Get Out!

Monday, June 14, 2010

I have decided that I want to get out and see more this summer; too many previous summer vacations have been filled with trips to Target and the grocery store and not enough time spent doing cool stuff. Sure, we go on family trips and see things then, but on an every day basis I rarely seem to get out and explore my hometown. I always get so caught up in the humdrum that I lose sight of all the cool possibilities. But not this summer, baby. 

Today I went to the U of M for the first in a series of free noontime concerts. The band was Romantica, who are awesome, but the weather was lousy. Pouring rain pushed the planned outdoor concert indoors, which meant I got to go inside Northrop Auditorium, a place I haven't been since the day I graduated - in 1991. 

It's a beautiful old cavern of a building. The lighting was dim, mostly the rainy light from outside streaming in the open doors, and the place smells a bit like a wet dog, but the acoustics are brilliant, and the band was just twangy enough. And then Jimmy John's started handing out free sandwiches and chocolate ice cream. Very cool, indeed. 


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I Spy

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I have a certain fondness for people who don't close their curtains.
Especially the ones who have great big windows and keep their lights burning bright.
You see, I love to spy in their windows.

I promise there is nothing creepy about my predilection for peeping in people's windows when driving by at night. I simply enjoy seeing how the houses look inside, and by that I don't strictly mean the way they're decorated. It's more a matter of checking out the many ways in which we live in our homes. 

Certain neighborhoods favor this pastime. 

Historic districts are usually a sure thing for lots of interior viewing opportunities. There's a tendency for upscale renovations there, and who wants to cover up their painstakingly refurbished trim with a bunch of curtains? Pure viewing satisfaction. I love comparing those homes whose owners have gone strictly period and filled their home with furnishings to match the era of the house with those who've taken a decidedly modern turn and let their gothic moldings coexist with the clean lines of an Eames sofa and Danish teak end tables. I can't say I prefer one over the other; they are equals in my eyes. 

There's one suburban development we drive by occasionally that turns my stomach a bit with tacky over-the-top opulence (topulence?). Does the big screen TV need to be that big? Does anyone who lives there actually play that grand piano? Isn't there a legal limit on the amount of wrought iron and granite a house can hold? I'm always struck by the fact that these homes tend to have all their lights on all the time, as if their inhabitants are never in the same room together. 

In contrast, there's a house near ours where it seems as if every time we drive by, at least six people are gathered in their kitchen. Their patio doors (with no curtains) face the street, so I can always get a good view of their cramped kitchen, filled with knick-knacks and occupied chairs. They always look like they're having a good time - eating a meal, playing cards, talking around the table while someone washes dishes in the background. 

When we travel, I get all excited riding in the shuttle from the airport. There's nothing quite like spying in windows in a new town. It helps remind me that other cities aren't just tourist attractions; actual people live their actual lives in these places. The other night we shuttle bussed our way past a house that had a beautiful two-sided fireplace connecting the kitchen and living room. I could see a man in the kitchen as he unpacked bags of groceries onto the countertops. Just a snapshot of a typical day, I know, but it still makes me smile. 

Since my husband usually does the driving, he wasn't aware of my hobby until fairly recently. I think he figured it out when I tried to explain the exact location of something to him and used the phrase "by that house with the ugly blue floral sofa that used to sit by the window 'til they moved it to the other side of the room". 

Twice the Legal Limit

Monday, May 10, 2010

I am forty-two years old; therefore, my status as being old enough to drink is now, well, old enough to drink.

Funny thing is - I never have.

In high school when everyone else was experimenting, I wasn't interested.

By college, I'd seen enough friends puking in the shrubs outside some too-warm, too-noisy party to be at all tempted.

But now.
Now I'm interested.

I have decided that my summer project, as it were, will be to learn how to drink.
It's time.

I figure the first step is to figure out what kind of drinker I'll be.

I have enough life experience to know what I don't want: to have my husband come home some afternoon and find me sitting in a room all alone with the curtains drawn, listening to Morrissey and clutching half a bottle of something. No. That'd be bad.

I picture myself as more of a social drinker  - a "cool beverage at the cook-out, surrounded by my friends" kind of a gal. That seems acceptable, yes?

Then, of course, I have to pick my poison.

Hmm, what'll I have?

Again, I start with the no-no's:
- nothing with a ridiculous name (fuzzy navel, sex on the beach, etc.)
- nothing so lamely sweet that seventeen year old girls and soccer moms think it's "yummy" (strawberry daiquiri, wine coolers, etc.)
- nothing that comes from a box
- nothing that comes from a slushie machine
- nothing you'd drink from a plastic cup at a frat party
- nothing they drink on Mad Men

Well, that narrows my list considerably.

I seem to be drifting toward beer, but my wise grandmother had me take a sip of hers when I was about four, and my disbelief that anyone would voluntarily drink that stuff lingers. Of course, she drank Walter's. And I was four.

