A Nashville Snow Day

I have my alarm set to the radio option (mostly due to my post-traumatic stress disorder from years of being jolted awake by the EEEHRRR-EEEHRRR-EEEHRRR of an electronic buzzer. Make it stop…make it stop!)

So, like I was saying, my radio went off this morning and the first thing I heard was “all schools have been closed today”. And even though I am no longer in school and have not been in school for a very long time, my heart leaped with joy at those six little words.

Snow days are heaven-sent (um…literally) and as a kid, snow days were better than weekends, better than Presidents Day or any other scheduled school reprieve. The ecstatic glee of hearing those words on the radio at 6 o’clock in the morning cannot be compared with anything else in life. It’s like winning the kid lottery!

On any other school day I would be dragging my feet, sleepy and grumpy, but the minute the radio gave me the day off, I would be WIDE awake, tugging on my snowpants and swish-swishing downstairs to collect my sled.

Last night on my way home from French class, it was snowing. Not too hard. Coming down but not sticking to anything for very long, so despite the sleepy grin that spread across my face as I heard the magical snow day announcement, I was also kinda surprised. I shouldn’t have been though. After two years here, I should know better than to expect a traditional looking snow day.

I guarantee the Nashville kids were not hurriedly gathering their snow pants and sleds this morning. Primarily because they most likely do not even own snow pants and sleds, but even if they did, there is not even remotely enough snow to have a snowball fight, much less enough to build a fort or to go sledding. So, I’m sort of wondering what Nashville kids do on snow days…??


Manifestations of Torn

...but not in a crappy-ass, overly dramatic, eye-rolling, Natalie Imbruglia kind of way.

So, Friday night after an evening spent learning about Hinduism and eating chocolate zucchini cake, Daniel and I caught the 10 o’clock showing of Persepolis, and it was everything I had imagined it would be. The highly stylized animation was both stark and expressive, and the story revolving around the torn loyalties and emotions of Marjane Satrapi, an Iranian girl coming of age during the Iran-Iraq War and Iran’s theocratic revolution, was both comical and heartbreaking. (Sadly, Ratatouille beat it out at the Oscars for Best Animated Feature Film)

After a Saturday brunch of the most excellent raspberry/chocolate chip pancakes garnished with homemade raspberry sauce and homemade whipped cream (oh. my. god.), I spent the rest of the day partially packing, partially moving, partially unpacking and partially agonizing over which books to part with in my ever-expanding and recently overwhelming collection. A word of advice: if you feel the need to collect something, let it be stamps or coins or postcards or anything else readily mobile. Do not collect heavy-ass books!

Saturday night Michelle and I hauled our butts out to the dark, scary countryside known as Nolensville to partake of Josh and Kim’s bonfire and the obligatory bonfire accoutrements (namely, s’mores). I love, love, LOVE bonfires/campfires (even without s’mores…but it’s always better with).

There was the perfect weather. There was the UT/Memphis basketball game being projected on the side of the house. There was plentiful food and alcohol. There were fun people and even funnier dogs. But the best part of the night was when UT won the basketball game and Josh brought out his carefully preserved, dry-as-a-bone Christmas tree and launched it onto the bonfire. Holy Shit! That sucker lit up the sky – I think the beacon of fire was probably visible from Nashville. I tried to take a picture of it but my phone camera and photography skills SUH-UCK and thus I was not able to accurately capture the pillar of flame! I swear, it was very nearly a religious experience. Heh.

Sunday was also spent partially packing, partially moving, and partially unpacking. Oh. Have I mentioned I’m moving in a week? I always sorta forget to impart important information like that. Fear not, I’ll be sure to send out my updated location information to y’all. So, as I’m packing and mentally preparing myself for suddenly living with a roommate after 10 years(and really how could anyone ever fill Sara’s shoes!?)…a male roommate…a male roommate who I am dating, my phone rings. And there on my screen is the familiar name of the boy who moved across the globe 5 months ago and took part of my heart with him.

He’s back for his citizenship interview and will be in Nashville for 5 days until he heads to Denver and then back across the globe. I knew he was coming back into town. He told me he was coming back into town. But when I saw his name on my screen and heard his voice, it felt like someone had knocked the wind outta me. And I felt torn. Feel torn.

