Tuesday, September 30, 2008

On Cloud Nine

Yesterday, we left the state of Maine. Before we could blink and miss New Hampshire, we decided we really did want to stop at the liquor store there (for those of you who don't know, liquor in New Hampshire is very cheap. They don't have taxes. Everyone who lives in New England buys liquor there whenever possible) to buy more rum to feed our dark and stormy addiction. You have to understand that to buy liquor in PA, you have to catch the Hogwarts Express, know how to identify the door of ye olde spirits shoppe, be able to recite the password in five languages, and fork over a week's pay to the man behind the curtain. Thus, I stop at the New Hampshire State Liquor store all the time when I drive to and from office headquarters. They should know me by name in that place, but they don't. Quite obviously.

Yesterday, we split our duties at this pit stop this way: Bob would fill our water bottles at the water fountain while I ran in to get the rum, since I know my way around the store better than he does. It took me no time at all to locate the bottle I wanted from one of the back shelves and bring it to the counter. So there I was. The woman is busy ringing up my rum, and I've just run my credit card through the machine, when she suddenly says,

"Do you have i.d.?"

"You're kidding, right?" I said.

"No," she says, not cracking a smile.

"Just wait till you see how old I am," I say, happily whisking out my driver's licence, unable to believe my good fortune (it's one thing to have half-blind, little old church ladies constantly teasing me about looking like a teenager. It's quite another to have a middle-aged store clerk thinking I might not yet be 21). "You just made my day." Meanwhile, I turned about a hundred shades of red. She probably thought my PA driver's licence was a fake i.d. But she went ahead and sold it to me.

"Glad to make your day," she said, looking about as glad as if she'd just lost her job (this is New England remember).

I lied. She didn't make my day. She made my year! Now, leave me alone. I've got an important date with Seventeen magazine, after which I plan to paint my fingernails day-glo orange and call all my friends to see if anyone wants to hide out in my parents' basement drinking dark and stormies.

Monday, September 29, 2008

First Memes, Now Some Test Results

Your result for The Social Proficiency Test...


You scored a total of 41 out of 43!

You are social brilliance. You never misstep. You never falter. You can divide your attention between many friends at once and never make them feel like they are getting less than your full self. You make people feel good about themselves because you truly listen. No one thinks ill of you because you are never found gossiping or saying hurtful things. You are generally the coolest one in the room and are like a magnet for friends.

Take The Social Proficiency Test at HelloQuizzy

Huh! Just call me "Joe Cool." Meanwhile, I want to meet this person, because she doesn't sound at all like me. Never misstep? Never falter? Never gossip? On the other hand, maybe I don't want to meet her. She'd be so intimidating.

Your result for Reincarnation Placement Exam...


54% Intrigue, 68% Civilization, 63% Humanity, 37% Urbanization.

Live well, ride fast, and die young, baby!

Well, you turned out to be something of a rogue. This may not be exactly the life you wanted... but it's difficult to place people who want to enjoy all the romance and intrigue of civilization, without actually having a demanding job. Besides, since you enjoy the benefits of humanity so much more than you enjoy the press of humanity itself... you shouldn't have much trouble with your role in life. As long as you aren't afraid of danger there's a place for you in society, even if it's a rather dark and wicked place. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to fulfill the role of a spy.

The good news: You're free and clever, and you can do whatever the heck you want. The bad news: everybody else is free and clever too, and they're not all on your side.

With the flick of a blade, you can change the course of history. Might be fun. Might be a little messy.

Take Reincarnation Placement Exam at HelloQuizzy

Well, now you can call me James Bond. I imagine in my new, reincarnated life, I will remain as socially cool as I was in this life, and there's no spy cooler than Bond.

Your result for The 3 Variable Funny Test...

the Prankster

(48% dark, 31% spontaneous, 32% vulgar)

your humor style:

Your humor has an intellectual, even conceptual slant to it. You're not pretentious, but you're not into what some would call 'low humor' either. You'll laugh at a good dirty joke, but you definitely prefer something clever to something moist.

You probably like well-thought-out pranks and/or spoofs and it's highly likely you've tried one of these things yourself. In a lot of ways, yours is the most entertaining type of humor because it's smart without being mean-spirited.

PEOPLE LIKE YOU: Conan O'Brian - Ashton Kutcher

The 3-Variable Funny Test!

- it rules -

Take The 3 Variable Funny Test at HelloQuizzy

Or maybe you should just call me The Pink Panther.

And now I'm off for the long trek back to PA.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Addiction Meme

As promised, another meme.


* Post at least five current addictions (with some details, please).
* Mention the person who started this meme (Being Brazen) and also the person who just tagged you - Charlotte.
* Type your post with the heading “Current addictions”.
* Tag at least two people and pass on the above rules.

