Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It IS all about the bike

Received in my email inbox this morning, spam from Active Triathlete, which has snippets of a Q&A that finely honed athletes such as myself might be interested in. One of today’s headings was as follows: “Getting your bike ready for the hills” – and the blurb continued:

Not ready for those hills? Don't stress over a hilly bike course - if your training hasn’t addressed the issue of steep inclines, have no worries! These tweaks for your bike will help you get up any hills with ease.

Naturally, I glommed onto that like a rat terrier onto a leafy twig, and discovered that I’ve apparently been basically wasting my time riding hill and dale throughout the bucolic countryside of Huntley and its environs. All I need to do to prepare for my Alpian adventure with Stacey (CACTASS for short) is get different gearing for my bike. Maybe some mountain bike gearing, or a compact crank, or a triple crank. And voila, there you go! Piece of cake!

I immediately scratched all of the training off of my schedule and put in an order for a shipment of bonbons. Who knew it would all be so simple?

Speaking of simple, I attempted to find some Marmotte-esque training tips on the internet*, and had high hopes for this one guy’s blog over at the NYT, called something like “A total newbie prepares for L’Etape, with 5 weeks to train.” Right up my alley, yes?

But, much as I was disappointed when I had googled “total dumbass attempting Ironman after cancer treatment” and found nothing, so too was the letdown huge here. This guy illuminated us as to what his training plan was by squishing that information into a little addendum at the beginning of his posts (“1 hour intense ride with Carmichael group”) – and then blathered on for the rest of it on what saddle to use, how to motivate himself, blah blah blah. Look pal, we don’t give a rat’s ass, okay? Those of us in the same boat want commonsense advice and tips, not your ruminations on life.

Hence, so that my fellow wanderers throughout the blogosphere and the Googles don’t meet with such crushing disappointment themselves, I hereby vow to chronicle my enfeebled attempts to get in some semblance of a shape (i.e. cycling shape, not just round or triangular) to handle CACTASS. I might even start a countdown clock (“42 days to CACTASS!”), if I can figure out how to do that.

Oh, and for those who don’t know, CACTASS = Crazy Ass Cycling Trip to the Alps with Super Stacey. In case that wasn’t intuitive.

I am so going to die on this trip…..

*One of the funniest comments heard on the news lately – and god knows we could all stand a good laugh now and then – was in relation to the Russian spies that were just busted in the U.S., after spending years “infiltrating” the system, and basically just finding people to talk to about foreign affairs and government policies. I don’t think the CIA is too concerned, because as they put it: “What we don’t understand is why they put so much time and energy into these cover-ups and switched identities and subterfuge……when they could have just found all that information on the internet.” Brilliant.

This is second only to the best line ever uttered in a Senate confirmation hearing, when Elena Kagan was asked where she was on Christmas of some year. Her response, after looking a bit incredulous: “Well, I’m Jewish……so I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.” Also brilliant. The news yesterday was just a regular laugh riot…..

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Things I have learned….

……as I toodle across the countryside while ramping up to ride silly distances in preparation for the Crazy-Ass Cycling Trip with Stacey. This is all as I successfully begin integrating into Sun City, Retirement Community to the Stars. I think my mom has finally accepted that we’ll be moving in for much of the month of July, as I ride my little heart out so that I can go plunging off an Alpian cliff with élan and style. In fact, my mom is out with The Kone for a walk right now, as she falls under his spell. This in spite of the fact that he plowed through a screen door today – no, wait, to be accurate, he poked a hole in the door, then used that as leverage to slide the door open, after which he found my mom working on her flower bed and calmly sat down next to her, as if to say – “that was fun, what now?”

I think July is going to be a very long month. For my poor mom, at least.

Anyway, without further ado, thoughts to take to heart as you too (my thirteens of readers) strive to achieve some semblance of triathlon goddessness, such as it is or can be for anyone who is not myself:

· Intervals, schmintervals. Racing everything that crosses your path – so far a red fox, a golfcart, and a mail truck – is just too damn exhausting.

· People, can’t you be a little more careful when driving on roads that are known turtle crossings?? I can’t save them all myself!

· The less busy the country road you’re riding on, the more space cars are likely to give you. To the point that I sometimes worry about them as they go all the way into the left lane and then are slow to get back over to the right.

· People who raise and kill mink for fur coats are apparently jerks to humans too. So far I’ve managed to buy, or just been given, water at all of the following: a bar, a random café, a church, and a lawnmower dealer. The store attached to the mink farm? Nope. Nada. Bastards.

· If you’re allotting yourself 200 calories an hour while you ride, you might as well save the money you’d spend on gels and such and just go with Cheez-Its and Slim Jims.

