A walk in the woods (and other brilliant ideas)

'Untitled' On Black

My mom and I (and the dog) spent a few days in New Hampshire recently. We had a map of a woodsy area with hiking trails that we wanted to check out, so we headed off in the minivan to find it.

We were heading down a dirt road with a general awareness that we'd probably taken a wrong turn somewhere, though we hadn't gone far enough to give up on the hope that a gravel parking lot with a forest department sign marking the entrance to the trailhead would appear at any moment. We were looking at the sprawling patchwork houses, their so-called lawns dotted with pieces of farming equipment, rusted bikes, broken swing sets, and tree stumps, and wondering if the people who lived there had electricity or running water or had ever paid Federal taxes.

That's when we saw the pickup truck blocking the road.

We slowed. The truck didn't move. We stopped. The truck didn't move. We waited. The truck still didn't move. Finally, a woman came out from behind the truck and walked toward us. I rolled the driver's side window down. The dog started barking.

"Can I help you?" she asked, as if we had just arrived at the drive-up window of a fast food joint and were not, in fact, innocently traveling down what appeared to be a perfectly public (if very bumpy) dirt road.

"What?" I asked. "Is this a private road?" The dog continued to bark ferociously.

"Not exactly," she said.

I would have started an argument, but my mom leaned over and said the name of the road we were supposed to be on and the woman, softening a bit, told us that we had missed the turnoff -- it was about a mile down the road. Back the way we came. She stared pointedly. The dog barked some more.

Meanwhile, another truck arrived, coming from the other direction. The taillights on the truck that had been blocking the road flashed briefly, and the truck that had been forming a makeshift roadblock backed up, clearing the way. The second truck drove by with a wave to the driver of the first truck. The driver and the woman, who was still standing at the minivan window, waved back.

"I guess you know them, huh?" I said.

"Yeah," she said. "We pretty much know everyone around here. And then we saw you coming, with the Massachusetts plates."

"And you didn't know us."

"That's right."

"We're mostly harmless."

She looked at the dog. Who was still barking and was now also throwing herself at the window.


The road was a little too narrow and the ditches on either side a little too deep to turn the minivan around. We sat and contemplated this while the dog barked and leaped some more.

"Maybe we could turn around in the driveway there," I said nodding to a dirt driveway off the dirt road just beyond the pickup truck blocking the dirt road.

The woman looked over at the man in the pickup, who had since moved the truck back into its position across the road. He shrugged, and the taillights flashed again and he backed up to let us pass. They both watched us very carefully, keeping an eye out in case we tried to make a run for it.

Later that night, watching the local news, we found out that someone had called in a bomb threat to a nearby public school. It turns out the back-woods, off-the-grid, pickup-driving hippies had formed their own posse to protect a private school further down the public road from the likes of us and our barking dog and our Massachusetts license plate.

Meanwhile, we were still looking for the wooded area with the trails. We drove down a couple more dirt roads, relieved that neither was blocked by pickup trucks. Then the road we were on got a lot narrower. And a lot steeper. And the ditches on the side of the road got deeper. A couple of pickup trucks -- really old pickup trucks driven by grizzly-faced men wearing flannel jackets -- passed us. I squeezed the minivan as far over to the side of the road as I could without actually driving it into the ditch. They stared at us as we passed. We soldiered on.

The road started to climb, and the climb got steeper. Then it descended, and the hard-pan dirt of the road started to disintegrate into a looser, rockier approximation of a dirt road. We saw two women walking ahead of us. They seemed friendly enough, at least from behind. So we slowed as we approached them and rolled down the window. They jumped a bit as the dog started barking.

"Wow," the older woman said. "That car is very quiet."

The younger woman kind of smiled at us. The dog continued to bark.

We showed the women the map, and explained about the public land, and the supposed parking area, and the marked trails in the woods.

"I've lived here all my life and I've never heard of such a thing," she said. "And there's walking trails? You're going to go walking? In the woods?"

"Yes," we smiled. "That was our plan, anyway."

"Hmmm," she said, taking stock of our seasonally-appropriate green and brown scarves and hats and our wooly wintry coats and sweaters, also in autumnal earth tones, and our little brown barking dog. You know, the one that looks kind of like a fox or a very small deer.

"You know that it's hunting season, right?"

The nice older woman (who at this point must have thought us a couple of complete morons) told us of a nearby field, which was fairly open, where the dog could run around.

"Stick to the roads if you're going to walk," she told us. "They're not supposed to shoot you on the roads."

And we pulled over and let the dog out (who immediately found a big old Maine coon cat to chase) and we walked through the field, somewhat nervously at first, but then, when no one shot us, a little more confidently. And then we found this old graveyard. The light was terrible -- shining harshly directly overhead -- but we took some pictures anyway. And this one came out OK (there's another one here).

But, quite frankly, it kind of seems like a lot to go through for a couple of pictures and a short walk in a field.

Dear Diary: The Internet was so mean to me today!

Gienna Writes is now published with the new, post-Beta Blogger. Although so far, other than being able to quickly add labels to your posts, and the fact that I no longer have to decipher an inscrutable word puzzle to leave a comment on my own damn site, and a promise of quicker uploading of posts and, uh, more stability or something very technically important like that, the new Blogger doesn't seem all that different from the old Blogger.

I was hoping that there would be a feature allowing me to make some posts private (and, you know, I would TOTALLY start writing about work if that were the case) but it turns out you have to apply the new private setting to the whole kit and caboodle or to nothing at all.

