To Decorate or Not to Decorate

I love Christmas.

The only thing I really like about Thanksgiving (besides the mashed potatoes) is the end of Thanksgiving, which signifies the beginning of the Christmas season. I like to hear Christmas music playing in the stores and on the radio. I eagerly look forward to the Christmas specials on t.v. I get excited seeing houses lit up at night with Christmas lights. I like baking Christmas cookies. I get giddy picking out Christmas gifts and Christmas wrapping and ribbons.

Thanksgiving is OVER - bring on Christmas in all its tinsley, glowing, red and green glory!
Okay, so it's been established that I like Christmas. A lot. But despite my genuine holiday enthusiasm, I am often reluctant to decorate my own place. Some years I do it and some years I don't. During college, my roommate and I would decorate our dingy little dorm room for the holidays, but when I'm living by myself, sometimes pulling out all the decorations and putting them up (and taking them down again) is just not an enticing idea. If I were planning on having company or hosting some kind of holiday gathering, THEN I would decorate - absolutely. But, this year I have no such plans and am debating whether or not the hassle of decorating will be worth it. I don't know...it's still in consideration.


Home Sweet Home

My friend who just got engaged also just bought a house (talk about major life changes!) Of course, this prompted mild contemplation on my own feelings of home ownership. Although not a textbook case committment-phobe, let's just say I am commitment-wary. I broke out in hives when I had to sign my cell phone contract, I can't imagine the anxiety produced upon signing a mortage contract! So, with a horrified shiver, I decided quite quickly that for now, apartment living suits me just fine. I like the amenities, I like the low-maintenance, I like the little amount of committment and the even littler amount of responsibility associated with being an apartment dweller. I even like my apartment neighbors...EXCEPT for the diabolical pair who live directly above me!

Don't get me wrong, I am more than willing to take the good with the bad. Apartment living at it's best is still often noisy, and that's fine. I've lived in some VERY noisy apartments compared to my present living appointments. Donna and Jennifer will remember (fondly I'm sure) being awoken at the wee hours in the morning by the car wash across the street from my ghetto (and I mean ghet-to) apartment in Lincoln. That was also the apartment where my neighbors were regularly featured on the evening news and if you looked out my front window between the hours of 10pm and 5am, it was the live-action version of the TV show COPS. It was a highly entertaining neighborhood. Incidentally, they tore the building down shortly after I moved.

So, by comparison, the apartment I am currently living in, is rather like Windsor Palace. Which is why I feel somewhat sheepish and whiny complaining about my upstairs neighbors (but that isn't going to stop me!). The neighbors to my right and to my rear are all very nice and exceedingly quiet. My upstairs neighbors are a couple - a he and a she. I don't think they're married but I only think that because about once every couple of weeks they'll have a huge fight which will end with her screaming, him slamming the door, his car starting, her wailing, and then his car being gone for a few days. In addition to these loud lovers quarrels they also have two very small Swiffer-esque looking dogs who howl at regular intervals throughout the day. Again, Donna can attest to this phenomenon.

I've learned to live with the wailing, the slamming and the howling. But last night, as I was settling into a peaceful slumber, I was jolted awake by a noise...sort of ba-da-bloop noise. One of my neighbors upstairs was apparently chatting on some kind of instant messenger thing directly above my bed. And so for the next hour or so, my plan to sleep was continually interrupted by the annoying ascending and descending tones of ba-da-bloop, ba-da-bloop. I thought briefly of banging on the ceiling with a broom handle but then remembered I don't own a broom. Instead I stared at the ceiling and fantasized about leaping up the stairs, banging open their door (ala Miami Vice) and heaving the offending computer out the window all to the gaping-mouth-astonishment of my loud neighbors! Apartment living is at least good for the imagination.


Weddings and stuff

Last night I was accused of being "terribly romantic"!

I'll start at the beginning. A good friend of mine got engaged Tuesday evening. Yes, this is exciting news despite the fact that she has been dating her fiancé for a mere 3 months. I know dear reader, I was concerned at first as well. But really, with the divorce rate as high as it is, I'm not convinced it matters. My friends have just as much chance of staying together as a couple who has dated for four years or a couple who has dated for two weeks or a couple who've been living together for 10 years and have children together. The point is, they are both intelligent adults and have decided to make a commitment to one another. What more does there need to be?

With this commitment, of course, comes the planning of the wedding. The picking out of the colors and the dresses and the flowers. Decisions on ceremony location and reception location and honeymoon location. Arrangements for food and alcohol and music. We know the drill. It's the fluffy occasion every little girl dreams of, right? Wrong.

Here's where the "terribly romantic" accusation comes into play. As I was talking to a friend of mine about the recent and happy engagement, our conversation turned to weddings in general. I pooh-poohed the traditional, established wedding rituals. Amusedly, my friend asked me, "okay then, miss smarty-pants, describe your wedding"

"Well, if you must know, I do not want a wedding. I want to travel to some exciting destination and get married abroad. A simple ceremony in a fantastically foreign locale, just me and my beloved, accompanied by an intimate and carefree exploration of the country and culture. Maybe someplace like Budapest or Prague. Vienna or a Greek island. The details haven't been worked out yet. And afterwards, returning home from our adventure, we would throw a casual party for friends and family to celebrate. Just a party. No wedding cake, no dancing with the bride, no tossing of the bouquet, no garters, no toasts. Just a happy couple hosting a fun gathering with maybe some strategically placed photos of our recent travels. So there."

