Monday, April 28, 2008

This Was Supposed to Be a Home Depot Rant But I Mostly Just Ramble

When folks contemplate life in the big city they think of vaguely offensive art instillations and great Ethiopian food and bars that stay open all night. They do not think about the day when an itchy green thumb will leave them with a burning desire to go to Home Depot. Despite the general lack of space for big box stores there are actually multiple Home Depots in the greater New York City area including one on 23rd St in Manhattan where the door men wear company themed three piece suits complete with a bright orange stripe down the side of each pant leg -- this was my father's favorite thing about New York during his one, and likely only, visit. My trip, however, was to the Home Depot on Northern Blvd in Queens where the large parking lot and numerous car dealerships within spitting distance could lead one to mistake the city for the suburbs. But make no mistake, this incarnation of the big orange building supply store is nothing if not New York City gruff. I walked to the Home Depot which took about 30 minutes and is certainly something that I would not have done if I resided in the suburbs since the roadways would be sidewalkless. Score one for urban living.

When I arrived at Home Depot there were no carts in sight. I hiked around the parking lot, peaked behind the decking display and walked through the front doors trying to look all "hey, I need a cart, someone point me to the cart section." all in vain and eventually was reduced to talking to a Home Depot employee. She directed me back out to the parking lot where I was forced to stalk customers coming out of the exit doors. I rejected the first abandoned cart because it had no back and I could not picture myself successfully pushing this peninsula of a vehicle down the store aisles without ending up buried under a tumbling pile of plants, fertilizer and terracotta at my first hard stop. I spied a cart without any obvious bodily harm in a distant corner of the lot and managed to seize it before another desperate shopper pounced. It turned out this cart was also broken -- Home Depot clearly does not value its Queen's customer base-- but only in the child seat section and even if I had brought a toddler with me I'd have surly traded it for a cart by now anyway. I entered the store.

After stocking up on red yellow and orange dahlias, daisies and ranunculuses(who loves a theme? I do! I do!) I headed indoors for the more practical needs -- pots and soil. The far wall of the Garden Center that clearly once had potting soil stacked up to the ceiling was completely empty, apparently the whole of New York City is gaga for gardening -- either that or someone had a lot of bodies to bury. Since I'm currently reading In Defense of Food and have learned that modern produce has fewer nutrients than produce from my mother's childhood (Seriously? Fuck you, apples.) likely at least partially due to the chemicals in modern fertilizers so I was totally prepared to spend vast quantities of money on organic soil but staring at the empty wall and contemplating a midweek return to the hell of Home Depot I would have gladly compromised on straight nitrogen and horse poop -- alas, no luck. You're likely thinking that surely some other, less evil, closer to home, retail business must be willing to sell me vast quantities of potting soil but you would be very very wrong. My best back up for Home Depot is buying my soil in 2lb quantities from the florist near home at a cost of 8 billion dollars. Home Depot was also out of window boxes, small plastic planters and drainage dishes. Awesome.

When I arrived at the register the jade plant that I had hoped to brighten up my living room with was pricetagless. Rather then burden herself with a price check the salesgirl told me to go back to the plant section on the other side of the store and find a plant with a label. I love a scavenger hunt, really, but I usually prefer that winning be rewarded with a better prize than "the opportunity to give a huge corporation $3 for a tiny plant." I located the jade plants and, behaving as is I were on The Amazing Race shoved aside other shoppers and dug through the display rejecting all of the 5 unmarked plants, I may have also whispered "train? choochoo? andale!" under my breath, it's all a little fuzzy now. Anyway I finally found a plant that was ready to buy and sprinted up to the checkout again pushing past other shoppers giving me the stink eye for cutting in line. $129 later I was exiting the store to throngs of shoppers looking to lay hands on my cart. Circle of Life, bitches.

