Friday, October 22, 2010

Update Post

As I mentioned in an earlier post, as I am moving into middle age, I have started using my breasts for personal shelf space.  Most of the time, I manage to keep this unsightly habit within the four walls of my own home where only dog can feel embarrassed by me.  Unfortunately, it is only most of the time.

A few days ago I wore a short-sleeved t-shirt to work.  In the early part of the day, I got a little chilly so I brought a cup of hot tea from the kitchen back to my desk.  The mug of hot tea felt so warm and soothing in my hand that, as I often do at home, I rested the bottom of the cup on my bosom to warm my chest.  Because the heat was not penetrating enough, I lifted up the collar of my shirt so that I could nestle the cup directly against my skin.  I sat like this over my desk until someone jarred me out of my small moment of bliss.  "Wendy," a voice said with a barely-suppressed laugh, "I'm so glad that you feel so comfortable with us."

Ah yes, I had forgotten the matter of coworkers.  At work, I sit in an open-style cubicle surrounded by at least four to five co-workers.  Two of them were now staring at me from their desks, eyeing the mug tucked down my shirt.   I know at least one of them was noting to herself, "Remember never to use that mug."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Too Good to be True

A few years ago, I discovered a fascinating new food product on the shelves of my local Trader Joe's  called, "Banana Crisps."  I picked up the bag and examined the golden crisps inside.  You could see they were slightly shiny and enticingly sprinkled with crystals of salt.  I marveled at how light and delicate the crisps felt.  I turned the bag in my hand to examine the nutritional content, assuming that the crisps would be sinfully fatty and caloric.  And I saw...could it be?...only 40 calories and a mere 1 gram of fat per 2/3 cup serving!  I stood in the aisle in stunned wonder.  Was I holding the treasure that I had spent a lifetime hunting with the passion of Ponce de Leon?  Healthy junk food, it exists!  With a few darting glances around me, I swiftly stuffed the entire inventory of banana crisps into my basket, paid, and left the store

I was not more than two feet from the automatic doors of Trader Joe's when I popped open a bag of banana crisps and crammed a handful in my mouth.  Oooooh.  At the first crunch, the crisps were delicately light, like classic Lays potato chips.  Once crunched, the crisps then dissolved in your mouth like cotton candy.  The taste was only mildly banana, with a satisfying saltiness and just a touch of sweetness.  I thought about the conventional banana chips -- those thick disks of deep fried banana you find in crappy trail mix and are harder to chew than pennies -- and I crammed another handful of banana crisps in my mouth.  This was miracle food for less than $3 a bag.  I walked away from Trader Joe's feeling like I had robbed the place.

From that point on, I ate two bags of banana crisps per day.  I ate them for breakfast, I ate them for lunch, I ate them sitting in front of the television.  I put them in yogurt, on ice cream, and -- I kid you not -- inside peanut butter sandwiches.  Not one to be too selfish, I evangelized them to all my friends and handed them out to my co-workers.  "Only 40 calories and 1 gram of fat per serving!" I'd sing each time I held out the bag for someone to grab a handful of crisps.  When anyone asked me how something so fried and yummy could be healthy, I'd say "They're from Trader Joe's!" as if that could possibly explain anything about sugar and fat.

The hammer eventually fell, of course, on my bubble of delight.  One day, Trader Joe's suddenly stopped stocking the banana crisps, despite its popularity.  It was not until several weeks later that Trader Joe's restocked the banana crisps.  A little sign was tacked nearby the new stash, informing me, the dear consumer, that Trader Joe's had revised the nutritional label to correct misinformation.  Misinformation?  I took a bag from the shelf, turned it over, and looked at the new label.  The calories were now revealed to be FOUR TIMES the original calories and SIX TIMES the original grams of fat.  I slumped against the wall of the chips aisle, and  I thought back on my eating habits.  According to my quick calculations, I had been ingesting, from banana crisps alone, close to 2000 calories and 72 grams of fat every day for three months.  I looked down at my flabby stomach and pinched my flabby thighs.  "So, I guess I'm not just retaining water."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Day in the Life

Last Friday, I took a few photos of the back of my right hand.   I had just washed my hand and was wincing a little from the sting of the cold water on a few open wounds on my hand.  And it occurred to me that my hand was a perfect diary of the perfectly avoidable self-inflicted injuries that I go through in a week.  

On Monday, while reaching for an apple from the refrigerator, I took a circular hunk of flesh out of the knuckle on my middle finger.  Not only do I not know how I did it, I could not find the missing chunk of skin which is probably now fossilized in my fruit drawer.   

On Wednesday, I went to the bathroom at work and, as usual, went through my bathroom routine with all possible speed.  At some point, I whipped my hand into the sharp metal corner of the toilet paper holder.  The sharp corner stabbed my middle finger, just below the knuckle.  By the time I left the bathroom, I had a swollen, purple bruise about a quarter inch long.

On Thursday, I decided to sit on the couch and eat some yogurt.  While peeling back the foil on my yogurt cup, I fumbled the yogurt cup and, in recovering my grasp, cut my index finger on plastic rim.  The resulting gash was a quarter-inch long and bleeding.

