(this is annie)

cat pictures are better

Hey hey, it's the wee Mikan. See, he always makes things happier, especially when it looks like he's posing for Hott Catt Monthly. I hate to resort to the interweb cliche of posting kitty pictures, but the alternative is that you hear more about my fear of going to the doctor tomorrow.

I know: I'll talk about selected moments from my doctor-visiting history.

Age: infant
My mother takes me to the doctor because I've come down with some mild cold. The doctor picks me up and sits me upright with my bum resting on his hand. At that moment, I poop on him.

Age: toddler
I am chasing a ball around the downstairs patio, and I don't see a giant pipe sticking out of the ground. When I lurch down to pick up my ball, I knock my face into the pipe. Blood gushes everywhere and my mother initially mistakes my screams for laughter. She drives 16 miles to my doctor, all the while trying to keep me from passing out. The next thing I remember, the doctor is asking me if I want to have blue or red stitches. "I'd like purple," I answer, backing up my request with the knowledge that red and blue make purple. When I toddle into preschool the next day looking like Lil' Frankenstein, the other kids think I am very cool.

Age: early grade school
A boy named Lester Fowler whips the heavy chains of the playground swings at me. One of the links bashes me in the mouth, chipping a tooth. Within days, I am at my dentist's office, having my front teeth filed into a non-jagged shape. I become silently furious at Lester for ruining my teeth and fueling a dislike of my teeth that continues in some form to this day.

Age: middle school
During the routine mini-physical test given at my grade school, I decide that the nurse is wrong in ruling out scoliosis for me. With graveness I realize that my future involves a back brace. When I tell my mother about my self-diagnosis, she is unconvinced. For years afterward, she thinks it is hilarious to bring it up whenever I complain of any sort of injustice: "And on top of that, you have scoliosis!"

Age: pre-Girl Scout Camp
To attend camp, I have to have a physical and have blood drawn. To make things easier, my parents take me to see my friend's dad, Dr. Chang. He's a very nice man, and he draws the blood gently, but all I can think is, "Your daughter always gets better grades in handwriting class than I do." For the rest of the day, I say that I've lost feeling in my arm, and that this whole blood-taking business took things too far, too far!

Age: 16
My first visit to the gynecologist. Because I am a virgin with small breasts, I try to use these facts to postpone the inevitable appointment. It works for only so long, and then I have an appointment with a nice enough male doctor. During the examination, all I can think is, "Whoa, the doctor's name is the same as that guy from Weezer! Haw haw!"

Age: 18
My friends are having sex, and I am not. Anyway, I accompany one of them to the health clinic on campus so that she can get birth control. When the physician's assistant gives us a hokey video to watch, I announce a little bit louder than necessary, "Well, it's not for ME! I'm the last member of the V Posse!"

Age: 23
I am reprimanded by my doctor for my lower-case-D-diet consisting of mashed potatoes and creme brulee. "But I like potatoes and I like custardy goodness," I say, hoping that my happiness will outweigh her years of medical training and skill. She puts the kibosh on the sugar consumption.

Age: 25
As I am having my yearly LadyExam, I regale my doctor with an impromptu speech on the sexual politics of pubic waxing. She tells me that some women wax so much that they develop extra wrinkles on their lady parts. I file that information away for a later follow-up speech.

and another thing

Ever since I was a little girl, this has happened to me. I know it's going to sound crazy, and I have no explanation for this phenomenon, but it happens to me and that's all I can say about it.

Sometimes I will have very clear, very detailed, very short dreams, and then I wake up. In many cases, I'm somewhere unknown with unknown people, but in the dream I know them well. And here's where it gets weird, and you probably shift the Tomlin opinion scale to "certifiably loony." But:

The dreams happen. In real life. Exactly as they played out in the dream. It sometimes takes months for them to happen, sometimes years. It's not deja vu, really, or "Ah, this reminds me of a dream I once had!" It is exactly the same, and in my waking life I'll realize that I've dreamed this scenario, and I know how it plays out. Now I like to watch the events happen as they happened in the dream. I know someone is going to move to the left, or say a certain phrase, and then they do.