Armed with way more flowers than one could carry I needed a ride home and since my one friend with a car was busy I was going to have to get this ride home from a complete stranger. I'll pause here for a moment while my country kin take a time out to wonder if I have any good stuff that they could lay claim to after my death. This being New York City I figured, correctly, that just outside of the exit (beyond the cart hungry hordes) would be 3 or 4 guys standing around asking people if they needed a ride home. My driver today was a large Hispanic man who could definitely kill me with his bare hands if he wanted to but I wasn't concerned until we got his car -- a White Ford Windstar minivan with a "Te Amo Jesus" license plate frame. Legit car services do not drive anything other than black town cars with ripped interior upholstery and 3x4 inch flags from African countries hanging from the rear view mirror. So even though my driver seemed like a nice enough guy (despite repeatedly calling me "baby") I sketched out a brief contingency plan involving a tumble out the side door to the relative safety of the asphalt should things take a turn for the worst. Luckily it never came to that, I arrived home both alive and without any road burns.

And now? My flowers and seeds and herbs are stuffed into their containers and we'd all be ready for spring if it weren't for the dreary weather that has, of course, taken over the city. At least I have an excuse to tromp around in my cute rain boots.

Monday, April 21, 2008

I Think My Ovaries Just Fell Out*

I love my cousin and open bars and sponge cake but for me last weekend’s wedding was really just a convenient excuse to spend some quality time with my favorite niece. Miss D easily held onto her “cutest little girl in the world” status via the following impressive performances.

  • Following being chastised during dinner for using the naughty word “stupid” with the pre cake cutting announcement, “Cake! That’s not a bad word!”
  • Refusing to believe that people have parties (and cake!) for reasons other than birthdays and breaking out into a chorus of “Happy Birthday to You!” during dessert.
  • Getting over her tendency to deny the world the enjoyment of checking out her ass. She now encourages adoration by often bending over, lifting up her dress and demanding “Hey! Look at my butt!” She also spent much of the wedding crouched over in a duck-like waddle (see above photo) asking everyone around to join her and “shake a booty!!”
  • Being somewhat obsessed with people other than her getting into trouble and telling me at least 3 different accounts of her friend Juliana getting a time out for biting another kid at daycare. When real trouble fails to present itself she is not above making up a story or two including claims that Mommy is in big trouble for hitting me (which she did not do). God help my poor brother and (soon to be!) sister.
  • Making clear where her support lies in the taste vs. beauty war by constantly asking women at the wedding if their necklaces were made of candy.
  • Spending the ceremony on my lap and whispering in my ear, “I love you Brianna!” every time the officiate mentioned the L word.

*Title thanks to Gillian

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Elvis Was Not Present

When this blog’s low comment and subscriber counts force me to ponder why my ramblings are not the E-Ticket ride of the internet I often come to the conclusion that my posts are simply too long for the average, short attention span, modern day reader (rejecting outright any inkling that every word I write doesn’t glow with brilliance). No one who has spent more than 20 minutes with me in person can honestly be shocked by my verbosity – shutting up has never been my strong suit and I fear this post will only perpetuate the long post problem since I have next to no story arc in mind. At least the few readers who make it past this paragraph can lay claim to a certain level of exclusivity – this blog has to be the online equivalent of that cool band that none of your friends have heard of.

I am writing this post from seat 20F on my return flight from a long weekend in Las Vegas. This spring’s annual pilgrimage to family fun in Sin City thankfully did not include any unscheduled nights in Denver despite my arriving at the airport without government issued ID. It turns out you don’t need ID to fly. After checking in for my flight on Wednesday I failed to locate my driver’s license amongst the ATM receipts and “buy 10 sandwiches get 1 free” cards in my wallet. I panicked, figuring I’d have to get a taxi home and grab my passport before I’d have any hope of getting past the security check point. On the slim chance that my work issued ID or Flex Spending card would somehow sneak me onto a flight I asked the official looking guy directing traffic at the United ticket desk what type of ID was deemed acceptable by the FAA. He responded that I needed a driver’s license, a passport or a military ID and then, after a lengthy pause where I valiantly resisted bursting into stress induced bawling, said “unless you want to get your boarding passes reprinted.” After much confusion about why anyone would choose a trip home over a simple reprinting I found out that if I stood in line and got a new boarding pass and then agreed to submit to the public airing of my underwear and a hearty wanding I could fly without the government vouching for my ID. Shocking! Even more shocking -- I think that due to the sparse population in the “extra security” line flying without ID might actually be FASTER than submitting to normal security procedures.

