Saturday, July 29, 2006
A little L'Oréal for the ego never hurt!
12:25 pm cdt
weekends ago I got my hair cut. I was sick of how long it was, how it was so
hot, how much of it was falling out and clogging the shower drain. And I was
sick of how gray it was getting, so after I had about eight inches cut off, I bought some hair dye and colored it myself.
I did it again. I had two different shades in my hand at the store, and I asked
Jay which one he thought would look the best on me. He picked the redder one. I should have known. Whenever I color
my hair, it always turns out redder than the picture on the box. So instead of
golden blonde, I have strawberry blonde. I love it now. It’s just going to look weird when it grows out, like a big green streak down the middle of my head. But there are products for that. I think
I’ll add highlights in about a month to disguise the gray roots.
So now I’m cooler and more comfortable, which is good, because California has too much hot weather and apparently decided to send its leftovers to Wisconsin. This week it’s
been hot, hot, hot. Not the 118°F temps they’ve been having out west, but in
the 90s, with humidity that makes it feel like you’re living in the middle of a vast field of bubbling thermal mud pits. Last night, at 10:15pm, it was still 84°F out.
And by 9:45am today it was already 85°F, with a heat index of 91. Yeesh.
And there is another benefit to having shorter, non-gray hair.
I was at a local liquor store this week, and when I went through the checkout the thirty-something cashier carded me. Yep. When
he said “May I see your ID, please?” I actually looked around to see who he was talking to.
And then I realized it was me.
So I chuckled and pulled out my driver’s license. The
only one I have. The one that shows that my birth year is 1965. And I said “You have got to be kidding me”.
Of course, all the really witty comebacks came to mind as I was driving home. Like “Good thing I have this. I’d hate for you to have to
figure out my age by cutting off my leg and counting the rings.” Or “Good Grief! Did you leave your eyeglasses at home today?”
Or “I was old enough to buy beer when you were still watching He-Man and the Masters of the Universe!”
Because we old people get a little slow in the head, what with the gray hair and the wrinkles and
weather making us all cranky. Sometimes the zingers don’t zing as quickly as
we’d like them to.
But at least I'm ready for the next time I get carded.
Now, where did I put that box of hair highlighter?
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Year 2006... Part 392.
12:35 pm cdt
Locking your keys in your car while its engine is running.
Getting caught in a downpour without an umbrella.
Splitting a seam in your pants during gym class.
Like the seasons changing, or the sun rising, or your keys migrating to the very bottom of your purse, there are just
some things that are inevitable. No matter who you are or what you do, at some
point in your life you end up in these embarrassing situations. You could pick
ten Americans at random and stick them in a room with all the free Starbucks coffee and scones they wanted and tell them to
share their “war stories”, and by the end of the day they would all know what color underpants the others wore when they were
twelve. They’d also be bouncing off the walls, and three of them will have blueberry
stains somewhere embarrassing on their persons.
Then there are the exceptional situations, like locking yourself out of your hotel room wearing nothing but a towel. While one of my favorite bloggers has had this happen to her, not everyone will experience
this particular humiliation first-hand. Not being a world-traveler, or even a
frequent driver-to-places-that-require-an-overnight-stay, I doubt very much that I
will ever have to skulk through a lobby, using fake ficus as camouflage, in order to obtain a replacement key. At least I hope not. That is “one of those things” I hope
never happens to me.
But I got to experience one of those things just two days ago.
Wednesday night, 10:15 pm. The local meteorologist had just reported that
the overnight weather would be calm, with maybe a few sprinkles here and there. I
switched off the TV to avoid being inundated with baseball scores, and tucked back into my book. It was dark outside, the breeze was gentle, and the soft scent of ozoned air wafted across my
face from the air conditioner. Hey, the breeze may have been gentle, but it was
as humid as all get out. So we were using the thing. I mean, what’s the point of having an air conditioner if all it does is provide a shelf on your balcony?
