Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Same Old Sh...ugar

[Kids, a little language follows. If you're under 18, avert your eyes!]

O, Facebook. In one week, FB connected me with two people: One whom I was delighted to hear from again; one who made me cringe.

The cringeworthy person was known as Stalker Mike, half of the Evil Twins. (Hi, Ann! Haha, good times, right!)

Stalker Mike was, well, my stalker. We were assigned to work together on a history project. I sort of pitied him--he was weird and an outcast and perhaps a little interesting--and I thought it best just to be nice to him. I went to his house one day after school to work on the project. His mother was pretty crazy, maybe bipolar?, but she makes a mean marinara sauce.

O, nice. Do not be nice to a person with latent stalker tendencies. (Disclaimer: he didn't, like, murder my cat or kidnap me or anything serious. Don't get too worked up.)

Stalker Mike decided that he was in love with me, but it was a strange projection of me. He liked to claim that I was wearing a mask, that I wasn't letting out the real me.

Michael was just sort of creepy, and I was too nice. I was brought up on nice. I'm a freakin' pleaser, OK? Raised Catholic by teachers; you try not to be nice. Senior year, I found a month-old love letter from him in my backpack. I had an LL Bean backpack with a gazillion little compartments beneath a gazillion little zippers, and Stalker Mike had the misfortune to place it in a zipper I seldom open.

I flashed back to a month earlier, when the principal had asked me to step into his office. (Hey Ann, I don't think I ever told you this part, because it was too creepy and embarrassing!) The principal asked me if I had a boyfriend named Michael. I said no. I couldn't even think who he would be talking about. The principal told me that "Michael loves Karen" and "Michael + Karen" were spraypainted all over the boys' bathroom. I suggested that perhaps it was the students visiting for some kind of acadmic bowl earlier in the week. I was mystified.

Yet, I thought that Michael's letter deserved the dignity of a response, because, you know, too fucking nice. So I wrote a nice little missive about how, thank you for your interest but you are not a qualified candidate because I don't feel the same. I passed it to him in the cafeteria or study hall. I thought that would be enough.

He came up to me later and thanked me for the response, and then proceeded to argue against it. I can't rememeber what I did.

I went to college. Stalker Mike sent me bizarre letters on graph paper. He often placed the words on the page in a shape. I'm not sure how he got my address, come to think of it. He liked making poetic metaphors that made no sense. I don't recall writing back, but the letters kept coming for a time. At some point, I'm not sure if it was from the letters or what, I noticed that whatever I said or did seemed to be "wrong". I hadn't yet heard of borderline personality disorder.

Now here's where I get stupid. Because, after sophomore year of college, none of my friends were returning to our podunk town (annual event: cow chip festival!) for the summer. College students are endlessly social people and require almost infinite contact with peers. Who was in town? You got it! Stalker Mike and his Evil Twin, Angry James, who had grabbed a girl and shoved her against the lab bench in junior year honors physics.

Stalker Mike had a girlfriend, Heather Who Had Been in a Cult. But Heather, Heather seemed so nice and normal. And at first I didn't know that she had been a Satanist for a while. It was later that she told me of the vengeance ritual that made a beautiful but treacherous model's hair fall out, and by then she was ashamed of her prior self. Stalker Mike was stalking her now. It was all OK! They could be dysfunctional together! I could just enjoy hanging out on Thayer Street in Providence with them. They introduced me to Monty Python (like) and that tedious card game Magic (hated). I was safe because Michael had a lady.

At some point, Stalker Mike and Satanic Heather were living in their own apartment in Providence. At some point, they were kicked out and homeless, living out the car in Lincoln Woods. Then they lived with the kind and patient monks of the local Buddhist monastery for a time. Then they were ("unfairly," said Michael) kicked out of the monastery.

[Note: I cross my heart that I am not making up or even embellishing a word of this.]

At one point, Heather and I sat on the curb of Thayer Street eating our falaffel, and Heather said that she and Michael had talked about taking a "break" when I was home for the summer so that he could date me. I told Heather that I was just not interested in Michael romantically and he didn't seem able to accept it.