The excuse for this trip was my cousin Donia’s bachelorette party and (failing an overly rambunctious evening with a stripper) nuptials. The female wedding VIPs and I spent Thursday afternoon at the spa at Red Rock Hotel and Casino where I discovered that the most wonderful invention on in the world is the steam room. The evening was reserved for more traditional bachelorette fair in the form of an evening at a dance club. I hate dance clubs and feel very strongly that I should at least be granted 15 karma brownie points every time I submit to a red velvet rope, thumping music and the unwelcome advances of creepy boys in service of some other girl’s last night of freedom. Lucky for me (and unlucky for my cousin) the hotel screwed up our dance club reservation so instead of a $300 bottle of vodka and all the pop song remixes we could ask for we were sneaked into a Midway Games company party at one of the casino’s other bars.

The red wrist straps that the embarrassed hotel staff slipped onto our hands granted us not only a chance to party with programmers (leave it to me to locate nerds in the wild wherever I roam) but unlimited free drinks and front row seats for the bar’s midnight show. The modern day Vegas lounge act is a whiter than vanilla rapper flanked by a Carrie Underwood look alike and that skater dude’s huge black body guard singing snippets from top 40 songs. Which I’m sure sounds awful but much like Rock of Love or The Girls Next Door it was thankfully just awful enough to be awesome (but I guess that could have been the vodka talking).

Sadly this bar was not without a dance floor and so I had to employ numerous avoidance techniques to ensure that the whole of Midway Games not be subjected to my awkward attempts at shaking my groove thing (or lack thereof). While avoiding the requests that I join my cousin and her entourage on the dance floor in favor of scribbling blog ideas into a notebook (I am not kidding) I came up with the BEST excuse not to dance ever – “I’m sorry, I can’t, I’m pregnant and the vodka is already so hard on the baby.” Look for that at a bachlorette party near you.

The wedding itself was fairly uneventful (you know assuming that you, like me, attend roughly 500 weddings a year and no longer consider 2 people pledging eternal love worthy of the “event” moniker) – the outside ceremony was unfortunately subject to 45 mile per hour winds which had Donia cursing the long veil that her mother talked her into for the sake of tradition. My uncle is from Tunisia and brought a little bit of North Africa to the shindig in the form of 3 large hookahs which most of the very white wedding guests smoked in a fit of giggles once the open bar got flowing. As usual my father was the best sport ever and, among taunts that he “think back to 1968!” flashed us all a peace sign mid toke. (more photos here)

No Brianna trip to Vegas would be complete without my continual avoidance of all gambling related activities. I again managed this goal successfully despite a friend’s repeated requests that I bet $5 on 15 at the roulette table. I have to admit that my failure to act on this plea was mostly due to a certain amount of intimidation around being a roulette novice. While I understand the game’s concept (give casino money, watch little ball bounce around a wheel of numbers, walk away poorer) I felt paralyzed by not knowing the lingo or intimate social mores of standing around the table and so avoided it at all costs for fear of saying something wrong and appearing stupid. This is ironic considering that roulette is a game specifically designed to be played by stupid people with no grasp of simple math.

I’ll be back on the west coast in a month for 2008’s wedding number three this time starring my own baby brother. Where I will most likely die of old age.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

My Vanity Extends to Venues Outside of This Blog

The upside of guest bloggers is that the large majority of such posts (83%) are vanity pieces focused solely on the awesomeness of the blog owner and god knows that we need more gratuitous praise in these parts. But I am generally opposed to guest blogging, mostly because I like to think of this website as a place for fans of Brianna to come for all Brianna content all the time and to allow someone else to step in and taint that purity would be like letting Santa Clause run wild in Vatican City. Other bloggers, however, do not maintain the same strict standards of perfection practiced by the Random Access Babble Staff (me.) and one of those people is Lisa who let me play guest blogger today.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Best Case Scenarios

People are constantly asking me about my long term plans for the blog and even though I have, in the past, claimed that this is just a hobby I think we all know that blogs are a modern day get rich quick scheme. All bloggers seem to harbor some dream of blogging for a living or becoming a "real" writer or a highly paid panel guest and deep down, despite practical protests to the contrary, I'm no different. And so, while I know that this little dream is as laughable as your average pyramid scheme I present...