· My iPod takes every opportunity when in shuffle mode to mock me. No Time to Lose, Beautiful Wreck, I Fall to Pieces? Seriously? And then to top it all off…….Slow Ride?? At least I’ve gotten the damn thing to stop playing Dancing Queen.

· Riding in Wisconsin is a beautiful thing, where all the gas stations and other small emporiums have locally made beef and cheese sticks, the perfect size for tucking into a back jersey pocket.

· When stopping at said gas stations at the so-called “halfway” point of your ride, you might want to fill up all your water bottles just in case, and not just one because theoretically that’s all you need to get back. Because you never know when you – theoretically – might take a wrong turn and then wind up on the very busy Rt. 14 with cars zipping past you (busy road = no space at all), whereupon you make the first right that you can onto Dunham Rd. and suddenly find yourself going due west. When you should be going east. Thus tacking on another 15 miles to your 45 mile ride, without water, on a 90-degree day. I use this purely as a hypothetical example, of course.

· For long rides, take a little portable sized suntan lotion with you, unless you want to have your previously applied lotion get rubbed off and subsequently wind up with heat blisters on your leg.

· Wild mulberries make a great riding snack.

· Wind is the greatest pestilence to ever visit this earth. Especially wind that starts out blowing from the east as you’re biking west, turns into a southeastern wind as you go north, then picks up and becomes a stiff northwestern wind as you’re doddering on back, parched due to lack of water. Theoretically.

· Most dogs I encounter just seem to want to toddle along next to me on my bike. I suspect this is because they don’t see me as much of a challenge.

· The farmers have their corn on steroids this year.

· Happiness is a long ride on serene country roads.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The trials of The Kone

Even though I now live in the city, I continue to use a vet in the suburbs, Becker Animal Hospital, for The Kone. Why? Well, they’re simply the best people ever, hands down. They took care of my Huddy for all his years, and were almost as sad as I was when it was time for him to go play in greener pastures. And even now, when I go in there with Kona, Dr. Luke fondly reminisces over how he’d always know that Hudson was here because he could hear him all the way down the hallway. Yes, my Huddy was a bit, shall we say, chatty. Not barky or whiny – he just made these sounds that sounded like a chicken or a seal, with some “hoo hoo hoo”s thrown in for good measure. Like I said, chatty.

And they got to know Hudson and me very well, because Huddy was what I referred to as my Million Dollar Baby. One ailment or operation after another, year after year. And so far, it looks like Kona is following in his pawsteps, so last week we found ourselves at Becker for Kona to have his stitches out, after he had a weird bump on his paw removed. So I’m sitting in the front waiting room, chatting with Frankie, one of the wonderful women who works there, when a vet tech/assistant brings Kona back out. Who, as usual when he sees me, acts as if we’ve been separated for months and months instead of the actual 5 or so minutes that it was.

Vet Tech: Okay, so we removed the stitches and everything looks pretty good.

Me: Great!

VT: But then it’s still swollen in that area…

Me: Yeah, I was wondering about that…

VT: And that’s normal inflammation for the most part. But it also comes about from his leg being pressed against hard surfaces.

Me: Really? That’s odd bec….

VT: So the key thing here is that he needs to stop sleeping on hard surfaces.

I’m not quite sure what my expression was, but I know it was a combination of disbelief, incredulity, amazement, and hysterical laughter.

Me: But he…

VT: That means you need to pull out every soft dog bed you own.

Me: I….

VT: And it’s very important that he have soft bedding to sleep on!

Me: Bu….

VT: No cement! No hard floors!

Me: Bu….

VT, sternly: Do you think you can make all of that happen?

Me, sighing, resigned: Sure. I’ll try.

She leaves, and Frankie then comes over to give Koney some treats. She knows us well enough to know what the real deal is, thankfully.

Frankie, wryly: So he needs to stop sleeping on cement floors, huh?

Me: Exactly.

I look down into the open, guileless face of my little conman, and I can tell what he’s thinking:

Kona: See, Momma, see how important it is to keep me in the style to which I’m accustomed? Or not accustomed, I guess. Well, you know what I mean. Hey, can we go get another petite scone at Starbucks for me, huh huh huh?

It is a sign as to how well my friends know the Life of Kona that when I posted an update about this on Facebook, they responded appropriately. Here’s the dialogue, unedited by me:

I think that kind of says it all.....

Sunday, June 20, 2010

What passes for luck around these parts

It’s probably not surprising that the day after my par-tay, my friend Mary Ellen, visiting from D.C., was afraid to leave the house. At least with me. After all, she was in town but half an hour when we were in a car accident AND left a bakery – a German one, no less, as if they’re not known for their efficiency! – without my cake. Then Mary Ellen pondered the fact that I’ve always had bad luck, at least as long as we’ve known each other, back from those halcyon days in Kiev when we both worked there. Yes, we fondly reminisced over my secretary who was stealing from me, my getting Hudson the Dobe as an eventual guard dog of sorts (i.e. by looks alone) due to the extortion threats, and then…..there were my last six months in Kiev, the tail end of my two years there.

