Saturday, March 31, 2007

Vampires Revised

The Presbyterian vampire can cook. At least, he can cook hamburgers--that's not haute cuisine, but knowing how to operate the stove is a plus. And unload and load the dishwasher. And use a mop and a vacuum cleaner. I don't know what he thought he was getting into when I called over to ask him or his roommate to go to the grocery store for a few things for me. That was at 7PM. By 11:30 PM, besides going to Giant and CVS on my behalf, he'd fixed dinner for me, cleaned up the kitchen and part of my room, helped me do three loads of laundry, and moved most of my books into the bookcases that some friends brought over between nine and ten (these are a stop-gap measure until I can retrieve my new bookcase from Paxifist's front porch).

After a couple of days of increasing discomfort, I finally got a doctor's appointment yesterday afternoon, and she diagnosed severe back strain, a painkiller and a muscle relaxant, and forbade me from lifting anything or riding in a car/sitting down for extended periods. This would be less than three weeks before I am supposed to leave for Ukraine, six days until I'm scheduled to ride the train to Rhode Island, 14 hours prior to the time I was supposed to drive 1 1/2 hours to a conference in Maryland to deliver a paper, just three hours before my friends were due to bring over the bookcases, and minutes before I had hoped to catch up on my much-postponed laundry. And Susan had just left town for spring break. So I was sore, and stuck. Helpless.

Lee was a brick, though--he got me a couple of gallons of skim milk, bananas, and some activated-charcoal heat wraps, and offered to cook dinner. I nuked the vegetables while he seared the burgers, and so we ate a pretty balanced meal before the furniture arrived and we retrieved my laundry. While in the laundry room, my cell phone rang. I almost had a heart attack when I saw the number: Salman. The Egyptian anesthesiologist who had called only once since New Years! Apparently he'd just returned from a six-week trip to the old country to visit his parents, and was in a lonely and loquacious mood. I apologized to Lee for leaving him standing there while I struggled to get a word in edgewise to the effect that I would call Salman the next day. It's a rare thing to be attempting to get off the phone with one nice guy while another nice fellow is standing quietly to one side, waiting for you to surrepticiously remove your underwear from a still-damp laundry load so he can carry the rest without embarassment.

I'm supposed to set up appointments with a physical therapist on Monday, so I can get back to normal ASAP. For the time being, I am sleeping a lot--no conference for me today (I cancelled), and no driving. Lee and his roommate Bailey may take me to church tomorrow, but we'll have to see what time I wake up!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

With What Measure Ye Mete

Last week I complained about having to move all those heavy books by myself, and just barely refrained from cursing the insensitive creatures who refused to help me by ignoring my plight. Little did I know that I was about to do exactly the same thing, implicitly loading a fellow creature with burdens that I was not willing to lift a finger to assist him in carrying.

I bought a lovely bookcase down in North Carolina on Saturday a couple of weekends ago. I hadn't (and still haven't) any means to transport it up here to DC, but I figured that I would resolve this issue later. I did, however, need a place to keep it until I could return to get it. Paxifist and Deacon Paul said I could store it with them.

Sunday afternoon, the day after I bought the bookcase, I drove to DC, and immediately forgot about the thing. I remembered vaguely that I had bought it, but the logistics of getting it from the store where I'd purchased it and chez Paxifist completely vanished from my mind. Not until this morning did I get around to calling them, to discover that poor Deacon Paul had had to move the thing--all solid wood--by himself. I begged his wife to convey my sincere apologies. But I still feel really ashamed. I guess I'm just as much of a jerk as those young Ipod-listeners of last week.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Russian Zombie Chickens

Just in case you are wondering what I was up to in North Carolina a couple of weekends back, my friends and I were hatching all kinds of crazy plans...

What Rejoicing!

The Hoyas (literally, in Seussian fashion, the "Whats") are all a-flutter because our basketball team has squeaked in to the NCAA Final Four. Late Sunday night, when a busy overtime passage decided this all-important issue, well over a thousand students assembled near the library in an impromptu celebration. Persons or persons unknown shouted "M Street" and within minutes the crowd was moving, en masse, to the main artery through downtown Georgetown, blocking traffic and shouting. Still, the mob of upper-middle-class white prep-school-bred youths had plenty of pep, and so when someone yelled "White House!" (probably as a joke), the whole lot of them, hundreds of Hoyas, started running, pell-mell, the mile-and-a-half toward the White House in an adrenaline-fueled sprint. They thronged at the fence, yelling "Speech, speech!" until the Secret Service made them dispurse, and a host of Metropolitan police officers began to herd them back toward campus, trying, only half-successfully, to get them onto the sidewalks so vehicular traffic could use the roads. My informant saw one student arrested when he attempted to abscond with a large orange traffic cone and refused to obey repeated requests to relinquish it. I hate to think in what mayhem the Hoyas will indulge if the basketball team wins again. Some student's Daddy's Mercedes might be rolled and torched.

