Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Thank Heaven For Little Girls

It all started as a germ of an idea between my sister and her friend, who just happens to be Mrs Ricky Ricardo, wife of the man who deftly guided me through the whole Shower Wall Debacle last summer. It was an idea none of their compatriots seemed to think much of.

See, the both of them have boys who are high school seniors, and they are both on the Project Graduation committee. For the uninitiated, Project Graduation is a program wherein the newly graduated are thrown a huge all-night party at their minutes-old alma mater. It's fun for the kids, and even more fun for the parents, because it keeps the kids in one place, safe, sober, off the roads in speeding vehicles, and the kids are around for one more day.

I don't know about everywhere, but in Our Little Burg, Project Graduation is a big thing. Everywhere you go people are selling things, doing things, walking, washing cars, shoving donuts at you, even selling Avon, to make money for the kids' big night. And it is a big night, money is given out to the kids, local businesses donate huge prizes (I mean, like, a car) to give away in drawings, there are activities, games, bands, dancing, karaoke, and well, it takes a lot of money.

So this year my sister and her buddies have been on the business end of this fundraising. And it was at the very beginning of the year the sister and Mrs Ricardo came up with the idea no one was really so keen on.

A beauty pageant.

A beauty pageant with guys.

When they first launched the idea at a committee meeting, the general lack of enthusiasm came in this form - "It'll never work. You'll never get more than two guys to even do it, no one will want to see it, and it'll end up losing money."

By the way, my sister and I are quite different people. In other words, don't tell my sister no. She and Mrs Ricardo started talking to kids about the idea, and in the span of a couple of days had six boys who said they'd do it. Sis and Mrs R went back to the Project G people with a hale and hearty "ha ha, you bastards," and a couple of people said if they really thought they could pull it off, they'd be willing to help. And of course, the parents who saw their sons' names on the contestant list were, while surprised, also pretty much bound into service.

And so for about the past 3 months, the Ms (because this is the 21st century, you know) G-Man pageant has pretty much been my sister's life. I've heard about it all, the ups and downs, the talents, the costumes, the wigs, and the sponsors. See, each contestant would have a sponsor, a local business who gave money to the cause. Local celebrity judges were called and begged, crowns were searched for, and the parents who involved themselves were really going full-bore on the work.

They ended up with 11 contestants. 10 of the 11 were jocks. 3 of the 10 were big, hulking jocks. The others were lithe and muscular jocks. The star quarterback, running backs, and defensive backs of the football team were vying for the title, along with half the baseball team and a couple of soccer players. One of the baseball team, well, was the Dear Nephew.

The basic logistics of the pageant, the staging, the order, the questions asked to contestants, were mapped out by the parents. Everything else was up to the guys. Girls. Whatever. It was completely up to them to come up with their names, clothes, hair, escorts (girls who dressed as guys), accomplishments and hobbies to be read, talents, and answers to those all-important "final questions." And they got into it. A couple went for the trampy look (->), we had a few divas, one earth mother, a prim and proper girl, and Taytie (<-) was Taynelle, the country girl, complete with Big Hair. (Actually, his blonde wig didn't cover all of his real hair, so he just sat the wig on top of his head and pinned it, making a great Country Singing Bun.) The pageant was on Friday night, but after the Tuesday rehearsal I got a call from my sister. "If you don't come to this, you will never forgive yourself. [Like I'd miss it.] We laughed so hard we almost didn't get the rehearsal done. I cannot believe what these guys have done - it's genius!" So I met my folks at the high school Friday evening, we got a second-row seat so my dad could possibly see a little better, and waited for the show. And a show it was. It was hosted by one of the teachers, who did a great job hamming it up as Bert Parks. And from the moment the first contestant took the stage, a very trampy Middle Son Ricardo (->), the belly laughs began, and this uncontrollable laughter went on solid for the next 2 1/2 hours. As each contestant took the stage and paraded in the Evening Gown Competition, his (her - whatever) accomplishments were read. They ranged from "Proudly maintains a 0.0 grade point average" to "Former Miss Jewell Ridge" (a very dubious backwoods section of the area) to "Member of WUAM (Women United Against Men)" to Taynelle's "Has appeared on both Jerry Springer and the Maury Povich Shows." As they left the stage to prepare for the Talent Competition, their hobbies were read. Everything from "Enjoys picking up roadkill for home taxidermy and solving the Rubik's Cube" to "Bakes cookies for World Peace" to "Believes in a good steak, a hot bubble bath, and capital punishment" to "Is never seen without a romance novel in her handbag" to "Enjoys playing Old Maid with old maids" (that was the nephew's) to my personal favorite, "Enjoys playing the flute for the homeless." I was laughing at "playing the flute for the homeless" for days.

Now, though there was a rehearsal, the boys threw in a twist when the show went on. They stayed in character all night long. They blew kisses to the judges (mainly to the one who's a sportscaster on the local TV news), hugged each other, gave "mwah cheek kisses," and flirted with the emcee. They were like professionals. It was amazing, and hilarious.

The Talent Competition was terrific. We had a cheerleader, who danced and cheered (multitasking!), a Tina Turner lip syncher, a salsa dancer, a hula dancer, and a water glass player. Some of the guys teamed up on their talents, three guys (girls - whatever) did a ribbon-on-a-stick dance to "Barbie Girl," two did a ballet (the red tutu was breathtaking), and the nephew and the earth mother sang a version of "Stand By Your Man" that would bring tears to the eyes (<-). Finally, it was time for that all-important Question and Answer Competition. All the contestants found a way to work in World Peace and Helping the Less Fortunate. Taytie's question was, "If you could live any place in the world, where would it be?" and of course picked the good old USA, because, "We're the richest country, have the most nuclear weapons, and, well, I guess we're just better than everybody else." Then he took the microphone from the emcee, tugged on his red, white, and blue scarf, and declared, "These. Colors. Don't. Run!" to thunderous applause. It took forever for the judges to make all their decisions, but as the host said, things this good are worth waiting for. Nathan won Miss Congeniality (which was good, since he does play the flute for the homeless), and Paul (who sang with Taynelle) won the talent. TJ was second runner-up, Stevie was first runner-up, and...

...wait for it...

My Dear Nephew, Taynelle, was crowned Ms G-Man 2007. I certainly wasn't expecting it, but there he was. My mother never got a beauty queen with either of her daughters, but by God, she got one with her grandson. (By the way, Mom was so proud when I turned to her at one point in the show to say, quite honestly, "Mom, your grandson looks exactly like you.")

Then, it was time for a little joke on the boys. Girls. Whatever. To do the honor of crowing the queen, the parents doing all this snuck in the kids' favorite teacher, totally unbeknownst to any of them, dressed him up, and he came out as Miss G-Man 1965 to place the crown on the blonde bun of Taynelle. The guys (girls - whatever) were flabbergasted, absolutely on their knees with laughter.

The house was packed, and had a blast. Maybe almost as much of a blast as the contestants. And that's why it was so great, these guys were having the time of their lives out there. The local news showed clips of the pageant, and Taytie pined, "All the baseball games and cross-country matches I've been in, and when I get my TV close-up, I'm wearing a dress."

Project Graduation made about $2500, and the students are begging school officials to let them do the pageant again during the school day. I don't know if the boys (girls - etc) could ever recreate it, but I say let them do it. I think they could take it on the road in a national tour.

Oh, and by the way. Taynelle was sponsored by TheCompanyIWorkFor. I'm so proud.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Well, we had one taker for the acro. So this week's winner of the Kim Jong Il Fashion Extravacro is LilyG, with her "Asian butthead, clothed daringly. And boldly, creepily dressed. Alas, bare chest denied." Well played, Ms G.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Picture Sunday Moved To Monday

Hello, Mondayers! Well, I hope you stayed tuned, because it's the event that has made me so proud of you all, the First Annual Kim Jong Il Fashion Extravaganza.