I officially told both Evil Twins to stop contacting me my senior year of college, when they were fighting over Heather's affections and asked me to referree by email. Then I jumped up and danced through our on-campus housing, freed at last. In my jumping and spinning I accidentally hit the thermostat with a stray hand and the cover came flying off. Thus I earned the nickname, The Goddess of Destruction.

College students. Everything was hilarious to our former selves. Why is that?

Recently, my family was reminiscing at one get-together or another, and my dad recalled how (unbeknownst to me until that moment) Stalker Mike would drive up and park in the road across from our house at 5:30 AM many days. My poor father would (he said with amusement!) go out to the car and say, "Go home, Michael."

All of which is to explain why I cringed when Stalker Mike found me on FaceBook. Yet, I couldn't quite remember everything I just told you. I had this vague sense of anxiety, distrust, and aversion, but I didn't remember quite why.

But some patterns take a while to change. I thought (of fucking course), People change! I wonder what Michael is up to! I wrote back.

What ensued was a strange correspondence. Michael said (I'm paraphrasing), "Let's play a game. You can ask me one question, I'll answer, and then I'll ask you one." I agreed. I made sure to mention that I was married at every opportunity; that would make me safe. He was living in China; that made me safe, too. This correspondence promised to be interesting. (See? It's my goddamn love of all things interesting that gets me into situations like this.)

My questions were pretty reasonable, I thought: How did you come to live in Asia?, but Stalker Mike wouldn't answer that, not directly. He asked me things like, "When's the last time you had a good cry?" and "What's the biggest mistake you made this week?" I answered them all truthfully, but within boundaries I felt appropriate. For example, when he asked me, "Where are you most ticklish?" which was truly inappropriate, I cleverly replied, "The back of my throat because of the ragweed." He was still not answering my questions. He suggested we talk by phone and
offered to mail me some of his writing. I tactfully ignored him.

Then Michael said "First, let me compliment you. You seem like a very confident and self-possessed person. But it just doesn't fit what I see of you. I know there's a whole galaxy inside there. Why don't you let it out? For example, when you told me about visiting the bees, you just reported it. But I sense that it moved you deeply. So tell me, K, how carefully constructed is your mask?"

I told him it was his own fault if he couldn't see the real me and then quoted the Heart Sutra. I told him to take some responsibility: If he wanted to hear more about the bees, then he should ask.

I asked him, AGAIN, how he wound up living in Asia. He again did not answer.

The next 2 times I logged onto FB, to correspond with that other friend I was happy to talk with, within seconds Stalker Mike was right there on the FB IM trying to reach me. The first time, creeped out, I shut the browser without finishing my message to A. When I logged on again hours later to finish the message, Stalker Mike's name popped up: "Are you there now, K?" I replied, "I don't IM. It's a time suck." He replied, "Well, excuse me, I'll leave you to your super-productive emailing :P". I replied (STILL TOO NICE!), "Going out to run errands. Have a good one."

I came back to find another email from him ("I should have asked more about the bees, you're right, but you can assume that I always want more. I'm a deep guy. You can participate as much or as little as you want."). I decided that enough was enough. Basta cosi!, as the Sicilians say. This morning, I wrote:

Hi Michael,

I'm feeling very angry with you.

I have honestly answered every question you have asked me, but you suggest that I'm hiding behind a mask. Yet, you have still not answered the very basic question I've asked you.

I don't do mindmelds and I don't play mind games. I think you are being very manipulative. I can't be friends. If you see it differently, then our perceptions are so different that we are incompatible as friends, anyway.

Good luck.

And then I removed him from my FB friends, the Ultimate Electronic Insult!

Then I remembered all the ways in which Stalker Mike had earned his nickname, all those elusive memories that were flying like bats hidden below the surface. And now you know, too.

Judge me not.

Update: Actually, I am feeling sort of proud that I had the guts to trust my instincts. I've laid it all out for you so that you can see the stalker thread clearly, but stalkers are crafty and often seem logical, reasonable. You can tell yourself, "He's just a nice guy with a crush on me. There's no need to be cruel. We can be friends." Stalkers, alas, are so delusional that subtlety does not work, although they can be subtle themselves. It's hard to understand, perhaps, unless you've had your own Stalker Mike.

