June 30, 2009

Let the Sightings Begin

Did you happen to notice that Michael Jackson died? Huh. That's weird. I thought he was made of plastic. I guess not. You probably did notice thanks to the massive outpouring of grief. I'm not included in those numbers. I don't feel anything about his death. His music sort of defined a small era in my life and I was a loyal music fan (I bought Dangerous right around the time of his first molestation trial. I swear the check-out person thought I was a pervert.) but not much of a fan of him. Rarely can I make that distinction. If I don't like the artist for whatever reason, chances are I can't tolerate their music. But Michael Jackson wrote some of the best pop music ever written. His songs always make me want to dance. I don't know how he did it. It's unearthly.

I suppose his music is what people are mourning. It surely isn't him. He was the butt of so many jokes for so long people stopped connecting the two sides of him- the performer and the person. And despite his long music history folks seem to mourn only Thriller, the 1985 version of Michael Jackson. I heard three cars blasting songs from that album on my ten minute walk to work this morning. His last two releases sold poorly and I think that's because people stopped associating him with his talent. He was just Jacko. And that's sad. I'm sure his estate will pull a Tupac to try and pay off some debts. We'll never hear the end of "previously unreleased tracks" and we will never see the end of people buying them in droves. Maybe he died to pay off his debts and he's off on some island somewhere with a new pet monkey.

Though Michael Jackson was more of a presence in my life I'm much sadder about Farrah Fawcett. She had real life problems- divorce (after a real attempt at marriage,) a kid with drug problems, a fight with cancer. Those are the kinds of things real people can relate to. Or at least people I know can relate to. Sure she was famous but from all accounts she had a big heart and was down to earth. She tried to help others by bringing light to her terrible disease. And that is terribly courageous. My heart goes out to both families but my deepest regrets go out to Farrah Fawcett's.

June 29, 2009

Take That Mt. Greylock, Take It Good

Over the weekend Mike, my friends PJ, Karen and I all went out to Western Massachusetts for a hike, dinner and a concert. I was super excited! Rarely do I get to spend so much quality time with any of those three folks- doing fun stuff and being all fun. I've been meaning to get more hikes in this summer and the concert was one I'd been looking forward to for months. Saturday was just the kind of day that makes my heart full and my life feel satiated.

Mike and I tried to hike Mt. Greylock a few years back but the trail was poorly marked and we got disoriented. By the time we found the trail we lost daylight and had to turn around when it turned into an advanced, super-duper trail. It was somewhat unsatisfying. All I wanted out of Saturday's hike was that it would be a different trail. Sort of a redemptive attempt. Luckily it was a different trail. Redemtion would be ours!

PJ and Karen are super-duper hikers whereas Mike and I are casual hikers so I was a little worried about the moderate six mile hike we were going to take to get to the top of Mount Greylock, the highest point in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Mike seemed pretty okay with it so I took my cue from him. If he felt we could handle it then we could. We packed some rain coats, bananas and plenty of water for our endeavor.

Oy, was that hike tough. I was trailing everyone else and I wasn't carrying a pack. Karen was walking with her hands on her waist, sweatless and fit while I was sweating and breathing like a pack mule. I never felt so out of shape like I did on that day. In between heaving breaths I said that to Mike and he patted my soaked back and said it's a totally different type of activity- one that I'm not used to and that I am in fact, in shape. I bought it and kept enjoying nature. (Did you ever notice how the more intense the hike the less you actually get to enjoy your surroundings? You're constantly looking at where your feet are going so you don't fall and twist your ankle, or get your non-waterproof shoes soaking wet, or break your face on a rock. It's a shame really.)

I was too busy not breaking my face when Karen mentioned that the vegetation was changing and that the summit must be close. (Did you know that the higher up you go the pinier the vegetation? I do now!) Right about then we hear a car in the near distance. I assumed we were approaching an access road because many radio and television stations broadcast from the top of Mt. Greylock. Then I see the trees start to break up into a clearing. I'm imagining the awesome I-conquered-the-crap-out-of-this-mountain pose I was going to strike for a picture when I see a parked Subaru and some non-sweaty people standing on the edge of a perfectly paved road. Okay. Uh. I guess people live up here and this is just another residential road? We shrug it off and cross the street to continue the conquering of the mountain. Not ten minutes later we find the transmitter complete with public port-a-potties. And more people. People paying money to park at the top of Mt. Greylock and poke about.