Later that evening, I went to bed. I had six hours before I had to
get up and get ready for work. No problem; I’m not a person who needs eight hours
of beauty sleep. Believe me; it’s not going to make any difference. I could take a nap that rivals Rip Van Winkle’s and still not get a modeling contract. Not even for the cover photo of the official magazine of the AARP.
But Mother Nature (in collusion with the Year 2006, whom we know has it in for me) had other plans. Plans she didn’t share with that meteorologist. And those
plans woke up most of southern Wisconsin at about 2:30 am.
A simultaneous strobe of lightning, shuddering rumble of thunder, and the beep-beep-beep of our answering machine as
the electricity went off shook Jay and me from our slumber. It’s not very often
that both of us go from deep, restful sleep to complete wakefulness in an instant, but there we were, sitting up in bed, adrenaline
pumping. We decided to go downstairs and check out the storm. We didn’t need to turn a light on (and duh, we couldn’t, because the power
was out) because the near-constant lightning bolts provided plenty of illumination.
And the wind… we have a lot of big, tall, mature trees in our neighborhood, and this wind was whipping them as if they
So Jay turned on his hand-held scanner and tuned it to the National Weather Service band. The storm was moving at 65 miles per hour, and a wind gust of over 80 mph had been reporting less than
five miles away from us.
And the power was still out.
It takes a lot to knock out the electricity in our city. It takes more
to keep it out. Despite that, Jay and I still keep an arsenal of battery-operated
devices “just in case”. Growing up out in the country, where an ice storm can
keep you in the dark for two weeks, you learn to hang on to those kinds of things. So
I set the battery-operated alarm clock, and we each put a flashlight on our nightstand, and we settled back down to sleep. Hoping that two and a half hours later, when it was time for me to get ready for work,
everything would be back to normal.
The alarm went off at 5:30 am. And the power was still out.
Normally this would not be a big deal. But the day before had been a hot
and steamy one, and I really needed to take a shower. I could make do with washing
my armpits and brushing my teeth with bottled water, and I could slick down my hair and put it in a ponytail. I had clean clothes to wear, a flashlight to illuminate my ablutions, and a granola bar for breakfast. But there was one thing I couldn’t find a non-electrical substitute for. It was our apartment building’s automatic garage door opener. The
one without an emergency bypass. The one that, when the power goes out, takes
a nuclear detonation to dislodge.
So I was praying for the power to come back on. I had an hour – an hour
and fifteen minutes if I really wanted to push it – before I had to leave for work.
I pulled Jay’s Walkman radio out of his bag and tuned it to the VHF band to listen to the local TV morning show. I enjoyed my chewy-chocolate-coated-granola-y breakfast. And I waited.
I was just about to call my boss and ask him if he could pick me up on his way to work when, with a flurry of beeping
and flashing little red and green and amber lights, the electricity came back on. And
stayed on. It was 6:15 am. I decided
to hop in the shower.
Five minutes later, with shampoo in my hair, “one of those things” happened.
The power went out again.
And stayed out.
I used what water pressure was left to rinse my hair, gave my pits a quick sponge bath, and dried off. By the time I was dressed, the power still hadn’t come back on.
So I called my boss. Because, brilliant me, I hadn’t thought to toss Jay
the car keys and tell him to get the car out of the garage while I was in the shower.
Because, even though you hear stories about it happening all the time, you never think the power is going to go off
when you are in the middle of shampooing your hair.
Even after 80-mph wind gusts knock over a bunch of trees in your city, and the trees fall on power lines, and those
power lines are the ones that deliver electricity to your house.
I actually caught a ride to work with my old boss. And a co-worker gave
me a ride to our main office, where another co-worker gave me a ride home after picking up her son from daycare. What is usually a fifteen-minute drive home took almost two hours.
I was never so happy to get home and find the power was on and the garage door opener worked and there was lots of
water pressure. Because while I enjoy having someone to talk to on the way to
work, I know that if I joined a car-pool, eventually we would run out of subjects to discuss.
And I really don’t want to know what color underwear my co-workers wore in sixth grade gym class.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
Nobody Likes Me. Everybody Hates Me. Guess I'll Go Eat... Macaroni and Cheese.
