Pictionary Woes

My other half and I had dinner at Grass-Phobia Girl’s new place this past weekend.  It was a great time – good food, good cocktails, and some fiercely competitive Pictionary.  We busted out the dry erase boards – no skimpy little notepads for us – split into two teams of 4, and were off to the races.  Well, the other team was off to the races.  My team languished near the starting spot for way too long.  We just couldn’t catch a break.  To give you an example of our Pictionary woes, I had to draw “Blink.”  No big deal, I thought.  I expected to have it sealed in seconds – but, my team thought otherwise.

I quickly drew an almond-shaped eye, added the iris and retina.  My team began to yell.

“Eye!”

“Eyes!”

“Eyeball!”

“Look!”

“See!”

“Stare!”

Next I added a lid, half-closed, and dashed some eyelashes onto it.  Then they hollered.

“Eyelash!”

“Lash!”

“Lashes!”

“Mascara!”

By then I was frantically switching back and forth between stabbing the dry erase board, literally in the eye, and slashing in blue marker in a down-then-back-up motion.  I thought for sure I had it when they began to scream

“Close your eye!”

“Close your eye!”

“Close your eye!”

But, time was called before they ever thought “Blink.”

Grass Phobia Girl turns 30

December 30 is Grass Phobia Girl’s birthday, and this year, it was her golden birthday – being that she turned 30 on the 30th.  Her younger sister was determined to create a birthday bash that would knock her socks off, and last through the entire New Year’s weekend.  I partook only in the actual birthday part of the festivities, since I am no longer 30, and cannot party for multiple days as easily as I might once have been able to.  Grass Phobia Girl and her friends are known to be some serious lovers of fun, all things inappropriate, excessive celebration, and lots and lots of alcohol.  And cupcakes.  Let me explain.

Invitation, part 1

Bon Voyage Invite, Part 1

Grass Phobia Girl’s sister works in an admirable sector of the non-profit world, focused on bringing educational and job opportunities to those whose tough lives have made it difficult for them to figure out how to accomplish those things after high school – if they made it through high school, to begin with.  On the side, though, she has a cupcake making business, and bakes some killer desserts.  Often, Grass Phobia Girl is roped into helping with the baking, the decorating, and even the delivery and set up of creative cupcake displays.

Little sister recently set up a fake job, which was part of the overall birthday surprise scheme.  It just so happened that she landed a job to make cupcakes for a couple in a nearby town that was heading off for their honeymoon in Paris.  So, the theme of the cupcakes was French – Bon Voyage.  The cakes themselves were dark, baked with Guinness, and the frosting made with Bailey’s Irish Creme.  Fondant decorations included the French flag and little baby croissants.  The party was scheduled for the 30th.  Little did she know, Grass Phobia Girl was decorating cupcakes dedicated to the loss of her youth.

Meanwhile, little sister sent invitations to the rest of us – these brilliant cards and balloon you see here.  We were to send photos of ourselves indicating whether we would attend the party or not, with the use of the balloon as a key prop.  There were some real zingers sent in.

Bon Voyage Invite, Part 2

When we arrived at the party location, it turned out to be a huge empty house on the island of Alameda.  Little sister arranged for food, lots and lots of alcohol, a photographer that took pictures prom-style while attendees adorned themselves in feather boas with elbow length black gloves, and wielded a baguette in ways no baker ever intended.  The empty living room turned into a dance floor, and the kitchen was a help-yourself bar with more jugs of alcohol than I could count, and a fridge full of mixers for the the wimps that couldn’t just suck down the liquor straight.  A couple kegs outside invited a keg-stand competition, which I’ve never actually seen before, but became a willing party to – it was my job to hold up the legs of the person competing with Grass Phobia Girl.  We won.

RSVP by Balloon

Grass Phobia Girl arrived with boyfriend and little sister, to a house full of screaming friends and family who’d already been drinking for an hour or two.  She was truly shocked – friends had flown in from around the country, and she really had bought the whole cupcake catering story.  Little sister and some friends made a movie – a dark and ridiculous film noir style flick, in which the detective goes on a dangerous investigation to try to determine what happened to Grass Phobia Girl’s youth.  The film includes lots of cigarette smoking, lewd references, a car accident, implied affairs, and in the end, a shocking murder.  Little sister is the one doing the murdering – she murders in order to get big sister to stop hanging out with other people and spend more time at home watching TV – their biggest shared passion.

