28 Aug 2015

This Nerd Has Flown.

Written by sally @ 2:00 pm — Section: longreads,sally

In 11th grade, my friends Jim and Heather started dating. This would prove to be hilarious for everyone in retrospect, as it was clear that Jim was gay. In the late 80s/early 90s in Garland, Texas, though, there were no gay people. I knew they existed, like the Loch Ness Monster, but I didn’t have any personal experience with them. And there certainly weren’t any at my school. However, as it turns out, Jim was not the only one who would turn out to be gay: everyone I knew was gay (including Heather!).

Anyway, Jim and Heather were in a form of 16-year old love, and because it was 1989 and they didn’t know they were gay yet, they dated, and then they broke up. This was painful for everyone, of course, the breaking of young hearts and whatnot (whatnot = hymens), but worse because we were all on newspaper staff together, which was a class that met during 4th period each day. Perhaps I could blame this frosty environment on my story submissions that year:

Survey: Are Your Parents Too Strict?
Twins: They Are Fascinating
Music: Insight into a Teen’s Soul?

Yes: These Were Actual Stories I Wrote.

One day after they’d broken up, Jim attempted to reconcile with Heather by bringing her a cellophane-wrapped Single Red Rose. The part that I found especially hilarious was that Jim didn’t have a car, and so I enjoyed imagining this gay guy asking his mom to stop at the 7-11 so he could pop in and buy his ex-girlfriend a flower. It was a nice gesture, but it was obviously awful. Heather was not into public displays, such as handholding or talking to each other in front of other people, but she was especially not into roses, and even if she were, she would not be into this one from a gas station.

He opened his backpack during newspaper class and showed me the rose. “Oh, god. No. You cannot give her this.”

It was determined that throwing it away in the newspaper trash would draw attention, so we decided to hide it.

Directly across the hall from the journalism lab was the back door of the auditorium, where the backstage area was. We went in, and in the dark, we saw that next to the ropes that open the curtains there was an antiquated and abandoned lightboard built into the wall, probably installed when the building was constructed twenty years earlier. Under the long-broken dials and slide controls, there was a drawer, presumably to hold the latest in inexpensive stage equipment, circa 1968. The rose was deposited there and dismissed.

Except sometimes, when newspaper class was especially boring, Jim would whisper, Let’s do a plant check. We would dart across the hall and note the rose’s progress from symbol of convenience store affection to crusty remnant of teenage love. It remained there throughout the year, and miraculously, the North Garland High School production of Romeo and Juliet (for which I was stage manager and the crucial-to-Shakespeare’s-vision Townsperson #2) did not disturb the rose in its grave. Perhaps Lady Capulet opened the drawer, saw the rose and quickly closed it again, thankful that she was neither the rose’s donor nor its recipient.

Either way, it was still there the next year, and Jim, Heather, and I were all still on newspaper staff. Being on staff had its advantages, namely in the form of the press pass. This not only allowed you to leave campus on occasion (although it did not help me the time I tried to steal a friend’s car just so I could tell her I did, had a sudden attack of forgetting how to operate a moving vehicle, and was denied access out of the parking lot by the lot attendant, who sent me back inside), but even better, it gave you permission to casually walk into the administrative office and look up someone’s schedule, allegedly in order to get the person out of class for interviews or photos. While this part was fun for getting your friends out of class for a few minutes, the noteworthy part of this was that class schedules also had other tidbits of hard-to-obtain information like addresses, phone numbers, and locker combinations. Just in case you are in the business of having crushes on people you’ve never spoken to and are hard up for information about them, breaking into their lockers could give you some key insight into their life depending on what you find. Like I did when I broke into this handsome track team guy’s locker and found a jock strap and The Book of Mormon (sadly not the musical soundtrack).

Sometimes during newspaper class I pretended to employ my press pass and would instead go backstage, do a plant check, and then sit in the darkened auditorium for the remainder of the class period. You may wonder how I was able to write fair and balanced stories peppered with student opinions if I was instead hiding in the dark. The shocking answer is that I made the quotes up. And when I had attributed opinions about the cafeteria’s new fries to my friends too many times, I crossed the line even farther and made up Lang Pha, junior, who was quoted as saying, “This is deplorable and also racist that you thought no one would notice a fake Vietnamese person.”

One day when I was about to give Lang Pha a real workout, I went into the back door of the auditorium to do a quick plant check. I was already inside when I heard someone playing the piano onstage. Not just that: someone was playing “Eleanor Rigby.”

I stood in the wings and watched. I knew him. His name was Andy and we had had a few classes together throughout the years, but he had gone off to a program for supersmarties our junior year — he was part of the TAMS program, the Texas Academy of Math and Science, where high school kids have the opportunity to go to college early their junior or senior years. I felt terrible for this guy for getting to go live on campus for a year and then have to come back to the confines of high school. (Later, I felt bad for myself, as the TAMS program was housed at the University of North Texas, where I ended up going. It is annoying to say the least to be upstaged in French class by the 15-year old in the beret and trench coat.)

Andy was about as awkward as they come — not only was he smart, which is already the kiss of death, but he was extremely tall and lanky with a big pouf of orangey-white cotton candy hair. He had eyebrows and eyelashes to match, which is to say he looked as though he had none.

He heard me come in and stopped playing, thinking he had been busted.

