Thursday, December 13, 2012

Crappy Day

The morning began in an unusually, exceptionally crappy way.

At 2:25 am, Moose deposited a combination of stomach acid and recently enjoyed yard poop onto the pale blue and white comforter. The wretched sounds of the retching and licking of an attempted re-ingestion, combined with the toxic fragrance of bile and poop tickled me awake. I dragged myself out of bed to scrub off the nastiness, reminded how the comforter had just, one day earlier, been washed and replaced on the bed after a month in the laundry room since the last time he got sick on it. That time, Moose had deposited a perfectly intact pineapple chunk in a fragrant bile sauce. The pineapple had been fed to both dogs after reading that it would help curb their taste for poop (or, Coprophagia, if you want to be all veterinary about it). The pineapple had the same non-effect as the liver flavored tablets bought at PetsMart. As for the comforter – it is now referred to as the “Late night bad luck comforter.”

Several hours later, having shaken off the crude, early awakening, I arrived at work ready for coffee. An earlier arriving coworker had, as usual, started the delicious brew. As I transferred the fresh coffee from the Bunn coffee pot to the thermos, charred liquid splatted onto the counter. Turned out, the glass coffee pot had a crack running all the way across the bottom. Luckily, there was a spare pot in the cabinet, because we are a crew not equipped to face a day sans a steady flow of coffee. Preferably in a cup.

After the kitchen cleanup and back at my desk with coffee and yogurt, it was time for the new Prednisone (take with food or milk!) prescribed to help with my recently acquired difficulty breathing (now on day 10!). This was followed with a hit from the new inhaler which loosens the vise grip on my chest for about, oh, 30 minutes at best (if at all).

Usually there are just a few emails awaiting my attention, but this particular morning there were 140 of them. A quick scan revealed exactly two of them to be legitimate – a Google news alert about a client and a marketing trade newsletter. The rest were spam, mostly from “IT Help Desk” (FAKE! – it is an individual with a name at my office), “Stelter Service Desk” (another unknown entity) and “IT Support” (again, another nonexistent company department). Highlight and delete!

During a morning conference call with Boss 2 of 2 and a client, I learned (to my horror) that I would be part of a press conference announcing the project. On a project I was only recently brought into, and for which I was not part of the project proposal or strategic planning. Normally the bosses handle this, but the one leading this project will be out of town. Before I had time to fully absorb the (excitable) weight loss potential of stressing over being part of a press conference (instead of a reporter or a bystander) and the (miraculous) chance that maybe my clothes would fit again, it was pointed out that the press conference would take place in two days. Worse, a scan of the agenda has “Q & A” next to my name. There better be no “Q” for me, because chances are very good the “A” will be stammering gibberish. The best we can hope for are variations of “We are very excited to be working on this project.”

Back at my desk, a deadline hung like the sword of Damocles on another project for another client. For weeks, I have been doing everything in my power to keep this initiative on track but circumstances beyond my cubicle seem to have wrested it out of my control and sent it and me into Limbo, Dante’s first of the nine Circles of Hell. You know, the eternal lounge for the guiltless damned.

And I wonder why I have chest pains and trouble breathing.

A phone call from a friend following up on a party invitation for Saturday to which I neglected to respond had me feeling slightly chastened. The invite arrived under the email name of a co-host I didn’t recognize into an email account I rarely check, which really sounds like a bunch of lames-ass excusery, but is the truth. At least it hadn’t been deleted, it just hadn’t been opened. But I am now forgiven and allowed to attend the party.

A 1:00 staff meeting to review statuses and priorities (rescheduled from two failed attempts a day earlier) forced a lunch reschedule from my usual 12:45 ish to 1:45 ish (timed to accommodate the bladders of the fur beasts) to a more brunch like slot (11:30 – 12:30). Imagine my joy when, at 1:00, after having prepared updated statuses for said meeting for the now third time, it was rescheduled to 2:30, and then again to 2:30 to the next day. 

During the brunch break, I stopped at Walgreen’s to pick up the second batch of Christmas card test prints. In my head and on the screen of my iMac, the card image is a vibrant close-up shot of a few branch tips of my silver foil tree framing a nice shiny, brightly colored ornament. For the second test round, I used every little sliding button available in the standard photo editing package on my computer and altered the saturation, the tints, the detail. The result was three versions that look wicked cool on screen. Unfortunately, in print, every one of them is a dull, muddy mess that looks as rotten as the first failure. Instead of tweaking the photo more, I decided to reshoot it after yoga after work.