So be nice to me people, and don't leave any mean comments, or I'm going to put a little lock on GW and keep the key on a piece of green yarn around my neck and write self-pitying secret diary entries about how nobody understands me. And how I love David Cassidy. And that guy who played the younger brother on The Hardy Boys. Wait. Were they the same dude? Damn, David Cassidy and Shaun Cassidy were half brothers? No way! And how I found a picture online of the biggest nerd in elementary school (yes, he was an even bigger nerd than me ... but he was the only one) who my mother thought was the cutest boy in school and how he looks EXACTLY the same now as he did in fourth grade when he followed me into the girl's bathroom and called me "Cole Shaw."

Which doesn't even make any sense.

Um, what was I talking about again? Oh yeah, labels.

I think the new labels are going to be fun.


What did I get for Christmas?

A cold.

I've been sick about a week and a half, so I'm not catchy ... but I was a little worried about getting a new cold on top of the old one, so I put a strict ban on Christmas hugs and kisses this year. That went right out the window when I saw my cousin's little boys, though. The baby is 5 months old and has the sweetest, fattest little cherub cheeks you've ever seen. There was no way NOT to snorgle them. And, you know, it just wouldn't be right to neglect the older brother, who absolutely LOVES getting hugs and kisses, especially when his face is covered with apple juice.

If I do get sick again, it was utterly, totally, completely, 100 percent worth it.

What am I doing for Christmas?


And maybe a little Scrabble. Here are two boards from Thanksgiving ... We played three games but, poor excuse for a nerd that I am, I forgot to get all the evidence. The big news: My mom beat me at one of our games that weekend. She hasn't been able to do that since I was about 12.

More Word Freaks

If I remember correctly (and I might not) I won this game. I put down wail (middle left) and then on my next turn I put down mauls (on a triple word score tile) to make swail -- that was a good one. I also did Quite (another triple word score), adding the t to bun to make bunt in the lower right-hand corner while I was at it.

My mom did the nonsense in the lower left corner, putting down top to turn be into bet and ad into ado. I think she did recoil, too.

Word Freaks

This is the board that my mom won -- she did Bailiff (I added the s when I put down misty) and proven and mink. But the best one was when she followed my looms (middle left) with heating. She got the triple word score tile and made glooms with her g. I had planned to do something similar, so she managed to block me to boot. I got kind of confused after that, and kept making mistakes. I would set up plays but forget what I planned to do ...

Our games have gotten a lot more cutthroat since we read Word Freak.

The Gienna Club is growing

One of my favorite old college professors has a blog ... She left a comment for me the other day, saying that I was the only Gienna she knew, so it must be me (and she was right--it is me).

But there are an increasing number of Giennas out there ... I could be the Gienna in this Thanksgiving story in the Healdsburg Tribune (third photo down, the girl on the far right). I could also be the surly Gienna in the back row center of this Midwestern Girl Scout troup group photo. I could also be the amateur model named Gienna who posed nude in a pool some years back (sorry, I couldn't find any photos of her). Or I could be the subject of the poem, "Gienna Waits," that was written by an English prof whose name I forget (also no longer online).

If all goes well (fingers crossed) we'll soon be welcoming the newest member of the Gienna Club. I recently got a nice e-mail from a couple who are planning to adopt a baby -- they were thinking of naming her Gienna and wanted to know how to pronounce it. (It's like Vienna, with a soft G.)

I didn't tell them about the nude pool Gienna.

Thanks to everyone who wished me happy birthday and left their funny and friendly comments ... Surprisingly few photos (just wasn't in the mood, I guess) to come sometime in the next day or so.

I'm not just the president, I'm also a member
A post from my old site, in which I talk in a very nerdy way about verbs and admit to Googling myself
And another in which I admit that I Technorati myself, too

A few notes before I'm gone fishin'

You know what freaks me out? People dressing up for Halloween in outfits that I actually wore in real life. That's my funny work-mate, Marta, on the left. She's single, too. Can you believe it?

Speaking of feeling old, today is my birthday. A. sent me a hilarious card--but it was unusual in that it was not a "sorry it's late" card.

I have updates on two continuing sagas ... The first is that the upstairs condo has been sold ... Apparently the bank had an auction but the auctioneer didn't advertise it, so no one showed up (I didn't even know about it until after the fact). So the bank bought it from themselves and now they're going to fix it up and try to sell it. At $213K I think they paid themselves more than they should have, so it'll be interesting to see how long it takes to sell and what it ends up going for.

The second update is that as of last week at Weight Watchers I have lost a total of 30 pounds. That seems like a lot, right? I'm fitting into clothes that last fit me in the 1990s, people. Pretty soon I'll be back in the ripped flashdance sweatshirt I wore in high school!

That's it for a while ... I am on vacation for the next week. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Related reading while I am gone:
80s clothes make their ugly comeback.
Shopping for a completely normal Thanksgiving turkey.
Why I didn't post any pictures after Thanksgiving last year.
And, just for fun, Robert DiNiro sells my mom a pumpkin.

Stand by your man ...

Which surprised you most--that Bush dumped Rumsfeld or that Britney Spears dumped Kevin Federline?

Just for the fun of it ...

Which surprised you most?
George Bush dumping Donald Rumsfeld
Britney Spears dumping Kevin Federline
Free polls from


Voting by process of elimination

I've read stories about undecideds making up their mind in the voting booth, but I never really believed them until last night. I honestly had no idea who I would vote for when I walked into the booth with my paper ballot. And it's not just because I was distracted by a shiny object.