Bon Voyage Balloon

Happy New Year, and may you see many vegetable people in 2012

I was just glancing through “Old Friend from Far Away,” thinking it’s been a while since I just wrote randomly from a writing prompt.  I stopped on a page titled “Radish.”  The first paragraph opens:

“This is a wish. When you are writing about a radish, that you and the radish meet face to face. That you stay specific, present, and direct and through your true intention the radish becomes RADISH. You instantaneously summon the particular and also give life to the essence of that buried root plucked up red and edible.”

It’s good advice, I think, as I’m typing it out now, but that’s not what came to mind when I began to read.  I got distracted by memories of vegetable people.  I went through an odd phase a long time ago, when I couldn’t help but compare people to vegetables.  Visually, I mean.  One night, I was sitting at IHOP with my roommate and best friend, and someone walked in and I said, “Doesn’t that woman look like broccoli?”  My friend worked hard not to spit out his coffee, but in the end, he agreed that she looked surprisingly like a stalk of broccoli.  I can’t picture her anymore or I’d describe it for you better.  You might think people don’t really look a lot like vegetables, and maybe you’re right.  But, I challenge you to give it some thought.  You may not always see a vegetable when you look at a person, but you will be surprised how often you do, if you just think about it.  Leave your mind open to the fact that people can resemble, or at the very least, remind you of, vegetables.  Or other foods, if you need a broader target.

In the next few days, you might find yourself noticing that someone with a mottled complexion makes you think of frozen mixed vegetables, or someone that stands stiffly brings to mind a carrot.  Perhaps a balding man reminds you of a peeled onion, or someone else with spiky hair makes you think of the root end of a green onion.  The point is, allowing yourself the extra space to think about random things like this might make you smile just a little more frequently, and we could all stand to do that.  My New Year’s resolution is to see more vegetable people this year.

I haven’t given it a lot of thought until this minute, but if I had to classify a few of the characters I’ve introduced you to here, I’d say this.  My partner most resembles a stalk of celery (she’ll probably want to smack me for this comparison, but I mean no harm).  Barefoot boss – he’s a fingerling potato.  Gopher-man, hmm, I’ll have to come back to him – a cabbage, maybe.  Long Back Guy, an unripened Fresno chili.  The Guatemalan, a pineapple.  Cat Power, a roma tomato. Grass-phobia girl, a crimini mushroom.  Me, I probably look sort of like an eggplant.  Happy New Year!

Gratitude

I titled this post Gratitude because I’m truly grateful for having been recognized with some more blogger awards from a fellow writer, Julie Farrar, who writes at Traveling Through.  I’ve been doing this for just over a month, and loving it the whole time, due in large part to the people that I’ve connected with through my writing and theirs.  Julie tagged me with two awards, The Stylish Blogger, and the Versatile Blogger.  Julie’s comments about my writing put a smile on my face, and I’m thankful that she shared them.

“It’s an anonymous blog, with language and stories I envy to no end.”

In keeping with the spirit of the awards, here are seven more random things about me:

1 – Stylish is another term those that know me would never use to describe me (though, again, I appreciate the shout-out from Julie, regardless of the name of the award!).  I am the kind of person that buys 8 of the same shirt in different colors.  6 or 8 short-sleeve T-shirts, 6 or 8 long-sleeve T-shirts, 2 pairs of jeans in slightly different washes.  I can never manage to have more than two pairs of jeans at a time.  I generally wear one pair of shoes until they wear out so badly I really can’t wear them anymore.  As the shoes or jeans approach this point of disrepair, I panic a little at the thought of having to find a new pair.

2 – A few years ago, I found myself at the end of a 9-year relationship, and though I wanted to get out and meet new people, I had pretty much forgotten how.  Actually, I never really knew how.  A great friend told me, though, that all I needed was a haircut and a new pair of shoes.  I had been wearing sort of outdoorsy shoes because I have the flattest feet ever recorded in the history of flat feet, and I need really wide shoes.  I was informed that these shoes would completely impede my ability to get a date, so with the help of another good friend who is fanatical about shoes, I started buying tennis shoes that apparently have some style to them.  A few weeks after I bought my first pair, I was out for drinks with the friend who had coached me into this pair, and a random stranger on the street stopped and said, “Oh my god!  Where did you get those awesome retro shoes?!”  My shoe coach (a.k.a. grass-phobia girl), was prouder than a peacock, and could barely wait until the stranger was out of earshot to proclaim her brilliance.  In the end, my current mate wouldn’t have cared whether I wore the geeky outdoorsy shoes or these new retro-ish sneakers, but the coaching of my friends gave me a new confidence I sorely needed at the time, and for that, I will be eternally grateful.