In case you are wondering about that half-moon cut you see below my index finger, that's the scar from the gash I gave myself with a frying pan back in April.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My Precious

As you may have noticed, I haven't posted a story about moron tax in quite a few weeks.  Frankly, I didn't have anything to report.  For the past few weeks, I had an unusually good run of high self esteem.  I just spent two wonderful weeks on vacation in Switzerland where I did some hard hiking in the Alps.  I managed to lose a little chunk from my belly, I paid all my bills on time, and I hadn't inadvertently exposed my body in any humiliating manner at work.  Victory!

Of course that couldn't last long, much less forever.  Two days ago, I fell afoul of the the oldest and most consistent rule of moron tax:  Anything Expensive Will Get Broken.

This is a picture of my cell phone.  Aside from my television, computer, and car, this is (or, really, was) the most expensive thing that I can call my own.   I had placed it in the external pocket of my backpack when I left for work, and it slid out when I leaned over to tie my shoe in the parking lot.  The phone fell less than 3 feet but hit the concrete at exactly the worst angle.  Now, little bits of glass stick to my face whenever I answer a call, and I worry that I'll cut my finger using a pull-down menu.  Worse yet, I vaguely wonder if one day I'll learn that radiation from broken smartphones are the undisputed cause of a new medical phenomenon known as "face melting." 

Obviously, I need to replace this phone, but for now, I am feeling too low and undeserving.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Update Post

This is an update to the post: Triple the Moron, Triple the Tax

My friend saw this article in a mens magazine and sent this snippet to me.  The author takes the stance that, duh, you don't ever reuse something that's fallen in a toilet.  I'm still not convinced.  But it leaves me with the unsettling question: does this make me grosser than most men?

Thanks to Conway for the contribution!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Wedding Pleasure to Pain

I find weddings stressful and awkward.  With few exceptions, you're stuck for hours with strangers grasping for chit chat.  I'm usually wearing an uncomfortable dress that I outgrew four years ago because I'm too cheap to spend $200 on a new dress after I've already blown $750 for plane tickets, hotel room, rental car, and gift.  Because I'm unmarried, I usually can't bring a date and am banished to the back in the room, behind the pillar, seated by the guy who talks about his gum transplant surgery.  At every wedding I've attended in the past eight or so years, someone has stopped me with the same, relentless joke: "You're next." Once upon a time, this sounded like a kindly wish.  Nowadays it sounds as if I've been singled out for a hit, and I'm left with the nervous feeling that, any moment now, my ovaries might explode out of my body, hog-tie the nearest single man, and drag us both to the altar.

On top of all these trying circumstances, there is the keen pressure to be joyous.  You're here to celebrate after all, and you must smile, you must chatter about the flower arrangements, you must dance the Electric Slide.   It takes a superhuman quantity of resolve to endure a wedding with grace.  Suffice to say, I don't have nearly that resolve.  Just two minutes ago, I couldn't resist eating the rest of the cake I brought home from dinner.

I have, consequently, committed a lot of wedding-related sins and faux pas.  Here are a few highlights:

  • At a wedding where I did not know a single person (other than the wedding couple), I approached a man who had a friendly and somewhat familiar face.   As my opening remark to him, I said, "Wow, you must be [the groom's] brother.  There is such a strong family resemblance in the face!"  He hesitated then replied politely, "Actually, I'm the husband of [the groom's] sister."  Yowza.  
  • One of the worse aspects of being a single woman at a wedding is that you're forced to participate in the bouquet toss where you're supposed engage in the desperate scramble to be the next year's blushing bride.  You can try to hide, but married wedding attendees will fish you out of the bathroom.  With the one exception where my friend, Elaine, tucked a $50 bill into the bouquet, I have never been a good sport about this humiliating ritual.  I stand there sullen with sagging shoulders, vaguely hoping to die.  Once, I actually punched a bouquet that flew too closely to me.  I swear it's simply reflex to bat away a flying projectile, but tell that to the astonished bride who's staring at the  limp bouquet and the exploded petals on the on the ground.  Another time, I simply ran from the bouquet as it headed my way, pushing against the women behind me, and the bouquet landed with an unceremonious thump.  On yet two other occasions, I've allowed the bouquet to actually hit me in the face and then fall to the floor rather than make the effort to catch it.  I hear that's really bad luck.
  • The last wedding I attended, the couple's wedding ceremony ended at 4pm, and the itinerary stated that the reception would "immediately follow."  The guests were left to wait in the cocktail area making idle chit chat.  After more than hour of talking about the weather and no wedding party member in sight, I became overcome by grouchiness.  I marched to person after person (from waiters to family members) to gruffly inquire when the reception was going to start.  Finally, an uncle was dispatched to ask the wedding coordinator of the plans and came back to say that the we were expected to wait for another two hours.  I felt enraged and said, quite loudly, "I am getting the f-ck out of here," and then stormed out.  
  • Last, but not least, I broke up with a boyfriend at a wedding.  I sobbed in the bathroom.  I sobbed when the bride walked down the aisle.  People would make the joke, "You're next," and I'd sniffle into my napkin as people would turn red and look awkwardly away.  I refused to dance to any song, except that, when "I Will Survive" came on, I leapt to the dance floor like a gazelle and whirled around with abandon. 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Update Post

This is an update to the post: Wardrobe Malfunction II.