I just had this happen when I posted the last post. I remember having a dream last year in which I was sitting in an empty coffee shop that I'd never been to before, and I posted about me possibly having cancer and having a friend named Jesse, and I was using Blogger (which is not what I was doing at the time of the dream). When I woke up, I wondered, "Who is Jesse? Why am I posting through Blogger? What is this about a cancer risk? That's nuts." And here we are.

Today, my doctor called. I figured she was just checking up on me to be sure that I'm eating all right. That's what good doctors do, right?
They also call when there's bad news.

Without going into details, let's just say that this is the second summer of cervix hijinks. Last year, I went through the adventure of having an ultrasound. The photo of my uterus is on the refrigerator. It makes for a nice conversation piece. This year, the diagnosis is scarier, because there is a slight risk that I will develop cervical cancer.

It's funny how two syllables change everything. When my doctor started to describe the test that I'll have done on Thursday, my stomach fell to the ground and I had to interrupt her with "I'm sorry, but I think I am going to throw up. Can I call you back?" Then I hobbled over to the bathroom, the sides of my head coming closer to each other. It was like a magnet was drawing them together, and I knew that if I didn't find a place to lean against, I was going to smash into the floor. And then my coworkers would find me sprawled on the dirty floor with my teeth knocked out, and that would cause a scene. Fortunately, I made it into the bathroom and steadied myself on the sink. I then tried to throw up, but I couldn't do it because someone else was peeing in the other stall. Then I walked back to my desk and telephoned my doctor to confirm the appointment. She also prescribed some Valium for me, so with any luck I won't be hyperventilating through the pain.

I had to go home from work early. I called my mom and then Jesse (who, as you can tell, has been a very kind friend lately). Jesse gave me a hug and some Dunkin' Donuts napkins for my runny nose and splotchy face. He helped me calm down and not rush into total panic mode, but I still feel very scared and very alone.

I wish I had something more introspective or eloquent to say about all of this, but I don't. I don't want to have these tests done. I don't want to be crying in a coffee shop right now. I don't want to keep up the crumbling facade of me being strong and brave. I want vulnerability to be something other than a luxury. I don't want to go home to my apartment, because there is nobody there to hug me and tell me that it's all going to be okay. I want it all to be okay. I want to be eight years old again, now and forever, still.

it's on

maybe you should click for the bigger picture

On Saturday, I decided that it was time to buy a guitar. Jesse and I went to Midwest Buy & Sell, where I fell in love with a very pretty Stratocaster. Unfortunately (and typically; I am inexplicably drawn to expensive things) it was about $1000 more than I wanted to spend. To soothe our disappointment, we went to Dairy Queen for scarily plastic-tasting ice creamy treats.

At Guitar Center, our luck was better. I didn't think that any of the clerks would give me the time of day, because in the past they've always assumed that I was an accessory to a rocker boyfriend. Jesse said that they would help me, and he was right. Either I am hot stuff or they are working on commission (you can guess where I place my faith), because many Guitar Center employees were more than happy to offer help.

I picked a pretty blue Stratocaster and inspected it. Jesse said I had to plug it into an amplifier to see if the guitar's sound pleased me. I didn't like this idea, because I was the only lady in the place, and I felt like all these guitar geeks were going to start laughing at me and my anemic repertoire of major chords. There was a small group of punkish boys in their early 20s, and they made me especially nervous. I envisioned them snickering at my musical skills, and me going nuts and going all The Who on the instruments while yelling revolution girl style now!. But as it turns out, the Tattoo Brigade's guitar skills were just as rudimentary as mine. That was a nice surprise.

