Thursday, December 29, 2005

Well, Margaret and I still haven't see the Narnia movie--but while we were in Salt Lake we did enter a strange door in the city's scary west side industrial district to an alternate universe (and I'm not talking about the Jordan River temple). Margaret's sister, who knows EVERYBODY that's somebody in Salt Lake and everything that is going on in the city, found out about this place to buy cheap jeans. We were a little trepidatious when she told us it was in the heart of the industrial district of Salt Lake--on the WEST SIDE, nonetheless. The only time we ever cross the forbidden line of the I-15 freeway that bisects the city is to go to the airport--and we try to drive that route as fast as possible and NEVER make any stops until we're safely at the Delta entrance. Anyway, we drove to the area in one of the few passenger vehicles on the road--it was mostly trucks and shipping containers for the giant warehouses for who-knows-what (I'm thinking Jell-O shipments). We drove up to a pretty nondescript building with lots of loading bays for 18-wheelers and there, in the middle of the block-long building, was a tiny (in comparison) red door. We went through it and it WAS like the four kids stumbling through the wardrobe into Narnia. In this crazy, mixed up universe, you could buy name-brand jeans for over half off, designer shirts, jewelry, even LUGGAGE! Of course, we felt like we had stepped into if not the black market (a place that I had always thought was an actual store--and probably behind "Vern's Emporium of Cheap Stuff.") Well, it wasn't exactly the BLACK market--it was more... steel gray, or possibly tarnished silver. Not one to be hooked up on the morality of where something comes from if it involves saving a load of money, we proceeded to spend several hours in the store, rifling through the stacks of jeans, shirts, etc. I tried on a Versace pullover in medium. Normally I wear a small, but European clothes tend to be cut a little more slutty fitted--the medium was so tight I felt like I was trying on Seven-of-Nine's bodysuit. The large ALMOST fit, but was so long I could have gotten away with not wearing any pants with it. We did leave the store with some great finds, and I'm sure that people will be surprised when they ask us where we found our new designer clothes and we tell them "Utah." Prior to this trip, the coolest stuff we've brought back were some delicious dried cherries from Brigham City.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Whew, this has been an exhausting few days--I don't think that Christmas would be Christmas, though, without being completely spent by the time New Year's rolls around (and I say spent in both senses of the word). Last night, a group of Norwegian returned missionaries--or "RM's" in Mormon slang; the invitees were carefully culled from the larger group based on how funny they are, how laid back they are, and how willing they are to dish out any information about other RMs. We met at a brewery here in Salt Lake (and unlike the breweries in Portland, this one doesn't rely solely on brewing beer--or they'd probably go out of business here--they also brew up Mormon-friendly root beer, cream soda, and orange soda--it gives the feeling of sin, without the pesky aftereffects--like confession). We had a fun time, and afterward, came back to Margaret's mom's house and talked some more. We started telling stories about crazy family members and one of the guys told us about his sister-in-law that suffers from O.D.D. We all looked at each other trying to figure out what that disorder was--maybe it was a more acute form of ADD? Finally, he said, she's odd. That's one for the Big Book of Insults, a tome that my brother wrote over half of that I keep at home for continual study.

Speaking of hilarious family stories, Margaret's sister takes her son to a Jewish preschool. During the orientation, they kept stressing that children were forbidden to bring any form of peanuts whatsoever in their lunches. They were pretty forceful in their warnings. Finally, Margaret's sister leaned over to a woman sitting next to her and said, "I know the Jewish thing about pork, but I've never heard about peanuts." The woman, probably trying not to laugh or roll her eyes, informed her that it was a precaution for children with peanut allergies. Oops. I hate it when I do that--your mind just goes off in one direction and leaves reality far, far behind. I remember when I was a kid, every time our school had a fire drill, I would furtively look up and down all the halls on my way out of the building, trying to catch a glimpse of the workers using a "fire drill"--a tool so dangerous that the children had to be evacuated from the building in case of accident or emergency. I was SO disappointed when I found out what a fire drill really was--my version was much more interesting.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Yesterday Margaret, my grandmother, and I went into Logan to do some shopping. Margaret was on the lookout for a kitschy Mormon gift for a friend, so she ran into the first stop for seekers of Mormon knickknacks--Deseret Book. (In case you don't know, Deseret is the original Indian name for the Great Salt Lake area-I think it means "Place where one buck has seven does," but that was changed to Utah, which means "Land of stone-cold sobriety.") Anyway, for those who haven't heard of this source of goodness and propriety, Deseret Book is where ALL self-respecting (and self-righteous) Mormons get books, music, videos, journals, and tiny religious sculptures that help remind them not to drink coffee or date a non-Mormon. They carefully screen all their offerings to make sure that there is nothing in the store that could possibly be offensive, promote tolerance, or encourage someone to vote Democratic. It's so much easier for the pious, upstanding church-goer to have someone else filter out the confusing, wicked world that surrounds him. Needless to say, Margaret HATES the store, and only considered getting something there for the ironic ramifications of the purchase. Well, she was in luck--a new Deseret Book super center just opened here in Logan in a new super-duper Mormon strip mall. If I hadn't seen it, I wouldn't have believed that it was possible, but the mall where the bookstore was is the perfect nexus of Mormonism and commericalism. In addition to Deseret Book, it had a church distribution center, where you can buy church-produced scriptures, magazines, posters, and instruction manuals--essentially all the required reading you could possibly want or need. Next to that was "Dressed in White" which is a store that only sells white clothes, presumably for use in the temple, where that's the only color you can wear. I think it is the only place where you can buy a white suit, white tie, white dress socks, and white patent leather shoes, all to match your white shirt. The place was really hopping yesterday from all the people who needed to dress up as angels in their church Christmas pageants--and everyone knows that male angels don't wear robes, they wear white polyester three-piece suits! The final store in the strip mall is "Flick's: Edited Movies." As the name suggests, this store offers videos that have been stripped of any swearing, violence, nudity, sex, liberalism, intellectual freedom, or the merits of a socialist government. How they get away with altering these movies is beyond me--I would think that Hollywood would be knocking on their door for destroying the artistic freedom and expression of their movie-makers. What struck me as particularly ridiculous was the poster for the remake of "Amityville Horror" was featured in the window! How long could the edited version of this movie be? I would think that after all the above cuts, the movie would be 12 minutes long and be a feel-good story about a young couple in New England who have a wild and crazy time restoring their fixer-upper Victorian-style home. I'm assuming that the edited version of Fahrenheit 9-11 went straight from the opening credits to the closing credits for a total of 4 minutes of movie.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