So, here are my current addictions:

1. Geni: It’s a web site where families can put up their family trees. One of my cousins (by the way, his son – also my cousin, funny how that works -- has his first novel coming out in December, which everyone must buy), who for years has been tracing our family genealogy, sent me a link for our family tree. I never knew I was so fascinated by our family history, but given the amount of time I’ve spent playing around here, I must be. And I’ve discovered why New England feels so much like home to me: it seems all those on the Barton side of the family were all from Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

2. Dark and Stormys: the heroin of mixed drinks. We hadn’t had one of these in years, but we decided to pick up a bottle of Gosling’s Black Seal rum on our way up to Maine, and we found some good ginger beer in the local supermarket. Every single evening, one of us asks, “So, should we open one of those bottles of wine we bought?” The reply is always, “Nah, let’s have a dark and stormy.” I’ll start to worry when the question becomes, “So, with our blueberry pancakes, shall we have some of that hot chocolate we bought?” and the reply becomes, “Nah, let’s have a dark and stormy.”

3. Hiking: I’ve been in Maine. What better place to feed a hiking addiction? We leave tomorrow, though, so when we get back home, I’m definitely going to stop just talking about it and actually begin exploring the trails of PA (of which there are plenty).

4. Fleece: It’s that time of year when I get to pull my fleece sweatshirt on over my hiking shorts and t-shirts. Woe be it to anyone who happens to hide my fleece sweatshirt. Nothing else will do.

5. King’s Cribbage: This is a great game Bob and I bought a couple of years ago (in Maine, actually, the last time we were here) that’s basically cribbage played out with tiles on a board, like Scrabble. What a perfect combination. It can be played either with others or alone, so when I can’t get anyone to join me, I can lock myself away with my little addiction, and no one even has to know.

Tagging: Becky, Zoe’s Mom, and Litlove.

And one final thing: you can read about my first kiss over in the comments section at A Striped Armchair, and if you tell us about yours, you'll be entered for her giveaway.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Aging Meme

Zoe’s Mom so very helpfully tagged me for a meme, so everyone is spared my thoughts on the Presidential debate. Charlotte recently tagged me for a meme, too. I guess everyone wants to keep me away from politics. I will do hers next.

Here’s ZM’s:

The Aging Meme
all you have to do is fill in the blanks...

At a certain age women should decide that their weight and bra size do not matter (I wish it would happen for all women at age twelve. Alas, I have yet to reach that age. When will I?)

At a certain age men should decide that a woman’s weight and bra size do not matter. (Do they ever?)

When I was a kid I thought I would live in all kinds of foreign and exotic places.

Now that I am older I wish I had lived in more foreign countries.

You know you are too old to party when the only thing you want to do after three margaritas is go to bed (to sleep).

You know you are too young to retire when you get bored after four days of sitting around the house.

When I was in high school I listened to the music of David Bowie, Jethro Tull, Queen, The Pretenders, and Talking Heads (and much, much more, but I’ll stop at five).

Nowadays I find I like the music of Feist, Emmylou Harris, Steeleye Span, Dar Williams, and Michelle Shocked (and much, much more, but I’ll stop at five, while noting that I still like David Bowie, Queen, The Pretenders, and Talking Heads. I had exceptionally good taste for a teenager).

On my last birthday I got a digital camera I wanted as a gift and that I still don’t know how to use very well, because I can't be bothered to read through an instruction manual that's on a CD (see? I really am a Luddite!).

On my next birthday I want to go to NYC.

The best birthday present I ever got was a trip to Belize and Guatemala (my 40th from Bob)

The first time I felt grown up was when I was 19, and my father was struggling with problems he was having with my brother, who was 16 at the time. It was nothing more than rebellious, son-to-father-type stuff and was very normal, but my father had had three daughters before that, was getting older, and had not been prepared, I don’t think, for this difficult stage of his son’s life. I remember one evening, when I was home from college, he said to me (after yet another fight with my brother), so pitifully (and somewhat desperately), “Maybe I’ve really screwed up with you kids, but all I ever did was love all of you so much and want the best for all of you.” He’d never been so candid with me about such things, and it was such a testimony to how lost he felt, at times, in this whole business of parenting. I suddenly found myself seeing my parents not as parents, but as people, and I was able to sympathize with them in a way I never had.

The last time I felt like a kid was oh, all the time. It’s only because I have mirrors (and memories) that tell me otherwise that I know I’m not.

When I read The World According to Garp (at age 15!) it changed my life. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t read such an adult book at such a young age. Other times, I’m so glad I did.

Last year was very trying.

Next year I hope to complete the novel I’ve been struggling to write. We’ll see…

Tagged: Charlotte (turnabout is fair play), Eva (who is So young and yet so wise), and Ian (just to get him to post on his blog).