10:48 am cdt
When I was a kid, I was always the one picked last in gym class. Softball,
volleyball, broom ball, bean ball; whatever stick-and/or-ball sport we were playing that week, our teacher would name two
team captains, who would take turns picking from the rest of us. It was a scene
executed on elementary school playgrounds across the nation… the girls doing the selecting always had that mysterious blend
of popularity, athletic prowess, and self confidence. The “jock” girls were picked
first, the popular girls were next… and then came the group I was in. The girls
who couldn’t hit a softball out of the infield (if we were lucky enough to hit the damn thing at all), the girls who spent
most of a broom ball game skating desperately in what ended up being the wrong direction, the girls who could run rings around
the jocks in band or choir or English Literature, as if that mattered in the greater sphere of Junior High. In our braces and hand-me-down gym clothes, we squirmed in silence as the captains stood, brows delicately
furrowed, trying to decide which of us would do the least damage. If I wasn’t
the absolute last person chosen, I was second to last. Not that that was any
reason to celebrate.
Of course, this was years before public school systems came up with the enlightened ideas of no-cut teams and swing-until-you-get-a-hit
and we’re-not-gonna-keep-score. Back then, Phy. Ed. was the ultimate humiliation
tool, wielded without pity by blow-dried, Nike-clad, whistle-toting harpies and their doting minions. The scars left by those experiences may have healed and faded, but sometimes a bubble of bitterness surfaces,
like a drop of oil from a long-sunken warship.
It surfaces when your co-workers bring treats on everyone’s birthday, but somehow yours gets missed. It surfaces when your family forgets to include your address in their email update letter. Or when your waitress refills every drink at your table except yours.
The simplest thing can trigger that bewildered, hurt feeling that nobody cares.
It makes you want to crawl under your bed and never come out, because the dust bunnies are your friends, and they’ll
never reject you because you can spell a word better than you can spike a volleyball.
But I didn’t have time to roll with the rabbits on Monday. Because there
was someone who did want me, quite terribly. There was time for a comfort food
lunch (macaroni and cheese) and some sips of government soda, but none for self-pity.
And that was probably a good thing.
The morning was gorgeous, and not just because I got to sleep in an extra hour.
It was one of those blue-sky, cool-breeze summer mornings that was only enhanced by the fact that I wasn’t pelting
down the Beltline on my way to work. I was pelting down the Beltline, but I was
on my way to the courthouse. The County Clerk
had my number, and I was on my way to perform my civic duty. Jury duty, that
is. Downtown. Li’l ol’ me.
So after plugging the parking meter with every last coin I had (except the pennies, because God knows I have like a
million of them but nobody wants pennies for meters or vending machines or anything else where they might be incredibly useful)
I rushed across the street, sent myself and my purse through security (now I know what tampons look like in an x-ray machine),
and reported to the clerk with thirty seconds to spare. She gave me a clip-on
juror badge, a ticket good for a free drink in the cafeteria, a four-part form to fill out, and directed me to the waiting
I got about three rounds knit on Mom’s sock before we got our official “welcome” from the County Clerk of Courts. Then came a thrilling video where we found out what jury duty was all about… just in case we didn’t read
the informational brochure that was sent to us with our summons. It even had
celebrities in it, like Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. Woo.
Then it was sit and wait for the judges to decide how many jurors they needed for each of that week’s cases. We were told the cases that would probably only take one day… except one. I could sense a collective “Oh, Gawd, don’t let me get that
one” silent cry rising into the air.
About an hour into the ordeal, the first group of jurors was called. Numbers
one through thirty-eight. I was juror number 90.
It was going to be a long morning.
But about twenty minutes later, the clerk called jurors forty through one hundred seven. I was up. We gathered in the hallway, and the bailiff herded
us into two elevators. Then we were guided into a courtroom.
Inside sat the prosecuting attorney, the court stenographer, a court clerk, a defense attorney, the defendant, another
man at the defense table, and the judge. I took one look at the clerk and my
heart sank. I didn’t know she was just a clerk.
