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Archive for January, 2009

Today’s random photo tests all of our abilities to think outside the box artistically. Take a look…

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Now…one might think, “Where could I put a piece of pink, glitter Sasquatch art?” But if you think that way, then you’re not expanding your mind to its fullest potential, and realizing that there are multiple uses for such a masterpiece.

For instance, you could use it as a coffee table coaster. And when someone comes over for a visit and says “Hey! A Sasquatch coaster! What’s the story there?”, you could look them dead in the face, while wearing a completely benign expression, and say “there’s no story…”, then continue on with the conversation like nothing has happened. Watch your guest’s eyes continue to dart back and forth between you and the Sasquatch, trying to find some level of understanding as to why, on God’s green earth, you have a Sasquatch coaster.

But the fun doesn’t end there.

You could hang it in your bathroom. But when hanging it in your bathroom, it’s very important to position it so it’s hanging on the wall opposite the toilet, so that an unsuspecting guest sits down and is faced with a pink, glitter Sasquatch. They look around the rest of the bathroom, decorated in modern elegance….then their eyes arrive back at the Sasquatch trying to understand its existance, not just in the bathroom, but on planet Earth. They come out of the bathroom and say “Hey….did your neice/nephew/child/grandchild/God-child paint that Sasquatch in the bathroom?” And you could, once again, look mildly puzzled, then say “Well….no. No they didn’t.” Then offer no further explanation. Your guest will remember that moment for weeks…..maybe years.

Finally, when looking at such a painting, I like to picture where a person is in their life spiritually….mentally….emotionally….artistically……that they would feel the need to paint a Sasquatch accented by glitter paint. Did they have the idea one day sitting in a meeting? Were they invited to a crafting party after having just read a website about Bigfoot? Were they raised by a pack of Sasquatches and this is their effort to record the experience in….pink paint? Are they just ….you know… a big….fan of Sasquatches…

Or were they like me, when it comes to most random, bizarre things that I do? Which is….one day….they just felt like painting a Sasquatch.

So they did.

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Turn on the Telly

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When I visit the UK, I like to watch TV.

Oh, I know I should be out seeing the sights….and often I DO…but when you’ve been to that country as many times as I have, you begin to immerse yourself in the smaller nuances of life there as much as the tourist stops. It can be just as fascinating – – maybe even more-so at times.

One of the main reasons I like to watch TV when I visit, is that UK television is quite entertaining – – they have been bitten hard by the Reality Show Bug – – same as the US – – but they also have incredible documentaries, hilarious talk-shows, and historical mini-series by the bucket loads. I always end up finding a show that I become completely engrossed in that involves sweeping landscapes….or jaunts to Spain. Usually all narrated or hosted by someone with a wry, British wit.

In addition to that, one of my FAVORITE things to do is to watch one of their plethora of Home and Garden-type shows. One of the shows where a UK couple is either shopping for a new house in the country….or doing up a room in an old house….or similar. And I enjoy this because I absolutely love to watch the British be “enthusiastic” on camera. To say that they are less animated than Americans who appear on similar shows in the US would be the understatement of the century.

If we’re doing comparisons…. an enthusiastic British person would be like Mr. Rogers from “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” having taken several muscle relaxors, inexplicably adopted an English accent….and remarked that winning the lottery was “…quite nice, really. Fancy a cuppa tea?”. While an American winning the lottery would be like Richard Simmons, hyped up on 27 cups of coffee, wearing his favorite pair of satin shorts, having just received permanent laser hair removal on his legs…. in the middle of filming his new work-out DVD entitled “Sweatin’ To the Extreme Techno Dance-Club Oldies”…….and he suddenly sees Cher standing before him, who has magically appeared on set, and she breaks out into spontaneous song……….while Richard begins to scream and scream in complete, wild abandon…until he cannot form words and his vocal chords no longer make any sound because ………

he’s…..just……….so………excited!

Yeah…that pretty much sums up the difference between British and American enthusiasm.