I was a little taken aback at the total shift in context. I had no idea that the summit was a tourist attraction. Here we were- sweaty, no longer triumphant and surrounded by fanny packs. My sense of accomplishment was kind of a little muted. I did not take my I-conquered-the-crap-out-of-this-mountain pose. Instead I plunked my sticky, tired ass on the ground and cooled off in the breeze trying to remind myself that I climbed 1900 feet to achieve something almost everyone else there needed a car to achieve. And I did it while enjoying great conversation (well PJ, Karen and Mike had the conversation. I just listened.) and great company. I eventually reclaimed my sense of triumph. And then wished I could just get in a car and drive back down the mountain to a shower and some ice cream.

June 25, 2009

Conditioning More Than Air

Back before the housing bubble splat the entrails of hope all over the economy there were countless mortgage commercials from both reputable companies and those not so reputable. There was one in particular that I remembered from Bank of America, I'm pretty sure, that showed this guy turning on all the lights in his empty house and opening all the windows and doors. He then calls his mother while standing in the open front door to tell his father that he left all the lights on and is air conditioning the whole neighborhood. The closing line that came across the screen was something about owning your own home lets you call the shots. That commercial bothered me then and it bothers me now.

Back when it aired it bothered me because I thought it was just careless and stupid. He could've just called his mother and figuratively told her that he had all the lights on and the windows open. But no, he had to waste all that energy and money. I assume he only did that once to prove the point but what does that say about his attitude as a home owner? Is he loaded so he can do whatever he wants? Is he that bitter about his parents teaching him how to use energy responsibly that he has to rub his mother's face in it? Apparently the answers are it sucks, yes and yes. What an asshole.

The commercial bothers me now because putting our air conditioning units into just two windows makes our electricity bill jump more than 50%. There are many reasons for the hike. We live on the third floor, our ceilings are incredibly high, and the windows are old and inefficient. But still, putting the units on relatively high temps and on energy saving settings our bill is just huge. Luckily this only applies for about three months of the year but it really sucks when we have to take money from our grocery budget so we can have the air conditioning. First world problems, I know. But when you can't sleep, when the food in your pantry goes stale much too quickly no matter what you do and you have issues breathing when really hot and humid, you need air conditioning. But you need to be responsible with it.

This summer I'm going to try to be even more responsible. I'm going to keep the set temperatures a few degrees higher than before. I'm going to block the rooms that lead off the living room with curtains to try and keep the room cooler longer. I'm going to draw curtains during the day to keep the sunlight down (none of it is direct sunlight but still warming.) I'm also going to turn the units off outright at night instead of letting them just kick on in the morning. These will all probably make very little difference financially but we'll give it a go this summer. At the very least, we'll be making the effort to be more responsible. That's something worth sharing with your parents.

June 22, 2009

A Connection Was Made

While getting ready in the completely silent Y locker room this morning an old familiar song popped into my head:

I couldn't tell you what made Elastica's "Connection" suddenly appear in my mind's ear but I'm pretty happy it did. I am unquestionably buying their debut album on iTunes as soon as I get home. They had such a killer sound. Their music takes me back to when I first started listening to what was then called alternative rock. I don't know what you would call it now. The alternative rock artists of then are now the establishment and the artists who have taken their place are just emo bitches.

Elastica were just a small part of my Brit-pop obsession. I loved Blur, Oasis, Pulp, the Smiths, Morrisey and more. I still follow those musicians but I didn't listen to Elastica for long. They released Elastica in 1995 but didn't release anything else until 2001 and that album didn't place anywhere on the US charts. The fans who payed more attention than I were pretty disappointed. They waited so long and they ended up waiting for crap. Apparently Justine Frischmann's drug habit didn't just affect her relationship with Blur's Damon Albarn (total teen-mag fodder that I just gobbled up)- I'd say it killed her band. It was a total waste of talent. I forgot all about her until Blur's 13- the album that was almost nothing but songs about their break-up.

