10 Apr 2017

19,358 Calories.

Written by sally @ 11:41 am — Section: sally

I’m teaching a comp class this semester for the first time in a million years — it’s been 14 years since I taught ANY class and 17 years since I taught THIS class. I am loving it, as my students are surprisingly engaged and talkative. It doesn’t mean they are particularly good students who do the readings or anything, but at least they’re engaged in the classroom.

Three or four of them show up really early to class to just talk (like 30 minutes early), which is both annoying and fun. Annoying because I better be ready for class, but fun because these are 19-year-old boys who, instead of doing 19-year-old boy things, have elected to come to class early to talk to me and each other. It is during this time that I learn the most about them — namely that they are full of beans.

A few weeks ago, they were talking about how much they eat and one said that he once ate six Big Macs, two large fries, and a 20-piece nugget. That simply can’t be true, right?

A few weeks later he claimed he ate two and a half footlong Subway sandwiches. That was two footlong meatball marinaras and only half of a footlong sweet onion chicken teriyaki. That is 30 inches of sandwich. Think about the bread alone. 30 inches of bread. Then add a bunch of meatballs and stuff.

After this, another kid apparently thought, “This big eater kid is getting a lot of attention. Time to join the ring.” He said that in his hometown, there’s a pizza place called John’s where they have a challenge where if you can eat ALL of the mega giant pizza, you get it free. That’s a thing that restaurants have, ok. Let’s hear some more. He said it had a six-foot diameter.

My desk in this classroom is about five feet long. I asked him if he was actually saying that the pizza that he ate WAS BIGGER THAN MY DESK. He said yes. I asked what toppings were on it. He said it was meat lover’s. Hmm. There was a little grumbling from the others because somehow a six foot pizza was believable, but eating six feet of sausage, hamburger, and Canadian bacon was TOO MUCH. He said look, you can look it up.

However, he didn’t remind us the name of the restaurant at this point OR say where he was from. However however, I remember stuff! Not anything useful, like state capitols (Spike has a test today and our review session was prettttty pitiful last night), but I remember useless things like where this pizzaliar was from. So I said, “Ok, John’s Pizza in Ridgetown, got it.” And then he said, “Well, actually, I’m not sure they still do it.”


Anyway, I DID look them up, and they DO still do it, only the pizza has a 30-inch diameter, NOT A SIX-FOOT DIAMETER, which provides gluttons with 52 slices. I won’t mention it to him, but looking stuff up and proving people wrong is my hobby, and this whole thing brought me such satisfaction. The food talk, the lies, the facts — this teaching thing is awesome!

I just figured the calories for these three claims:
Big Mac Extravaganza: 5,318
Subway Festivities: 2,525
52 Slice Affair: 14,040

4 Apr 2017

The Barf Baby.

Written by sally @ 10:21 am — Section: sally

Spike and I went to see The Boss Baby, and boy, was it awful. Let me count the ways. (Note: this post isn’t clever; it’s just a rant that I need to get out of my system and then I’ll delete it and we’ll all be happy again.)

1. Tim, a seven-year-old only child, has the full attention of his parents; when asked “do you want a baby brother?” he says nope.
2. When he’s asked this, the mom is visibly pregnant.
3. Soon after, a taxi arrives and a baby gets out wearing a suit.
4. This is his baby brother.
5. The parents seem to accept that he wears a suit, like babies have a choice or something.
6. The parents completely ignore Tim.
7. Like, to the point I almost cried.
8. Tim and the baby join forces to spy on the parents’ business; they work for a puppy company that is about to reveal its latest product.
9. Why is the Boss Baby so interested?
10. It seems that people love puppies more than babies, and Baby Corp can’t have this. Babies must dominate the love.
11. Boss Baby, if successful, will get a corner office and will disappear from Tim’s life altogether.
12. Boss Baby has some baby thug friends who work for him in the neighborhood. There are some black triplets, the only POC in the movie.
13. Through some hijinx, Tim and Boss Baby discover the new product is a puppy that stays a puppy forever.
14. Instead of just calling Baby Corp and saying “yo I figured it out, can I get some backup” the fate of all babies is on the shoulders of Tim and Boss Baby.
15. They succeed and Boss Baby goes away.
16. Some memory zappers erase the parents’ memory so they won’t be sad that THEIR BABY IS GONE. Tim declines the memory-erasure.
17. Tim then writes Boss Baby a letter that says “do you want to be my brother” and then Boss Baby comes back.
18. The mom is not pregnant this time but still gets a baby?
19. Everyone is happy.
20. Except me.