After work (and before yoga), a quick trip across town to Goodwill in North Clarksville was needed to acquire an “Ugly Christmas Sweater” for a party on Friday. There was an entire rack of the hideous things there before Thanksgiving and before the event was planned. On Black Friday, there was not a single one to be found at City Thrift. The next day there were none at the Goodwill nearest my house. This visit was my last hope. And it was hopeless. The only things on the “Christmas clothing” rack were assorted pajama bottoms and toddler wear, and this was the only “Christmas clothing” rack to be found in three thrift stores. As I purchased a Plan B sweater to be self-festooned to within an inch of its life, the clerk said the Christmas sweaters flew out the door. “Ugly Christmas Sweater” is big party theme in town this year. The worst part is – I had one from a party last year, and in total violation of my packrat tendencies, I donated it back to Goodwill during the spring “planning to move purge and pack initiative.” The same mission has all my Christmas bake ware held hostage in a box somewhere in the depths of the basement. I was, after all, supposed to be living somewhere closer to the North Pole by now.

After yoga, a trip to WalMart, and a bowl of “I can’t believe I even screwed up ramen” laced with Sriracha sauce and the last of the Cheeze Whiz (meaning no chance to start over), it was time to reshoot the Christmas card photo. The tripod was retrieved from the coat closet, first exciting the dogs, who were inspired by the sound of the coat closet door into thinking we were going for a nighttime stroll. This was followed by the sound of their claws scrambling on the hardwood floor as they made a harried escape from the tripod being set up. Although much less noisy, it is almost as horrific to them as the erection of the ironing board. Five frames into the reshoot, the battery died in the camera, suspending all photo activity until a recharge.

By this point, I was more than ready for the day to be over. I called it done and the dogs and I retired to bed. Thankfully, screwy days like this come around only once in a while.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Renewed Addiction

My posse in early 2008.
In late 2007 / early 2008, I had an addiction problem. Not drugs. Not alcohol. Not food. I was hooked on Korean TV shows. The network called AZN -- “Television for Asian Americans” -- aired Korean soap operas with English subtitles. I loved watching the Korean stories when I was in Seoul. They have a beginning, middle, and end, and are done after a finite number of episodes as opposed to American stories that run with nonsense for 30-plus years. I like them because the story lines are interesting and it’s fun looking for familiar places in Seoul -- like the many bridges over the Han River, Namsan Park, Seoul Tower, Iteawon, Seoul Hyatt, the subway. I love the way the male characters often dress -- so much nicer than anything in real life middle Tennessee.

My time in Seoul (2000 and 2001) was split between scorching, humid summer (three weeks) and three frigid winter months with two record breaking snowfalls (including on the day we were supposed to fly back to the States). The summer trip was loaded with sightseeing. The winter months involved lots of time enjoying the heated floors in our tiny apartment on Embassy Hill and channel bouncing between my stories, Oprah (who seemed to air all day every day), and a French music video channel, while my new husband was at work on Yongsan post.

When I landed in Tennessee from Seoul, I searched online for the Korean TV stations, looking for subtitled soap operas, but had no luck securing any. Videotapes were available in the Korean markets in Clarksville, but I didn’t feel comfortable asking for anything like that, so we’d just buy fish cake, Chinese pancakes, hot pepper paste, rice candy and yogurt drinks and be on our way.

Several years, one divorce, a residential relocation and a new cable provider later, I was excited to find my beloved Korean soaps available in my living room on the AZN network. Several months spent licking my wounds from the break-up included the wonderful distraction of three hours per night watching stories. Face time with real people was cast aside in favor of my shows. The baristas in “Coffee Prince” were my new best friends.

The one thing that saved me from complete, total, permanent social ruin was AZN itself. It went off the air. I took it hard. It was breakup recovery all over again.

Netflix DVDs filled in for a while until the pricing structure changed and a thorough budget and lifestyle review resulted in my cancellation of Netflix. With roller derby practice, meetings and events, plus belly dance class, plus arts events, and of course, work, I was rarely home long enough to watch the DVDs or even update my queue. With no Playstation, Wii, or Blue-Ray player, and no desire to watch on my computer, I was married to the DVDs, for better or worse.

The winds of life reversed, and my post-derby, sloth-like lifestyle allows for ample (excessive) time to stare at the flatscreen rectangle in the living room, even when I don’t like what is on. It fills the time. I provides noise and a semblance of companionship. A Thanksgiving Day conversation about the various hardware devices for streaming Netflix to a TV revealed to me the existence of Roku -- a small, magical device that works through wi-fi to stream to TV for a fraction of the cost of a  Playstation or a Wii. Sweetness!