I have two personal reasons for great rejoicing that have me bouncing for happiness, though not running up the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue. First, Leah of Cathy Plus One saw to it that my taxes were finished last night. Thank God! I feel five pounds lighter. The other is that I am going to Ukraine with two friends, leaving April 19, and returning April 30. I am so excited I don't know where to begin. Packing would probably be a start!

Friday, March 23, 2007

To Love and To Loathe

"Nothing like charity to bring out the misanthrope," Marcus remarked, as he listened to me Wednesday night. I'd had to set up for the book sale single-handedly that morning, moving hundreds of pounds of books from the History Department to the Student Center, and not one young man had offered to help. Besides the sheer weight and cumbersomeness of them all, I'd struggled with tumbling boxes, falling books, while dozens of healthy young 18 and 19 year olds, hooked into their Ipods and oblivious to their surroundings had blindly walked past me. Having worked for well over an hour alone, I was sore and upset, to put it mildly.

Taking a breather, I called my mom and told her that most guys today are not worth the name--they ought to be emasculated and enema-ed with their own MP3 players. She remonstrated mildly.

It just really ticks me off. I'm not trying to save the world, just do right by one person whose condition ought to be the concern of every student at Georgetown (and not a week goes by that we don't get another email from the administration telling us about the latest assault or mugging on or immediately around campus), and here these children of privilege won't even hold open the door for an obviously overwhelmed person. Jerks.

My back is really bothering me. There are some times that it seems so easy to start going around cursing people for causing you pain. But that's not what Jesus did. Here was a guy who truly did sacrifice throughout his life to heal not just one person, but hundreds, perhaps thousands. And people didn't just fail to open doors for him, they deliberately sought to trip him up, then libeled and murdered him, knowing he was innocent. And he still didn't curse them. In fact, he used his own victimization to save them from the just results of their own wickedness. I started thinking about this after Marc mentioned the connection between charity and misanthropy. And I've been praying since for forgiveness and the right attitude, Jesus' attitude, towards self-sacrifice and social apathy.

And that my back will get better--what really yanked my chain Wednesday evening was a young doctor breezing past me and telling me I was going to rupture my "L-7" as I struggled with a handtruck stacked with boxes.

"If some guy would help me, I wouldn't have to do this on my own!" I shouted at his deaf back. I mean, for crying out loud, physician, heal thyself...or at least practice a little preventive medicine! Telling me I'm going to hurt myself when I can't do a damn thing to avoid it on my own is the worst kind of information to be giving out. I really hope I haven't, too, but I'm going to take some more Motrin before I go to bed tonight.

From Sandmonkey

I won't be able to go (work, you know), but maybe a few of my readers might!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Other People's Money

Last week I spent 8 hours working on my taxes. I like math, but those forms, even with user-friendly help-programs, respresent a peculiar problem: I know my arithmetic is right, but how on earth did they end up with those numbers?

Yesterday was the second day of the Phi Alpha Theta Benefit Book Sale on behalf of Alyosha. First the good news...

The grand total from the sale was $1069.52. I don’t know where the pennies came from, but we are glad for any and all donations!

Now, the bad news…

I had hoped this would be the last sale. It’s a struggle for all involved (so many people are busy with other things, and the sheer volume of material is so great, as the ache in my back testifies), and Alyosha was improving and had hoped (as of Christmas) to be back at Georgetown soon (he was aiming for mid-February). Well, yesterday afternoon I found out that shortly after Christmas he had a seizure, fell, and as a result developed a bad bruise on his spine that required surgery, after which he spent two months in the hospital.

He’s just returned home, and is still bedridden.

Guys (and gals), you know this has got to be depressing for him! Thus, I’m still collecting media (books, CDs, DVDs) for another sale, to be held at the beginning of fall semester (after, Lord willing, I’ve passed my comps).

