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Thursday, June 28, 2007

I’m gonna washer that man right outta my hair

Thea- Here is an urgent message from Frank: “Tell Thea that if she finds a really great washers set in Italy that she shouldn’t get it for me because I already got one for my birthday.”

Hopefully you’ll read this before it’s too late.

For everyone else, here’ the deal with the washers set:

A few years ago at a UT Football game, Frank discovered the game of washers. Now Frank isn’t exactly the athletic type (although there was that stint in high school water polo and he does some impressive lifting and grunting at the gym) but with washers, he was pretty good.

So what is the game of washers?

Basically a bunch of guys stand around and throw rings into a cup. I know, it’s a little bit WT but that’s okay. Where did it come from? I think the verbiage from the official washers site explains it best:

The history of the game is cloaked in mystery but lends itself to colorful conjecture. "Betcha I can toss this here washer into that oil can over yonder", someone might have wagered years ago. Most certainly humble roots fathered the game as participants used readily-available parts, a hallmark of the game that survives even today.

“Cloaked in mystery?” Nice.

Apparently, though, “readily-available parts” wasn’t good enough for Frank. In 2005 he started making his desire for a washers set (a pit with a cup and a set of washers for throwing) known to all. Thea, either impressed with Frank’s washers skills or his passion for the game, declared that she would help Frank realize his washers dream.

So for his graduation from business school in’05 she gave him a set of UT washers, promising to give him the rest of the game (the pit with the cup) by his birthday at the end of June. And she wasn’t just going to buy it on eBay; she was going to BUILD it. She even showed me the design for the mechanism that would soon live in our backyard.

But, as with my wedding scrapbook, the washers pit became more of a lofty idea—something that took a backseat to other non-washers projects like work, school, a social life.

That didn’t stop Frank from bringing it up about once a month: “Hey, is Thea gonna ever build my washers set?” and “Today would be a great day for a game of washers…hey, what’s Thea doing?” and “Do you think Thea will finish my washers set by Groundhog Day?”

Now that it’s been over two years, I thought he’d forget about it. But he hasn’t. He says that our new backyard in Atlanta is perfect for playing washers. (I’m not sure what that means.)

Safety Dave, hearing about Frank's cause, stepped up--just in time for Frank's 30th birthday.

Yesterday the washers set arrived. While it actually was from eBay and not a Thea-hand-made original, he was still giddy. He can't wait to throw his UT washers into his new pit and impress guests with his washers skills.

So will Thea build the washers set anyway? Will she sell it on eBay or possibly keep it for herself? Who knows? The whole thing is cloaked in mystery.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Now we’ve gone bananas

And you thought we couldn’t get any dorkier:

It was “Half Price Banana Split Thursdays” at Bruster’s Ice Cream so we walked there to partake. But that’s not the dorky part. The dorky part is that in order to get the deal, you have to BYOB: bring your own banana.

Yes, we walked hand in hand down the street, our free hands carrying bananas--the whole .8 mile trip. How do I know the exact mileage? Duh. Frank was wearing his pedometer on his belt.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Fun times with the Gridge

One of the items at the top of my “things I really want but Frank won’t let me have” list is a gridge—a fridge inside the garage. It’s right there after bi-weekly cleaning lady.

What’s so great about a gridge? It’s simple. Gridge = fun.

How did I get that equation? Well, let me ask you, if you had a gridge (and maybe you do…lucky) what would you put in it?

Excess beer and ice cream, right?

What’s more fun than alcohol and dessert? Nothing. Not one thing.

So if you had a house that had so much alcohol and dessert that you would actually need another place to store it all, well, that would be a pretty cool house, huh? It’s a fact: The coolest houses have gridges. The Loyds have a gridge. Grandmas have gridges. And when you’re at grandma’s, you can have all the ice cream you want. And at some grandmas' (mine and Frank’s), you can have all the alcohol you want, too.

And if there’s any room in the freezer after you’ve stuffed it with ice cream sandwiches and Flavor Ices then you can fill it with meat. While meat’s not quite as fun as Blue Bell and Budweiser, it does mean that at your house, you’re always ready to grill. And that’s super fun too.