I’m fine with the whole “babies just arrive one day” thing but you can’t have the mom be pregnant and get a baby and then NOT pregnant and get a baby. Follow your own rules, stupid movie!

Someone also tell me what the justification is of having all white people in a movie made up of DRAWINGS. Can’t be casting troubles.

Instead of a cloud of smoke that erases Boss Baby’s presence, each human must be zapped personally. Did…anyone take this baby out anywhere? To grandma’s house? The grocery store? Did the parents not say “hey we’re having a baby” at work? I’m real fired up about this.

Also, if I were an only child with a baby sibling on the way I’d be terrified that my parents would never talk to me again.

I hate this movie.

24 Mar 2017

Mad About Germs.

Written by sally @ 6:58 am — Section: sally

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was on Bumble. I am no longer on Bumble. I encountered my ex-husband’s profile and now I am Done with Bumble. (Note: it was a really good profile! I’m proud of him.)

In related news, while I am casually open to the idea of being unsingle again, there are two things that I do actively miss about being coupled: 

  1. I have psoriasis, which is not noteworthy except that one of my recurring spots is on the back of my neck, and I often don’t realize it’s returned until I’ve been walking around with a scaly neck patch for a month. One responsibility of a partner is to alert me to the appearance of said scales.
  2. Bragging about a work victory. Friends are awesome, but I don’t want to say I DID THIS THING AND I AM SO PROUD OF MYSELF! to anyone but someone who has indicated he finds this interesting and not annoyingly braggy. (I found out about a work something this morning that is Huge and do not think any friends want an early morning text about my victory.)

I’ve started watching Mad About You reruns in the morning. I used to love this show, and rewatching reveals that this show is actually terrible. First, Paul’s shirt is always tucked in and he never wears a belt. This must be a situation Paul Reiser developed in a workshop, as I don’t recall this being a widespread fashion choice in the 90s. Second, Paul’s masculinity is super fragile and most episodes have to do with Paul having to come to terms with this in some way: he must use bath gel instead of bar soap; they are trying to get pregnant and Jamie wants to take a cool new job–but Paul objects. How will she WORK and also CARE FOR A NON-EXISTING CHILD? It’s fun to watch in a “wow, it keeps getting worse” kind of way.

There was also an episode where Jamie made some pasta and kept taking out pieces of penne from the big bowl and tasting it. No big deal, except then she licked her fingers and went right back in. Things got worse when she made Paul taste it and shoved a piece in his mouth. Licked her fingers. Made Paul taste another. Licked her fingers. Tasted another herself. Lick. Her sister Lisa came over. Shoved a piece in Lisa’s mouth. LICKED HER FINGERS. Germs, Helen Hunt. Have you heard of germs? (She probably figured she and Paul Reiser had shared all the germs available to share as the script calls for them to kiss every 15 seconds.)

Ok bye

22 Mar 2017

Kid Rock Need Not Apply.

Written by sally @ 9:11 am — Section: sally

1. Today I’m wearing a dress that accentuates an area I do not want accentuated, but I sort of feel like I’m making too big a deal of it, so I wore the dress to prove to myself that I won’t die if an area is accentuated.

2. If you’re watching The Americans, you probably have the same dual sensation I do of GOD NOTHING EVER HAPPENS and I LOVE HOW THEY DRAW EVERYTHING OUT. The 20 seconds we saw last night of Martha peeping out from under her kerchief was totally worth every incredibly well-thought out, slow moment. Also, I am a big fan of breaking someone’s neck while “More Than This” plays. Next time I need to break a neck, I’ll cue it up for maximum effect.

