Wednesday, May 30, 2007

counting 'em down, SoCal style

I just got back from a very relaxing and fun holiday weekend visiting H in Southern California. And because we hadn't been able to see each other for three months, he planned a jam-packed agenda of events that included:
  • seeing Wicked at the Pantages Theater (which had most of the original Broadway cast and was EXCELLENT all around)
  • feasting on the juiciest dumplings at our favorite hidden gem (well not so hidden if you consider the 40 min wait every time we go), Din Tai Fung
  • barely making into an Upright Citizen's Brigade Improv show (featuring MC Chris-- who knew Nerds could be so very dirty?!) because the line was so long
  • catching glimpses of the HOLLYWOOD sign and the Walk of Fame in person (they look just like on tv, but less shiny)
  • afterpartying in a sweet house in Hollywood
  • playing a very close miniature golf game (I lost by one stroke, but have vowed to avenge my honor next time on my own turf)
  • getting cheeseburgers at In N Out (I had to resist yelling "ANIMAL STYLE!" when we ordered, not because I wanted grilled onions but because I think that's hilarious.)
  • hanging out with his folks and trying to come up with something new to talk about (they've already seen all my stories here)
  • delaying departure because the original Planet of the Apes was on the History Channel, followed by discussion about Charleton Heston's actual vs. rumored acting prowess.
You may know that everything is very spread out in Los Angeles. So we spent a great deal of time cruising around the freeways in H's little red car listening to music. Even though he picked up a Tim Armstrong (punk ska) CD and I got a Bebel Gilberto (breezy bossa nova) at the magic music store, one thing he and I share is an appreciation for the Golden Oldie. I can only assume he got his from his parents. I cultivated mine during the heyday of Glam Rock: When everyone else in fifth grade was headbanging to "Welcome to the Jungle" or "Pour Some Sugar on Me", I was chillin' to "I Only Have Eyes For You" or "Hey Mr. Tambourine Man." And while I can appreciate the big-haired screaming a little more today, it's only in small doses. Stop judging me.

The Oldies radio station in L.A., K-Earth, was celebrating 35 years on the air with a list of 350 top oldies of all time, and we caught snippets of it all weekend. Now, I've heard top-countdowns in this genre many times; they'd have number one songs like "Let it Be" by the Beatles, "Good Vibrations" by the Beach Boys, "American Pie" by Don McLean, "Respect" by Aretha Franklin or "Sittin on the Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding. It's never clear who's responsible for compiling these lists, but K-Earth said this particular one was "as voted by YOU!" so I was even more curious as to how people in SoCal rated the greats.

During the countdown, H and I kept turning to each other in disbelief. Granted, back when I listened to them, "Oldies" consisted of music from the '50s and '60s. Today you'd have to listen a long long time before you'd hear "Earth Angel" or "My Boyfriend's Back" because "Oldies" are now mostly from the '60s and '70s. It doesn't bother me; these days Stevie Wonder gets airtime again.

We were surprised that neither the Beatles nor the Beach Boys (maybe Californians are tired of them?) made it higher than number ten and only two of the songs I had heard at number one on other lists even made it into the top 20. It was 2 a.m. (4 a.m. for me) when we caught the end of the countdown driving back from the party, and even though we were falling asleep we stayed in the car to finish out the list. I was disappointed. None of my guesses made it, but by that point I don't think I would have been happy with anything they had chosen.

Normally I'd be tempted to brush it off by saying something like Geez, Californians have messed up taste, but one of them has chosen me so of course we know that's not true. Maybe they're tired of all the same songs always getting top billing, or maybe the use of some of them in commercials or soundtracks boosted their street cred? Maybe the tally was flooded with bored disc jockey votes? It's anybody's guess. Issues about order aside, I got to hear a bunch of songs I forgot I liked while being driven around in good company. Who could ask for anything more?

Oh, in case you're wondering, here is the list.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

sweet sixteen of random

Both Stephanie and Jam tagged me to reveal eight random things about myself. So to be fair, I did 16. And now I must rest. But before I do, I tag Jon because he hasn't posted in a very long time. (I scoff at those of you who point out that he asked to be interviewed and hasn't done that yet either.) C'mon, Jon, we're counting on you. No pressure.

1) I will do whatever I can to avoid leaving the house on my day off.