“Hello?”
“Hey. Andy? Hi.”
“Hi.”
“What are you doing?”

He explained that on Thursdays he came to school for half days after taking classes at the community college in the morning. A few weeks ago, he had discovered the piano, probably there for a choir rehearsal.

“What are you doing in here?” he asked.
“Oh. I was just…checking…on something. Play some more!”
“You pick something.”

Andy had the Complete Beatles Songbook and so I chose “Norwegian Wood,” and because we were insulated in our darkened auditorium, we sang. Not particularly well, perhaps, but we opened our mouths and sang like only suburban teenaged nerds who are mildly breaking the rules can do.

I am not a good singer, but at the time I probably thought I was gracing Andy with my gift. My sophomore year, our school put on a production of Mame and I wanted to be Vera, the sidekick (you know she’s the sidekick because the show isn’t called Vera). I was called back after my stellar audition, during which I sang “One” from A Chorus Line and did jazz hands in earnest, to sing for the role of Vera. I did not get it. A week later I failed geometry and had to relinquish my spot in the chorus, as you were not allowed in fun time extra-curriculars like theater if you were a flunkie, so I wouldn’t have been able to be Vera anyway.

However, the drama teacher told me later that she knew I made cruddy grades and had talked to my geometry teacher, who confirmed to her that I was incapable of identifying a triangle, and that was why I was not given the role of Vera. While it is possible that she made a point of telling everyone who auditioned and then failed a class that the impending bad grades were the reason they didn’t get the part, I chose — choose — to believe that Vera and I have the kind of theatrical fate reserved for true star pairings.

But we were singing. It didn’t hurt that while I was not popular in any form, I was miles above Andy on the totem pole of coolness. Yes: I thought about such things. Where do I rank? Am I cuter? Smarter? Funnier? I might’ve also been under the impression that Andy was madly in love with me, which was based upon something he wrote in my freshman yearbook. In my memory, it was something fairly overt, but when I looked at it recently, oof. The synapses in my brain were firing, but in another language or using a different set of instructions.

Because I was Andy’s waitress for a spaghetti dinner fundraiser, he wrote this in my yearbook — keep in mind this is what I thought meant that Andy loved me: “You make a great waitress, even though you were headed for better things.” (I suppose if nothing interesting ever happens to you AND you read a lot of books, you could maybe make that into a secret love declaration.)

The next Thursday, I left newspaper class under the guise of hard-hitting journalistic integrity and instead went directly into the auditorium. Our secret Beatling resumed with “Hello, Goodbye,” a fitting song due to the fact that outside of the auditorium, Andy and I did not acknowledge the other’s presence. There may have been a brief nod pass between us in the hall, but no high-fiving or HEY ISN’T IT AWESOME THAT WE SING BEATLES SONGS TOGETHER IN THE DARK or anything that would betray that we shared a weird, nerdy secret.

Our underground Beatles sessions continued for the next few weeks and once, while we were singing, I crossed the line. You can’t expect hormonal teenagers to have secret meetings without something happening. Unlike Angela Chase and Jordan Catalano meeting in the janitor’s closet for feverish making out, however, I placed my hand on his shoulder and then took it off as if he were an unattended stove. We did not speak of it.

The next week, I opened the auditorium door to find…nothing. It was dark. There was no piano, no Andy, no Andy’s shoulder for me to molest, and no Complete Beatles Songbook. While I wasn’t interested in Andy as a boyfriend, it was hard not to have tender feelings for the experience. I have always been a terrible secret-keeper, especially when the secrets are my own, and I managed to keep this one, even though part of the reason was embarrassment. How could I accurately explain this to my friends? Y’all, you know the guy with the poof of orangey hair? No, not that guy, that guy’s an albino. This one is only kind of albino-y and his eyelashes are kind of invisible and he’s tall and in honors classes. Not ringing a bell? Oh, well, never mind. I was going to tell you how we meet secretly to, you know — no, not that! Jesus. We meet secretly to sing Beatles songs. (Perhaps I wouldn’t have been so close-mouthed had I been meeting some standard-level-hot football player, but if that were the case, I wouldn’t have approached him at the piano and I really wouldn’t have sung “Norwegian Wood,” because as we know all football players are dumb and only listen to Whitesnake.)

In the spring, I took my favorite high school class: Advanced Reading. It was an honors class where we read and discussed books, played word games like Balderdash or Scrabble, and did handouts on prefixes and suffixes. As someone who not only has a favorite reference book, but also a favorite dictionary, I could go for a big damp pile of mimeographed etymology handouts right about now, even if the purple ink was smudgy and hard to read. (Do you remember the smell? I never liked it, but the kids that I remember opening their nostrils and taking big gulping nosefuls of the aroma were also the kids who turned out bad and ended up in woodworking class.)

