My house has a tin roof, apparently. It has holes in it, caused by rust. The holes permit water to flow through freely. It's less of a roof than a sluice gate, I guess. Ghetto skylights.
In related news, my checking account is overdrawn due to an unfortunate cell phone bill. In an attempt to be the kind of responsible person who pays bills when they're due, I signed up for automatic bill payment. My cell phone bill is always the same, right around $50. I have 1000 anytime minutes and I never go over, because I don't like talking on the phone and I generally don't use it much.
Enter Connecticut. I went WAY over, during my time in the frozen North. Way, way, way over. My last cell phone bill was $354.83. This caused my account to go slightly into the red, which in turn caused me to rack up over $200 in overdraft fees. It's still overdrawn. I totally don't have $350 to spend talking to my sister from 4 states away about whether or not the dog seems happy, and I definitely don't have $200 to give my bank.
So that sucks.
And speaking of the dog seeming happy, he doesn't. He spent the whole night last night pacing back and forth in the living room and whining. He was inconsolable, and could not be distracted. It made me want to strangle him, in the most loving way.
Today, I need to come up with some bright ideas for food articles to be written now and published in September. My mind is a complete blank. I'm thinking comfort food...the new generation. But all I can think of in that vein is the fact that I need to eat Chaing Mai from Raku when I have a cold. Not sure how I can stretch that out for 1000 words. Inspiration welcome.
Also, my Gmail account is locked down for 24 hours due to "unusual activity". This fact is giving me hives, because in a perfect world I never go more than ten waking minutes without checking that account. My email to the support department said, "Please unlock my account. Not being able to access it is causing my mental health to deteriorate, and you don't want that on your conscience." It's especially important that I have access to email now that I'm never using my cell phone again.
This has been a constant problem with this house; a month after we moved in, we went on vacation and returned to find B.'s bedroom ceiling lying in chunks all over the bedroom floor. Since then, we had it patched, re-patched and re-patched again, as well as re-sealed. Still: drip-drip-drip in the back bedroom.
It's not cool. And the worst thing is that we just can't get anyone to come fix it. Oh, they'll say that they'll come, but then the appointed time arrives and...no guy. I guess Washington is so awash in construction money that a little roof repair just doesn't rank. Meanwhile, we rush home every time we smell moisture in the air and remove everything that isn't waterproof from poor Brooklyn's little room. It's a good thing we're friends as well as roommates, or she'd probably have us in landlord-tenant court.
In other news, I think I have bronchitis. I'm self-medicating with Cipro that I cadged from the doctor-cousins pre-Costa Rica. The whole thing is extraordinarily irritating because, hello, I QUIT SMOKING. That should have been the end of the hacking. At least I might get a little more sympathy now; few people are moved to compassion by the sight of a smoker hacking up a lung. Bewildered disgust, more like it. I'm not getting any sympathy at home though; when I start coughing and gasping for breath, my sister sighs impatiently, stabs the pause button on the TiVo, and snaps, "Stop it! Stop!"
I think it's her way of signaling to me that I'll need to find someone else to take care of me in my (rapidly approaching) dotage.
For your enjoyment, some Costa Rica photos. Many of the ones we took turned out horribly, so. More to come.
I am sick as a dog today. Are there any tropical illnesses that manifest as a ferociously sore throat, stuffy head, and gasping, wracking cough? If so, I have it. Also, I'm peeling from my "tan" and my joints and eyeballs hurt so much that I'm squinting and shuffling around like an octogenarian. I was supposed to be immune from respiratory illness as a result of quitting smoking and if I'm not, the deal is OFF.
I went on a tour of the White House yesterday. I've lived here for nearly 12 years, and in all that time I'd never visited 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Nor, as it happens, have I set foot inside the Capitol building. Or even on the steps. In fact, I avoid the "federal city" almost entirely. I'd like to suggest that it's in protest of the way the Feds treat DC, but the truth is I'm just lazy and tourists give me hives. Anyway, it was a cool tour. We saw the White House press room (incredibly dingy and small) and I got my picture taken standing behind the podium, pretending to be C.J. from The West Wing. We toured the West Wing lobby (a lot like a Marriott lobby, with better art) and the Roosevelt room, Oval Office, Rose Garden, and area where the Situation Room is located. The tour was courtesy of my friend K. whose family has some VIP connections, so our tour was a little special.