In fact, I was so undecided that I voted for all of the other offices on the ballot--as well as the three ballot questions--before filling in the little arrow for the Massachusetts governor's race.

I'm registered "unenrolled" so that I can vote as a Republican or Democrat in the primary. Theoretically, anyway--the truth is I always vote Democrat. And if forced to choose, I guess I would have to say that I am, in fact, a Democrat. But when it comes to local politics, I'm what you'd call a Weld Democrat--socially liberal but fiscally conservative. I have voted for Republican governors in the past because I think they do a better job of keeping the books balanced and because I like the balance of power that comes with a Democratic legislature and a Republican in the corner office.

As I worked my way through the ballot, I realized I was voting Democrat in every single race.

Martha Coakley? Love her. Dem.
Ted Kennedy? I votTED Dem.
Fence viewer, dog catcher, clerk of the courts? Dem, Dem, Dem.

After voting for all those Dems, my pen did in fact hover momentarily over Republican Kerry Healey's broken arrow last night. But I just couldn't bring myself to fill it in. And despite the fact that negative campaigns are often effective (see the results of Question 1 for proof), hers was so disgusting that even if I agreed with her politics 100%, I would have had a hard time voting for her.

She ran ads that basically said if you vote for the black guy, white women are going to get raped.

It sounds crazy, but it's true. The worst of them was the so-called parking garage ad. The Washington Post called it vicious (scroll down to item 4), and the Christian Science Monitor mentions it in an Oct. 31 story, "Attack ads sometimes backfire."

Anyway, of course it's more complicated than that, but in the end, that's what pushed my last-minute decision not to vote for Healey. I only hope that since I'm not the only one, politicians will learn a lesson from it. But I'm guessing they probably won't.

Anyway, I flirted with voting for the fat lesbian, who impressed me with her passion and her grasp of the issues, but she and I don't see eye to eye on the First Amendment. And plus, you know, she's basically a communist. I almost voted for the guy that Berto calls "everybody's favorite crazy uncle," just for the fun of seeing what he might say or do next, but I have a strange aversion to wasting my vote on candidates who don't have a snowball's chance in hell of winning.

So that left Democrat Deval Patrick. I'm not with him 100% on the issues. I feel like he talks real pretty but doesn't say much. But I also figure he's got to do a good job here if he wants to run for President. And he isn't, you know, crazy. Or a communist. Or an asshole.

That seems like a good enough reason to vote for someone, right?

Elections and things and stuff

Tidal Marsh 2  10X20I've added some updates to my mom's blog, including upcoming art shows and sales in Lynn and in Concord and images of four new paintings.

OK, who is hogging the Internets and making them go so slowly today? Sometimes when you're typing a post in Blogger what you are writing doesn't show up on the screen for several seconds ... The first sentence shows up while you are typing the second sentence, etc. It's kind of fun, like a cross between taking a typing test while blindfolded and writing in invisible ink.

It's early evening on election day in Massachusetts, and I still have no idea who I am going to vote for in the Governor's race. I do know for sure and for certain that I am voting yes on question one, because if there is one thing I can get behind, it's "more wine!"

I have a little red, white, and blue pin somewhere that says I voTED. Get it? voTED? I love the lead from this story in today's Globe by Michael Levenson, by the way. Actually, the whole story is great. The picture sucks, though.

I forgot to mark the two year anniversary of this blog, which would have been in August. And I didn't notice when I wrote my 100th post. Or my 300th post, for that matter. But I did notice that, if you count the posts at my old blog, I have almost reached the 500 post milestone. (Edit: Actually, I just looked again, and if you count the other blog's posts, this is my 501st post.) Sometimes I look back through my archives. I have posted some pretty stupid stuff. And quite a lot of it about the dog.

I noticed that word verification on comments is acting screwy. If you want to leave a comment but you can't see the little letters you type in to prove you are not a robot, try hitting publish without entering anything ... sometimes it comes up after that. I know that makes very little sense to the handful of people who read my blog (hi, mom!) .... But I really like getting comments.

Arizona sunrise



Took these on the trip to Arizona that I mentioned yesterday.

And one more here.

Way too much writing ...

... And not enough bunnies!

Shhhhhh. Mmmmm, rabbit stew for dinner!

Took these on a recent trip to Arizona (I was there on business). Sorry for the poor quality -- but it was very early and there wasn't a lot of light and I had to shoot quickly before the bunnies got away. I didn't bother to edit them, but after looking at what oldsads did with them (here and here) maybe I should have. Anyway, edited or unedited, you know what I always say: Any day you see a bunny is a good day.

May I help you?

Ducks aren't bad, either. On the last day of the trip we met this one at the Vista Lounge ... We invited him over to our table, but we made him leave because he was hogging all the snacks. I have some better pictures of the scenery and etc. but I'm still editing and they haven't been uploaded yet. Maybe tomorrow.

In the meantime, enjoy the cuteness.

Isn't it ironic?

Irony. It's a complicated concept that is often misunderstood. Want to prove how smart you are? Count how many times I use it wrong in this post.

Yesterday was the annual Halloween party at work. Each department picks a theme and decorates their work area and then all the parents bring in their adorably-costumed kids and they have a parade and the employees give them candy. People really go all out--and this year there were some impressive costumes, including 50s housewives (wearing some really scary-looking wigs), the entire cast of Shrek (complete with swamp) and this one dude who was wearing an old-man hat, black glasses held together with a piece of tape, shorts with knee-high athletic socks, and suspenders. Ironically, he wasn't even wearing a costume.