What is up with wait staff at restaurants that make you feel like you're putting them out by actually being there? Yesterday Margaret, my grandmother, and I went to a national restaurant chain that rhymes with "schmili's" (I have to do that in case their corporate lawyers try to hunt me down--I'm probably already on their "watch list" since I one time refilled my drink there 14 times! But who could blame me when they charge $2 for a glass of pop! If they're not ashamed of THAT, I'm not ashamed of risking my health to take home a gallon of Diet Coke in my bladder!) Anyway, when our server came up, she had that teenage I-know-I'm-better-than-you-but-due-to-circumstances-beyond-my-control--namely-my-stingy-parents-won't-buy-me-$125-jeans-AND-pay-my-cell-phone-bill--I'm-forced-to-work-here-but-don't-have-to-like-it-and-by-god-YOU'RE-not-going-to-like-it look. If you've ever been to that mall food court staple "Hot Dog on a Stick" you know the look I'm talking about. One thing she DID have going in her favor (and that eventually earned her her tip) was that we never had to go very long before getting our refills. In fact, she was so diligent in bringing us more pop that Margaret finally had to cut me off! All in all, it wasn't THAT bad, but it did remind me of awful high school jobs that were pretty mindless but served as an evil means to a necessary end.

Speaking of which, that reminds me of my only high school job; I worked in the Shopko electronics department for a few years and pretty much enjoyed it. (Except for the hideous orange smock we had to wear! That was wrong on TWO counts--one: the orange was a shade that would have made anyone look like they were in the late stages of liver failure, and two: how could you be taken seriously when wearing an article of clothing called a SMOCK?!?) One Christmas experience, however, was pretty memorable--it was the Christmas that the original Nintendo Entertainment System was THE must-have Christmas item. We had to field at least 50 calls a day asking if we had gotten any new shipments in and when they did come in, they were gone within the day. As Christmas approached, frantic parents were getting more and more desperate--resorting to disparaging and demeaning remarks to us clerks--since we were the ones responsible for ordering them and had a secret stash of them in the back storeroom for all our good-for-nothing pot-smoking buddies. Well one evening, it was really rushed and the service desk had a cart of returns that they had parked in my department but I hadn't had a chance to put in back yet. On the top was a returned Nintendo in its original box. Well, a woman who had come in almost every day to see if we had any in saw that sitting in the cart and just took it. Evidently she thought it was someone else's cart and not the return cart, because she went to the front and bought it. The day after Christmas, I was working again, and she storms in, absolutely fuming, accusing me of ruining her son's and her Christmas. She said that her son had opened up his present from Santa on Christmas morning and inside he didn't find his dream machine but a filthy, broken Nintendo. He had no idea why Santa would deliver something like that to him and she was forced to tell him there was no such thing as Santa. (Although it seems to me she passed up a golden opportunity to tell him he shouldn't have been so naughty that year) When pressed, I found out how she had gotten the machine in the first place, but I don't think that appealing to her sense of karma or divine justice would have been appropriate, so I had to play the good corporate hack and apologize--which if you know me was NOT easy--so I earned a lot of karma points for it that, which I promptly spent on judging the servers at Taco Time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Margaret and I are at my grandmother's house in Logan for the week. Logan is a little college town in northern Utah that is even MORE dominated by Mormons than Salt Lake is (yes, that IS possible!). I love reading their local paper while we're here, not only for the obituaries (it's always amazing to read about someone's 50 children and 150 grandchildren and you realize that the guy was a polygamist) but for the crazy ideas and articles. This morning, there was one that took the cake, and I'm including it below in its unedited glory:

Bad Moon Rising
A 37-year-old Hyrum man was booked into the Cache County Jail on Sunday after he reportedly got into an argument with his wife and then exposed himself to her and their children.
According to sheriff's reports, the couple was fighting when the man dropped his pants and said to the woman, "Kiss my a--." (the censor is from the paper, I'm not one to limit free speech, and especially a word as benign as ass!)
When the man allegedly mooned his wife, his children were in the room.
Sheriff's deputies were called to the home and the man was arrested on two class-A misdemeanor charges of lewdness involving a child. The man was booked into the Cache County Jail.

Can you believe that? I can't imagine doing anything but laugh if Margaret did the same thing--it would have been the last thing on my mind to call 9-1-1 and report it to the police. Plus, knowing some of the uptight people around here, I don't know if the wife called the police because her husband mooned her or because he uttered the word "ass!"