...but not in an embarrassingly melodramatic, nauseatingly self-indulgent Natalie Imbruglia kind of way.


Pay No Attention to the Crazy Pre-menstrual Girl

In 48 days I’m going to turn 32 years old. When my mother was this age, she had been married for 11 years, was taking care of a 10 year old and a 6 year old, and working full time. (I know – it blows my mind too!) I, on the other hand, am freaked out about suddenly living with a roommate in 2 weeks, can barely take care of my two cats, and stay out late on weeknights. And here’s what I’m wondering…at what point does one feel like an adult? Because I gotta tell ya, in my almost-32 years I have never felt like a proper grown-up. I have a grown-up job (with a 401k and everything!), I pay my own bills, I’ve traveled all over the world, I’ve even had a couple of serious relationships, and still adulthood is elusive.

Is it some tangible thing that suddenly makes one feel grown-up? Marriage? Mortgage? Offspring? Divorce? Or is it something more nebulous like a sense of responsibility or an acknowledgement of one’s own mortality?

Popular culture characters like Bridget Jones and Carrie Bradshaw have elevated the status of the care-free, irresponsible single gal to that of art. And I am not above embracing that art. Spending freely on frivolity, enjoying a full and varied social calendar, demanding as much “me” time as I want, and shirking obligatory duties – yes, I am genuinely and unabashedly selfish. So maybe adulthood comes with selflessness. And in that case, I may NEVER grow up.

Despite this, I like my relatively un-adult-like existence. Of course, that could be only because I have no basis for comparison, but I don’t find myself yearning for any other kind of life (well, unless of course that life included me being independently filthy rich!). What if adulthood is a myth? Maybe we all just go through life as over-sized children, with no one ever feeling much like an adult, but some pretending to be grown-up. And further, pretending to actually like it.

Peter Pan Syndrome is not a behavioral disorder, it’s a lifestyle choice!



So, yesterday I spent a lot of time in high schools. Heeyyyy now, before you start making inappropriate speculations, let me explain. We had an ACE meeting at Independence High in Franklin yesterday afternoon and from there I drove north to Hunters Lane High for my first French class. Oui, Francais.

In an effort to combat my feelings of inadequacy at being unilingual, I’m taking Beginning French lessons through the Nashville Community Education program. Why French? Eh. French has always appealed to me on an aesthetic level and my only other options were Spanish, Chinese or American Sign Language. French it is!

Hunters Lane High School is in the far-away northeast corner of Nashville and I had never ventured to that distant region, like, ever. Getting there wasn’t too complicated except the traffic up that way at rush hour was a little more intense than I’m used to. Once I got there, the high school was all lit up, swarming with cars, and ominously stationed at all entrances of the parking lot were brightly flashing police cars. I pulled up to find out from one of the sentries that there was a basketball game and that they were searching vehicles for weapons.

Weapons!? Really? Clearly, I have been out of the high school basketball game loop for a looooong time.

When they found out I was there for French class and not the basketball game, they waved me through without a search. Apparently I did not look like a security threat – dammit.

At the front doors of the high school there were more security guards wanding everyone who entered. Fortunately, I didn’t have to go through the front doors but went instead to a small side door marked “Community Education” where I was greeted, checked in, and escorted to my French class.

Sitting in my classroom was one other person (Sara, as I later found out) and a few minutes later another student joined us (Stuart, as I was also later to find out). As we three engaged in polite chit chat while alternately staring uncomfortably around the room in silence, a very dark-skinned spry man in purple pants came bounding into the room showing us crooked but gleaming white teeth. Alf-Paul Aruna is his name and French is his game.

Alf-Paul explained to us that he is from Sierra Leone in West Africa, has been teaching French for 20 years, moved to the US 6 years ago and before that lived in England. You can imagine the mesmerizing accent that issued forth from behind those startling white teeth. For the next hour, Sara, Stuart and I were educated and encouraged by the enthusiastic Alf-Paul in the French language arts. I’m already looking forward to next week’s class. Au revoir!


