The Szechuan and the Ecstasy

“Hey, I think you’re eating my food.””Huh? No, this is Szechuan.””You sure?””Screw it. Let’s just share both of them.”

This, ladies and gentlemen, is how it began. We tried ordering from a new place, only to be completely confounded as to whose food was whose once the food arrived. I ordered fried tofu with vegetables, and Chris ordered tofu Szechuan style. The two items that were delvered were fried tofu with celery and carrots, and non-fried tofu with peas and peppers. But which was which?

Step One: Google It.

Inconclusive. The only thing the internet could agree on was that Szechuan is spicy. As for which vegetables should or shouldn’t accompany the tofu, who knew? American Chinese food itself is an invention of time and regional tastes. Hell, fortune cookies are actually Japanese. (Enterprising Chinese restaurants took over the idea of the cookie during WWII when Japanese people were rounded up and put into camps. Lemons into lemonade, y’all.)

Step Two: Call the restaurant.

By the time Google had settled nothing, the trash talk had already begun and it had already been decided that the loser of what was now a bet would pay for the next order of Chinese food and owe the winner a 10-minute massage (8 minutes normal, 2 minutes “fun places”). This was serious.

“The tofu in your Szechuan…is that fried? I see…” (Chris is smiling at me with what I call his “shit starting” face as he interrogates the lady whose job is to take orders and think that we are insane.)

“And does that come with carrots and celery? Ah, ok, thank you.”

He is grinning at me as though I have lost the bet, but he has forgotten what happened an hour ago: namely that it took 10 minutes to place the order because the woman on the phone couldn’t understand him. The “z as in zebra” part of his address had to be repeated 3 times.

“Dude, she’s going to say yes to whatever you ask her as long as she thinks it’ll result in an order! You were totally leading the witness! The only conclusive solution is to table the issue until we order food from there again.”

We are both hard-headed people who like Chinese food. We ordered from the same place 3 days later. I order something with shrimp so as to avoid dual-tofu dish confusion.

The scene:

“Thus Spake Zarathustra” has been brought up on Spotify. As the epic tympani plays, BOM-BOM-BOM-BOM, the lids are removed. Slowly, dramatically, Chris’s arms are raised overhead in a pose of victory as a dish of fried tofu, carrots and celery mocks me deliciously from its position on the coffee table. I fall to the floor in slow motion, dramatically placing the back of my hand to my forehead in a pose of ultimate failure.

“Nooooooo!!!!” I wail from my position on the floor.”Yesssss! Szechuaaaaan!!!” Chris says, still walking around the living room like a victorious Rocky Balboa.

BOM-BOM-BOM-BOM.

Advertisements

The Motivation to Puree

I spent New Years 2013 on Jen’s couch, drinking wine with her and her husband. As midnight came and went, it slipped our minds to change the channel and watch the ball drop in New York because we were too busy watching World’s Dumbest Boozers. This seems fitting, given how I spent 2012: doing everything and then peeking out my head long enough to realize that the whole thing flew right by me. Where did it go?

I spent 2012 trying to find a rhythm after having a few years that seemed like a little too much chaos for me. Crappy job! New job! Poor! Not poor! New cat! Elderly cat! Life changes! Dudes! 2012 was the year when everything finally calmed down: I turned my schedule into a well-oiled machine, got a little more comfortable in my job (I don’t think anyone is ever completely comfortable in SharePoint), and attempted to narrow down the spread-too-thin social calendar. So I sit at the beginning of 2013, feeling like all the chaos has been smoothed out to the usual low ripple of non-predictability that is par for the course in life. That’s all well and good, but you know how human nature is: the second things calm down, we immediately start getting bored and asking what’s next. So…what’s next?

I have no idea. I feel like I’m standing in front of a big flow chart, a huge set of if/else statements, waiting for one thing to be decided so that another one can, and so on. It’s not that I’m taking a passive role in my own life; it’s that I’m taking the time to figure out what the right decision is.

I believe I would very much like to get a master’s degree in psychology, most likely cognitive psychology or cognitive neuroscience. It feels insane and flaky to even type it out loud, but there it is, gnawing on the back of my mind. The second I scold myself with “you PICKED a career, can’t you just stick with it?” the idea pops right back up again. There’s all this curiosity in me, so the idea of having time to research a bunch of things sounds pretty nice. A life in development gives one a chance to say “let’s see if we can pull this off,” and that’s fun too, but the idea of thinking of questions and looking for answers sounds awesome. I like my current career just fine, but there are days when I don’t know if I can do it for 30 more years. When I ask myself “what’s next?” my brain doesn’t get all excited about getting super awesome at SQL Server. My brain goes “yes, we can do that and make a bunch of money…but what was the thing about the brains?”