Monthly we had to present a book to the class, which was fine except for the visual aid requirement. Visual aids require effort and time, and as someone who often did her 3rd period homework during 2nd period, this posed a problem. When I had to tell the class all about The Member of the Wedding — Carson McCullers’s novel about Frankie, a 12-year-old girl who is kind of in love with her brother and his bride — I conveniently forgot about the visual aid and figured I would just have to get points off for having no such thing. Until in 2nd period government class, I did this: I wrote out an invitation to the wedding of Janice Adams, Jarvis Addams, and Frankie Addams (along with the title and author) four times on a sheet of paper. Then I folded it up, jammed it in my pocket, and asked if I could go to the restroom. Then I went to the library, made copies of the invitation, and cut them out. Back in class, I borrowed some girl’s pink and purple markers and scribbled swirly doodles around the edges. In Advanced Reading, I put one invitation on each student’s desk and saved my own ass. Beats a lame poster board any day.

member of the wedding

Actual sample invitation, c. 1990

A poster board was in order, however, when Rebecca Watson and I were to present The Catcher in the Rye, as group work requires one to at least attempt to have it together and do one’s work ahead of time. Amanda and I were okay friends even though she was popular and was the drill team captain. I was fascinated when she would tell me about her boyfriend, Sandy, especially this story: during Arby’s 5 for $5 campaign, Sandy would pick up 5 Beef’ n Cheddars and then they would get a hotel room and alternate between doing it and eating Arby’s. I had never done either one so this story stuck with me.

Our Catcher in the Rye presentation was on February 15, so Rebecca was coming over on Valentine’s Day to work on the poster. When I got home from school that day, I checked the mail and found that my dad had put a jumbo bag of peanut M&Ms in there as a Valentine’s gift. As I opened them in my room, the bag ripped and peanut M&Ms flew all over my bed. Then the doorbell rang. Rebecca was early.

While I did see a glimpse of something red through the stained-glass front door, I thought it was Rebecca’s drill team uniform. People, it was not. It was Andy. He was not in the darkened auditorium, hunched over a baby grand like the Phantom of the Opera in his underground lair, but standing in the harsh afternoon light, the sun making his puffy, orange-white hair glow like an electric halo atop his head … while he clutched a cellophane-wrapped Single Red Rose.

Dramatic pause.

A brief quiz! Guess what happened next.

a) I said, “Thank you very much for the cellophane-wrapped Single Red Rose! Shall we embrace and/or kiss with tongue?”
b) I burst into flames out of embarrassment.
c) I said, “Oh, thanks” and casually took the rose from him like he was returning a Pyrex dish his mother had borrowed.

Then I offered my guest some peanut M&Ms, and even though I said, “Wait, let me pick them up — they’re all over the bed,” he half sat, half laid down on my bed on top of the M&Ms. Perhaps he thought I had sprinkled them there in the hopes that a gentleman caller would come by and recline on them, or perhaps he thought I would go hunting for them, but either way, he wasn’t deterred.

The doorbell rang again. Shit! It was Rebecca, the symbol of all that is popular bouncing through the door in her drill team uniform. Fortunately Rebecca had probably received many unsolicited Single Red Roses and similar gestures in her life, so she didn’t even react when she saw this skinny near-albino in repose on my candy-strewn bed with a Single Red Rose lying on the desk.

We got to work on our unimaginative poster board and planned to draw Holden’s brother Allie’s baseball mitt and then write poems all over it in green ink. Only our attempts at drawing a mitt looked like Mickey Mouse gloves.

“We need a mitt,” Rebecca said.
“Maybe my brother has one in his closet,” I said. I found it, but our attempts at drawing it were no better than when we had nothing to go on.
“I have a glove,” Andy said.
“It doesn’t matter — we still suck as artists.”
“No, I mean, I have a glove you can have. It’s new. I just got it. You can write poems on it.”

Obviously, I could do no such thing, especially not a brand new glove. It was certainly a sweet gesture, much sweeter and more spontaneous than a Single Red Rose. Romantic teenage boys, none of whom are reading this, take note: giving a girl a baseball mitt with poems in green ink is one million percent nicer than a Single Red Rose.

Andy ended up drawing the glove for us (using the new glove as a model), and then he left. I don’t think we spoke again for the rest of the school year. What was there to say? “Thanks for the rose and the Norwegian Wood, but no thanks to the rest you are undoubtedly offering”?

In the fall when we went to our separate colleges, he got my address from a mutual friend and we exchanged a few letters. An example of the kinds of letters I received:

Hi Tracy. How is school? Here is a list of the things I have in my dorm room: tv, microwave, Magic 8 Ball, Casio keyboard. Soon I’m going to get a lava lamp. Well, gotta go. Sincerely, Andy

I successfully dodged meeting up with him when we were both home for Christmas, and he stayed at his college over the summer, but one night my sophomore year, the phone in my dorm room rang — twice. It was the on-campus ring. I was suspicious because all of my friends were too cool to live on campus and my dorm friends just came over if they wanted something.

“Hello?”
“Hey, Tracy! It’s Andy Phelps!”
Pause. I was suspicious.
“Oh, hi! What are you doing? Are you…on campus?”
“Yeah, I’m at the Union. I was just coming through town and wanted to see if you wanted to get something to eat.”

It was here. I had avoided him, but here he was a few buildings away, cashing in on that hand on his shoulder two years before.

In a robotic voice completely devoid of emotion or human feeling, I said as if it were one word, “Oh wow huh you know what that sounds really fun but I can’t.” My mother taught me to say as little as possible in these situations, and for once I didn’t blather on and make up weird excuses.

There was silence except for the sounds of Andy breathing into the phone and the mild rumble of air conditioning and people talking in the background.

Then I added in a cheery voice, “But write me a letter when you get back to school!”

Another silence.

And then he said something that I’ve never forgotten, something that I feel certain is etched upon my soul. He said, “I don’t have time for that kind of crap.” And then he hung up.