Within that time frame, I got a horrendous case of shingles (and couldn’t get the medicine I needed or any painkillers, nor could I fathom getting on a plane to go to Helsinki for treatment, it was that painful), my beloved Huddy swallowed tape from a cassette that required him having an operation at the circus, after I had gotten all the medicine and anesthesia and everything else needed on the black market, and oh yes, then there was the fire. And the subsequent gas leak. Which Mary Ellen and I managed to shut off using, of all things, a garlic press. And those were just the bigger things.

So you see there’s precedent here.

This is why I’m no longer surprised when my friends think I’m cursed, or as in the case of Mary Ellen, suggest that I need a witchdoctor or something similar, to help me get rid of said curse. (By the way, if anyone has “a guy”, as we say in Chicago, let me know, wouldja?)

And while I have yet to find a witchdoctor or shaman or just any kind of person with appropriate good luck spells, I *was* rather delighted when Holly came back from her trip to Africa with a gift for me which turns out to be a good luck charm. Yep, the Hand of Fatima is supposed to not only ward off the evil eye, but also bring good luck, fortune, blah blah etc. Hell, at this point I’ll take just the “warding off evil” part.

I of course put the necklace on immediately and haven’t removed it since. And lo and behold, there I was riding out in my beloved countryside last week, and two miracles happened:

1) It didn’t start monsooning until AFTER I had finished my ride. Really, it’s true! See, miracles do happen!

2) I did NOT get run down by a pickup truck! There I was, zipping/slogging down Harmony Road, when up ahead after a curve in the road I see 2 pickup trucks bearing down in my direction. The 2nd truck is trying to pass the first, the 1st truck decides to speed up, so they’re having a game of chicken on MY bucolic country road. With me as the ensuing road kill. Now, had I not been wearing the Hand of Fatima charm, I probably would have panicked or flailed about and wound up as a speedbump in PickupTruckLand. Instead, I coolly rode off the side of the road as these yahoos barreled past me at some ungodly speed, then stopped and cursed at them as they continued on. Okay, so that part didn’t really do any good, but at least it made ME feel better.

So there you have it – luck personified. Well, at least for me. And on my recent rides out here, I’ve still managed to avoid getting flattened. AND I’ve discovered 2 water stops - you folks might want to take note of this if you ride out here in No Man's Land – a Café at, umm, that place in Spring Grove where those 2 roads intersect, that’s open in the mornings. And right past there, by the railroad tracks, there’s a bar that’s open in the afternoons. Score! See, and who says I never give out useful tips?

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Par-Tay!

Mary Ellen and I head back to the house, and of course now my schedule is totally off, so right away, I yank ME’s luggage out of her hand and whisk her over to the counter to get to work. “Slice those limes!” I bark – though when I notice that she’s staring at said limes with a glazed look in her eyes due to lack of sleep and jet lag, I command her to take a nap instead. But now I’m down a helper. What to do??

Luckily, salvation comes just then in the form of…..Supermom! Yes, my mom, one of the esteemed guests at the Par-tay, has come early to help out. Whew! Of course I immediately assign her to the most heinous, miserable task known to man, namely attempting to peel hard-boiled eggs that have been made from too-fresh eggs. Meaning that in spite of my patented egg-boiling method (put eggs in pan of water, bring to boil, turn off stove, cover eggs, let sit for 15 minutes. They’re always perfect.) – it’s absolutely true that fresh eggs will NOT peel well. Or at all. I had tried to peel one and gave up. I will be doing penance years for this one, for foisting this on my mom. Thanks mom.

In the meantime, I set to the critical task, that of smoking the fish. My secret method consists of taking a b^&*(@(*^&0897)*#$@)$^*&^@)*&&($#$)*(!$)*(&.....oops, sorry, keyboard got stuck there for a moment. Anyway, once the fish is done to perfection (and it’s so perfect that we debate telling guests that it turned out horrible so that we can have it all to ourselves – my dad would be proud), I need to leave to pick up the barbecue and that damn cake. Again. I head out, bellowing instructions to my mom and Kathleen, friend and SuperTenant to the Stars:

Me: Tote that bale! Dig that hole! PEEL THOSE EGGS!

I head back to Dinkel’s, and luckily the cake is ready this time. Before they hand it over, the older woman comes over for an inspection:

Woman: Wait! Let me see that cake first.