Now, to be fair, this didn't begin as my idea. I found it on msnbc.com's website. A little drawing of Mr Il in his undies, for anyone to print out and draw upon. The idea was that the man had been wearing those Dictator Duds way too long, and needed some sprucing up. I spruced him up a few times in 2/18/07's Picture Sunday, then invited you to do the same.

I thought for a while my idea was going to be something of a Dictator Dud, but after a bit more begging and cajoling, I finally have enough entries to send Mr Il down the runway.

Let's begin the extravaganza!

[House lights down - spotlights on]

It took long enough for Stennie to get her fashions to me. Well, to be fair, she had to mail them, but she made up for it by sending me no fewer than four fantabulous fashions. So her Ils will be showing up every other entry. Kind of like our movies on the podcast, if you think about it.

Her first fashion is what we'll call the Casual American Look. Go to any shopping center, and you might find him.

Lovely. Great for those lazy Sundays flipping through back copies of Guns and Ammo.


Our next fashion comes from Kellie (with an ie), she of acro and oboe. Well, she just went wild with frivolity, and guess who just may be joining the Sauerkraut Band next Oktoberfest? He'll keep those trumpets in line! Here is Oktoberfest Il.

Have another beer, Il. And let's see you chicken dance!


Next, from Stennie again, we have the hip-hop look The Kids are so fond of nowadays. Perfect for a Friday night rave, or just giving the prisoners a little laugh on Visiting Day. It's Flava Jong Il.

I hope you remembered to insert your grill, Il.


Now comes a special fashion entry. I'm rather chuffed over this one, it's from Duke (who, as we all know, thinks I'm creepy). He wanted to join in the fun, but swore he couldn't draw a lick. But he gave us an example of really thinking outside the box. He also gets an extra round of applause for being my first taker on the show. Yes, it's a throwback to those fashion days of yore, the Zoot Suit.

Put on a Cab Calloway record and let the good times roll, Il.


And - yes, it's Stennie again, with her Earthy Hippie. This is when Il wants to slack from Dictator Duty for a while, and sit at the coffee shop discussing the finer points of Scooby Doo.

Be careful with that beard, Il. The CIA has a whole book about dictator beards.


And who could be next? Why, lawks a mercy, it's Mr M. Mr M has chosen the Ewan McTeagle look for Il. Yes, it's for those holidays in Scotland, roaming up and down the countryside reciting his favorite poems. Like, "Could You Loan Me A Quid Till Thursday."

Lovely. How about a little Highland Fling now?


And finally, from Stennie one last time, we have the Getting Out of Jury Duty look. Or Halloween, or just for nerds everywhere. Live long and prosper indeed.

Dammit, Jim, I'm a dictator!


Well, that was wonderful. A big fat Betland thanks to all of you who participated, I wish I had flowers and prizes for you all. But I don't, so you're empty-handed but appreciated.

Wait! Don't go home yet. We still have a recipe du jour!

Speaking of Ewan McTeagle, a Monty Python character, let's go back to Python for our recipe. Anyone remember the rat tart skit? A rat tart without so much rat in it? Well, here in the "Rodentia!" file at cardland, there is no such thing. Say hello to, with plenty of rat in it, Rat Tarts.

The recipe? Two tarts, two rats. Couldn't be easier. I have the D-Con there, but just like I couldn't kill Walter the mouse when he invaded the Poderosa, I couldn't kill these fellows either. So they're sitting in the tarts having a high old time.

(Why yes, I am running out of recipe ideas. How did you guess?)

Oh, crap, I promised an acro, didn't I? OK, send me a comment about any or all of the above to the tune of


before 10pm tomorrow night. There.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* First walk of the season - Lord have mercy, am I out of shape. Only got a mile in before I caved.

Picture Sunday Has Not Been Canceled

Repeat, not been canceled. It has, however, been moved to tomorrow night. It was a busy weekend, the Community Band's Spring Concert was today, I was late getting home, and well, getting everything together hasn't been an easy task.

This is because, and I'm making the announcement now, tomorrow night's Picture Sunday Moved To Monday will be the First Annual Kim Jong Il Fashion Show! I now have enough kind friends who've sent entries, and I think we'll go ahead tomorrow. And believe me, getting all those Kim Jong Ils dressed up and in line ready to go has been a pill. He's not an amenable fellow, you know.

However - let me stress something to you. Although we have enough entries for a show, it's not too late. You still have about 18 hours to enter! All you have to do is go to my blog of February 18, 2007, download your very own picture of Kim in his drawers, and go wild drawing him a fashion. Just email it to me at agnes_g@hotmail.com, and if I get it by 8:00 tomorrow night, he'll be included in the show.

We'll also cram an acro in there somewhere for those so inclined, and that way we'll be back on Betland schedule.

Over and out, and happy week.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Concert went OK. No one died, not that I know of, anyway. However, after the Finale of "New World Symphony," I think I'll wait about 48 hours before I set that statement in concrete.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Red, Red Whine

I've been a little whiny lately. There, I said it. Not particularly proud of it, but it's a fact and there's no need to hide it from the world. I'm tired, and I'm whiny. That's why I haven't blogged lately. And I'm not going to blog tonight, well, not a real "Right From The Brain of Bet" blog.

You know you're a little close to the edge when things that are really only minorly annoying start to bug the shit out of you, to the point where you blaspheme and hit the desk when they happen. This has been the case with me the past few days over Ebay. Ebay suddenly has this incredibly annoying little feature wherein when one clicks on an item to look a little closer, then clicks the "back" button to go back, Ebay takes one back, but not back to the place in the page one was at before one clicked, it flips to waaaaaay down on the page, almost to the bottom. So one has to scroll back up to find where one was before the first click took place. It gets up one's snout. Well, this one's, anyway.

Anyway, it's not important, and I happened upon this little meme in Stennie's blog this morning. I'm getting really unenamored of the whole meme scene, but I liked the questions to this one, and also liked Stennie's answers, and so I thought as my toe-dip back into blogland, I'd do a version myself.

It's about movies! Movies, people!

1. Name a movie that you have seen more than 10 times.

Well, of course the first one that comes to mind is "The In-Laws," because some of you seem to like to make such a big deal of it. I may have seen others more, like "Auntie Mame," but if I had to check the movie I've seen the most times, if it isn't "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," it might be "The Wizard of Oz." (It shows every year on TV, you know, though I saw it on the Big Screen a few years ago and it was great.)

2. Name a movie that you’ve seen multiple times in the theater.

The most recent was "Little Miss Sunshine." I remember seeing "Pulp Fiction" probably 3 times in 3 different theaters, because I kept taking people to see it.

3. Name an actor that would make you more inclined to see a movie.

Um, Alan Arkin, anyone? David Strathairn. Mr Clooney would sure make me inclined, though my inclinations usually wait until they come out on DVD.

4. Name an actor that would make you less likely to see a movie.

Well, the first name that springs to mind is Rob Schneider. There are many, though, Adam Sandler, Nicolas Cage, Steven Seagal, Vin Diesel, basically anyone from "Saturday Night Live," and Mel Gibson.

5. Name a movie that you can and do quote from.

"Serpentine!" "What flow, there isn't any flow." "There's red tape in the bush?" "I have flames on my car!" "We'll call it the thing, OK?" "Stop with the soup!" "Oh, he nice, he-a-very handsome!" "Compact, low to the ground...." Need I go on? I really don't think I need. Oh, that was "The In-Laws," btw. (Actually, I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by friends and family who are unabashed movie-quoters. Lines from "Blazing Saddles," "Clueless," "That Thing You Do," and million others litter our conversation. Yes, litter.)

6. Name a movie musical that you know all of the lyrics to all of the songs.

"The Music Man." And I sing them right out loud! (Right, Sara Beth?)

7. Name a movie that you have been known to sing along with.

Well, "The Music Man," of course. How dumb is that question?