I asked Jesse if he thought there was room for haggling, because I love a bargain. "I bet I can get the cute-girl discount," I said. Lo and behold, we got the hookup. I now own the guitar, an amplifier (with reverb and tremelo!), a strap, a little case, a cord, and extra turtle-brand picks. All for under $500. I am so excited, I can't even write straight about it.

long past slaphappy

chiloxx: i have chin up chin up record to keep me warm at
night. who needs her?

acornface: Hulk do.
acornface: Oh wait. I thought you meant who needs the
record. Because Hulk like record

acornface: But Hulk not need [REDACTED].
chiloxx: right. her=[REDACTED].
acornface: Hulk a little slow sometimes, afraid to say.
chiloxx: it's ok hulky. it's not easy being green.
acornface: Hulk appreciate empathy
acornface: Hulk also dislike [REDACTED]
chiloxx: me too
acornface: Hulk would appreciate returned phone calls and
chiloxx: she is [REDACTED].
acornface: Hulk not understand why she so difficult when
Hulk only trying to HELP her client

acornface: Hulk very amused by Hulk talk, more than Hulk
should be
chiloxx: me too, hulky. me too.
acornface: Hulk confess that he ate cake for breakfast
acornface: Hulk going to rock show tonight but not looking
forward to it
chiloxx: haha
chiloxx: i ate coffee
chiloxx: it's ok
chiloxx: what show?
acornface: Hulk have soft spot in heart for shoegazey

acornface: Ergo
acornface: Hulk go to see the Delays
chiloxx: ah yes. why don't you want to go then?
acornface: Hulk tired
chiloxx: who you goin with?
acornface: Brian Sholis
acornface: friend from new yrok city
acornface: who's in town
acornface: hulk find british boy foxy:

chiloxx: eh...
chiloxx: he has bon jovi hair.
acornface: Hulk can fix. Give Hulk time!
chiloxx: go for it
acornface: Rome not built in a day, you know.

Maybe it's because I've just come from waiting 45 minutes at the USPS, but this article about "emo boys" made me want to shake the monitor violently before conking myself on the head with a frying pan to knock me unconscious and end the pain. I mean, nobody has used the word "emo" outside of the mall emo sense without being embarrassed by it since at least 1998. Remember cringing at that NME cover years ago, and getting stacks of offensively inoffensive "girl you broke my heart" CDs to review at Punk Planet, and still being a little embarrassed that you still like Mineral? Because really, Mineral was always more of a guilty pleasure than anything else.

The story made me alternately laugh and groan, mostly because it comes from an outside perspective. I mean, if you think that "emo" is descriptive of Metallica or a 42-year-old banker, then you might as well call John Ashcroft an emo boy because he sings about pretty eagles soaring in the sky. I know that times have changed, and that emo long ago ceased to be connected to the sound and scene I encountered in my youth. Now there are loads of emo kids running around listening to Coheed and Cambria or Thursday or whatever the hot topic happens to be. I mean, hell, I know a sweetheart of a kid whose band pulls generously from Saves The Day--and they're considered emo in today's parlance--but the rascal was so far removed from punk that he didn't know who the Clash were. Or what a zine is. (When I told my mom this, she joined in my major plotzing, adding, "Even I know what a zine is.")

Anyway, I feel like this article gets it wrong in two ways. First, I think the men profiled there were just clueless nimrods who don't understand that telling someone about your wee willy on the first date is like taking out insurance against a second one. Now, if they had found the would-be Conor Obersts or some cardiganed fox who lets the four-on-the-floor dance moves out when his band plays, that would be a different story. Oh, the books I could write about them.

Secondly, it's a semantic issue, but as I've said, "emo" in my brain isn't only short for emotional. There's too much attached to that term for me: quarter-page zines composed with clunky typewriters; tiny star tattoos inked at home; kids packed tight in an old office space, dancing until their hearts exploded; long-distance pen pals; vegan potlucks; a focus on meaning rather than aesthetic. All of these things are sewn to my memory, and to see the mass-marketed spawn of what was originally anti-commercial and intensely personal tugs at the seams too much. 

fun times

I spent the whole weekend working. Work work work work work. I work 40 hours a week at least at my regular job, and then I do freelance job A and freelance job B, and then Venus. So I spent most of my weekend doing photo shoots and editing and writing. Monday night finds me doing the same thing, except now I am looking at Becca's fashion shoot. It makes me feel fancy and cosmopolitan. I had wine before I wrote this ok?

Two summers ago, I met a shaggy-haired boy at Danny's. He was quietly surveying the scene, looking mildly bewildered by the bustle of activity. "Aha," I thought. "Looks like I am not the only one who thinks it is a little too loud and a lot too dark in here." So I said hello and we chatted about something or other. I don't remember the details, but we exchanged numbers and I gave him the nickname of The Freshmaker. We were supposed to get together at some point, but you know how that goes. Dirty jeans + good hair + bad posture = Flaky Rocker Boy Who Will Blow You Off.