I've admitted that, as a kid, I loved sewing and that one of my proudest achievements was when I made a hamburger shaped pillow from a kit.  Well, writing that post made me nostalgic for those good ol' days, so I  searched the internet for similar kits.  I was delighted to see that the folks at Haan Crafts not only still produced the same hamburger pillow kit, but they've expanded to include a lot of other fun designs.  For a very reasonable $7.25, I bought a Two Peas in a Pod kit.  After a few tedious and occasionally exasperating hours, I produced the pillow.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Update Post

This is an update for the post: Final Chapter: Tow Me to the Biggest Little City

As I mentioned, my boyfriend and I had a great time in Reno.  First, the Grand Sierra Resort, is a great place to take a vacation with your dog.  Not only did they allow the dog to stay in the room, they gave us a plastic dog bowl for us to keep and a baggie full of treats for Teabiscuit.  Teabiscuit was allowed eat with us at the sushi bar in the hotel restaurant, where he got a lot of loving attention from the hotel staff. Teabiscuit was, amazingly, also allowed to gamble with us on the casino floor.  If it weren't for the casino's security concerns about folks snapping pictures or videos of the casino floor, I'd post pictures of Teabiscuit playing the Fireball slot machines.

Right behind the Grand Sierra Resort, there is a driving range where you hit golf balls into a cement water reservoir.  There are little islands in the reservoir that serve as targets.  Depending on the one that you hit, you can win prizes like a dinner at Johnny Rockets or a trip for two to Hawaii.  On my fourth or fifth ball I sunk in a ball that won me a 1 liter bottle of Pepsi.  Considering I hadn't swung a golf club since my worst outing ever about 15 years ago, I was pretty happy with myself.  As my boyfriend can attest, I was insufferably smug for the rest of the day.

My boyfriend and I also discovered that my boyfriend's favorite hole-in-the-wall pizza place in Brooklyn has franchise restaurants in Reno.  We noshed on some first rate pizza.

Friday, July 23, 2010

My Moron Tax Weekend: The Final Chapter

The Final Chapter:
Tow Me to the Biggest Little City

As I wrote in my past two posts, I got stranded in the small town of Bridgeport, California, when my car broke down.  Because the car broke down on the Saturday of the Fourth of July weekend, I had to wait until Monday before the local mechanic, Steve, could buy the right transmission fluid and pump it back into my car.  On Monday morning, Steve set out to search all the open auto parts stores in the 200 mile area to find what I needed.  Poor Steve.  Three hours after he left, he called me on my *phone in a slightly frantic tone.  "I'm in Bishop (about 90 miles away), and I am standing outside the only European auto parts store in the Eastern Sierra.  I have been to at least four automotive parts stores and this is the only one that carries your transmission fluid.  They only have one bottle left.  They can order more, but it'll take at least two days and then I have to drive down here again."  He sounded so sorry.  "You should probably get towed to Reno."

On to Plan D.  Reno, the closest city, was 115 miles away from Bridgeport.  I called Shelley at AAA who kindly offered to tow me there for $450 ($125 less than the standard $5 rate).   "One catch," he said, "the dog is going to have to stay in car.  He can't sit in the tow truck."  Poor Teabiscuit.  My boyfriend and I decided to ride in the car, as it was towed, to keep my dog company until the state border.  Once in Nevada, my boyfriend and I were required, under state regulation, to sit in the tow truck.

About three hours later we arrived in the tow truck at the one VW dealership in Reno.  At this time, it was six o'clock at night and the dealership and service department were closed.  We left the car on the lot and called a taxi to find us a place to stay.  The taxi took us to the Grand Sierra Casino Resort.  "I know they take dogs," the taxi driver told us. "Sold," I said.

On Tuesday morning, I rented a car while the dealership took a look at my car to see if they could repair it.  While my boyfriend, the dog, and I were exploring Reno, Mike from dealership called my cell phone.  "I've got bad news," he said.  Although more than a few people said, "I've got bad news" to me in the past two days, this time it really hit me in the gut.  "Do you understand what it means when your car is totaled?" Mike explained to me that my car's transmission was severely damaged as was the transmission mount and possibly the body mount.  As my car was very old, the actual value of the car was less than half the cost of repair.

Aside from, perhaps, receiving a diagnosis of cancer, I couldn't think of worse news.  I loved my car.  For twelve years, it faithfully carried me over 145,000 miles without complaint, even though I would let years go by before washing it.  My car pushed through snow-laden midwestern winters, endured three 2000 mile trips between Chicago and Los Angeles, and bumped over mile of rocky off-road terrain.  Last year, I left it at the cold Whitney Portal trailhead while I went hiking.  When I returned to the car 19 days later, the car -- despite the neglect and old age -- started on the first turn of the key.  Totally exhausted and in desperate need of a hot shower, I had hugged my steering wheel with tears seeping out of my eyes.  For all the abuse I heaped on that car, it was always ready to take me home.  Even in its last act, it brought me to safety before dying.

I went to the dealership to clean out my car and say goodbye to it for the last time.  Irrational as it was, I felt horribly guilty.  I shuddered thinking about the tow truck hauling it to the salvage yard where it would sit alone and abandoned until it was picked apart for its parts or, worse, smashed into box of scrap metal.