She gazes at it solemnly, this way and that, while we all wait, silently. Finally……the nod of approval!

Woman, sagely: Yes. That’s absolutely perfect.

And indeed it is, well worth the wait.

I then battle traffic to pick up the brisket from Smoque BBQ – I’m always worried I won’t have enough food at my parties, so it seemed good to supplement with some barbecue – and head home. Where I find that my guests will NOT be eating any spinach dip, because Kona has stolen and eaten an entire loaf of Hawaiian bread. Not just a corner of it, such that I could salvage it and still serve it to my guests. Nope, the whole damn thing. Clearly he should be used in marketing and ads for the Hawaiian bread people.

* * * * * *

My guests start arriving around 3:30, and luckily it’s stopped pouring so I send some people outside, while I stop to chat with other people in the dining room. Suddenly, without warning, we have our first dire situation at the party:

Tessie, with a wail of anguish: MY BLANKIE!!!!

Time stands still. The room goes silent. I look down, and there’s The Kone, calmly holding onto Tess’s precious blankie – and I know from babysitting her that this blankie is like the holy grail to this child.

Tess, again: Blankie! Blankie!

Everyone is frozen in a tableau of fear, as to what might happen if Kona decides to start shaking the blankie in order to break its neck, as he tends to do with things. I know better, that he’s just playing his “I have something you want so I’ll stand here until you give me a treat for it” game. So I grab a hunk of cheese from the table, and Kona of course drops the blankie immediately, which Tessie clutches to her bosom, such as it is for a 2-year old. Whew, disaster averted.

* * * * * * * *

One constant throughout the day is that my friends are all telling me how cool all my other friends are, those they haven’t met before but have been happily chatting away with. We have a number of different contingents here: hockey, triathlon, gardening, Accenture, Kiev, Dobe rescue. And they’re all enjoying each other’s company. Even though the first words to me out of Alise’s (from IDR) mouth were about Kona – “He’s fat!”

Me: He just looks that way – he ate an entire loaf of Hawaiian bread today – the whole thing! – so that’s why he’s a bit barrel-shaped. Plus people are taking pictures of him, and you know how they say the camera adds ten pounds.

I grin, charmingly. Alise still looks a bit skeptical. Damn. *I* thought that sounded good….

* * * * * * * *

In the end, it was a glorious party and celebration. Some other highlights:

• Dr. Fine receiving many compliments on his excellent work, and rightfully so.

• Jennifer G. getting the most accolades for the impressive boobage display, apparently thanks to a stellar push-up bra from Victoria’s Secret.

• And Jennifer and Bo were also the proud winners of the Grand Door Prize, the Jingle Jugs! Which were actually won first by Stacy, who oddly guessed the exact number of medical bills/notices I’ve received in the last year and a half (762), but opted for the Fuck Awareness, Find a Cure bumper sticker instead. So off they went with Jennifer and Bo – who pointed out something that I hadn’t even noticed. Which is that before the Jugs start with their little song and dance routine, there is apparently a “breast cancer awareness message” first that one gets to listen to. I kid you not. Hey, and who said those Jingle Jugs people weren’t responsible??

• Happily, I did NOT have to man the grill, as Alton very generously offered to take care of grilling duties. Men who love to grill are the best.

• In spite of my fear of there not being enough food, there was enough left over to feed a small Himalayan country, in spite of the 70 or so people who showed up. And I think it’s safe to say the smoked fish was the hit of the par-tay.

Now, it’s a toss-up as to which gift I received was the best. Not that people needed to bring anything, but it was very sweet of them to do so. The VS gift cards were awesome, and will be used well, and the Knockers sweatshirt, well, I can’t say enough good things about that. The ironic pink stuff, also brilliant, and the Tassled Tomatoes? Basically the hit of the par-tay.

But there was one gift that we were speculating about all evening, as to what it could be, and I should have opened it that night but then my shriek of delight would have woken up or startled everyone in the neighborhood. Because this was simply the Best. Gift. Ever. But take a look for yourself. Behold:

Yes, my very own pink bat, engraved with my name on it. Sniffle. Many many thanks to Ron and Shirley, you guys are the best!! And thanks to all who came, and to those who wished they could make it but were there with us in spirit and hoisted mojitos. Many hoisted mojitos. It really didn’t surprise me that all my friends thought my other friends were so awesome and cool and fun – I already knew how lucky I was to have such amazing people in my life…..

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Cakeless in Chicago

We pull up across the street, and in a fit of pique and defiance, I refuse to go trudging down the street to the stupid machine to put in money for 5 minutes of parking. If it were a regular old meter that I could pop a quarter into? Sure. But this is stupid. So I leave Mary Ellen in the car with the keys, instructing her to be on the lookout for vulpine-looking women eyeing cars with malice and glee, and I head over to Dinkel’s.