2) I still haven't put together the photo album from my semester abroad EIGHT years ago.

3) I take guilty pleasure in a nap during an afternoon when the weather is sunny and gorgeous. It's like I'm mocking the opportunity to do something productive outside, so somehow the sleep is sweeter.

4) Oatmeal raisin is my favorite, but I am an equal-opportunity cookie consumer.

5) I hate all the crap I have to go through to get to the ocean, but once I'm in it, you're going to have a hard time getting me out-- unless a toothy water creature tastes my foot like that one time at Daytona Beach. In those cases, I can run through water surprisingly fast.

6) I attract mosquitoes. Quite well. Without even trying.

7) I can stay up all night if I'm procrastinating, but if I'm talking on the phone I can easily slip into a coma mid-sentence.

8) I find comfort in oldschool musicals.

9) When I was in fifth grade, I played Molly in the high school production of "Annie." I remember my solos and some of my lines, I still have my tap shoes, and I still keep jewelry in a musicbox that plays "Tomorrow," which I got as a gift on opening night.

10) The quality of my dancing is inversely proportional to the number of people in the room. It's too bad, really, because some of my cleaning-the-house moves are worthy of a Soul Train spotlight.

11) I've already made a mental list of home improvement projects for my house--one that i'm at least a decade away from even seeing.

12) There were entire weekends during college in which I did not see the sun.

13) I can't make rice. Please don't tell anybody.

14) I like my eggs runny and my toast crunchy.

15) I've never seen a James Bond movie. I enjoy hearing people's reaction to that statement so much that I've purposely avoided putting one on my Netflix queue so I can keep saying it.

16) I have 317 movies on said Netflix queue.

Monday, May 21, 2007

you just can't square dance on the beach

A recent conversation with H revealed that an integral part of my physical education--the Square Dance--was not a part of the curriculum where he went to school in California. I was appalled to hear that fourth-graders out there weren't forced to devise methods of partner dancing without actually touching their cootie-infested counterparts. How else do kids learn the complex techniques that make for the stilted, awkward interactions they call *relationships* in junior high? Maybe that's why people in California are so very laid back; they don't know how to Do-si-do.

Secretly, I've always sort of enjoyed the Square Dance. There's a comfort in knowing what's supposed to come next, even if it's being coming at you from an LP of a livestock auctioneer. When you go to a nightclub, you're pretty much feeling the music and trying to move your body in such a way that other people won't feel the need to gather around you in mockery. You're constantly evaluating your own ridiculousness, holding back your real rhythmic impulses to make room for safe practices like the step-together, step-together. And you're covertly evaluating everyone else, too. That's a lot of work. Which is probably why it doesn't usually happen without professional training. Or alcohol.

But with Elementary School Square Dancing, the pressure is off. Five-hand Star? I think I remember the gym teacher explaining that one. Swing Your Partner 'Round and 'Round? His hand on my back? No way. Promenade Around the Square? Ok, I just have to get through holding his hand for exactly 3.5 seconds, and it'll be over until tomorrow.

Gym Class Square Dance isn't completely for the faint of heart. When I was in fifth grade I was partnered with this kid named Mike McCoy, who interpreted "Swing your partner" as "Fling your partner." I found it necessary to wear pants during that entire segment because the kid would spin me around so my body was parallel to the floor and I didn't want the entire class to see my Day Of the Week undies. Because attire is very important in the Square Dance. If you aspire to participate outside of class, you have to dress the part. I once barely gained entrance to the Girl Scouts' Father/Daughter Square Dance only because my navy-blue satin skirt with lace trim had more than three ruffles on it-- my dad must have used his boyish good looks to get in, because he has never owned anything remotely suitable for that kind of jamboree.

Don't get me wrong, I have all kinds of respect for actual Square Dancers. Once you get out of gym class, I understand the configurations can get quite complex and the announcer isn't just on some record the teacher slowed down so we could keep up. I saw a television segment on some serious Square Dancers once, and they meant some serious Square Dance business.

We were forced to learn it for at least one segment every year, from fourth grade until freshman year of high school, right when the idea of holding some boy's hand entirely stops being life-threatening, but long enough to teach you about keeping up appearances, hand-eye-foot--musical beat coordination and working with The Enemy. Looking back, I can't help but feel bad for H because he never got the chance to fling anyone around in the name of Physical Education. I've been asking around, and it seems they didn't teach kids Square Dance in Florida, either. What gives? Coastal people, what did you learn instead? Surfing? Because then I'd have to trade my feeling of superiority for jealousy, because a wet suit seems much cooler than bandannas and leather fringe.