I remember one time at BYU I was in a New Testament class and we were taking a fill in the blank quiz. One of the blanks should have had the answer, "hell," but when we traded the sheets to correct them, someone had written in "heck" instead. She was evidently too pure and innocent to even allow her pencil to scrawl that profanity! Geesh! If I was the one correcting it, I would have marked it wrong, and taken off a few more points for being holier-than-thou. Alas, I wasn't the one, so I have to make due by telling her story to the internets--which, I have to admit, IS surprisingly satisfying!

Monday, December 19, 2005

It always surprises me how you can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy. Farm chores, stories, and even livestock killing techniques that I thought I had repressed all come flooding back when I'm talking with Margaret's sister and her husband who live on a farm in central Utah. Here I am, thinking I'm all modern and urban, then they come along and we start talking about the most effective way to kill and pluck a chicken, or how to keep a pig dewormed, or the benefits of raising guinea hens. Being so focused on graphic design and working with computers all day has really removed me from being so close to anything but prepackaged food from Costco. Going down to their farm is a lot of fun, too. The last time I was there, I had to fight a pack of aggressive chicken off from the pig's food or it would have gone hungry. I also got attacked by one of their rabbits and still have the scar on my hand to prove it.

One thing I never did get too into was horses--and I can pinpoint that to a single event that caused me and them to go our separate ways--literally! Our neighbor had a horse that was so gentle and easygoing. She encouraged me to hop on and take him for a ride, so I did--not really knowing what to do. I moseyed around our properties for a bit, thinking, "this isn't too bad." Just when I was getting to the point I thought I could try a few tricks--like make the horse go faster than a mosey or jump over a stream, the reins came off in my hand! The little buckle that held the bridle in place had fallen off and I was left holding a long strip of leather connect to nothing! Well instantly the horse realized what this meant--"I can do whatever I want to this sucker on my back and he can't do a THING about it"--and that's exactly what he DID. We wandered around the area and every fence, gate, post, and tree that he could rub me up against, he went for. The final straw was when he walked between a narrow gate that had a little wire sticking out of it that caught my pants (and I remember they were my first pair of real Levi's and I was so proud of them) and, starting at my hip, ripped them all the way to the leg opening. That was the final straw! As soon as the horse walked under the swingset in the neighbor's lawn--I reached up and grabbed the top beam and let the horse walk out from under me. I then went straight home, pant leg flapping in the wind. When I got there, the neighbor was still visiting with my mom and I told them what had happened; after getting a laugh out of it, the neighbor realized that her horse was still wandering around the area and she rushed back to find him. That was the least of my concern. I was humiliated, my new adult pants were ripped to shreds, and to add insult to injury, my uncle (who lived with us and forbade us to get into his things) saw that I was wearing his socks and cussed me out for THAT! What did I receive from my mother in the way of consolation? Her ordering me to stand still while she took my picture! She wanted to preserve that moment for all time--as if I could forgot it. All those horrible events swirl around and flood back to the surface whenever I think about getting on a horse--and I've never been back on one since. I know there are much more traumaic things that could have spawned such a deep and abiding avoidance of horses, like being trampled, maimed, drawn and quartered, or have a finger bitten off (I don't know if horses really do that, but you never know), so there is a slight chance I will one day get back on a horse--and not one of those that cost a quarter to ride that you find in front of K-Marts.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Margaret and I just went through security at the Portland airport and boy are they getting strict! They have the sensitivity on the scanners turned up so high they would go off if you had more than three fillings in your teeth! I dutifully put my bag on the belt; they then said I had to take off my coat, so I did that. Then I tried to go through the scanner, but the guard had me take off my shoes. I tried again, but of course it went off, and I realized that I had my watch on, then I tried AGAIN! and had to go back and take my belt off! By the time I was cleared, I was glad that I was wearing my firetruck underwear, because that's all it felt like I had on and if everyone has to see me in my underwear, I would want to be wearing those!

I remember once right after 9/11 that Margaret and I were flying back from New Orleans. They were doing random extensive searches of people and they picked an old lady that needed a walker and an Amish women (okay, she probably wasn't AMISH, but she was dressed like one, she had some knitting she was doing, and she didn't even have a iPOD!--and in my book THAT'S Amish!) I had no idea that Al Quaida was so desperate that they were recruiting amongst the elderly and the technophobes. Maybe they offer a better health care package than Medicare provides. Another time, flying back from Europe, we went through Dutch security, but that wasn't invasive enough for the US State Department, so we had to go through American security, too, before we could even get to the gate. They conducted personal interviews with every person getting on the plane--asking us about the nature of our trip, how we got to the airport that morning, if I wore boxers or briefs, what that condom full of heroin was doing up my... well, you get the picture. What REALLY set off their suspicion flags, though, was the fact that we only had ONE piece of luggage between the two of us. Who every heard of such a thing--especially with Americans?!? What we thought was a convenience (who wants to lug around a crap load of bags on a trip through Europe?--plus compared to the French tourists we ran into, there wasn't THAT much need to change our clothes very often) turned out to make us terror suspects--I swear, I hadn't been confronted with that much suspicion since I was being questioned by the mission president in Norway after an entire ward turned into atheists (and I still maintain that I had almost NOTHING to do with it!).