8. Name a movie that you would recommend everyone see.

I did that just last night! While recording the podcast, I recommended "Some Like It Hot" to the possible 4 people on earth who haven't seen it, and then I distinctly remember beseeching our listening public to see "Matewan."

9. Name a movie that you own.

I own many, thanks. Great and not-so-great Alan Arkin movies, Fellinis, Old Classics. They generally follow what we'll call "The Rule #1 Rule." If it's a movie I'd see 10 times, I may as well own it.

10. Name an actor that launched his/her entertainment career in another medium but who has surprised you with his/her acting chops.

I thought Dwight Yoakam was great in "Sling Blade."

11. Have you ever seen a movie in a drive-in? If so, what?

Oh, the drive-in was a staple of my youth. I saw "No Time For Sargeants," "In the Heat of the Night," (which I didn't really get, since I was only 6 or 7), and some movie where Dick Van Dyke played a minister. After searching around on imdb, I think it must be something called "Cold Turkey," which also seems to star Edward Everett Horton! Wow. In my twenties, the drive-in made something of a baby comeback in our town, and we used to love to go there on Friday nights, because it was cheap and you could take your own food. I remember seeing "Stir Crazy" there, why that one sticks out of all those weekends, I've no idea. (By the by, the best thing about drive-ins? Going to the movies in your jammies!)

12. Ever made out in a movie?

No, but I broke up in one!

13. Name a movie that you keep meaning to see but just haven’t yet gotten around to it.

Those damn Lord of the Rings movies. I started the first one around 11:30 pm on a weeknight. Should have known that was a recipe for disaster, and it was, and I keep saying I'll keep an eye out on cable, or go to the video store and just rent them for a week. It's odd feeling like you "should" see a movie, all the while knowing it's a genre that interests you not in the very least.

14. Ever walked out of a movie?

Once. "Under The Rainbow," which for some reason at the time sounded like it had a pretty good premise. The backstage story of "The Wizard of Oz," replete with midgets galore. God have mercy. Walked out about 45 minutes into it. Wanted to walk out of "Bachelor Party," but I thought my friend was interested. When it was over, she said, "I started to ask you about three different times if you wanted to leave."

15. Name a movie that made you cry in the theater.

Oh, man. "My Dog Skip." I was sitting at the closing credits of that movie, a grown woman, weeping and praying they wouldn't turn up the house lights. Then about two rows behind me and to the right, I heard a grown man weeping and honking into his hanky. We should have gotten married on the spot. And gotten a dog. (By the way, the final scene of "Cinema Paradiso" makes me cry like a big fat baby with colic every time I see it, but I haven't seen it in the theater.)

16. Popcorn?

Why, yes, thank you very much. Actually, I seldom eat or drink anything at the movies. But popcorn's my evil nemesis. I can eat a gallon tub and never feel full.

17. How often do you go to the movies (as opposed to renting them or watching them at home)?

Very seldom. I live in Movie No Man's Land. It's my favorite thing to do on vacation, though.

18. What’s the last movie you saw in the theater?

"Little Miss Sunshine." And before that, "Little Miss Sunshine."

19. What’s your favorite/preferred genre of movie?

Just good ones. I guess I tend to lean towards comedies, but anything good makes me happy.

20. What’s the first movie you remember seeing in the theater?

Easy. "101 Dalmatians." We'll have a dalmatian plantation!

21. What movie do you wish you had never seen?

Well, the really horrible ones, like "Leaving Las Vegas," "The English Patient," and "Out of Africa." And "Titanic." But one movie that will never leave my brain, though I've asked it more than several times, is "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer," which was loosely (I'm guessing quite loosely) based on the life of Henry Lee Lucas. God, I couldn't sleep for weeks after that. Nothing like a good think about people who kill at random, just for fun. And chop up the bodies. And put them in trash bags. And break people's necks in front of their family members. And on and on.

22. What is the weirdest movie you enjoyed?

Well, recently I quite enjoyed "Delicatessen," which was certainly what I'd consider weird. When you think about it, "DiG!" is kind of weird, even though it's a documentary - it's just about weird people, though. Then of course there's "La Dolce Vita," which I've seen several times, totally open-mouthed and in love, and there's so much about it I don't understand it's amazing.

23. What is the scariest movie you’ve seen?*

* See "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer."

24. What is the funniest movie you’ve seen?

Wow. In a way, I understand Stennie's answer of "South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut." However, for me, that would be the single one biggest laugh I've probably ever gotten from a movie. We watched it together in Reno, and there was a point where I honestly thought I was going to faint from laughter. I couldn't breathe. I went all fuzzy-headed. However, overall, I can't say that's the funniest movie I've ever seen. I mean, not when there's "The In-Laws," "The Producers," "Blazing Saddles," and "Holy Grail." Look at those four and call it a tie.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Isn't it odd to have 24 questions in a meme. Couldn't they think of one more to round it out to a happy 25?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Jurius Interruptus

Yes, it's an interesting life I lead. Actually, it's not that interesting at all, but there does seem to be something going on most of the time, more of the time than I would like, to be honest.

My stint of being at the personal whims of the Scale Lady, ie Jury Duty, is about to come to a welcome end. April 7th, I think it is. In fact, it was only a couple of weeks ago as I was brushing my teeth before work that I was thinking, "Mercy me, only a month and six days till the end of my Jury Time." Then that morning what should hit my desk at work but a letter calling me out again to the old US District Courthouse for another round of "In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups."

Yes, I was to drive back to the lovely town of A'don for another chance to get picked to be on a real-live jury. Which actually, speaking of "Law and Order," even though we weren't but I just quoted it above, going to the whole Jury Pool Party is not unlike standing in a police line-up. A bunch of us show up at the courthouse, they look at us, turn us to the left and right, make us speak, possibly ask to see our teeth (pretty dicey where I come from), and then they pick out which of us will decide their defendants' fates. I was lucky enough not to be picked last time round, even if it did sting my feelings a little bit, and so I was pretty sure I'd have to go back once more before my time was up, and I was almost as sure I'd feel the icy hand of the Scale Lady upon my shoulder this trip. For few escape jury duty twice in a row.

Now, I was to be in A'don at 8:30am, which was a bit of a bummer since it's two hours away, and I'd toyed with the idea of going down the night before and hoteling it to ensure my timely arrival in court. If you'll recall, the last time I did the whole Jury Thing I overslept through 3 blaring alarm clocks, put on my pre-picked outfit only to find out it was too big, and arrived in front of God, the judge, and everybody looking like a full-blown heroin addict. And while it may have contributed to the fact that I didn't get picked last time and was therefore a good thing, it's also quite hard on the intestines to be in a constant rush like that. Plus the fact that this route to A'don is the exact same route where I was stuck on the decrepit bridge for two hours and five minutes, and Uncle Sam doesn't take kindly to those kind of delays.

In the end, I decided against the whole hotel thing, because I got someone who agreed to call me at 5am on Tuesday morning. And wonder of wonders, I was awake when the call came. Getting ready was a breeze, clothes that fit, coffee made, hair halfway decent, plenty of time to disguise the fact that I hadn't slept, and since I was running so ahead of schedule, I left right at 6 am so I could take an alternate route to A'don. This involved two interstates and more miles, but it was 65 mph the whole way and had no maddening road construction delays.

So instead of screeching into the municipal parking lot on two wheels and running like a woman possessed for the courthouse, I ended up getting there 45 minutes early. And though A'don is a quaint little town, at 7:45 am there's not a lot of activity one can indulge in. So I drove around a little and gassed up podmobile2, and on my way into town, passed the large Higher Learning complex in town. The huge matrix sign was flashing outside the entrance, and I happened to look at it when it flashed, "Food City Meats." Now, Food City is a grocery chain around here, and I wondered exactly what I would learn in the Food City Meats class. That thought had barely been entertained when I saw what next flashed on the sign. Now, I was driving, so maybe I wasn't paying the best of attention, but I swear it looked like the next flashing entry was "Understanding and Controlling Hats." Yes, it was early, but I wasn't particularly sleepy, and I immediately decided I'd much rather go to the controlling my hat class than the managing my Food City meats class.

