Sunday, April 21, 2013

Flarp was a flop

My memoir writing class is almost over, just one week left.  It's been a very positive experience if you don't count my assignments being returned with critiques such as "MJ, YOU TOTALLY BLEW THE FIRST AND LAST LINES AND THOSE ARE MOST IMPORTANT GIVE UP AND GET A JOB HIPPIE."

To some of our more sensitive classmates, our teacher's harsh (and mostly spot-on) critiques have proven too much and they have dropped out. I relish the criticism, though, because it's the only way I'm going to learn to stop using so many goddamn opening clauses. 


A fellow classmate and I attended the "Cheap Beer and Poetry" event downstairs at the literary mecca where I take my class.  It's a regular event and a popular one.  Rainier beers were $2 and deliciously watery as usual.

One poet recited a poem about a saggy old barn.  It had a terrific opening line --"Barn got its lean on" and got better from there.  The poem introduced me to a new feeling -- desperate and profound sadness for a barn.

Another poet broke the ice first by telling a joke --

"A young man walks up to his grandmother and says, 'Grandma, have you seen my bottle of pills?  They're labeled 'LSD.'"  And his grandma says, 'FORGET YOUR MOTHERF*CKING PILLS THERE'S A DRAGON IN THE KITCHEN.'"

My parents came for a visit last week.  I am grateful --  Alex has been traveling for work for the past two weeks and I'm losing my mind caring for our hooligan children alone.

Alex's travel took him to China, Japan, England, France, Germany, and Luxembourg this time.  He went all the way around the globe and will therefore be near-comatose upon return.  In good news, he spent a few nights in Paris and saw these people --

The Return of Virginia Mom.  She lives on, SHE LIVES ON!

Look at these jerks rubbing Montparnasse in my face

I miss you, Virginia Family.  A lot. My fragile constitution can barely handle the photographs of all you together again, sans moi.  Someday, ma biche, someday...

But anyway, back to my parents.  They are still as good as parents get.  We laugh a lot and talk over each other and never really hear what anyone else is saying.  Mom, as we yammered on as usual, said "Well, once again we've launched into indecipherable conversation." And that sums up most of the visit.

Mom and Dad brought the kids some gifts.  One was called "Flarp!" and it was a "noise putty," which we assumed meant it would make fart-like sounds when we squished it between our hands.  Imagine our surprise when, instead of making funny noises, Flarp glued our hands together with a cold obscenely sticky goo. 

As we pried our hands slowly apart, Flarp dripped (Flarp had inexplicably turned into a liquid) onto carpet, clothing, and furniture.  The more we tried to clean it off, the messier it got, the more it stuck, the bleaker the future seemed.  It was a real battle and one that was never truly won -- even after a few washes, Flarp still dots our jeans with fluorescent yellow stringy gobs.

I think the "noise" they refer to is people yelling obscenities when they realize the mess they've gotten themselves into

We scared the children when we took them up on Seattle's Great Wheel --

Frankly, I wasn't at my most comfortable, either.  It seems gratuitous to dangle patrons over the water the way they do.  It's like they're taunting us with all the ways we're gonna die if someone screwed up the assembly of the thing.  If the fall doesn't get ya, the drowning will, enjoy your ride!

Each cab on the Great Wheel is equipped with a "panic" button you can press if you want off early.  The button idea is better than what you had to do if you panicked on a Ferris Wheel in the good old days -- you just yelled "I'm panicking, I'm panicking!" into the air with nobody around to hear or care.

We also spent some time on Alki Beach.  Lucien did not understand why we were laughing so hard when we took this photo.  He will someday.

While on Alki, the weather turned.  In one direction, it looked like this --

But in the other direction, it looked like this --

So we got the hell out of there.

I'm the weather and I'm going to get you

Thanks for coming to save my sanity and give me some much-needed backup, Mom and Dad.  
Even if you did bring Flarp.

When I first started this blog, I added an email link to my sidebar so people could email me all their wishes and dreams.  After a few months of not receiving any email (save one from Bill), and after trying it myself and it not working, I removed it from the sidebar.  And promptly forgot it had ever been there.

I remembered my failed email experiment last week and, on a whim, decided to log into that email account to see what was there.  And there before me.... emails.  Dozens.  So many wishes and dreams sitting dusty in an email inbox for over a year.  I have no idea where they were the first time around but they've finally shown up to the party.