Friday, December 16, 2005

Yesterday we got our Christmas bonuses at work. I took the opportunity to be able to buy Margaret her Christmas present without having it show up on our credit card statement--one drawback of completely joint financials is that it takes away the element of surprise--plus it's always embarassing when Margaret takes a look at the statement and sees that I used the debit card 15 times last month for purchases at Taco Bell for under $2--oops! Anyway, what I wanted to get her was at Nordstrom, and since they have a notoriously generous customer service policy, I thought I'd try to just cash the check there and make my purchase in cash, thereby preserving the element of surprise (I'm writing this right now confident that Margaret won't see it before she opens her present, since we'll be opening our presents to one another tonight--it's a struggle to bring all our family presents let alone our own on the plane and we leave for Utah tomorrow.) Well, I go up to the customer service lady and said, "Is there any way I could cash this--I want to buy something here, but I don't want my wife to know about it." She gave me a studied look and said that they didn't and I'd have to go to a bank if that's what I wanted to do. Now I wonder if she might have thought I wanted to buy something for someone I'm having an affair with and that's why I didn't want my wife to know about it and THAT'S why she wouldn't cash the check. How dare she judge me! Oh, and Margaret, when you read this--the gift really was for you!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

This past weekend, my brother took his four-year-old son to see Santa. After he got done, my brother asked him what he asked Santa for. My nephew said, "A DUMP TRUCK! I don't even want a dump truck, but I got so nervous up on his lap that I couldn't think of anything else. Next year, I don't want to sit on Santa's lap." Now he's worried that that's all Santa is going to bring him. Talk about a scene out of "A Christmas Story."

I remember when I was little, I asked Santa for a Speak & Spell. Oh the joy, to have a computer that gave me constant reinforcement for good spelling. Now I think, "What an N-E-R-D!" That Speak & Spell was my pride and joy, and I ran through batteries on that thing faster than the digital camera of a Japanese tourist. I even got modules for my birthday that had more words to spell. I admit that I have a SLIGHT obsession with correct spelling--and I'm sure that the Speak-N-Spell reinforced that. After all, how could I resist something that congratulated me with a monotone "good job" or "terrific" every time I spelled something correctly? I wonder if I would enjoy work more if everything I did was followed by a "nice going" or "you're great." Now I think about how my siblings surely thought I was the biggest dweeb--asking for an EDUCATIONAL toy when I could have asked for a video game or something! Fortunately I've outgrown that--I've moved on to asking for the standard frivolous items from Santa--a new patio door! Akk! What have I become?!? Maybe I should send an emergency letter to the North Pole and change my request to a dump truck, too!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Yesterday on the bus, a semi-homeless woman tapped me on the shoulder and said, "President Ford had a stroke." That was it--no introduction, no follow-up--just a totally random statement. It's always so unnerving to me anyway when strangers talk to me on the bus--or any public place for that matter. Why can't they just leave me alone? And to imagine that I was putting people in that situation EVERY DAY when I was a missionary! If any Norwegians out there are reading this, I'l like to say I'm sorry. Anyway, I instantly thought, "This lady it totally crazy! Gerald Ford has been dead for YEARS!" A minute later she tapped me on the shoulder again and told me that he'd been sick. I'm thinking, "Is she living thirty years in the past? WHAT is she talking about and would it hurt her to run a comb through her hair once in a while?" (Okay, that last part didn't have anything to do with what she was saying, but I couldn't help thinking it--and I'm all for full disclosure here.) Fortunately my stop allowed me to escape, and as soon as I got off the bus, I called my grandmother to ask her if Ford was still alive. Well... it turns out he's still alive and that "crazy" lady was just making small talk. Ooops! (But that didn't change the fact that she needed to comb her hair.)

Also, my grandmother solved my 'getting rid of the help' problem for me--she suggested I put the cleaning on hold since we'll be out of town for the holidays and tell them that we'll call them when we get back to restart our schedule--and then just never call them back. I know, I know, it's a TAD cowardly--but they're Eastern European--what if they respond with a vendettta or a blood feud? THEN where would we be? This way seems preferable for all involved--except the cleaners, or course.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Margaret and I have been fighting over who has to be the one to fire our cleaners. We're both dreading it, which is why we've tolerated finding undone cleaning after they've been there for so long. I told her last night that I wish I had a personal assistant to do my dirty work. How great would that be to tell my assistant, "Ludmilla, please 'take care of' the cleaners today and then conduct interviews to find some that will do a good job for around $25" Unfortunately, I only make 6% of the required income to be able to afford a personal assistant, and also my life isn't so complicated that I really require it. My poor personal assistant would be relegated to things like popping some microwave popcorn when we're watching a movie or standing guard while Kitty eats her food to make sure the racoons don't steal it--those rascals. Alas! Maybe Margaret and I'll end up playing rock-paper-scissors to decide who has to do play Donald Trump and declare, "You're fired."

We had recommended these cleaners to our friend Ber and she didn't think they did that good of a job, either. One time when we were over at her house, she was talking about the cleaners and what they missed or glossed over or did poorly. We were comiserating when it struck me: when did WE become the people who complained that you can't get good help these days!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Following tradition, this morning I bought a newspaper and went in to Noah's Bagels. I'm trying to cut back on the newspapers, since The Oregonian just upped its price from 35 to 50 cents! Since I usually only read the Living section--that's the part that has the comics, crossword, and! (The rest is so DEPRESSING.)--I thought 35 cents was a fair price to pay. But now that it's 50 CENTS I feel compelled to read the entire paper--including the SPORTS PAGE--and believe me, THAT'S a chore I would prefer not to have to do. Anyway, while I was paying for my bagel, the newspaper started slipping out from under my arm and when I looked down--to my horror--I had accidentally grabbed TWO papers. I should have know something was wrong--after the newpaper box slammed shut, I felt a great disturbance in the Force, but I had chalked it up to Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes having a baby together--little did I know that I was the cause of the disturbance. I told the cashier at Noah's what I'd done and said that I had just lost some karma points. That dedicated bagel angel then spared me the wrath of the gods by saying that the shop hadn't bought it's store copy yet so she would just take the extra one from me, go deposit 50 cents in the newspaper box, and open it, but not take a paper. Whew! When she came back in after doing that, I could feel my Light Side points tick back up, counteracting my Dark Side points that I had accrued in Norway for... well, I'll just say I'm a big believer in justification repentance.
The Internets have spoken and they have demanded a picture of The Dress. Never one to argue with the Internets (I heard that JFK tried arguing with the Internets--although it was called the Mafia back then--and look what happened to him!), I feel compelled to comply. So, for your viewing pleasure, here is a picture of Margaret's party dress. I'm posting this with full faith that no unscrupulous visitor will use the picture for evil--so let this serve as a warning: I'll be checking all the Southern Belle fetish websites to make sure that Margaret's honor is upheld. I really hate to have to visit those kinds of websites, but what can I say, I'll make all kinds of sacrifices for my Margaret, it's just a service I provide.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