Weekend In Retrospect

Friday 6:30 p.m. – 9:15 p.m.: Pizza and red velvet cupcakes eaten at Jon & Becky’s prior to our weekly world religion class. The class continues to be engaging (more on that later – hopefully) and they are such a funny bunch that I tend to linger after class. Which is why from 9:15 p.m. – 9:40 p.m. I was speeding (though not recklessly) like a bat out of hell from Franklin to Hillsboro Village where I was supposed to meet Daniel at 9:30 p.m. at the Belcourt where they were showing the 5 Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts.

Friday 9:40 p.m. – 11:10 p.m.: I love animated short films. Love them. Animated shorts are like little gems of film art – typically they are visually oriented and the stories they tell are simplistic by necessity, but often convey incredible depth. Last year, F and I went to one of the animated shorts programs during the Nashville Film Fest, so when I noticed the Belcourt schedule, excitement ensued. And I was not disappointed. I’ll admit though that I have a favorite amongst this year’s nominees. The Russian animated short by Alexander Petrov called My Love (Moya Lyubov) is spectacularly gorgeous.

Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.: I had a bevy of things To-Do before Dan and I left for Lousiville which included: clean kitchen; take out garbage; clean litter box; do a load of laundry; water plants; go to store to purchase cat food, cat litter, razors, and WD-40; take car to Rojo Red’s (yes, that is the actual name of the car washing place) to thoroughly clean interior of car, get adhesive residue off of car left over from window exploding incident, and wash exterior of car; pack an overnight bag appropriate for attending the theater and meeting Dan-family members; shower; and get gas.

Saturday 3:30 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.: Pleasant car ride from Nashville to Louisville including one stop to acquire necessary provisions (water and diet coke).

Saturday 7:45 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.: Met random Dan-family members for dinner, funny conversation, and lessons on shooting water through one’s teeth (I have yet to master this skill but am working on it) at Chili’s.

Sunday 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.: Showered and conducted various primping and prepping rituals which mostly involved cajoling my hair into some semblance of respectability.

Sunday 11:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.: Our theater companions, Millie and Mary - 80-something year old sisters with a penchant for pastels were so gosh-darn cute I just wanted to pick them up and put them in my pocket.

Sunday 11:30 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.: I am not a fan of the buffet (even salad bars kinda gross me out) except when that buffet is the gloriously indulgent and lavish brunch buffet served at Louisville’s historic Seelbach Hotel in the luxurious Oak Room where they artfully prepare and display their culinary offerings. Unfortunately, sweat pants are not included in the dress code, so I had to stop eating well before my eyes were ready to.

Sunday 12:45 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.: Mad-dash to the performing arts center on a very full stomach.

Sunday 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.: Okay, so have you seen the new Tim Burton film adaptation of Sweeny Todd? You haven’t!? Well jeezuz! Go! Go right now… I’ll wait …Alright, so now I’m sure you’ll agree that it is a production worthy of the genius Burton’s legacy of stunning and imaginative visual wizardry. Yes? Plus, it's a neat story – darkly and heartbreakingly comical with great performances by Johnny Depp, Alan Rickman, and Helena Bonham Carter. Even the unknowns (well unknown at least to me) gave skilled performances.

So, I was eager to compare Burton’s film version with the live musical and was able to do so from the 2nd row of the Grand Tier. However, there is no comparison. No, really, you can’t compare them. It’s oranges and apples. They are two totally different animals, each one fascinating and entertaining but in completely different ways. There was only one set for the stage musical and every performer also played an orchestra instrument. So, the entire cast (who was also the entire orchestra and entire stage crew) was onstage at all times either singing, acting, playing music, altering the set, or engaged in some simultaneous combination of those things. Besides it being abominably unfair that a person gets to be THAT talented, it was jaw-droppingly amazing. A very alternativey musical and I dug it. Yep.

Sunday 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.: (there’s a one hour time difference – yay) Seemingly endless drive from Louisville to Nashville on 2 lane highways with other drivers who were so annoying it made me wish I was driving a big black rubber vehicle so I could just ram into them. Hmm…road rage much?

Sunday 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.: Snuffling of the kitty cats. Oh, they love it!


A Response to Erie

My rigorous blogging schedule has slid into lackadaisical picture posting. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. No, in fact I’ve been writing a lot. I started a post about my religion class from a week ago but somehow haven’t found the time to finish it amongst the other writing I’ve been doing. I’ve been writing project profiles at work. I’ve been writing random short stories. And I’ve been writing responses to annoying newspaper editorials.