Now that you’re convinced that gridges are fun, you’re probably wondering why Frank (who is always up for fun) refuses to let us have one.

I’m over here wondering the same thing. I guess his main argument is that gridges are expensive. But that’s the cool thing about gridges; you CAN’T get a side-by-side or stainless steel gridge. It has to be old-school horizontal. In fact, the older and more dated it is, the better.

Then there’s the space issue. I would certainly be willing to get rid of a few things in the garage to make room for the gridge—Frank’s skateboard, those swim noodles and do we really need a lawn mower?

But I think his main objection comes from his childhood. He grew up with a gridge. He doesn’t understand its ambience, its charm, its mystique. To me, a gridge represents vacation, chillin’ out, the weekend.

In fact, it’s just about weekend time now. Everybody go to your gridges! I’ll be over here, getting beer and ice cream out of my kitchen like a sucker. Oh, well. Maybe I can at least hang out in my garage and pretend like I got it out of my gridge. When the neighbors see me, sitting on a lawn chair in my garage, eatin’ ice cream and drinking beer, they’re sure to think, “That girl looks super fun.” But I won't share any Flavor Ices with them.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Nekeds

Here in Atlanta I teach spin at a suburban YMCA. I love the YMCA. I think if I ever have a lot of money, it might be my charity of choice. It's a charity, right?

I used to work out at the Y in Austin, too. And while both had friendly people, good classes and seemingly fun summer day camps crawling with kids, the two facilities are very different:

The one in Austin was old with 70’s d├ęcor and rusty equipment.
The one in Atlanta is super fancy with TVs on the cardio equipment and a freakin’ water slide at the pool. The Austin one didn’t even have an outdoor pool!

But that’s not the biggest difference. The biggest difference is in the locker rooms. You see, when I go into the locker rooms at the Y here, it’s a typical scene: women are discreetly changing out of their gym attire, showering with the curtains closed and walking around with their bodies covered.

When I used to go into the locker room at the Austin Y, all I saw were body parts. Absolute nudity, like something out of a porn or a European brothel. I’m talking walking around completely naked, blow drying their hair in only their birthday suits and the worst—the lady who SAT on a chair and did her make-up without even wearing underwear.

Oh, and they refused to close the curtains on the shower. In fact, we had a choice to use shower stalls with curtains or showers that were out in the open—which I think were just for rinsing off when you got out of the pool—and all of them chose to lather up for all to see.

What’s wrong with a little nudity, you ask? My reasons are two-fold:

1. It wasn’t just a LITTLE nudity; it was A LOT. I’m not even as naked as they are at my own house!

2. Trust me when I say that most of these people did not need to be nude. I apologize if you were having fantasies of sorority house nudity or Playboy mansion nudity. It’s the exact opposite of that. Especially the lady who put on her make-up in the buff. (Word of caution: don't sit down on any chairs in that locker room.)

After awhile I got used to them and that’s when I started fondly referring to them as “The Nekeds.” Actually, I think Liz made it up. I would come into work and she would say, “How were the nekeds this morning?” And I would say, “They tried to get me to take a shower with them in the open area! I refused!”

I just wish that the nekeds could have put on some panties. Something with full coverage preferably. But they’re the nekeds. Maybe they couldn’t afford panties.

Wow, I guess the YMCA really is a charity.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I'm so pretty, I'm so pretty

We saw the pandas at the zoo this weekend and it brought back memories of my favorite commercial of all time: “The pretty, pretty panda” by Snickers: Now through the miraculous invention of YouTube, you can also enjoy the ad (in case you forgot about it, in which case, I’m not sure I have a lot of respect for you).

And if you don’t think it’s funny, well, I’m not sure we can be friends. Or even fries.

Back in the year 2000, we really wore out this panda routine at my office. In fact, I think we referenced it every day until we replaced it with “WASSUP??”

Several times a day would we sing, “I’m so pretty, I’m so pretty…” and imitate the panda guy’s voice: “I bet they WOULD” was a favorite.

We’d take print ads that we were working on and turn them into panda commercials. We had one that featured Jacques Schlumberger, the wine-maker:

I’d be at my cube and suddenly, Jacques Schlumberger’s picture would appear around the wall, dancing around with a voice saying,
“You know what Jacques Schlumberger has for lunch? He has wine!”