I go back and forth between thinking I was mean to him and thinking my behavior was ok. On the one hand, perhaps hand-on-shoulder secret singing was a breach of friendly behavior and I was leading him on. On the other hand, I was only leading him on to the next page of the Complete Beatles Songbook. On the one hand, I wanted to correspond with him at college. On the other, I pretty clearly defined the kind of relationship I was interested in with him: underground, on paper, with musical accompaniment.

Perhaps I should have explicitly stated, “I do not wish to kiss you, ever, even if your rendition of ‘If I Fell’ is making me swoon a little in this darkened auditorium where we are both breaking the rules and cutting class when we are nerds who generally do not do this sort of thing, except I actually am the sort to do this sort of thing and you don’t know it because we don’t know each other and therefore you don’t know that I got in-school suspension for using vulgar language (‘butt’) and also had to go to Saturday School for unexcused absences. But you are a very nice boy and I appreciate the new glove offer. I predict that you will marry a nice girl and have two cute children with her, as evidenced by your Facebook profile twenty years later.”

And when I awoke, I was alone. This nerd had flown.

10 Aug 2015

Books! Also, Hi.

Written by sally @ 3:23 pm — Section: bookish,sally

[I’m going to skip the part where I acknowledge that it’s been almost a year since I’ve posted here, as there’s no exciting/juicy/murderous story to go along with it. Although I did find a draft from June about how awful the movie Aloha was, and how delighted my pal David was to see it, and how at every turn when it got worse and worse, that his eyes lit up more and more. Y’all. Everything you heard was true. Worst movie of all time.]

Anyway, since I’ve been posting, like, every day and all lately, y’all are probably sick of hearing about the books I’ve been reading and what I think of them, but here’s a recap of 2015′s notable books:

Station Eleven: I never read dystopian nightmare apocalyptic stuff. Not my bag. Everyone’s dead? WHO CARES. However, I started this without knowing what it was about, and the traveling Shakespeare angle really appealed to me. I loved this book. Savage and beautiful and just all-around interesting. 14 thumbs up.

All the Light We Cannot See: Perhaps one of the most gorgeous books I’ve ever read. I would’ve liked this story had it been told stripped down, Hemingway-style, but add in gorgeous language and I was a goner. I recommend drinking a few beers and then finding a kindly person to recount each detail of the plot to. You will feel as though you wrote this book, and then when you cry at the end of your plot-telling, you will be in awe of your own genius, moving you to tears. 23 thumbs up.

Life After Life: I didn’t really know about Kate Atkinson…she never clicked with me before, but this book was amazing. We meet Ursula Todd at birth. The midwife is late arriving. Ursula dies. We meet Ursula Todd at birth. The midwife makes it. Ursula lives. I’ve always liked Ian McEwan books because they seem to focus on the one tiny second that changes a person’s fate, and this book really drives that point home (and then makes out with it in the car) (sorry). I didn’t want it to end! And I bought her new book that’s about Ursula’s brother, Teddy, but I can’t bear to start it because then it will end. 20 thumbs up.

I read some real dumb books, too, but I’ll save those for the next time I post something, which is so totally going to be tomorrow.

24 Sep 2014

The Last Letter from Your Author.

Written by sally @ 3:25 pm — Section: sally

I’ve been reading a lot of what I’m very sexist-ly calling ladyfiction. It’s like Fiction: For Her! Much like the Bic pens that are also For Her, ladyfiction concerns the following:

–true love
–fate interfering with said true love
–strife!!
–heartache!!!!!
–tears (mine)
–an implausibly happy ending

If this sounds like a great way to pass the evening, you might consider reading Jojo Moyes. The Girl You Left Behind is the best (includes, but is not limited to: France, painting, war, love, thievery, grief, love, strife), then Me Before You (do you like British quadriplegics and crying your eyes out? then you’ll love this book!), then The Last Letter from Your Lover (that title…is awful). Look, I have devoured three of these in the past month, so I’m not judging. We all need a little strifey true love in our lives. However, I am also not necessarily recommending them, as I would not say they are high literature.

Last night on Twitter, I also did not say that they are high literature. In fact, I said that they were dumb (note: they ARE dumb). And even though I did not tag Jojo Moyes in my “hey I read some dumb books” tweet, she replied back (note: cheeky!) and apologized (CHEEKY!). And while I am embarrassed, let’s not forget that she had to search for herself in order to find my tweet and then cheekily respond.

I can’t quite decide if I think it’s awesome or horrible that saying “this book is dumb” out into the ether will get you a response from the author.

Remind me not to say anything bad about Hitler! I do NOT want that guy in my Twitter feed.

16 May 2014

Yeah, I Just Wrote a Blog Post About Pop-Tarts.

Written by sally @ 8:38 pm — Section: sally

1. My next door neighbors and I have one of those extremely coveted neighborly relationships where we borrow things from each other’s houses, take care of each other’s animals, and preheat each other’s ovens. (I have yet to require my oven to be preheated but I do offer this service for them, and have done so before.) They also babysit my child, and sometimes just for 10 minutes while it’s pouring down rain so I can run to the store without dragging a wet child around.