Afterwards, I rented **another car so that I could finally start heading back home.  While I was sad about the outcome of this weekend, I was feeling relief that I might be back home in about five hours.  But then, as I turned onto the highway that climbs over the mountains that separate Nevada from California, I saw dark clouds swirling over the mountain pass.  Bolts of lightening flashed.  "Now what?!" I demanded from the Fates.  No sooner said, a freak hail storm pounded the car.  We heard bullet-like pops as the hail stones -- as large as one-inch in diameter -- slammed against the windshield and roof then bounced to the ground.  Water flooded the road up to the top of the tires, and I worried that the little Yaris I was driving might stall in the middle of this insanity.

We did make it through.  About 84 hours after I hit the rock with my car, we were back home.  That first night back in my own bed was the best sleep I had in a long, long while.

The End.

*  On the first day in Bridgeport, I got no signal on my phone (T-Mobile) or my boyfriend's phone (AT&T).  By Monday, my boyfriend and I had found three separate spots about 2x2 feet where we would could get a signal on our phones.  We discovered that as long as we did not move from these spots, we could make and receive calls.  

**  I mentioned that I rented 3 cars in 3 days.  On Monday, I rented a car while I waited for mine to be evaluated at the dealership.  I had to rent a different car to drive back home to California, because the first rental agency does not allow interstate transfers.  The day after I got home, I had to transfer to yet another rental car that I could use for the week while I shopped around for a new car.

*** As a final note, I don't normally wear Crocs outside of my house.  They were the only shoes I had in my possession that weekend other than my hi-top hiking boots, which are uncomfortable to wear in 90+ weather.

****Like Bridgeport, Reno has a lot of  charm.   To read about our good times there, see my Update Post.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Update Post

wrote about how I got stuck in the small town of Bridgeport, California, when my car broke down after hitting a large rock.  While it was not fun to wreck my car and stressful to be unexpectedly stranded more than 200 miles away from home with no immediately discernible way to get back home, I did have a good time in Bridgeport.  Bridgeport sits in a gorgeous part of the country, just east of the imposing Sierra Nevada mountain range, and is surrounded by breathtaking views of snow-capped peaks.  More importantly, all the people we met were incredibly open and friendly people.  In a city, with its teeming anonymity, faces melt into the urban landscape.   In Bridgeport -- where someone you meet on the street is someone you might see the next day at the only coffee shop in town -- everyone stands out as a distinct human.  Whenever I stopped strangers on the street to ask for advice, each person listened and answered my questions with care.  No one seemed to be in a hurry to shake me off or eyed me with suspicion about my motives.  Some people offered to let me use their phones.

Several people, in particular, buoyed my (and my boyfriend's) spirits during this stressful time:
  • Ramon and Merna -- the wonderful couple we met at the coffee show.  Ramon and his blue-grass band, "Big Meadow," played several fun, toe-tapping songs while my boyfriend and I sat in the sunshine outside the coffee shop waiting to hear from Steve about the car.  Merna inspired us with stories about about driving snow-mobiles in Swagger Creek and building her hydroelectric powered house.  
  • Brian -- the slightly drunk, bigger than life personality that made two different phone calls on our behalf to his friends to see if he find a hotel or camping spot for me, my boyfriend, and my dog, for the night.  Brian also went out of his way to knock on the door of a friend who might have been able to give us a ride to Mammoth Lakes (a city about 60 miles away).
  • Kathy -- the incomparable hostess of the Bridgeport Inn who not only made us feel welcome at the Inn, but went out of her way to inquire about Teabiscuit several times.  
  • Steve -- the mechanic who went above and beyond the call of duty -- including working on a holiday weekend and driving 1.5 hours to search for the right transmission fluid -- to try to get my car running again.  And when all those efforts failed, Steve refused compensation.  
Also, Fourth of July in Bridgeport is a must-see event.  The city spends the whole year fundraising, planning, and looking forward to this occasion.  Even the most cynical, I've-seen-it-all naysayer would be charmed by the honest-to-goodness earnestness of Bridgeport's Fourth of July celebration.  
  • There is an old fashioned parade, complete with donkeys, horses, marines, balloons, fire trucks and old cars.  Everyone shows up to the occasion wearing red, white and blue.  

  • The city coordinates festivities that involves many members of the community.  Men and women arm wrestle in their weight class for trophies.  Kids climb up greased poles to grab dollar bills. These simple games were enormously entertaining to watch.
  • The community organized an arts and crafts fair where you could buy handmade birdhouses shaped like tractors and kids could make candles in the same of ice cream floats.  There was also mobile studio that took old-timey photographs that portay you as a western-style gunslinger or showgirl.  I went for the Annie Oakley look.  (Thanks to Chris, at who did a great job.)
  • Of course, there are also fireworks.  It was a spectacular show.  In a year of depressing economic times when major cities struggle to pull off fireworks, the Bridgeport display is a testament to the resilience and come-together spirit of small-town residents and businesses.  

All told, it was a beautiful way to spend a holiday weekend.  I plan to head out there next year.

(Peace Love Bridgeport)

Friday, July 16, 2010

My Moron Tax Weekend: Chapter Two

Chapter Two: 
Welcome to Bridgeport, Population 817

As I wrote in my previous blog post, on July 3, 2010, my car broke down at the gas station on the edge of the small town of Bridgeport, California.  I had run into a large rock that, in turn, ripped a hole in an oil pan, causing my car to lose motor oil until the engine could no longer run.  When I ran into the gas station to ask for help, I was informed no one there could help me.  "Find Steve," I was told, "He's the only mechanic in town."  I asked at the gas station across the street and got the same answer: "You need Steve, and Steve's not here."  When I called the local AAA affiliate to locate a mechanic, the dispatcher asked, "Isn't Steve there?"