3 – When I was a kid, my favorite food was mashed potatoes.  Luckily, I grew up in the Midwest, where potatoes are part of practically every meal, but I even loved the sticky, gloppy, made-from-dehydrated-flakes-in-the-school-cafeteria mashed potatoes.  The stickier, the better.  I have a vivid memory from 4th grade, going through the lunch line at school.  The woman whose job it was to dish out the mashed potatoes asked me if I wanted butter or gravy on them.  I was paralyzed with trying to decide.  They were both so enticing!  I held up the line forever, deep in thought about which I might like more, and she finally just gave me both so she could get me out of her hair.  Today I still have a horrible time deciding what to eat at restaurants.  I have to imagine – visually picture – myself eating each thing under consideration, and even then I sometimes hold up the ordering for a long time.  Unless I’m at a restaurant that serves tapas or small plates – then I just order a little of everything.

4 – When I was fifteen, I wanted to be a cowboy.  I was already a tomboy, so it wouldn’t have been too great a leap.  My grandfather took me to Wyoming on a hunting trip.  It was my first foray out of corn and dairy country, and the second I saw the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota, I developed my own weird version of the romantic West.  When we got to Wyoming and met the people that lived there, I only got sucked in further.  We first stayed in a seedy motel near the ranch of a couple named Everett and Fredda Lou, around Lusk, Wyoming.  There were few paved roads in their neck of the woods, and they managed over 100,000 acres of cattle ranch.  Later, we stayed at my grandpa’s long-time friend, Melvin’s.  Melvin was a big, stocky guy, with a mustache that trailed down past the corners of his mouth to his chin.  He always wore a light-colored cowboy hat with a dark sweat-stained band just above the brim of the hat.  He taught me how to properly shape a cowboy hat over steaming water so you could take the “new” out of it right away.  It was very important that a cowboy hat be original, yours, and never look new.  He let me ride his ATV, and I couldn’t stop myself from going faster and faster, even as I started to lose control now and then.  Once, a tire jumped out of the rut on a dry dirt rode, changed my course, and I drove straight through a wire fence at high speed.  Probably lucky I didn’t kill myself.  I sometimes wonder whether it was really some primal draw to the rough and tumble area of the West we were in that made me love it so much, or whether I’d have had the same reaction to any place I might have gone outside the Midwest.  Regardless, those are memories I treasure, even if they expose my inner dork.

5 – I moved out at 18, and after two not-so-great roommate experiences, I finally got an apartment with a guy who is still one of my best friends.  We were really broke, though.  We could barely pay our rent, often had to have friends bring us leftover food from the restaurants they worked at, and never had cash to spare to go out and do much of anything.  We did one of three things.  If we could spare a couple dollars, we would sit at IHOP, sometimes for 8 or 10 hours at a time with random friends dropping in and out, drinking that never-ending-cup-of-coffee or bottomless-pot-of-coffee, or whatever it was they called it, and reading Trivial Pursuit cards to entertain each other.  If our cable wasn’t turned off, we watched lots of talk shows – Jenny Jones, Jerry Springer – you know – the classics.  We tried to come up with ideas that might get us on those shows.  When we missed the talk shows themselves, we watched Talk Soup late at night to get the lowdown on what we missed.  Finally, when neither of those were options, and I’d managed to convince my grandparents to let me borrow their car, we’d sit in the parking lot of our apartment building in the car, listening to a very cheesy love songs station on the radio, singing sappy songs, laughing, and lamenting about our poor lives.  I often miss those days.

6 – Before my first car ( a 1980 Mazda 626) ended up in a metal graveyard, which precipitated the borrowing of my grandparents car mentioned above, it had some unusual behavior.  The car either had issues with the electrical wiring, or was possessed by the ghost of a gremlin.  I could turn the car off, take the key out of the ignition, get out, walk ten feet or more away, and then the doors would lock and unlock themselves in a frequent stuttering rhythm.  It was like watching popcorn pop.  My sister’s boyfriend once offered to fix the car for me when something went wrong – a bad starter or cylinoid, or something – I don’t quite remember what.  When he gave it back to me, the car would no longer go in reverse.  My roommate and I often had to sit in our seats with the doors open, each pushing with one leg hanging outside the car to back out of our parking spot.