I saw someone who looked exactly like the Dane County Executive, sitting next to a judge that I knew to be a real hard-ass. I mean, this judge looks like he could star on The Sopranos. He
could be Robert De Niro’s tougher cousin. And he was scowling at us.
Then he started talking. And the purpose of the second man at the defense
table became clear. He was an interpreter.
And he was speaking French.
My thoughts swung wildly between Oh-my-Gawd-this-is-the-big-case-and-what-did-this-guy-do-that-Kathleen-Falk-is-here
The clerk that looked like the Dane County
Executive started calling out names, and the bailiff took each person’s four-part form.
One copy to the judge, one to the prosecution, one to the defense, and one to the clerk. Twenty-two names later, and I was called. There was only one
person selected after me. Not that that was any reason to celebrate.
We then found out that the defendant was being charged with criminal failure to pay child support. And the judge asked us if we knew anyone involved in the case, and if that would compromise our ability
to hear the case fairly. Surprisingly, I didn’t know anyone there. I didn’t even know anyone else in my jury pool. Some of them
were from other areas of the county, so I guess that’s why.
Then the prosecuting attorney asked us if any of us had experience with the child support system. And since Jay has been paying for the last twelve years, I said yes, I am in a long-term relationship with
a man who pays child support. And when the attorney asked if any of us had experience
with payments outside the government child-support system, I also answered yes, that before the court-ordered amount was set,
my boyfriend paid cash directly to his soon-to-be ex-wife.
Then the attorney asked if any of us watched crime shows, like CSI or Law and Order or Judge Judy. And the De Niro-look-alike judge joked that no-one would ever mistake him for Judge Judy. Duh, I thought, you’re
obviously not Judge Judy. You don’t have a cute, lacy collar at the neck of your
Then the juror list was passed back and forth and back and forth between the defense table and the prosecution table. I could see some names had been crossed out, but not which ones. But finally they agreed on a jury. The list was passed to
the bailiff, who gave it to the clerk. One by one, she read off the names of
the jurors. Twelve plus an alternate.
My name wasn’t on it.
And they hadn’t even asked if any of us spoke French.
We rejects returned to waiting room purgatory, where we were told to wait in case we were needed for another jury. I decided that this would be the perfect time to get my free soda, just in case I
was picked for another jury (like the one for the big case, which I later found out was a man being charged with two counts
of attempted murder) and not given the opportunity to visit the cafeteria.
So I did, and about fifteen minutes and twenty knit stitches later they announced that all the juries were seated,
and the rest of us could go home. We had fulfilled our duty.
Back in the parking ramp, I called Jay, then the girl that was covering for me at work, and then my boss. My boss was almost as relieved as I was that I wasn’t going to have to deal with this any more. Because we are “busier than snot” at work. They’re predicting
that June was the third busiest month in branch history, and July is going to be even worse.
Or better. Whatever. And
they can’t really afford to have me gone. Even if I bought them DQ Blizzards. In special flavors, like Judge Fudge. Or
Court-land Apple. Or Bench Vanilla.
And it’s probably for the best that I didn’t get picked. Because it would
have been really difficult for me not to blog about the experience. And we were
told not to divulge any of the details of the case to anyone. I don’t think I’ve
broken that pledge with what I’ve described here. I sure hope not.
Because I don’t need that tough mafia-looking judge to put me on some kind of chain gang.
That’s a team I don’t want to be picked first for.
Saturday, July 8, 2006
I don't have to move to the Big City. The Big City is coming to me.
12:33 pm cdt
Yeah, we have like a dozen farmers markets and nice libraries and a big university and a funky downtown pedestrian
mall and you can sleep at night with your windows open and if you can believe Daverino we’ll all be able to hop on a neat-o
trolley really soon and ride wherever we want. Yup, it’s the utopia of the Midwest, that is, if you
believe the Mayor and the president of Downtown Madison, Inc.
But if I were a newcomer to this city, I don’t know if I’d want to settle down here.
You see, even though you can get just about anything you want in this place, and still breathe the air, and every third
person you meet is not named “Bubba”, this city is starting to go to seed. And it’s not just because Daverino stopped mowing the street medians and parks.