That’s the pie in the sky idea, though. Here in reality, I am a single lady with a mortgage and an elderly, expensive cat. I just got done being poor and I’m currently kind of enjoying the idea of being able to afford luxury items like a couch. At first glance, there’s no way I could just peace out on my entire life to go wank around in a lab somewhere, effectively taking my entire life, putting it in a blender and hitting the “puree” button. Besides, it’s not like I hate my life. I’m just not motivated enough to puree. Then again, maybe “puree” isn’t the only answer. Maybe I could combine the development and the psychology? The collision of cognition and programming gave us the field of artificial intelligence; maybe the real answer is finding a way to combine life experiences to make something new and far more interesting that some simple, boolean, “give up your old life for a new one.”

To seriously entertain this idea, I’d have to be willing to move, be poor again, and accept that I would be completely screwing myself in my current career. You can’t just go off and not think about web development for 3 years and expect to ever come back. In 3 years, everything changes and you have to be there to keep up. Web development is like a treadmill where the slow, old or unmotivated just go flying off the machine, only to be heard from again when they appear on Tosh.0.

Just typing this still feels like a naive and slightly insane thing to do. Majoring in anything that would ever involve the term “neuroscience” is a thing that other people do. Super crazy-smart people who don’t already owe Sallie Mae 30 grand. I’m a smart girl with good hustle, but saying “yes, I’m going to go into neuroscience” is a bit much.

Which, as a godsmack, is a small part of why I want to do it. If there’s no risk of big-time failure, you’re not growing enough.

For right now, this is just a hobby that will be put in the “would like to do one day” pile, right next to “go to England” or “eat real bananas foster.” But one day it might get pulled out of the pile and, when it does, I’ll have a few years of reading behind me. Til then, I’m the girl on the treadmill reading the book about conscious decision making.

The irony is delicious.

Bob Vila Can’t Help You Now

From the previous posts over the last week, you can all tell that I’m pretty much a super fan when it comes to exfoliation. In my thirties, I’ve been afforded the luxury of being able to go a bit easier with it, but in my late twenties, I was still burning through Buf-Pufs like they were going out of style. I was using moisturizer with Alpha Hydroxy Acid in it to try and get even more skin to slough off.

Back then, slow-paced Sundays would be about calling a “spa day.” I would do my nails, put on a clay mask, an exfoliation mask and spend the day basically attempting to pickle myself in the name of not really having anything better to do. Also, in those days, I was keeping a palm sander in my bathroom, as I’d discovered that a nice 120 grit was not a bad idea on heel and toe callouses.

Eventually, two and two got put together.

I stood in the shower, gleefully exfoliating my face with a piece of sandpaper. It felt so tingly! So clean! It was DELICIOUS, I tell you. I could fairly feel my skin being all aglow and free of dead skin cells. I was all proud of myself for my cost-saving and delightfully out-of-the-box thinking. Screw expensive Buf-Pufs! I’ll get my cleansing pads at HOME DEPOT.

When I got out of the shower, my face felt a little hot, so I put on some moisturizer to try to calm it down. Just one problem. I had recently switched from Oil of Olay to a moisturizer with ACID in it.

I think, for a solid minute, all I could see was plaid.

There was just this all-consuming burning, burning that should be written in ALL CAPS. Burning that sent me running into the bathroom to see whether everything was really OK or whether my face was melting off like cheese on a pizza that aims to take a couple layers off the roof of your mouth.

“OK, remain calm. Just get this stuff of your face. Just rinse it off in the shower.”

AHHHH! Hot water!!! More burning!!!
Cold water!! Cold water!!!

I went to bed that night with my face slathered with the Neosporin that also numbs pain. Lying there on my back with my face throbbing, waiting for a couple of Nytol to kick in so I could sleep, I thought “perhaps this was not the best idea.”

When I got up to go to work the next day, I looked like I had spent a day in the sun without sunblock, and felt like it too. This at least gave me a decent and plausible lie for when people asked what had happened. I got too much sun. Yep, that’s the ticket. Too much sun. I certainly did not attack my face with hardware. No, sir.

The burning slowly subsided into my face being like a hard, itchy mask. Despite liberal applications of aloe vera gel, my face peeled off in thick pieces, revealing fragile pink skin that peeked out at me from the crusty, brown, dead skin above. When my entire face had finally peeled down to new, tender growth, it was as smooth as a baby’s butt.

I never sandpapered my face again.

“Chink, Chink, Scrape.”