Our tour guide asked the kids in the group if they could guess why the Oval Office desk was raised up a little bit: "One of the recent presidents was very tall. Do you know who that was?" "President Kerry!" the kid shouted back. Guide flinches. "Uh, noooo..." To hear that phrase shouted out, as we stood at the door to the Oval Office...pretty sweet.
Big photos of the POTUS are everywhere, including a couple of him in that flight suit on the aircraft carrier. That appearance, you'll recall, was widely considered to be in bad taste. Not so in the White House, it seems.
Lots and blots of photos of the POTUS clearing brush. Crawford landscaping it still a major priority, it would seem.
At on point, I turned a corner and came upon a HUGE photo of Dick Cheney's head, staring right at me. I nearly umped out of my skin. That man is terrifying. I've heard people refer to him as "grandfatherly"; I feel sorry for those people. Their family reunions must have been hell on wheels.
Tour guide quote: "Adults may recall a lot of talk during the last Administration about a hallway off the Oval Office; you can see that area to the right of the desk." <Adults stampede children to get a view of the place where The Deed was done.>
How many times can I post on those themes? I'm thinking of going back to politics. But I'm too bored to start reading all of the newspapers and magazines I'd need to in order to be well-informed. Scathing political commentary from me right now would add up to "Tom DeLay's a dickhead", and you all knew that. (And he used to be an exterminator, which is funny. Makes me think of Dale from King of the Hill.)
I have had the same unread New Yorker in my possession for two weeks. That is an effing SCANDAL in Cara-ville. Also, I only finished one novel on vacation. And it was a fluffy little thing.
Is warm weather making me stupid? -er?
What I really would like to be doing right now is re-designing this blog. I wish I had some facility with Photoshop or something similar, but I don't. I have artistic vision but no artistic talent. That's why I make sure to have a coterie of graphic designer-type friends in my stable at all times. (Ahem, Park Slope. I know you're reading this. Check your email.)
This is only my second day of 9-5 ing it, and I'm already so tired. So. Tired.
I've had the nicest days, yesterday and today. I dedicated myself to making contact with my old associates from last two jobs on Tuesday, and the benefits just started pouring in immediately.
I got a temporary gig helping my two-jobs-ago association get ready for their spring meeting for the next three weeks
The designer I worked with one job ago offered to design me a logo and business cards gratis because I am just that cool
The person who hosted the aviation joint's website offered to host myname.com for free for six months, which I am gladly taking him up on
The PR guy from the aviation job reminded me that his wife edits a magazine, and said he'd pass my resume on
My sister's boss called and offered me some jobs copyediting for the end of this week
It almost makes me think I can do this, live the kind of life I want. It has the added bonus of making me feel warm and fuzzy about DC, which was suffering terribly in comparison to Costa Rica.
And, you know, it's spring. I obviously just suffer more angst in the winter. As soon as I figure out how, I'm moving south. Somewhere Spanish-speaking and beach-y. I want everyone to sigh enviously when they hear about it.
I'm already here, at the two jobs ago job, answering phones for an outrageously high hourly rate. When I worked here for real, I cried all the time. I used to have dreams about one of my supervisors and wake myself up, crying in my sleep. It's an office dominated by very smart, aggressive women who excel at finding out people's vulnerabilities and exploiting them. It's chock-full of people who grew up in homes with alcoholics. It's a specific and insidious kind of dysfunctional environment that's strangely alluring. Working there (here) was a lot like being in an abusive relationship; the highs were so high (we were the smartest, most competent employees on the planet! No one could produce what we produced at such an impeccably high standard! Warm, fun dinner at a five-star restaurant for everyone!) and the lows were abysmal (one of the pages in one of the 100 editions of the 300 page board books was very slightly skewed! We are all idiotic, unprofessional, and frankly unattractive wastrels who should start calculating how they could maintain their lifestyles on unemployment!). We had 200% turnover in the two years I worked here. One girl had a complete nervous breakdown and was transported directly to an institution. There were a lot of ulcers and stress-related skin conditions.