Said magical unit was ordered immediately (on sale, even) and the agonizing weeklong wait for its arrival was somehow endured. It was agony.  And then, the glorious day arrived. In one bountiful delivery, two Christmas gifts plus the Roku gift to myself appeared in the office mail drop.

After work I connected the Roku, which was pretty easy. There was the renewed realization the the superbly helpful input button on the TV remote has ceased functioning and the buttons on the TV were accessed to change between cable, DVD player and Roku. Got that figured out.

When the Roku was hooked up it provided a registration code to be entered online. The logical choice was to use my netbook, conveniently parked in the living room, except it chose that moment to freeze up, mandating a trip to the office (and over the child-gates keeping the fur babies off the office carpet) to register on the desktop, then back into the living room for the next step. Back into the office to reactivate my dormant Netflix account .... the living room to check it on the TV and discover the only way to browse is by show name. Really? Even the show names I knew wouldn’t come up.

Back into the office to visit Netflix online and browse a gazillion shows in the familiar search formats. A queue was built, (heavy on Korean TV shows) and back into the living room to pull one up onto the TV. It loaded, but with English dubbing instead of Korean language with English subtitles.  I don’t actually speak Korean (except for “hello” and “thank you” and “sweetheart”) but I like how it sounds and I’d rather watch the shows in the original language. It took another 20 minutes to figure out the subtitles, which was finally resolved by searching the troubleshooting screens on the Netflix site and standing next to the TV pushing up and down arrows.

All the running back and forth was beginning to feel like a workout, which seemed like a clear benefit. And I was kind of proud of myself for getting it all squared away on my own, without the assistance of an external superior technological intellect.

Flower Boy Ramyun Shop.

With all the particulars worked out, it was time to settle in and start watching the first of 16 episodes of “Flower Boy Ramen Shop” ... which turned into the first three ... followed by a few more each night after work all week long. The word ramen in the title inspired me to indulge daily in my favorite creamy chicken ramen -- made with frozen vegetables and half-and-half. As soon as I locate a Korean market (the one I used to visit seems to have disappeared off the face of Fort Campbell Boulevard) I can restock with hot pepper paste and resume my beloved cheesy hot pepper ramen addiction, but for now, creamy chicken with mixed vegetables is wonderfully satisfying.

As for my social life and soap opera addiction, it’s feeling like early 2008 all over again. I guess this time, Netflix will need to close shop in order for me to be saved.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Ewwww Factor

Some days should come with a warning label.

The day might start out innocently enough: Cereal with orange juice and a cup of coffee; cuddles from doggies;  a sunshiney morning with temperatures registering in the 60s in December. Later, it might unfold to reveal a more unsavory side. It might be good to know this in advance.

After a shower, hair styling, and dressing in jeans and a lightweight silk sweater to run some errands, it was time to take the dogs outside to play for a few minutes in the beautiful day. We ran around the yard and practiced “sit” and “stay.” The elderly trees in my yard frequently fling their limbs, and in some cases, their entire beings to the ground during wind and storms, and I began picking up sticks. The dogs wandered around the yard. 

The few small sticks in the front yard were gathered, then larger sticks and branches from the drainage ditch parallel to the road, and soon, I was trotting through the woods behind the house and hauling out limbs taller than I am. My address is already on the list for Street Department yard debris pickup, so it made sense to make it worth their trip and tidy up as much as I could.

After five or six trips up the incline of the driveway, dragging tree parts behind me (sans work gloves), I noticed Winston was in the front yard huddled over something, which turned out to be a dried, boney, piece of furry animal remains. I got him away from it and got him into the house. To prevent him from eating it the next time he went out, I had to pick it up and bag it for the trash. With no gloves nearby, the ewww meter was on high, but I took care of it much the way I use a plastic bag to pick up the daily poo and without dancing around like a nut or screaming from touching a part of a dead animal through a plastic bag.

After washing my hands three or four times with antibacterial soap (until the skin was ready to peel off) I brushed the tree branch dirt off my jeans and sweater and made ready to leave the house. Even though I didn’t need anything, it was half-off day at Goodwill, and I have previously found vintage wardrobe treasures when I’m in there sightseeing. I ended up with an armload of stuff to try on -- skirts for work, a few sweaters and jackets, and a black raw silk coat that may not be vintage but matches perfectly the first item in my vintage dress collection -- my grandmother’s black raw silk dress, bought for her brother’s funeral in the early 1960s and given to me in the mid-1980s.