7 – I think I’ve made clear by now that I am not a girly kind of girl – I grew up complete tomboy-style, loved to knock down boys, am a pretty good shot with a rifle or a shotgun – you get the picture.  That is why I find it particularly odd that the first thing I ever stole as a little kid was candy lipstick.  I don’t think I meant to steal it, but perhaps I’ve fooled myself into thinking that because I just can’t handle the shame of it all (the lipstick part, not the stealing part).  I was five, and when we got home and my mother realized I had the candy lipstick, which she had not paid for, she screamed at me, tossed me back in the car, drove back to the store, and made me go in with my tear-streaked face and my barely audible shy kid voice to apologize and pay for my pinched lipstick.

Now, to pass on the recognition to some fellow bloggers…  Enjoy!

Bottlecaps and Broken Bits – Besides having a great title for his blog, this guy writes some awesome stuff about food, drink, and travel, accompanied by his photography.  He is currently recording his travels in Thailand, a place I have visited twice, and would highly recommend to anyone.

The Wandering Atavist – Check out this blog whenever you need a good laugh.  The Atavist describes himself as a “fish out of water,” and you will likely agree as you read his hilarious posts about trying to be a normal functioning member of society, especially when he’s around anyone of the female persuasion.

Grammar Divas – This blog is great at dispelling grammatical myths and giving practical pointers on writing.  I check it regularly and you should, too.

bassasblog – This is a highly entertaining blog from the perspective of a shepherd dog.  I have to admit I found this blog from someone else’s listing of blogs they love, but since then, I’ve enjoyed every single post, so I’m going to share it again.

Dick Bishop’s Blog – This is a new find for me, but after reading just a few posts, I am enamored with Dick’s writing.  He offers a unique perspective, and posts that have some meat on their bones.  Lots of “tip” stories about blog writing say you shouldn’t write posts that are too long because people will get bored and skip them – I think Dick’s blog proves why you should not censor yourself to any given length, but you should write what you want to write and end it when it ends.

Mr. Faucet says, “Please be gentle.”

This is the phrase on the handmade water-splotched bled-ink piece of paper taped to the wall above the sink in the kitchen at my new job.  What is it about working in an office that turns otherwise normal people into cheesy caricatures of themselves, creating signs that are only appropriate for a four year old?  I only wish the maker of the Mr. Faucet sign at least included a little cartoon picture of a faucet with arms and legs and a smiley face somewhere.

And what about this picture?  I snapped it from inside the bathroom stall with my iPhone.  Should I be worried about the fact that someone feels the need to decorate the insides of the bathroom stalls with calming images?  

When I used to work at the marketing agency, I managed a forty-something Office Manager that would ask me if she could go to the bathroom.  What do you mean, can you go to the bathroom?  Of course you can go to the bathroom.  We’re not in third grade here!  If that alone weren’t enough, the actual words she used were, “I need to go tee-tee.  Is that OK?”  TEE-TEE.  TEE-TEE!  I kid you not.

I once had to referee a difficult discussion between two other employees.  A newbie that had just joined the team asked grass-phobia girl to go out to lunch one day.  Not realizing she was committing herself to become a stalking victim, she agreed to go.  It was an awkward lunch, and grass-phobia girl tried extra hard to avoid one-on-one situations with the newbie from that point forward.  The newbie, however, believed that their single lunch meant they must now be BFF’s.  She stalked grass-phobia girl over instant messenger, tried to corner her for conversations at lunch, hung around after work waiting for everyone else to leave so they could talk.  She did not understand how one day they were BFF’s and the next, she was being blown off.  Eventually, grass-phobia girl confided in me because she just couldn’t take it anymore.  I had to sit them both down and explain to the crazy new girl that not everyone at work becomes best friends, and she needed to respect grass-phobia girl’s wishes to focus on work, not lurid boy and fashion gossip.

I just don’t get it.  Is there something in the air as soon as the corporate door swings shut behind us that taints our ability to act like adults?

Anecdotes from a wedding in Carmel

I was in Carmel for a wedding Saturday – a very close friend of mine that has struggled with addiction on and off for years was marrying a man she met four or five years ago in one of her stints in rehab.  They make a great pair, my friend has been sober for almost four years now, and it was a gorgeous and intimate affair with 45 people in attendance, including the happy couple.  My partner and I went along with another close friend (grass-phobia girl) and her boyfriend (who didn’t know she had a grass phobia until I outed her at the wedding).