So anyway, on these shows, the couple will walk in with a pleasant look on their faces, to see their new room….or the house that they might opt to buy….and the host is acting quite jazzed up for a Brit, really. He’s making all sorts of arm gestures trying to will the couple into reacting in a way that might approach the realm of enthusiasm that this new room or home deserves…

Host: So what do you think, Nigel and Katherine? Do you like your new room? Isn’t it FANTASTIC??!

Nigel: **mmm** [insert quiet, non-commital sound] ***more silence***

Katherine: **gazing about the room**

Nigel: I quite like the chair in the far right corner

Katherine: Yes the chair is lovely.

Nigel: **looks down** The carpet’s quite nice….

Katherine: Yes…the carpet’s lovely.

Host: Actually, the carpet was here…..before ….the renovation. Well! That’s all the time we have today folks! Tune in tomorrow!

At that point, the host wraps his arms around Katherine and Nigel and pulls them in for a forced side-bear hug. All the while, Katherine and Nigel gaze into the camera like deer in headlights, mustering what might be considered a smile in some areas of the universe. If it weren’t for the grimaces.

Meanwhile…..back at the ranch. In the US, all Ty Pennington has to say is “MOVE THAT BUS!!!” and an American family falls out onto the pavement in a state of convultions so violent that ambulances are standing by in the event that they will need a defibrillator to shock hearts back into submission. And God help us when they see the living room.

I also love all the UK advertisements. So often they are clever, interesting and truly funny….sometimes I like them even more than the shows. A new favorite of mine is the latest PG Tips Tea ad that was running when I was there over New Years. I asked Tony on the phone the other day how long PG Tips had been around in the UK and he said…”Well….do you know The Last Supper painted by Da Vinci?” ….I said, “Yes.” He continued…”Well, if you look carefully on the table, you can see tiny cups of PG Tips tea beside their plates”.

In other words, it’s a brand that’s become a staple over there and has been for quite some time.

Their ad campaigns used to involve live chimps who drank tea and acted like humans called “The Tipps Family”. It apparently was the longest running ad campaign in UK history. Most recently, though, they’ve been running a campaign that involves a monkey puppet and a man named Al. The monkey and Al converse about the wonders of PG Tips tea – – with the monkey, of course, being the brighter one of the two.

I am not ashamed to say, that I’ve watched this clip on YouTube about 47 times since I got back to the US from my visit. Because it never ceases to make me laugh.

It likely will not surprise most of you that I like to laugh at a monkey puppet.

A lot.

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amyatlantalightscr1

I moved to Atlanta with a total of two suitcases in tow, and four cardboard boxes that had been shipped earlier via UPS, on the way. I was 23, and had just returned to the south from nearly two years of living in Oregon, leaving many experiences…some bad, some good, all important…behind me. I was facing a new job, new car…new life…immediately upon my arrival and I was both excited and nervous….as one would expect to be given all the changes that had taken place in so short a time. It had taken less than a month to land the job, quit my other job, buy a car, and hatch a plan to restart my life. That was a lot to take in.

What I wasn’t planning on, was the degree of Urban Intimidation I would be facing upon my arrival. And by “Urban Intimidation”, I’m not talking gang signs and car-jackings – – – I’m talking about being intimidated by the idea of living in a city. All other places I’d lived were either small towns or fairly large towns – – not actual, certified, horn-honking, sky-scraper wielding cities. Oh I was concerned about what this would mean to my psyche in theory…sure…but distantly, like it was a story where I was the main character that I was reciting to myself and others. And until I stepped foot onto Atlanta soil, it hadn’t felt real…..but once it was real, I began to slowly slip into an ashen-faced panic.

