Thursday, September 30, 2004

All hail... Frito-Lay's Sabritas peanuts with salt and lime, the best snack food on earth.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Friday, Sept. 24

• 1:30 p.m. - We check into the downtown Cleveland Marriott. I allow the valets to take my car, shuddering slightly at the cost because I'm not used to anything nicer than a Ramada Inn. We're given a corner room on the ninth floor, with a beautiful view that includes the church where the wedding will take place.

• 1:40 p.m. - I ascertain that, contrary to my expectations, not a single other soul in the wedding party is currently on the premises. The s.o. and I lie down for a nap.

• 6:30 p.m. - A limo bus arrives to transport the wedding party and various hangers-on to the church (which is, yes, less than one block away, but this is an elegant wedding and we are not expected to walk around outdoors in our high heels). We rehearse. One bridesmaid arrives late, panting and sweating, because she drove straight from work and mistakenly went to a Catholic church six blocks away.

• 7:40 p.m. - We all pile into the limo bus and are treated to an unexpected tour of Cleveland because our restaurant reservation isn't until 8:15.

• 8:15 p.m. - We take our seats at Mallorca, where really attractive Spanish waiters start pouring massive amounts of sangria and bringing out fabulous appetizers. Even the bride's and groom's mothers comment on how cute the waiters are. My stepfather and the bride's brother each eat their weight in mussels. We ponder: chocolate cake, flan, or rum cake?

• 11:00 p.m. - We finally get back to the hotel. I iron my shirt for the next morning, then paint my fingernails and toenails. I lie on the bed and the s.o. carefully covers me with a blanket from my ankles to my chest. I fall asleep while air-drying.

Saturday, Sept. 25

• 10:00 a.m. - I request my car from the valets and zoom out onto the highway, following a set of directions the bride had given me the previous night. I get lost because I'm too tired to follow them properly. Eventually I arrive at Mario's, ten minutes late for my 10:30 hair appointment. Two other bridesmaids are already there, drinking mimosas and waiting for their toenails to dry. A hairstylist picks up a lock of my hair, clucks a few times, and starts setting it on rollers. An hour and a half later I emerge with an elaborate Audrey Hepburn-worthy updo.

• 1:00 p.m. - We get into cabs with Mom, my stepdad, G., and three of G's friends and are taken to Great Lakes Brewing Co., where we can't get a suitable table in the restaurant because there's been a massive influx of people since Mom telephoned. We opt to eat from the bar menu downstairs. I have lager, Stilton cheese soup, and two massive pierogies. It holds me till dinnertime, which is really saying something.

• 4:00 p.m. - I defy the ever-present limo van and walk across the street to the church. Because I'm there before the rest of the bridesmaids, I get to see G. and his groomsmen before they disappear into their dressing room. They look really sharp. G isn't showing signs of nervousness, but I wouldn't expect him to, considering that he has performed surgeries.

• 4:10 p.m. - K. arrives with her dress. The salon has woven her long, dark hair into a low, loose chignon. She looks like a brunette Evita. The dress is spectacular--a long, smooth swath of champagne-colored heavy silk. The bodice is beaded and has little off-the-shoulder cap sleeves. The maid of honor helps K. step into the dress while the bride's mother pins flowers in everyone's hair. People keep barging in while we're half-undressed.

• 5:00 p.m. - The church's "wedding wrangler" gives me a little shove, and I step out into the waiting congregation. Why did they make me go first?!

• 5:15 p.m. - G. and K. say their vows. G's voice warbles slightly at first, but he gets hold of himself quickly.

• 5:23 p.m. - The minister pronounces G. and K. husband and wife. They kiss, and out of the corner of my eye I see my first stepdad (G.'s father) burst into tears. I have been fighting tears myself for, oh, about 20 minutes, but this sends me over the edge.

To be continued...