This is when my friend gravely pronounced, "that sounds terribly romantic".



Weekend Montage

Blue skies and sunshine. Tiny plastic American flags grasped tightly. My goodness, these soldiers returning home are so young. Trombones and combat boots. Red, white and blue streamers tied to strollers and guns. It's 80 degrees out here and I have goosebumps.

Sticky floor and squeaky seats. The anonymous darkness. There's nothing quite like the seat-squirming excitement of an opening movie sequence. Sweet fizzy frozen coke. Brainfreeze! Entertain me with a story, please.

Autumn evening. Warm light glowing from windows filled with laughter. Bottles of frosty beer. A stream of dark wine falling into my glass. The Yellowtail Cabernet Sauvignon. Thank you. Conversation, football, air hockey. More laughter. A southern spread - fried chicken, biscuits & gravy, creamed corn, mashed potatoes, green beans with bacon. Why is every vegetable in the South cooked with some kind of meat substance? More laughter.

Colorful leaves crunching underfoot. Crisp air that begs to be breathed in deeply and appreciatively. I love the feeling of the cold air on my cheeks. Climbing higher through the trees, avoiding the roots and rocks. Strong legs and pounding heart. The solitude is most welcome.

Hot tea and buttered toast. Deep cushions and soft blankets. Gwennie, move please, my leg is falling asleep! Sinking again into the pages of the ancient world of Vlad Tepes. Transported by the black type before my eyes. A good book and a comfy couch!


Political Bullying

No doubt I will be crucified for this post, but I am just irritated enough not to care! Ironically, that's what I'm being accused of - not caring. I am sick to death of being asked if I'm going to vote, bold inquiries as to who I'm going to vote for, not-so-subtle reminders to support my candidate, and belligerent admonishments for not exercising my right to vote. Since when has badgering become fashionable? In the immortal words of my friend Melissa, "Leave me alone!"

Am I mistaken, or is it also my right to NOT vote? I realize our country's voter-turn-out in the past few elections has been dismal, but does anyone ever stop to wonder why? It's not because we don't give a damn. It's not because we are uneducated, unintelligent masses. It's not even because we are vacuously pursuing a shallow existence.

I do not vote because I do not feel confident in the abilities or intentions of ANY of the smug, self-serving, slimey politicians running for ANY party. I am convinced that no matter who gets put into office, nothing extraordinary or purposeful will happen because they are all automatons of the same political machine with nothing but their own interests at heart. I know, it's not like me to be so terribly cynical. And it is disheartening to say the least, which is why I inadvertantly steer clear of all things political - it's just too depressing and just one more thing to sap my optimistic energy.

Until a candidate comes along with the integrity, independence, and humility to capture my admiration and respect, I will continue to exercise my right NOT to vote.


Happy Guy Fawkes Night!

I would rather be out drinking beer around a bonfire right now than sitting at home in front of my computer.

Tonight is the 400th anniversary of the conspiracy to blow up the House of Parliament in Westminster, London. Guy Fawkes Night is celebrated every year in Britain on November 5th. Typically the celebrations include fireworks, bonfires and the ceremonial effigy-burning of Guy Fawkes.

Who was this character Guy Fawkes anyway?, you may ask.There are lots of great websites that will give better information, but in a nutshell...the whole story stems from the "Gunpowder Plot" of 1605. The object of The Gunpowder Plot was to blow up English Parliament along with the ruling monarch, King James I. It was hoped that such a disaster would initiate a great uprising of English Catholics, who were distressed by the increased severity of penal laws against the practice of their religion.

Anyway, the plot was discovered, the conspirators killed or arrested and Guy Fawkes, pinned as the leader of the plot, was caught, tortured and executed - although there is some disagreement by historians regarding the exact nature of his involvement.


Above is a good website if you're really interested :) Nowadays, Guy Fawkes Night is just a fun excuse to break out the alcohol and be merry!


All the World's a Stage

I saw the play "Three Days of Rain" by Richard Greenberg last night. I had almost forgotten how much I truly love live theater. As the director, Rene Copeland aptly pointed out, "when you're watching a play, you're experiencing an exchange - the actors affect you and you affect the actors." How true, especially in the small intimate theater where it was staged.

The performance was wonderful and the play itself is brilliant (I think I read that it was nominated for a Pulitzer). The dialogue was funny, sarcastic and pretentious, and I loved every minute of it! If you have the opportunity to see it - I highly recommend you lose no time in jumping at it!

A Lesson in Humility

I have just returned from a trip to my local branch of the Nashville Library and let me tell you, it was a humbling experience.