I just talked with my grandmother and aunt and they were telling me all the latest news of the family. By far the most shocking was that one of my cousins had the great idea of dousing snowballs with gasoline and lighting them for use in a snowball fight! What could POSSIBLY go wrong?! I guess he hadn't learned anything from, let me see--EVERY SINGLE COYOTE AND ROADRUNNER CARTOON! Was there EVER a time when Coyote used gasoline in one of his schemes that it didn't completely backfire? Well, in a case of life imitating art, my cousin got hit in the face with one of the flaming snowballs--isn't that shocking? I can't believe that kids having a snowball fight would aim for someone's FACE! What's the world coming to? Anyway, he got pretty seriously burnt--enough so that he almost had to be flown to the burn center in Salt Lake! While reeling from the tragedy, I said I couldn't imagine how he would have even gotten the IDEA to do that, let alone actually implement it, to which my grandmother replied, "and with the price of gas these days!" I had to admit, I hadn't thought of that aspect of the situation.

Note: the above story is just one example of my family's propensity to share stories about our own accidents, foibles, and misstatements--in fact my grandmother collected a whole book full of them, titled "Perks and Quirks." Since it was finished in 1995, she's gathered enough for a volume 2. We like to trot out our embarassing stories about each other and show them off like treasured trophies at every family get-together. It's great! (And gives you a little glimpse into how my cold, shriveled, three-sizes-too-small heart works.)
Margaret and I have been dragging now for two days--paying the high price of going out on the town into the wee hours with only caffeine and other stimulants holiday cheer to fuel us. Friday night was Margaret's work party AND our friend Ber's birthday blow-out. The work party was an evening-attire event, so we couldn't wear the Portland uniform of polar fleece and jeans. Actually, Margaret had been looking forward to dressing up for the event--she even bought a VERY full petticoat that made her dress flow out so far that she'd have looked right at home waltzing into Twelve Oaks for a cotillion (doesn't even the SOUND of that word sound presumptuous?) and given Scarlett O'Hara a run for her money. Margaret's dress didn't go to the floor like an antebellum hoop skirt would have--she was daring and showed a little ankle, so I guess you could call her Starlet O'Hara. Unlike Scarlett, however, Margaret had to get into a compact car and had a hard time buckling her seat belt, or even seeing over the mound of dress. We decided to make a cameo at the birthday get-together before heading over to the work party and boy did Margaret get the attention of the lounge! Most of the looks were of admiration although more than a few looked like Anastasia and Drusella sizing up Cinderella--I had to keep a watchful eye to make sure none of them ran up to Margaret and tried to rip her dress to shreds--her fairy godmother wouldn't have come to her rescue after the falling out they had in Barcelona--but that's another story. One thing, though, that was completely ridiculous, was the bouncer at the door of the lounge. Obviously a slave to procedure, he dutifully checked our ID's and after confirming we were over 21, asked for our inside wrist to stamp. Well, Margaret had on long gloves and she asked if that was really necessary. He said it was, so she had to peel off a glove so he could stamp her wrist, after which she rolled the glove back on--not to be seen again without considerable effort. Can you imagine some glamorous 1940's movie scene where a sultry woman in long gloves, holding one of those long cigarette holder thingys, ambles up to the bar to order some glamorous drink and the bartender asks her to roll up her glove to make sure she's over 21? Anyway, after making the cameo, we made our way up to the work party. I had to laugh when we came in the door--three little girls were near the entrance sitting around the Christmas tree and when they saw Margaret, they stared, mouths agape, at that dress, and didn't stop until we were in the ballroom. I guess little girls are always suckers for princesses. I didn't rate a second glance--I was just Beast, accompanying Belle.

After the party, we called Ber and--surprise (ok, NOT a surprise--she's IRISH)--they were STILL at that lounge! They were heading over to a late-night restaurant, so we joined them and ate again. (The place was a cajun-style restaurant and Ber ordered 'gator bites!' Yes, actual ALLIGATOR--and you know what? It DID taste like chicken--(albeit chicken that had known the taste of human flesh--but chicken nonetheless). After we had lingered over our food for a while, someone in the group mentioned a bar nearby where we could end the evening. We decided why not--it was only ONE THIRTY IN THE FRICKIN' MORNING (maybe being sober clouded my perception of how good an idea it was, but that didn't stop me from going--I'm always game to see drunk people make fools of themselves and be the only one to remember it.) As soon as we entered the bar, Margaret was met with an entire room full of Anastasias and Drusellas--it was a total dive bar and everyone but us was wearing the obligatory polar fleece, stocking cap, and jeans required by Portland law. It was great--the evening was enjoyable, despite coming at a cost of stumbling home at 3 in the morning and having to wake up the next day to go to TWO MORE PARTIES. Ugh, I'm ready for the holidays to be over already--there's only so much that caffeine can do and I'm pushing it to its limits. Maybe what I should ask for from Santa is my college ability to live off pizza, Diet Coke, and three hours of sleep.