Friday, May 18, 2007

there goes my career as an advice columnist

Someone recently came to me for advice. I was stumped. Maybe my good Internet pals might be able to help?

Let's say you're Brown (for those of you who are not). Let's say four years ago you moved seven states away from everything that you knew for the love of somebody who is NotBrown, who is also away from everything, namely her parents. After you two were together a year, NotBrown's parents found out about you and NotBrown. And without ever meeting you or knowing anything else about you except for your Brownness (they are NOT down with brown in general and have only recently spent any time with the brown 2-year husband of their other daughter). They refused to meet you or get to know your sparkling personality, and seriously threatened to stop paying NotBrown's tuition and bills unless NotBrown dumped you. NotBrown lied to them and said you were out of the picture to keep from going home and attending community college under the watchful eye of the people paying the bills.

But you weren't out of the picture.

Now you're really irritated because for four years, NotBrown has been faking to them like you don't exist when they come to visit (increasingly often) or are on the phone. You really love NotBrown and think there's a chance for you to be with NotBrown forever, but you're afraid that NotBrown's parents could poison the love you guys have with their hatred, and also don't want to drop a bombshell in the event that you and NotBrown do decide to get married someday in the Future. You give NotBrown an ultimatum to tell the parents now or else it's over.

NotBrown is in a really tough spot. Cut ties with parents for a relationship? Lose a love because of parents' rigid attitude? What if NotBrown tells the parents and gets disowned and then the relationship doesn't work out? What if NotBrown lets you go just to keep nice with parents but regrets it forever? At this point you have broken up with NotBrown, but both of you are miserable without each other, and NotBrown's friends can't figure out why you did it and are hinting that you wanted to break up with her and are using the parents as an excuse, which is not true. It is unclear whether the parents will eventually give your charm a chance, but they have only extended themselves a millimeter toward NotBrown's brother-in-law, who has been around for almost five years.

Did you do the right thing? Should you get back together with NotBrown for the Here and Now (you both really miss and love each other, but aren't sure marriage is on the agenda right now) and worry about the parents later? Or do you stick to your ultimatum and ask her to risk being cut off financially?


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

everything you didn't realize you wanted to know about Do They Read Obituaries in Hell?

You've been called many things: Dungeon Diva, champion for the rights of left-lane drivers, Grammar Nazi. Why Cadiz?
It's a town in Spain that I visited when I studied abroad in college. There's a story there, which involves a city full of drunken people and five of them sleeping in a Micromachine-sized hatchback on the side of the road. But I'll save that one for another time. I just like the way the name sounds. Especially with the twelve. Oh, and it's pronounced cAh-deez, not cuh-dizz.

Ok, that's good to know. So what is this blog about?
Me, mostly. For a couple years, I worked fluctuating, late hours in a tiny, windowless, cinderblock office with only a computer to keep me company. Then I'd come home and be unable to sleep until the birds started chirping so when I was available, everyone else was either asleep or at work. A blog is a nice use-at-your-own-convenience reminder to other human beings that I am still alive. Oh, and this is the exclusive online place to find Musto & Bones's "Dangerous On the Dance Floor" lyrics, the pursuit of which plagued me for years.

But most of your commenters seem to be other bloggers.
I know! The original target audience seems to have either forgotten that I am indeed alive, or is unable to remember or bookmark the entire address to look at the thing. And if they do, they rarely comment. But personal-time computer stuff isn't everybody's bag, and I can respect that. Regardless, I've gotten to know some awesome people from this, and now I sort of write for them.

You talk a lot about this H character. What's his deal?
He and I met through a mutual friend in New York and get to see each other about once a month because he lives in California and I live in Chicago. It doesn't make a lot of sense, but it works for us. Maybe not forever, but for right now.
***H moved to Chicago in March 2008.***
***H asked me to marry him in September 2009, I accepted, and we have a tentative wedding date for sometime in 2013--sooner if someone wants to make a very generous donation.***
***H is Jon***
***We moved the wedding date up to September 17, 2011, because it's been long enough already, dangit***
***Our wedding was great. In fact, I wrote about it here for every day of November 2011.**

Sometimes you write about heavy topics, especially when your brother is sick.
If you think about it, I'm pretty much an open book. Sure, I don't use my real name or talk specifics about what I do, but just as Real-Life-me is an atrocious liar, it's hard to keep stuff I'm going through off the blog. My little brother's struggle with his heart condition is a huge part of who I am. And though he's a tremendous smartass, he's the strongest person I know and one of the best people on the planet.