3. I would say “I’m online dating” except that’s not an accurate description. I did join a site, but at this point there is LITERALLY ZERO CHANCE that I will meet a person there. It’s ok, though, as it’s more of a curiosity expedition/sociology experiment than an attempt to find a loving partner. So I’m on Bumble, which is one of those “look at up to six pictures of a person, read two sentences about them, then swipe yes or no.” Only if you both swipe yes do you make a match, and then the lady has to initiate contact. In theory, I liked this, as this would prevent “hey pretty lady” messages. The problems, though, are that I hardly like anyone, those people hardly ever like me, and these dudes don’t know how to have a conversation.

Here are some stats: I would say of probably 100 dudes available in the greater metro area, I have swiped yes on maybe 10 of them. Four also swiped yes on me. I messaged all of these with a question about either one of their photos or their two sentence description. Three of them answered the question but did not ask ME a question in return so I never responded because COME ON, PEOPLE. So it’s not even depressing because these people are not my people. They don’t come from the same planet.

I do have a rubric for what makes me swipe no:

a. is this person shirtless?
b. is this person holding an animal/waterfowl he has killed?
c. is this person too dumb to know this app draws photos from Facebook? because instead of looking at pictures of a guy I am just looking at this drunk blonde lady
d. is that…is that a picture of Kid Rock?
e. is the phrase “live, laugh, love” in the two-sentence description?

Anyway, so now I’ve decided that there needs to be a separate dating app for nerds. I would swipe yes for someone who listed his reading interests and advanced degrees. Weird facts about his obscure dissertation subject? YES. A picture of him posing with Neal deGrasse Tyson? YES. All flavors of nerds may apply, but preference is given to the hyperliterate. PS: Engineers are geeks, not nerds, and do not qualify for this position.

8 Feb 2017


Written by sally @ 4:39 pm — Section: sally

Remember when we all read blogs, and then Google Reader died and everyone just had thoughts in their heads all the time, and then we put them on Facebook, and then too many people we’re related to and/or hate friended us, and then we moved to Twitter only to discover the real value of a thought turned out to be if anyone liked it or not?

Things on My Nerves:
1. People who drive poorly and then get mad when they’re honked at. This applies metaphorically to anyone who does something poorly and has someone point this fact out and then loses their mind because of the INJUSTICE of someone saying “you’re wrong.” Bonus indignation points if it’s a dude being told he’s wrong by a lady.

Sidenote: the other day I stopped in the road (probably worthy of a honk) to read a bumper sticker. It said:

Honk if you have to

2. Librarians who include the MLIS after their names in an email signature. I’m proud of you! But shhh. This isn’t one of those professions.

3. Pretty much everything happening on a national level all the time.

4. You (j/k there’s no one reading this)

I’m teaching a class at a community college this semester, and it is way more fun and interesting than I expected it to be. The last time I taught any class was the fall of 2003. The last time I taught comp I was maybe spring of 2000. So it’s been a minute, and for the most part, blah blah five-paragraph essay, three-part thesis, etc. However, it turns out that I am now much older than my students than I ever was before, and they don’t know what Chiclets are when I make a reference to Chiclets. Come on, it’s a Chiclet! BUT! The great thing is that there are computers and projectors in the classrooms, and so you can first say, “Y’all don’t know what a CHICLET is??!” and then you can Google up a Chiclet and then they say, “Oh yeah, Chiclets!”

We are also creeping up on a year since I broke up with my last boyfriend. He was someone I basically chased after and made out with at parties for over 15 years before convincing him to date me for almost three years. But then two things happened: we had some differences, as humans do, and we could not talk about them. This proved to be a combination I couldn’t endure. Imagine if you watched Oprah your whole life and were into communication and owning your emotions…and then you said, “Here are my emotions” in a non-screamy way and the other person did not respond? (I do not exaggerate: there was NO SOUND. Not a word nor grunt!) Anyway, he’s a fine person, and super cute, and I hope he finds someone who does not require the type/level/content of communication that I do. (It took me the whole year to be able to write this.)

George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo comes out next Tuesday, and I highly recommend it. Buy it for your Valentine if you still have one also I don’t have one because I needed to be able to talk about my feelings sometimes! (I swear I’m over it.)