Friday, December 09, 2005

It has been FREEZING here in Portland for the past few days. Yesterday when I came into the office it was 38 degrees, but with the wind and humidity, it was closer to the freezing point of nitrogen! I told the receptionist that I felt like the Inuit guy in that movie "The Fast Runner" who had to run across the Arctic tundra naked for several hours to escape some guys who were trying to kill him. I think I'd rather be killed than have to endure THAT--imagine the shrinkage!!! I was cold just WATCHING the movie--and after getting to work yesterday (nursing a large Diet Coke, which had NOTHING to do with how cold I felt) I knew EXACTLY how that Inuit guy felt (even with my L.L. Bean Northwoods Spruce Thinsulate Reversible Gore-Tex lined Extreme Adirondack Explorer Parka with removeable boiled Polarfleece vest and integrated iPod control system)! I can't believe that 38 degrees feels so cold to me now! I lived in frickin' NORWAY and I'm complaining about THIS?!? Norwegians SUNBATHE in weather like this!

Speaking of Norwegian winters, I remember a Mission Myth (they're like Urban Myths, only more spiritual, and therefore TRUE) about a pair of Finnish missionaries who were out proseletizing on bikes and one forgot his hat. Well, their area was quite hilly, and they came to a hill that they both rushed down, and afterward, the hatless missionary complained of a splitting and debilitating headache. His companion rushed him to the hospital, (that should have been a clue that the story was fake--I had companions who would have told me that that was a sign from the Lord that I wasn't working hard enough and if I got busy, the pain would go away) where the doctor said that the hatless missionary only had at most a half hour to live and that there was nothing they could do to help him BECAUSE PART OF HIS BRAIN HAD FROZE!!!! Walking around in Norway, we were all sure that this story was absolutely true, because you haven't seen cold until you've experienced below zero temperatures on days when the sun never comes up and you're just walking around because no one wants to let you in their door because they'll have to listen to a church message. It wasn't until I got back to BYU and talked with other Scandinavian missionaries that I found out that the Finns heard the same story, only it happened in Sweden, the Icelandic missionaries heard it was the Norwegians, and the Swedes heard it was the Icelanders. Nowadays, the only brain freezes I have come the old fashioned way--with a Slurpee.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

My brother is in town for a work training so he's been staying with us while he's here. When he first arrived in Portland, I was still at work, so he just took the train to my office, dropped off his things, then went shopping at the mall near here. The Lloyd Center is a pretty big mall, and it has always seemed very suburban and tame; I usually just go over there to see a movie or to eat at the food court. Okay, strike that last sentence--while I was writing it I remembered one time Margaret and I went to see that Mormon movie "Charley," the classic Mormon story of bad girl meets Mormon boy, discovers error of her ways, becomes Mormon, gets married, has a baby, gets cancer, and dies--it was the feel-good hit in Provo when it was released. Anyway, there were only 5 other people in the theatre to see the movie (as you can tell, the heart of Portland isn't the bastion of Mormon population that it once was--they've all moved out to the suburbs where the Costcos are). As we were sitting down, a girl ripped a length of toilet paper off some that she had and offered it to Margaret. She declined, but the girl insisted, saying that we'd need it. To be nice, Margaret took it, and halfway through the movie, when Charley is struggling with chemotherapy and doesn't even have the strength to lift her own baby out of its crib we're trying to hide the fact that we REALLY need that tissue, but don't want the girl who gave it to us to see us using it. Okay, that was just a long intro for the part that illustrates my point about the seedy underbelly of this mall that one rarely sees. During a lull in the movie, and since I'd probably drunk a large Diet Coke and was about to burst, I got up to go to the bathroom. As I rounded the corner to the little foyer area between the theatre and the main hallway, I saw a girl giving a guy oral sex!!! (And they say that romance is dead.) They stopped as soon as they saw me, and were gone by the time I came back--I guess they had figured that there wouldn't be anyone seeing some Mormon movie and that they were safe. I wonder if anything like that happened when the film was screened in Salt Lake? Nah, the closest thing would probably be someone trying to foist off a Book of Mormon onto a movie-goer who they had found out wasn't Mormon while they were in the foyer.