Wait. I think I was the one holding Jacques and doing the voice.

And if it was a special occasion, like a birthday, well, the person of honor would get to be the panda, like this one that I created for Alicia:

“Hey, Alicia, what do you want more than anything else in the world?”
“I’d like to go to lunch!”
“Me too. I bet some co-workers of mine would like to have lunch with you.”
“I bet they WOULD. I’m so pretty, I’m so pretty…watch this: Pretty Pretty Alicia.”
“You know what Alicia has for lunch? She has the turkey combo at Chili’s!”

Okay, now I’m starting to think that we never really did any work around there. And it’s becoming clearer why I was laid off. Oh, well. I bet they’re not having nearly as much fun anymore. WASSSUP??

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Field Trip Tales

I totally remember going on a field trip to the zoo in kindergarten. We were all wearing our field trip clothes—tiny shorts and t-shirts (not because we were hoochie mamas but because we were tiny people)—and in our little hands we held the most important field trip accessory, the sack lunch. And for some reason on field trip days, we got to have soda instead of Capri Suns (which I could never open anyway). Sodas, of course, produce a lot of condensation so our savvy moms had cleverly wrapped them in aluminum foil.

FT Rule #1: Don’t put your foil-wrapped soda IN the brown paper lunch bag because it will break it. Then your PB&J (or in my case, plain cheese with the crusts cut off) and your Little Debbie brownie will fall out.

FT Rule #2: Make sure your mom puts your name on your soda…and your brown bag for that matter.

Oh, and another important but not as fun ingredient: The permission slip. The SIGNED permission slip. The reminding would start weeks prior to the FT: “In three weeks we’ll be going to the zoo, class. Make sure your mommy or daddy (back then most of us had both) signs the permission slip we gave you and you bring it back to me, K?” And the day before the FT: “Some of you still haven’t turned in your permission slips for the zoo field trip tomorrow. You need to bring it with you in the morning or you can’t get on the bus.”

Yet, inevitably, the morning would begin with at least one kid not having his PS so the teacher would be scrambling around, trying to call his mom with no luck. The kid would beg through tears but we would end up leaving him to spend the day hanging out with the school nurse or something. I’m not sure what those kids did all day. I just know that we waved at him from the bus and held up our foil-wrapped soda cans as if to say, “Suckah! You have to drink a sorry old Capri Sun! Good luck getting that straw in that tiny pouch!”

I don’t remember field trips in first, second, third or fourth grades but fifth grade was memorable because we went to downtown Houston. I know, it seems lame but to us suburban kids it was a big deal. We were like country mice in the city, gazing at the tall buildings, staring curiously at the homeless people. Not much had changed since kindergarten: we still had our sack lunches, our foil-wrapped soda cans and I recall several kids getting left behind for failure to turn over signed permission slips.

FT rule #3: When kids are older they need TWO foil-wrapped soda cans. Sometimes boys even need two sandwiches. Name on them still required.

Today I sent Frank out the door on a field trip. He’s going to Knoxville, TN for the day and I started thinking that’s a long drive without any snacks. “Do you want to take a banana?” I asked him. When he agreed I started going into total FT mode: slicing up apples, throwing in salty snacks and tossing a soda in the freezer so it would be extra cold. Natch, I wrapped it in foil.

I hope he’s having a nice FT although he won’t get too far. I didn’t even sign his permission slip.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

“This is becoming my new favorite channel!”

That’s Frank, talking about Lifetime.

We were watching “Army Wives” which I convinced him to watch last week after I saw the series premier and thought it rocked. I made my case by telling him that the army wives were hot (which they are) and not mentioning that it was on Lifetime, "television for women."

Of course he soon figured it out when we watched the Ti-fauxed series premier (me for the second time) and saw a slew of commercials for other Lifetime shows and movies. We ended up taping all of them.