If you are the podcast type, may I recommend Crybabies? It sounds like a hard sell, but it’s people discussing the things that make them cry — not things like “dead puppies” but things like “the last scene of the last episode of the Wonder Years” or any Adele song. Because a lot of the guests are artsy people, expect a lot of Sondheim references. It is an absolutely fascinating experience to hear someone talk about their crying cues, as you get to hear the backstory and their family history and I LOVE IT. It also makes you think of your own crying cues, and while I haven’t really taken the deep dive on this, this scene from the musical Carousel is definitely one of them.

Ok, it’s a weird seven-minute ballet scene, but I am always moved by the pause and swell of the music (not to mention that insane dancing!) around the three-minute mark. That thing he does around Louise? You should try that at home sometime and then call me to tell me how big the bruise on your butt is after you fall down. (I speak from experience.)

Oh, old blog, I’ve missed you so!

18 Oct 2016


Written by sally @ 10:45 am — Section: sally

I’ve been working on some really serious and not-at-all ridiculous research projects lately, and I thought I’d share with you. It’s a rite of passage for everyone to research bananas, I’m sure, and on my journey I keep finding other interesting things that I have to stop and find out more about. Today I need to tell you about a story I discovered that involves the following:

1. murder
2. a banana peel

You in? Let’s go! (more…)

5 Jul 2016

Paging Dr. Deere.

Written by sally @ 12:10 pm — Section: sally

Just a quick note: my grandmother was telling me about her dentist, how he’s Theresa’s husband. She couldn’t remember his last name.

“Isn’t it Deere?”

“I mean, that’s a name and all, but that’s not it,” my grandmother said.

“I’m pretty sure it’s Denton Deere,” I said. If I were one to use adverbs I’d say I said this smugly.

So a moment ago Google and I set out to prove that I was right and this 91-year-old woman was wrong, and discovered this:

1. Denton Deere isn’t a dentist, he’s a plastic surgeon.
2. He’s a plastic surgeon in Ellen Raskin’s 1978 novel The Westing Game.

So. Not only am I losing my mind, but the fictional characters are moving in (to be fair, I read The Westing Game about a thousand times, and one of those thousand times was a few months ago). Can’t wait to go see my endocrinologist, Dr. T.J. Eckelstein. Or is it Dr. Joe Martin?

21 Jun 2016

Nuggets (Haven’t Done This in a While!).

Written by sally @ 2:38 pm — Section: sally

• After reliving the fun times at the skating rink on Facebook, this guy I went to middle and high school with decided to have a RAGING KEGGER. That was the term. Only class of ’91 people were invited (though this girl from class of ’93 asked “Can I come?” and this guy named Brian said “No” and ok maybe I laughed), and omg this is going to be EPIC how many KEGS should I get, who’s going to bring the Boone’s Farm, etc. Everyone was really for it on Facebook. So many thumbs up and PARTY!!!! comments. The night of the party came! And there were 10 people there. INCLUDING THE VICE PRINCIPAL! (I haven’t gotten clarification if he was trolling the Class of 1991 Facebook page, or if he was invited, but I prefer thinking the former.)

• Last weekend I watched three Jane Austen movies — Pride and Prejudice (40s version with Greer Garson and Lawrence Olivier), Persuasion (BBC), and Sense and Sensibility (Ang Lee). If you are currently single based, in part, on what you perceived as your former partner’s lack of demonstrativeness (that’s a word; I just checked), watching three Austen movies is perhaps a questionable idea. I enjoyed this pattern:

Man: I love you.
Woman: Go away, scoundrel! You offend me with your vermin self.
Man: (is wounded, does something secretive that helps the woman/her family, takes no credit for it, doesn’t brag and go HEY I DID THIS THING DO YOU LOVE ME NOW)
Woman: (finds out about the secret thing, appreciates how much he didn’t stomp around and brag, realizes he was sincere) Prithee, I love you.


• Some Bad Things I Have Recently Done:
–broken up with someone via email (more on this later)

• I’ve been rewatching Gilmore Girls, and I am as shocked as you are to report that I DON’T LIKE LUKE.