It took some time to find Steve.  The rodeo was in town -- I mean that literally -- and Steve was enjoying it with his family.  This was not only a Saturday but a holiday weekend, and he was rightly on vacation.  Lucky, for me, though, word somehow got to Steve that an idiot fool tore up her car running over a rock and needed his help rather desperately.  Steve was nice enough to follow up and find me at the gas station to offer his services.  He, my boyfriend, and I then pushed the car over to his garage and Steve examined the undercarriage.  He came back with sobering news.  As it turns out, the rock did not merely crack the oil pan, it crumpled one of its corners.  The pan looked as if Superman had punched it in anger and left an indent in the shape of his fist.  The rock also ripped through some wires and chipped off sizable hunks of the metal frame.  Despite how bad it looked, Steve would try to patch (J-B weld) the oil pan.  If everything went perfectly, the patch could allow me to limp home with my car.  

With hope in our hearts (and wild, delusional optimism in our minds), we left Steve to his work, bought ourselves some burgers for lunch, and then lodged ourselves at the one coffee shop in town.  The coffee shop was across the street from Steve's garage, so we could watch the progress.  Around 5 pm, Steve called me over for the bad news.

"The rock," Steve explained, "cracked your transmission pan.  In order to weld the pan, I had to drain out all the transmission fluid."  
"Uh huh..."
"I welded your pan, and it looks really good.  But, your car isn't like most cars.  Most cars have a place in the engine for you to pour in transmission fluid.  You car has a sealed transmission, so there's no place for me to pour the transmission fluid back into your car."
"And here's another problem: even if I could pour it in, I don't have that kind of transmission fluid.  Your car takes a very special kind of transmission fluid that I've never seen before."
"There is no way to fix your car until -- best case scenario -- I can drive down to Bishop (a town about 1.5 hr drive away) on Monday (today was Saturday) and find the transmission fluid you need and then use a pump to get the fluid back in the transmission."
Here is a comprehensive list of the challenges I was then facing:
  • I was 231 miles away from home.
  • Nightfall was coming, and I had no place for me and my boyfriend to sleep.  There were only four motels in all of Bridgeport, and the Fourth of July Weekend was the town's biggest tourist event of the year.  The nearest campground was more than 6 miles away, and it was totally booked.
  • The closest town bigger than Bridgeport was Mammoth Lakes, more than 60 miles away.  The closest city was Reno, Nevada, more than 115 miles away.
  • There are no taxis, buses, or public transportation that run in that area.  The nearest rental car company was closed until Monday.
  • Neither my boyfriend nor I had any cell phone reception.  (I can't tell you how many times I heard someone say to me "Oh, you don't have Verizon" while shaking their head.)  There was only one pay phone left in town.
  • Lastly, I had my dog with me.  Poor Teabiscuit.
I did not feel I had much choice.  There was no place to go.  I left the car with Steve on the instructions that he should try to fix the car on Monday.  My boyfriend and I set off to see if we could find any place that would squeeze us in for two nights.  I felt desperate.  I could see the neon "no vacancy" lights of the motels turning on in the dusk-light.  We walked up and down the main street, stopping random strangers for advice on where to go and what to do.  People were warm and kindly, but everyone turned up the same answer, "It's July 4th weekend.  It's the biggest weekend here.  Everything's probably sold out."  Someone suggested that we ask the church if we could camp on their lawn.  I started to wonder if we should appeal to the Sheriff Department for a ride somewhere, anywhere, that would have a bed.  

At last, we came to the Bridgeport Inn.  They had the last available room in town. I jumped up and down as relief steamed out of me until, I realized, there was a catch.  No dogs allowed.  I started to beg the proprietors for compassion (and frankly, propose to pay a double rate), but they told me that health laws forbade dogs in the room because it was above a restaurant.  I relented and quietly paid for the room.  My boyfriend and I spent the rest of the night sitting in the warm night air at the local burger joint with Teabiscuit, until it got late.   Around 11pm, we walked the dog back to the car where he would sleep alone that night.  I bedded Teabsicuit down and left him with a bowl of water and doggie treats.  He didn't even bark or whimper when we closed the door and walked away.  When we got to the hotel room, I cried.

*This is a blog about moron tax, so I focused my story on the stress and series of unfortunate incidents that plagued me.  At that same time, there were some really fun and great times.  Bridgeport is a really cute town with tremendously friendly people and a great spirit.  If you want to read about the bright side of the weekend, visit my updates.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

My Moron Tax Weekend: Chapter One

This past four-day weekend was an Odyssey of moron tax.  On Saturday, I committed one small error in judgment that got me stranded far from home.  It took me nearly four days from that point to find my way back.  On that journey, I got stuck in 2 cities that I never thought I'd visit, spent three hours in a tow truck, abandoned my car in Reno, rented three cars in three days, drove through a violent hail storm, and wasted more than one thousand dollars.

What happened?  As Homer might have said, Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story....

