Monday, April 30, 2012

Ten Days

Ten days until I have to be charming and polite to people I haven't seen in 15 years, don't remember, and who, if they remember me at all, probably thought I was a holier-than-thou know-it-all in school and won't notice much of a change since.  Grim prospect.  I am looking forward to hanging out with my friends (Leah and Aaron's tenth wedding anniversary falls on the same weekend as our college reunion, and that's something to celebrate) and perhaps chatting up some old professors, though. 

Our all-girl trivia team finished fourth for the quarter tonight.  We won a sampler platter. 

Current Kdrama I'm watching: Prosecutor Princess.  They're quite addictive!  I keep hoping that the Korean language will somehow magically sink into my skull (a Russian guy I knew at school had learned English from watching John Wayne movies...he drawled cowboy slang and sported western boots) along with good fashion sense (particularly a penchant for six-inch heels and twelve-inch skirts) and irresistable attraction for handsome Asian lawyers who practice martial arts and cooking in their spare time, but it hasn't happened yet...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Trip Summary

At bedtime my first night in Atlanta I was left briefly contemplating whether a small dog’s leaving a giant beef knuckle in the middle of the guest air mattress was the equivalent of the Godfather horsehead, but I was too tired to worry much about the miniature canine mafia. 

Friday, when both Neil and Stacy had to work, I drove to Dublin to visit Grandmommy.  She had her usual wonderful spread, three or four kinds of vegetables, fruit, mashed potatoes and gravy and fried chicken.  She’d cut up a single chicken breast and somehow there were eight large pieces, of which she and I consumed two each.  I couldn’t stuff in more.  I’ve never had any trouble believing in the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, because Grandmommy has always done this with chicken—one piece, which would normally be sufficient for one person, suddenly is capable of satisfying several, with leftovers to boot.  And it’s not as if there’s a heavy crust of batter—it’s just a thin crispy coat, well-drained of any oil (again, contrary to the stereotype of Southern cooking, Grandmommy has never “deep-fried” anything).  After lunch (and chocolate cake) we played a game of Scrabble.  I managed to eke out a win at the very end.  Then, the two of us went out antiquing.  I’d asked Grandmommy if she wanted to go with me on my hunt for re-wireable lamps, given that she seemed a little unsteady, and after considering it a little hesitantly, she agreed.  We were both glad she decided to come, because at one place we ran into a woman my age, who had just lost her own grandmother the previous week, and Grandmommy was able to comfort her—she knew the family and of the death in question, and was more than happy to allow the bereaved woman to give her a hug.  Grandmommy is very huggable. 

I was back in Atlanta by 7, because Stacy had asked me to go with her to a wine and cheese party for women from her church (she doesn’t drink, so she thought I might get a glass of vino out of it), but the two of us weren’t in the mood for socializing when it came down to it and we decided to go to a great seafood restaurant called Six Feet Under instead.  Another friend of Stacy’s who had bailed on a different social engagement met us halfway through the meal and the three of us just had a good time talking for hours about dogs, men and medical malpractice.

Saturday, Stacy and I went clothing consignment shopping, and I found a handful of sterling jewelry in the bargain baskets for a fraction of its melt value.  Then, I went to an Ikea for the first time (a long-postponed rite of passage), where we ate lunch while people-watching and then bought a bookcase as a Mother’s Day gift for her mom.  Later, we took the two small brown dogs with us to the old cemetery where Bobby Jones (instead of stones, visitors leave golf balls on his grave) and Margaret Mitchell are buried, and admired the stain-glass fitted crypts and lovely landscaping.  Stacy was highly amused at my admonishing the dogs to “Hush! Be respectful,” when they broke out in fits of yapping at other visitors. 

Sunday, we picked up Stacy’s Georgian friend (from the former Soviet Georgia to the American Georgia…) and went to church.  Great atmosphere, great music, great sermon, great fun.  The elder who dispensed communion to us had colorful tattoos down to his wrists, and the pastor, who wore a pair of small silver hoop earrings, had shaved his head.  He was not affected, but theologically clear, and the song lyrics were meaty, rather than the pap which often passes for “praise ‘n’ worship” material.  I’d never heard such a great band—it was a testament to the notion that Christians ought to have the best music, whatever its genre, which in this case was a sort of modern swing.  It called itself a community church, but it was most definitely Presbyterian, with the responses to the scripture readings, the passing of the peace, and so forth.  I was encouraged that my sister in law, who has many tattoos and piercings herself, had found such a solid fellowship.

After my necessary Sunday afternoon nap, I drove an hour to the northwest to my friend Alison’s, to see her new baby girl.  She and I have known one another since she was in kindergarten and I was in first grade.  She was mainly my sister’s friend back in the beginning—they were in the same class and had the same name, so they referred to each other by their surname initials.  We’ve kept in touch, and talk usually about once a quarter, though I hadn’t seen her in person since her son was born three years ago.  He’s now tall and talkative.  She decided to name her daughter Rita, too, so now I’ve got a sister and a niece and a friend and an honorary niece who share names!  Rita is already a Daddy’s girl—when Ally’s husband got home, his daughter, who’d been fussy, curled into a ball on his broad chest, her ear pressed to his heart, and promptly fell asleep.