Ka-ching, ka-ching

Items Rejected by the Coinstar Machine in the Food Lion Grocery, Elkin, North Carolina, Sept. 23, 2004

Canadian "toonies" - 3
Canadian dollars - 5
Canadian quarters - 12
Canadian dimes - 4
Canadian nickels - 2
Canadian pennies - 3
UK pounds - 3
UK 50-pence coins - 4
UK 20-pence coins - 6
UK ten-pence coins - 4
UK five-pence coins - 6
UK two-pence coins - 7
UK pennies - 4
Guitar picks - 4
Keys to unknown locks - 5
Keys to an editor's house - 1
Aladdin's Castle arcade tokens - 1
Showbiz Pizza Palace arcade tokens - 2
South African 5-rand coins - 3
South African rands - 1
South African 50-cent coins - 2
South African dimes - 2
South African nickels - 5
Paperclips - 2
Plastic nudie coins with boobs on the "heads" side and asses on the "tails" side - 1
Mexican 10-peso coins - 1
Swiss 10-franc coins - 1
Swiss 5-franc coins - 1
Swiss 2-franc coins - 1
Swiss francs - 1
Swiss 1/2-franc coins - 2
French 2-franc coins - 1
French 20-centime coins - 1
French 10-centime coins - 1
Grommets - 1
Safety pins - 3
Two-Euro coins - 2
Euros - 3
Euro 50-cent coins - 5
Euro 20-cent coins - 4
Euro 10-cent coins - 5
Euro 5-cent coins - 3
Euro 2-cent coins - 4
Euro cents - 3
Metal slugs - 1
Mangled, unrecognizable, or sticky US pennies - 9
Antique "wheat" US pennies - 2
US pennies that look fine but were chucked out anyway - 4
Perfectly good US quarters - 1
Clean US dimes - 1
Brand-new, shiny US nickels - 2

Now if only we could afford to go somewhere and spend it!

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

We're back

And I'm exhausted, so I'm not good for much of a post now. One scene keeps running through my head for no particular reason: There was a stewed calamari dish at the reception and at one point the bride dispatched two of us bridesmaids to "Get me more tentacles!" I like the way that girl thinks.

K. and G. are in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula as we speak, hopefully having a wonderful honeymoon.

We drove back straight into the maw of Hurricane Jeanne and even had to stop for the night near Charlotte because the storm was making it nearly impossible to see the road. But we arrived home to idyllic sun. Nothing amiss.

Much more soon.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Dispatch from Charleston, W.V.

We're on our way to Ohio for the wedding and we've stopped here for the night. It's the capital of West Virginia, but it' shall I put this kindly? A one-horse town.

We needed a diversion before bed. Across the street from our Knight's Inn (discount motel with high-speed internet William Gibson is that?), we could see the red neon sign of a bar. We asked the front-desk guy if we were likely to get knifed there. He said no, so off we went.

The building was dual-purpose. The half that wasn't a bar was labeled "LAUNDRY MAT." The half that was a bar had a hastily corrected sign that had once said "Casino Lounge" but was painted over, in unmatched letters, to read "Nancy's Lounge" instead.

We played three games of pool and drank a couple of Makers & gingers. We had a great time. I don't really know how to describe the place except to say that it looked exactly how you'd expect it would. The glasses were plastic (to prevent "incidents," I suppose), the bartender kept ducking into the bathroom for snorts of something or other, there were Ohio State football commemorative beer posters on the wall, and the Mexican guys standing around the other pool tables were rocking out to "Sweet Home Alabama."

Wherever you are, it's just like home...

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Proud sister

Before I forget: Here's where you can get the track "Everywhere with Helicopter", which I referred to in my previous post. Guided by Voices are wildly uneven, but when they're good, they're transcendent.