Anyway, I cruised into the parking lot this time, found a nice spot, and still had time to read a little before the time came.

I walked into the courthouse, handed over my bag (to x-ray), keys, and spare change to the security guy, and walked through the metal detector. And I beeped. I was so excited! I'd never beeped before! So out running came the Wand Man, and he scanned me all over till they discovered it was my new fancy bracelet that was making me beep. Then I was handed back my other belongings, and the security guy started giving me a big speech about taking food and drink into the courtroom. No one else got this speech, and I was very puzzled and looking at him like he was from outer space, and he ended with, "So, OK?" And I had no idea what he was talking about so I just said, "Excuse me?" And he said, "Ma'am, we can provide you with bottles of water to drink during breaks, but you're not allowed to drink whatever is in that bottle in your bag when you're in the courtroom, OK?" So then I went on to explain to him that I'd have to be pretty desperate in the proceedings to break into and start drinking the bottle of perfume I carry in my bag, and all was well again.

After I'd gone to the Jury Lady to check in, the first person I saw was the client of ours at work who was there the last time I was. The second person I saw was the nice lady I kind of hung onto last time, since she'd been a juror before. Then I started looking around and got a distinct feeling of deja vu. These were the exact same people I'd had to hang around with the first time. To a person, with the exception of those who actually got called to serve. I was already feeling very wary of the whole day, for not only do few people escape jury duty twice, but even fewer escape it twice when paired with the same people they were with the first time.

At 8:30 they finally let us into the little courtroom we were in last time, only it wasn't teeming with lawyers and stenographers and the like. It was empty, save for us, and this time they wouldn't let any of us go sit in the jurors' chairs like I got to do last time. We sat on cold, hard wooden benches, worse than church, and while I was sitting with the lady I met last time, making polite conversation about not wanting to get picked, what should I hear behind me. The voice of good old Mr L, the school bus driver who spoke once at the last jury picking and fell so in love with the sound of his voice that he wouldn't shut the fuck up. And guess what. He didn't shut the fuck up this time, either. He knew the hometowns and families of every single person sitting around him - because in some way or other someone they knew had ridden his fucking school bus! Good God's Hat, that man talked more about the school bus than anyone who's ever driven one, ridden on one, been hit by one, or even seen one. I wanted to die. Well, that's a lie, really, I didn't want to die, I wanted to stand up and scream, "Will you stop talking for one single fucking second?! And stop with the school bus!" But I didn't, and it was hard, believe me.

Our 8:30 became 8:50, and finally the Jury Lady came into the room to give us all the Jury Spiel. We all knew the spiel because we'd been there before, but she gave it anyway, without mentioning a school bus one time, may I add, which was remarkable, because this lady spoke just like a first grade teacher. Which, seeing the throng assembled with me, and imagining others that could be worse, was a good thing, I guess. She said this was a criminal and not a civil case, 14 of us would be picked (2 alternates), and that the trial was scheduled for one day, but they made no guarantees. "Anything can happen in a trial," she stressed. Then she told us we'd be starting shortly, and if we weren't picked, we'd probably be out of there by 10 am. And then asked, quite absent-mindedly and as an afterthought, "Were any of you here a couple of weeks ago for the death penalty case? No one?" she continued, as looks of horror took over all our faces. "Oh, well," she said, and walked out.

And so I waited some more on that hard bench, listening to Mr L. 9:00 became 9:15, which became 9:30, which became 9:45, and at 9:50 the Jury Lady came back in and said, in her talking-to-kids voice, "Well, we've hit a snag. This happens sometimes. I'm going to make you all some coffee, and we'll get things going in no time." She also let us get up and walk around, and go to the soft drink machine outside, but I didn't; however, I was now seriously considering breaking out that bottle of perfume and having a swig.

And so people were talking and drinking coffee and listening to Mr L talk about the wonders of the 1997 Yellow Bird School Bus Model A107 and having a high old time, and there were rumors flying about that someone or other had seen a lawyer leave the building, professing to be "no longer than 30 minutes." The nice lady beside me mentioned that with all this delay there'd be no chance of a one-day trial, and I saw my chances of seeing "American Idol" that night heading down the dumper, and thought about having to get up again the next day (if picked) to do this all again. I was getting just the least bit depressed.

Finally, at 10:40, a full two hours and ten minutes after getting there, we were called into the Big Courtroom. This was a first for me, as it was getting some renovation the first time around, and I was only familiar with the little courtroom we'd just been in. The Big Courtroom was impressive, let me tell you. It was huge, the judge's desk was on a scaffold about 15 feet up in the air, there were big TV screens everywhere, and little individual ones at each juror's chair. There were big gold stars on the massive woodwork on the far wall, I mean, it was a room fit for Sam Waterston himself.

And in another stunning deja vu moment, there 15 feet above us was the same judge as last time, the judge who admonished a poor guy who had the nerve to work night shift. And the same prosecutor, the boy who couldn't be more than 16 years old and who was probably driven to court by his mom. The defense attorney was a new one, it was a woman, and there were press people sitting in the back row of the courtroom. It was nice, but still not nice enough to make me want to stay there all day, and possibly two days now.

Once we'd all shuffled in and taken our places, the judge began to speak. "You are all here because you were picked to become part of a jury for a trial that, that was to be held today." Huh? He continued, "However, and believe me, this is the rarest of occasions, unfortunately, today we cannot proceed to trial with this case."

Dodged another one! I let out a puff of air I swear must have been audible.

Instead of saying, "So, OK, see ya round!" this judge, because judges like to talk almost as much as Mr L, went on for about 15 minutes explaining to us how this hardly ever happens, and we'd still get our jury duty money, and he was so sorry for the inconvenience, and that we were all such good people for sitting there on those hard benches and drinking coffee and listening to the wonders of the Yellow Bird A107 school bus, but that there just wasn't a thing he could do about it.

And during all this flowery explanation and apology, I was still gooning around looking at the fabulous courtroom, and I noticed that although there was a defense attorney, there didn't seem to be a defendant. Then I started wondering if the reason they couldn't proceed to trial is because he took a powder and decided not to show. And if the 30 minutes a lawyer needed was to go try and find the guy. (Or gal. Sorry.)

Anyway, we were finally released at about 10:45, free again, and I did a repeat of last jury trip when I decided to go shoe shopping, and spent more than what I'll make for that day's excursion on shoes.

And they're great shoes, but I kind of wonder if I could have used the money to make a last-minute entrance into "Understanding and Controlling Hats" at the Higher Learning Center. Cause I think that's a class I might enjoy.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* IMPORTANT AND DESPERATE ANNOUNCEMENT: You think I forgot, didn't you? Well, I didn't, and I'm still looking for people to send me entries for the Kim Jong Il fashion show. I have two pictures and a promise for a third, and if I could just get two more, we could let the fashion show begin. Now, if you have no idea what I'm talking about, scoot to my Feb 18, 2007 blog. I'll help you in any way I can, short of doing it for you. Come on, be part of my blog, people!
* I'd just like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Alan Arkin Day! Yes, it's Alan Arkin Day. Think I'm kidding? Well, I'm not - check it out.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Beans At Midnight
Beans, Beans, and More Beans
The Beans of Destiny
Deadhead Beans
Beany Bean Beans

I had a fun weekend, which was pretty good, because I needed one. See, I had to face the whole Jury Duty Pool (everybody into the jury pool!) today, drive to A'don, a two-hour trip, I'll be traveling to B'burg on Wednesday, and back there for the weekend. I didn't want to do any traveling this weekend past.