While I won’t bore you by posting my work-related writings and there’s no way in hell I’m posting my short stories, below you’ll find my editorial response to Pat Howard of the Erie Times. See, I get this weekly Erie Times newsletter called Inside Erie, which I guess is like a condensed version of the local newspaper. I think Jennifer made me sign up for it a long time ago to access a picture of Owen that was printed in the newspaper and ever since then I’ve been the recipient of these weekly Erie emails.

Most often I just delete them. Sometimes I’ll glance through it quickly, scanning for familiar names. And sometimes when something catches my eye, I’ll actually read the thing. Yesterday, when it popped up in my inbox, for some reason I actually read the thing. And here’s what I read:

Thursday, February 14, 2008
Let Erie be Erie by Pat Howard

At a reception long ago for a marriage that’s long gone, a few of the groom’s buddies wanted to make the point that they expected him to remember where he came from once he joined the upscale family he was marrying into.

The boys sent that message via a special delivery to the swanky party at the Erie Club — Greek dogs from Red Hot restaurant at East 12th and Parade. Point made.

That moment came back to me as people started talking about Erie making a good impression when some of the business world’s A-listers come to town in April for the annual General Electric Co. shareholders’ meeting at the Bayfront Convention Center.
Sure, the usual lessons your parents taught you about special occasions apply. Wear clean clothes, remember your manners and make a good first impression.
But mostly, be yourself.

GE Transportation has been generating some press for Erie recently in big-time media.
New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman — he of “The World Is Flat” fame — not long ago held up the Lawrence Park locomotive plant as one of the success stories of globalism. A reporter from the Financial Times noted that the factory has become a star performer in GE’s cutthroat corporate culture.

But the latter report poked at a sore spot. The Financial Times guy felt the need to set the factory in “the unfashionable town of Erie.”

You see that sort of thing every once in a while in the drive-by reporting of journalists rushing through on their way to someplace else. It’s what they do. They only get a few minutes and a few words to capture us.

The most common form has been the summing up of our community from the seat of a cab or rental car headed east from Erie International Airport along West 12th Street. Look at the empty factories. Cue the tired Rust Belt/seen better times/hardscrabble references.

But unfashionable? Well, the gentleman has a point as far as it goes.

Bright lights, big city we’re not. Trust me, the business glitterati and the press that follows them aren’t going to confuse our town with Wall Street or the Hamptons.
And that’s OK. Embrace it. Be proud of it. Strut it down the runway and work it.
We are who we are, and we come from where we come from. We live on a lake with all the water any industry could drink. We enjoy a quality of life that many entrants in the global rat race would envy.

We work hard. We play hard. We’re quirky. We’re fun. If our town were a character in a movie, it would be played with soul, depth and a touch of weirdness by Johnny Depp.
Think of the mail that comes to Inside Erie from natives now living in Atlanta or Orlando or Los Angeles. A good many point out that Erie doesn’t have a lot of what they have in their megalopolises. But that’s not what they miss.

By all means, each of us should put our best foot forward. Let’s hope our guests will understand if some of them are sporting Chuck Taylors.

Okay, for those of you who have never lived in Erie, or visited Erie, or know anything at all about Erie (which is the majority of you), this little newspaper column probably didn’t have the same effect on you as it did on me. It grated on my nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard. It seemed to represent everything that annoys me about my hometown, and before I could help myself I was furiously typing out a scathing response to Pat Howard’s smug and vaguely self-congratulatory editorial. Here’s what I sent him:

Erie is a frustrating place. Yes, it's unfashionable, but unfortunately not in a quirky way. Erie is unfashionable in a depressingly trite way. More of a Tom Arnold character than a Johnny Depp. But for some reason, the people of Erie seem grossly ignorant of their unfashionability, i.e. "strut it down the runway and work it". That would be sound advice if there was in fact something to strut. They speak highly of the fine dining and plentiful shopping and cultural opportunities, when in reality, Erie is largely full of mediocre chain restaurants, suburban stores found in every middle-class town in America, and cultural events that include fried cheese on a stick. There is nothing fashionable or quirky about Erie. It can't even call itself quaint.