The s.o. and I are scrambling to prepare ourselves for the trip to Ohio. My brother is getting married to a really lovely, smart girl on Saturday evening. I'm one of the attendants, and I have a gorgeous gauzy Greek-looking black gown and beaded strappy shoes to wear. Mom bought it for me for my birthday, so it's way nicer than I would have been able to afford in good conscience. But even if Mom hadn't done that and brother G. and his wife-to-be K. hadn't been so sweet about the pick-out-your-own-dress-as-long-as-it's-floorlength-and-black business, I would still be really excited and proud to be a part of this weekend's festivities. I have the coolest brother ever, and I will probably have one glass of wine too many at the reception and get all soppy and "I-love-you-man" on him.

I should probably save this for Saturday, but I don't think I'll be able to post then, so: Everybody raise a glass to G. and K.!

I haven't been sleeping enough this week--a combination of legitimate busy-ness and basic stupid failure to get off the damn internet and go to bed at a decent hour. But I need to be alert for Thursday's drive, so off I go to bed...

Monday, September 20, 2004


Beth includes very intriguing/inspiring playlists in her posts, so I thought I'd say what has shuffled through my iTunes this morning. Imitation is the sincerest form, etc., etc.

Robbie Fulks - "Let's Kill Saturday Night"
Bare Jr. - "Faker"
Guided by Voices - "Everywhere with Helicopter"
The Glands - "Livin' Was Easy"
The Damnations - "Quarter in the Couch"
The Plimsouls - "Oldest Story in the World"
Death Cab for Cutie - "The New Year"

I got up early to call my mechanic. This weekend I found out there's oil getting into one of my spark plugs. I don't think this bodes particularly well, but who knows? Are we talking about a head gasket here, or something less dramatic? Hopefully nothing more dramatic. The mechanic told me to stop by after lunch.

I'm so tired that I keep forgetting I've made coffee, so I haven't had any yet. Time to fix that NOW.



• I got my iPod in the mail! It's wonderful. It's also smaller than I expected it to be. I mean, I had probably read about 100 different times that it was the size of a deck of cards, but it's different now that I'm holding one in my hand. I'll have to be careful not to lose it! The first song it played for me was the Silos' "Commodore Peter."

• Best-case scenario on the car. The mechanic says it's the head cover gasket and the four little seals that go with it. He's ordering the part(s) today and I'm supposed to drop by again at 10 AM tomorrow for him to install them. "It'll take longer to clean it up than to install it," he says. "No big deal."

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Why I'm not writing a cooler post right now

I am probably the last person on earth to discover this, but...I trust everyone's been to

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Modernizing the office, continued

MacZone Order Summary

1 NEW Apple iPod 20GB MP3 Player for Mac/PC



These are slated to replace:

1 Panasonic Mini Cassette Recorder, model RQ-L31, which has a malfunctioning rewind button and a strange glitch that causes it to turn itself off spontaneously

approx. 1,000,000 disorganized cassette tapes with illegible dates scribbled on them, which create a colossal mess because I am required to keep interviews for two years until the statute of limitations on libel expires


And now it should be apparent what inspired me to buy the new computer: a technology breakthrough that will allow me to stop scouring Big Lots for packs of obsolete cassette tapes! The iPod and its recorder aren't compatible with the old laptop. So I had to get with the program.

I'm very excited and I will be listening for package-like thumping noises on the front porch...those DHL delivery men are wily...

Tuesday, September 14, 2004


What exactly does the UK Meteorological Office have against Chez 10Signs?

Ask and ye shall receive

Note the "Grinning Peanut" Jimmy Carter mug in the background. If you can see past my eMac's blinding brilliance, that is!


I love it so...

Monday, September 13, 2004

It's here

This is my first post from my new eMac! The delivery company dropped it on the front porch, not even bothering to ring the doorbell. It took only seconds to set up, recognized my ethernet connection instantly, and is sooooooo beautiful.

I'm in love. And the s.o. says he has computer envy. He has had the best computer in the household for the last several years.



Update: Uh oh. The s.o. just introduced me to GarageBand. Productivity falling...falling...