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sorry, But It's Another Political Rant

(I promise to try not to keep being political at this blog. There are plenty of other blogs that do that. But I just have to get this off my chest. Don't worry. I'll follow this post with a meme or more photos or maybe even something from that list of topics I'm supposed to be covering.)

As everyone knows (even those of us temporarily stationed in the wilds of Maine), we are in a very scary financial crisis. Anyone who knows anything about history (which most Americans don't, thanks to our fabulous education system) can easily make connections between the late 1920s and today. What happened in the late 1920s? Panic. Some theorize that the crash might never have been as severe as it was if people had remained calm. Have you seen what's been happening since last week? Everyone's been panicking. I heard a news report in which someone was describing people selling off their stocks the way they race for emergency exits when they think there's a bomb threat.

All those non-Americans who know their history also happen to know what happens during election years when the economy is bad. That's right. The party in power gets ousted. I don't have to tell anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis that I don't have much faith in the Republican party. When I'm not finding it incredibly annoying, I find it amusing that I know quite a few people who say things like, "I'm pretty liberal when it comes to social issues, but I vote Republican, because I'm a fiscal conservative, and I'm worried about my money." It was Harry Truman who said, "If you want to live like a Republican, vote for a Democrat." In my adult lifetime, his advice has certainly rung true. The Republicans have been the party that has dug us into record-breaking debt, despite lots of people's conviction that the Republican party is the one that is fiscally smart. Now, thanks to years of mismanagement, years that seem to be proving that when you give to the rich, the wealth does not "trickle down" to the poor (it "trickles down" all right. It trickles down to nothing for anybody), we're on the verge of economic collapse here.

Guess what. McCain, being aligned with this party that has been in office and is most likely to be blamed for this collapse, actually seems to be a little bit frightened. For a while, he had the Palin distraction, which certainly seems to have worked. But he can no longer keep pulling cute little bunnies out of hats over here, distracting us from the hole where he plans to disappear over there. Many of us can see that huge hole, and we want to know why it's there.

So, what's he doing? It's a brilliant spin (one that proves, yet again, that Republicans just really are better politicians than Democrats are). He's giving up his campaign to concentrate on the bailout plan. This noble sacrifice that he's making for the good of the country, of course, will mean that he has to pull out of the debate scheduled for tomorrow night. What? Oh, why yes, that makes perfect sense. Canceling a debate at 9:00 p.m. on a Friday night, when government officials from all over the country are bound to be hard at work on the economic crisis, makes perfect sense. Please reassure me. Please tell me I'm not the only one who sees this as a political move, not the only one theorizing that McCain is terrified of a debate right now.

It would make a great novel if we weren't living it right here and now. I happened to watch Bill Clinton on Larry King last night, and Clinton said something so true and so insightful, which was that neither he nor Larry King would probably be much affected no matter who gets elected in November. He's right, and, truth be told, unless things really get bad economically, neither will I. As much as I despise Bush, I have to admit that my personal life hasn't changed much in the past 8 years. It's actually improved (something it would have done no matter who was in office). I've got a better, higher-paying job. Thanks to Bob's new job, I have free housing. Thanks to his job, I have free health insurance. If I didn't have it through him, I'd have relatively inexpensive health insurance through my own company. I can afford to eat well. I can afford to do the things I love to do, like scuba dive and rent a cottage in Maine. I can afford to feed my book and cd addictions. I'm doing fine.

But, the thing is, I care about others. I'm aware that I'm extremely fortunate, and I'm very aware of those who are nowhere near as fortunate as I am. I care about soldiers coming home from Iraq with missing limbs and a government that's ignoring them while encouraging everyone to display "support our troops" bumper stickers. I care about parents who've lost children to this senseless war (and I mean both American and Iraqi parents, because God created all humans, not just American humans). I care that people have to file for bankruptcy, because a family member needed cancer treatments. I care that people lose their jobs, are unemployed for months, and then lose their homes. I also care that kids in the majority of public school classrooms are being taught to take tests and are not being taught how to think creatively, or how to reason, or how to solve problems.

And, dammit, I want to see a debate in which McCain addresses all these things about which I care. I want to hear what he plans to do about them. He says he cares. He says he's for change. Well, I was educated in a system that was not driven by tests. I was taught to question and to ask for proof. I want proof. Participating in the bailout plan today gives me some proof that he cares. However, pretending he's addressing the financial crisis (single-handedly, I suppose?) at 9:00 on a Friday night does nothing to prove to me that he really cares. I'm prone to think that he's just verifying my gut instincts: what he cares about most is getting elected. And he just might not get elected if he has to stand up and debate Obama right now.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Maine in Pictures

Well, here we are now into our third week in Maine. Three weeks, that is, for Bob. Last week, I spent four days at office headquarters in New Hampshire, which is another beautiful New England spot, but not quite as beautiful as this. Take a look at these pictures and see for yourself.