Me: Hi, I’m here to pick up a cake? The name is Huebner.
Girl: Okay, just a second.

(A minute passes)

Girl: What did you say your last name was again? Could you spell that?
Me: Huebner. H-U-E…
Girl: Okay, just a sec.

(A few more minutes pass)

Now a second girl has joined the first.

Girl #2: When exactly did you put in the order?
Me: Wednesday – I was in here on Wednesday.
Girl #2: And you were supposed to pick it up…when?
Me: It was supposed to be ready this morning by 10AM.
Girl #2: Okay, just a sec. Could we get you some coffee while you wait?
Me: No thanks, that’s okay.

By now I’m getting a wee bit concerned. After all, what’s a Boobages Par-tay without the accompanying cake?

We do this routine a few more times, I get offered coffee several more times, then finally a woman comes out to break the bad news.

Woman: I’m so sorry, but somehow it seems your order got misplaced. Right now our decorator is working on a firetruck cake, but then they’ll work on yours. Can I get you some coffee?

Hmm. The last thing I want is for them to rush my elaborate little cake.

Me: You know, how about if I just come back in a couple of hours? Say around 2?
Woman: Oh, perfect, that would be great! I’m SO sorry about this.
Me: No problem, it happens.
Woman: By the way, can I ask what the cake means? We were all wondering about that.
Me: You mean the “Boobages or Bust”? The cake is for my Coming Out Party for the new girls!
Woman, looking slightly dumbfounded: The new….as in…..

I decide to go with the slightly longer explanation, so they don’t think I’m having some odd party to celebrate my garden-variety boob job.

Me: I had reconstruction, after breast cancer. So I’m done with treatment and now have the new boobs so they’re getting their own party!
Woman, nodding sagely: Aaah, I see. That is excellent. I really love that idea.
Me, beaming: Thanks!

I leave, go to the car, and tell Mary Ellen what happened. As we drive off to head home, cakeless in the squished car, we both start laughing, albeit rather incredulously. Really, what else can you do?

(Next up: The Par-tay! Pictures!)

Boobages Day starts off with a bang....

Last Saturday

I wake up at the crack of dawn so that I can follow the precise instructions left by my late dad for his world-famous smoked fish – also known as the only reason people ever come to my parties. Having brined for a precise number of hours, the 7.2 pound salmon needs to be taken out, soaked in water, etc. and so on. I had planned on smoking it in the morning, but realize that I’ll run out of time since I need to dash to the airport to pick up my friend Mary Ellen, who I haven’t seen in years but who’s finally come for a visit. No problem. Everything is under control, my timetable for things is going exactly according to plan, there’ll be plenty of time for the fish when we get back. I envision us hanging out outside, relaxing with a pre-party cocktail as we wait for guests to arrive…….

As I’m driving down Addison, I hit Western, and suddenly see……a sea of pink? Of pink WALKERS??? Shit, that’s right – one of those damn 2-day or 3-day walks is this weekend! But what the hell, why are they going through MY neighborhood? I thought they were always shuttled off to someplace vague yet scenic, like the lakefront path. Why me? WHY ME???? I place a call.

Me: Laura, we’ve got a situation here.
Laura: Uh oh, what’s up?
Me: I’m surrounded by WALKERS! In PINK! Walking people everywhere I look!
Laura: Oh boy….
Me: And on my birthday weekend no less!
Laura: That’s just not right.
Me: Exactly! So my question to you is this – would it be so wrong if I suddenly get a bout of physical Tourette’s and “accidentally” jerk the steering wheel and go careening into a crowd of pink? Because you know how I feel about this walking shit.
Laura: Well I…
Me: Hold on a sec…..(yelling) Hey! Let’s see how you feel about your walking when you’ve got a fricking GUMDROP stuck to your chest!!
Me: Okay, so what were you saying?
Laura: Just that you don’t want to get arrested, not on the day of your party – that would have a lot of food going to waste. Can’t you just wave a placard at them or something?
Me: Hold on a sec….(honking horn) Hey! Check out my bumper sticker! Fuck awareness, find a cure! How’s THAT for a cheerful pinkish slogan??
Me: Okay, what were you saying?
Laura: Placard? Maybe?
Me: Good idea – I’ll get back to you.

I don’t even know why I’m so annoyed with these Pink Walk-a-Thons. It’s not necessarily annoyance with the people doing the walking – well, other than the Walking Idiot who stole my Bat Girl spot from me – but it’s the fact of these stupid walks in the first place, that raise money for unknown purposes and that make people feel like they’re doing something, when that time and money could be better spent on something like the Pink Daisy Project, which actually makes a difference in women’s lives. Not this crap. And as a friend said - what the hell is the point of the walking? Can’t they fundraise while they also do something useful, like clean up a river, say?