You also talk about being Indian-American. What would your Biodata say?
That I am 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34, educated and I live in Chicago suburbia. I have no children and have not been am married. The problem with all that Biodata nonsense is that it's just a resume with a picture. It won't tell you that I can do a breakdance six-step and I can't live without cheeseburgers, I have been classically trained in dutiful daughterism and can walk around in a sari and heels without falling down. Or that I can sing the entire "I'm a Toys-R-Us Kid" jingle and hum the themesong music to the A-Team. Or that I graduated from my mom's Indian cooking lessons with a PhD in At Least Your Children Won't Starve. The Auntie Patrol would take one look and tsk-tsk that I am not a doctor, lawyer or engineer. And to them, I'm practically expired my eggs are drying up. But getting their approval isn't terribly high on my to-do list.

Auntie Patrol? Is that some kind of secret military society?
No, it's what I lovingly call my parents' peers. They gave each other disapproving looks when my parents let me go away to college, but then heartily congratulated me on my graduation (and probably breathed a sigh of relief that being away from home didn't turn me into a heroin-addled harlot after all.) They uphold the centuries-old tradition of oneupping each other about their kids, but really, they're very nice people who have been like real aunts and uncles to me because all my genetic ones live on the other side of the world.

Word on the street is that you're starting your career over. How's that going? (2009)
Yeah, the dungeon-report industry is seriously floundering these days. Competing against more-experienced people as well as those who work for practically free (read: recent grads who don't have mortgages) isn't as glamorous as it sounds. Plus the slim pickings we're vying for could dump us back into the unemployment line before we're there two months--that's already happened to me. I went for this hospital job (September 2009) because I had the experience and they had the benefits. It's challenging to the mind, keeps the body moving, and it's nice to know I'm helping people feel better. I'm still freelancing in the old career, but now I can add "Quick with a throw-up bucket" to my resume.

Now for a few questions from the gallery.
At what age did you realize what your favorite color was? (from H)
No age. My favorite color seems to change every several years. When I was little, it was pink. Then red, then blue for a long time. And the last couple years, it's been green.

How long is your hair cadiz? (alexandra)
It hangs about a foot and a half down from the top of my head, but it's shorter when i leave it curly.
***I donated 21 inches of my hair to Locks of Love in December, 2008***

What's next for you?
Next? Oh, I'll probably watch some TV, eat, talk on the phone and go to bed. And then one day I'll die. Hopefully I'll leave behind some kids and a legacy.

Describe yourself in one word.

Ok, one last thing: Do they read obituaries in hell?
Yes, I've decided that they do. They need to know who's coming.

Monday, May 14, 2007

pushing my buttons

Why is it that people feel the need to push buttons that are already lit? Was my pressing the "up" arrow obviously not good enough to actually summon the elevator? If I'm already going to floor 17, will it not actually stop there unless you ALSO hit the button? Do you arrive at or in the elevator anticipating the joy of touching that button, but find that since I've already hit it your day has no meaning, so you go ahead and redundantly press it again?


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

just keep sending me flowers 'just because'

"Hey, so there was this discussion at work-- can I ask you a question?"

"Sure thing, what's up?"

"If you were driving and needed gas, when you pulled up to the station would you expect me to automatically get out of the car and pump it for you?"

"Of course not. Why?"

"I know my girl! These two women were hassling a guy for not pumping gas for his fiancee."

"Well, actually... if it were in a scary neighborhood, I'd expect you to at least offer, which I would refuse, of course. Unless it was a really bad area."

"Okay, I can see that."

"However, if the situation were completely different: Let's say I was carrying something heavy, and you were not carrying anything at all but you didn't think to help out? Then I would have to put whatever it was down and kick your ass."

"I've never done that, have I?"

"No, but I thought you should be aware. You know, just in case."

Irises. Delivered to my doorstep before that conversation and for no apparent occasion.
Nevertheless much appreciated.