Chapter One: I Hit a Rock with My Car

For the Fourth of July weekend, my boyfriend and I decided to spend a few nights camping around Peeler Lake in the Hoover Wilderness.  The Hoover Wilderness is on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada.  To get there from my house, we would have to drive several hours on Highway 108 and traverse the Sonora Pass.  Because Highway 108 travels over a high mountain pass, it is notoriously steep, curvy, and narrow.  It also goes through relatively remote territory.  There are no cellphone signals in that part of the country, the towns are many miles apart, and there are no public phones or public transportation to speak of.  If you car breaks down, you are stranded until you can hitch a ride from a kind stranger to the closest gas station, which may be more than 40 miles away.

I was coming around a corner on Highway 108 when I saw a huge rock in the middle of my lane.  The rock was a chunk of the mountainside that must have broken off and tumbled into the road perhaps just moments before I arrived.  I had less than two seconds to make a decision.  Although I braked, I did not have time to bring the car to full stop.  I did not want to veer right, because, at such speed, I could careen into the mountainside that runs along the highway.  I also did not want to veer left and cross into the opposing lane.  Instead, I decided to run over the rock and hope that my car could clear it safely.  Of course, it didn't.

The car slammed into and then violently bounced over the rock.  There was a crunching sound so loud that it could be heard over my involuntary screaming.  When I regained control of the car, I pulled over to the side of the road ahead of the rock and jumped out to assess the damage.  I could see splintered bits of my car strewn across the road.  Part of my bumper had cracked off.  Worse yet, I could see a trail of black motor oil leading from the rock to my car.  From past experience, I knew that such a drip meant that my car was heading towards total system failure.  

My boyfriend and I hopped back into my car and drove in the direction of the nearest civilization.  Despite the trauma, the car drove well and carried us almost twenty miles to the nearest gas station in Bridgeport, California.  After we reached the station, I turned off the car and ran inside the station for help.  When I got back, there was a puddle of motor oil beneath my car, and my car was dead.  We were now stranded 231 miles away from home.

This was the beginning of my weekend.

**To give you an idea of what it was like to run over the rock, I would say that it was worse than this:

but better than this:

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Wardrobe Malfunction II

I am one of those people who have always really like the home arts.  As a kid, I spent hours rug hooking  or cross stitching pictures of cats.  I vividly remember the proud moment in sixth grade when I completed my semester art project: a pillow shaped like a hamburger.  In high school, I was that geek who gleefully signed up to spend three solid months sewing a quilt and matching pillow in home-ec.

Despite all my passion for it and despite all the hours I have sunk into learning how to do it, I still suck at sewing.  And by suck, I mean that I am so bad that, more often than not, my attempt at repairing something only renders that something worse off.  Once, while trying to fix a shirt cuff, I sewed close the entire sleeve.  On more than one occasion, I have sewn the shirt I was working on to the pants I was wearing at the time.  

A little while ago a large-ish hole (about 1/2 an inch long) opened up in the left armpit of my favorite dress.  Although, this normally spells doom to a piece of clothing in my household, I loved this dress so much that I pulled out the needle and thread and set to placing nearly thirty stitches over the hole.  Although the stitches were rough and uneven, I felt confident that at least the integrity of the dress was salvaged.  

Last week, I wore the dress to work.  As I got out of my car and reached for my computer bag, I heard the distinctive and rather loud sound of cotton ripping.  I winced and hoped, perhaps naively, that only one or two of the thirty stitches had burst.  I glanced under my left arm and saw what can only be described as full armpit ventilation.

For a few minutes, I stood by my car wondering whether I should go home and change or go through the day hiding my exposed armpit from my co-workers.  With a heavy sigh, I walked into the office and spent the rest of my day with my left arm rigidly clamped against my body.

*Update Post here.

Update Post

This is an update to: Stewing in My Own Funk

A little while ago, I admitted that my bathroom had reached an appalling level of disgusting.  After several months of living with my own filth, I actually buckled down and cleaned my bathroom.  The effort involved was great and I sweat through my clothing scrubbing the floor, but it was worth it.  Behold!

Update Post

This is an update to Triple the Moron, Triple the Tax.

In one of my last posts, I mentioned that I got sick from brushing my teeth with toothpaste that fell into my toilet.  Well, I'm happy to report that I didn't get sick from the toothpaste -- I just caught a small cold from sharing my nephew's chocolate mousse into which he dripped a little snot from his runny nose.  While that might be a little gross, it's not as gross as getting a massive e-coli infection!  And the best part is that I get to go on using that tube of toothpaste.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Triple the Moron, Triple the Tax

Last night, I dropped my new tube of toothpaste in the toilet bowl.  In the half-second that I stood over the toilet, pondering, "Do I really have to get that thing?" it occurred to me that my goof was moron squared.

First, there is the base layer stupidity, as I have mentioned in an earlier post, in having a bathroom cabinet poised directly about the toilet.  I have ruined many of my mornings by dropping my fancy, department-store facial soap into the crapper.  Then there is the stupidity multiplier, which is that my toilet has not been cleaned since January and there is an unsettling brown ring around the top of the bowl.

I decided to retrieve the toothpaste.  A tube that big would not flush, and it's unthinkable to allow it to float for eternity in the one toilet in the house.  Once I pulled it out of the water, however, I faced another dilemma -- do I keep it or throw it away?  On the one hand, it was a brand new tube good for at least another couple of months.  It was, moreover, the only toothpaste in the house.  On the other hand, the microscopic (and not-so microcopic) poo particles swirling about the toilet would probably stick to a gooey substance like toothpaste.  And, toothpaste reaches every crevice of your mouth, which seems to me to be among the last places you'd want poo particles to go.