The road that leads to "our" cottage.

Here's what awaits at the end of that road. Our little homestead.

The view from "our" back door. That's Bass Harbor, a secluded part of it, away from all the boats.

Here's what we eat for breakfast every morning, either as an accompaniment on the side to boiled eggs, or in pancakes, or on top of oatmeal, or on top of yogurt. So many delicious possibilities.

I'm up above Eagle Lake on a our first hike (up North Bubble), and that's the Sound on beyond it. (No, I'm not pregnant. My sweater just makes me look like I am.)

And then we hiked down to the shores of Eagle Lake.

Some of you may be able to see from this shot why Maine reminds me of Scotland.

Gives new meaning to the term "Emerald Forest," doesn't it?

"What's this?" you may ask. So did we (or, at least, Bob did, while I hung around in the background and pretended I didn't know him). Good question. They're filming, at Sand Beach, the cover shot for the spring/summer 2009 L.L. Bean catalog.

Sand Beach from the rocky cliffs above it.

Some of those "rocky cliffs above it."

Hiking with me must be very annoying, because I constantly stop to look at little things like this, which just delight me, along the trail. (It doesn't really matter. Bob's about five miles ahead of me on the trail anyway. He has no idea I've stopped.)

Here's another delightful little thing.

And yet another.

And now we're back down at the shores of Sand Beach (I think Bob's talking to the L.L. Bean crew while I'm taking this picture.)

Huh, I guess we weren't the first ones to the top of this peak.

(Plenty more to come some other day if anyone's interested.)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I'm Here and Seeing Red

All right, I can't get my first set of beautiful pictures of Maine to download to blogger this morning, for some reason, without its taking about an hour per photo, it seems. Thus, I thought I would just quickly tell everyone that I am, indeed, still here. I didn't fall off the side of a mountain or anything. Maine is as beautiful as ever, but you're just going to have to trust me on that until blogger gets its act together or until I have 20 hours to download photos.

Meanwhile, here's what has me seeing red these days: an email from a friend back in PA, in which she informed me that twice her husband was asked, by two different colleagues, who he is supporting in the election. When he told them OBama, one of them said, "I thought you were a Christian." The other said, "I can't vote for him, because I'm a Christian."

"Christian." Let's see. What does that mean? Oh, yeah, I think it's one who follows the teachings of Christ. Funny, last time I read the Gospels, I don't remember Jesus saying anything about helping the rich and ignoring the poor. Show me the passages, please, where he tells us to rape our planet without a thought to its future. And did I somehow misinterpret the parable about hating outcasts like homosexuals and immigrants and denying them the legal rights that others enjoy? Or the one about how it's important to kill innocent people while fighting an endless war whose real purpose was pure greed and feeding egos and nothing more? Because, you know, from where I'm sitting right now, my view of McCain is one that shows him to be this sort of a person, and I don't see too many connections between him and the Jesus portrayed in the Gospels. Maybe I'm reading a different Bible.

I guess to certain sorts of Republicans, being a Christian is like anything else. All you have to do is say you're a Christian, and you are. Just like all you need to do is say you're all for change, and you are, even though, well, you know, the meaning of the word "conservative" has a little something to do with not wanting change.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Best of Amish Cooking

(Good, Phyllis Pellman. The Best of Amish Cooking. Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2004.)

When I received this book as a Christmas gift from my dear husband last year, I was thrilled. We’d only been living in the heart of Amish country for three months, but I’d already discovered two things about the Amish that I liked: 1) they love food and 2) they know how to cook it. I was a little disappointed when I flipped through the index to find no recipe for macaroni salad (the Amish version, sold in grocery stores where I live, being ten times better – creamier and with just the right amount of bite, rather than watery and sickeningly sweet – than the regular version), but then I began leafing through the pages and found recipes for things like whoopee pies, and my disappointment waned.

When I read this book, back in July, we were in the midst of the summer produce season, which is sadly beginning to draw to a close as I type this. This season, with its abundance of fresh, delicious, and cheap fruits and vegetables has done more to warm me to my new hometown than anything else during the past year. I so love living in a place where it seems every 1/8 of a mile or so, a driver on back country roads comes across a farm selling such things as corn (“just picked 2 hours ago!” – very important to those in the know), blackberries, tomatoes, melons, potatoes, etc. After one such drive, I decided, “What better time to read this book for the Soup’s On! Challenge?”