At the time, I wrote about it in my SUPER SECRET INTERWEB DIARYLAND SITE (the entry has been reproduced here).

Apparently, my hot bod did not make the right impression on the Freshmaker, as he never called again. I got over it for the most part, as I always do when people pull that move. With time I was able to see that where I'd thought he was quiet and deep, he was spacey because homeboy was often high as a kite. This realization came in part from looking at his band's song titles, many of which are about doing lots of drugs. Lame. I forgot about him, his only honor being designated Assclown of the Week.

Well, earlier this spring, I was helping Tim move some plants to his new apartment. And who do I see walking down Milwaukee, all pomp and swagger, but the Freshmakaaaah. Now, the thing you have to understand is that when people do not follow through on what they say they'll do, they feel sheepish. I know this because I was flaky once, and I felt like a jerk about it. When the Freshmaker saw me, his face looked startled, as though he half-expected me to call him out on his merde. At this point, it wasn't worth the effort, and any papercut to my ego had healed a long time ago. But when he darted his eyes away from mine, trying to pretend like he didn't see me, I realized that, in a paraphrase of 1990s dance group SNAP, I got the power. Snap indeed!


I got together with Mr. Coffee last night. I hadn't seen him since May, and I'd forgotten how broad his shoulders are. For some reason they stood out. I'd also forgotten how gentlemanly he is, and how smart, and how genuinely nice and politically aware and handsome and so on. Someday I will really kick myself for not falling madly in love with him. Decades down the line, when I am clutching my taxidermied Mikan ("He's a good little cat, he just sits there real quiet-like all day long with a blank stare in his eye") and watching Buffy reruns, I will regret not snagging him while I had the chance.

But that is then, and this is now. For now, we shared snacks and coffee and conversation. We talked about Fahrenheit 9/11 (good, but heavy-handed); clingy people who are all about dating you right away (yeek); and, of course, how Ted Leo's upcoming album is going to be the highlight of October (better than Halloween). Mr. Coffee told me that at the show I missed while traveling in Europe, Ted said something about "the middle third." While I tried to nibble my cookie, Mr. Coffee explained what the middle third is. It involves drinking one's own urine, and I prudishly hissed, "Mr. Coffee, I am trying to eat my cookie!" To which he attempted to absolve himself by explaining that it was Ted Leo who brought it up, not him.

The conversation moved on to books or something like that, and thank god for the timing, because who do we see walking down the street? Mahmood, Dave, and Ted himself. Quelle surprise; they weren't playing a show that night! I was very happy, but I didn't want to blow my cool by expressing too much excitement--it would have involved giddy hand-clapping--so I bizarrely started acting prim as Laura Bush instead. I was all manners and formality for some reason. Finally, someone said, "Um, you can sit down, Annie," and I relaxed.

After sharing funny "Metropolitan Diary" stories in character voices, we started talking about Madame Bovary and, yes, the middle third. There is nothing like pee talk to make me blush, and I was very happy when the topic moved from urine consumption to Eminem. I would much rather talk about his cinematic triumphs than drinking "liquid waste," as my fourth-grade teacher would call it. Eventually, the Pharmacists and Mahmood finished their coffees and went on their way. Happy coincidence, happy evening. 


... while seeing Anchorman last night. Sam was sitting three seats away and said that he could hear me shrieking. Sure, wit and dark comedy is great, but sometimes it feels good to watch a screen and just laugh at the mindless things. Scott said that his IQ dropped after watching the film, but I felt sharper than usual. There's something wonderfully freeing about laughing uncontrollably.

Earlier this week, I tried to be a good film watcher by renting Rashomon. I put the DVD in and prepared to be wowed by an amazing Japanese film, but then I looked down at my feet and noticed that my nail polish was chipped. And then I betrayed my pretense of cultural smarts by thinking, "I should really do something about that." So I pulled out my nail polish remover and various shades of lacquer, and tried to watch the film while giving myself the poor girl's pedicure. Neither activity really held my interest, and so eventually I turned off Kurosawa and focused on my toes. I am ashamed.

your opinion is needed

If someone you met, who is seemingly interested in going on a date with you, asks this question over IM, would be overreactionary to think, "That is really nosy and inappropriate even if it's being done in a playful way"? The question: What bra size are you?

caught in the act!