Despite the fact that a replacement would cost me less than $6, I kept the toilet-water soaked toothpaste.  I doused it with soapy water and rubbing alcohol.  For good measure, I squirt out the top quarter inch of toothpaste into the garbage can.  "There," I thought, "good as new."  I squeezed a little toothpaste on my toothbrush -- sniffed it to be sure -- and then brushed.

This morning, I woke up with a fever and body ache.

*Update Post here and here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Update Post

This is an update to: The Horror, the Horror.

About a month ago, I wrote about how rats had moved into my garage.  I called in the pest inspector who helped me figure out how the rats were actually getting in.  He then suggested a few handymen who could help me patch up those holes.  Sure enough, the handyman that I called was able to fix the problem right away and I have been rat free ever since!  

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Great Moments in Photography III

I once had a boyfriend who insisted on keeping at least 3 pairs of ratty sweatpants in his closet because, as he liked to say, "You never know when you might need them for painting."  At the time, I laughed at this.  First of all, I'd point out, as a lawyer, you're not often ambushed by a rush painting job in the course of business.  Second, even if the improbable emergency painting situation arises, ratty sweatpants are not your only clothing option.  You don't need to stock up.  He shook his head at me --  I could see the words forming in his mind, "One day you'll see."

Well, that day came.  Last week, I joined some of my co-workers on a volunteer project to paint the gym at the local Boys & Girls Club.  As I did not have ratty sweatpants on hand for the occasion, I wore some old skinny jeans.  Jeans, as it turns out, is a bad choice for painting.  Because painting involves a lot of bending down and squatting, one benefits from an elastic waistband that clings snugly to your waist.  Jeans, on the other hand, pull down to an unseemly degree. 

Below is a photo that the volunteer coordinator snapped of me and my co-workers busily working away.  Notice the butt crack. 

It's hard not to die a little inside, knowing that I spent my day with my coin slot hanging out for the world to see and that this photo has since circulated to 50 of my co-workers.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Not Far From the Tree

As I've admitted a few times, I have a problem with not dealing with problems in a timely manner.  Boxes belonging to other people clutter my house.  I let rats poo all over my garage for weeks before I do anything about it.  My bathroom has crossed from unclean to oh-my-god-what-is-that disgusting (which, by the way, I still haven't cleaned).

How did I get to be this way?  How did I come to be comfortable with so much filth?  The answer is not obvious; the home I grew up in was usually clean and dust free, if not entirely orderly.  My mother can often be found stalking the house with a dusting cloth and squirreling away clutter.  I have no memory of ever stepping into a dirty bathroom during my childhood.

Yet, this week -- as I'm staying with my parents in the house where I grew up -- I discovered something.  Despite my mother's overt cleanliness, she, too, has a certain inclination towards the disgusting.  For reasons unknown, my mother likes holding on to open yet barely used highly perishable foods for years.

Behold these items from my parents' refrigerator that I pulled out today:

This is carton of cheese wedges.  According to the label, it was best until "October 13, 2009."

This is a bottle of "Organic" carrot juice that was best before June 11, 2008 -- just over two years ago.

This tub of margarine stopped being good on July 8, 2008.
This V8 Fusion juice spoiled on October 16, 2008.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Stewing in My Own Funk

I've been in a funk lately.  For the past few months, I've been able to muster only slightly more energy than the absolute minimum needed to support life-sustaining activities like breathing.  I like sitting without moving.  I prefer lying down.  In fact, if I could sleep for 23 hours a day, I would.  When I'm at work or in public, I scrounge up the inner resources to put on a chipper face, but inwardly I'm fantasizing about falling into a coma.  "Why a coma?" my boyfriend asks, "Why not a vacation?"  Because vacations are require planning, packing, getting to the airport, finding shuttles, carrying heavy luggage, and floundering in a foreign language.  A coma requires only a gentle slumping over into oblivion.  You can fall into a coma just sitting at your dining table with a banana peel in your hand.

So, as I sit on my couch each night in my funk, the rest of my life unravels at the edges.  The mail piles up, the laundry doesn't get done, and dustballs the size of my dog accumulate behind the television stand.  My bathroom has declined the most.  It would not surprise me if certain corners of my bathroom are now cultures for new forms of life.  Though, the condition of my bathroom disgusts even me, I suspect I won't bring myself clean it until the day I contract a staph infection.   Even then, it might not be enough.

Here are pics of my bathroom in its current state.

This is my shower.  The green bottle used to hold liquid soap that I used up weeks ago.  You can see a clump of hair, too, that I haven't bothered to pick up.  And I think that's bubonic plague growing by the shower drain.

This is a picture of my sink.  I can't be sure what the brown rime around the drain is made of, but I suspect that it's month-old toothpaste.

This is the area just outside my tub.  The bathroom floor is totally covered in dust and fallen hair.

* Update Post here.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Incredible Moron

I very rarely lose my temper.  Perhaps because I am not much taller than a garden gnome, I have cultivated a tendency to avoid confrontation whenever possible and forgive as quickly as possible.   By and large, this is a good thing and lets me glide through society with the benefit of the doubt on my side.  It's not a bad gig.