Friday, September 10, 2004

A fax from my father

I was cleaning out an old file cabinet today and found this. It's a faxed letter from my dad, who died in 2000. He always liked to act a little more like a peer than like an authority figure, but that was just a front--an image he liked to maintain. In reality, when it came to helping out his kids, he was incredibly on target. His advice was valuable and always very real. I don't think I appreciated, at the time, how much he helped me deal with the problems and issues that came with growing up. He was a great dad.


To: Jamie, Small Computer Firm, Inc., Burnsville, Minnesota
Subject: Nerves
Date: April 26, 1996
Pages: 1, including this cover sheet

You are supposed to be nervous. Buying a house is buying into everything you ever wanted to rebel against. Please don't start visiting theme parks.
It looks very early-century Midwestern Urban. Some houses of that era were noted for nice attention to detailing in the finish work, with lots of real wood, others not so. What I would like to know is this: What was the kitchen doing that it needed rehabilitation?
A few things you might want to look into: Go down in the basement and poke a knife blade into possible dry-rot areas in the joists and sill plates. Check on wall insulation. Watch for signs of foundation instability. Make sure the electrical wire insulation is sound and up to modern codes. Buy a 2 or 3 dollar circuit tester which plugs into the outlet and tells you if the ground is good. Taste the water, and assure yourself the pressure level is sufficient. Any slow drains? Ask your insurance man how well rated that area's fire department is (& how far away the nearest hydrant is) and get an idea about insurance costs, which should be a reflection of the general neighborhood stability and safety. Does the kitchen have enough winter light/windows? Envision the two of you sitting inside in a blizzard. Think about shoveling out the drive. Think about local noise levels, and traffic speed & patterns.
Then buy the house or be patient.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Woo hoo!

Today I called the fine folks at MacZone and ordered one of these. It's supposed to arrive on Tuesday! I can't wait!

I'm not a high-level user. I mostly screw around on the internet a lot and write and edit articles. I'll also be downloading music (legitimately!) and sticking the music on an iPod, which will be next month's big purchase. So this is perfect for me. The s.o. is happy because it comes with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4.

I have a feeling this will be a big change from working on my beloved but grimy 1999-vintage iBook with the Hello Kitty Chinese New Year stickers on it and all the letters worn off the keyboard. I'll always adore ye, little iBook, but it's time to upgrade...

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Ed's finest hour

Last night the s.o. and I played cards by candlelight. Not because it was a romantic, fun thing to do (although it was), but because our power was out. After Hurricane Frances cleaned Florida's clock and was downgraded to a plain old tropical storm, it headed northward through Alabama, spawning three days (so far) of nasty weather to the east. We've had spattering, pouring, drenching rain, combined with 40- and 50-mile-per-hour winds.

Yesterday, while walking the dogs, I noted that we had lots of branches down in the yard. Little branches, sure, but also a lot of giant boughs that would kill you if they fell on you. (We're extremely lucky that none of these have fallen on the house.) So far there has been no time to clean them up, because the weather has been horrible and only an insane person would stand around outside and cut up branches.

So this morning, I can't say I was really surprised to see our nutjob neighbor Ed out in his yard with a chainsaw. The roar of the engine echoed down the block as he carved away at the downed limbs in his front yard. Not only that, but he was trying to burn the cut-up wood. There was a giant pile of brush and logs next to his driveway, smoldering damply in the rain. There still is, because in the end it never really caught fire.

As I write this, the rain has lessened to a mere mist. As the cars splash past on the rural highway and the water runs off in the gutters, we can hear a familiar sound: Ed is mowing again.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004


I'm doing a bit of guest-blogging here this week. So are a several other people. It's turning into an insane asylum, which I think was the desired effect...

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Portrait of a Saturday

Today we were supposed to go to the local flea market and rid ourselves of a bunch of junk we've cleared out. That meant getting up at 6:45 a.m. and driving about 40 minutes. But at 5:30 (!) I was awakened by the s.o., who complained that he hadn't slept yet and refused to go.