I think having a preserved preserved correspondence helped me to spot the Creepiness.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Bring your favorite cheese,

said the hostess of tomorrow's party.

This is a logistical problem. Can you predict the logistical problem?

I thought the St. Andre two days ago.

I broke down and broke into it today.

There is a reason, my friends, that my favorite cheese is not allowed in the house.

Ragweed notwishstanding,

it's really a lovely day out there. The sun is warm on my skin, but the air is dry; the sky bright, clear blue. The grass is saturated green, odd for late August, because of the continuous line of storms that passed over our heads this summer. A few trees are hinting at orange, just at their fingertips. The first few acorns have fallen on the pavement, making for excellent cracking underfoot.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sorry, wrong specialty

If I were fluent in Spanish or eager to work with autistic kids, I would totally have an education job by now.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

In ____________ We Trust

On Friday I again had occasion to hear someone's offbeat spiritual views. This woman follows Sri Gary Olsen and believes that beings from outer space helped the Mayans create their calendar. I mentioned that I find such beings-from-space theories to be insulting to humankind, as nonjudgmentally as I could, and she replied that 1. humans don't have a monopoly on consciousness (OK, that's fair), and 2. humans could reincarnate on other planets and then travel to Earth to teach humans incarnated here (???). She's an absolutely delightful woman, but OMG.

However, she got me thinking about faith. I am agnostic about celestial beings, God, gods. Because I studied, you know, archaeology and ancient civ, I do not believe that the Mayan calendar does much beyond keeping time, which is a big enough feat in itself. I totally reject the notion that space aliens taught the ancients how to do anything.

A more interesting question might be, In what do I have faith? Dharma. Myself. My husband. My family and friends. I don't possess a religious faith, but rather a deep trust, which is far more real to me. I believe in power of music and dance. Beyond dance, I believe in movement--the power, satisfaction, health, and confidence that comes from using one's body as it was meant to be used, ie, not sitting at a desk all day. I have faith that time is both cyclical and linear.

How about you? In what do you have faith?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Visit with the Keeper of Bees

My brother-in-law is an apiarist. He lives in the Big Apple, not a great place for bees, and so the hive lives with my father-in-law.

I helped him check on the hive today. It was fun and sort of cosmic, standing in a cloud of bees without fear of being stung.

Of course, we smoked 'em good. (In the photo, the smoker is the aluminum contraption with the yellow bellows hanging off the left of the hive.) The smoke makes their little bee brains think that the hive is on fire, and their little bee bodies react by gorging on honey for the long flight ahead. Except that, oh wait, nrrrrgh, now we're too full to fly much, and kinda drowsy. It's sort of like Bee Thanksgiving.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Live Blogging the Olympics

Ack! Ack! I'm so afraid for Dalhausser and Rogers!

It's OK! It turned out OK!

Best of all, now I can finally go to bed.

Cultivating Patience

I was going to title this post "Frustration," but I decided to put a positive spin instead.

Work is nutso. The deadlines, the pressure...I am putting in ten days' work in one day. I mean, I'm working only about 45 minutes of overtime a day (not that I'm paid overtime), but I am working, near-frantically, every second I'm there. It's relentless, and it looks like this busy spell will be a long one. I don't know when the end will appear. It's difficult to explain how exhausting this is, and how it can cause bouts of what a colleague calls "publishing rage". The silver lining is that all my colleagues are in such dire straits, and hilarious bouts of punchy humor and fits of giggles seize us from time to time.

(Speaking of punchy humor.)

I want more than anything to be whisked away magically to a new job where at least all the aggravations will be new ones, but thus far, no bites on the 10 or so job applications I've sent to the various public school systems of Middlesex County. This causes a sort of relentless disappointment: At the end of each wearying day in the publishing battlegrounds, I hopefully check my cell massages and email, and...silence.

(My parents, lifelong educators, assure me this is pretty normal, that lots of positions are filled the day before school begins. Seems like madness to me.)