And so I invited Mr M down for a night of dinner, clarinets, and movies, and I had a little surprise I decided to spring on him at the end of the evening. See, earlier in the week I received my latest ebay purchase. It was a book, a cookbook to be precise, compiled for a charity. (Which sucks, I know, because being sold on ebay, the charity got none of the money. I should send them a few bucks, and just may do that.) Anyway, the selling point of this cookbook is that all the recipes were submitted by celebrities, one of them being no less a person himself than Academy Award-winning actor Alan F Arkin. For some reason, I just became consumed with giggles thinking that I'd plan a dinner for Mr M, make the Arkin recipes, and after they were eaten, I'd tell him where I got the dishes. Not the dishes we were eating off of, the dishes we'd just consumed.

OK, so in retrospect it's not the laff-riot I was thinking of, but at the time it seemed pretty damn funny.

I had a little sleep Saturday morning, got up lateish, and prepared to go to the grocery. And that's where the first problem of the day hit me square in the face. As I was in the bedroom putting in my contact lenses, nude (now there's a picture for you to lose sleep over), hair dripping, I kept hearing a sizzling sound. I thought, "Oh, shit, I've left the coffee pot on and the coffee bits are dripping onto the hot plate," and so I got up to turn it off. I saw that the coffee pot was off, and so I went exploring. And found that the sizzling sound was coming from behind the door where my water heater was.

Now, I'd never heard this sound before, and it worried me, so I dislodged the door (it's not the kind you open, it's the kind you, well, dislodge), and had a look. The heater was indeed making a definite sizzling sound, and the pilot light was really big. I mean, really, really big. Flames were licking the bottom of my water heater. It was quite disconcerting, and I decided that I was going to blow to smithereens right there in the Poderosa, naked, and with a dirty house, not that that mattered because it would soon become a pile of rubble. I called my sister's house on the off-chance they might be home. They were, and I asked her to dispatch her husband forthwith to look at my water heater. And I put on some clothes, because even blown to bits, I'd like those bits to be found wrapped in something besides skin.

By the time the brother-in-law got to the house, the sizzling had quit, and the flame was back where it was supposed to be, but I let him in anyway, apologizing for the fact that he was probably wasting his time and that he was about to enter a house that wasn't so much a house at the moment but a hovel. He said OK, had a look at the heater, and seemed to think it was no big deal, that maybe my water heater was just working overtime from where I'd showered. Even though I shower all the time and don't hear that sizzle afterwards. He told me how to turn off the gas in an emergency (if can I find a wrench as the house is blowing to smithereens), said all would be well, went to look at the hole in my yard he's been promising to fill for roughly a year, then headed back home.

And then I got hinky.

All of a sudden I started to smell gas, and my eyes started to burn. Now, you know me, and what's worse, I know me even better, and somewhere I knew that this was all in my head and that I was suffering from the aftermath, a little fight or flight, but I still went and opened all my doors and windows. Then just to see if I was safe, I popped out a lighter and fired that baby up. I didn't blow to smithereens, but it still didn't help, and well, I was hinky and that was that. But I tried to put it aside, finished getting ready for the day, made a list of recipe ingredients I needed from the grocery, and headed out the door, hoping the Poderosa would still be waiting for me when I came back.

And it was.

While I was at the grocery, I encountered the second problem of the day. Apparently celebrities eat fancy foods that we hicks in B'field aren't familiar with. I couldn't find some of my ingredients. Oh, I guess I should tell you at this point in the story that the dishes were Roquefort-stuffed Burgers and Baked Beans. I had a hell of a time finding mango chutney, but I was expecting that, and as hard a time finding Roquefort cheese, which I wasn't expecting at all. In fact, I started trying to come up with ideas for a mango chutney substitute, and guess what. I couldn't think of one, because I don't know what chutney really is. I mean, what would you use? Anyway, I didn't have to go through that mind-bending drama, because I found some chutney and the first ingredient on the jar was mangoes, and so I was ready to roll. It was 2:45, I was expecting Mr M about 3:30, and so I got home to my still-in-one-piece house and thought I'd get started on the beans to get them prepared and in the dish before he got there. Then we could play or watch movies, and I'd slide them in the oven when the time came.

Mr M arrived at about 3:15, and the first bean hadn't gone into the dish. The first onion wasn't sliced, and in fact, the dish was still in the cabinet. And this presented the third problem of the day.

I asked Mr M when he walked in if he wanted to play clarinets, or did he want me to do the bean prep. He said bean prep, as he was getting hungry, so I started, hiding the cookbook from him the whole time so he couldn't spoil my joke for me. I put all the ingredients together, and though I didn't like the way it looked, I figured Mr Arkin must surely know what he's doing in the whole bean milieu, and I got ready to put the dish in the refrigerator to let it rest while we frolicked around the Pod.


Now, I read these recipes, really I did. However, I read them earlier in the week when I was planning my little ruse, and as you all know if you've read the blog lately, I'm going flat-ass nuts. And so I even though I'd read all of what was before me, my eyes just about popped out of my head when I saw at the bottom of the page, "Bake covered for three hours." It was 3:50 at this point.

"Holy shit!" I exclaimed. "This says cook for three hours!" Then I kept reading.

"Holy shit!" I exclaimed. "This says cook for three hours covered, then uncover and cook for two more hours!"

I was looking at five hours worth of beans.

And it was at this point, after the water heater and the mango chutney and the hiding of the cookbook and the five hours of beans, that I just collapsed with the helpless giggles. Maybe it was the gas fumes I was imagining, I don't know, but I was weak at the knees, and couldn't tell Mr M why I couldn't stop laughing.

And so we played some clarinets and argued a good bit (we do it for fun, you know), watched a movie I didn't like (sorry, Mr Chaplin), and then I decided I'd start the burgers even though it was only about 7:15 and I still had way more beans in my future. I had some salad, scoured around and found some instant (but good instant) mashed potatoes, and I announced that the beans were for dessert, but that he was eating those beans because the success of my evening depended on it.

I made the burgers, got out the salad, did the potatoes, and we had that. Now, I'm not really so much the Roquefort fan at all, but I didn't think these burgers were half bad. I was chowing down, all proud of myself, and I (Miss Validation 2007) asked Mr M, "So, how are the burgers?" He said something while chewing and I didn't quite get it, so I asked for a repeat. "I don't like them," he said. And I began to cry.

Well, not really. I began to mock cry, waah-waahing while actually laughing my ass off, but again, I couldn't tell him why. All I could say was, "Well, wait for the beans," and leave it at that. And even though my burger was quite satisfactory, I could only eat half of it, and have decided that maybe my new dieting regime should be to stuff everything I eat with Roquefort cheese, but maybe that's another blog for another time.

Now, by my calculations, the five-hour beans should be making their debut at around 9:00. 9:00 came and I didn't think they were quite ready to make their appearance. They were so liquidy. I'm used to baked beans being rather thick, and these were more like what we call around here soup beans. So on Mr M's suggestion I skimmed a little liquid off the top, put them back in the oven, and let them, well, bean some more.

They made their appearance at 9:30, I doled us each out a little cup of them, and we went into the living room to try them out.

I thought they were OK, but they didn't really give me any beangasms. However, Mr M seemed to be quite fond of them, and pointed out what to me had the been the selling point of this recipe from the get-go. Coffee. There was brewed coffee in these beans, and though I couldn't taste it, he seemed to like it quite a bit.

And this is when I decided to let the cat out of the bag. I showed him the cookbook, told him whose recipes we'd eaten that evening, I was cracking up, and - well, he wasn't. He got that, "Yes, the joke was on me" look, but didn't laugh hysterically. Then I just kept going on about the beans and how I was sure I'd done something wrong, he kept asking me if I followed the instructions to the letter, I said yes, but that maybe there was something in that bean prep I did that ruined it all, for these were nothing like the beans of my familiarity.

"Well, maybe Alan Arkin fucked up!" Mr M shot back, and this made me laugh even harder.