It's amazing where just a few unprompted bars of music can take you. Not only did I think about the contribution Elastica could have made to music but I thought about what I was doing in most 1996 (adjusting to moving to Northern VA) or where their influence took me (to listening to Pulp.) It was a pleasant thought spiral that lasted me the 20 minute bus ride uptown. Reminiscing can sometimes take me to a dark place. But not today. Today was a happy place.

June 17, 2009

Let Adam Marry Steve

I moved out of my parents' houses before junior year of college when I got an off-campus apartment and lived there year round. Mike was out of his parents' right after college and he and I have been living together for three years. We have all the stuff you need to live in a home. We have blenders, a toaster, kitchen mitts, pots and pans and a drying rack. If we really need anything it's more towels and a wedding dish set. And maybe more, real silverware- the cheap pieces we currently have keep breaking or melting. That's all I think we need anyway. Mike hasn't been too clear on what he wants on the registry. I'm assuming he's not going to add that much stuff to it since he's on the same page I am when it comes to stuff- we have enough of it. In fact, we're trying to get rid of stuff not amass more of it. This makes birthdays and Christmas difficult.

So, the wedding registry. I'm thinking we'll register at Macy's. Or really anywhere that has a dish set he and I like. I was thinking about possibly creating a honeymoon registry when I found out that many charities have wedding registries! Mike and I were already tossing around the idea of giving money to the American Cancer Society instead of wedding favors since we both lost godparents to cancer. It isn't much of a stretch to register with a charity in lieu of more gifts. The charity gets money, we can make the day about something bigger than ourselves and the donations are tax deductible for those who make them. This is win-win-win people!

With all the hubbub over same-sex marriage these days I've begun to feel guilty about marrying Mike. I feel like such an asshole by participating in a discriminatory institution (don't even get me started on feminism and marriage) but I want to get married. Why are Mike and I any different than Adam and Steve? When it comes down to brass tacks we aren't. I want to bring awareness to marriage equality on our wedding day but I've been struggling with how to do it. When I found out about registering with charities, not a day later did MissZoot voice the very thoughts I've been having about marriage in today's political climate. She linked to a donation page with the Human Rights Campaign that earmarks the donations for the fight for marriage equality. On that very page are couples who are foregoing conventional gifts for this awesome cause.

I immediately emailed Mike and pretty much demanded we register there with no debate. He laughed at my fervor but ultimately agreed. He and I both support equal rights. Of course we need to iron out the details but as soon as we figure out how we're going to approach this I am going full force on this. I will be sure to post about it here. I am thrilled! I feel like karma brought all these elements together to answer my plea. Way to go Universe.

June 16, 2009

Young Katherine is Crying Tears of Joy

Tonight I am going to see a band that ruled supreme over the dreams of my ten-year-old self. The New Kids on the Block. Oh my goodness was I OBSESSED with them. I was gunning for a wedding with Joey McIntyre because he was the youngest and I figured he was my best shot. That and he was cute as hell. I collected New Kids on the Block trading cards, had posters, wore out cassette tapes and a pirated copy of their Disney special and watched their Saturday morning cartoons religiously. Before I even knew how sex worked exactly I had a boner for most of the dudes in NKOTB. Stupid outfits, choreography, lyrics and all.

Their music was and is totally innocuous. It's nothing more than ear candy that will rot your ear drums. But man, is it fun and danceable. They were the first musical group that I wanted to see live and I wanted to see them bad. But I knew then that I couldn't go to a concert since the closest place they most likely would perform to Upper Michigan was either Detroit or Minneapolis/St. Paul. That was not going to happen. And when they broke up I was sadly resigned to the fact that I would never see them perform. Well, fresh on the heels of nostalgia (are we any better than the Boomers who shell out tons of cash for Sha Na Na?) NKOTB decided to make a new album and tour.

My chance had finally come to see my childhood crush in person performing! But I had moved on. Since then I had the same obsession with the Gallagher brothers and Kings of Leon. So when my friend Lyndy told me she had an extra ticket and that I was now going with her to a concert only 30 minutes away I didn't jump right on board. I mentioned the opportunity to Mike and he casually asked if I had any friends when I liked them in the first place. I started to take umbrage when he said, "You didn't have anyone to share them with then but you do now. Go and have fun." So I am. And I will.