When I was 20 years old, I shared an apartment with a former Christian recording artist. I would light candles, burn incense, paint things badly and go to goth night. Sometimes, when I went to goth night, dudes hit on me. This story is about the second guy who did.

We make plans to meet up on a weekend afternoon to hang out at my apartment. The plan is to have no plan and just see what happens. This is MY plan at least. HIS plan involves a 90-minute tape of music he’d written.

“Music”
he’d
“written.”

This is the late nineties, when every guy with questionable hair and an eyeliner pencil wanted, with all of his little black heart, to be the next Trent Reznor. This guy is no exception: as we listen to his experimental noise music, he describes all of the various instruments he’d used. Rusty pipe. Rusty pipe #2. Random piece of metal.”Chink, chink, scrape.” “Chink, chink, scrape.” “Chink, chink, scrape…”

I have a cousin who majored in rusty pipe at Julliard.

“Chink, chink, scrape.” “Chink, chink, scrape.” “Chink, chink, scrape…”

I keep waiting for the end of a song, the cue for him to decide that he’s given me a representative sample and for us to move on with the day. After 30 minutes, I’m trying to be subtle about checking to see how much tape is left before the end of side one. “DO NOT let him play side two,” I tell myself, “I don’t care what happens. You will not let him play side two. Fake a heart attack. Fake a seizure. Just don’t let him play side two.”

Side one comes to an end and, instead of flipping the tape, I say something about how that was interesting and hand the tape back to him. I whip out a tape of my own, one of me playing a song I’d written on a piano. A song with a melody and chords and instruments that don’t come from a dumpster behind Krispy Kreme. Roughly 30 seconds into the 3 minute song, he takes my tape from the stereo and says something about how “that’s fine, if THAT’s what you’re into.”

It becomes clear to me what we’re going to be doing today. We’re going to be playing a rousing game of “don’t kill this guy with your bare hands.”

We turn on the tv and start watching some movie or other, and he starts kissing me. It’s that kind of kissing that comes out of nowhere and isn’t part of the moment at hand. Kissing that makes you feel like THIS was the whole point of his visit. As though he had “kiss girl” on a to-do list and he’s just running through it with German efficiency.

1. Play shitty music
2. Dismiss girl as Tori Amos clone
3. Kiss girl
4. Touch girl’s breast…..

I stop him and say something about how I think this is happening at an odd moment. He says that I should just go with it.

Readers, forgive me. I was young, and I’d heard much tell of just making out with people because it was fun, even if you didn’t particularly know or care about them. It seemed like a rather popular thing to do. I figured I’d try it.

But I am bored. He is kissing me with all the horny fervor of a manchild of his early twenties, and I am bored and wondering why we can’t just watch the movie. In later days, I would forgive myself the guilt I felt about having one undeserving guy on the short list of guys who had seen my breasts by repeating a quote from Oprah: “when you knew better, you did better.”

“Wait, stop.”
“What?” he answers, standing up from the bed.

There’s a long pause. I’m not entirely sure what to say, and I’m trying not to just blurt out something like, “this isn’t fun and it feels whorey.” My actual response, as it turns out, isn’t much better.

I stand up on the bed to be eye-level with him, and with all the jaded street smarts of Shirley Temple riding a unicorn, I ask…

“So…are you trying to be my man or what?”
“Huh? I’m just…having a good time.”
“I don’t like having a good time!”

I am saying this to him with arms crossed and brow furrowed, like an angry Puritan school teacher. At 20, I had not yet wrapped my head around the idea that sometimes people have sex with people they don’t know very well.I had been busy studying, playing a piano and hanging out with dudes who were far more interested in progressive rock than sex. I always ended up being one of the guys, drinking coffee and discussing Queensryche. Now here was THIS guy, treating me like guys in their twenties treat girls who are not one of the guys, and I have no idea what to do with him.

He’s not quite sure what to do with himself, for that matter. 30 seconds ago, he was eye to eye with my boob, and now this? I can see his brain trying to process this, this goth chick who asked him to her place to actually JUST watch a movie. I hear the gears turning…

“Chink, chink, scrape.” “Chink, chink, scrape.” “Chink, chink, scrape.”

When the scraping subsides, his decision is that I have officially become more trouble than I’m worth. He is out the door within 10 minutes.

I make sure he remembers to take his tape.

Herding Cats

For weeks, Amanda had seen that large, gray cat hanging out near her house. Gray cats are exceedingly good at hiding, but this one slowly got brave enough to come up and watch Amanda garden. One of them would be picking big rocks out of a potato bed, and the other one would be looking on with an aloof curiosity. In time, Amanda would refer to the cat as Ghostie, and Ghostie would have Amanda all figured out. 