We also have a lovely fruitfly infestation in our kitchen. I've become a murderess, gleefully cackling over any little flies caught by their own greed in a poisonous bottle of sudsy water spiked with cider vinegar.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

This Weekend's Accomplishments

No, I didn't win my eighth gold or finish the women's marathon almost a minute ahead of everyone else (that Romanian can run!), but here's what I did accomplish:

  • co-taught a class on the spleen
  • led a guided meditation
  • took two Nia classes
  • saw two shiatsu clients
  • visited my parents
  • made tarte au sucre, pumpkin cream popsicles, and fixin's for fish tacos and BBQ chicken (the Husband usually handles the meat/fish prep)
  • grocery shopping
  • cleaned the toilet
  • five, or maybe six, job applications for teaching support positions
Wheee-hoo! Good thing I'm going back to work so I can relax. Hah. Except that I despise my job and have to work at a frantic pace there. I don't mind working hard; I do mind a frantic pace.

What were your personal gold medals this weekend?


Tonight, fish tacos! It will be a veritable fiesta. Excuse me, I must go shred some cabbage. Adios!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bon Jour!

I am delighted you could stop by my little kitchen this morning. Tarte au sucre (that is, sugar tart) is in the oven. In just about five minutes we shall enjoy it with strong brewed coffee or tea. This afternoon, if it is warm out, we shall try the pumpkin popsicles contentedly freezing away as I type. And perhaps for supper we will shred the beautiful cabbage grown by my friend and eat it up in fish tacos.

I hope you can stick around for the feast.

Sacre bleu! The timer! Au revoir!

UPDATE: OMG, tarte au sucre is good. It should probably be illegal. No wonder we distrust those decadent French.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Monday, August 11, 2008

It's gotta be a conspiracy...

Comedian Bernie Mac and songwriter Isaac Hayes both died (RIP, my iconic friends) the same week that Morgan Freeman got into a huge car accident.

Right? Conspiracy?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Only Good Upstairs Neighbor....

is no upstairs neighbor.

New upstairs neighbors moved in a few weeks ago. Although we would have preferred maintaining the status quo (ie, no upstairs neighbors) we were happy to see two young, American ladies. I believe in immigration and I love meeting people who have come here from other lands. Heck, I'm planning to become an ESL teacher. However, there are certain logistical problems with a band of immigrants living over your head: 1. Because of finances, too many people may be stuffed into the same tiny apartment; 2. No two people will have the exact same start-time of their night shift. The result is thousands of feet stomping over your head all night.

At least we never had to call 911 because of the Immigrants Upstairs.

We used to have annoying downstairs neighbors, too: The Dudes. The Dudes were likely potheads, and would crank uo the volume of their videogame and/or party at disconcerting times, like 2:30 AM. When I repeatedly explained that quiet time began at 10 PM, they would make it clear that they were usually too stoned to read a clock by asking me to call them if they were making noise at inappropriate, slumbering times of the night. To their credit, The Dudes were always profoundly apologetic and immediately quieted themselves once it was brought to their foggy attention that maybe they were being a smidgen loud at 2:30 AM.

But we never had to call 911 at 2:30 AM because of The Dudes.

Before the Immigrants Upstairs, there were Other Immigrants Upstairs who had stuffed so many people in their little apartment that they would climb the fire escape at all hours of light and darkness to access their domicile. You see, there are just not enough keys for 20-30 people in one apartment.

Come to think of it, we've never called 911 because of our neighbors before, no matter how obnoxious their behavior.

We had some warning signs from the new neighbors, cigarette butts tossed on the lawn next to fly-covered cans of Red Bull.

Still, we never thought it would come to this.

Their party was loud, but they confined it to the end of the apartment where we couldn't hear it from our bedroom.

Until 2:30 AM.

At which time, giant! crashes! Like never heard before! A woman's voice, yelling: Take it outside! A man's voice, roaring: I'm gonna kill these guys!


The dispatcher's voice, calmly: What is your emergency, ma'am? My voice, groggily: People are fighting in the apartment upstairs.

It seemed like an eternity of crashing and rolling and thudding and banging until quiet was restored. The cats were very alarmed, poor furry dears.

At least, in an odd way, we are lucky that their behavior was so violently inappropriate as to necessitate a 911 call. Nip it in the bud.

My voice, in slight wonderment: The dispatcher asked if I heard any weapons. I didn't. Did you? G's voice, groggily: I think their only weapon is alcohol.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

This One's for Ann.

