Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In which we are puzzled and amazed by citified ways

Just a few observations of things that go on in Northern Virginia that are probably very commonplace to the residents, but strike us as rather bizarre:
  • An unmarked white panel truck on the opposite side of the road suddenly pulls a "k" turn in the middle of a busy four-lane highway (Rt. 7 in Falls Church, for those from around here), pulls into the righthand lane in front of me and another car and then stops dead. Then, from out of nowhere, forty or fifty Latino men come swarming from behind buildings and jump into the truck. No -- it doesn't surprise me that I was cut off and stuck behind this truck or that all these Latino men began jumping in. What surprised me is that someone had a construction job they could work at...
  • We arrived an hour early in Arlington and decided to get coffee at a little sidewalk cafe. Of course we're now in "the city" (at least as compared to the farm), so we experience the usual street noises: traffic and construction, particularly a jackhammer. But then I look around me and there is not a whole lot of traffic and not a sign of construction going on anywhere. Which leads me to believe that somewhere there is a company that markets "Sounds on a City Sidewalk" mood CDs specifically for outdoor cafes targeting young professional working people who like to look harried and busy.
  • I am really thankful for federal buildings that have x-ray machines for my purse so I don't have to have that uncomfortable moment when the security guard opens that little zippered section of my purse -- you know the one. I'm so old, this still embarrasses me; but not so old not to have an embarrassing little zippered section of my purse.
  • Whenever I travel to The City, I'm convinced I need a Blackberry; and an iPhone; and something with GPS. I'm not quite sure what I'll do with any of these since it annoys me just to send a text message and I hate it when my cell phone rings. But I feel obligated to pull out my cell phone and stare at it, maybe push a few buttons, so I look like everyone else. As soon as I get home, though, the feeling goes away.
  • What are you all doing over there in Occupied Northern Virginia that you need 80 bazillion nail places?
Tonight I feel as though I've been to visit another planet and I will be very thankful tomorrow morning when the only "traffic" I have to contend with is a tractor pulling feed hay to another field.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Yet Another Curmudgeonly TV Rant

Warning for those of you sick of these. You're excused. See ya later.

For starters, let me first fess up -- during my Lost Summer I watched more TV than I ever had in my life; not whole shows, mind you...if there wasn't something good on TCM, then I just kept flipping channels looking for direction. For this reason, I actually do know a little something about the programs about which I complain -- rather than my usual method of relying on heresay and getting it wrong (as in the American's Top Model vs. Project Runway fiasco in a Spot-On column I did).

I have since weaned myself off this habit -- and perhaps sometime I will do a blog why I think weaning is necessary, especially if you think it isn't, and how I did it. But that's not for today.

It seems that the new fall shows are being canceled already. I was only dimly aware new fall shows had started, but...really? Already? Not one of the shows even vaguely resembled Turn-On (which gives you an idea of how old I am...).

One of the reasons for this is -- and I quote -- "poor performance among younger viewers."


That's whose opinion we're relying on to determine what we're allowed to watch?

It explains everything!

It explains why those Kardashian people are making money. It explains why one channel devotes itself almost entirely to weddings of spoiled, whiney couples and their dysfunctional families (it's either Bravo or WE -- whatever; the channel numbers are close to each other on my cable remote). It explains why creating a wonderful meal is a fierce battle on the Food Network. It explains why Ashley Simpson showed up on The Dog Whisperer (the fading celebrity's next to the last ditch effort to revive their career -- after this, it's off to Branson and red, white and blue cowboy attire).

I will admit to being baffled at first, then outraged that I was watching a glorification of talentless, superficial,self-absorbed, self-centered Californians (sorry, Californians; but, as much as you all disparage the sophistication and physical attractiveness of everyone east of your "canyons" and west of your accountants' beach house in the Hamptons, you do know that the rest of the country considers you all a bunch of idiots*, right? -- all except my former editor Chris, who is one of the smartest women I know and who I envision as a sort of Jane Goodall living among the apes).

Upon further reflection, though, I resigned myself to the fact that there is no solution to this and eventually television will be nothing but a cesspool of so many talentless attention grabbers and their exploiters that in order to maintain the momentum they're going to have to resort to killing each other off in creative ways. While crass, this could preserve our gene pool.

We're already seeing signs of degeneration. Monk had a lackluster final season. House has turned into just another medical soap opera. Between American Pickers and Pawn Stars, watching the History Channel is very much like spending a weekend following my in-laws around. And freakin' Ashley Simpson is on The Dog Whisperer.

And I'm not even going to mention The Jersey Shore, because Heir 2 told me not to. He said everybody complains about The Jersey Shore. But, just so you know -- the people on the Jersey Shore are not from the Jersey Shore. Those of us who lived on the Jersey Shore avoided places like Seaside Heights in the summer because of people like them -- usually from New York or North Jersey). Now I'm done not mentioning The Jersey Shore.