One item that they request pretty often is brown sugar-cinnamon Pop-Tarts, usually around 8:30 at night. Since I’m a pajama-laden hermit, I usually just put them on the porch and text back with a friendly “PORCH” so as not to interact with anyone unnecessarily. I have started buying them expressly for the neighbors because if that’s the price I pay for 10 minute thunderstorm babysitting then I WILL BUY THE POP-TARTS.

Two days ago one of them came over with a grocery bag. “We’re replacing your Pop-Tarts!” she said. That was sweet, but unnecessary; if we’re going to start paying each other back or replacing the things we borrow that’s just going to throw this whole operation off.

I shouldn’t have worried. Today she texted and asked, “Do you have any Pop-Tarts I can borrow?”

2.
Brown sugar-cinnamon (frosted)
Blueberry (frosted)
Strawberry (frosted)
NOTHING ELSE

3. Because I’ve been a toaster pastry enthusiast for a while now, back in, I don’t know, 1991 or so there was a promotion where if you sent in some Pop-Tarts box tops you could get some Pop-Tarts merchandise. T-shirts, frisbees, you know, really great Pop-Tarts related material. The thing that I wanted, and that which required the fewest number of Pop-Tarts box tops, was a POP-TARTS COMEDY VIDEO. Oh yeah, baby. Give me that sweet, hot VHS comedy goodness! So I ate the hell out of some Pop-Tarts and I collected those box tops and I mailed them in and one day, my POP-TARTS COMEDY VIDEO came in the mail, just as promised! I “popped” it in (GET IT) and oh. OH. Y’all. Guess what? Paula Poundstone tells jokes about Pop Tarts. She claims to just really fucking love Pop-Tarts. She says she eats a box a day. There’s a BOX OF POP-TARTS sitting next to her. The one thing I did think was funny is that she’s like “hey, the Pop-Tart eaters are watching this,” and before then I just never considered myself in a category like that before. Pop-Tart eater. There’s no arguing there.

So, because the internet won’t allow anything to exist only in our memories, enjoy.

My, My.

Written by sally @ 2:24 pm — Section: sally

Have you noticed that the Myers-Briggs is suddenly everywhere? Which extinct animal/bagel topping relates to YOUR Myers-Briggs type? (I am, naturally, sabertooth tiger/poppyseed.) (Actually that makes more sense to me than being Draco Malfoy.) I’m not complaining. I have come to trust the MBTI as a useful tool to explain the weirdos around me.

A friend is late picking me up? He’s such a P. Another friend is freaking out about the time? Such a J. Someone’s telling a really long story and including every possible detail and it’s really boring? Total S. Coworker’s office is immaculate to the point that you think they might be a serial killer? Probably an SJ.

Trying to figure out everyone’s type is not that dissimilar to how I tried to figure out who was a virgin and who wasn’t in my high school yearbook and wrote V or NV on everyone’s head. (Maybe that last part wasn’t necessary…I’d probably go for a nice color coded system now that I’m much more mature.) Recently I realized that I could also apply my new favorite classification system to my past relationships, and oh, if you thought I was annoying about the MBTI before, look out!

While they haven’t been typed, I am 10,000% sure that my two ex-husbands are both ESFPs. That’s Extroverted Sensing Feeling Perceiving. Do you know what I am? THE TOTAL OPPOSITE OF THAT. I’m Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Judging.

Being INTJ means that I need time alone, that I don’t ask a lot of questions but try to figure things out on my own, that I make decisions based on patterns and facts and not my emotions, and that I am rigid about rules and time.

That means that when someone talks about their feelings and I don’t react that I’m a heartless robot. It means when someone is late for dinner it means he doesn’t care. And so on. Discovering this has been beyond interesting to me.

So how does Tammy Wynette’s Cousin fit into this? I asked him to take the test. He texted me the results. This was essentially our conversation:

TWC: I took the Myers-Briggs. I’m INTJ.
Me: OH FUCK WE’RE SCREWED
TWC: …

I’m not sure why my initial reaction was total panic, but it turns out that having the exact same MBTI means that when TWC does something I totally don’t understand, I think about why I would do that thing, and I can usually figure it out. Let’s say I haven’t heard from him all evening. It’s not because he’s mad or sad or been murdered. It’s because it’s Monday and he’s at band practice and he didn’t tell me he was going to band practice because it’s always on Monday and it literally did not occur to him not to text me and say “hey, going to that thing I always go to at the same time every week, talk to you later.” Because if he did I’d probably think duh, I know.

It also means that because neither one of us is very emote-y, then by default because I am a lady (hi, stereotype) I get to be the emoter! I’ve never been the emoter because look, both parties in a relationship can’t be emoting all over each other all the time. Someone’s got to make the rational decisions, like “let’s leave 15 minutes early for the place we know for a fact that it takes 8 minutes to get to just in case there’s traffic or we can’t find a parking space because that one time we couldn’t find a space and had to park illegally and I worried about it the whole time.”

Anyway, I look forward to continuing to sort the world in order to make sense of it. Which one are you: introvert, everything bagel, Hermione, or virgin?

7 Apr 2014

Wild and Precious.

Written by sally @ 4:05 pm — Section: national poetry month

Oh, hello! Thought I’d forgotten about National Poetry Month, did you? Well, I did, kind of, so there’s that. When I searched to see how often I’ve posted this poem I was SHOCKED to see that I never have. It seems impossible given how often I read it, especially the last two lines. Note: if any of you are crafty and want to, like, embroider the last two lines on some 100% cotton pillowcases for me as a gift, I will happily accept.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean —
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

— Mary Oliver

(from New and Selected Poems, Beacon Press, 1992)

1 Apr 2014

Answers PLUS Spotted Dick.