I memorized all my routes to and from work on back roads because the interstates were what made my heart get palpitations in the extreme. All those winding, snaking sheaths of road…fast-moving cars that showed no mercy to a shy new-comer like myself who did not know what lane she was supposed to be in. Exits would appear out of nowhere, taking you onto an overpass which lept up into the sky – – arching you over the city and dumping you off onto one of the 20 bazillion “Peachtree” streets, where you were left to wind your way back to an area that looked familiar. And since NOTHING was familiar to me at that time, this sometimes took a while.

I don’t know how long I avoided those interstates – – a month probably – – maybe two. I probably could have done it at least a year…maybe more…if I’d worked really hard at it.

But as with most things in my life that have involved fear, I avoid it until I can’t stand to look at my fearful eyes in the mirror any longer – – until I can’t take one more moment of palm sweats and not facing the thing that I just cannot do. And on this instance, this point came when I was sitting alone in my apartment, that contained only a lawn chair, a rabbit-ear TV, and an inflatable mattress that deflated every night so that I woke up lying on what had now essentially become a plastic sheet on top of the hard, worn carpet. I sat in my ratty little lawn chair, gripping the metal arms of it, concentrating on the floor at my feet….giving myself the mental pep-talk of my life.

I needed to go somewhere across town, and I needed to take the interstate to do it. Oh…I could have worked out a back-way, I’m sure….but I was sick of figuring out the back-ways….sick of avoiding the inevitable. I was sick of being afraid.

So with sweaty palms and a determined spirit, I made my way across town on the interstate – – shaky and careful in my driving – – and it was, honestly, awful. But it became less awful each time I got into the car. Each time I made myself tackle the beast. Until one day, it no longer bothered me….and I became a curser and a yeller just like everyone else who lived here. There are still times when I catch myself mid-eye-roll, and realize how far I’ve come….celebrating this fact instead of lamenting the stupidity of the driver in front of me. I used to be that stupid driver – – and now I’m………still a stupid driver (but I do it with a lot more panache and style! ;)).

The city grew into my bones – – its quirky, fast rhythms – – its lit-up streaks of red and white car lights. Where intimidation once resided, now there was excitement. Where fear lay, now there was curiosity. I eventually got some furniture…I got some gumption…I got a life….and I counted the city as one of my friends now.

So it was with these thoughts in mind this past Saturday night, as I carried my new camera, tripod and a creative spirit along-side my photographer friend, Kyle…..en route across the bridge overlooking Freedom Parkway to take photos of one of the most fantastic views of Atlanta around.

The wind was cold and biting, the air completely clear, and Atlanta rose up like an electronic, angular sun – – its skyline truly a beautiful sight. I looked down on the cars whizzing past – – on all these people who have found their daily, nightly rhythms in this great city….just like I did and still do. It is all comforting to me now, in an exciting sort of way. These streets that I know, that have taken me to so many new places in both body and spirit….they are constant with their lullaby of fury…carrying our agendas and egos with them.

No matter where I go and what I do from here forward….I cut my teeth on this city. It opened up a portal to the rest of the world for me – – – not because of what IT is, with all it’s sweeping vertical movements of concrete and steel – – – but because of what I found of myself in it.

atlantalights

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I’m warning everyone upfront – – – when I’m having a complete, utter, total lack of any brain activity like I am tonight, then you very well might get something from my Random, Inane and Bizarre Photo Collection if I have any energy at all to type on the keyboard. This is a collection of various photos that I usually find accidentally during a random Google search and keep on hand “just in case”. “Just in case…what?”, you might ask? And my answer is: I don’t know exactly. But here are some ideas:

  • Just in case aliens land on our planet and intend to hold all world leaders hostage until they receive a photo that makes them laugh their little triangle heads off. And I, thus, become an international hero when I send them one of these little gems.
  • Just in case Ellen Degeneres’s car breaks down outside of my house and is in desperate need of a new comedy sketch for an episode she’s taping in 15 minutes. And I have JUST the photo that will work.
  • Just in case I’m talking to someone Really Important on the phone and they’re telling a bone-achingly boring story but they think it’s funny and I need to laugh in the appropriate spots, so I pull out various photos from my stash at various points in the conversation to assist me with this endeavor. (OK…that one’s not actually so far-fetched…)

So here’s what I’ve got tonight….and I gotta say that I think this dog is British:

dawgwithglasses

Any offerings for possible photo captions welcome!