I'm thinking that something from a microbrewery -  something with an exceedingly specific flavor profile (perhaps involving honey or wildflowers) - might just be my bag. It needs to have just enough snob appeal to make sense in the hand of a lady of my age and discerning taste, but it can't be so yuppy pretentious as to be, yanno, unflattering.

Suggestions from the audience?

Why God Invented Cell Phones & Put Cameras in Them

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Behold, my neighbors' driveway ...

The picture doesn't have anything to give you a sense of scale, so you'll just have to trust me that my neighbors' kids used a warm spring day, their idle hands, and some sidewalk chalk to create this masterpiece that can be viewed from low-flying aircraft. Each letter's about five feet tall. 

Their use of the exclamation point makes it all feel like an urgent command, which I find ironic, since my dog usually poops in their yard. (Yes, we pick it up.)

The Carpet and the Drapes

Sunday, April 4, 2010

I get my weekly horoscope emailed to me on Sundays. I don't actually take the words as truth, but it's kinda fun to see if life's events in any way follow the predictions from my friends at Astrocenter. 

Okay, life never falls in line with the predictions, and I don't know how to unsubscribe. 

The writing staff at the email horoscope service (which is probably comprised of different folks than the actual star-reading department, yes?) is getting a little sloppy lately - in a manner of which their English teachers would certainly disapprove. See if you can find the problem with this week's horoscope:

Live it Up! Your horoscope - Week of April 5, 2010
You approach life intensely, Scorpio. On Monday Mercury in your sector of open enemies squares aggressive Mars and you'll come up against someone who isn't on your side, to say the least. Before you aim your stinger, consider if your energy would be better spent creating a new lifestyle for yourself. You may become a mentor to a young person on Saturday. Remember that you have a lot to give to others, and they can benefit from your experience.

Now I ask you, which part of the actual horoscope has anything to do with the concept of living it up, as stated in the title? Hmm? 

Shouldn't the title give a hint as to the main idea of the horoscope that is to follow?

 Sure, mentoring a young person and giving to others are nice and all, but "live it up" is chock full of connotations - jetting off to Rio, dancing 'til dawn, splurging for the deluxe car wash, etc. Where's that stuff in the text of my horoscope?! 

It ain't there, friends.
It just ain't there.

And I didn't even know I had a sector of open enemies.
Now I've got that to worry about.

Boys Rule

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I've been thinking about boys a lot lately.
Not on purpose or anything.
I'll just be going along, minding my own, doin' what needs be done, and  - whap!  - thoughts of boys pop into my head.

Let me give you some examples ...

On the evening of February 13th, I was seated at our kitchen table next to my daughter. We were working on the task of assembling her Valentines to bring to pre-school. She'd picked out some at Target - pictures of cartoon monkeys and little monkey tattoos for each kid in her class. As she folded the cards and I stuffed the envelopes, I got a better look at the tattoos.


All the monkeys had flowers in their hair - tucked behind one ear a la Dorothy Lamour in The Road to Bali. There were no monkeys wearing trucker hats or motorcycle helmets. Whatever would the boys think?! Would the boys be upset at these girlie monkey tattoos? Would they reject them and throw them on the floor in a rage?

Then I thought What's the big deal? I'm sure my daughter will get a boatload of Valentines with dump trucks and robots on them, and she'll like them. So, why do I get all worked up about whether or not the boys will be okay with something with flowers on it?

Because girls will accept things that are more stereotypically male, while boys turn up their noses at girl stuff.

Girls will read a book with a male protagonist, while boys bristle at reading one with a female lead character. I know

I'm speaking in generalizations here, but there's research - and more than a decade's worth of my own observations as a middle school teacher - to back these generalizations up.

I do not like this.
It feels wrong.
It seems to say It's still is a man's world, and women (including me) are trained to adjust and adapt to it. 

And then last weekend, I was sorting through some of my daughter's toys - the ones she's outgrown and wants to "give to a baby". I was looking at some stacking rings, really nice ones made of wood, imported from France, painted with gorgeous bright colors and patterns.

Our friends' little boy is developmentally at the right stage to play with these, but then I noticed that two of the rings were pink. Hot pink, actually. And I found myself thinking Uh, oh! This might be too feminine for him. 

Am I completely nuts?
The boy isn't even a year old yet!
He doesn't know what pink is!
Hell, he doesn't know what a boy is!
And here I am, worried that his parents are going to accuse me emasculating their son by giving him something a little too "pretty" to play with.

I was starting to think it was just me.
Surely, other women don't think like this.

Then at work today I was showing two (female) colleagues this awesome website called the Girl Effect. The three of us watched the video and were immediately moved and impressed and could absolutely see how it fit in with our curriculum and talked about showing it in class. ..

And then each one of us.
Came up with the same worry:
How will the boys react?


So, I know it's not just me who keeps thinking about boys, which is comforting.
But why are we always so worried about keeping them happy?

Probably because we're a bunch of girls.

2009 ·what now? by TNB