The groups also decorate their areas -- one department was made up like a barn, with apple-bobbing and bales of hay all over the place and, based on the smell, some live animals in there somewhere. I had a meeting in the morning, and I had to move an inflatable skeleton out of the way in order to sit down. Ironically, there were more plastic inflatable skeletons at the meeting than there were people.

Our group started brainstorming our theme a few weeks ago, but we were having a hard time agreeing on anything. I wasn't being any help. I like Halloween, it's just that I have a hard time coming up with great ideas and even when I do have a half-decent idea, I have a hard time with the execution. Plus there was that one Halloween when I got invited to this party and dressed up like a playboy bunny but ended up sitting around my apartment all night after my date stood me up. That kind of soured me on Halloween, to tell you the truth.

Anyway, everyone in the group vetoed my idea, which was things that you think would be good for you but can actually kill you. "Someone could go as spinich," I said, "And someone could go a bottle of Tylenol." I had everyone on board up until the point that I started talking about going as an apple with a giant razor blade sticking out of my head. (It's an urban myth, people. It never actually happened.) Anyway, we spent an entire hour at a restaurant trying to come up with a great idea, and by the end of the meal the only theme we had come up with was condiments. Which, ironically enough, isn't really a theme at all.

A week or so later we had finally narrowed the choices down to either 80s rockers or things that are ironic. I was feeling ambivalent, but ended up being the tiebreaker.

I chose things that are ironic.

Why? Because I knew it was going to be really difficult to pull off, I knew that most of them don't even know what ironic means, and I kind of wanted to see what kind of a train wreck the end result would be. Seriously, I never once thought in my life I would have the opportunity to use the word schadenfreude, but, ironically, there it is.

Ironically, I thought of the perfect ironic idea right away. I went to CafePress and did a search for "irony." I decided against this tee-shirt and instead chose one that says "i'm really excited to be here." With a lower-case i. Now that's ironic.

I ordered my tee-shirt and sat back to watch the fun as the rest of the group figured out what they were going to wear. If you were a fly on the wall, you would have heard some great lines. Like, "I could go dressed up as a glass of chardonnay, and wear a bug on my head!" Or, "Do you have anything at home that I could borrow for my Oedipus costume?" And, "I'm pretty sure 'I'm really excited to be here' is an example of sarcasm, not irony, you b----."

By Wednesday, ironically, I was actually looking forward to the Halloween party. But when I got home that night I realized that, even though I had paid extra for expedited shipping, my sarcastic/ironic tee-shirt wasn't going to be delivered until Thursday, the day of the event. Which meant I was going to have to run home at lunch, change into the shirt, and come back to work. On Thursday I left for work early, so I'd be able to get everything done. I also left my candy at home, figuring I'd pick it up later. You see where this is going, right? Ironically, as soon as I had gotten kind of excited about the damn work Halloween party, eight billion things dropped on my desk that were due immediately. I never had time to go home and get my costume or the candy. I spent most of the Halloween parade hiding in my office like a big loser.

Ironically, it turned out that only three people from our group got dressed up. One was a blind referee. One was a goth nun. And the other was, ironically, a skateboarder.

When I got home, the tee-shirt was waiting for me. I thought it might be funny to wear it into work the next day, at least get my $30 out of it, but it didn't even fit me. So to cheer myself up, I made myself some fat free popcorn and accidentally sprayed the I Can't Believe It's Not Butter directly into my eye. Like my grandmother always said, "Here's I Can't Believe It's Not Butter in your eye!*"

Now that's ironic.

Should reporters' poetic licenses be revoked?

Universal Hub has a poll up asking if disgraced Globe columnist Mike Barnacle should return to the paper should it be sold. The first two answer choices are "Yes" and "For the love of all that's holy, no."

I probably shouldn't admit this, but I voted yes.

Don't get me wrong, I don't approve of what Barnacle did. And I haven't read or watched much of what he's done since he left the Globe. But I kind of miss him anyway. Why? Because his columns were entertaining and interesting. Because it felt like he understood Boston, its neighborhoods, and its people. Because I used to look forward to reading his columns. Used to talk about them with people. I sometimes cut them out of the paper and saved them. Granted, I was a young wannabe at the time. (I even wrote some really awful columns for my college newspaper that copied his "I was just wondering" style.) But seriously, when was the last time you read a Globe column that was so good you cut it out of the paper and posted it on the fridge?

It's the same with disgraced Globe columnist Patricia Smith. I hate what she did, but I love the way she did it. I distinctly remember reading one of her columns about a cancer patient named Claire. In the column, Smith was writing about cancer drugs that had been tested on mice with positive results. Smith quoted Claire as saying: "I'm not proud. Right away, I said, 'Rub it on my skin, pop it to me in a pill, shoot me up with it.' If I could find a way to steal it I would. Hell, if I could get my hands on it, I'd swallow the whole ... mouse." Even as I was reading it, I knew it was total bullshit. Particularly the line about swallowing the whole damn mouse. It was so obviously written in Smith's distinctive voice that it simply had to be a lie. That was, by the way, one of the columns that ultimately proved to be a work of fiction, one of the columns that led to her being forced to resign from the paper.

It was a lie. But it was a damn pretty lie.

I guess when it really comes down to it, despite how I voted in Universal Hub's poll, I have to admit that Barnacle and Smith should never be allowed to work at the Globe again. When you look at all of the things that they did, it becomes pretty clear they shouldn't write for any newspaper ever again. The truth is that the only place their names should be published is in J-school curriculums alongside a biography of Janet Cook and the only place they should be featured is in ethics classes along with other cautionary tales. The truth is that Barnacle and Smith have completely lost all credibility, and they could never be as good as they were when you believed what they were writing.