I don't know if any of you people are still reading, but know if you emailed me in the past 16 months, I didn't get it until last week because I'm a loser.  (WHO USES TOO MANY DEPENDENT CLAUSES, IDIOT.)  I hope to make my way through those emails and answer them.

I've re-added the email link.  If you use it and don't hear from me for over a year, rest assured I've somehow screwed it all up again.

Hug your barns, people, you have no idea what they've been through,

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Blah blah blah then BAM, everybody leaves

I hate that Sprint commercial, the one with the girl whose parents have taken video of her every day against a white wall.  The sweet song in the background bolsters the sense I'm a crap parent who doesn't truly love my children.  If I loved them properly, I wouldn't have neglected the memory-making.

Kids, don't watch that commercial someday and think I failed you because we don't know exactly what you were thinking on the first day of third grade.

I also hate the commercial for Ready for Love, that new dating show.  One of the contestant guys says, "I'm not the stereotypical rock star; I can count the women I've been with on my fingers."  We can all count the people we've been with on our fingers, genius, some of us will just have to use each finger a few times.

I was recently a field trip chaperone again. We went to the zoo.  A peacock caused a ruckus when the kids realized it was perched on the rooftop over our heads during lunch. 

But that peacock really blew their minds when it jumped off the roof and did this --

Feathers in your face, motherf*ckers!

One of our classroom girls ran up and grabbed the peacock's feathers.  She was immediately threatened with a lifetime ban from the zoo by people in tan shirts holding walkie talkies.  We chaperones felt the shame; we had failed in our duty to keep the more unruly children away from the wildlife. 

After the assault, the peacock stood absolutely still, save an occasional ripple of feathers, and glared at our group.  He reminded me of a cobra about to strike.  It was obvious he was formulating a plan.

We chaperones began to murmur and pull the kids to a safe distance.  This begat many questions: What's a safe distance from a peacock?  How fast do those things move?  Can we outrun them?  Are they surprisingly fast on foot like a hippo or as awkward as you'd expect, like an alligator? 

To make things worse, Lucien kept calling the peacock "turkey."  Insult to injury.

The peacock followed us slowly as we walked away.  The incident ushered in a new chapter of my life -- peacock nightmares.

When you least expect it, chaperone...

Our occasional handyman recently installed our kitchen cabinet pulls.  They would have been lovely except he installed them all off-center and crooked --

I could use Contractor God's help fixing them.  But the truth is, Banister Abbey broke Contractor God.  He has walked away from it and us, not planning to return.  The loss is painful, both the loss of his knowledge and the loss of his curmudgeonly friendship.

I would love to process Contractor God's departure with my other beloved contractors, Dan the Man and Supermodel Neighbor, but they're both gone, too.

Dan the Man had a falling out with Contractor God and stopped working with him in the middle of the Goddamn House project.  He occasionally texts me, usually when he's drunk, to ask if I'm mad at him. He was at our house for Thanksgiving a handful of months ago and now we don't even talk.  Human relationships are complicated and sad.

Supermodel Neighbor is moving to Portland this week.  Supermodel Neighbor and I are kindred spirits; he understands the necessity of indie music, strange humor and a properly used color wheel.  We went out for beers once and he jumped into a grove of bamboo on the walk home for no reason.  He stood inside for awhile, then called out, "Hey MJ, look how tall these are."

Once I was sitting at his kitchen table drinking coffee and he silently slid a picture of an alpaca in front of me and walked away.  When I asked, "What's this all about?"  he said, "I just thought you might like to look at that."  He was right; I did.

He's beautiful and weird and I'm going to miss him.  And that's all I'm going to say about that.

I wish I would have known the time with my three contractor friends was fleeting, that the shared jokes and beers and pissing matches were not going to last.  I would have hugged them more.  I also would have stood them against a white wall every day and videotaped their thoughts, then put them together in a timelapse montage with a bittersweet song in the background for proper mood.

Mama always told me I was a sentimental fool.  I don't think so -- I just really hate the end of a good chapter.

This is the song I'd choose.  Thanks for this, JP, and good luck.