And so, Mr Arkin, I'm sure you're a lovely person and a wonderful cook, and you apparently have five hours to make beans, but your dinner of this Saturday past wasn't a screaming success. Mr M proclaimed that he wouldn't go to your house for dinner if you offered the burgers, but would consider it for the beans, and even went on to suggest that they might be a good dish to have at the big soiree he's throwing next weekend for the Sauerkraut Band.

If you have another five hours to spare, you're invited to come to his house and fix them up. Because I'm not so keen.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* By the way, somewhere around about hour four of the bean project, I got an email from Stennie with a link to a webpage containing a recipe for actress Jean Arthur's own fudge. Had I only seen it sooner.
* You all did extremely well on the "Guess The Picture" game. Between you, you got them all. Barbie Doll legs, ice (in the icemaker), the new vacuum (the hint was to look at the white powder at the bottom of the picture), a Virginia Tech pom pom, and the fuzzy inside of my pink clarinet case.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Picture Sunday

Hello, end of weekenders. It is that very bewitching time of night, and time for another edition of Picture Sunday.

I spent a weekend here at the Pod, Mr M came to visit, and I'm not going into any details, because I shall be blogging about it all later in the week. Good stuff.

And I'm a little pressed for time here, and I'm warning you right now, no acro this week - I'm gearing up for an incredibly busy week which may or may not include a stint at Jury Duty. But I do have pictures tonight, and a recipe, and this week we're going to play another mind-numbing game of "Guess What It Is!"

Yes, you all know how it works. I'll print a picture of something, you tell me what it is. It's that easy. Just as last time, no prizes, unless you consider being right a prize in itself.

Wanna get started? Well, me either, but let's do it anyway.

Here's the first one. By the way, I think all of them this week are pretty easy, but I'll start with the easiest first.

OK, everyone knows that one, right?

Let's go to the next one. An item I can probably bet we all have in our own home.

Easy again, right? Ahhh, the next one. It's red, I'll tell you that!

Hint for this one. Look at the bottom of the picture. And remember something I told you.

Now, the next two are a little harder. The first one comes from The Beast, aka my spare bedroom. It sits on a cabinet.

You know, that used to be in the denette, but I moved it and its display-mates into the spare bedroom. Don't know if that helps.

Here's the last one. It's in the living room. But not always! That's the best hint can give.

So there you go. If you know the answers and can tell me what my pictures are of, just send it along in a comment.

Now it's time for this week's recipe du jour. How many of you have kids? Well, not many, probably, but how many of you were a kid? Ahhh, a few more, right? Well, sometimes kids (even when they're us) can be snot-nosed little brats, and what does any self-respecting parent do when their kid comes out with something like, "You fucking fuckheaded fuckity fuck-fucked fucker?" Well, whether they do or not, they want to wash the kid's mouth out with soap. However, in these times of progressive parenting, these days of not punishing a child lest we hurt his breakable little feelings, that's not so easily done. Or is it? From the "Clean Treats" file in cardland, say hello to Soap Cream.

Yes, it's a lot easier to wash a kid's mouth out with soap if you've made the soap into ice cream! In fact, the little tyke will in essence wash his own mouth! Just boil up some Ivory soap (99 and 44/100 % pure, we use no artificial ingredients!), get it all creamy, and add in some goodies. I used honey and crumbled up cinnamon Graham crackers. Freeze it up, and serve it to the cussing little bastard in question. And just for good measure, I had Peabody pose in the photo waving an admonishing finger to all the little misbehavers out there. If you're not a kid, or have no kids, just take your soap cream to the bath with you. You can wash with it, and the crumbled-up crackers make an excellent exfoliant.

Happy week.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Kudos to Mr M, who had the original recipe du jour idea, Soap S'mores. Who knew that soap didn't melt when baked? Who else knew that it smoked and came close to setting the oven on fire?
* I forgot to make my pictures bigger this week. Oh well. Not going back and changing.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Are We There Yet? Please?

Only last night when we recorded that very Hucklebug podcast, Stennie and I were having a small discussion (thanks to Michelle the Dishy) about weather. Not your general, "How's the weather," as my mom would speak about for hours, but more specifically, "What's the worst weather you've ever been in?" I named three pretty bad weather conditions I'd endured, nothing spectacular to tell, and left it at that.

After the discussion was over and we'd gone on to other things, I thought of another. I didn't interrupt proceedings to mention it, it probably didn't merit such a thing, and may not merit a blog either, but I thought I'd give it a try anyway. It's one of those "you had to be there" stories, for I'm not sure any amount of flowery language could describe it to give you the full picture.

But as I said, I'll try.

It all happened about 17 years ago. I know this because the Dear Nephew was but a toddler. An incredibly cute toddler, but we won't go into that, for that's not so easily described, either. My brother-in-law was working at the time as office manager, comptroller, accountant, and general dogsbody for a car dealership, a very lucrative employment indeed. And his job called for him to travel to Washington, DC to pick up a vehicle.

Now, this wasn't really a "go to a car lot and pick up a brand new Lincoln Continental" type of thing. I wouldn't call it a repo, but that's kind of what it was. To me, "repo" says, "We're going to sneak in at 1am to steal a man's car." This man was giving up his car voluntarily. He couldn't pay for it, knew he couldn't pay for it, and finally said, "I give. Really, I give. Give it to you, here it is." And so the plan was such: The brother-in-law was to drive down in a new car from his dealership that he'd deliver to some corporation in DC, pick up the giveaway car, and come back home. And DC is a pretty fun place, and hey, if anything, we're a family that loves to travel, and so we decided to pack the B-in-L, my sister, the Dear Nephew, and myself into the car and spend an "on the company" weekend in DC.

Sounds fun, right?

Lord have mercy, you're gullible. Well, I guess we were just as gullible, too.

We climbed into a very nice gray sedan, complete with new car smell, and headed northeast. The stereo played good tunes, we zipped along, made it to DC, walked around the city, ate at nice restaurants, and had a fine time. Then Sunday came, the B-in-L got the address of the giveaway car, and we went to pick it up, drop off the nice gray sedan, and head home.

When we got to the guy's house and saw the car, well, we knew the style in which we'd become accustomed to living was about to come to as dead a halt as was humanly possible. The giveaway car was a Ford Fairmont. Now, they stopped making the Fairmont in 1983, I think, so this wasn't a new car we were driving away. It would have been at least seven years old, and boy, had it seen a lot of living in its tender at least seven years. It was what we call around here (though of course I'd never use such a vulgar term) "baby shit yellow," had four doors, a radio, no air conditioning, and other features as well.

Features like.... Well, let's just say that when a guy says, "I give," and relinquishes all rights to his vehicle, I don't guess he cares that much about sprucing the damn thing up a little before he does so. This car was a trash heap and no mistake. I mean, think of your local vast landfills. Take all that trash you're imagining before you and load it into a four-door Ford Fairmont. And guess what. It's still not enough trash. There was not a surface of this car, dash, seats, floor, that you could actually see. It was all covered in stuff. Trash, to be precise. Papers, year-old magazines, paper bags, food wrappers, you name it, it was in there. You didn't name it, it was still in there.

Now, to your normal adult, trash is a pretty icky proposition, and believe me, the three adults who were about to enter this vehicle and make a six-hour trip were all but creeped out within an inch of their lives. To a toddler, however. To a toddler this is a playground, a wonderland of happiness, and every time the Dear Nephew was allowed out of his car seat for a few minutes at a stop, he'd immediately hit this trashy floor and go exploring. He found what, well, what to that particular point of the trip, was the find of the day. A Dairy Queen sundae cup that had about three years previously held a chocolate sundae. The red plastic spoon was stuck in with the dried chocolate, not to be removed, not even with a hand grenade.