On Sunday I received this e-mail from a friend who I haven't seen in a while. The subject was "biking down california." I thought, "Oh, cool, she's doing a cycling tour of the Schwarzenegger state."

Except then I read the message:

rob and i were standing outside the california clipper last night very unsuccessfully scoping out taxis. we saw you pedal by in your cute red shoes happily listening to whatever was in your ears. i said, "hey, wait a minute. that's annie."

There was more, but the main point is that all this time I've been riding my bike, singing my little heart out, thinking that nobody notices a thing. But now I've been caught, and even though this e-mail is not making fun of my nerdy hobby, I am embarrassed.

From my living room, I can hear soft crying. At first I assume it's one of the neighborhood children. They wake me up with their noisy banter, and now they must be playing a new game, Annoy the Single Lady Who Just Wants To Read Her Goshdamned Book. But as the noise gets louder, I realize that it is not the back-and-forth of the mini-thugs, but the pained mewing of a kitten. It sounds very young and very scared.

If I had a superhero costume, I would don it, but I don't. So I do the next best thing, grabbing a handful of Mikan's food for the lost kitten. Mikan circles my feet, trying to guilt me into giving him treats. It doesn't happen. Instead, I use the opportunity to lecture my cat on just how good he has it: "You see, I'm always telling you! Other kitties don't get to live in a nice apartment with a lady. They have to live in the alley." Mikan stares at me with the bare contempt of a sullen teenager, and I pick up the scraps of my fallen dignity before leaving the apartment.

Outside, the meowing is becoming louder still. The noon sun is bright and scorching. Suddenly, in the alleyway next to my building, I remember that I have not yet put on sunblock for the day. A deep debate goes on between the cat-helping do-gooder and the vampirelike sun avoider. I consider going back inside to slather on the SPF 50, but then I see a leafy bush twitching in the neighbor's backyard. It is either a rat or a kitten, and I decide to take my chances.

"Oh kiiiiiiittttyyyy," I coo. "I brought you some food!"

A blur of grey, black, and orange darts past me. For a tiny moment, I think, "Mikan is cuter than that kitty," and I feel like a bad person. The homely little cat has taken refuge behind the smelly garbage cans about 15 feet away. Being careful to stay in whatever shade there is, I tiptoe closer and try to lure the kitten out with the cat food. We make eye contact, and I make kissy sounds at it. The cat runs away, still meowing. I give gentle chase, but cannot find it anywhere. After 20 minutes of following the mews, I leave the cat food outside and resignedly return to my apartment. Mikan is waiting there, still begging for treats, and this time I give in.

and i just can't hide it

Learning how to play the guitar is going well, except I can't figure out how to make it gently weep. Most of the chords I'm learning are major chords, and it's difficult to write brooding songs in peppy keys. Instead of writing sad-bastard music about feeling increasingly alienated in a dingy metropolis, I wind up sounding like the indie version of the Pointer Sisters.

I don't want to write simple sad songs, because unless you treat them gently like meringue, they wind up sounding maudlin. Or worse, like bad mall emo. I want to write songs (and stories) that capture people's unspoken melancholy, the quiet beauty in loneliness, and the ever-hoping heart that seeks another.

Here is a not-so-shocking secret for readers of my internet website, which is probably everyone who has ever shown even mild interest in knowing anything about me, because Google gives up my secrets like a tabloid informant: I am a little lonely. Maybe that is why I write so often, or play the guitar in my pajamas, or ride my bicycle while singing around deserted city streets. For the most part, solitude is a comfortable enough partner, but sometimes and today I wish that my feelings fit the bouncy chords my fingers make.

a few notes

1. Wow, today was the worst I've had in quite some time. Tomorrow will be better. It has to be.

2. I overheard this conversation today:
- Woman 1: So do you want to go to bingo tonight?
- Woman 2: I'd rather stick hot pokers in my eyes.