Hug your contractors tight, people,

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Cat Stevens and Jesus Mouse

Since I started my writing class, I have less time for the blog.  Heck, I have less time for showers.  It's been three days now, people.

Perhaps I'm in over my head with this writing class.  I'm in there with "real" writers who have done a "publish."  My teacher's former job was literary critic for the Seattle P.I.  My writing assignments are returned with red marks all over them.  I'm pretty sure it's my teacher's pen, though I like to think he was just eating Twizzlers and got sloppy.

My assignment essays, strictly bound by a 300-word limit, have me awake in the middle of the night, writing in fits of sleepy inspiration.  I'm quite proud of my most recent essay and look forward to reading it aloud to a roomful of critics who will have no idea what I'm talking about.

Spring has sprung in Seattle and not a moment too soon.  Winters in the Pacific Northwest, as most people know, are chilly gray and dreary.  But in the past week of warm sunny days, we've come out of hibernation.  Everyone's back outside, stretching and squinting up at the mysterious yellowish circle in the sky. 

My favorite runner is back, running through our neighborhood for hours at a time.  He's my favorite because, while most runners look straight ahead and pound the hell out of the pavement, he gets more vertical with his strides and looks around the whole time.  It gives him the appearance of bouncing, near skipping, down the sidewalk.  He looks thrilled to be running, which is a strange concept to me.

I was sitting on the front porch when I saw him again.  I ran inside to yell to Al, "Ole Bouncy Black Pants is back!  Ole Bouncy Black Pants is back!"  I probably should have been taking a shower instead of sitting on the front porch watching the passersby but we all make questionable decisions sometimes.

The days when all the mountain ranges are out -- Olympics to the west and Cascades to the east -- and Mount Rainier is standing crisp and clear to the south, those are the days we Seattleites live for.  On those days, we are all convinced we live in the most beautiful place on Earth and feel smugly satisfied with our life choices.

We're now facing another string of cold gray days but last week was enough to give us all more patience.

Coco had a nightmare last night that woke her (and me) at 4:00 a.m.  She was bolt upright and crazy-eyed, screaming that something was in her bed. As I tried to calm her, she seemed to catch sight of something out of the corner of her eye.  Her eyes widened and she screamed again, then bolted to the end of her bed.

She convinced me.  I nearly yelled,  "Holy sh*t, girl, there IS something in your bed!" and hightailed it out of her room.  Instead I gathered my wits, pulled all her blankets off the bed, shook them out, and quickly became hopelessly entangled in the middle of them.  Lucien woke up and said sleepily, "Mommy, are you doing an April Fools joke?"

There was absolutely nothing in Coco's bed but don't bother trying to convince her of that, it's wasted breath and time.  She came back to bed with me where she spent the rest of the night kicking Alex and I in the kidneys.

As usual, for those of us with no family nearby, friends were family for Easter.  We gathered on the Street of Dreams for an egg hunt and mimosas (one was for kids, one for adults, you decide).  The kids watched in horror as Seattle Mom and Dad's cat attacked and nearly killed a mouse in the backyard.  Seattle Dad had to put the mouse out of its misery because there was much suffering.  Happy Easter, kids, and no worries, maybe that mouse will resurrect just like Jesus.

Then there was a ton of food including homemade cinnamon rolls and a psycho jello mold --

Want some candy, little kid?

It was a beautiful day so we headed down the street to an empty parking lot to ride bikes --

"Daddy, why doesn't my bike work anymore?"

When we got back to Seattle Mom and Dad's house, the jumping began --

It's not Easter until someone jumps over my head, scares me and makes me spill my mimosa. 

This one's for the ladies

There was some singing involved in our Easter celebration, which reminded me of a classic Alex tale.  When I first met him, Al loved Cat Stevens and sang his songs regularly and loudly.  His favorite song was "Peace Train."  But instead of understanding the chorus for what it was -- "Ride on the Peace Train" -- Alex misunderstood (it's hard to decipher foreign language song lyrics!) and sang, "I love to be straight." 

I love my foreigner.

I was flipping through a catalog full of useless items recently when I saw this --

How is this better than a dog pooping in your yard?  Instead of an occasional left-behind pile of poo, you're going to stare at a fake dog in full poo position, with fake poo coming out of its behind, every time you step out your front door?  Catalog people, go home, you're drunk!

Everyone jump on the be straight,