Well, look at that -- I've written all the way to here and I haven't even touched on The Leering Channel...excuse me -- The Learning Channel -- little people, morbidly obese people, perpetually pregnant people, morbidly obese pregnant people, pregnant little people and people with severe mental illness being treated as though all they have is an "organizational problem." They're all there for us to -- ahem -- "learn" about!

Okay. I'll stop. For now. Before I start on the cable news channels...

*I feel perfectly justified in making a broad generalization about people I've never met, such as Californians. After all, people make broad generalizations about people from New Jersey based on that hideous show about sleaze buckets at The Jersey Shore who are not from the Jersey shore. (I wrote this before Heir 2 told me not to mention The Jersey Shore.)

Monday, October 18, 2010

In which Dirtman gets older

What would it take to get two college-age kids on break to agree to spend an entire day with their parents and allow said parents to choose the movie they would go to?

Don't worry -- neither of us is dying.

It's Dirtman's birthday.

Dirtman, Visionary*
So the four of us met up at one of our favorite treats, Alamo Drafthouse, to see the movie Red (Which was good, as what it was; we're not talking To Kill a Mockingbird here...). And we have the photographic evidence to prove it.

I would like to say a few things about this photographic evidence: I get very little cooperation from my subjects and I'm not fond of having my own picture taken.

So, if you want to see current Linguini photos, you pretty much have to take what you can get -- except in the case of Heir 2, who will pretty much pose for anything but a serious photo.

As for me, no matter what happens, I always look ticked off. I truly am not angry -- I just seem to have a face that looks that way (although I will admit that, while Dirtman is taking my photo, I'm usually barking instructions out of the corner of my mouth).
I caught Heir 1 on his way in -- very quickly, since all the time I'm taking the shot, he's nattering, "Why do we always have to make a scene?" You'd think he'd know the answer to that by now...

Never did get a good shot of Heir 2...but we do have a nice, blurry photo of this guy...

...but you all know what Heir 2 looks like, right?

*Have you noticed the re-emergence of Dirtman's neck? He's lost a whole lot of weight and looks great...and very impressive when he dons his business khakis and arranges free stuff for the farm -- like an agricultural well so that when we suffer a drought like we did this year, we can still provide the food banks with lots of vegetables. He did that this week!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Breakfast at Linguini's

This year we discovered what we have is an Autumn Patio, discovered as we were hanging out laundry and suddenly realized how pleasant it was in the backyard now that the weather is cooler and the sun is hitting at a different angle.
We've taken to spending more time out there and Sunday morning I made up some homemade cinnamon buns and coffee to eat while enjoying the scenery. Since Dirtman* works this afternoon and evening, this will be our version of an "anniversary meal" for this year.

In the summer the patio is unbearably hot. Even with an umbrella over our outside table, it is impossible to sit out there until the sun disappears behind the mountain.

Now, if Dirtman isn't working that evening, we take our "happy hour" out to the patio, driving the dogs nuts -- Zsa Zsa is always hoping I'll drop an olive or two -- and looking out at this.

*...who, we promise, is getting a haircut right now, as I am typing this...

You know you're old when...

You have to scan in your wedding photos because there was no such thing as a digital camera back when you were married.

You know you've been married a long time when people look at your wedding pictures and say, "Oh, my God!"

We used to look a lot like our wedding photos; then we looked just a little more mature than our wedding photos; now it's tough to convince people these really are our wedding photos.

Nevermind. We've toughed it out through as much muck as can be thrown at a couple, so don't tell me the institution of marriage doesn't work. It's just that people expect of marriage things it was never meant to do. And then, when it breaks their hearts or forces them to grow in ways they never intended, they get scared and run.

So there we are, 23 years ago -- and countless pounds gained, lost and regained since (our glasses alone had to weigh 20 pounds back then...).

So, Happy Anniversary, Sparkey, from Sister Ingnatius Toyota of Our Lady of Perpetual Motion.

Friday, October 08, 2010

The Secret of My "Success"

I’ve never been cagey about the financial situation here at Casa de Linguini. In a way I’ve been trying to get away from being defined by our bankruptcy and foreclosure because we are so much more than that.

However, unless you’ve got a never-ending fountain of money at your disposal, finances pretty much set the ground rules by which you are required to live. It determines where you live, what you wear and how you spend your spare time; it determines the media to which you have access and, as I’ve come to find out the hard way, it determines how you are treated by total strangers.

This last is a puzzling phenomenon because the entire economic collapse could be summed up by saying that what we were determining as “valuable” was really an illusion, whether it’s a hedge fund manager’s promises of investment returns, Porsche’s assurance that buying their car will make you look successful or Oil of Olay hinting that if you slap on their lotion you’ll get your youth back.