I headed into the giant dressing room that can accommodate a shopping cart and contains a clothing rod that was stuffed full of other customer’s rejected items. Great items have been found on the reject rack. As I was trying on my selections, I noticed a brown sweater and a black sweater on the floor. My previous retail experience, coupled my occasional OCD mean I often rehang things in stores, pick stuff up from the floor, straighten displays, so out of habit, I decided to pick up what someone else had tossed onto the floor. I reached out with my left hand and grasped the fabric to set it onto the rack, and two fingers touched wet fabric. As I held it up I saw a straight line of wetness on the sweater. And then the fragrance hit me. Not odorless water. Not sweet soda. Stinky pee.

And that was the day’s second ewwww factor, even grosser than the first. At least with the dead animal part, it was dried up and my hand was protected by the plastic shopping bag used to grab it. This time it was bare skin on someone else’s nasty ewwwww. Some people are just so damned disgusting they'll pee in a dressing room instead of getting the key to the restroom. Maybe it was a little kid. In any case, there are not enough excuses or skin disinfectant on the planet to remove the heebie jeebies from that one.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Local Flavor

The Christmas parade was tonight! Between the downtown streets closed for the sewer repair project and the streets closed for the downtown parade route, it was pure bliss navigating the area, and it took me 20 minutes to find an open street and a parking place. Then I walked the direct route to where I wanted to stand and missed a chunk of the parade on the circuitous route around the courthouse. 

I was supposed to meet a friend there, but by the time I got parked and situated, she had to leave to deliver her daughter to the riverfront for a singing gig by the high school choir -- ridiculously scheduled  to overlap the parade time, and setting her smack into crazy traffic from the closed streets, and also fulfilling my dread of being at the parade all alone. It’s one thing to be home alone. It’s entirely another to be in a crowd alone. And lonely. Nobody to talk to. Thank God for texting. Seriously. At least I can create the illusion I have people.

The minimum light requirements for participants make the parade pretty cool, but some of the “float” entries seem questionable. Like four cement mixers, all in a row.  Yup, we mix us some concrete here in these parts. They had festive lights on them and were clean, so I guess that counts for something. My hands-down favorite “float” was the go-cart disguised as a sleigh, with a little girl driving it -- from her perch atop a porcelain toilet. This was for one of the plumbing companies. The plumbing company vehicle followed. The theme was “Christmas Around the World” and everyone all over the world pees and poops (even on Christmas), so I guess that fits.

If I hadn’t gotten there late and had actually seen the group and the (legitimate) float I wanted to see -- the Red River Sirens Roller Derby team’s “Siren Assault,” maybe that would’ve been my favorite. This year, instead of being way back in the lineup, they were closer to the front.  Maybe the third year of participation earns a better spot. Or maybe it was earned with the prize winning float last year. However it happened, I missed it, and didn’t know I’d missed it until Santa and Mrs Claus, always the last float, rolled in.

In spite of my late arrival, I got to see the Tennessee State University marching band, which was quite an impressive group, and the best band I’ve ever seen in the parade. Of course, the last two years I was in the parade with the derby team and didn’t get to see much beyond the float behind us and the tail lights in front of us.

I also got to see the four Corvette convertibles transporting Miss, Junior Miss, Little Miss, and Mini Miss Black Clarksville, which made me wonder why we don’t have pageants for Miss White Clarksville, Miss Hispanic Clarksville or Miss Korean Clarksville. But sometimes I think too much.

After the parade ended, I slipped into the martini bar I was strategically positioned in front of.  Waiting out traffic with a drink seemed like a better idea than sitting in the car in the traffic, even if I was all alone. I managed to silence the voice in my head that insists on singing “Delta Dawn” and “Copacabana” on such occasions.

Even though it was a martini bar, I had beer because the martini menu was too large for my limited and fragile menu-processing capacity. I would still be there trying to decide, had I not ordered Guinness and been done with it. From the bar, there was an excellent view of the intersection with the traffic lights recently replaced by stop signs, and a couple near-failures of the new system.

I also got to chat with a guy named Chris from Nashville. He said he was a publicist, in town for an event Sunday morning. We talked about the drunk guy who had just left, Mr. Scotch and Soda, who Chris pegged as "military, just returned from war and now his wife just left him -- seen that look a million times now," and a little marketing/publicity stuff. He told me about the condo he wants to buy in Nashville, and his boyfriend, and his pay cut a few years ago that is more than my entire salary. He told me how he gets hit on by more guys in Clarksville -- who claim to be straight -- than any place he has ever been. Then he left to go meet his friends.

It was another one of those nights out in my world that remind why I stay home so much.