Unfortunately, though, because I don't often get angry, I have little practice in managing my anger and therefore have appalling lack control over it.  Within seconds of the moment I feel the first flare of anger, I spiral from frowning with disappointment to hissing invectives to yelling incomprehensibly at the top of my lungs to crying unconsolably with bitter self loathing.  Given the opportunity, I will hurl something precious to the ground and then stomp on it with the passionate desire to make things worse for myself.  It is only slightly improbable that I don't also turn into a hulking green monster.

The last time I lost my temper was sometime one year ago.  It was winter, and I went to Lake Tahoe to ski.  I was outside, on a mound of snow beside the chair lift, trying to put on my ski equipment and getting increasingly frustrated with each failure.  My bindings were not adjusted correctly, and it was tedious work trying to turn the screw that tightens them up using only the flat 1x1 inch of metal that came with my skis.  I'd then test the adjustment, only to have my heel pop out of the binding while simultaneously pushing the ski down the mound.  I'd then have to rock-step in my uncomfortably rigid ski boots down the mound to fetch the ski.  This would happen again and again.  Meanwhile, my friends were already on the hill and I felt impatient to join them.  I could feel my blood begin to boil as my frustration mounted.  At long last, I successfully fitted myself to my skis and was ready to head to the chair lift.  I reached for my ski poles and pushed off.  Just at that moment, one of my poles collapsed beneath my weight and I stumbled sideways into the snow.  Instead of traditional ski poles, I had opted to use telescopic trekking poles that expanded at a joint.  The pole collapsed because I had failed to properly tighten the locking mechanism at the joint.  It was a moment of exasperation that I could not endure.

I wrapped both my hands around the handle of the offending pole like a baseball bat and began slamming it repeatedly and with vengeance into the snow.  I also started to curse in a refrain along the lines of "Why did I &;^# buy this mother-&#$% pole. I can't stand this $%#$.  Why can't I ever do any #%$# thing right. What a &^#% waste. I am a @#$%# idiot." While this scene might not be unexpected at a golf course, the people in line at the chair lift likely took a big, collective step away from me.

The scene came to a quick end, though, when my pole broke in two at the joint and the loose piece flew away from me and bounced down the mound.  Despite the fact I had, just a moment ago, been violently abusing the pole, the sight of its irreparable break shocked me into unmoving silence.  I had loved this pole.  This pole was a state-of-the-art, shock absorbing, insanely light carbon trekking pole.  I had painstakingly researched trekking poles before selecting this one and had paid a not-insignificant amount of money for it.  Most importantly, this pole had supported me on one of my proudest achievements -- the summit of Mt. Baker.  It got me up and down glaciers.  It pulled me out of waist-high snow.  It gave me footing over icy rock.  Suddenly I felt mournful.  My anger melted away and, as usual, gave way to regret.

RIP my dear poles.  You served me well.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Horror, The Horror

I ignore a lot of problems.  Because I'm tired or don't know what to do about it, I often let a problem sit where I found it until I become accustomed to its being there.  The problem, in turn, silently festers and grows until the ripe day when the problem refuses to be denied any longer and mounts a takeover of my life in the style of "shock and awe."

For weeks, I have been listening to the skittering of claws on the roof of my home just after dusk.  "Opossums," I told myself, "nothing but opossums."  Then, in the mornings, fresh little paw prints would appear my car's windshield in a criss-crossing pattern that reminded me of the floor of an Arthur Murray dance studio, and I would imagine a pair of squirrels ballroom dancing on my car.  Finally, I started to find dark, oval pellets of mistakable poo on top of my car.  "Could rabbits have gotten into my garage?" I wondered.  "Cute, fuzzy rabbits?"

The problem at last unveiled itself to me in a naked and devastating light.  One night, last week, I opened the door to the garage to do some laundry.  I flicked on the overhead light and froze in panicked disgust when I saw, poised on top of my car, a rat.  A big, brown rat.*  

The rat eyed me in a completely unconcerned way.  It did not back down from my car and scurry away. Rather, it sniffed the air, in that signature, rodent way, and then bobbed its snout at me as if to say, "Yo."  I, on the other hand, retreated back into my house, slammed the door, and let out a curdling squeal.

It's hard for me to casually enter the garage now that I know a rat has been pooping all over the place.  In fact, it is likely to be that rat, his buddies, and his extended family because it's hard to imagine only one rat making this much poo.

The rat has so far won this round.  I have put in a call to the professionals to rout them out.  If that doesn't work, I'll send in some cats.  Big, bad-ass cats.  Bruce Willis cats.

*  Photo of the roof rat was taken by someone else and used here in accordance with Creative Commons license.  See attribution here.

* Update Post here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Update Post

This is an update to: Ouch!

A few weeks ago I cut myself on the sharp edge of my frying pan, leaving a pretty deep gash on the back of my hand.  Well, the wound is now closed up practically healed!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Update Post

This is an update to: The Cost of Inertia.

A while ago, I asked for your advice about what to do with some boxes that I had stacked in my house.  Well, folks, I finally did do something with the boxes.  I returned two of them back to UPS store, which was kind enough to receive them.  Based on the quizzical look on the face of the man behind the counter, I don't have high hopes that the boxes will actually find their way back home.  I tried to return a third box to Fed-Ex, but Fed-Ex refused it.  That box and the last box (which had no return address) were opened and the contents were given away.

Thanks again for all your input and help!  I appreciate it.