So you’d think we’d know a thing or two about books and their covers, but that would require deeper thought than deciding which media source to go to for our daily dose of stereotyping.

I digress (I’m sure everyone is sick to death of my nattering on about the influence of television).

My point is, I’m very transparent about the fact that our finances are excruciatingly tight. I’m not a stupid person. I am, on occasion, rather witty. I am educated through my own means and well-read. I am honest and strong. I’m a really good mom and have the compassionate, empathetic, hard-working sons to prove it. I’m a fiercely loyal spouse, which I shouldn’t have had to prove.

But I’m still poor as a church mouse.

So I’m not Successful.

No, no. I’m not fishing for validation here…I’m trying to make a point.

I keep reading of financial predictions and the economic goals and all I keep hearing is that we all want to get back to the way it was.


I don’t.

Let me tell you about “back the way it was.” We were very wealthy then, as I recall. But our kids weren’t “done” yet and I required Dirtman to run interference for me whenever we had “contact” with the outside world (there was a two-year period during which I did not answer the phone – ever). Our marriage had faced what most would have considered "challenges," but that were, in fact, the kind of noble sufferings that made us sort of admirable martyrs; certainly nothing embarrassing that would cause our sensibilities to come into question.

Back then, we were considered “successful.” I’m not going to tell you how successful; but – trust me – we were on every non-profit’s direct mailing list.

Do we really want to go back to that measure of success? Cash value? Bernie Madoff was worth quite a bit – was he successful? (Yes, I know. The skeptic in my brain wants to yell back, “Yeah – if he hadn’t gotten caught!”)

I rather hoped all these economic woes would have taught us something about what constitutes success.

And so I repeat: I’m not a stupid person. I am, on occasion, rather witty. I am educated through my own means and well-read. I am honest and strong. I’m a really good mom and have the compassionate, empathetic, hard-working sons to prove it. I’m a fiercely loyal spouse, which I shouldn’t have had to prove.

And – I insist – I am a success.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Without fail...

Loads of laundry come and go at different times and in different combinations, but...

...every Sunday at 11 a.m. there they are on the clothesline: six identical brassieres (I'm wearing the seventh), one green satin nightgown, one green silk blouse and one pair of Peds (the green silk blouse outfit is the only one requiring I wear ballet flats).

...if I skip a week the neighbors call to see if I'm all right. I guess it's comforting.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

In which Sisiggy leaves the state -- all by herself

I don't get out much.

This is not hyperbole; and when I say "out," I mean beyond the country road that runs between my house and the farm where I work. It's a beautiful drive and I consider it one of the perks of my job that I get to see a bucolic panorama on my way to work everyday instead of, say, freeway overpasses, strip malls and fast food restaurants. But I can go months and never leave the road where I both live and work.

The reason for this is partially logistic. We are three adults with two vehicles going three different places. At any given time, someone has to stay home while two are at work/school.

I've come to realize, though, that the other part of this is that it's just easier to stay home and I've found I'm susceptible to the easier path -- not very rewarding, but safe. So here I found myself at the end of a summer with my world shrunken to a 10-mile stretch of road.

So when my friend (and former co-worker at the farm) Susan suggested I come and visit her at her new apartment in Maryland where she and her husband moved last July, my knee-jerk reaction was to politely say, "Yes, we must do that sometime;" and if she pressed me with a specific date, there was always the answer, "Dirtman is working that day and needs the car and Heir 1 has school..."

It's not because I don't want to see Susan and Larry. In my head, I'm constantly updating her on what's going on at the farm and in my life. But her invitation brought me to the realization that I had not driven myself anywhere (other than work) in over a year and I was actually having anxiety over something that I usually never gave a second thought about.

It is always easier to give in to the anxiety than it is to overcome it and I've been spending way too much time on the easy path.

Dirtman and Heir 1 were very cooperative about juggling rides when I announced that I intended to drive to Maryland on a Saturday afternoon (really, only about an hour-long trip) and meet up with Susan and that I was going to do this all by myself (was that an attitude of relief I sensed?).

I was, of course, rewarded for my bravery. It was wonderful to see my friends again and, of course, Susan cooked a terrific meal; and we talked...and talked...and talked...

Oh, and did proper homage to Brandy. How can one not do proper homage to Brandy?

And then, without a second thought, I headed home...with a bagful of homemade cookies for my very own...and we all promised we'd do this again sometime soon.

I mean, it's not like it's a big deal or anything...

Dinner and a show!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Short post, so...

...sorry...had to go get groceries tonight (or, in New Jersey-ese: had to go food shopping).

And now Wuthering Heights is on.

Smell the heather!