Well, to continue--despite the preceding story--the Lloyd Mall is GENERALLY safe and tame, but my brother, who was dressed in a Carhart barn coat, had a fitted stocking cap on, and has a goatee, walked through the mall and got several offers to buy jewelry and other items that were clearly stolen from the stores! I guess he looked questionable enough to the theives to think that he would be interested. Can you believe that? People JUDGING OTHERS just by the way they LOOK! I am SHOCKED! He said he was pretty confident that it was real gold jewelry, too, since they still had the pricetags on! That NEVER happens to me! I guess I look too innocent to attract them--that, or I look like the kind of person who would turn them in. Either way, I'm stuck with having to pay retail and I HATE that!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I have a site tracker link on this blog to count how many people visit it, you know--for the ego trip. It also shows the domain that the visitor is accessing the internet from. It doesn't show me a particular person, but it does show me the internet provider or company. It does my heart good to see all the visitors from Utah--I'm constantly amazed that this blog makes it through the Zion Censorship Grid© which works hard to keep good Mormons on the straight and narrow by preventing them from visit porn sites,, and the Democratic Party website. Anyway, this morning when I was looking at my stats, I noticed that I had a hit from the domain! I have a friend who just moved to Maine, and wondered if she had gotten a job there. I clicked for more details and discovered that someone at L.L. Bean had done a blog search for the keyword "L.L. Bean" and came up with my entry on the crazy color names they use! Yikes--I'm being tracked by The Man (Corporate Edition). I'm just glad I didn't say anything disparaging about them--I'm assuming they're down with it, since I didn't have a cease and desist order in my email. Phew! Although if you read an entry in a couple of days about how cold it is in Portland right now and I don't know how I could survive without the unsurpassed warming features of my L.L. Bean Northwoods Spruce Thinsulate Reversible Gore-Tex lined Extreme Adirondack Explorer Parka with removeable boiled Polarfleece vest and integrated iPod control system you'll know that it's a part of my plea bargain--and you'll know that because I'd NEVER wear anything in Northwoods Spruce--it makes me look pale.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Every year when we go to Utah for Christmas, I try to get together with a group of cool Norwegian returned missionaries that I knew while I was there. (I say "cool" to denote that they are pretty laid back, don't sugarcoat their mission experience, and make constant jokes like, "I haven't [insert questionable activity here] since we were in Norway!") Usually we go to the Olive Garden--nice predictable Olive Garden. That gets a little old (although the bottomless pop and breadsticks are a great selling point--I wonder if they get mad if you went in and just pretended you were lingering over the menu, filling up on the free stuff; maybe I'll have to give that a try sometime). Anyway, as a joke, I mentioned to one of my friends that I was thinking of going to a microbrewery because it would be a much closer fit to our group. When he said that he would join us sinners, I took it as a challenge to find a place that was just enough on the edge to be fun, but still vanilla enough not to scare away some of them with more churchy standards. Coincidentally, the New York Times a couple of weeks back featured Salt Lake in their travel section and listed some cool night spots. One of them caught my eye, just because of their clever name: The Tavernacle. That would have been perfect--until I just visited their website; it's just a dueling piano bar that serves alcohol. D'oh! Back to the drawing board. Any suggestions out there of a place that has a seedy reputation but in reality just makes the patrons FEEL like they're being rebels, without really rebelling? What is the happy medium between Elmer's Pancake House and Hooters?

Speaking of rebels, I remember when I was in college, I had a teacher's assistant that thought I was going to hell in a handbasket. One morning, he called me around 10 am and I was pretty groggy, having gotten in from visiting the hot springs around 4 or 5 that morning. When I mentioned this, his response was, "I don't even want to know." I got a little rush out of thinking that someone thought I was a rebel--and without having to even bother with the effort of being rebellious--I mean WHO'S got the energy these days? Well, a couple of weeks later, a friend and I decided to see what kind of response we could get out of the people in my apartment complex if we were to be seen drinking beer in the hot tub that was in the middle of the courtyard (I know, tame or even a non-issue anywhere outside Happy Valley, Utah, but this was the school that only sells caffeine-free Coke and CHEESE CURDS at football games!). We went down to the grocery store to buy a 6-pack of Coors Cutter (the fake beer). Carrying the 6-pack to the checkout, who should we run into but the same teacher's assistant. He took one look at what I was carrying (and I don't think he looked closely enough to see that it wasn't what he thought it was) and said, "I don't even want to know." How simple was THAT--two innocent relatively tame acts got me labeled as an alcoholic carouser that had no business being at BYU when there were thousands of pure, wholesome angels who would kill to be there (but only kill if God commanded them, which happens surprisingly often in the scriptures and in some cults). Anyway, when we got back to the hot tub, we opened a couple of the Cutters (which were AWFUL--but we endured them, hoping to not be seen as the poseurs that we were) and sure enough, several people walked by, saw the brown bottles, and took it upon themselves to lecture us. I guess we were doing a community service, giving all those people practice at giving self-righteous diatribes to the fallen among them. And I was getting much-needed practice at completely ignoring them.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Yesterday Margaret and I went downtown Christmas shopping. Actually, that was just an excuse to visit Santaland at the Meier & Frank store downtown. We had never heard about it, but there was an article in the paper about this being the last year that the Santaland monorail will be running. Nice that we don't hear about it from the PR from the store but from a newspaper article about it's demise! Evidently the monorail has been running since the 1950's every year from Thanksgiving to Christmas. We went up and saw it and it didn't disappoint! It looked like something from an old Flash Gordon show, with retro-futuristic styling. The train ran around the outside edge of Santaland, where there were an assortment of elves working, etc., and Santa in the middle. It looked like a ton of fun for the kids to ride in it, waving at their parents below. Unfortunately, the train has a strict height policy and both Margaret and I were about three feet too tall to be able to ride! Man, midgets must have it MADE!