And then, it happened. Well, not it, for it happened later. But it happened. About two hours into our trip, on I-66 in the middle of nowhere, we ran into a thunderstorm of biblical proportions. Yep, we were riding along in our non-air conditioned Fairmont in 85 degree weather, and it began to rain. Hard. Big fat drops of rain that forced us to roll up our manually-rolled windows, sealing us in and amongst all that trash. And the sundae cup. Then the wind began to howl, sliding us this way and that, and then the lightning started. I swear to you, Cecil B DeMille couldn't conjure up any better lightning that what was flicking around our car. Cracks of thunder. Crying toddler. It was a nightmare, and the only thing I could think of to do was take the Dear Nephew's blankie, duck down below my seat into the paper bags and food wrappers, and hide. You know, every Saturday in October as we're heading up the mountain in our German gear, Mr M makes the same statement. "One of my greatest fears is that we'll wreck, and die in this car dressed like this." Well, I certainly didn't want to die by lightning bolt there in a baby shit yellow Ford Fairmont heaped with more trash than the landfill could hold.

The worst of it all, well, I know you're thinking, "How could it be worse," but it could, is that we couldn't outrun this storm. It was following us, like the Black Cloud of Doom that it was. We must have been in that storm for an hour before it finally subsided.

But finally the clouds parted, I think we saw God up there between them laughing and waving, and we got on with our trip.

Which should be the end of the story, but it isn't.

Because then it happened.

We were driving along, windows rolled back down, and suddenly the B-in-L had a panicked thought. "You know, I hope there's a registration or something in this car. I don't have anything with me to explain a thing about the ownership of this turdmobile." (Yes, it had garnered a name, well, actually named itself, during the trip.) "Look in the glove compartment and see if there's anything in there."

Dumb statement. Of course there was going to be something in there - trash! And there was, but my poor sister couldn't even have imagined what else she was about to find.

In there with all the bills and papers and napkins and straws and little packets of mustard and ketchup, she found - a set of false teeth. Not in a box or bag, just hidden in there. Uppers and lowers, the full set.

I've always trusted the B-in-L's driving, and probably for this very reason. For we all lost it in waves of hilarious laughter so badly, I don't know how he kept us on the road and out of the Arms of Death, but somehow he did.

It became quite the family joke. For years after, those teeth would show up when least expected. At a family gathering, someone would sneak into a bedroom and put them under someone's pillow. Then that person would one day stick them in the cabinet of someone else's kitchen. Or stick them in a shoe in the closet. They were given as birthday gifts, stuck in the bottom of Christmas stockings, and hidden in bouquets of flowers.

Then, they were gone. I guess someone must have given them to a person outside the family, and we never got them back. I hope whoever they were given to continued the tradition of passing them along.

Something that good just shouldn't be kept to yourself.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Acrowinners, we have - oh, wait, we don't have. No acro yesterday because of my lack of acrotime. Sorry, couldn't be helped. However!
* However, I have a very special treat for you, courtesy of Flipsycab. Flipsy, photographer that she is, saw a sign yesterday that got her thinking about Picture Sunday and signs I'd taken pictures of. Only this one was better than all of mine put together.

Now, what was Mr M doing in California? Well, vandalizing stop signs, I suppose.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Picture Sunday

Hello, end of weekenders, and welcome to another round of Picture Sunday.

You know, let's talk about signs. Not signs of the apocalypse, or signs of the times, just your everyday signs. I saw a sign today for the first time, naive soul that I am.

You see, when we're in parking lots all around this great land of ours, we see signs like this all the time.

Yep, they're everywhere, and they're fine. Those people need their special parking spots, and I'm not going to argue with them. I might argue that about 40% of the people who have a permit to park in those special places don't actually need to have one, but hey, I live in Southwestern Virginia. That's par for the course. Not a thing I can do about it, and that's OK. I don't mind walking.

And then I'm sure we've seen the stores that have these little babies strategically placed in their parking lots.

No problem with those, either. The employees of the month might have a little problem with them, though, I know I would. I'd much rather get a check for $25 for being the employee of the month and walk a little farther, but that's just me. I guess there's a certain prestige with pulling into the best spot in the lot and getting out, all, "Look at meeeee, you bastards! I'm the employee of the month!" So kudos to you good employees, and enjoy the primo spot.

But today, as I was ducking in (I mean, really, I was ducking) to the B'burg Wal-Mart to get the flavor of protein bars they refuse to stock at my local store, I happened upon this little nugget of a sign.

Now. Now, this one, I have a little problem with. There's so much wrong with this sign. How expectant do you have to be? 3 weeks? If you leave the doctor's office after finding out you're with child, or have just left home after peeing blue on the home pregnancy kit, do you get to park here? Is there some sort of Parking Police to check you out? Proof? Do you have to have a little stomach blip of baby, is it only for second and third trimester moms? And expectant? What if you're expecting to have a baby before you shuffle off this mortal coil? "Yes, I'm an expectant mother. Sure, I'm only 16 now, but I'm hoping for a girl and a boy, Kaitlyn and Jeremiah. And a nice husband and a two-story Cape Cod. And I want to be a homemaker, mother, lawyer, model, and movie star." (They think like that nowadays.)

And while we're at it, why, just because you're carrying 8 or 9 extra pounds around, do you get special treatment in the Wal-Mart parking lot? What about those of us carrying more than that around, with no hopes of spitting out an infant, possibly on aisle 5 as we're shopping for dill pickles? Don't we deserve a little love from Wal-Mart, too? Where's the sign that says, "Park Here, You Big Fat Fatty Fat Fat?"

Oh, well. Like I said, I can walk. Best not to think about it too much. I guess the plus side of it all is that once you've dropped your baby in aisle 5 of the Wal-Mart, you can wrap it up in bunting (from the fabric department) and head over to Goody's.

At least they're nice enough to let you keep parking there after you've unloaded your little monster onto the world. Wonder what they consider "new," though. I guess you still have to be wheeling it around in a carriage. What if you just this past week adopted a 16-year old? (By the way, look at how tall that sign is! Right over my head, that one.)

I want to see signs with a smoking cigarette on them. Surely smokers need a short walk to the store. Or a recliner, for the more lazy amongst us. Hey, if you have the nerve to park in the "lazy" spot, you deserve it. Our local hospital has a sign that says, "For Clergy Only." Wonder if the preacher cusses when someone's taken his spot. Someone who just likes to talk about the The Lord. He's justified, isn't he? I bought my brother-in-law a ministership from the back of a magazine for Christmas one year. He never has to worry about a parking spot at the hospital!

OK, enough of this gay banter. Time for the recipe du jour. Had some ideas rolling around, but since I was taken out for a late birthday dinner this evening, they all went by the wayside. And this popped up instead. From the "Lazy Nights" file in cardland, please say hello to Screw It, Let's Go Out.

Ahhh, my friends, the ease of this dish. All you do is pick the restaurant of your choice (or not, the nephew picked Outback and so it was to be), read a menu, point to an item, hand over some money, and you've got a dish right there in front of you, served by (in my case) none other than Norma Jean herself. For this card it's Mahi Mahi, mashed potatoes, and a sauce I couldn't tell you a thing about other than it's good. And a martini, extra olives. That was martini #2, extra olives. Because we all know the martini is the perfect drink. One's good, two's perfect, and three are too many. The self-regulating drink!

Happy week.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Finally finished those movies this weekend. Played clarinet fairly well. Got bitten to death by Alice the cat. Got taken to dinner at Famous Anthony's by Mr M. (You've never heard of Anthony? He's famous!)

Friday, March 02, 2007

Friday Catch-Up...

...in which our heroine, Bet, realizes she's going flat-ass nuts.

You know how "The Jetsons" ends every week? With George Jetson taking Astro for a walk on the automated dog walker, and Astro, normally quite the dumb little fella, turns the speed on high, jumps off, and leaves poor George getting flattened to within an inch of his life on the dog walker, crying out, "Help! Jane! Stop this crazy thing!" Well, it used to end that way, it's not on anymore, probably owing to the fact that Jane decided to let her husband die out there on the dog walker.