I bought new shoes. I love them. They look just like ballet slippers, white and satiny, and they are incredibly comfortable. (Mine are the white/lilac combo.)

Oh and yes? Half off.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Who I Am

I had a secret goal this summer: I wanted to become an athlete. I wanted to become one of those toned ladies who says, "I'm so glad I was able to get into this weekend's 5K up in Salem. I mean, I registered really last minute, but coming down from the triathalon Saturday, I felt like I needed an easy race just to feel good."

I work with these people. Some of them run 5Ks with their families on holidays. On holidays! Holidays are for eating, talking, noshing, eating, and playing ladder horseshoes with a drink in one hand. On July 4 it is also acceptable to play volleyball with cousins, provided there are no volleys whatsoever. The game must be played in a strict serve-miss-serve format. Anything else is unAmerican. Winter and fall holidays may include spectator sports and/or marathon games of Scrabble.

Although tracking my food intake, amping up the exercise, and reading Healthy Magazines have been good and fun for me, and I will continue to do them, I fear I will never become the Supra Athlete Woman of my June-July imagination. Reality settles in during August, and that reality says, 'Style, you are not this person. If you're honest, you don't even want to be this person. You just want to be in good enough shape to canoe and stroll through apple orchards during fall foliage.

I'm not a marathoner. A friend of mine ran a marathon and--cross my heart and hope to die--all her toenails turned black and fell out the next day, but she proclaimed, "I can't wait to run my next marathon!" This gal would also work until 11 PM at her crappy editorial assistant job on a regular basis. Now, of course, she is in law school. I am not like this determined young woman. In a test that a life coach friend suggested I take, I learned that "Leisure" is one of my top-three goals in life. My ideal weekend may involve some good sweating from dance, yoga, hiking, and sex, but it never, ever involves any running.

Nor am I like those women who thrive on the challenge! of beating a competitor. I don't relish the notion of beating my own best performance, either--why make myself my own enemy? I prefer cooperation to competition (not that it's a competition). My goals in life revolve around making the house smell like cinnamon as often as possible, and having delectable cups of tea and magical racks of muffins ready for unexpected visitors (who never arrive, so we just eat 'em or fatten up coworkers on Monday). I like to sit and meditate. I like to socialize, especially at the Friday night Nia theme parties we have at the studio. (Later in August--a James Bond dance night!) On special occasions, we may even enjoy a potluck supper and break out the djembes after we finish dancing.

I am not the six-pack gal.

I much prefer a good, inexpensive vinho verde.

Mental Health Day

...started with a trip to the doctor's for a titer. I don't have a complete vaccination record, and State Laws want to know whether graduate students are immune to MMR and Hep B. Weird, right? I'm sure that some statistician in some public health office determined this was necessary.

Then to Trader Joe's for a grabbag of ingredients in order to make Big Breakfast! And Banana Bread for Tomorrow! I came home and began frying the Niman Ranch bacon, which wafted a sinfully delicious, smoky smell throughout our little condo. Then: too smoky! Turn on the fans!

Feeling quite devil-may-care today, I made our French toast using Texas-style bread, those soft, white, thick slices, and yes, I fried it in the bacon grease. To class it up, I added a touch of cinnamon and vanilla.

Then we ATE!

Then we sat on the couch. I looked at Architectural Digest and once again contemplated how much I would enjoy a living in a home with panoramic views of the Rockies.

Next up, shiatsu laundry and baking banana bread, with a side of meditation during baking time/dryer cycle. I also have some not-so-fun items on the list today: finishing my financial aid application and a trip to the bank.

I'm trying to convince G. to take at least half the day off with me. He is thus far noncompliant. He did not complain about breakfast, though.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


I applied for another job, an ESL posting that had perfect part-time hours to accompany grad school. The posting did not require certification! Heck, since I was on my way to certification in ESL, I felt like I had a foot in the door already.

At 5:05, the principal called me. Happy! We chatted. It turned out that she needs someone to manage the ESL legislation requirements more than to teach English language learners. I don't know the laws; I am therefore not right for the position. (And anyway, it's not what I really want to do.) Sad.

But, she is keeping me on the list in case they need subs or someone to give the ELLs vocabulary intervention for their academic courses. Happy. -Ish. I took the opportunity to mention that if a sheltered English social studies position opens up, that is my bag.

