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.