So it's not so much that I want them back ... It's that I want the idea of them back. I want to feel engaged with the Globe again, feel like I'm having a dialogue with their columnists. Of all of the paper's op-ed writers, the only one whose writing I really admire is Donald Murray. OK, maybe Ellen Goodman, too.

It's no coincidence that Murray, like Smith, is a poet in addition to being a journalist. And it's no coincidence that both Murray and Goodman are seasoned writers. Sometimes I think younger op-ed writers are afraid to take risks with their writing, afraid to add a little poetry to their prose, afraid to take any poetic license whatsoever, in fact, lest they be looked upon with suspicion, lest their licenses be revoked. Older writers like Goodman and Murray have earned our trust and the right to write however the hell they like.

I guess I just wish there were more of them.

[More information and link-y goodness here.]

When did I turn old?

You know what really snuck up on me? Young people laughing at me because I am old.

The first time I noticed it was a few weeks ago, while I was getting my hair cut. The Gap Band's "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" came on the radio. The girl cutting my hair said "I love this song!" and I said "I haven't heard it in so long. What station is this, KISS 108?"

She actually shrieked with laughter.

"What did you say? KISS 108?"

"What? Don't they play this kind of music anymore?"

"No," she said, still laughing and shaking her head. "Kiss 108 doesn't play oldies."

Oldies. Did she say oldies? That song came out, I think, in 1982. That wasn't so long ago, was it?

Next thing you know I'll be starting all my stories with "Why, when I was your age ..." and shaking my fist and calling people "missy" and talking about "kids these days."

It happened again just yesterday. This past weekend I was at Target and a display in the women's department stopped me dead in my tracks. Are those ... wait, are those legwarmers?

Legwarmers! Good God, people, those things didn't look good the first time they were in style. How on earth can they be back? Then, around the corner, I saw something even more upsetting. Footless tights.

What's next, Leggings? Skinny jeans? Gauchos? Slouch boots? Big hair?

So yesterday I was telling this story to someone at work--someone who is, in fact, younger than me--and trying to describe the horror that was long shirts, belted at the waist, worn over leggings. And guess what? She burst out laughing. "Do you have any clue what people are wearing right now? The eighties are totally in again." Later she sent me the picture on the right via email.

Smart ass.

Of all the decades, the 80s are the one I thought for sure would never come back in style. The clothes were hideous then, and they're hideous now.

And I'm not just saying that because I'm old.

Hey, I'm being serious here, missy.

Stop laughing at me!

Breaking news: The RMV still sucks

Do you remember how the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles used to be?

There were these long lines snaking endlessly through dark, cheerless rooms, hours spent staring at the flakes of dandruff on the back of the person standing in line in front of you, your face a pale green reflection of the grimy, institutional paint on the walls and the fluorescent bulbs above. And when you finally got to the front of the line, the cranky clerk, with her torpedo-shaped boobs, cat's-eye glasses hanging from a gaudy chain around her waddled neck and towering beehive hairdo would look imperiously down at you, announce that you were standing in the wrong line, slam her window shut and go off to the back room to smoke cigarettes with all the other psychopaths who worked there.

Well, that's all changed. Nowadays, the RMV is modern and well-lit and automated and efficient. And it is staffed by friendly, well-coiffed people who love their jobs.

Yeah, not so much.

I spent a couple of hours at the Beverly RMV recently. You no longer have to stand in line -- instead you get a little paper ticket, with a number and an estimate of how long it will be before your number is called, and you sit on benches and wait for your turn. The estimate is, of course, a lie. And there is still mass confusion. And the people who work there are still cranky old broads who seem to loathe their jobs. There was one who called everyone under 40 "missy." As in "stand over there in front of the screen, Missy, I haven't got all day."

Seriously, who says missy anymore?

But most of all, a sense of injustice still permeates the atmosphere of the RMV. Maybe the employees can no longer get away with slamming the window shut in your face (in part because they don't actually have windows anymore), but they have other ways of making you feel abused.

When I was there, two windows were open in the licensing area. It was the one night of the week when the branch is open late, so it was crowded with people who were bleary-eyed from work. Some of us had started to chat a little bit -- bonding in a superficial way, like people do at a Red Sox game or when taking public transportation or at some other natural disaster.

Out of the blue the woman who kept calling everyone missy announced she was forming a special line for all the people who'd just passed their driver's test, abandoning the system of paper tickets, numbers, and mis-estimates. It was every newly-permitted pimply-faced teen for him- or herself.

So now there is one window open. Window 2.

"B192 at window 2," the automated voice purrs over the loudspeaker. For a moment, it seems almost utopian. Everybody looks at their ticket and sighs.

"B-192!" the registry lady screams from behind her windowless counter. "B-192!" And a young woman re-checks her ticket, realizes that is her number, leaps from her seat and hustles over to window 2.

"Jesus Christ," the registry lady says. "What are you, deaf?"

Those of us left on the benches look at each other and laugh nervously and roll our eyes, whistling past the graveyard. We look at our tickets one more time, as if the answers are printed there beneath the numbers and the lies, as if the tickets will make things go any faster or more pleasantly, as if the tickets have the answer to the questions that everyone is asking themselves: What the hell am I doing here? Would it have been worth it to drive to Reading or Melrose after all? Why the hell didn't I just keep my maiden name in the first place?

And why didn't I just renew my license online?

Wedding pictures

I've posted some photos from Kelley and Charlie's gala wedding on Flickr, including a picture of the wedding party that is nicer than the one I posted yesterday. Still has a big stupid videocamera in it, though.