* * * * * * * *

I pick up Mary Ellen without a problem, and she too is treated to swarms of pink as we head back in the direction of my place. Gee, it’s a shame that it starts pouring – must suck to be walking in the torrential rain and all. So we’re crawling along on Addison, heading to Dinkel’s to pick up my glorious Boobages Par-tay cake, and Mary Ellen is talking:

Mary Ellen: You realize of course that you’ve always had bad luck, even back in Kiev, whe…

*BAM!!!* There is stunned silence in our car for a moment. Then….

Me, raging: Oh COME ON! Not this shit again! You have GOT to be fucking KIDDING me!!

Yes, we’ve been rear-ended. Really. A mere 3 months after the LAST hapless idiot – a girl that time – rear-ended me.

I storm out of the car, an avenging angel as I like to think of it, putting the screws to idiot drivers on behalf of all of us.

Me, to the apparent 18-year old who just slammed into us: What were you thinking? Why weren’t you paying attention? What the hell WAS that??
Him: I…
Me: Don’t people know how to drive anymore? Mary Ellen, call the cops!
Him: I’m sorry…..I don’t think your car was damaged.
Me: How can you tell? You don't know that!

I go around to the side of the car, and see that the panel that was squished in the LAST time I was hit – and was just unsquished by the fine mechanics at Costco when I got new tires – is now squished again. Egads!!

Me, still raging: Look! Look, my car is squished in! Mary Ellen!

She hands me the phone, and after a brief conversation with the dispatcher person, I’m told that we should exchange information and then go to the police station to file a report. Fine. In the meantime, cars on Addison are honking at us for blocking the road. As if I give a shit.

Me to kid: Okay, so they told us to exchange information and then go file a report. Where’s your insurance card?
Kid: I don’t actually have insurance yet…
Me: WHAT??? How could you be driving and not looking at the road knowing you don’t have insurance??
Kid: I just got the car today and was going with my aunt to get insurance and I think the tires are a little bald….
Me: And you just got the car?? And there you were driving around NOT looking at the road?? Mary Ellen, call the police again!

This time, they send someone out, and it was at this time that the most traumatic part of the whole incident occurred:

Cop: I need your insurance card and driver's license to fill out the report.

Me: NOOOOOOoooooooooooooo!

After about a mere hour of paperwork, I’m handed the accident report, which has a court date on it.

Cop, to me: “Now, make sure you show up in court!”

Ha, if he only knew.

By now I’m no longer quite as incensed, and the kid’s car got the brunt of the damage – in fact, his hood is crumpled in and steam seems to be coming from it – so kid and I chat, shake hands, leave on good terms.

By now we’re running late, but no matter, it’ll just take a minute to pick up the cake, which was supposed to be ready by 10AM, and it’s now almost noon. Off we head to Dinkel’s…..

(to be continued)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A week in the life....

Sometimes, people express amazement that I have as bad of luck as I purport to have. Somehow, they think that I just MSU. All the time. Now, while I might use a wee tiny bit of artistic license at times, merely in order to portray events with the acuity and sharpness they deserve, the basic facts are always accurate. To illustrate, let’s look at last week, a typical one for Miss Tasha:

• I realize that I’ve used up my last check, which wouldn’t be a big problem except that I need one in order to write a check at Costco, where I’m going to shop for the Boobages Par-tay. I scour the house looking for the subsequent checks. Nada.

• So I decide I’ll just get some cash and use that. I stop at an ATM and am trying to hurry, since I’m parked in a bus zone. So I grab the cash and dash off, only realizing when I’m a block away that I forgot my card in the ATM. Oops.

• I head back to the ATM, and my card has disappeared. Sucked into the black vortex of ATM Purgatory.

• That day, I get yet another bill from a collection agency regarding – what else – my medical bills. Where I see I have some $1K in charges for 2010 that I’m pretty sure I already paid. But the charges that REALLY piss me off are for 2008. What. The. Fuck. You mean 2008, as in the year that I already paid way more than I should have? Yeah, you can just fuck off.

• Wednesday night is the monthly Tri Club meeting. It’s Bridget’s last meeting as President, so I’ve ordered her a cake from Dinkel’s, and I stop there to pick it up before the meeting, parking in the 15-minute parking spot across the street, blinkers on. I come out and see…… a ticket?? What fresh hell is this? Did they have me on a stopwatch? Because even if they did, I clock myself at less than 15. Oh, wait, it’s for my expired license plate sticker, which I’ve ordered but haven’t received yet – mind you, it expired June 1st, and it’s June 2nd. Fucking vultures. What I “love” about Chicago and what is one of the things that has me planning my departure someday soon is the fact that unlike in other cities where parking tickets are a reasonable $10-20, here, they’re $50. Yes, $50 for a single parking ticket. Fuckers.