Written by sally @ 11:31 am — Section: sally

• The answers to last week’s quiz are: Tammy Wynette, E-Z Corn Dogs, and all of the above. While E-Z Corn Dogs may not be glamorous, trust that the recipe instructs the reader to “wipe wieners off well,” which is, of course, what kept Tammy’s relationship with George Jones so spicy.

• Spike is starting to read, and lo, it is magical. What I find even more magical is that he is starting to write. While he’s always been fond of putting letters together, now that he is armed with real language, he’s better able to express himself. Like when he’s angry, he can write me a note that says “YOU ARE A LIAR” instead of just writing my name on a piece of paper and then crossing it out. It’s probably wrong that I cherish these angry notes, but I can’t help but be proud!

• Oh, you know how every time you’re on the international aisle of the grocery store you see the can of Spotted Dick and you laugh? I bought one last December and brought it to a party.

sp in can

It’s…a cake in a can. You boil some water, put the can in the pan, and after the allotted time has passed, voila! Canned cake!

sp whole

It was actually kind of good, and let’s be honest: the jokes write themselves.

sp eaten

28 Mar 2014

Yammering.

Written by sally @ 4:30 pm — Section: sally

Internet, did you know that I’ve been Sally Nordaning for TEN YEARS NOW? I think about Little Baby Sally and her little blog posts and ohhh, she was adorable, telling you what she ate for dinner and about all her deep thoughts. Part of that is just how blogging was in 2004, or at least how it was for me. While I no longer think you care about my dinner (that’s for Twitter anyway!), I do still want to tell you about things, even if it’s once a month and hardly anyone comments anymore THANKS A LOT EVERYONE.

Anyway, things:

1. You should follow Dr. Ruth on Twitter.
2. Do you want to read about a lady whose retarded menstruation caused her to kill her lover? Here you go.
3. Spike drew an awesome bad guy the other day: it was just a butt with a mustache and a hat.
4. I have a boyfriend! I referred to him here. I’ve learned to be a little more private online, so I’m afraid I’m not going to tell you much, but I will offer you this quiz and let you come to your own conclusions.

QUESTION ONE. Boyfriend is 4th cousins with which trashy country singer?
a. Tanya Tucker
b. Tammy Wynette
c. Barbara Mandrell
d. Crystal Gayle

BONUS: My favorite hotdog-based recipe in this Trashy Country Singer Cousin’s Cookbook is what?
a. Velveeta-Weenie Casserole
b. Hotdog Pie
c. E-Z Corn Dogs

QUESTION TWO. My favorite thing about him is what?
a. he is hilarious and I get to laugh A LOT
b. nothing fazes him
c. he is sane
d. he has really good hair
e. our first kiss was on my birthday in 1996 on the side of my kind-of-boyfriend’s house
f. his house is cleaner than mine
g. did I mention he’s hilarious?
h. we have many, many friends in common
i. he fixes stuff around my house
j. we hold hands while we sleep
k. DUH ALL OF THE ABOVE

5. I realize that there’s nothing worse than someone on the internet yammering on about their wonderful relationship, but I think once every ten years is appropriate. Hashtag yammer.

28 Feb 2014

Ugh, SO SPARKLY.

Written by sally @ 1:30 pm — Section: sally

I have a pile of magazines in the bathroom, as I believe that is a requirement by law in America (but don’t tell: my other bathroom has 10 issues of the Archie Digest and Morrissey’s Autobiography in it). I subscribe to House Beautiful (the best of all the decorating magazines, as even though everything is super-expensive, it is translatable into Poor People), Real Simple (hokey wisdom, disgusting recipes, cleaning tips), and Vanity Fair (weird blend of current/old movie star profiles and rich people murders/divorces). Spike has shown very little interest in any of these until the other night, when the pile fell over and he saw the January issue of Vanity Fair with Amy Adams on the cover.

Spike: Ewwww, Mommy! Look at this lady!
Me: You think she’s gross? I think she’s pretty.
Spike (with disgust): Ugh, why are her eyes so sparkly? And why are they so blue?
Me: . . .
Spike: And look, you can see her nipples*!
Me: Hmm.
Spike: (staring at magazine) WHY CAN’T I STOP LOOKING AT HER NIPPLES!!??

amy-adams-january-2014-cover

Later, I took the super-confusing nipples of Amy Adams to another room, and Spike started hollering, “No, that’s MY magazine.” Oh. Okay. So he’s going to be a straight guy.

*He is under the impression that the whole shebang is the nipple. You try correcting him, why don’t you.

19 Feb 2014

Six!

Written by sally @ 9:21 am — Section: sally

1. Today is the birthday of the guy I had a crush on for 25 years. I am only now able to admit that that is creepy. The last time I had contact him was several years ago — I’d initiated (again) an email correspondence, but for the first time, I realized that he wasn’t that interesting. It was amazing! We wrote back and forth, not feverishly, not flirtishly, but a few paragraphs about American Idol (it was the season with Katherine McPhee, so apparently that was 2006) or sometimes he would tell me Fun Facts About Boise, where he lived. I made a point of mentioning Larry in my initial email, as I didn’t want him to think I was trying for an interstate love match. While I knew he was married, he never mentioned his wife. Like, ever. I had had a dream that his wife’s name was Margaret Clyffdryffddrrffylyr (she was Welsh, duh) and after telling him this, I asked if he indeed had a Welsh wife. He responded: “I have no Welsh wife.” INTERESTING.