My mission was simple, I wanted to check out the book "Fingersmith" by Sarah Waters at the recommendation of one of my literary friends. I had my library card (that I got when I first moved here and haven't used once), the title of the book I wanted, and even the author's name...I felt prepared to waltz through the doors, confident in my abilities to procure the morsel of highly acclaimed contemporary fiction I was seeking.

Let it be known that despite my nearly obssessive relationship with books, it has been a long time since I have graced the threshold of any library. I know...it seems odd to me too, but I tend to associate libraries with research and study activities (too many years spent in higher education I guess) instead of leisure reading. For that, I am known to haunt local used book stores or yard sales or (my current favorite method of acquiring reading material) Amazon.com.

So, why, you ask, didn't I just go buy the book I was looking for and stick to my usual modis operandi? Well, I was making an effort to be financially responsible... something at which I am not gifted and besides, my bookshelves are overcrowded as it is. Thus, the whole library scheme seemed like a good idea.

Seemed like a good idea until I walked in on what must have been the post-party for Saturday Storytime. There were about a hundred and ten small children scurrying through the aisles, around the computer terminals, through legs - yes, by god, scurrying through legs! As I'm wandering around looking for the fiction section and trying not to step on (or be tripped by) the energetic munchkins, I notice a weird-looking guy in a black trenchcoat skulking through the maze of books. Of course, I looked away (you never make eye contact with anyone in a black trenchcoat) and hurried on to the W's.

"W...W...W....ah! here we are...W's...okay...Wh...We...ummm...oh yeah...A comes before E...duh. aha! Wa...but where...no, that's not Sarah Waters"

This rather eloquent inner monologue was followed by my disappointing realization that not only did this branch not have "Fingersmith" but apparently did not carry ANY of the works of Ms. Waters. Sighing a deep sigh of annoyance but secretly holding out hope that maybe the book I wanted simply hadn't been restocked yet, I made my way to the front and the rows of occupied computer terminals with the intention of looking up the book in the directories to see if any copies were in circulation.

This is where my lesson in humility begins... maybe it's payback for thinking mean thoughts at the person in front of me in the self-service line at the Kroger, who clearly has no idea what they're doing. Karma or not, I stare at the few empty terminals trying to decide which one looks the most innocuous. I pick one, hit a button or two and when nothing happens, read the note to my left, "insert card". So I dig out my library card and insert it into the indicated slot. The repercussion of my hasty action is a very loud beeping noise followed by a dozen pairs of eyes turned to me and my uncooperating computer. I immediately remove myself from the evil terminal and look around for another one...a kinder one.

Again I sit down at a screen and it instructs me to enter my bar code and my pin number. There is a mile-long bar code number on the back of my library card which I assume is the number being referred to, but I have no idea what my pin number is, or if such a number even exists. So, again, I extricate myself from the computer terminal and look around for someone helpful...preferably a person of the library staff.

I find one. I say "all I want to do is look up a book - can you help me?". I am courteously directed to a different section of computer terminals altogether (yes, apparently not all the computers serve the same functions at the library) and at these ones there is no need for any kind of number inputting at all, much to my relief. I search for my book, find that it is available at other branches and am asked if I want to request it. Well sure...okay...I'll request it. However, the request form requires the hateful bar-code and pin numbers, so in a fit of exasperation I give up on the computers and return to the fiction crypt.

If I can't have Sarah Waters, then I'll just find something else! After some careful perusing I choose "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" by Salman Rushdie and "The Historian" by Elizabeth Kostova, and head to the check-out counter.

I get in line and wait. After waiting, it's my turn, so I place my books on the counter and look expectantly at the librarian. It is the same librarian who helped me with the directory earlier. He says patiently, "Are you ready to check out?" I nod. He replies, "I can't check you out here, you have to use the self-check-out". He points to another line and a little checker-outer machine on the counter. I give him my best "you've-got-to-be-kidding" look and move myself and my books to the other line.

Finally, it's my turn again and there is a computer screen to my left along with a card slot thingy. To my right is what looks like an infrared detector thingy. There are no instructions anywhere. So, instinctively I try pushing my library card into the card slot thingy. Of course, nothing happens. So I push it in again and this time flick the little black button next to the card. Again, nothing happens. A voice behind me says, "just scan your card there". I turn around and black-trenchcoat-guy is pointing to the infrared device. I laugh nervously and quickly scan my card. Immediately my name pops up on the screen and it tells me to scan my books. So I flip them over and scan.

Again, a loud beep (what's with all the beeps in the library?! - it's supposed to be a place of quiet!) A bright red message comes on the screen instructing me to scan again or get assistance from someone. I look apologetically at the line behind me. Black-trenchcoat-guy sweeps up beside me and says, "don't worry, it's just a finicky machine and if you happen to scan the wrong code it'll give you that bogus message" He smiles and scans my books for me, tears off my receipt and hands it to me. I thank him, grateful for his kind assistance and quickly walk to the exit. Next time I see a person in a black trenchcoat, I will look him in the eyes and smile warmly. I will also be much more patient with the person in front of me at the Kroger check-out!