Then last night we watched the second episode of Army Wives. While Frank was fast forwarding through one set of commercials I said, “Stop! I think I just saw an ad for a show with Julie from Desperate Housewives.” We rewound and sure enough, the movie was Girl, Positive where Julie from DH plays a high school senior who worries she may be infected with HIV. When we saw that Kelly Taylor was also in it, we pushed record right away!

Then later, during a different commercial break my quick eyes spotted another 90210 alum: “Wait! There’s Brandon! There’s Brandon! Stop and record whatever it is!!” The show was called Side order of Life and it also featured a half naked blonde girl. This is when Frank made his infamous announcement:

“This is becoming my new favorite channel!”

This is sort of like when Frank decided he liked Oxygen but much more emasculating. I reminded him that it’s “Lifetime, television for women” and he replied “It’s PH balanced for a woman but strong enough for a man.”

Frank may be strong enough to handle Lifetime but I'm not sure our Ti-faux is. I'm pretty sure we maxed it out when we set a series recording for Cheerleader Nation.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Writinggal doesn’t take crap

The weirdest thing happened to me today. Our toilet was really clogged so I called a plumber. He came out, assessed the damage and said that it would take some time, but he could fix it. Boy was I glad. I told him to get going on the sucking and plunging or whatever it is plumbers do. He said he would do just that.

But that’s not the weird part.

The weird part was that he then told me that he was going to charge me for fixing my toilet. I said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t pay plumbers.”

He looked confused and handed me a price list anyway! He said, “No, you have to pay me if I'm going to take the time to fix your toilet; I'm providing a service."

I have to say I was plain baffled—seeing as I've always had this “no-paying-plumbers” policy and all—but I stayed calm and said, “I realize that you are going to be providing a service but I thought you did it out of a labor of love. I thought you LOVED toilets! Are you telling me you’re just in this for the money?”

At this point he was really mad and actually raised his voice: “Hey, lady. I’m good at what I do and yes, I happen to like it but it’s not a hobby! I need to feed my family and pay the bills.”

I couldn’t stand it anymore. I barked back, “I was going to tell all my friends about you! If you did a good job I was going to tell them that you unclogged my toilet so fast and so thoroughly. I was even going to put a sign out on my yard with your name on it. Just think of all the exposure I was going to give you! Your phone would have been ringing off the hook with all the business I was going to pass your way!”

I mean, can you believe this plumber? I thought that he would unclog my toilet out of a labor of love and for the exposure. I guess I was wrong.

Sounds like a crazy story, huh? Well, it actually didn’t happen like that. What actually happened was that someone didn’t want to pay ME, a freelance writer and this plumber story is a metaphor for that. Some of the actual dialogue is even taken from my conversations with the no-paying-pub (most notably "labor of love" and "exposure").

I could go into a whole “why professional writers don’t work for free” rant but I won’t. In fact, I shouldn’t have to. Writing is a skill just like plumbing. You wouldn’t not pay your plumber, would you? Why would you not pay your writer?

We may not be able to unclog your toilet but if we’re good enough, we CAN get people to read your magazine, your newspaper, your web site. That translates into ad revenue. If you’ve got writers who are willing to write for you for free then you have to expect the quality to be poor. I mean, you get what you pay for, right? Poor writing translates into no ad revenue.

And if you don’t have that well, there’s nothing left to do but flush your publication down the toilet. But don’t do that. You’d have to call a plumber and trust me, they’re not free.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Dorks Take Atlanta

There are some great perks to living in a foreign (i.e. anything outside of Texas) city: you get to try new restaurants, meet new people and learn a whole new language (here we say “spaghetti bowl” rather than “mix master”).

But the absolute best part is that nobody knows who you are. In Dallas I ran the risk of running into people I knew anywhere I went: the grocery store, the mall, the liquor store. And, by the way, I HATE running into people. I don’t mind seeing people at parties or pre-arranged events where I KNOW I’m going to see them; I just don’t like getting caught off guard—gotta think of something clever to say, gotta think of a way to close the conversation, gotta remember their name.

Frank and I have both realized that since we don’t know anybody, we have no problem being total dorks. Like, the other day, I decided to walk to the dry cleaners. Before I left, though, I thought, “Wait a second. I’ll have to walk home carrying all this dry cleaning. I’ll probably have to hold it over my head because it’s so long.” Now, mind you, I didn’t care that it might be uncomfortable, I only cared about how it would look. I imagined myself walking down the street, holding the hanger high above my head with all the plastic bags draping down over me. Very foolish looking!