That's my mom and dad on the right -- my dad walked Kelley down the aisle.

It was a lovely wedding and I had a wonderful time. I cried during the ceremony, the food at the reception was delicious, everyone at my table let me drink their champaign, and I danced like an idiot and laughed like a maniac all night long. I did not, by the way, learn my lesson from J9 -- not only did I dance to "YMCA," but I wore one of the funny hats, too. A little white sailor hat. At the time I thought it looked cute but I've seen the pictures and in fact it did not.

My favorite part of the whole thing was at the very end of the reception, when everyone joined hands in a circle around the dance floor, surrounding the newlyweds. It was a very tender and beautiful moment when everybody started singing along with the music ...

"I'm PROUD to be an AMERICAN! Where at least I know I'm FREE! And I won't forget the men who DIED and GAVE THAT RIGHT TO ME! And I'll gladly STAND UP! NEXT TO YOU! And mumble, mumble, mumble. Cause there ain't no DOUBT I LOVE this LAND ... GOD BLESS THE USA!"

It was very romantic. And patriotic.

It was patriantic.

BTW most of the photos are for family only. So far, at least, that means that a whopping two cousins and one auntie can see them. And my mom, who uses my Flickr ID because she can't figure out how to convince the cookies in her computer that she is not me.


What they were really thinking

Here is the second photo in my critically-acclaimed series: Wedding parties making funny faces (or) Why I will never make a living as a wedding photographer.


(Here is the first one.)

This is art, people. Art.

Silly story of the day

The Alerca cat is not just a cute and cuddly lifestyle pet. It's a $4,000 medical device with a vigorous pre-screening process and a two-year waiting list.

If I spent $4,000 on a cat I would expect it to clean its own damn litter box.

Non-sequit ...Hey, did you see Lost last night?

Yesterday I called the gas company because I know that my upstairs neighbor, who was murdered earlier this week, owes them about $4,000 and that they recently sent her a shutoff notice. And, despite the fact that it was about 80 degrees out yesterday, I was worried that her heat would get shut off and that her pipes would freeze and burst and flood my unit. I thought maybe if they knew that she had died suddenly they would put a note on her account not to shut off the heat right away, until it could be determined who owns the property and who is responsible for the bill.

Yeah, in retrospect, it sounds pretty stupid to me, too.

So I called the gas company and explained to a woman in customer service about how I own the downstairs unit and someone else owns the upstairs unit and how I know the woman who owns (owned) the upstairs unit owes them a lot of money because I saw the bill and the shutoff notice and how I was worried that, with winter coming, the pipes might freeze and burst if the heat got shut off and how the truth was they probably weren't going to get paid in the short term because the woman who owed them the money had died and that, in fact, she was murdered. And the more I talked the more I realized how crazy I sounded and so finally I just said, "Listen, I know this all sounds really crazy but is there any way you could just put a note on her account saying that there's, you know, extenuating circumstances?"

"Ma'am," the Keyspan woman says to me, "You really shouldn't be reading other people's mail."

And by the way can someone PLEASE explain to me what the hell that opening scene on Lost was all about last night? Like, where do they get a dozen copies of a Stephen King book on a desert island? Or a stove to bake muffins in? Seriously, WTF?

Well, at least now we know the story behind the polar bears and the shark with the Dharma Initiative logo on it. Thank God they cleared all that up.

Suddenly, the stories about the crazy upstairs neighbor aren't so funny anymore

The woman who owns the unit upstairs from me is dead.

You remember her, right? The one who started her renovations last February, in the dark, using electricity from an extension cord plugged into the outlet in my kitchen? The one who, during a particularly rainy spring, unplugged the sump pump in the cellar to plug in a microwave oven?

In May, she told me she was renovating a house in Medford and that she'd been sleeping there. At the end of that visit, I had a definite sense of foreboding -- When you read that post you have to think that nothing good can come of this.

So yesterday, when I heard a woman in her 40s was found murdered in the Medford house she was renovating, heard the neighbors talking about the noise and the drunkeness, the hammers flying through windows, the people banging on doors at all hours of the night ... I knew it was her. And, sure enough, this morning they released her name showed a picture of her on the news.

It was shocking.

But then again not really.

So apparently the bank foreclosed on the Medford house, but she was still living there. And yesterday they found her body inside the house, on a mattress on the floor of a makeshift bedroom, beaten to death. They haven't caught the person who did it, though they supect it was someone she knew.

This morning, telling the story at work, I probably sounded a little cavalier. I was laughing, although it was nervous, freaked-out laughter. But as crazy and dysfunctional as she was, and as strange and sometimes scary as the experience of knowing her has been, and even though, now that it's played out, the ending seems all but inevitable ... I really do feel bad for her. It was a horrible end to a difficult life -- nothing you would ever wish on anyone.

I think it'll be interesting to see what the news does with this, if the police ever catch the person who did it. If she was a soccer mom it would be the top story on every network and the front page of every newspaper. But she's not, and I'm guessing there won't be another update unless they do catch whoever killed her. And I think the chances of that happening are slim.

Fall colors

I've updated my mom's blog for the fall with some yummy new paintings and a new artist portrait, which I took at the MFA. Stop by because she likes getting visits and monitors her site meter semi-obsessively.


See, I'm not the only one who thinks my Beltie is cute. My favorite post on the dog blog Dognabbit, besides, you know, the pictures of my dog, is the doggy comb-over. That's just not right.