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As we usher in a new era of American History, I think that whether you are a Republican, Democrat or Independent, most all of us can agree that this is a truly historical day in our nation.  One that can be celebrated and remembered for years to come.

But I didn’t want to let the day go by without also making note that I, for one, and incredibly, ridiculously, enormously grateful that I can now watch a presidential speech without wanting to crawl underneath my couch and become part of the hardwood floor due to my immense and profound sense of embarrassment in our president’s speaking abilities.  Obama’s speaking abilities are like water on a parched throat for us Americans who have endured countless horrific attempts from Bush to communicate to anyone other than, perhaps, Sea Monkeys.   I would watch his addresses to the nation and other various speeches that I happened to catch a clip of on the news, with one eye scrunched closed – – like somehow, some way, this could lessen the blow of each syllable as they escaped from his mouth like intoxicated criminals from a state prison.

One way I found to ease the pain of this phenomenon over the past gazillion years that Bush has been our president, is to watch David Letterman’s “Great Moments in Presidential Speeches” segment that he would have on all of his episodes since 2006.  It allowed me to laugh so I wouldn’t cry.  Each segment would have clips of great speeches from presidents in the past like Kennedy…or Reagan….or Hell, even Nixon.  And immediately following these clips, he would show one of Bush that….well…let’s just say…left a lot to be desired.

Last Friday night, Letterman had his final “Great Moments in Presidential Speeches” segment and had, thus, created a montage of some of the Best of Bush.  If you don’t look at ANY other YouTube clip I put up here….please look at this one.  And PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE watch it until the end when it gets to the part with the kid standing behind him during one of his speeches.  I laughed until my stomach ached at that one…

With that said….Happy Inauguration Day – – – and here is hoping for many great speeches to come over these next 4 years.   We’re already off to a fantastic start.

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I was on the phone with my mom recently and she said:  “I’ve liked all your blog posts….except the one about that strange man because I didn’t know what you were talking about.”

I was quiet for a moment, running over my blog posts in my mind, trying to remember which one involved a “strange man”.

It then dawned on me that she was referring to Vanilla Ice.

(I laughed then, and I’ve laughed everytime I’ve thought of it since!!!)

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I had dinner Friday night before last, with several of my old college friends.  And as always, conversation turned to stories from “the good ol’ days” when we “liberated” couches from the study parlors, had to yell “hot water!!!” when flushing the toilets in the public bathroom/shower areas, and pooled all of our money together to hit McDonald’s when it was at the end of the semester and the dining hall had, thus, run out of food and were serving what we not-so-affectionately referred to as “Koogle”.  No one was really certain what was IN Koogle as it was a mysterious casserole of sorts, but there were many theories.  Mine was that they caught wild, indigenous game with traps on the back campus….raccoons, squirrels and the like…and combined that with cornflakes, tomato puree and perhaps some roofing tar to make a delectable dish.

When the inspiration to graduate and join the Real World (not the MTV variety) left a person during weaker moments while in school – – one bite of Koogle would pretty much restore that desire to GET OUT like nothing else could.

We went to a women’s college – – which brought with it it’s own special brand of boredom.  And given that all the women who hung out in my group of friends were in some form or fashion majoring in a creative or communicative field – – Art, English, Drama, Communication, etc….we were particularly gifted in creating our own entertainment.  In order to protect the reputations of these women who have since moved on to very successful careers, I will refrain from relaying some of the truly bizarrely entertaining stories that involve, among other things, paint and body parts, until I get written consent and speak to their lawyers.  Until then, I will re-tell a story that will embarrass only me since the subject is, mainly, moi.