The setting was a small beach house on the ocean, a perfect blend of warm sun and an ocean breeze, a score of surfers in the background riding big waves, and a little girl, maybe 9 or 10 years old, who wandered away from her family and to jump in hills of seaweed piled up on the shore as though they were large piles of autumn leaves (I have to admit, cute as she was, frolicking in the seaweed, the main thought in my mind was There is no way I would let you in my car after all that.).  In all, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and the most important thing was that my friend and her new husband looked as happy as any couple I’ve ever seen.  That said, there were a few humorous elements during the ceremony that seem worth sharing.

My friend and her husband were married by her husband’s sponsor, who also happens to be a “preacher,” as we were told.  They call him Brother Love.  I could easily picture him in front of a mesmerized bunch of parishioners, passionately shouting bible verses, pointing out individuals in the pews to repeat what he says to help him punctuate his already forceful statements.   There was a bit of awkward shuffling at the beginning of the ceremony as the bride’s father stood with her, waiting for the moment he was to “give her away.”  Brother Love was explaining that the thirty-something couple (who already live together) must be willing to leave the homes of their parents and build a new home together.

He ended by asking who was going to give the bride away, although it was evident that her father, standing immediately in front of him, was doing that part – “Um, … I will…,” said the bride’s father, which brought many chuckles from the guests.  He began to sit down, but Brother Love wanted the bride’s father to physically place his daughter’s hands into the hands of her husband-to-be.  To lookers on, it seemed none of this had been practiced at the rehearsal dinner.  While the awkward moment was underway, the groom’s father saw it as an opportunity to jump in and be part of the hand-off, which then turned into a “Go team!” kind of affair, with all the hands that had come together thrown into the air with exuberance.

In one part of the ceremony, Brother Love addressed both the bride, [C],  and groom, [P], alternately, giving them what sounded like life or death instructions on how they were to conduct themselves in their marriage.

“[P], in this marriage, you must care for your wife and have eyes only for her, and no other woman!”

“[C], in this marriage, you must trust your husband completely, knowing he will care for you and provide for you forever!”

“[P], you must give yourself up to your wife, put her interests first, and trust that your personal needs will be met by God!”

“[C], you, too, must give yourself up to your husband, put his interests first, and trust that your personal needs will be met by God!”

The bride alternated between curious expressions, glances into the audience, the occasional nod of the head, but mostly it seemed she was trying not to laugh.

“[C], you must keep your home orderly, must not be quarrelsome, nor contentious!”

At this point, the bride looked at Brother Love, with an expression that said, Who are you? Did you really just say that?

“[P], and you must give your wife what she is due!”

Brother Love followed his final instruction with an elbow to the groom’s ribs and a couple of exaggerated winks.  To everyone’s relief, they eventually made it through the ceremony and were proclaimed husband and wife.

The Guatemalan

I used to work with a girl whose family was from Peru.  She’s a good friend, and although none of us still works at the marketing agency, we are all still in close touch.  All includes grass-phobia girl, and some others I have yet to write about. We had a number of hazing rituals when new employees joined the company, one of which was convincing the newbie that the Peruvian was really from Guatemala (or occasionally, another Central or South American country). It drove her nuts, which just provided us with more fuel for the game. Some of us were more convincing liars than others, though. More than once, we ran a marketing campaign that targeted Hispanics, and thus required all copy to be translated to Spanish. We were too cheap to hire a real translator, and though the Peruvian speaks fluent conversational Spanish, she didn’t trust her formal or written Spanish enough to translate for us. So, she enlisted her grandmother. Another example of selling capabilities we didn’t actually have to clients if they only asked is here.

Once I was on a phone call with a software developer working on one such campaign. He was no longer a newbie – he had probably been working with us for at least a year, maybe more. On the call, he expressed his concern that not only were we taking advantage of an employee’s poor grandmother, we were having someone whose native language was Portuguese do our Spanish translations. I laughed, thinking he was just perpetuating the “Peru = Guatemala = Other Hispanic Country” joke. He didn’t laugh back. He thought the Peruvian was really from Brazil. I laughed again, still thinking he was pulling my leg, but no. He was dead serious. I corrected him and said, she really is from Peru and her grandmother really does speak real Spanish. He argued with me, and said, no, she was from Brazil. It took some cajoling, but when I found out who’d told him she was from Brazil, it all fell into place. It was the best liar we had in the company, and he’d absolutely convinced software guy that she was from Brazil. Liar guy had a way of working lies into practically every element of his work, and he always got away with it.  He’s the guy who should’ve been fired long ago, but outlasted all of the rest of us.  Software guy swore he would never talk to liar guy ever again when I finally convinced him Peru was really her country of origin. Miserable as that job was, I sure do miss some of the hijinks.