Poor neglected blog. Some day I will have time to update you with stories and pictures of weddings and bunnies and people who shush me on planes.

And life goes on

Simon looks the other way ...

Dog sitting this past week ... it was very, ah, eventful to say the least. But despite a few bumps in the road (including a trip to the vet for Simon) the doggies had a lovely time together.

Sit/stay The problem with models

Beagle at rest Simon waits

Simon goes home today ... And though I know he'll be happy to see his family, we are going to miss having him as a member of our little pack.

April Daisy May

Fire Cat

My little girl, who has been pretty sick for a couple of months now, died in her sleep sometime during the night on Saturday. She'd mostly stopped eating and by Friday she had pretty much stopped walking, too. She was all skin and bones and didn't even really look like the same fiesty fat cat I'd had for 16 years. She didn't seem to be in any pain, but it was clear the end was coming. She even let me hold her in my lap and pet her--something she never put up with when she was well. I made an appointment with the vet to put her to sleep on Saturday. Stubborn to the end (she hated the car and she really hated going to the vet) she decided not to wait.

Pets are just a heartbreak waiting to happen, aren't they?



A couple more snaps from my vacation. Did I mention I took a lot of pics?

'Float' On Black



'Point' On Black

What I did on my summer vacation

Back from vacation, though still in vacation mode. Yesterday around 3 o'clock I had the feeling I was forgetting something ... and realized what was missing was a big glass of wine in a red plastic cup.

The big news from lake Winnisquam is that the dog finally learned to swim. She's always been timid around water and, like a little old lady who doesn't want to get her hair wet, never went in past her ankles. But after I threw her off the dock a couple of times, she got over it.

Fetch H20

She spent the whole week swimming, thinking about swimming, soaking wet because she'd just been swimming, or passed out exhausted from all the swimming. Mostly she would only go in to fetch a stick or her floating squirrel or kong. But on the last morning she went in on her own and swam around a little bit just for the fun of it. She never did get up the courage to jump off the dock and into the water, but she spent some time thinking about it.

Thinking about it Post swim lessons

I did some antiquing, went to the outlet mall and bought some clothes in my current (smaller) size, became addicted to sudoku puzzles, took a bunch of photos, drank a lot of wine, ate lobster and other yummy things, laid on the beach, read, went for walks, took naps, got a pedicure (you only get to see that picture small), and the Friday before vacation went out for a lunchtime sail with some of my co-workers ... in short, it was a damn near-perfect vacation.

Enjoy the


july06031 july06028

Perks july06101 july06024_edited july06080 july06018 Campy kitsch july06072 Exhausted

Day 41

Day 41

It's been raining, I swear to God, for three months.

Little runaway

Little runaway

That’s it – I’m running away. No, don’t try to stop me because I’ve made up my mind. And I’m not coming back! You’ll be sorry when I’m gone! I’m leaving now. That’s right, I’m leaving right now. This very minute. Look, I took ten steps! There’s no stopping me now. And I’m never coming back, either. I don’t care what you say. You can beg and plead all you want but I’m running away and I’m never coming back.

15 steps! I’ve taken 15 steps! Pretty soon I’ll be gone and then it will be too late! 20 steps! You should think about coming after me pretty soon. Otherwise it will be too late. I’ll be gone forever. 22 steps! This is your last chance to come and get me.

Before I run away.



Are you going to come and get me soon?

The Giver

I finally read Lois Lowry's The Giver last weekend. The book was recommended to me by one of my 8th grade students, back when I was teaching. He was a good kid, kind of big and goofy and immature for his age, but earnest and happy most of the time. He'd just moved to the community and didn't fit in yet. And he was way behind the other kids academically. Didn't like to read much. Probably had ADD. None of that seemed to bother him much.

He was totally obsessed with this book. He must have described the plot to me 100 times. He must have told me a million times how much he loved reading it. He asked me almost daily if I'd read it yet, if I was going to read it. I don't know why I never did. So when I saw a copy for a dollar at a library book sale, I bought it, took it home, and read it in a single day.

I enjoyed it a lot even though I'm not completely certain I understood it all.

The book--the 1994 Newbery Medal winner--raises more questions than it answers. It's written in a deceptively simple style and I'm sure it is full of symbolism and deeper meaning. Lofty messages about society and the danger of group think and conformity. The value of free will. And holy crap does it have an ambiguous ending. A week later, and I'm still thinking about what what it all meant.

Interesting, that this book had such a champion in that 8th grade goofball. I wish I had read it when he first recommended it to me. I would have liked to have talked to him about it.

Mostly it was a rhetorical question

I started wearing my seat belt all the time a couple of years ago, after my friend A. got out of a speeding ticket because she was wearing hers. But on Monday I was on my way to work (and what a stupid day to go to have to go to work anyway) and I got pulled over for not stopping at a stop sign.

Truth be told, I was kind of on autopilot and I'm not really sure whether or not I stopped at the stop sign. I think I mostly stopped. Stopped long enough to see there were no other cars in the intersection, anyway. I know for sure that I didn't just blow through the intersection.

There were two cops and they both got out of the cruiser. The one that came to my window ran his hand along the side of my car as he walked up to me. They do that because you might have a hostage in the trunk. Seriously, do I look like the kind of person who might have someone tied up in the trunk of my car?

A dead body, maybe.

"License and registration," the first cop said, while the second cop made a visual inspection of the inside of my car, looking intently for drugs or body parts or illegal fireworks or something. And I had the dog in the back seat. And of course she was barking. Not that I blamed her. I wanted to bark, too.