Though born and raised in Erie, I moved away for college and grad school, and in a fit of misplaced nostalgia, I moved back only to move away again in defeat and disgust three years later.

The only thing I miss about Erie is the Lake. Erie does have some of the most stunning natural environments I've ever experienced. But man cannot live on nature alone. Career opportunities are nearly non-existent for those coming out of higher education programs with advanced degrees. Things like independent thought, global awareness, imaginative alternatives, progressive solutions, and diverse cultures are what help make small communities fashionable and quirky. Erie does not seem to value any of those things.

Perhaps at one time, Erie could have moved in the "quirky, unique, quaint" direction and maybe could have even flourished by embracing a Johnny Depp personality - becoming something uncommon, fascinating, and a little bit weird. Instead, Erie moved like a small-minded lemming and followed in the footsteps of so many other mundane, unimaginative communities with irrationally high opinions of themselves. I'm afraid Erie will continue to be a place of stunning natural beauty, but little else.

I'm not usually one to take the time or effort to make a fuss over something I can't change, but I felt compelled to voice my opinion on the perceived vs. real image of my depressed little hometown. We’ll see if my response is included in next week’s installment of Inside Erie.


Back From the Dead

So, remind me why I bothered getting a flu shot back in November…

I have been out sick for the past 2 days. And when I say out, I mean OUT. I’ve been essentially removed from life for 48 hours. My most pressing concerns have been trying to regulate my erratic body temperature and preventing my head from exploding.

Monday evening I constructed a cocoon on my couch and left only for the most basic necessities (like putting in the next Sex & the City DVD). Tuesday night Daniel breached my self-imposed quarantine to bring me chicken noodle soup and throat lozenges (bless his little heart), but other than that, I had no contact with the outside world. None. No television (except Sex & the City re-runs), no radio, no internet, and if I happened to hear my phone ring through my germ-encrusted fog, I let it ring. Fuck it, my throat hurts, my neck hurts, my head hurts, my hair hurts…

Tuesday night as I dragged myself to bed after Daniel left, I vaguely heard and registered the low rumblings of thunderstorms outside my window before slipping into unconsciousness.

Wednesday, as my illness dragged on, I noticed glumly through one squinty eye that it was bright and sunny outside. Dammit – there’s nothing worse than being sick when it’s gorgeous outside. Eventually I motivated myself to check my phone messages (c’mon you can do it…just a few more feet to grab your phone and then you can go back to your cocoon…promise). My phone’s mailbox was filled with a handful of panicked texts and voicemails from concerned friends and family members regarding the tornadoes. Tornadoes?! What tornadoes? Surely I was not so delirious in my fevered stupor that I missed freakin’ tornadoes!

Yup. I missed ‘em alright. Or rather, they missed me. Apparently the weather channels showed severe tornado activity in west Nashville that night (where I happen to live), but fortunately my cocoon (and all of Nashville) was spared from the destructive twisters as I snored my way through my drug-induced coma.

It’s Thursday now and this plague has swept through the ranks at my office, leaving the majority of us completely drained and only slightly productive. I suspect this is what comes from working late every night and weekends for weeks on end. Either that or the flu shots they gave us were nothing but sugar water!


Let's Be Reasonable

I demand an immediate and complete halt to the writers’ strike.

Who am I to demand such a thing? I’ll tell you who! I am a bug-crazy LOST addict who is already experiencing nervous twitches at the thought that ONLY 8 episodes have been written for Season 4, which means, after last night, the reserve is already down to seven. Seven!

Even the remote possibility that this fact is merely a malicious rumor, makes no difference to me – this is not something to fuck around with. Do not toy with me, people! Give the writers whatever they want! Just do it.

A million dollars? Done.
A two-headed turtle? You got it.
A lifetime supply of marshmallows? Coming right up.
My firstborn child? Just sign on the dotted line.

I don’t care what it takes to get these writers writing again. The future of my sanity – and tv watching enjoyment – depends upon it!

LOST shines with a frustrating, exciting, and confusing brilliance. It’s such an imaginative production. The interesting, multi-faceted characters, complex plot lines, blind turns and hair-raising twists make my spine and toes tingle with anticipation.

I’ll beg if I have to. Don’t test me – I’ll do it, and it won’t be pretty.