• Also on Wednesday, I speak to my Most Awesome IRS Taxpayer Advocate Michelle –at this point, we’re practically in the “exchange holiday cards and recipes” phase of our relationship. We chat about her upcoming vacation, and she tells me that we’re still at status quo, but that she doesn’t think I’ll owe any money. Whew. Except then 2 days later I get a letter from the IRS, where it appears that they’ve oh-so-magnanimously reduced some fees – but they still seem to think I owe them thousands of dollars. At this point, I hardly even care. It’s not like they can get blood from a turnip.

So in other words, a typical week. Par for the course. No sweat. And then. THEN. Boobages Par-tay Day was upon us…..

All hail Lord Stanley's Cup!

Okay, I'll admit that I'm one of those people who hasn't liked the bandwagon-jumpers. Not because I think that somehow as a die-hard fan from the olden days I'm better than them. Nope - it's just because they've made it so freaking hard to get tickets. By the same token, I've been annoyed to read about the so-called celebrities and starlets suddenly going to the Stanley Cup games. Hello, taking our tickets?!

With that said, I am glad that the Hawks have an entire city behind them. And I kind of feel sorry for the new fans, in a way. Sure, they get the thrill of seeing the Hawks win - but it's not as meaningful - and they don't realize how truly remarkable and mind-boggling this is - unless you were there in the days of "Dollar" Bill Wirtz, in a United Center with tens of people, where I could wave to my friend Keith, aka Stan, who'd be the lone person sitting in his section on the 200-level. And my hockey friend Doug told me last night that at the games, he'd always be seeing me and whatever friend I was with on the Jumbotron - basically because there were so few people there that they'd show the same people over and over. And often, you'd hesitate to buy tickets because you didn't want to give Wirtz any more of your money.

Those were the days.

And of course, lo those many years ago, there was the classic comment from my friend Laura as we were watching the final game of the Stanley Cup. I don't even remember who won, and Laura's not a big hockey person, so her comment upon seeing the players raising the Stanley Cup was "Oh look, they're hoisting a trash can aloft!" Which still stands as one of the best hockey-related comments of all time, in my book. True hockey fans will understand that she shouldn't get any shit for that comment - considering that each player gets the Cup for 48 hours, and it's been everywhere from at parties filled with jello, to, well, a lot of other strange places. Which doesn't detract from its significance at all. It's just how hockey and hockey fans are.

So, all I can say is this: thank you Blackhawks. You have been truly incredible, and bandwagon or not, all of Chicago loves you. Thank you thank you thank you.....

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Why BP sucks

(More pictures here - warning, they're heartbreaking.)

And an excerpt from a great article in Newsweek, about just what an idiot the BP CEO is - which I'll let speak for itself. The article, btw, has one of the best and most biting titles ever: "What Not to Say When Your Company is Ruining the World."


BP initially estimated that between 1,000 and 5,000 barrels of oil were gushing into the gulf each day. The current consensus pegs the figure at between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels. At 44 days in, it is already the biggest spill in U.S. history, and with no signs of a quick solution to halt the flow of crude, it's dwarfing the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska.

Among Hayward's bizarre statements since the accident:

On April 29, The New York Times reported that Hayward, apparently exasperated, turned to fellow executives in his London office and asked, “What the hell did we do to deserve this?" (A possible answer might be the company's 760 safety violations over the last three years. ExxonMobil, in contrast, has had just one.)

On May 14, Hayward attempted to persuade The Guardian that "the Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume."

Only a few days later, he told Sky News that "the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to be very, very modest." That might surprise the many scientists who see the spill as a true environmental calamity, the full extent of which remains unclear.

On May 30, Hayward was less bullish and decided to play the sympathy card. He told the Today show that "there’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back." (He has since apologized for those remarks.)

On May 31, he told the world that ecosystem-threatening underwater oil plumes—consisting of droplets of partially dissolved oil suspended in water that many scientists have observed—do not exist. He said simply, "There aren't any plumes."

On June 1, Hayward responded to claims that cleanup workers were being sickened by the fumes from the oil they were exposed to by suggesting another possible, non-oil-spill cause. When nine workers fell ill, according to Yahoo News, he told CNN that "food poisoning is clearly a big issue."