Here they are then:

Here they are now:

I'd say they aged pretty well. Wouldn't you? If you happen to be going, look for me. I'll be the grown woman wearing a t-shirt with an iron-on picture of Joey cut-out as a heart. Over my heart. See what I did there?

June 12, 2009

It's the Most Unpleasant Time of Year

Whenever my family moved my parents orchestrated it so that my siblings and I could finish out the school year. That usually meant we left mid-June. I appreciated never having to be the new kid during the school year but that meant we moved within days of my birthday. I had a few birthday parties that doubled as goodbye parties that were still fun but always made my birthdays bittersweet. To add to the bitter, my perpetually strained relationship with my mother seemed to come to a head on my birthday. Some birthdays were worse than others but after the divorce they were consistently bad. Birthdays are sort of touch and go now and I take them as they come. I don't look forward to them at all. I've just been conditioned to take them with a grain of salt. And very little excitement.

The reason I'm even bringing attention to my birthday (I don't usually tell people) is because I found out about this really cool application on Facebook. It's called Birthday Wish and it enables me to set up a donation account so people can give money to a charity instead of getting me gifts. My goal is a simple $100. This is something I've been wanting to do for years. I don't really want stuff anymore, or if I do it's far too expensive to ask other people to buy it for me, and I've been trying to find ways for people to give for me but not to me. I think this is the perfect thing. The charity is I Love Banned Books which is a group that works to keep banned and challenged books on the shelves of libraries. I've written many times about how much a certain banned book has meant to me. I want to help make sure others can have access to it and other great works of literature that just happen to make the wrong people mad. So, please check out the page and if you want to give, give whatever you want. And pass it along. I want something good to come out of this year.

June 11, 2009

My Lunches Are Very Interesting

I eat fairly light lunches. It usually consists of a tuna sandwich, baby carrots, a cheese wheel and a pickle, topped off by a yummy low-fat brownie. The tuna is usually the only protein I get in the day because I don't eat much meat- I eat mostly vegetables. I prefer the tuna to turkey sandwiches because if I don't buy the right deli turkey the sulfates give me a headache and egg salad sandwiches because I really need to be in the mood for egg salad or it makes me want to gag. So tuna is my top choice. But I'm going to have eat much less tuna or stop entirely because I found out tuna fish are being eaten into extinction and I don't want to be a part of it. And I'm sad. Maybe I can get it as a treat?

June 4, 2009

I Will Never Learn

Two weeks ago my friend Emily got wind of David Sedaris coming to Albany for a book signing and a reading of some new work. He is an author I very much enjoy. He is one of only three authors to have made me laugh out loud and the other two made me laugh because they were writing about cats. (What? Cats are funny!) Anyway, many times his writing has made me cry I've laughed so hard so when Emily said he would be right down the road I was all, hell yeah we're going!

Yesterday, Emily picked me up from work and I decided to read her the story that got me hooked on him in the first place since she's not too familiar with his work. We laugh all the way there, prepped for more anecdotes. When we get there we realize we're mid-reading but with the way they set up the location she and I are closer to him than people who were on time! Bomb! He read a new piece about having a kidney stone and while I'm thinking, that sounds like hell, Emily was loudly laughing in agreement. Alone. Either no one else in the audience had kidney stones or Emily is the only one who can laugh at her pain. Judging by the crowd of hipsters and fat dudes with ponytails, I'm going with her sense of humor.

He finished reading to a round of applause and then opened it up to questions. I LOVE QUESTION AND ANSWER! I will SO ask David Sedaris a question that pertains to him and not his also very hilarious sister. I couldn't think of one fast enough so while someone else asked the first question I came up with "Do you find writing satire or biographical material to be easier than the other?" Awesome question, right? I thought so. Well. HE TOTALLY CALLED ON ME NEXT! And then he gave a really interesting answer that went something like this:
In writing satire I took a particularly dark and unattractive personality trait of mine and used that to create a character in a satire. After a while I found that they were all starting to sound the same. Around the same time as I came to that conclusion I started to notice that I would find myself in situations that felt like stories and I chose to write about them. But I wouldn't say one is easier than the other. No.
That's not verbatim so I probably shouldn't put it as a quote but I will anyway. At this point Emily decided she needed to get a book so we went on a chase for an unsigned copy of his book while he answered other, less interesting questions than my own.