3. Do not miss the festivities at Bar Vertigo this Sunday, when I join Perfect Panther for his weekly DJ night. I will be playing all your favorite hits, including shoegazer treats, mid-90s emo, Britpop, and vintage Kathleen Hanna. Come see DJ Annieoch Arrow (ha ha ha) trainwreck it up!

my forward valentine

About an hour ago, I entered the Drug Front Cafe (not its real name), which is a coffee shop that I suspect is some sort of veil for a secret and possibly shady business. In truth, the place is probably harmless, but I think it is healthy to be imaginative and think of stories. It makes life interesting.

Anyway, being in a chipper mood, I had been humming "When You Sleep" by MBV (doo-dee-doo-doo, doo-dee-doo-doo... dooooooo!). And of course, because I am exceptionally good at inadvertently embarrassing myself, I managed to hum the song loudly while a young man wearing a MBV shirt was studying near the entryway. Oh, the awkwardness. So we started talking about MBV, and then I retreated to my table where I searched the interweb for photos of John Edwards to use as my new AIM icon. This is what I do, you know. I use politicians as my buddy icon and then think it's heeeelarious to watch John Ashcroft say things like "Remember how the Magnum PI song sounded like porno music?"

I digress. So get this: Mr. MBV gets up to order a snacko from the barista, and on his way to the counter, he hands me a mix CD with his e-mail address. I think that is brave. Nobody has ever done anything along like this to me before. It's like it's a scene from a movie, except I am the ingenue misreading the script. The director is saying, "Interact with the young man!" but I am hiding from the cameras, missing my cues, and forgetting my lines.

My mom, reading a book: Who is... Tim Balland?
Me, thinking: (Does she mean Tim Burton?)
My mom: Tim Balland, Tim Balland...
Me, realizing: Oh, he's a rapper.

- - -

Last night, while gawking at the hundreds of channels afforded to my parents by the DirecTV, I ran across the FUSE channel. "Is that what Ophi and Tali were on?" my mother asked.

"No, that was TRL, on MTV," I responded, realizing that we were weirdly speaking half in abbreviations. "This is some other music channel."

The two people grinned on screen, announcing that they were sooo stoked about the new Morrissey video. "Mom, they're going to show Morrissey," I said. She punched the air, grinned, and scurried over to the couch. My father entered the room with O'Douls in hand. Morrissey started to lazily sway his hips. "Oh, he looks OLD!" observed my mother.

My father blinked at the television, perhaps wondering why we were watching the pomp of a graying pompadour. "Who is this?" he asked.

"It's Morrissey," said my mom. "He is old and grumpy and gay," I added. "Oh," said my father, and he, too, sat down to watch the video.

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Last night, as my father watched Antiques Roadshow in hopes of spotting his son-in-law the porcelain expert, my mother and I made my new favorite dinner. We cooked the Angelica Kitchen recipe of marinated tempeh, mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy, and freshly picked snow peas from our neighbor's garden. The three of us sat down at our kitchen table. My dad didn't notice that the meal was vegan, and in fact he eventually cleaned his plate.

But first, some backstory. Earlier in the visit, I had told my mom about a recent Saturday night date. See, this is the thing: everybody thinks I date a lot (and maybe I do from time to time) but it's fairly rare that I get squirrely about going out with somebody. Anyway, I was very excited and therefore mildly anxious about spending time with the gentleman we will call Mr. Vocabulary. I think it's because he has a certain joie de vivre, a beautifully genuine smile, and, yes, an awesome-in-the-literal-sense vocabulary. This is going to sound corny, but he seemed really engaged in doing things with his life, and I like that in people.

The problem was, I tried to be suave and subtle in suggesting that we get together (read: I am a chicken), so I wasn't sure if our dinner plans were an actual DATE or if they were just, you know, hanging out. I don't like to assume that men are romantically interested in women, because I don't like the whole heterosexual assumption thing myself. Or maybe he just wanted to have dinner because he likes to eat. Or maybe he just wanted to continue our scintillating discussion of Mineral's greatest hits.