But coming here temporarily, a grizzled veteran who knows the system and still has friends on staff...it feels good. Though my stomach did flip, frankly, when I got to the door this morning. I love my old boss, and it's comforting to do work I know how to do. Plus they're letting me double-dip, editing articles on their time.
Life is good. For once--write this down--it's good to be me.
Oh, and so much more to come. But first, an anecdote.
I woke up early every day in Costa Rica. Our bungalow (or "jungalow", as I prefer) was an open structure, protected only by lattice and screens, and so when the birds woke up , I woke up. I usually tried to go back to sleep, but on my actual 30th birthday, I was up before 6. I waited until I heard my mom leave for her early beach walk, then slipped on my sandals and headed over to the water myself. I dawdled a little bit, to let my mom get ahead of me so that I could have the beach to myself.
Even though it was slightly overcast, it was a beautiful morning. Every morning on the southern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is beautiful; not to be a broken record here, but it is like paradise there. Anyway, the beach was empty in all directions and I kicked off my shoes and walked down to the water's edge. I've been at a crossroads lately, with the job thing and the school business and my inability to find someone with whom I'd like to procreate, or even have a drink with. So there I was, on a day I'd been dreading so much, on the edge of the continent and closer to the equator than I'd ever been before. I thought it might be an opportune time for the universe to give me a sign of some sort.
I splashed along the water's edge, letting the warm waters of the Caribbean wash over my feet and watching the sand crabs scuttle. I was lost in thought: was I doing what I should be doing? Was I living where I should be living? Was what I had--friends, accomplishments, possessions--the right amount of stuff for a successful, modern 30 year old woman to have? Was I even supposed to know the answers to these questions?
A perfectly smooth, deeply black rock caught my eye. It looked out of place in the soft white sand, more like a wormhole than a shell. I picked it up; it was heavy for its size and egg-shaped. No sand clung to it. It was warm. I hefted it for a moment, enjoying the feel of it in my palm, and turned to face the ocean, the biggest wishing well of them all. Let me find love, I wished silently, squeezing the rock. I threw it out into the surf as far as I could.
As soon as the rock left my hand, before it even hit the waves, a wet ball of brown fur whizzed by me at top speed and my mom put her hand on my shoulder and said, "Are you making him fetch for you? Tsunami will be so jealous!"
Two seconds earlier, they had been out of sight down the beach, I swear.
Mommy and Tsunami. That's the answer the universe gave me. The lesson here, people, is to be very specific when you are making requests of the cosmos. The cosmos are very busy and they do not have time to interpret your melodramatic wishes. If hot monkey love is what you're after, don't downplay that.
1. I barely even noticed turning 30. I think I exorcised all of my angst ahead of time. Everyone breathe a sigh of relief.
2. Apparently, I don't mind being hot if I can just sit on the beach, in the shade of a coco palm, to cool off whenever I want.
3. I really really want a motor scooter to use in DC. Like, really, really, really. I'm so good at riding one. Yet another unmarketable skill.
4. I am impervious to bacteria, because I ate and drank everything I wanted, including unwashed fruit, ice, water, and some sort of porridge served from a pot balanced on the back of some dude's bike. It was good.
5. I saw white-faced monkeys, howler monkeys, toucans, sloths, giant iguanas, Jesus lizards, and more without even trying that hard.
6. I climbed through the jungle to sit underneath a waterfall, and on the way back I ate guava and manzanas de agua that had been picked less than one minute earlier.
7. I went to the most beautiful beach in the world, and from there, kayaked down a river through the jungle. Leatherback turtles bigger than dinner plates swam up under my kayak, and monkeys ran down the banks to peer at us through the foliage.