 
This is why Ghostie would decide to have her kittens in the crawlspace of Amanda’s house. “We all know how this is going to go down, but I’m going to put up a good fight just so nothing looks suspicious.” Cat pride is strong.
 
When I arrived at Amanda’s house around 6:00, there were four kittens in the crawlspace, one angry mama cat in the cinder block-sized opening, two kittens snuggled up in the shade of a large bush and two humans crouching close by, wielding a laundry basket. The idea is that we have to get all of the kittens into the shed without causing mama cat to desert them. We have to do this before the sun goes down. Also, it’s going to rain soon. No pressure.
 
Snagging the two kittens cuddled in the bush is easy because three of their four total eyes are glued shut with eye goo. They are nabbed and their eyes are wiped clean with a warm wash cloth before they are put in the laundry basket to get back the important business of not particularly caring. 
 
“So, what’s the plan?”
“Use the two kittens to lure mama cat and hope that the other four kittens follow her out.”
“Kittens as bait. Got it.”
 
One more kitten gets curious and leaves the crawlspace enough for Amanda to snag it. The score is tied. Humans:3. Mama cat:3. 
 
Amanda starts to play with the foot of one of the kittens, in hopes of making it meow enough to lure out Ghostie. It works a little, but the tiny black cat is still pretty heavily invested in the business of not particularly caring. What to do?
 
“MEW! MEW!”
 
Amanda’s husband, Travis, has pulled up a video on YouTube. The little white cat on his iPhone screen makes a decent stand-in for the little black cat in the laundry basket. Ghostie shows interest and disappears back into the crawl space several times before venturing out. Kitten #4 follows and is snagged. Amanda crouches next to the crawl space while the two remaining kittens taunt her from just beyond her reach. Ghostie creeps up into the bushes to voice her displeasure with the entire situation. 
 
I pause to wonder if using the term “Mexican standoff” is racist, because I feel like I may need it here. I decide that it is and resolve to not use it. Oops.
 
Through the magic of YouTube, iPhone and hiding, the last two kittens are lured out and put, with a bit of fight, into a second laundry basket. Ghostie watches from the front lawn as we slowly carry the laundry baskets toward the shed. Slowly. So she will follow us. Slowly. So very, very slo-
 
RAIN.
RAIN WITH HAIL. 
 
Amanda and Travis take the kittens to the shed and I, improperly clad in Converse that do not at all enjoy the rain, go to watch the rest of the story from the dry side of the bathroom window. 
 
Travis and Amanda walk around in the rain, searching for Ghostie, who is nowhere to be found. Without her, Travis and Amanda are looking at bottle feeding six kittens every three hours or so. This may explain why they walk around the yard YouTubing and iPhoning their butts off until the rain subsides and Amanda comes in to get food and water to leave in the shed. 
 
Amanda takes the food outside and Travis and I wait for her return. 
 
“You know, I bottle fed kittens once,” he says.
“Oh?”
“Never again, man.”
 
We step out onto the back porch and look across the yard to see Ghostie standing in the shed doorway. The door is swung open and Amanda is inside, holding kittens out toward Ghostie while other kittens climb out of the laundry basket to greet their mom. She is literally herding cats. Frankly, we’re not sure what to do. Do we try to help and risk scaring Ghostie away or just stay put?
 
“How’s Amanda going to get out if she can get mama cat to go in there?”
“Uh…I don’t know. Carefully?”
“We should just run up and shut the door. She’s collateral damage, man.”
“Well, the shed has a window. She could climb out.”
 
We pause, and I look at him with a look that says, “bro, it’s time to trap your wife in the shed.”
 
He starts edging toward the shed and I follow. I run up and bolt the shed door. 
 
All cats and kittens are safe, two humans are soaked, and one of those humans is helping the other climb out a window. Pretty much everybody involved needs a glass of wine.
 
The kittens agree to settle for mama cat’s milk. 

Everyday is Halloween (unless you buy pants at Sears)

Working on the 10th floor means a couple of things. First, it means I have to watch my back when getting off the elevator in the morning since it’s dreadfully easy to step out on the wrong floor. Working on the 10th floor also means waiting for the elevator each afternoon when it’s time to leave. 

 
Today is Friday, casual Friday, and I’m standing at the elevator bank in a t-shirt, black skirt, high-top black Converse and knee socks. Knee socks that are gray and emblazoned with purple and orange argyle and bats. Bats with fangs. 
 
The man standing next to me is eying me top to bottom, looking down his nose in that way that old ladies sometimes do at Kroger. He is looking at me as though he’s sure I’m up to no good, I’m not really authorized to be in this building and I’m probably high.
 