Monday, after squealing awake under an onslaught of small tongues in the morning, I packed up my laundry (like Thoreau, I take my washing home) and hit the road.  With three brief stops, it took me until 1:20 to get back to DC—over 11 hours.  Thank God for audiobooks.  I was engrossed in Ready Player One by  for most of the trip (I had to stop at a Starbucks for half an hour when I discovered that a part hadn’t downloaded properly, but other than that hiccup, it was smooth sailing), and managed to avoid all major cities at rush hours. 

Back at the daily grind from Tuesday AM.  It was a whirlwind long weekend, not restful really in the physical sense, but a much-needed psychological respite, small animals and all.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dogtown Atlanta

Neck up I am damp from dog spit. Friendly pink tongues have been lapping at my face since I got to my brother Neil's house at 12:30 and the pack was released from the four kennels in the bedroom. There is a minature greyhound mix on the couch with me, lipping my left hand fingers, and a sweet part-pit nuzzling my right elbow. The other two, a chihuahua and a Jack Russell-chihuahua blend, were whining on the other side of the door until my brother released them a few minutes ago when he returned from a Craig's List selling run. He was afraid there might be a dogfight otherwise while he was out of the house...all the dogs are female. I was left for a while with the two calmer animals and a loaded gun, in case some idiot tried to break in. (My bro lives in the hood. If there were an emergency, the authorities might show up in half an hour. Or they might not. And the pack of tiny dogs, though fiercely loyal, would probably not deter someone addled by drugs or drink, whereas the noise and/or sight of a pistol has a legendarily sobering effect.)

Happily, the only annoyance of the alone-time was not knowing my sister-in-law's iPad password, so that I could download the app to watch the latest episode of Castle.

Neil took me out to lunch at a great pizzeria and then we hit several Value Villages looking for lamp parts. I found two lamps needing rewiring that I bought for 16 bucks, and then a beautiful handmade vase at the Goodwill for three. Considering that it took $100 in gas to get here, I need some way of recouping my travel costs, and lamp part buying in the discounted South seems a legitimate way to do it. I plan to fix these and sell them for at least $100 (total).

The chihuahua is curled up in my lap, its chin on my knee. The greyhound has its front feet on my other knee, and the other two are milling near the front door, waiting for their mommy to get home. I am awash in puppydogs.

Monday, April 16, 2012

I'm Just Denser, Right?

The baby shower Saturday went off well, thanks to Leah serving as primary point-person for our quartet of hostesses and arranging a really good selection of edibles for the event.  We other girls did our bit, of course, but I must say that the food was justly the centerpiece of the festivities prior to present-opening. 

This morning, on a whim, I weighed in on an antique shipping scale at the warehouse where one of my several bosses stores his art collection and discovered to my horror that I topped out at 136, a full nineteen pounds more than my regular college weight.  And my fifteenth college class reunion is just three weeks hence.  Curiously, I am still wearing the same size jeans as I did back then, and though there's certainly a small muffin-top is mine to shed before May 10, I wonder where the majority of the extra poundage is hiding?  Maybe I'm really now what would have been a size eight in the 1990s, which the designers are now passing off as fours and sixes in an effort to keep their expanding customer bases () happy...Or perhaps (as my boss cheerfully suggested) I'm just more dense these days?

Oh, in so many ways...

Monday, April 02, 2012

Tires and Taxes

I swear that my car is riding an inch higher on the new tires I bought this morning.  And the gently ominous flapping sound that I thought was emanating from my engine has disappeared.  And the on-road handling of my vehicle is so much better that it’s like having a whole new car. 

To say that my old tires were worn…well, you know the “penny test” that you are supposed to do to see if your tires are ready for replacement?  The one where, if you are glimpsing the top of Lincoln’s head, you should hie thee to the tire and auto center as fast as your rims will carry you?  Well, I could see air above his head.  Really shockingly bad—it’s a wonder I was stopping at all, new brakes or not.  But I hadn’t been paid for the estate sale work since January, because we hadn’t had an estate sale until last weekend (and then, in quick succession, another this weekend).  I received a decent check for my labors Saturday afternoon, and it went off in the mail to my bank this morning.

Despite the paycheck, between the new tires ($400 at Walmart) and my personal income taxes, the next month or two is going to be tight.  Too much so, in fact, for me to go on an anticipated trip to Peru with a girlfriend and her coworker in May.  I was really looking forward to it—they are spending three days in Ecuador and then continuing on to Lima, from which they’ll travel to Machu Pichu.  But I owe $3500 in taxes (in addition to the almost $1400 I’d pre-paid) and then there’s an estimated quarterly tax bill of $1000 for this year that’s due at the same time.  This has effectively quashed all my semi-exotic travel plans, and made me wonder what appealing domestic destinations I’ll have to forego.  I’m going to have to dip into my savings to pay the feds.  Between my rent and these taxes, I took home $4000 (yes, just 4 grand!) last year to feed, clothe and entertain myself for the twelve-month duration—a little less than $400 a month.  This is probably a princely sum in most parts of the globe, so I don’t want to whine like a rich American brat, but though I do live frugally thanks to coupon-clipping and second-sale market purchases, this is still relatively little to make do on for someone living in the DC area.  And gas is running at more than $4 a gallon and I put a good 40 to 50 miles on my car every day.  Thank God, it’s fuel efficient and that they are mainly highway miles!

And maybe the new tires will help a bit with my energy bills, too.  And maybe my brother Bob, who is coming to spend the summer with me, will help with my electric bill, if nothing else.  I had to turn the AC on last week, and it was then only March!  Heaven knows what heat the summer will bring.