But then I thought, “Who cares? I don’t know anyone!” And it was a feeling of joy, of relief…of freedom. Not only did I wander the streets of my new city carrying dry cleaning but just yesterday I rode my bike (wait, it was Frank’s bike, a boy’s bike) to a produce stand and carried the fruit back in my Kinfolk bag. I started struggling as I climbed the hill by our house because the left side of my bike (Frank’s bike) was so heavy with all the fruit. I took out some of it and carried it in my other hand.

So there I was, slowly climbing this hill in my neighborhood with a Kinfolk bag on one side of a boy’s bike and plastic bags of various fruits hanging off the other AND I had my big ol’ helmet on and I thought, “Man, when did I become such a dweeb?” I mean, I was worse than Safety Dave!

Again, my thoughts turned to, “Who cares? I don’t know anyone!”

The only person I know is Frank and he is of equal dorkiness. In Dallas he refused to wear his cell phone on his belt. Now he proudly attaches that thing to his pants every morning. He even has a little case for it. Then yesterday he got a pedometer at work so he added that to his waist accessories. He said, “Now I’m putting so many things on my belt!” And I said, “Yep. You look like a dork,” and he busted out with our mantra, “Who cares? We don’t know anybody!”

So if you’ve tried to tell us about friends of yours in Atlanta that we HAVE to meet, I’m afraid to say, I don’t think it’s gonna happen. We value our anonymity too much. We can be whoever we want to be. Heck, we might even change our names. Besides, who would want to hang out with dorks like us anyway?

Friday, June 01, 2007

“Man, you guys are on fire!” and other things I only say in spin class

When I teach indoor cycling I sort of have my own spin shtick or as Frank calls it “The Elsa show.”

You see, I say things that I would never under any circumstances say anywhere else:

“The more you turn the more you burn!”
“I better not see any bouncing booties!”
“You can do anything for one minute!”
“You guys rock!”
“Push it…press it…come on…dig with those heels!”
“Let’s do the pony tail test…is your pony tail bouncing?”
“Who’s gonna get to the top first?”

And I count down and everything like “5-6-7-8” and “3-2-1” and “Give me 10” and “Give me 20.” It’s like I’m a cross between a drill sergeant and a drill team captain.

The great thing is that ever since I moved to Atlanta I’ve been able to add new sayings to my repertoire since I can rip off other teachers’ shtick from Dallas. Here are a few of my faves:

“I want it one time and one time only, take it to your max!”
“Scrape that poo off your shoe.”
“Keep your seat over that seat.”
“How ya feeling? Hot and sweaty, right?”
“Don’t fall apart on me now!”

Now let me fill you in on a secret about my spin shtick: My favorite line is, “Man, you guys are on fire!” It doesn’t matter if I’ve got 30 people who are professional bikers or three people who are professional nappers. I tell all of them that they are on fire. And I always say it as if I’ve never seen a class so talented, so enthused and so intense.

It’s actually more like, “Man!!” (and then I look around the room with my mouth open in surprise) “You guys are on FIRE tonight!” Oh, and I always add the time of day so they think I really just came up with it:

“Man! You guys are on FIRE this morning!”
“Man! You guys are on FIRE this afternoon!”
“Man! You guys are on FIRE today!” (for the 4:30 classes).

Sometimes I’ll even add, “I’m impressed!!”

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I really DO think that they’re on fire. But there are also times when I’ve got four people barely moving their legs, talking to their friends or yawning. Still, I tell them they’re on fire and it usually gets them working again…at least for a few minutes.

Now you’re wondering, “Will I ever get to see Writinggal do her spin shtick?” Only if you come to my spin class and you are more than welcome. But if we’re at a party, don’t expect me to say “Is your bootie bouncing?” or “Keep that core tight!” And I definitely will not say “Man, you’re on fire tonight!” Unless of course you are, literally, on fire.

But that would be an approprate time to finally use another great line: "Stop, drop and roll!"