probably will have sex with you, though. Honesty not an issue with opportunistic male, 38.’

‘Not everyone appearing in this column is a deranged cross-dressing sociopath. Let me know if you find one and I’ll strangle him with my bra. Man, 56.’

‘Are you Kate Bush? Write to obsessive man (36). Note, people who aren’t Kate Bush need not respond.’

‘Stroganoff. Boysenberry. Frangipani. Words with their origins in people’s names. If your name has produced its own entry in the OED then I’ll make love to you. If it hasn’t, I probably will anyway, but I’ll only want you for your body. Man of too few distractions, 32.’

‘Ploughing the loneliest furrow. Nineteen personal ads and counting. Only one reply. It was my mother telling me not to forget the bread on my way home from B&Q. Man, 51.’

‘Mature gentleman, 62, aged well, noble grey looks, fit and active, sound mind and unfazed by the fickle demands of modern society seeks…damn it, I have to pee again.’

‘Slut in the kitchen, chef in the bedroom. Woman with mixed priorities (37) seeks man who can toss a good salad.’

‘Bald, short, fat and ugly male, 53, seeks short-sighted woman with tremendous sexual appetite.’

‘Romance is dead. So is my mother. Man, 42, inherited wealth.’

’67-year-old disaffiliated flâneur jacked up on Viagra on the lookout for contortionist who plays the trumpet.’

‘Looking for a man who doesn’t name his genitals after German chancellors (not even Prince Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingfürst, however admirable the independence he gave to secretaries of state may have been).’ [sidenote: this woman, a 38-year-old local government arts official with an interest in Bismarck, said that she been inspired by a disastrous experience with a date who announced over the tiramisu that he called his private parts “Asquith,” after the late British prime minister. “I’m fairly easy-going, but I specifically didn’t want another dessert-spoiler,” she said, explaining that the only thing she could think of worse than a wartime prime minister was a pre- Weimar German chancellor.]

‘My favorite Ben & Jerry’s is Acid- Boiled Bones of Divorce Lawyer.’

‘I wrote this ad to prove I’m not gay. Man, 29. Not gay. Absolutely not.’

———————-

My first reaction to hearing these ads was, “Wow. These people sound like bloggers! I would totally read their posts.” My second reaction was, “Wait a minute, is that my car over there? I’m done already with this trail of frozen tears? Wahoodlie!”

I sprinted towards the car, tripping over a train track in the process; and the sound of my iced-up tibula splintering when I fell was a dark melody in the still, white, frosty air.

As I slowly crawled to the car over the course of the next hour, I stopped occasionally and patted together little sno-cones to suck off my gloves–what refreshing hors d’oevres!

It was getting late, and I was dragging my carcass through the snow with my shards of teeth, broken jaw, and fractured leg, but my heart remained warm, thanks to the wit of strangers. May they all meet and marry…and bring me warm brownies in the hospital.

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“Suffering From Twinklementia: Color Me Ronnie”


“Suffering From Twinklementia: Color Me Ronnie”

Zoom in on 1997:

One day, having just slammed a triple-shot mocha in an effort to fight off a marauding hoard of the late-afternoon grumps, I made a new friend.

As I exited the coffee shop, a woman–a stranger to me–came up and said, “I see you all the time around here, and you always have such a twinkle in your eye. I know that means you are a naturally happy person, to have that sparkle. I can just tell from the way you smile. It’s just like the twinkle Ronald Reagan always had in his eye; I mean, I always knew we were in good hands with him, not like nowadays with those guys they’ve got going. Yes, you’re just like Reagan. But I don’t even want to think about how he is now and whether or not that twinkle is gone. He just made me feel so safe and secure, but now when I think about it, I just feel so sad and as though it’s the end of my world. What will I do when that twinkle is gone forever?”

Nervously, I pointed to the sky, shouting, “Look, it’s, um, a satellite with military capabilities, and I’m late for a date with Leona Helmsley to discuss trickle down economics, so gotta dash!”

Then I hopped in my Honda hatchback and gunned it for the Arby’s.

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