Ways My Blog Could Pay My Bills

Book Deal

While, like other less creative bloggers, I do occasionally dream of being given a regular writing job (on the side of course, god knows entry level writing gigs won't support my Richie tendencies) in reality I suspect I would suck an awful lot at writing as a career since I'm pretty sure that paying writing jobs require you to write about things that other people pick out and also that you deliver your writing on time and that it be of the requested length. My art cannot be contained in such a stifling box. I might have some hope of pulling off being a real writer if the job were along the lines of "go to a crazy event and document the insanity; here's some money to buy tickets and booze!" but it's probably more likely that I'd get assignments like "write something about life in New York" and then I'd sit in front on my screen in terror until 5 minutes before my deadline and then quickly try to write something nonsucky through the tears and then get fired. Not a pretty picture or a fantasy likely to result in purchasing my own cabana boy.

A much better option would be for someone with money and a publishing house to stumble upon this blog and think "Wow, this is some GREAT writing, I should give this girl a book deal!" only the book deal would not require ANY new writing -- all I'd have to do is pick out my favorite already written essays and hit "print" and then figure out if it is more comfortable to sleep on a mattress filled with $50 or $100 dollar bills (sure, you're thinking "of course $100s!" but the guilt of such extravagance might get to me.).

Big Ad Money

The other option for the blog bringing home the bacon wrapped foie gras is getting some sort of awesome advertising offers. Greedy folks with no eye for a 5 year plan often ask me why I don't have Google Ads on my site and the answer is because I am not a cheap whore. I am an expensive, sleeping with sketchy famous dudes, apt to cause political scandal whore. Not putting up Google Ads allows me to maintain the illusion that I'm doing this for THE ART. As we all know art is super pricey so when a big company approaches me to cover the entire blog background with some really ugly animated gifs likely promoting tampons or porn or a movie staring Eddie Murphy as Eddie Murphy if he were reborn as an 85 year old woman with 700lbs of extra flesh I will be in a prime position to act offended and concerned about my image thus forcing OB or Joe Francis or Miramax to offer me big bucks for compromising my artistic integrity. Warm up the swimming pool full of liquid gold cause mama's ready to be plated!

Monday, April 07, 2008

The Post in Which I Manage to Dodge Every Ball Joke in the Book

When you've been blogging for a certain period of time you hit a the No More Ideas wall. It's kind of like when you go on date number five with someone you really like and realize that you burned through all of your good stories on dates one through four and that you better distract him with your boobs before he realizes that deep down you're painfully boring. If, like me, your best writing seems to come from the "personal tragedy" trunk you'll occasionally find yourself almost wishing for tragedy to befall you in hopes of wringing out a good blog entry. In desperation you might even sign up for ridiculously bad ideas for the writing potential alone -- this is the blog version of showing 'em your tits. This is also how I came to sign up for a sports team at work. Well... "sport" is probably not the most accurate description of this particular activity. It's dodgeball. But there are rules and I'll probably accelerate my heart rate and I am half considering wearing sweat bands so really this is as close as I've gotten to a sport since the computer programming contest I entered during my sophmore year in college. I am so sure that dodgeball will be tragic enough to warrant an at least semi-successful blog entry that I've started writing three days before my first game.

On the day of our first game my team leader scheduled a "strategy session" during lunch. Honestly I had not even considered the possibility of dodgeball strategy until the Outlook reminder popped up 15 minutes before the meeting but apparently other team members had plans for the game beyond "try not to die" and "write a hilariously self deprecating blog post." Curious. We met in the a conference room and wrote things on the white board and got answers to questions like, "Seriosuly it's in Brooklyn? at 9pm? WTF?" It was at this meeting that I learned that dodgeball has a lot of rules. Frankly, I am shocked that we expect children to master such a complicated game. You can't throw balls at peoples heads. There are special small white balls that can only be thrown by girls. And apparently the point of the game is to hit people with balls or, in my case, try very very hard to avoid getting hit by balls (and, not to spoil the surprise, fail).