So, I picked up the book and began to read it, mouth watering by the time I’d gotten to the end of the first recipe for chicken pie (not to be confused with “chicken pot pie.” In this neck of the woods, chicken pot pie is something that involves “pot pie squares,” which are sort of a cross between a dumpling and a noodle. The “pie” has no crust at all, but is instead, topped with these. It’s delicious, but very disappointing if you don’t know, are at a restaurant, and order chicken pot pie, expecting it to have a nice, light crust on top). I read on to find myself quickly whizzing through recipes that would make use of the season’s abundant produce and fantasizing about making sticky buns. The Amish make the best sticky buns I’ve ever had. And then there was bread. I love the soft, Amish bread. Finally, reality kicked in, and I thought, “Who am I kidding? I don’t bake bread,” at least, not unless it’s a quick bread or I’m using a bread machine. I’d like to start doing so, but sticky buns are not exactly the place to start. And summer isn’t exactly the best time to learn – all that kneading and punching, and our kitchen is the hottest place in the house.

Summer is not the best time to make a cherry pie for the first time, either, which was another idea. Yes, the cherries are in season, and I can even get the sour variety marked “for pies.” However, making pies crusts is not my forte. And I could just envision the sweat from rolling out the dough (or attempting to roll out the dough, which was doing nothing but stick to the rolling pin) mingling with tears of frustration to add an interesting, salty taste to the filling. Oh yeah, and don’t forget pitting the cherries. Who wants to have to do that? Well, apparently someone does, because I can get delicious cherry pies from the Amish stand (from where I can also get sticky buns and bread) just down the road. Why waste time making inferior versions of my own?

What can’t I get at the farm stand? Chicken corn soup, another Amish “specialty” I’ve come to love since living here. I know. Soup isn’t exactly what one thinks of as a summertime “must,” either, but I’m someone who loves to cook and eat soup all year round. And the corn is at its best in the middle of the summer. So, chicken corn soup it was.

The Amish have large (I mean large) families. Having 8-10 children is not unusual. Multi-generations tend to live with each other. Thus, most of the recipes in this book are the sorts one would expect to find in books for preparing banquets. I wasn’t about to make this soup with 3-4 pounds of chicken just for the two of us, and I didn’t feel like inviting all the neighbors over, which would mean having to clean the house (a task I abhor). I adjusted the ingredients accordingly. Also, you’ll notice in the recipe that something called “rivvels” are optional. I didn’t include them, but I’m providing the recipe for those as well, in case any of you wants to make this soup and is inclined to do so. I used fresh corn (which I assume is best), and the hardest part about making this for me, was controlling my temper while cutting all that corn off the cob, when so much of it seemed to delight in jumping off the counter onto the floor. I included the eggs, even though they seemed like a bit of an odd thing to include, because I love eggs. I’m all over any excuse to eat them. They turned out to be a very nice addition. I’m sure the rivvels would be, too, but making them sounded a bit too much like making bread/pie crust. I could just see my batter never becoming “dry and crumbly” until I’d added so much flour they tasted more like a wheat field than whatever they’re meant to taste like.

Final verdict? Soup: delicious! And the corn stayed fresh-tasting throughout the week during which we enjoyed the leftovers. I might try a variation at some point, adding some diced hot pepper with the corn. I love spicy chicken soup. Cookbook: inspiring, but it isn't a good one for absolute beginning cooks. Many of the recipes assume you know your way around the kitchen and are very comfortable there.


3-4 lbs. stewing chicken

Salt to taste


2 quarts corn (fresh, frozen, or canned)

Rivvels (optional)

3-4 hard-boiled eggs (optional)

Dash of pepper

In large kettle, cover chicken pieces with water. Salt to taste. Cook until tender. Then cut meat off bones and cut into bite-sized pieces.

Return chicken to broth. Add corn and bring to a boil. Stir in rivvels or hard-cooked eggs and cook until rivvels are cooked through. Add pepper (mine was more “to taste” than “dash,” as we both love pepper) and serve.


¾ cup flour

1 egg

Put flour in bowl. Break in egg and mix with a fork until dry and crumbly. Crumble slowly into the soup.

Cross-posted at Soup's On!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Appalling Secrets

I know I’m the sort of person who could hobble around with my foot in a huge cast and, when concerned friends and acquaintances asked me what I’d done to myself, be annoyed that people are so damn nosy. If I’d ever had children, I would have walked around 8-months pregnant and raged against those who asked such personal questions as when was my due date, and did I know if it was a boy or a girl. I’m fully aware that this means I’m what some might euphemistically refer to as a “private person,” rather than “an uptight, prudish weirdo.” However, I’m pretty sure I can’t be the only one in the world who is often quite shocked by the information others will freely offer me, information I did not ask them to provide and that I would have to know someone for five or more years and have at least shared an apartment or a house, if not a bed, before I myself would divulge. And if I were going to divulge it, I would certainly take a look at my surroundings, figure out whether or not this was the appropriate place to discuss such a thing, and give my listener a bit of warning, set him or her up for the fact that This Is Serious/Embarrassing Shit, not act as though this is a conversation about the weather.