After the argument that ensued (Me: "Suck it up and go!" Him: "I can't. I don't have it in me." Me: "Well, you are for goddamn sure going to move all of those boxes back out of my car by yourself, then!"), I was totally, irrevocably agitated and awake. So I got up, arranged myself on the couch, and watched one of our Netflix, Girl with a Pearl Earring. I loved it, and it was just the thing to relax me so that afterwards I could snuggle into the couch and make up for the sleep I'd lost.

I pried myself off the couch at 12:30 p.m. or so and made a batch of buckwheat waffles (from a mix, so don't expect any recipes). I squeezed some fresh orange juice and made a pot of coffee. I ate my brunch while watching some complete crap on the E! network and reading the new issue of Southern Living.

The rest of my day isn't shaping up to be quite so leisurely. I've just finished wood-puttying a couple of holes in the upstairs half-bath floor and priming the rest of the room's floor planks. I plan to do a couple hours' worth of drywall finishing upstairs. Then it'll be time to dust-mop the floors, do a load of dishes, shower up, and get ready for the evening.

The s.o. is having a friend over, and we're all going to get some barbecue. Then my presence is required in town to bartend in the aftermath of the year's first college football game. Our team is winning so far. It will be a mob scene. I should make a stack of money and arrive back home at about 5 a.m.

So essentially, I'm just sitting here blogging in order to procrastinate.

Friday, September 03, 2004


I try to be an open-minded person. I try to avoid gratuitously using the word "Repugnican" for "Republican" (although it's appropriate, and funny to boot). And last night, as the the Republican National Convention wrapped up with George W. Bush's speech, I tried very hard to find something I liked.

I found something. It was his suit and tie, which were lovely.

Other than that, the speech was best suited to drinking games. If you took a drink of your beer every time he said "safer" or "terrorists," you could get pretty drunk.

As for the rest of the convention, here's a link to a refutation of what Zell Miller and his ilk are saying about John Kerry's voting record. My greatest criticism of the Democratic party is that it seems curiously unable to defend itself against slander by the cynical opportunists on the other side, so it's important that the rest of us spread the word.

The best thing about the RNC was that MSNBC pundit Joe Scarborough hosted "After Hours" convention coverage with independent Ron Reagan. Their fair, thoughtful convention coverage has been just about the only thing of its kind on American TV that's watchable.

Other than that, it's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Stewart is careful to remind viewers, over and over again, that he hosts a comedy show. But it's that very fact that gives him the leeway to be a real journalist--to refuse to let his interviewees get away with pat answers and soundbites. No one can fling accusations that he's not being "fair and balanced," because he's supposed to be making fun of people. His bullshit detector is fine-tuned, and as a result he has become one of the most important commentators of our time.

Well, anyway, this should be an interesting couple of months ahead...


Addendum: I forgot about Bill Maher. I freaking love Bill Maher. Credit where it's due, etc.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


As promised, here are a few snaps of what's going on around here. First there's the turtle I had to move out of my driveway so that I could use my car. It's a box turtle about the size of a roll of toilet paper. It hissed at me very fiercely when I picked it up, but it wouldn't retract its head all the way because it wasn't willing to let go of the grasshopper it was eating.

I was really glad to see this turtle. It was the first I'd seen on the property since the Great Turtle Holocaust of 2002, when we had all the kudzu (and, unfortunately, some of the slower wildlife) front-loadered off the open part of the property. There was no avoiding it; the kudzu had taken over so badly that it was either that or a multi-year program of some of the nastiest herbicides known to man. But when the s.o. found a crushed turtle, I thought I was going to be sick, or scream, or both. I had nightmares.

So a big hats-off to my shelled friend. I hope that when I moved it out of the driveway and back beyond the pecan trees, I thereby encouraged it to travel in a direction that wasn't across the highway! We want our property to be a safe haven for creatures.

And here a couple of shots of the newly painted dining room. One of them reveals the ghastly mess that is our kitchen entryway. Stacks of cookbooks, coats...urgh.

I went to Home Depot the other night and got all the paint I'll need to finish the upstairs and foyer. They'll be a lot of work, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, finally...