I'm not trying to save the world, just help one guy get better. And, boy can it be a struggle sometimes!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Mea Culpa (Slowly)

Aargh! Dear beloved readers, I swear the implication that people with children are late risers (I know quite well this is total baloney!) was wholly unintentional. I placed parallelism with the earlier part of the essay at a higher worth than proofreading. And see where it got me!

In happier news, I visited my grandparents yesterday, and am delighted to report that Grandmommy (though limping slightly) is walking without cast, boot or cane, and Granddaddy is getting ready for spring planting in their backyard garden, pruning the apple and pear trees, which are in explosive bloom, and watering the blueberry bushes, which are similarly flowerful. The weather was so nice that they had all the doors open, so we ate in the fresh air. Their sixtieth wedding anniversary is in two months!

Sunday, March 11, 2007


I’ve taken a week off and returned to the old home place in Georgia for rest. Or rather, I will be doing my taxes, stocking up on the necessaries (clothing, shoes, makeup), and visiting relatives and friends. One of these days I will actually have time off that is a real vacation, but until then I and my family seem to have a common mania for occupying every spare moment with productivity, even the “downtime”.

Thus, I have already made two bracelets, three necklaces, and five pairs of earrings since I arrived in Augusta on Friday afternoon. I have also been exercised—I have gone with my mother on a six mile walk (today) and a seven mile walk (yesterday). Of them, today’s was the more physically tiring, since it involved lots of hills of various sizes, a faster pace, and a higher outdoor temperature (still pleasant, though), but it didn't provide quite the scope for the imagination that yesterday's did.

Yesterday morning, the two of us went to the levee [FYI, we drove a Toyota there, and although we eventually did run into a passle of good ol’ boys, they were not musical themselves, nor obviously inebriated]. The local parks department has done a good job of making it walker-friendly, and the weather was perfect—sunny, clear sky, clouds, and just cool enough to be refreshing without being chilly. We started out at the head of the canal, where steady-moving green water dimpled up from under the restored wooden headgate building. A few early-morning visitors were on the other side of the single lock, peering at the Savannah River, the quarter-mile span of which falls about twenty feet at that point across a man-made wall. On the levee, the multi-patterned tracks of bicycles, tennis shoes, leaves, lizards and dogs decorated the settled dust.

We set out at a brisk pace, passing a couple of gregarious Southern men in business casual clothes who made courteous chauvinistic comments about our rapid pace. A few bicyclists yelped their approach from behind us, then we were away, talking and walking quickly.

On the right, on the opposite side of the canal, the noise of machinery gradually suffused the morning as we neared the quarry. There was a sifting crash of gravel being dumped from the hopper into a line waiting train cars attached to an engine covered with granite dust and groaning out asthmatic puffs of diesel smoke. Once, a giant battered yellow truck bounced past the train, bringing another load of rock from the blasting site.

Around another turn in the canal and the sounds of sliding rock disappeared. Inches above the green water, grandfather turtles, the ancients of the clan, sunned themselves on logs, and above them sky blue butterflies bumbled in the hedge by the side of the path. Buds had appeared on a few trees--others were still bare of leaves but thick with wads of thriving mistletoe or curling tendrils of ivy.

Suddenly, I saw a darting shape on the ground to my left. We stopped. The first lizard of the season, a feisty sand-colored fellow, eluded me for a few breathless seconds before I secured him between my thumb and index finger and displayed his tiny muscular beauty to my mother, who involuntarily recoiled, though she admitted he was a pretty little guy. I released him at the side of the path, and we went on.

Except for a few grim middle-aged men in shorts and mid-calf socks, and occasional bicyclists, the 3.5 miles to the old Victorian water works station was lightly traveled. Turning back, we met the late-risers: a couple on a bicycle built for two, young families with strollers and toddlers, singles with dogs, and the occasional oddity: a cyclist from the waist up in full professional kit (Spandex) but clad below in incongruous pure white jeans.

Almost back at the head of the canal, we decided to cross the new pedestrian bridge and see the stream-fed fishing hole where a small group in jeans was heading, carrying their poles and tackle boxes. The four white men and one highly-pierced woman were of indefinite ages, somewhere between eighteen and twenty-eight, and the one skinny fellow wearing the ragged Motley Crue t-shirt looked like he had come by his dentistry through a rough combination of cigarettes and bar fighting. When we overtook them by the stream, they were cheerfully attempting to retrieve a jerry-rigged nylon rope that person or persons unknown had strung between two young pine-trees with the obvious purpose of launching the incautious into the water between the rocks ten feet below. The leader in testing the rope and joking about jumping in was a robust young man with perfect teeth who was wearing a dilapidated tank top that showed his arms—wrists to shoulders—scarred with the ink of innumerable tattoos arranged in no particular order, a themeless jumble of cheap needlework. Altogether, they were decidedly goofy Goth good ol’ boys and girl. We walked away before any decision about taking the leap had been made. It did seem a little counter to the purpose of fishing there.