While I tried to decide if I was being foolish for thinking that this was a date, I tried to get dressed. I wish that my brain could print output of my thoughts, because they are mile-a-minute and ridiculous:

Huzzah, I am going to wear my new Roxanne Heptner shirt and grey pants. Oh, wait, but then you can see the bra through the shirt. Maybe that is a good thing! No, no, this bra is not foxy and besides, if it is not a date, you will look inappropriate and tacky. Wear the white Ulla Johnson shirt instead, but dress it down with jeans so it doesn't look too fashiony. Ah, but this shirt is the sort of thing that makes men confused as to why you'd have sleeves that kinda float there...

I finally dressed myself in Levi's and a black shirt (again, Ulla Johnson, who is maybe my favorite clothesmaker) and picked up Mr. Vocabulary at his house. This is all I will say about the evening here, because I don't think anybody would appreciate the details of their Saturday night being broadcast on the interweb. Besides, I am still not sure if it was a date.

All of this weekend history leads up to dinner. My mom had been hitting the Franzia, and so she spilled the secret of my weekend maybedate. "Annie," she purred, "Did you tell your father about Mr. Vocabulary?"

Suddenly, I was 13 years old again, hoping that my dad wouldn't notice that boys existed or that yes, I was indeed wearing a bra. Was my mom kidding? Of course I had not told my father about Mr. Vocabulary. There are certain girly things that girls tell mothers, and fathers are not allowed to hear them. It's nice to let dads think that young suitors are lining up to ask their daughters on sterile dates void of sexual tension. I think it might break my dad's heart if he saw how I generally prefer to stay home alone on weekend nights, curled up with Miki-chan and dessert. Who am I to shatter his ideal?

To my mother's question I mumbled no, and then feigned a keen interest in the lonely radish sitting among the snow peas. Chomp, chomp I went on the sacrificial vegetable: mouth's full, can't talk now! Of course, my mother saw this as a sign to fill in the blanks. "Well, he's a little older than Annie," she told my father, who by this point had noticed me squirming. "And he grew up in X, which is very interesting, wouldn't you say, and he has lived in Y as well, so they can talk about that, and his name is MISTER VOCABULARY. I like that name, don't you? I mean, of course Annie would want to keep her name if they ever got married—not that that's in the cards this early, but I'm just saying that Annie Vocabulary just doesn't sound the same, does it? And get this! He is not a vegetarian and he smokes. He smokes!"

This last morsel of information delighted my mother to no end, fueled in large part by my naive teenage declaration that I would never date a smoker. She loves it when I go on even a single date with someone who smokes, because this makes her think that I will get off her back about her own habit. She is wrong about that. I considered telling her as much, but then I glanced at my father, whose interest in the mushroom gravy now matched mine in the vegetables, and decided to let it go.

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The holiday was about parent/child interaction. I like to spend time with my parents as a reminder of what I love about them, and how they often drive me nuts. Sometimes I wonder if anybody has a simple relationship with their parents. Is that even possible? I love my parents, but we have a fairly intense codependency going on. These visits are worthwhile, though, and I look forward to them.

Sometime over the last year or so, my father became an old man. It's hard to watch. His hair has been grey for years, but now his eyes carry the hazy glassiness of confusion and forgetfulness, and he can do less for himself every way. Yesterday I watched my mother cut his chicken into bite-size pieces at dinner. I didn't know what was sadder: the fact that he had no discernable sense of embarrassment, or that this scene was unfolding at a dining establishment called The Thirsty Perch.

Today, we drove to Kalamazoo to see Fahrenheit 9/11. I sat between my parents at the theater. My mother and I are cheap, so we smuggled in some kettle corn. My father, who does not share our frugality—in fact, his lack of fiscal prudence caused serious financial problems during my childhood, and these those directly led to my current money-saving mentality—bought a $4 popcorn. I really didn't mind, because if popcorn will satiate his 74-year-old belly, then who am I to grouse?

Except, again, he is an old man and he can't remember things very well. Throughout the first 20 minutes of the movie, he kept offering me popcorn. He was very polite about it, and I declined his offers in kind: No, Dad, I brought some, remember? No thank you, see, we smuggled this in. Oh, I've had enough, but you go ahead and enjoy it.