• If you’ve been reading this website for a long time, here is something to knock your socks off: Spike is 8. His favorite things are:
–garbage Disney tween shows
–being cool
–changing clothes 87 times a day
–sloppy joes
–climbing up/jumping off of tall things
–making up complicated games and then getting mad when I can’t remember the rules
–dressing up in a gorilla costume and running around the neighborhood

icky and the rilla

14 May 2016

It Was the Best of Times. (No, It Wasn’t.) (Seriously.)

Written by sally @ 8:52 pm — Section: sally

I have recently — as in very recently, as in two days ago recently — discovered the age at which one can no longer remember the details of one’s crummy childhood and instead those warm bologna sandwiches that made the roof of your mouth feel furry are swept away and replaced with Good Feelings. The age is 42.

This hasn’t happened to me, of course. Haha, no! The day I start forgetting every detail of everything even remotely annoying that ever happened to me is a dark day indeed (though probably better for me, so maybe I should look into finding a rock and hitting myself in the head with it). The Englightening has happened to my former classmates as displayed by a Facebook post.

Super nice guy I never spoke to in high school, but had a 4-minute conversation with on a shuttle bus in college once, posted that he was planning on putting on his Jordache jeans and hitting the skating rink this weekend, ha ha, those were the days, let him know if you remember those days! They were simpler times! And oh, how the people remembered! They remembered their Jordache and their slightly less cool Gloria Vanderbilt and their Kaepas and the pellet ice and the arcade and that the last song at the skating rink each night was “Thriller.” And it was the best of times, it was the BEST time, it was a simpler time, we wish we could go back.

I was there too in 1985, sans Jordache, and trying to avoid the freak girls with their black concert tshirts and pointy hair and black eyeliner who were intent on beating me up except their attention spans were short, and if a guy walked by they would forget me for awhile. I never did get properly beat up, no fists to face or anything, but in retrospect getting beat up a couple times probably would’ve made them feel better and then the active, daily threat would’ve been eliminated. It was the best of times! Wish we could go back!

I read the comments and felt alien. A girl who was even more unpopular than me was right in there saying how great it was. And I was like, Melody, WHAT are you talking about? These people wouldn’t even talk to you then! but I just read along. It was interesting, but in the same way hearing about someone else’s holiday rituals are interesting — that sounds fun, but you’re doing it wrong. One guy — who in 6th grade rode past my new house on his bike, reported to the school that I had a Holly Hobbie sheet hanging in my window instead of a curtain, and yet was not questioned for knowing which house was mine OR who Holly Hobbie was — said we should have our 25th high school reunion (this year!) at the skating rink, and ok even I thought that sounded fun.

The interesting thing is that I’m still left feeling like I did at the skating rink in 1985! There’s this thing everyone is doing and I’m there, but I’m DEFINITELY not having the same experience as the rest of the crowd.

I do have Warm Feelings about some things in 1985, like the pizza place at the mall. (I have sought to find equivalent crunchy/salty pizza for the past 30 years and have come up empty handed.) It was probably in 1985 that I got locked out of the house while I was at home sick and had to pee in the litter box in the garage. (Yes, “had to” is accurate.) In ballet, I graduated to pointe shoes in 1985. I did a LOT of hilarious prank calling in 1985. (One of my favorites was calling McDonald’s and trying to place an order. Oh, hilarious!) Things happened and I remember them!

I’ve had this same thought, though, with other friends who want to relive the good old days, and what I want to say is: y’all, the good times weren’t that good. But I think I may be wrong, or at least inaccurate. Memory is a faulty, emotional process, so perhaps the nights at Great Skate really WERE as fantastic as this Facebook thread would have me believe (but I doubt it; Great Skate is a Goodwill now).

28 Aug 2015

This Nerd Has Flown.

Written by sally @ 2:00 pm — Section: 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.

“Hey. Andy? 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.

“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: 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
–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?”

Brown sugar-cinnamon (frosted)
Blueberry (frosted)
Strawberry (frosted)

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.
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?

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

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