I arrived at the elementary school gym where the game/opportunity to sacrifice my self worth for the sake of this blog was being held at 8:45 at night after some personal strategizing over beer and fish and chips. Our team shirts were black which I consider especially fortuitous: match-y and slimming! I paired mine with black leggings (the scourge, I know but it was cold and I don't own any work out pants that fit because i don't play sports. or work out.) and the cutest bright green short shorts. My second reason for joining dodgeball (after blog related needs) was to have an excuse to wear these extremely ass flattering shorts in public (this is also one of the main reasons why i am considering buying a bike). As you can see I was focused on the most important aspect of any sporting event: Outfit Choice.

We had a brief chance to warm up pregame which is when I discovered that any dreams that I may have been harboring about latent savant-like dodgeball abilities would remain only in my head because in reality I can neither throw nor catch nor, most disappointingly, dodge. Even more depressing -- my cohorts, despite all of their big strategizing talk, were not much better off. A little about my teammates. We work in software development. I think it's safe to assume that everyone on my team was picked last during PE on a pretty regular basis.

And our opponents? These people seemed rather... committed. There was growling and seriousness all around. I am positive that everyone on this team owns at least 5 pairs of work out pants and I suspect they were all outraged that the Dodgeball movie was a comedy and not a documentary along the lines of Murderball. They obviously wished that killing wimpy software developers with the red balls of death was not against the league rules. To make matters worse none of the guys were particularly hot.

I doubt anyone will be surprised to learn that my team sucks but I was a bit shocked at the level of awful we managed to attain. Each round of dodging and balling theoretically lasts for 7 minutes. unless your entire team gets eliminated in say the first 2 minutes. Which, I assure you, can happen. But on a court full of young adults raised on a steady diet of after school specials where the underdog surges ahead to win it all/get the girl/say no to drugs during the first minute of play everyone almost believed that the software people could bring it home -- maybe we had secret untapped reservoirs of dodgeball talent! Even our fierce opponents seemed a little skeptical that nerdy runs all the way to the bone. At one point early in the game as I held a squishy red ball in my hand, poised to throw, the guy across the court from me looked a little afraid, I quickly shook my head and assured him not to worry as there was next to no chance of me hitting him. He may have momentarily thought this a reverse psychology ploy but I quickly provided evidence of my honesty by throwing as hard as I could resulting in the ball hitting the ground about 1 foot in front of me and bouncing up to nearly smack me in the face. Take that!

At half time I was forced to submit to a huddle where the following advice was meted out:
  1. Stop sucking
  2. Maybe we should spit on the other team members to distract them.
And so we continued round after round of defeat (thankfully there were no loogies hacked)-- I would have been demoralized but it's hard to take dodgeball seriously enough to be truly upset at my lack of skill. Late in the game an opponent approached me to apologize for something he said about my shirt (which, I admit might have had the bottom pulled through the collar for that sexy shirt/bra hybrid look). I guess he thought I heard his mocking and might have been offended. "Hey, I'm sorry, i didn't mean to make fun of you." I responded to this by assuring him that making fun of me was totally encouraged. "Oh, feel free, I suck A LOT. You can make fun of me over on your side, or here to my face or tomorrow at the water cooler -- on Monday I'll be posting a blog entry with some suggestions for other possible ways to mock me that you may have missed so make sure to check that out."

So. We lost. Sort of.. see it turns out we were supposed to play a second team of (one assumes) burly guys and lithe women. Except they never showed up, and so, despite the math we did post game (I try to contain my cool but it's so hard...) that proves that my team lost an average of five players per minute whenever we were on the court, technically we're 2 and 2! Provided we can find a way to continue taking out teams before they arrive at the games (hacking into the subway system?) I have high hopes for our season.

This entry is cross-posted on Burt Reynolds' Mustache