When I was a Senior, I opted to become a Resident Assistant.  I was the RA for a dorm that contained only Sophomores (and my friend Beth, who was also a senior, and who opted to live in the room next to mine and share a bathroom with me because it was a bigger room), and it was, ultimately, a pretty low-key dorm.  I had to do a bit of “peer counseling” as we called it, from time-to-time, but for the most part,  it was an easy gig.

All the campus RA’s as a group,  had to individually team up with another RA and devise a hall program to have once a month.  When it was your month,  you and the other RA would decide what would be the subject of the program and then coordinate speakers, or games or….you know…eating large quantities of pizza while mentioning the subject at hand a couple of times, then calling it a night.  Much eye-rolling would ensue amongst the RA’s when it came to hall programs  because A. it was difficult to have the time to coordinate it all while also keeping up with your studies and B. no one came.

Well… when it rolled around to my turn,  I was teamed up with another RA from another dorm and we got it into our heads that we would do a program on “Safe Sex”.  I mean…how difficult could THAT be given we were at a frickin’ WOMEN’S college?  I can’t remember who we had come and speak, but what I do remember is that the Housing Director informed us that she could hook us up with some free condoms to pass out at the program.  She figured that we should all, as RA’s, have some on hand to give out to residents “just in case” someone actually needed one.  But this, of course, would require people to actually be having sex – – and while there were rumors that there might be some people who actually WERE – – like Bigfoot or the Werewolf, these recounts could just as easily been a campus myth, told late at night to Freshmen to frighten them.

So at the next RA meeting….Jackie, the Housing Director, told us that the condoms “were here”…and the way she said it, with a twitch to her lip like she was about to break out into spontaneous, maniacal laughter at any moment, caused all of us to look at her with a suspicious eye. 

As it turned out….the condoms had arrived in droves.  Oceans of condoms.  It looked like a Lifestyles Condoms truck had taken an order from the Nymphomaniac’s Association of America and had gotten it mixed up with our little Women’s College’s order of “20 sexual intercourses, please…”  and dumped them out at our campus.  Jackie brought in garbage sack after garbage sack FULL of condoms – – – she looked like some perverted version of Santa Claus.

All of the RA’s stared at the bags like Michael Flatly, Lord of the Dance, had just climbed out of a UFO in the middle of the room and started doing some Irish Dancing.  Naked.  And handing out condoms with wild abandon when he got to the high-kick part.

I said:  “Uh. What are we gonna do with all of those?”

Jackie said:  “Well.  I don’t know yet.  But for starters, all of you are going to take some.” 

The result of the meeting was that all of us divided up the condoms and took some back to our rooms to keep and hand out “as needed” (aka: “never”) – – I got the most, along with my hall program partner, since we were the ones doing the program on Safe Sex that month.  We were overjoyed.  Ok, “overjoyed” might be overstating a little.  

Ok, a lot. 

I think that we had, like, 7 people show up to the hall program and they were a lot more interested in the pizza than the condoms.  Finally at the culmination of the program,  I just told them to come by my room…or any of the other RAs’ rooms…and let us know if they needed any,  because the bag had lain in the middle of the study parlor completely untouched, like a garish harlot who was doing gyrations in front of a convent full of nuns.  People stared at the bag with looks of discomfort, periodically glancing at their watches to see if the hall program was cutting into an episode of The X-Files.

So I took the sad, dejected sack of condoms back to my room, where it lay by the door like a slug for weeks on end, living a life of utter prophylactic boredom.  I mean, let’s face it – – condoms have places to go and people to…..never mind. 

My discrete notice by my door indicating to “see me” if anyone needed any did nothing to reduce the number that remained in my care.  I finally just erased the note from my dry-erase board – – it was a waste of perfectly good marker.  And what was worse, was that one day, after there was a knock on my door…I went to answer it and was faced with two MORE sacks of condoms lying in front of me like black, plastic Toadstools of Doom.   I heard the outside door slam and the echoes of giggling in the stairwell as two wayward RA’s made a clean get-away from dumping off their supply on me as a joke.  The fact that it was a GOOD joke is beside the point – – because now I had MORE freaking condoms to deal with.  I tried to give them BACK the condoms in a variety of sneaky ways…to no avail – – they kept coming back like a bad habit.  So I was stuck…

…Until one fateful day,  I finally figured out what I could do with the condoms. 