Since I was a child, I've watched people I love grow old with Alzheimer's. That's not quite the right description, though, because people with Alzheimer's lose their ability to function as an adult; they grow younger as they get older. Although my father hasn't been given a proper diagnosis, my mother and I can recognize the signs. It never gets any easier to witness, and it's going to get worse.

My father used to read each night before bed. Now he stares at the television for hours instead. Sometimes he remembers things that I don't think he'll remember, like what we ate at Irazu last year or the names of my coworkers. Other times, he mistakes me for my 40-something sister, who hasn't lived in the United States in 20 years and who I do not resemble. I gently correct him, and for a sliver of a second I can see in his eyes the horrible recognition that he cannot remember things that he should know without thinking about them.

Of course, we don't talk about any of this. In the idealized world of caregiver guidebooks and group therapy sessions, we'd discuss our feelings and come up with ways to cope. My immediate family doesn't do that; we are admittedly dysfunctional and so we skate over awkwardness, always moving toward the best cohesiveness we can reach. In most situations, I deplore this sort of behavior and demand to know why we never talked about this bad behavior or that hidden secret. I get all worked up about acknowledging negative behaviors and seeing how they have shaped my attitude and other self-helpy pap.

This is different. There is nothing that we can do to fix this problem. It's not like my father can try to not forget things, and it's not like he means to forget things. It just happens. My mother often becomes understandably frustrated when she has to repeat herself or worry that he'll get lost on his way to an art fair. I tell her to treat him with the patience that you'd afford a toddler. I don't know if that enables his behavior, but it's somehow easier for me to do that than to think that he has a choice in all of this. It hurts less to tell myself that he can't help it.

One of the most difficult yet meaningful moments in my life happened three years ago, as I held my dying grandfather's soft and veined hands. He could barely cough out sounds, much less articulate his thoughts. Still, I could sense that all he wanted was love and kindness, and so I stroked his hands and forehead while croaking out I-love-yous between sobs. He died an hour after I left the hospice, and I like to think that he did so feeling completely loved. My father is nowhere near death, but already I feel myself treating him gently, forgiving his transgressions, seeing him as a vulnerable old man, pulling him out for walks to the lake, reminding him of the good times, leaving out the sour parts, and finally wondering if maybe this is the simple relationship that happens to a family.


older ladies i like

the woman who owns cafe ballou
She's probably in her early 40s, or maybe she's older but just looks younger. She runs a nice cafe on Western and Augusta, and she always remembers me when I come in. Her face lights up when she sees children, she's always gracious to the elderly, and she's friendly to everybody who visits the shop.

the sweet lady where i work
I swear, this woman is the closest thing to Audrey Hepburn I have ever met. She is disarmingly charming, with bright eyes and an easy smile. She is stylish in a Banana Republic way, and she walks with a tiny swish in her hips. She speaks a little bit of French, and her gentle wrinkles came from years of smiling. I get flustered around her because I want to grow up to be as classy and kind as she is.

my maternal grandmother
She's dead now, and before she was dead she suffered from Alzheimer's. I remember her always being sweet to me when I was little, telling me that my hair was the color of honey. She never learned how to drive, so my grandfather had to drive her around Park Ridge. When the Alzheimer's became really severe, the last thing she forgot was "Jesus Loves Me." She was a devout Christian, and I think it's admirable to love something so much that it's literally the last thing on your mind.

the twins fall

I bought this dress because it was fairly cute and it was marked down from $48 to $9.99. When I tried it on in the shop, I thought that it made me look busty in a classy way, not in the Pamela Anderson (-en?) way. Now that I am wearing the dress, I believe that I may have miscalculated. The twins are smooshed up against the fabric, just dying to get out. I hope trouble does not ensue.

Yesterday, Leo told me a joke (What do you call a fat goth? Vampire the Buffet Slayer) that made me laugh, mostly because it combines my love of words with my love of Buffy. But I've been feeling guilty about the joke ever since then, 'cause I don't think that fat jokes are funny. Is this a fat joke or is it a play-on-words joke? I can't decide, and yes, I know I am a cliche. Again.

say hello

    it's anniet at gmail.


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