Tomorrow I may go on another walk, but for now I am bone-tired, sore and happy.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Farm-Raised Vampires?

The American upper Midwest. A seemingly innocent farmbelt flatland, or the breeding ground for bloodsucking madmen?

There's this guy Susan and I know who's from Michigan. That in itself is suspicious. It's shaped like an oven mitt, and he doesn't cook. In fact, he's an extraordinarily picky eater. Claims to be "allergic" to all sorts of things. Peppers, alcohol, cats, tomatoes. The list goes on.

He wears his hair in a mullet. He says he's twenty-five, so he shouldn't remember the Billy Ray Cyrus mullet period. I asked him why he didn't cut his hair and he said that everybody who gets out of the Marines wears their hair long. The Marines? He said he was hit on the head with a rifle butt in OCS and invalided out with the possibility of seizures, and that his skull has scars from a run-in with his brother when he was a child. This still doesn't explain why his hair is four inches down his back. He looks like he should be wearing a skirted sailor suit with a ruffled collar and carrying a large lollipop.

He's looking for a job, moved to DC last June. Has a science degreee (biochem) and hasn't been offered a place yet--says it's a conflict between HR, which doesn't know whom to look for, and scientists, who don't want to take time off from their labs to select a qualified candidate (him). He knows an awful lot about CB weapons and the history of Russia, but this is probably due to the fact that he absorbs books like the ink were oxygen. One really off-putting habit of his is that when anyone makes a statement--from "this denomination split at least X times in the 20th century" to "you'll catch cold being out in the snow with a wet head", he'll amend it to coincide with the actual documentable evidence: "Actually, it split Y times [and then reel off dates and specific names of the resulting churches]" or "You don't catch colds from getting chilled, actually, you catch them from viruses." Argh.

Says he grew up on a farm and comes from an enormous family--more than 50 first cousins. Playing in the barns and running across multi-story rooftops. He and his present roommate live in an apartment populated with stone chess sets and austere bookcases that smells pugently of "guy". He makes Susan quite nervous. She fears that he is too observant. I think that he may be intellectually observant, but not physically so. But I admit the fact that he never eats normally, lives in a room where the shades are perpetually drawn, and knows far more disconcerting facts than any person of his age should, and wears a mullet, all point to one conclusion: that he is a vampire. That would also explain why he wears sandals--without socks--in the snow.

But at least he's a Presbyterian vampire.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Leftover Bits

What should a person do with those small pieces of soap that are left once one has reduced the bar to the thinness of a cracker? Historically, I've just tossed the pieces, but my sister gave me some very nice French soap for Christmas, and I want to get the last goody out of them. Writing about it now, though, the notion of keeping little used fritters of soap around just seems nasty. Into the bin they go!

Beads, on the other hand, can be recycled successfully.

Soon, my brother and I plan to link to from our art website--pieces will be available for purchase through our Etsy store. Those that haven't sold at the studio open house we're having in April. Cool, no? New pictures to be up soon!

Monday, March 05, 2007


I am sick with a nasty cold. The usual remedies have been applied: zinc lozenges, vitamin C drops, wads of tissue, draughts of orange juice and hot tea, Tina Turner CDs. Somehow, listening to a singer whose normal voice is more throaty than me at my most germy is perversely comforting. I missed church yesterday, missed hanging out with friends this weekend (something I'd been looking forward to, but didn't think they'd appreciate me inoculating them with infection), and cleaned up my room. I woke up yesterday thinking in a confused way that I would feel a whole lot better if I could see the floor next to my bed. Hours and hours of straightening, sorting and stacking later, I could and did. I am still a little irritated at Prof. Lorenzo, though--the man was at work Thursday and Friday when he should have been home in bed, clutching a hot water bottle. He hacked and coughed and sneezed and wheezed all over the department, and I know without the shadow of a doubt that he is the party responsible for my current unwell state. I hope that if I ever have a job where I can take a couple of days off without adversely affecting my paycheck, should I become ill I would have the sense to stay home instead of splattering my colleagues with an unwelcome mist of bacteria.