“You’re a little late for Halloween.”
 
If I had been on my toes, I’d have pointed out how it’s not Halloween but it IS Friday the 13th, so my socks are technically still apropos. I was not on my toes. I generally not on my toes when people fill me with a cocktail of hate and embarrassment.
 
Fantasy response: “I’m sorry, I don’t take fashion advice from people wearing pleated pants.”
 
Actual response: “But they’re whimsical, no?”
 
What I’m feeling is silly. Working in the MIS department, it’s easy to forget what goes on outside. That people wear suits and have serious, adult meetings about serious, adult things like “accounts” and “clients.” We live in a bubble where everybody pretty much gets along. We don’t have office politics. Or maybe we do and I don’t notice because I have headphones on and I don’t have a beef with anybody. All I know is that this guy I don’t know is making me feel wrong and stupid in a place where I spend almost a third of my life, and that I kind of want to tell him to quit harshing my buzz. It’s casual Friday. Get off me.
 
I don’t tell him off, of course. Never tell anyone off unless you know who they are and whether they can fire you. I just get in the elevator and play with my phone, ears feeling sort of red and burny. It’s like being in high school, only you can’t put anyone up against a wall and yell at them.
 
I later told this story to a table of coworkers.
 
“Who was it?”
“I don’t know. People in pleated pants all look the same to me.”
“You should report him to HR for creating a hostile work environment. Seriously, who DOES that?”
 
Their reaction was one of offense, like how DARE that guy offer unsolicited fashion advice. Like what business is it of his? Like “please tell us his name, so we can make fun of him AND his Sears pants.”
 
And this is why I have no office drama with people in my own department. 
 
I still have no idea who the guy in the pleated pants was. He is a faceless mass of Random White Guy In Pleated Khaki Pants. Perhaps I’d remember him better if he’d worn something interesting. 
 
You know, like some argyle socks with bats.
Bats with fangs.

A Tale of Two Kitties

I am not one of those people who take in animals willy-nilly. For me, pet adoption is a huge decision, taken deeply seriously, but also made largely on gut feeling. It’s basically like marrying someone you’ve only known for an hour, with no information beyond “does well with cats” and “likes to snuggle.” (Incidentally, those are things I look for in both cats and men.)

But is the new cat going to get along with Puss? Will there be some kind of bizarre urine war? Am I really ready to double the litter box, double the hair, double the food and vet bills? (Double the snuggles! Double the play time! Double the purring!) What if the new cat ends up having some super-expensive chronic health problem? What if the new cat just doesn’t take to me? What if…

Oh, stop.

The bottom line is that Herr Puss had been showing me that he was lonely as hell now that I don’t work from home anymore. I’m gone for 12-16 hours of every day, and I feel guilty about it, but not guilty enough to resign myself to quitting everything I do so I can be home with my cat. I try to stay around the house on the weekends, but still. Puss seemed miserable, like he was looking at me saying, “you were ALWAYS here. How come you don’t want to be with me anymore?” I looked in those big blue eyes and saw a feeling that once built a 100-acre farm in mine. Maybe I was projecting, but maybe he really was feeling cast aside.

“What if I get you a buddy? Would that help? Then all 3 of us could pile in bed at night, like the grandparents in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Wouldn’t that be lovely? You can be Grandpa Joe!”

He’s a 12 year old perpetual only child with a ton of personality, a loud voice and sharp claws. I kind of wished I could give him a vote before I opened myself up to having everything in my house peed on in protest. Alas, all I could do is try to find another cat that won’t challenge Herr Puss’s “authoritah.”

As it turns out, Herr Puss apparently DID want a playmate. I introduced his brother, Sterling, with very little drama. There was nary a hiss, in fact. On day 3, I gave them free access to each other and, by day 7, Puss was actually giving Sterling a moment’s peace. He was so excited to have someone else around that he seriously wouldn’t leave Sterling alone. Sterling’s reaction to this was basically “WTF? I’m going to go hide behind the couch.”

So, here we are mid-way through week 2 and everybody seems to be getting along famously, with the one bone of contention being who gets to nestle in my left arm while I watch TV (Puss has put his paw down on this and has won consistently). Sterling is eating everything on Earth and badgering me for head scratching and a bite of whatever I’m eating. Puss seems monumentally better-adjusted, and I am no longer being greeted at night with the signature (and really pitiful) Siamese wail. It’s still early, but I’m willing to chalk this one up as a good life choice. The kitties are happy and mama has stopped feeling guilty all the time. Now, if I could just keep Sterling from eating me out of house and home…