8. There are places in this world that are so beautiful and astounding that you can't believe they're real, even as you're standing there.
9. I can be happy living on a diet of rice and beans and fruit, with some vegetables and grilled meat thrown in for variety. My mother cannot.
10. I wish, profoundly, that we could sell this house and I could go live in Costa Rica for a year or two.
Headed home to DC this evening. I'm both entirely ready to be there, and entirely unready to leave the baby. He's old enough to miss me, and his parents don't sing to him enough. It's the only way to calm him down sometimes. (MY sister says that nannying is good for me because it give me a socially appropriate outlet for my compulsion to randomly start singing. I say I don't need a socially appropriate outlet, because she's the one who cares about what other people think.)
I have tons of stuff to do today, and am looking forward to my late night train ride home. Rio is ready to go. I'm forcing myself to save my audiobooks for vacation, but it's hard. Delayed gratification has never really been my thing.
So I'll get home late tonight--or rather early Friday morning--and then hurry scurry to pack and re-organize, and then I have a mysterious appointment tomorrow night that I believe involves my birthday, and then we leave for Costa Rica at 7 a.m. Saturday. Good thing the baby has me trained in early rising.
I'd been hoping to develop a thoughtful and amusing post in honor of my birthday (Monday!!), but I can't think of anything to say that doesn't involve my phobia of ovarian shutdown. I mean, my genetic material is so good, there should be a national movement to encourage me to pass it on. It would be uber-helpful if I could actually meet a man I'd like to have a drink with at some point, let alone relations. I don't think I'm a good candidate for virgin birth, even though it's been a while.
In other news, my cuz gave me a gift certificate to her salon and I used it to get my hair cut yesterday. Big, big, big mistake. Even if I did met a nice Costa Rican man to have relations with, he's probably think I was a boy.
As my mother recently reminded me, I wanted to be a nun at one point. This was the summer I was 11, just --and I mean just--before I discovered boys. At the time, I said that it was because nuns didn't have to pay taxes. (How did I not grow up to be Republican, again?) I think I pictured their lives as quiet and full of books and without work to go to every day. See, maybe I am fulfilling the dreams I had as a child.
My journey in the faith, of course, began much earlier. I was born Catholic, into a big Catholic family. It was as much a part of who we were as the fact that we were Ohioans, or Irish, or a family. I went to Catholic school for kindergarten, and I loved the nuns, who would come read us stories. Some of the teachers there would smile and clap their hands together when they learned my name, because they had taught my father and his seven brothers and sisters. I met a girl named Sheila who turned out to be named after my aunt (who was also my godmother). I felt famous.
But, I wanted to go to school with my friends, the tribe of neighborhood children with whom I spent all my free time. This was when kids played outdoors, unsupervised; light years ago. My mother transferred me to the neighborhood public school, which she and her siblings had attended. She wasn't Catholic, anyway, except by marriage, and I think she was already a little mad at my dad. I was playing in the next room when she told him she had pulled me out of Blessed Sacrament. It's the only argument I can remember them having when they were married; sadly, it's also the only conversation between them that I remember at all.
My religious education continued in CCD classes on Tuesday nights. My dad would pick me up and drop me off; I think he liked to visit his old school. Of all the CCD classes I attended, I remember two incidents: a priest whom I loved all out of proportion to our actual relationship, which was nonexistent except that he had baptized me, brought us candy apples. I cried when he left our parish. They named a building after him, but they had to take the plaque down when he was convicted of multiple counts of child sexual abuse. The second incident is when asked our teacher, a sweet woman named Pam whom I loved because she was a cashier at the Big Bear and always talked to me when we went in, how we knew that all of this stuff was true, about Jesus and God and crucifixion and all that. I was already a big reader, and I knew that the stories in my books weren't always true. Why, I asked, was the Bible any different? None of us had been alive when this stuff happened, so how could we know that it was true? I really, really hoped that she had an answer I could accept. I was at an age when I was starting to get a bad feeling about Santa and the Easter Bunny, and I was hoping that some of my childhood comforts were going to stick around. But Pam was no Jesuit, and her answer was something like, we believe because we have faith. That's what faith is. Mine was badly shaken.