I’ve never been quite sure what it is about me that inspires people to tell me all that they do. I’m pretty sure I don’t look like a Father Confessor, and I most certainly am not going around saying, “I’ll tell you something really weird about myself if you tell me something really weird about you” (memes notwithstanding, of course). Nonetheless, I am treated to such information as that from a former colleague of mine who told me, right there in our open cubicles, within hearing distance of bosses who might have picked up on it if they’d had their ears open, that she saved all the condom wrappers every time she and her high school boyfriend had sex, writing the date and place on each one. She was not a life-long friend of mine. I knew her for exactly a year, socialized with her the way work colleagues do (party here, happy hour there) and basically never saw her again once she left the company. But there she was, giving me this information.

That information is pretty weird in and of itself, but okay. She was a teenager when she was collecting her condom wrappers. I pretty much forgive all weirdness at that age, as long as it doesn’t hurt or kill anyone. She thought this guy was the love of her life. I’m sure she expected they’d get married and have children. (And then what? Her children are flipping through Mom and Dad’s scrapbook pleading, “Tell us again, oh please tell us again how it happened the night of ‘Mom’s kitchen, 8/5/88?’”) Somewhat, I suppose, forgivable behavior for a 17-year-old, possibly having sneaked into the R-rated Blue Velvet at age 14, acquiring very strange ideas about love and romance. However, by age 26, she was married to someone else. She had already established for me what an ass that former boyfriend had turned out to be. At this point in her life, telling anyone about those condom wrappers wasted on a jerk should have been as embarrassing as showing up to high school in nothing but Scooby Doo underwear. Yet, here she was, sharing it with a colleague she barely knew, in a place where any number of people could have listened in and possibly sued her for sexual harassment.

Then, there was the friend (not one of those “friendly-friends” as we called them in my 20s, which for me would have been a man with whom I’d shared more than conversation, but “just a friend,” one with whom I’d never even shared a house) who blithely informed me with absolutely no warning (I think before this information came out of his mouth, we were just generally complaining about family members and the things they do to drive us nuts. Maybe that was a warning? Maybe I’m just completely out of tune when it comes to “about-to-receive-really-strange-facts-from-friend” detectors) that his brother had told his mother that he’d given a venereal disease to his wife, a VD that he’d picked up having sex with a prostitute (well, that one certainly beat my “my-brother-is-driving-me-nuts-because-he-hasn’t-returned-two-phone-calls” story).

My god, was this more information than I ever wanted to know about a man I’d never met. It was more information than I wanted to know about my friend. I mean, what kind of a man, in this day-and-age, who has a family, still sleeps with prostitutes, and what kind of a man over the age of eighteen, would call his mother up and tell her such a thing? Obviously, the kind of man to whom my friend was related. I quickly forgave my friend for being related to such a man (you should see some of my own relatives and hear what they do – not that I would tell you), but I didn’t forgive him for the fact that I might one day meet this brother, and what would I do then? All right, the brother and his wife and two kids happened to live in Iowa (and I didn’t have plans to go to Iowa anytime soon – still don’t), and it isn’t as though my friend is likely to invite me to any family reunions, but still. At least he’d had the foresight to tell me this when we were alone in a car together, traveling down to D.C. We weren’t in an open office space. That wasn’t much comfort, though. What if we’d been in a terrible accident, because I was so shocked by this news, an accident in which I’d been unhurt? What if his brother had flown from Iowa to visit him in the hospital where I sat by the bed in which he lay with two broken legs and bandages around his eyes, while guilt oozed from every pore of my body? Or worse, what if he’d become a vegetable, and his brother had decided to sue me for everything I was worth? Would I have the wherewithal not to stand up in court, shouting, “Who are you to take away all my David Bowie CDs and fancy kitchen gadgets, you VD-ridden, prostitute-loving, adultery-committing mama’s boy, you?!”

More recently, I’m in the very early stages of a budding friendship with a woman I like very much. She’s everything I’m not: tough, confident, very attentive to others, a fantastic mom to two fantastic kids, and wonderfully outspoken. But maybe she’s just a little too outspoken. She stopped over at my house one evening while I was doing the dishes, and right there, as I was wiping down the counters and chattering on about what foods I like to cook, just about to offer her some tea, she announced to me that when she was in college, she tried to kill herself. Just like that, as though she were saying, “I was doing dishes tonight, too, before I came over.” I don’t know: is it just me, or isn’t this the sort of thing that one normally leads up to before allowing it to flow from brain to tongue? Shouldn’t we have been having some sort of general discussion about depression, or maybe have been to see a movie that triggered such a conversation? Or maybe she could at least have told me that college was really rough, and she suffered from depression, but I didn’t get any of that. She then went on to give me some details I could very easily have lived without and to say how she completely sympathizes with anyone who chooses to take his or her own life.