I came to the stunning conclusion that when George died, he was reincarnated into me. And he never had the decency to get off that damn dog walker before he did it. And I don't even know anyone named Jane, so the chances of meeting my untimely demise on the dog walker are pretty good.

To be honest, I wouldn't even mind if, once the death has taken place, my lifeless body shifts on that dog walker to a point where I block its turning, and it stops for a while.

You see, every once in a while I'll realize that my life is moving a little faster than I'd like it to. This generally happens every fall, when I'm actually stupid enough to think that I can participate in Sauerkraut Band and Oktoberfest and also be able to live my normal life. This never works, I know there will be a point about 2/3 through it all where I sit down and boo-hoo for an entire night, wondering how I could have possibly gotten myself into all the commitments I've made, and yet - I do it every year.

And it's a little more frustrating when this happens and I didn't even sign up for anything. I've made no commitments, and yet here I am with more on my plate than I can handle. Or maybe age has made me weak, and things I could handle at one time are now wearing me thin. Very thin. So thin as to only have one side.

I'm not enjoying Community Band this season. I want to quit. Now, I've quit before, not stormed out in a huff, yelling, "You'll never see the likes of me again!" while people wail and gnash their teeth, just dropped away for a few months while I rest and don't drive hundreds of miles to play. Then I go back when I feel like I'll enjoy it more. I never quit around the time of the Spring Concert, though, it's always quite a special occasion, it's where we learn (considering on how you look at the world "learn") the really difficult pieces, it's challenging and fun.

But not this year. I have never been so unhappy and frustrated as I've been at the band practices leading up to this year's Spring Concert. The music's horrible, the band's horrible, I'm often horrible, I wish every saxophone player had his or her instrument stuck firmly up his or her fundament, and I wish the percussion section would just explode into a ball of flames. And Ed, our fearless leader Ed, whom I love dearly, don't get me wrong, is really getting up my snout this season. His methods of rehearsal stupefy me, and I'm left scratching my head at the end of every practice. And I'm so hinky about it all the scratching of my head is starting to draw blood.

Now, I don't like having a bloody head, and driving 65 miles one way once a week to have a bloody head, and so I thought, "That's it, I'll quit for a while." But I can't, for two reasons. One is that I left it way too late to make this decision, there are only 3 or so rehearsals till the concert, and well, I'm me. I'm the dependable one. I won't leave my section in the lurch, even not playing the music as well as I should, and so I can't just duck out. The other is that my wonderful friend, acroer, oboer, and mother of Ervin the Cute, Kellie (with an ie), will be playing her last spring concert with our band this time round. She's moving this summer, a fact I still flatly refuse to wrap my head around, and I'm going to go to as many band practices I can just so I can hang out with her.

And so I go to band. And leave very unhappy, and can't summon up the will to practice this horrible music, which I shouldn't care about because about 95% of the band refuses to practice anyway, but somehow I still care about it all and it's weighing very heavily upon my worried (and bloodied) head.

And gas prices are skyrocketing, which makes the drive not so fun, even if I now have an ipod to listen to on the way there and back.

Work's been a crapload of, well, crap lately. With the boss on vacation last week, I've worked all this week at what was left over from last week, plus what's hit my desk this week. That's a lot of work. A crapload, to be exact. Also, I don't know whether or not to chalk this up to a full moon because I don't know if we're in a full moon phase right now, but all the weirdo clients seem to be attracted to me this week like Pepe Le Pew is attracted to a black cat who couldn't read the "wet paint" sign.

I'm going to give you a helpful life lesson here. It's called, "Why You Should Never Get Married." And the answer is quite simple, it's, "Because sooner or later, you're going to get divorced." If I have to be stuck in the middle of one more poor soul's divorce proceedings, I'm going to puke. Or die. I'm going to puke till I die. Endless phone calls and visits from one soon to be ex-spouse or other saying, "Well you tell her I said...," "Well, you tell him I said..." (which of course I never do, but it doesn't stop them). "She ran around on me for years!" "He told lies about me to my church!" "She threw my clothes out in the yard and the dogs carried them away!" "He stole my kids in the middle of the night!" "She tried to burn down my house!" "Well, only because his girlfriend was there and I'm paying his rent!"

Do you think I give a shit about any of this?!?!

Well, yes, actually, you do. Because you see, part 2 of this life lesson is that when you start getting divorced, apparently you become the center of the universe and think everyone truly does give a shit about the tiniest minutiae of your affairs. You also think really dumb things like, say, your local TheCompanyIWorkFor peon has only you for a client, and therefore is more than happy to spend an entire day listening to and trying to fix your problems while the rest of the free fucking world (and the locked fucking up world) can be put on hold.

And please, I know you're all nice people, so understand when I say this. Do not tell me to just say, "Don't get me involved in this." Because I do! I do that very thing, every other sentence out of my sad mouth is, "This is all between you. I can only do this, and everything else you have to work out between yourselves." But when you're the center of the universe, apparently you don't have to listen. I can only say what is part 3 of the life lesson, "When you get your divorce, don't involve anyone. In fact, don't even involve yourself. Just move away, leave a pile of money on your ex's doorstep with a note saying, 'This should last you six months, bye,' and never be heard from again. Start your own Divorce Witness Protection Program, and begin a brand-new life in Kansas." There.

And so I'm going flat-ass nuts, which was what all this was supposed to be about anyway, and flapping around on the Jetsons dog walker while it's still on high speed and I'm yelling around trying to meet someone named Jane so she can stop it for me.

I come home for lunch every day, for my little alloted hour, only it's not an hour because, well, I don't know because. It's just not. The clocks might tell me it's an hour, but they're lying and there's not a thing I can do about it. I walk in the Pod, mix up a protein drink, check my email, play a couple of games of Word Hunter, and it's time to go back. Before I've finished the drink or found anything to eat to take back to work and not eat because I don't have time. I scramble around for a piece of cheese or chicken or something, then head back to work in a car going 25 mph while my insides are going 75mph.

I'm nervous, I don't sleep, even sans coffee, don't get started on me about that, now, I'll nix the coffee for a day thinking this will finally be the night I get some sleep, but it never happens. I'm forgetting things, and this is driving me round the bend, because I'm not a forgetter. Today it finally hit me that I have an ebay auction I was supposed to send money for on Tuesday, and I'd completely forgotten. So I wrote down the address (it was a non paypal), and left a little earlier than my usual lunch hour (which is not an hour but we won't even go there) to zip by the post office. Which I did, did an incredibly lovely job parallel parking in front of the building, turned off the car, and realized I'd forgotten the paper with the address on it. I said, "Shit," as I do, then thought, "Well, I'll at least get the money order now and worry about the address tonight." Then I realized I had no earthly idea what amount the money order was to be for. I finally just left work for about a half-hour later in the day so I could get it all done. Followed by a trail of people telling me about their divorces. (By the way, in what will come as no surprise, I'm sure, I also forgot the ebay invoice number, and misaddressed the only envelope I had. Can anyone spell "bad feedback?")

And you know, it's the oddest thing. Apparently going nuts helps you get in touch with your Psychic Self, because this morning as I was brushing my teeth I was thinking, "You know, only 1 month and 6 days before I'm out of the jury duty pool." And this morning what should arrive upon my desk but a letter from my old and crumpled arch-enemy Uncle Sam telling me that on March 13th, I'm to make that two-hour trip to be a part of the whole wad of excitement known as The Jury Picking Pool. I think this time around when they ask prospective jurors if there's any reason they should be excused, I'm going to pop up and say I've slept with everyone in the court, including the brass lady who holds the scales.

Anyway, I did survive this week, and it's the weekend, and so maybe I can relax a little. By going to B'burg, playing clarinet duets badly, coming home on Sunday and trying to think up - and create - the recipe du jour, taking pictures, and making a 6:30 dinner date with my sister's family.

If anyone out there knows a Jane, please send her my way.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* I also have two movies I've now kept for over 2 weeks without watching. Netflix is going to kick me out.