So. The correspondence limped on. I continued to be amazed that I was not that interested in what he had to say. I sent an email on a Wednesday with my deep thoughts about the night before’s American Idol (remember when Katherine McPhee sang “Over the Rainbow” barefoot? gross) and his response was this:

Another Fun Fact About Boise is that in Boise, I have a wife and a daughter and another daughter on the way.

Mmmmm. So. I did respond, and then I never heard from him again, probably because his wife threatened to stab his eyes out or something. While I thought “gah, can’t believe his wife monitors his email,” he totally seems the type to cheat, and probably had done so several times before, so I don’t blame her. They eventually got a divorce and now he is dating the most beautiful human-shaped robot woman I’ve ever seen. Well, seen online. Seen online while stalking Facebook photos, that is.

Anyway, happy birthday to that guy!

2. I started The Goldfinch, but it’s too good of a book for me to read right now. Does that make any sense? I’m busy burning through somewhat terrible library books with unsatisfying endings, and it’s sort of fun. Everyone in Jackson is reading The Resurrectionist because the author is from here, and it’s a decent read. In a perfect world, it would have had another rewrite and edited down the parts in modern time. That’s always the problem with books that dance between two time periods: the older one is almost always far superior to the modern one. I also just read The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood, which deals with Vivian in San Francisco in 1919 and Claire in New England in 1960. Vivan was way more interesting. However, my main problem with that book is that SHE MIXED UP THE CHARACTERS’ NAMES. We were in 1961 and Claire was looking at the ceiling and suddenly her name was Vivian and she was thinking about what to wear to dinner. At first I thought OOH LITERARY DEVICE THERE WILL BE SOMETHING GHOSTY HERE but alas, no. Just an error. An error that distracted me from the plot, which wasn’t the best anyway. Then it happened 4 more times!

I did recently read Our Spoons Came From Woolworth’s by Barbara Comyns, which I loved. I love getting to the end of a book and thinking, “I want every book to be this one.” So basically I want every book to have these factors:
–unhappy marriages
–poor people
–England
–having to eat gross things from tins
–unexpected romance

And I finally read Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan, which actually covers many of the 5 Key Factors for Literary Enjoyment above! Oh, but eating gross things from tins does thrill me.

3. I am still watching and loving Couples Therapy.

4. Frank Sinatra Wore Dick Spanx.

5. Spike is almost six. Just think about that for awhile. He is tall and smart and extremely loud. He calls me “woman” in front of other people to be funny. He constantly asks embarrassing questions of everyone we see, like ARE YOU AND MOMMY GETTING MARRIED? or DO YOU HAVE DIARRHEA? Answers: no, yes. He also trying to tell knock knock jokes, and sometimes succeeds. When he goes rogue is when we have trouble. Last night he laid this one on me:

–Knock knock.
–Who’s there?
–Elevator.
–Elevator who?
–Ghost!

Then I laughed because that was the worst joke, but because I laughed he thought it was a successful joke. I always laugh when I’m not supposed to. Also, there was some subtext regarding elevators and ghost being able to make items float, so that was the train of thought there.

6. Is this enough? I’m rusty at this.

7 Jan 2014

Written by sally @ 4:24 pm — Section: sally

Apparently I didn’t write a damn thing in January!

19 Dec 2013

Hey, BEEP.

Written by sally @ 11:09 am — Section: sally

When we moved into our house nine years ago, my mom gave us a security system as a pre-wedding present. For some reason, even though the company is called Pennington and Trim, I got it into my head that it was called Pennington and Files (?), and so my mom wrote the check to Pennington and Files. It wasn’t an issue, but it stressed me out and then I thought about it so much I couldn’t remember which was right and which was wrong (much like this episode), and now I just mumble “I don’t know, Pennington or something” if I need to refer to the company.

ANYWAY

There are smoke alarms hardwired into the security system, which is great and all, except a few weeks ago the one in the hall kept beeping. Not HEY THERE’S A FIRE-level beeping, but in the middle of the night, I’d hear a beep. beep-beep-beep. beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep. And then it would stop. Even though it would wake me up, and then in about 30 minutes Spike would be up for the day at 5 am, and life was ruined, I kept forgetting to call about it.

So last week I remembered to call Pennington and Somebody to ask about it, and sort of got into a fight with a lady about how yes it IS hardwired and no it is NOT flashing red and no the keypad DOES NOT have a code on it, etc. She insisted that it must be a regular smoke alarm that just needs a new 9-volt battery. Fine. Whatever.

That night I got on a stool and took the alarm off the wall. And the second I did, the house alarm started going off! So I learned that HA, I was RIGHT, it is TOTALLY hardwired into the system. But also the beeping was not the smoke alarm. Then I stood there in the hall and thought WHAT THE FUCK ELSE WOULD DO THIS, CONSISTENTLY, EVERY DAY FOR A WEEK, BUT NOT LOUD ENOUGH TO WARN US FROM IMPENDING DEATH?