But Hayward is not alone in his manful struggle to spin the news in the face of daunting factual evidence. His colleague Bob Dudley, managing director of BP, told NBC's Meet the Press on May 30 that "I think Tony's doing a fantastic job." To paraphrase President George W. Bush during another poorly managed Gulf Coast disaster: heckuva job, Tony.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The unbearable lightness of biking


We could also call this Tasha’s Big Day – for today, yes today, is the first time I’m going to be riding my bike outside this season. Since last September, actually. And okay, I haven’t ridden it inside on the trainer either, given that I’d rather watch paint dry on grass as it grows, given how insanely boring that is. But still, I’m thinking that I could crank out a brisk 50 miles or so, thanks to my supreme muscle memory and inherent fitness and all that. Right?

Of course, by the time I get out to my mom’s in Huntley, the storm clouds have moved in, the sky is black, and thunder and lightning abounds. Shit. I thus do the only thing possible under such circumstances: I go to the nursery, where I join the few other people darting in and out of the rain to get plants that are outside.

Woman, to me: We must be crazy!
Me: True, but at least the rain got rid of the riff-raff!

She suddenly decides to go inside to look at annuals, all the way on the other side of the nursery. People are so odd.

Anyway, I head back to Sun City and my mom’s, and the rain seems to have abated, at least for now. Off I go! A quick 50 miles, no problem!

Except a couple of miles in, I’m already tired. Which I ignore, because it always takes me a while to get warmed up. Still, maybe I’ll do 40 miles. I keep toodling along on my beloved country roads, with few cars, smooth roads, wind at my…..well, okay, it’s a headwind, but you can’t have everything.

Regardless, I’m insanely slow, quickly tired, only manage about 25 miles, at a snail-like pace of about 15 mph.

It was about as pure a happiness as one can find.

* * * * * *
I’m returning to my mom’s, when I wind up making the most supreme sacrifice that a cyclist can make. I stop. Going up a steep hill. Yes, it’s true. And a word to the wise, or to my alert reader(s): when picking up a box turtle so that it doesn’t get squished in the road by the careening ’82 Buicks of the elderly residents of Sun City, make sure you hold said turtle AWAY from your body, because it’ll suddenly start peeing like a geyser. What the heck, are turtles 90% water or something? Luckily I avoid any trace of turtle pee, but consider yourselves duly warned.

I’m glad that I don’t have any actual bike problems, because the denizens of SC continue their careening past me, even as I’m stopped with my bike on the grass.

Mabel: Dear, what do you think that girl is doing by the side of the road? Should we call the police?
Fred: Mabel, keep your eyes ahead, don’t look in her direction. It’s none of our business what shenanigans those young kids are up to these days. Besides, you never know when someone might have a gun.
Mabel: But she has a bike and….
Fred: It’s probably a trick! To get us to pull over so some ruffians can run out of the woods and take my collection of Kennedy half-dollars. Lock the doors!
Mabel: Oh my goodness, you could be right! Keep driving!

After setting Mr. Turtle back away from the road, I get back on my bike, do a little Shriner circle to get going, and set off, homeward, good deed done for the day.

* * * * * * * *

“So, Kona and I are moving in for the month of July.”

For some reason, this pronouncement of mine sets my mom to laughing. Loudly.

“You have a router, so I could use my computer,” I mutter, thinking to myself, “and I’m sure there are dog parks around here somewher……hey, what’s so funny?” My mom is still laughing.

“What? You’re moving in? What?” Mom seems puzzled.

“The Kone and I, we’re moving in. You don’t mind, do you?” I add.

“You’re serious?”

“Well,” I note, “the only way I’ll avoid dying in the Alps on my trip with Stacey is if I spend the whole month of July riding insanely long hours and miles every day. And I can’t do that in the city.”

“But, you…..but….Kona…..”

“It’ll be great!” I wax enthusiastic. “Kona and I can go running around the lake, and I can hang out by the pool, all in the fine tradition of kids moving in with their parents or grandparents at their retirement communities. Is there a karaoke night here too?”

“I don’t know about that, but there IS a weight room that you’d be able to use,” my mom muses, slowly warming up to the idea. Or at least recognizing the inevitability of it.

“See, that would be perfect!” I crow.

“And I’m hosting Bunco in July….”

“See, I could be an extra for Bunco! Though I guess I’d have to learn how to play, huh?” I muse.

I trot off to take a shower, babbling about the sugar daddy that I envision myself finding when I hang out at the Lodge every day, and when I’m done, I see that my mom has taken out a bottle of wine. After I open it for her – one of my many skills and talents – my mom hoists glasses in solidarity with her neighbors whose backyard juts up against hers, apparently having told them about the world-famous blogger that'll be in their midst come July.

“To July!” proclaims my mom.

“To July!” returns her neighbor Nancy.

I’m glad she’s taking this so well. Though I wonder if the wine has anything to do with that….