The farmer’s markets are great, if you want to pay $12 for one tomato. And
before you ask, no, that isn’t a 12-pound tomato. It’s just a little ‘un, about
the right size to fit in your palm and hurl at someone you loathe, if you were crazy enough to let a $12 tomato get rotten,
and willing to spend that much to see it go splat on your nemesis’ chest.
The libraries are great, too, until you walk past the free computers and see some pervert surfing the you-know-what
sites. And the computers are right next to the children’s section. Brilliant.
Then you have the university, which at this time of year is blissfully empty except for the summer school students. They’re the only college students I can respect, at least mostly, because generally
they are the only ones actually taking classes and not spending their post-secondary years frantically purchasing someone
else’s homework off the internet during their short breaks between beer bong sessions and shouting profanity in unison at
university sporting competitions, like during the other nine months of the year.
But this city is getting dangerous. Most residents (especially ones who
are paid with our tax money) are pooh-poohing it off, saying that this is a safe city, and that these are “random events”. Yeah, sorry, folks; I don’t believe you.
You see, it’s getting to the point where there is a mugging somewhere in the city nearly every effing night. That’s right.
Every. Effing. Night.
They usually happen around bar time, or at least after dark. Most of the
victims are walking alone or with one other person, and are frequently drunk. The
greatest concentration of attacks has been downtown or on the university campus. The
perps hang out in groups, and have a habit of beating their victims silly. One
poor fool last week got two broken ribs, a black eye, and multiple lacerations besides having his wallet stolen.
Then there’s the weirdo who has been breaking into homes in the city. At
first he was just surprising women as they exited their shower. Okay, these women
weren’t too smart for leaving their house or apartment doors unlocked while they were bathing.
But this guy is getting bolder. A woman woke up just yesterday morning
with this creep lying on top of her in her bed.
He’d cut the screen of her patio door to get in.
And the city’s reaction to these events? Their brilliant plan to stop
the violence? They have none, except to tell us that we’re safe, and to lock
our doors. Then they announce that one of the city’s more notorious events (notorious
for devolving into rioting mobs of drunken idiots bent on destruction), that is, Halloween on State Street, may be handled better this fall if they charge admission.
I commented on that insane idea on our local print media’s message board. The
newspaper even printed my comment, including when I told Mayer “Daverino” to get a clue.
But I don’t think it helped.
Between the trolley fumes and the pollen from all the interesting “weeds” growing in the parks and on the medians in
town, I don’t think everything’s copasetic between Daverino’s ears.
Madison. I’ve always called it “The Biggest Small Town in the World”. Looks
like now it’s becoming “The Smallest Big City in the World.”
Hey, newcomers? Before you close on that house, you may want to inspect
the locks again.
Saturday, July 1, 2006
Halfway through 2006... And I Get an Intermission.
4:54 pm cdt
Just when I thought that life was handing me lemons and demanding I make lemonade without the benefit of sugar, water,
pitchers, glasses, or Jack LaLanne’s Power Juicer (“The Fastest, Healthiest, Freshest Juice in Seconds!”), I get a reprieve.
I got to Sip-N-Knit club on time today. The LYS owner had made my favorite, decaf
hazelnut coffee. And she was having
a sale! 20-50% off! And when I called the Clerk of Courts phone recording, I found out I don’t have to report for jury duty next week. And the three brothers who own the company
I work for decided to give everyone Monday, July 3rd, off.
I had two teeth drilled and filled on Wednesday, and they don’t hurt a bit. And
tonight is the NASCAR race formerly known as the Firecracker 400 at Daytona. And it’s on broadcast TV.
I don’t even care that I had to tink half a row back on my sunsette shell because I missed a decrease. After months of stress, disappointment, and upheaval, God decided to give me a little break from the chaos.
So, to celebrate, I bought yarn. (Hey, it was on sale. Lunch was more expensive than the yarn I bought.)
I hope I can make this little bubble of happiness last through the holiday.
God knows I deserve it.