So the cop took my license and registration back to his cruiser. It seemed like he was gone a very long time. I wasn't too worried, though, because I haven't had a moving violation or even a warning for about 15 years. My record is as clean as a whistle. Plus, I thought smugly, I am wearing my seatbelt.

The cop came back. I noticed he was kind of cute. I gave him by best sheepish smile. He handed me a slip of paper.

"I'm giving you a citation for failure to stop at the intersection back there," he says.

"A warning? Or a ticket?" I asked. I couldn't believe he just gave me a citation without giving me a chance to sweet talk my way out of it.

"A ticket," he said. "But you're wearing your seat belt. That's good."

"THAT'S GOOD?" I yelled. "What the hell good does it do to wear your seatbelt if it doesn't get you out of a goddamned ticket?"

Overheard at the dinner table

Me: I applied for a part-time editing job on a Web site called Overheard at the Beach.* People submit things they overhear and they're looking for someone to edit the items and write headlines for them.

My dad: And this is on the Internet?

Me: Yup.

My mom: I can't believe anyone would actually know about that, let alone that it would be a job.

I swear, it was an honor just to be a finalist

So a few weeks back Overheard at the Beach was looking for an editor. They posted 100 reader-submitted quotes (things that people had, ostensibly, overheard at the beach) and to apply for the job you had to pick 12-15 of them, edit them and write headlines for them. I sent in my 12-15 edited and headlined items along with my resume and a pretty fresh cover letter. I told them that my cat was probably dying and that I owed the vet a lot of money. (Seriously, what do you have to lose when you're applying for a job like this? You might as well at least try to be funny. And what's funnier than a dying cat?)

While I was waiting for a response I read some of the items and my headlines to my mom. She thought they were hysterical, by the way.

A week or so went by and sure enough, I got a really cool email saying I was one of the finalists for the job. The email was very flattering. I would seriously quote from it, but if I did it would seem like I was bragging. It was that nice.

The next phase was a timed test -- the finalists had to write ten headlines for ten items in 30 minutes. And since I'm the kind of person who thinks of the perfect thing to say 30 minutes after an exchange, I pretty much bombed. Another week went by and I got an email saying they decided to go another way. That letter was nice, too. Just not as nice as the letter saying I was a finalist.

So that was fun.

At least my mom still thinks I'm funny

But the weird thing is, now that the Beach site is up and running, I can see what the winning headlines were for the 100 items as they're posted. Some of them are waaaaay funnier than any of mine were. And some of them are just different than mine were.

One of my favorites was this item ... I love the headline they picked, too. Mine was "Funny, the same exact thing happened to my virginity."

My headline for this item was "It's either that or start a book club."

But some of them are just downright icky. For example, the very first one they posted happened to be one that I wrote a headline for:

Teen boy: . . . and you're so racist.

Teen girl: I'm really not.

Teen boy: It's okay. I find it sexy.

I wrote something like "You look so cute in that sheet and hood." The headline they ended up using goes another way. Ewwwwww. Right?

*Which, of course, just in case anyone from work is reading this, I would do outside of my normal working hours.

Lynn, Lynn, city of sin

You never go out the way you came in.

Click here to see the set ...I've been meaning/wanting to take some photos in Central Square in Lynn for a while. It's such an interesting place. Beautiful old brick buildings, lots of wonderful details, rich textures, strong color and lines, great light ... but also gritty and tough and decrepid and dirty. I was there on Saturday for the opening of the PAINT! exhibit at Lynn Arts (My mom has three paintings in the show). I shot about 50 photos in a half hour or so and have posted 10 of the ones I like best in this Flickr set (click on thumbnails to view larger).

Central Square, rainy day

(Mosaics created with fd's Flickr Toys.)

Green day

The dog feels it is her solemn duty to keep an eye on all the critters in my folks' back yard. Click to view larger.

This was an Adobe Photoshop experiment -- I saved the photo in web safe colors to see if that would make a big difference online. It looks a little green to me. But, to be honest, the original might also be a little green. For some reason a lot of my pictures come out a little green.

Meanwhile, here's one that I uploaded without doing a friggin' thing to it:

Hot dog
Father's Day, 2006: Recovering from a romp on a hot sunny day.

Good thing I went ahead and splurged on Photoshop. One of these days I am actually going to figure out how to use it.

Week 10: I need a weight loss slogan

Ten weeks into the Weight Watchers program and I'm starting to lose my cynicism about the program. It's kind of hard to be snarky and sarcastic about something that's helped me lose 15 pounds so far.

Although I'm pretty sure I burned a few calories at this week's meeting trying not to laugh out loud at some of the positive affirmations the leader suggested. "I can do this," "I deserve to be thin," "I am my own best friend," and so on. I just couldn't stop thinking of Stuart Smalley saying "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggon it, people like me."

WW is big on this kind of thing. On the WW site there are message boards, and many of the people who post there have little slogans as part of their signature. Stuff like "Nothing tastes as good as thin feels" and "A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips," and "The only impossible journey is the one you never begin."

So in an attempt to be a more loyal WW member, I'm trying to come up with a slogan of my own. Something motivational. Something meaningful. Something that will ... Oh, who the hell am I kidding? Here's what I've got so far:

"Nothing tastes as good as thin feels. Except cake. But other than that."

"I'm throwing my boobs a going away party."

"I swear to God I am just big boned!"

"Never wear jeans on weigh-in day."

"Mmmmm, fat-free, sugar-free pudding."

Feel free to leave your weight loss slogan suggestions in the comments section. I love getting comments almost as much as I love cake.