We did content ourselves to look at all of the crazy colors that you could get your fake Christmas tree in. They had the standard white, aluminum, and pink, but have you ever seen a chartreuse, beige, burgundy, or sky blue fake Christmas tree? The chartreuse one took the cake--they even had a matching wreath made out of chartreuse FEATHERS! Geesh! Nothing says the birth of Christ like a painfully matching Christmas tree that coordinates with the chartreuse curtains, sofa, and Fifi, the chartreuse-dyed toy poodle. I'm more of a traditionalist--give me an English manor decked out with evergreens, holly, Christmas trees, Dickens' carolers and enough servants to host a grand Yule ball over a burgundy-colored plastic Christmas tree any day! What can I say--I'm old-fashioned.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Last night, Margaret and I rented The Interpreter. We had to go to the video store anyway, since I had to take my video game back--and before I had a chance to complete it! How disappointing! (Although in my haste to finish it before the game was due back, I had a marathon play session yesterday afternoon, and now my hands are a little sore! I haven't had "Atari Thumb" since we had an Atari 2600 and played it compulsively--Damn you, Pac-Man, for my current suseptibility to carpal tunnel syndrome! It used to be so bad that we couldn't hold onto the joystick with our fingers--we had to use the crook between our thumb and forefinger to move it, and after a while, even THAT started to hurt! After that, when I was reading about British children being forced to work in factories and mines, I KNEW how painful their problems were!) Anyway, when we sat down to watch it, one of the previews was for the currently playing movie Pride & Prejudice. Margaret had been wanting to see it since it came out. (It is one of her favorite books and she claims that she doesn't know anyone who doesn't love it. I reminded her of a friend she lent it to who is a single mother of two teenage boys and struggles to make ends meet. SHE didn't like it--I guess reading about the trials and tribulations of the British upper class didn't interest her for some reason.) Anyway, upon seeing the preview, she told me how disappointed she was that I hadn't taken her to see that yet. I hopped up to check the movie times and found a theatre (that was NOT nearby) where it was starting in 20 minutes! I came in and told her to get her shoes on, we were going to go see it RIGHT NOW! She obliged and we got to the theatre in plenty of time to even see some of the coming attractions! I guess we have to enjoy that level of spontaneity now, since when we have kids someday, I'm sure we wouldn't be able to do that! I know people who have to plan three hours in advance just to go to the grocery store.

As it turned out, the movie was brain candy--sweet and fluffy, and you know exactly what was going to happen, but you still enjoy yourself. (Although Margaret said it was a little cheesy--so I maybe a more apt term than brain candy would be a brain cheeto?)

Friday, December 02, 2005

We recently got our Holiday L. L. Bean catalog and I love looking through it just to make fun of the completely non-descriptive color names that they use. What color is Mist, actually? It sounds like some shade of blue, but the deadly mist that was released from Chernobyl was probably fluorescent green. There are millions of colors of flowers, how can they call one of their options Petal? Or Seedling? Or Tarragon? Cement seems a little descriptive, but doesn’t lend itself to a light jacket--perhaps it's available only on their heavy parkas. I would love to be able to work for them to think up cool color names that don't really mean anything. Why say Mustard when you could order a Shit-brindle fleece pullover? Why be content with just a Black coat, when you could order it in Evil, that deepest of all the blacks? If you're interested in a gray long-sleeve shirt, consider a dress shirt in a delightful shade of Melancholy. All the peace activists this season are wearing vests in the soothing shade of Bruise. Man, this is too easy! And once I've proven myself with fabric color name development, maybe I could move on to paint colors.

Speaking of paint colors, when Margaret and I were redoing our bedroom, we knew we wanted a shade of blue for the walls. Being designers, we're used to being able to exert absolute control over the colors we work with, and the limits that paint imposed was very frustrating. Utah Sky was too constricting. Cobalt Ice was too cold. Depression was too gray. After buying half a dozen shades of blue samples, we still hadn't found any that we liked. Sitting in the room, Margaret finally found the blue she wanted on the stripe of a pillow that was in the room. We took the pillow in to Home Depot and they scanned the color and were able to mix that exact shade. Now we have a bedroom with walls the exact shade of blue that we want--I call it Anal Retentive Periwinkle. Looking back, we felt kind of ridiculous walking around with the pillow in Home Depot, but I felt better after I read an article about a woman bringing in a HAIRBALL that her cat had thrown up to be color matched! I can't imagine having my living room walls painted in the pleasing shade of Indigestible.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

This morning, Margaret was singing the theme song to CSI, The Who's "Who are You." She said it was to prepare us to watch the show tonight. Well, I started singing along, too, and then said, "You know, why is that their theme song? All their water is trucked in and they don't even have any rivers or streams near them." Margaret looked totally bewildered and asked what I was talking about. I tried to explain that there wasn't any cool water in Las Vegas, and that choosing that song as the show's theme song didn't make any sense. She was completely at a loss by this point and asked me what I was talking about. I said, "You know, the song goes, 'cooooool water, ooo ooo, ooo ooo." She busted up laughing, as it turns out the lyrics are "Whooooo are you? Who who, who who?" Oops! I hate when I do that.

That reminds me of when I was little, my brother and I would often fight over song lyrics, with the understanding that whoever was able to shout the lyric the loudest was the winner. My favorite was the old Mazola corn oil commercials that had the Indian woman singing the praises of the power of maize. The theme song had the line, "Mazo-ola CORN goodness." Well, one of us (and I don't remember now which) thought it was CORN goodness and the other thought it was FOR goodness. Everytime that commercial would come on, he and I would scream at the top of our lungs what we thought was the correct lyric. I'm sure that our parents thought we were completely crazy, their two kids calmly watching tv with them in the evening, then all of a sudden scream out a random word during a commercial. Another was the Mary Poppins song, "Feed the Birds." It has a line in it that one of us would sing, "feed the birds, TOPPINS again," and the other would sing, "feed the birds, POPPINS again." It turned out neither of us was right, the correct lyrics are "feed the birds TUPPENCE a bag." Although you could forgive us, because as 8-year-olds, we had no idea what a tuppence was, in fact most American adults don't know what one is. Anyway, we would always be shouting out our preferred version, and I can remember one time, my dad secretly recorded us fight-singing our own version. We were so humiliated that we stopped doing it after that. Well, I haven't grown up much since then, but I learned my lesson when I was 8 and will refrain from screaming out "cool water" tonight while watching CSI!