Couldn’t we, you know, if not shared a house together, at least shared a few more meals, maybe a movie or two, even a couple of blog posts, before hitting me with such heavy stuff? It isn’t that I don’t want close friends feeling comfortable enough to talk to me about such things. I do, just as I want to be able to discuss such things with close friends. However, we aren’t that close yet. And if we’re not that close, I at least want some warning that this is coming, some sort of, “I’ve got something really weird to tell you, and it’s hard for me to talk about it, but I’m enjoying getting to know you, and I’d like you to know,” or at least, short-hand for that, something recognizable as, “Sit down, because this is disturbing.” But I didn’t get any of that, and now our friendship has taken a whole different turn, one that’s left me a little uneasy. We didn’t climb up that big hill on the roller coaster first; we just went right down it, upside down and everything, completely unprepared. I’m cautious in a way I wasn’t previous to that conversation. Meanwhile, she’s never mentioned it again, carrying on as though we’re still in the “So, where’d you grow up, and would you like to have lunch sometime?” stage.

So call me an “uptight, prudish weirdo” when you ask me where I went to college and I reply, “That’s none of your business.” Or look at me as if I’m such when you decide to tell me all about the sex change operation your grandmother has elected to have at age 75, and I cut you off to tell you I don’t want to hear it. I’d rather be known as “Ms. Uptight, Prudish Weirdo” than “weird, private, inappropriate-at-this-time information receptacle.”

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Blog Intertia Antitode List

Following Cam’s lead on an antidote to Bloglily’s blogertia, I’m posting here a list of all the things I want to post in the near future. Some of these have actually already been written by hand; they just need to make it into electronic format.

For The Soup’s On! Challenge:
The Best of Amish Cooking (I read and cooked from this one back in July!)
The I Hate to Cook Book (and this one I finished about three weeks ago)

People who share inappropriate information too soon

Good books v. great books

The annoying Ms. Michiko Kakutani

Who can wear white?

The prima donna scuba diver

Chasing David Sedaris

“Christians” and homosexual ordination

Perfect albums

Winter trepidation

10 reasons to love Maine (having been here for two days, I’m all ready to write this one)

Of course, I’m in Maine, so some of these might be interspersed with not just one, but several posts on loving Maine. Also, pictures. We’ll see.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Painting 10,000 Words

10,000 words in ten pictures from the Key West Vacation. But, you know me, I just have to include a few written words as well.

Scuba diving: the great equalizer. Even Audrey Hepburn would not have looked chic and beautiful in this gear.

Ahhh, that blue, blue water at the Dry Tortugas.

Some nerdy tourists inside Fort Jefferson at the Dry Tortugas.

This is what the (in?)famous Duval Street looks like when the hurricane doesn't hit.

No, Francis, I promise, I was not two-timing you with a Hemingway cat while I was away. Really. All we did was dive...

The butterfly museum was just a tad more spectacular than New York's Museum of Natural History display.

What do you think? It's just begging for a ghost story to be written about it, right?

Another great place for ghosts (puts to shame the thing we call a cemetery behind our home in PA).

And this is the ghost I want to meet!

Hmmm, don't quite know what so say about this one. Anyone have a good caption they'd like to share?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

What I Did on My Summer Vacation (Sort Of)

Well, I am truly, madly, deeply in love with Key West. At least, the kind of love that makes one desire frequent one-week-stands. I wouldn’t want to make any sort of long-term commitment, because, first of all, it would be way too easy to eat myself to death living in a place like that (although, I’m not exactly living in a place that is itself free from that problem, at the moment). Secondly, there’s that whole lack-of-seasons-and-snow business. Thirdly…What’s thirdly? Oh yeah, the little hurricane problem.

I won’t say it’s a good thing Gustav veered west, because I am so, so sorry for poor old New Orleans. Nonetheless, it did mean that we didn’t have to evacuate the Keys, only had one day of heavy wind and rain, and it was all kind of fun and exciting. I would not be saying this if the Keys had been slammed with a level 4 or 5 hurricane. I would imagine that I then would have spent the majority of my vacation in some other part of Florida, and I am not a big (or even a teeny, tiny, little) fan of other parts of Florida (sorry any Floridians who happen to be reading this).

Some of you may be wondering why we, who seem like relatively intelligent human beings, would choose to vacation in Florida during the height of the hurricane season. It’s simple: we’ve always gone to the Caribbean during hurricane season, because nobody else does. Places to stay are much cheaper, and dive boats are never full. Besides, statistically, the chances that a major hurricane is actually going to hit in the exact place we choose at the exact time we are there is pretty slim. Also, there’s that slight bit of excitement on both our parts, I guess. When my parents briefly lived on the coast of North Carolina, my reaction when visiting for the first time during a hurricane forecast was “how cool.” (This while my poor mother was busy worrying about how to protect everything in the house and wondering if they’d made a mistake moving to such a place.) The hurricane didn’t hit, and while my mother was breathing a huge sigh of relief, my sigh tended more in the direction of slight disappointment. If Bob had been there, I’m sure his reaction would have been the same.