The college where I attended was ripe with tradition.  And one of these traditions was called “Senior Skit Night”.  People broke into groups and all performed ridiculous skits for the rest of the underclasswomen.  These were not moments of thespian genius, trust me.  But were, instead, more efforts to defeat the ongoing boredom that saturates a women’s college. 

As with most things that pertain to the traditional requirements of our college,  my group of friends and I had waited until the last minute to stir from our lethargy.  We congregated together in my friend Beth’s room, synapses firing and missing in our collective mind repeatedly, while we threw out options.  At some point, someone finally brought up the idea of “Superheroes” – – and we all began making noises of enthusiasm for this idea.  We could all be a various, strange mix of Superheroes….and immediatley began determining which superhero we would each be.  Beth would be Wonder Woman….Elizabeth would be Captain Apathy (her only line in the whole skit was to repeatedly say “Mehhh…whatever.  I don’t care.”),  Mandy would be “Captain Klutzoid” because she fell down pretty much every day for inexplicable reasons.  And it was at that point that a light bulb went off in my head.  I could barely contain my excitement over the idea.

I was going to be “Condom Girl”.  Promoting safe sex in a single bound.  Lots and LOTS of safe sex.

My costume consisted of a leotard and tights, a huge “C” on my chest, a cape made out of Beth’s red pillow case, and condoms taped over my entire body.  During one of my Mensa Moments,  I took one of the condoms out of the wrapper and tried to stretch it on my head to wear as a hat.   Do not try to do this…..well…pretty much ever.   I cannot overstate this enough.  I looked like the head of a deformed earthworm who was about to rob a convenience store….and with the lubrication, it kept sliding up over my hair with such force that the condom became a slingshot device,  hitting people and walls at lighting speed within my immediate vicinity.  Therefore, sadly…. a condom hat was not to be.

The night finally arrived.  I carried the bags of condoms with me as this lethargic group of Superhero rejects made our way across the grass to the stairs of the Loggia where we were going to have the skits.  When our turn arrived, we performed flawlessly – – receiving much laughter and applause.  And still, I kept the condoms close by my side — these condoms that had been my constant companion for so many months now.  We were about to part ways.

I do not remember anything about what was said in the skit except the last line – – which was spoken by me.  I said: “And you know what THAT means, Captain Apathy?  CONDOMS FOR EVERYONE!!!” And I heaved all 3 bags of condoms down the steps, over hundreds of heads, like Mardi Gras gone wrong.  There was screaming and mass confusion….people suddenly really INTERESTED in getting a condom…all scrambling to pick them up where they landed.  Down shirts…on heads…on concrete. 

And for the weeks following, every so often, you would catch a glimpse of a silver wrapper lying on the ground….or on the porch of one of the academic halls…like confetti for adults.  I smiled with pride every time I saw one – – so proud of my ingenuity and so thankful for my condom-free dorm room now.  They did eventually track them all down and pick them up, and no one knew it was me who had done it,  and no one ratted me out since the school’s administration is never present for Senior Skit Night.  Though I think that Jackie suspected it was me because she knew I had been the disgruntled Keeper of the Condoms. But she said nothing to me – – knowing that in some way, I’d been pushed to my latex breaking-point.

Unfortunately, there were a total of 3 stray condoms that found their way underneath my little dorm refrigerator – having somehow gotten loose from the bags when they stayed in my room all those months.  And more unfortunately,  I did not see them until the refrigerator was lifted up for removal when I was moving out of my dorm room on graduation day with my family.  And most unfortunately…

They were found by my very old, very cantakerous,  Great Aunt Novyce.

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