Then I went into Spike’s room and saw this fucker:

alarm

So basically Spike had somehow
a) set his alarm clock to 4:30 am and
b) turned it on and
c) not realizing this, his mom had many discussions with his dad about why the child is no longer sleeping until 6 at least, and let’s not forget
d) his mom is an idiot who got into a fight with the alarm company over a Lego stormtrooper alarm clock.

9 Nov 2013

Garden Club.

Written by sally @ 9:48 pm — Section: sally

One day last summer I went for a walk in my neighborhood after dinner. It was the beginning of the summer, or must’ve been, because I don’t think there’s any way I would willingly stroll about in billion-degree weather otherwise. Yes, now that I think about it it must’ve been in that brief period where we all try to convince ourselves that maybe it’s not SO hot out yet and that the evenings are still coolish.

On my walk, I passed a house on a corner with a gorgeous, yet sparse, purple hibiscus-y/azalea bush in their side yard. Now this bush thing had been blooming for awhile, and most of its blooms were on the ground. I’m just setting this up so you won’t think I’m a monster. So, seeing as it was beautiful, and I was propelling myself through the universe only using the body I was given, I plucked a bloom off the bush. Pluck is not the right word. Plucking is quick, and I kind of had to struggle. I negotiated a bloom off the bush, anyway.

Across the street, at a house with lots of lovely tiger lilies planted precariously close to the street, there was someone idling in a truck that I paid no attention to, but then the truck whipped around and pulled up next to me. The lady inside rolled down her window and asked, “Are you the one who’s been stealing my flowers?”

Let’s pause for a moment and just consider the various options a person could have. Either NO, I have not been stealing your flowers, or YES, I have been stealing your flowers. However, if I were the type to steal flowers, would I also be the type to admit this? And yes — I had just stolen a bloom off a flowering bush. I suppose I fit the profile. I suppose perhaps I should not have been so taken aback by her just flat-out DRIVING UP TO ME and asking HEY ARE YOU THE FLOWER THIEF.

I didn’t have a sassy response. I just said no. Then she said “Ok. Because someone’s been stealing my flowers.” And then she looked at me for a moment and then drove away.

I continued my walk, though now I was holding a TAINTED STOLEN FLOWER and felt like it was a cartoon bag of money with the dollar sign drawn on. I walked. I passed some people walking their dogs, none of whom screamed at me for stealing, and an older lady who smiled at the flower. I turned, I walked some more, I passed the same lady again. “Nice to see you!” we both joked. I kept walking, and I ran into her one more time. “We have to stop meeting like this,” one of us probably said, because look, if you don’t say that kind of stuff to strangers then you might as well just give up. She stopped and asked for directions back to Jefferson Street.

We actually stood there for over an hour talking. By the time we parted, I knew how long she’d been married (35 years), who said I love you first (she did, about four months in, then he straggled along a few months later), the ages/professions/marital status of all three of her sons (one of whom had just moved to Jackson to start his ER residency at UMC), and some stuff about her dogs. If this were a cozy mystery, she and I would become co-owners of a yarn store and solve crimes. Like who the REAL flower thief was! (Probably the owner. Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, floral edition.)

Instead, we parted ways, and as I walked home still clutching the bloom I thanked the universe for restoring the balance so quickly.

3 Oct 2013

Just Call Me Sally Pepys.

Written by sally @ 8:45 pm — Section: sally

I’ve already established that I like to re-read old journals, though I inevitably run across some information that gives me goosebumps or makes me nauseous. However, this entry only made me laugh:

August 16, 1997

This felt tip rules. I bought it yesterday in Tupelo at Office Max. I just told [boyfriend] that I was going to draw on his butt with this pen while he’s sleeping. If I get away with it, I get to draw on his butt once a month forever. If he catches me, he gets to write on my butt.

Fin

19 Sep 2013

Train of Thought, Complete with Map.

Written by sally @ 9:34 am — Section: sally

1. In 2003 or so, gorjus mailed me a package full of all the crappy mix cds people made for him that he’d accumulated through the years. Some were indeed crappy, but there was one that I really loved. It had the Billy Bragg song “Greetings to the New Brunette (Shirley)” and the Morrissey song “Let the Right One Slip In” and the Queers song “I Can’t Get Over You.”

2. I was living in Birmingham the second time in 2003, and I think have mentioned ad nauseum that Birmingham Part Deux was a real shitstorm: my mom had cancer, the job I moved for disappeared, I had to commute an hour to my OLD job that I left in Tuscaloosa, my car’s air conditioner broke, my apartment was broken into, I thought I was being haunted by my dead friend’s ghost, and no boys liked me. I kept throwing myself at one in particular to no avail. That Queers song was my anthem.

3. I particularly enjoyed that song on my way home from Ann’s house because there was a shortcut where I got to drive up a mountain. It was so fine a drive I’d turn around just to do it again.

4. Last night I was listening to the Queers song on my way to my manfriend’s house* and was imagining driving up the mountain. I could imagine making my way from Ann’s past her friend Julie’s house, then turning onto the road with the main incline but then could not remember which way the road turned and then how I got to my house.

5. Thus, I had to Google maps it to complete my mental drive for the next time I hear the song.

6. Then I had to write a blog post about it.

*The manfriend is actually the dude I threw myself at in 2003. Go figure. Life is weird.

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