(I didn't say, "That's my bag". It would be an idiom, the opposite of sheltered language.)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Shrimp Tandoori and the Delusional Feline

Takeout shrimp tandoori creates hopefully delusional behavior in Luna Cat. As I sat at the table, carefully unwrapping tinfoil to reveal the plump red shrimp, Luna sat so prettily at my knee. The dear cat wore her best tuxedo, black fur extra-glossy and white fur snow-white, all dressed up for a fancy prawn dish she would never taste. She gazed at me adoringly, luminous green-and-pale-yellow eyes wide and innocent. She loved me so much that she couldn't help but place one gloved paw on my knee and lean in to say, "Oh, how lovely you are! And what is that wonderful smell coming from your plate? Let me just get a closer look."

Nice try, Luna. I invented that one. "Mommy, you're so pretty," I'd say to my unsuspecting mother, "Could I have a cookie?"

Eventually I took pity on her and let her lick the foil after I had eaten every. Last. Bit. Of shrimp.

At least we are delusional together. I won't eat all the garlic naan!, I had promised myself. Oh, but it was so hot, and garlicky, and buttered so nicely.

In which the afternoon becomes pretty damn fine.

G. is off at the party I am too tired to attend, and so I am left alone with two dozing cats and the marvelous lightning storms. Thunder cracks right in the yard, and sometimes sirens yell as rescue vehicles race through the intersection, but the sirens sound lazy to me. My Tibetan prayer flags on the balcony look beautifully vibrant soaked through. I have prepared Mexican chocolate pops, now nestled in the freezer, and the sweet aroma of milk simmering with loads of cinnamon is still wafting through the condo. I placed frozen butter on the edge of the hot stovetop to defrost, so that I can make my aunt's recipe in a few minutes. Lucky me, turns out I have all the ingredients in the cupboards. While the raisin buns bake, I plan to sit at the kitchen table, enjoying the good smells and listening to the rain pour, and pull out my Tarot cards for a shuffle.

PS. Here is my aunt's description of the Golden Raisin Buns, from a collection of family recipes she gave me for my wedding shower:

These soft, golden, eggy buns are almost like cream puffs. The outside raisins toast a little; the inside ones stay juicy. Lightly frost and serve while still fresh from baking.

Are you drooling? I am!

PPS The frosting is lemony. The buns themselves have very little sugar. This promises to be fantastic.

Tired kStyle Is Tired.

The last class went well today. I had fun "teaching" my classmates, and they had fun pretending to be 6th graders for me.

But now, I am supposed to be at a party, and this makes me sad, but I am too tired. The party is an hour's drive away, and we'll be seeing these people next weekend anyway, so...I'm just not up for it. And my throat is sore.

I'm going to put on a nice pot of China Rose tea and maybe, once the thunderstorm abates, get some eggs and confectioner's sugar in order to make my aunt's golden raisin buns recipe.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Almost. Done. For now.

Life gangs up on ya sometimes. Take, for instance, this week. It is the last week of my condensed summer term, and I had to prepare my portfolio and write lesson plans as well as do all the regular reading.

At day job, all my books reached crucial points in the publishing lifecycle at once. I needed to clone myself just to accomplish everything at work, never mind the classwork on top of it. And a certain vendor kept f-ing up a certain book's front matter, and nothing I could say seemed to make them do it right on the next try. Or the next. Or the next. I'm not supposed to work on Fridays, per my agreed-upon schedule, but here I sat today, checking work email to finalize this damn front matter.

But my portfolio for class, complete with sheltered English lesson plans, is now neatly tucked into my binder. The front matter is finalized. I still have to finish the readings, though, and attend a birthday party tonight. Class is tomorrow at 9 AM. Dear me.

A peaceful moment. After an evening storm yesterday, I went for a walk in the park. Over the pond to my right shimmered a huge rainbow, arcing across the clouds. Over the hill to my left, bright purple-orange clouds marked the end of the day. As I walked around the pond and over the hill, the colors faded from the sky, and a blue heron flew across the gray expanse. A jet appeared above and behind him, adding its vapor streak to the graying sky.