My next religious revival occurred when I was about 11. That's when I thought I might be a nun, and made my mom drive me to Mass every Sunday, where I sat alone. I used to say my prayers every night before I fell asleep, secretly, with the covers over my head. I've been trying to think of why, but I have no idea. I guess I've always been drawn to tradition and ritual, and I must have needed an extra dose of it at that point in my life. It just made me feel good to go. I loved (and still love) the incense, and the bells, and the creaking pews, and the chanting in unison. I confess to Almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters... I was so proud of myself when I learned it all by heart. I guess it had to do with being part of a like-minded group, and fitting in. I also wanted to be deeper than the people around me, to have a profound connection with something big that the people I lived with didn't share. I was trying on new identities, and I thought piety might suit me.
Then I went to California, to stay with my favorite aunt, the youthful one who had run away to live by the beach. She was--is--very religious, and we attended Mass. But she couldn't take Communion because she was a divorcee, even though her husband had gone AWOL from the Army and abandoned her, and even though she scrubbed altars every week and went without the Pope only knows what to send her kid to Catholic school. Budding little social justice fiend that I was, I was horrified by the unfairness of it all, and the Church and I have been broken up ever since. I'm waiting for the right time to tell her that it was she who inspired me to reject the Church; she's still very observant and will be horrified. She has terrible politics, too. Tee hee.
But the Church got its revenge in the for of my Aunt A., my mom's youngest sister, who recently converted. A. is only 9 years older than I, and was my idol when I was a kid. She had a 'little brown bag' from Bloomingdales--who knows where she got it--hanging on the wall of her teenage room, and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. She used to argue with her father and brothers about politics and would end up storming out in tears while they laughed and opened another beer. It's eerily familiar from this vantage point. I thought she hung the moon. Two summers ago, by my mom's pool, we were discussing my hypothetical future children and how they would come into being, and she talked about how adoption was a good option for me, so many children need a good home blah blah. You should adopt then, I said. I knew she wanted another child. No, she replied, she couldn't because it was important to her to have a Christ-centered family created by her and her husband from the sacrament of marriage.
Ooh, my face flushed just typing that.
You know the phrase "apoplectic with rage"? I never really knew what it meant before that night. I haven't been home so much since because seriously, there is no hope for the people of Ohio. I'm only grateful that she didn't join a mega-church and start wearing long skirts and tennis shoes with white socks. (Side note: I know I have a little excess feeling about this particular situation. When I get health insurabce again I promise to go back to therapy and find out why. I think it's because I used to think I would grow up to be like her and I feel betrayed by her devotion to all of the stupid tenets of the Church.)
The strange thing is that most of my friends come from lapsed Catholic stock, like myself. Some of us are more lapsed than others; I just had to talk one of them out of buying a portrait of the dead Pope to hang in his apartment (stay strong, man; one day at a time.) It turns out that a lot of the people I like had a fleeting desire to be a nun or priest at one (pre-pubescent) point; I'm sure there's an interesting socio/psychological dissertation in there somewhere. (For some reading on the subject, I recommend two novels: Mariette in Ecstasy and Lying Awake.)
I'm not tempted by sincere iconography, and I definitely don't have a vocation, but I do love the smell of old incense, wood polish, and guttering candles. ( I swear, if Wiccans had bells and better footwear, I'd be there.) And, not to shock any of my readers on either side of the faith divide, but I am not really a godless heathen liberal; not even agnostic, really. I'm more of a Pascal's Wager girl, hedging my bets, as always.
I can understand how deep and tangled people's feelings about the Church are, but I'm still taken aback a bit by all of the Pope hoopla. The world is surprising. As for me, there are lots of divorcees, homosexuals, fornicators, and proponents of abortion whom I really love, so the Church and I likely won't be seeing much of each other any time soon. I guess the guilt and repression are my consolation prize.