Then it was time for the book signing. Emily and I hadn't hung out together in a while so we took that time to do massive catching up because according to a Borders employee David Sedaris will take as long as it takes to sign everyone's books but will NOT take pictures. That's okay- celebrity photos of mine never work out anyway. In our conversing Emily and I decided to ask him out for a drink. What's the worst he can say? No? Well, really he can probably get us arrested for something but we decided to take our chances regardless. When we finally get up to him we compliment his tie and chat about his funny stories. Not only did he personalize each signature, he drew doodles in each of our books. He doodled a two headed rabbit for Emily and a cat for me. Emily loves rabbits (probably even two headed ones) and I love cats! He's psychic. When we ask him out for a drink, though, he mumbled that he never does anything fun and turned away to ask for food. We took that as our cue to leave.

Though it ended oddly, I would say it was one of my better celebrity moments. Maybe I'm improving?

June 2, 2009

LOTS of Baby Steps

I thought that when I lost my weight and kept it off that I learned how to eat better. I don't keep cookies, chips, or other crap snack food in my house because I know I will eat it. I can easily waste an entire bag of chips in one ten minute sitting. I enjoy the mindless saltiness of it. So, I only keep healthier snacks like popcorn, crackers and cheese, fruit, frozen yogurt, and granola bars around. Sometimes I buy nuts but those are a treat. Basically any salty, crunchy thing in my reach is off limits. When it comes to baked goods, my kryptonite, I make my own tasty low-fat items. Overall Mike and I keep it pretty healthy at home. I don't even walk those aisles at the grocery store and I don't miss it.

So what's the problem? Well, whenever I am faced with chips or full-fat baked goods or certain candies I start eating them and I can't stop. I have no off switch and I eat until I'm uncomfortable. There is always an excuse too- it's a party for [insert occasion here], I haven't seen [insert long distance friend here] in months, I only eat these things three times a year, it's Tuesday, blah blah. I thought that the point of eating better was to be able to eat that shit always in moderation. Or better yet, never eating it. I know that having a healthy lifestyle is to eat whatever you like in moderation but like my politics, I'm not that good at being moderate.

I can't help but feel like I'm failing at the bigger picture here. Mike says that not keeping the trigger food in the house is in itself a huge success. He and I grew up in households where there was always a sleeve of cookies to devour (which we both did) or a bag of chips to inhale (which we both did) and the fact that we're trying to create a household where those snacks aren't even an option is a huge step in the right direction. I can't help but feel that a better step in the right direction is to have that crap in the house but learn to live with it. Does that make sense? If I could learn to have chips in the house but stop at one serving of chips then I can win the perpetual battle of the bulge. I guess a good place to start is at the party for [insert occasion here] or when I do see [insert long distance friend here] or on Tuesdays.

But even if I can succeed at those trigger events I won't start buying the crap products. I really don't miss them day to day. Rarely do I want chips enough that I will pick them up on the way home. When I was a kid I never knew what to do when I hung out at a friend's house whose mother only kept fruit around and they didn't drink soda. I thought that house was totally lame. An apple just wouldn't cut it for me then. But an apple cuts it for me now. And now that I write that, I realize that I have made a huge life change. Perhaps what I really need to do for myself is not dwell on my little set backs. What I need to do is recognize the changes I have made and celebrate them. With a nice bowl of tasty frozen yogurt.

June 1, 2009

And Yet, It's Not Good Enough For Me

As I've previously documented I get cat called while I walk around town sometimes. It's okay as long as the men don't follow me or try to ask me out. I haven't had to worry about that though because it has only gone so far as men who are standing around while I walk by. But I have a better, fresh story from Saturday! This one's exciting:

I was out for a super quick run before a wedding on Saturday and I was feeling pretty thick and lumpy. I hadn't been very diligent during the week in my routine, I knew I would be indulging for the next two days and I was wearing pants that just barely cross the line of snug. Bottom line, I was not a happy camper. So here I am jogging, jiggling, and listening to some tunes when a car stops parallel to me on the other side of the street. The driver leans out the window and says, "You don't need to run that off! It's PERFECT!" And then he drove away.

Needless to say, I ran the rest of the mile with a big grin on my face. And I wasn't feeling so lumpy anymore.