Anyway, after eight days in Key West, I’ve probably got enough fodder for this blog for the next two months. I will try not to bore you-all with that (the equivalent of a two-hour-long-somebody-else’s-vacation slide show, I’m sure). I will keep the Key West posts to a minimum and try to write about other stuff as well over the next few weeks (which shouldn’t be hard, because Bob and I are renting a house in Maine for three weeks starting next week, and Key West will probably quickly fade into the distance). Meanwhile, I highly recommend that if you’ve never been, go visit this quirky little piece of America (even if you hate Florida. Key West is not like the rest of Florida), and here’s a little guidance from me:

Best place to buy books (you knew I’d start there, didn’t you?): Key West Island Books. They’ve been around forever, have books piled up to the ceiling, an impressive “pirate” section, and, if you’re lucky, Suzanne will be working when you visit. She’s extremely friendly and helpful and can recommend great places to see, as well as fantastic restaurants.

Best key lime pie ever: Mangoes restaurant. I won’t even say best I’ve ever had, just best ever, because I can’t imagine anyone, anywhere makes it better than this. Besides, I’ve made it a point to be a life-long key lime pie taster, so I’ve eaten my fair share of it over the years. No too-gooey meringue on top. No sickly-sweet filling. No heaviness in the stomach after two bites. Just the perfect amount of tartness. The perfect amount of light creaminess. And the all-important graham cracker crust, somehow made extremely light and thin. Yum!

Best Italian food I’ve ever had: Opera. Remember: I’ve never been to Italy. I have, however, lived in Connecticut and New York, and I ate a few meals at an Italian boyfriend’s mother’s house when I was in my twenties. I’m still finding it hard to believe that the best Italian food I’ve tasted is in Key West, FL, but, so be it. I’m not going to argue with my taste buds.

Best place to get a mojito: Conch Republic Seafood Company. They let you use their drink coupon (lots of bars give out “buy one drink, get one free” coupons in KW), for one thing, even for mojitos, which other bars, we discovered, don’t. Secondly, it’s just a wonderful, large bar. Thirdly, their mojitos are delicious. They’re deadly, though. If you’re a lightweight like me, don’t drink more than one (at least, if you want to remember your vacation).

Best place to get microbrews: Kelly’s. This is a charming-even-for-Key-West little bar and restaurant, owned by none other than Kelly McGillis (no, we didn’t see her). All the wait staff wear the old PanAm insignia on their shirt sleeves, because it apparently stands on the spot of what was once the PanAm building. Their dark stout is delicious, as is their IPA.

Best day trip: the Dry Tortugas National Park. It’s a beautiful, amazing spot. And I’ve never been to a national park where snorkeling, rather than hiking, was the order of the day. Nor have I ever seen an octopus in any other national park.

Best dive site: the Cayman wreck. I’ve never been one much on wreck diving (believe it or not, it’s a bit too spooky for me), at least, not until now. Who knows? After this experience, maybe I’ll even learn to penetrate a wreck one day. I was slightly tempted but ultimately decided that going inside things like ships under water still isn’t quite my cup of tea.

Best drag queens: 801 Bourbon Bar. Okay, I admit it: I love drag queens. Bob, not so much, so I decided, even though he offered, not to subject him to a two-hour-long night club act. I will have to go back someday with a group of people who are more into such things. Any takers?

Best historic site: The Hemingway House. It’s worth it just to see the fabulous studio where he spent his most productive writing years. Wish I had a place like that to write. Oh yeah, and then there are the cats, and the cat condos, and the urinal-turned-cat’s-drinking fountain. Only at Hemingway’s house, no?

Best author to read while visiting (no, not Hemingway, although I’m sure many would disagree with me): Tom Corcoran, most especially when the first murder in the book takes place on the very street where you’re staying. His books are pure male fantasy, but if I haven’t yet convinced you that you want to visit Key West, read him. He will. Rarely do I read authors who write about a place such that it becomes one of the characters.

Best advice: don’t bring four books with you. You really, truly, with all there is to do (especially if you’re a diver, which means every morning is taken up with that), will not have time to read them. Bring a couple of Tom Corcorans, and if, for some reason, you happen to finish those, you’ll have an excuse to go back (because, of course, it was the first place you went when you arrived in town) to Key West Island Books.

Coming soon: photos (but not a 2-hour-long slide show, I promise!).