Monday, May 07, 2007

my thoughts exactly

Check out the cool T-shirt highcon sent me in the mail:

It made my day.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

niharika, queen of the screen

It was a sad sad sad sad day last week when I flipped to MTV Desi (Indian-American music channel) and saw some odd programming. It seems MTV decided to do away with MTV World--which includes Chi (Chinese), K (Korean) and Desi--effective May 1.

As you know, I only procured entrance into the wild world of cable television last year. Since then, I have formed a lifelong bond with my DVR and made oh so many friends, like Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs, Stacy London and Clinton Kelly from What Not to Wear and Parvati Aggarwal from Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki (that last one is purely for Hindi education, I swear). One of my biggest guilty pleasures was MTV Desi.

That channel actually(!) showed videos. Lineups included musicians I'd never otherwise have heard of, like Karmacy, Jay Sean, Goldspot, Mentor Kolektiv, plus the standard hoochie-filled Bollywood videos and Bhangra. It was nice to see my fellow brown peeps making it big at something other than medicine and engineering, and especially nice to fall asleep to when I'd get home from the dungeon at 4 a.m. But I guess there wasn't much of an audience; I wouldn't have even discovered it if it wasn't part of the DirecTV package the roommates get.

What I'll miss most is Niharika Desai, the VJ whose approach really grew on me. That's probably because if I'd had the opportunity, I would have tackled the job with much the same attitude. It was refreshing to see somebody who grew up like me being able to express our bi-cultural heritage in a fun way, explaining without being condescending. There's too much that divides people already and it's true, you don't have to be perfect at the language or run around with a long braid and anklets to be a considered a desi woman. Thanks, Nee-hAAr-eeka. You keep on truckin', girl.

You can see some of what's left at the online version. I guess I'll go back to watching subtitled Korean soap operas late at night, when I can't sleep.

Friday, May 04, 2007

the jury's back

Downtown Detroit makes Chicago seem like freaking Paris.

But the people have heart. Big ups to my Coolie High grads. You know who you are.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

or maybe i'll just wait for her boutique

I went shopping with pp last weekend. As I have said before, I like nice clothes but for the most part, I hate shopping. Especially for myself. But if other people need help picking out stuff? I'm your girl.

This particular trip was one of my worst scenarios: I neededed something versatile to wear for a big client meeting (which will require my getting on a plane) with very little time to find it-- and as always--I was at a loss. Now pp is a marketing manager for a Big Time retailer and works with buyers. She's always ahead of the trends, what with planning the Holiday catalogue in April, knowing what seersucker is, and throwing around phrases like "aHm-peer waists" and "this fall is all about animal prints and movement."

The woman is knowledgeable, and she don't waste no kinda time. Back in college, I wouldn't be satisfied with a trip to the mall unless I had systematically touched every hanger in every store, a habit that elicited threats of bodily harm from pp. She goes in knowing what she wants, targets it, takes a sweeping glance at the rest of the offerings and exits. She's like an assassin. A trained killer who can quickly calculate markdowns.

While I ambled around the mall aimlessly, she asked what I'm looking for and what I'm working with. I said Professional-but-not-trying-too-hard, and Grey-striped-with-some-weird-color pants or Brown ladyshoes. Three hours later*, I got in my car with a lovely black pinstripe pencil skirt ("It's classic, you'll be able to wear it for years"? Music to my ears.) and a crisp white short-sleeved blouse that is enough of a wraparound to be interesting and enough of a buttonup not to be peek-a-boo. (Don't worry, I'm wearing a tank top anyway.) She said I could wear the red mules I already have and even suggested a game plan for the jewelry.

Not only was this accomplished in record time, but everything fits well and I did not break the bank. And somehow during our mission, pp managed to try on fifty pairs of jeans and purchase a cute pair of tailored capris, to boot. As we walked to the parking lot, I decided I'm going to have to make some serious Scrooge McDuck cash so she can quit the biz and pick out my clothes for a living instead. A good friend who can spot your favorites, hide your flaws and be fun to hang out with all the time? That's what I call a personal shopper.

*Of course, the day we were shopping was incrediby warm, so I purchase warm-weather clothes. And now the forecast says it's going to be about 20 degrees cooler in Detroit, so I'm going to have to improvise. Wish me luck!