Monday, May 31, 2010

Now That She's a Cheerleader, We're Really Going to Have to Stop Making These Jokes

Yesterday, we went geocaching with my friend Rapunzel and her son. At one point, we ended up by a creek and the kids were looking for salamanders and crawfish. Suddenly, the girl started squealing, "Look, look!" We looked, but didn't see what she was so excited about, so she told us:

The Girl: It's a cheerleader bug!

Me: A what?

The Girl: A cheerleader bug!

Rapunzel: I don't see anything.

The Girl: It's right there!

Me: What makes it a cheerleader bug?

The Girl: There's one bug and then another bug on top of her.

Rapunzel: Yep - that's a cheerleader bug, alright.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

And the Winner Is...

Thanks to everyone who donated to the March for Babies! You guys never cease to amaze me!

Anyway - it's time for our winner. I put each entry into a spreadsheet in the order the donations were received (after removing last year's winner who very kindly wanted to give someone else a chance to win):

Then I used to pick a winner. And the winner is....

OK - that's hard to see. Here's a close-up:

Which makes the winner...Bill! Yay, Bill! Bill is a dear friend's husband and although we have never met in person, I am officially putting him on my BFF list. Bill - give me a week or so to get my Box O' Goodies shopping done and your prize will be on the way!

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Friday, May 21, 2010

I Get No Support Whatsoever For My Crazy

Mr b: Oh, I forgot to tell you - the census people came the other day.

Me: What? How could you forget to tell me? You know I have been waiting for the census police to come back since 2000!

Mr b: I don't know. It wasn't a big deal?

Me: Not a big deal? It IS a big deal! What did you tell them?

Mr b: What do you mean? I answered their questions.

Me: You didn't answer ethnicity, did you?

Mr b: I don't know - I just wanted to get rid of them so I could get back to work.

Me: Oh My GOD! You answered ethnicity!! How am I supposed to Fight the Power if you don't help me??"

Mr b: Whatever.

Me: I can NOT work under these conditions.

Mr b: *gets as far away from the crazy as he can*

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thursday Thirteen: Random

How about a Thursday Thirteen, since I’m all full of random thoughts and can’t seem to focus? Okay? Good. So…Thirteen Random Things:

1. I have come to realize that geocaching is my favorite hobby. I used to say reading, but I’ve decided that reading isn’t a hobby, it’s like breathing. So now, it’s geocaching. Big deal, right? Well, considering that it is something that is done in the woods, it IS a big deal. Don’t get me wrong – I love the woods. As a child, I never hesitated to go running off to explore. But then I grew up and became aware of all the scary woods-things. Like spiders. And bears. And HIM. Who is HIM, you ask? Well, HIM is the psycho killer who is in the woods and wants to chop me up into tiny pieces. I know it’s not rational, but it’s always right there at the edge of my consciousness. Yes, in fact camping with me is a delight.

2. I was at the self-scanner at Giant Eagle the other day and I noticed an employee looking at me funny. Then I realized I that the heated argument I was having with the stupid machine was not in my head, but out loud. I can’t help it – I always argue with those self-scanner machines. They are all a) stupid, b) incompetent, and c) trying to start a fight with me. Please tell me you argue with them too.

3. Also on my shit list? “Please take your ticket with you” parking garage machines.

4. And since I’m on a what’s pissing me off roll, let’s talk about the Share the Road signs. I would be happy to share the road with bicycles. It’s the douchebags riding the bicycles that I have a hard time with. Stop means “Stop,” not “Stop, except for the delightful gentleman on the bike.” I’m going to feel bad when I run you over, but it will be your own damned fault.

5. Aaaaaaand, speaking of stop signs, there are a few simple rules that the entire Asshole Traffic Brigade needs to learn: 1) STOP, 2) Just because you stopped when the guy in front of you was at the stop sign - it doesn’t count as YOUR stop!” 3) See the stop sign? The one you just drove six feet past, through the crosswalk and into the intersection? That is where you’re supposed to stop, assclown.

6. My grammar isn’t perfect, and I know it. And yet I really wish facebook had a red pen option. Because while I understand that words like participle and transitive and subjunctive can make anyone’s head spin, seeing some of the shit that people write make my head catch on fire and explode. Also? Spellcheck!

7. The Girl received an academic award at the school board meeting this week. It started at 7:30 and we were expecting to be out of there in time to see Lost at 9:00. I nearly cried when we pulled into the huge parking lot and saw it completely filled up. Turns out there were about 220 awards to pass out. Each child was given a small paper to fill out their activities and hobbies, to be used in their introduction. Had everyone filled them out like we did, with a couple of activities and a couple of hobbies, it would have moved a lot more quickly. However, some of these parents seemed to think that their kids were receiving a Nobel prize and instead turned in a biography. I am totally not exaggerating when I say that there were many that went like this:

“Our next student is Miffy Schmuffkin. Miffy’s hobbies include playing outside, playing in her room, playing with her dolls, jumping up and down, going to the park with Pap, swinging on the swings, baking brownies with Grandma, running around in circles, playing beauty shop and making Mommy and Grammy beautiful, playing with her pets – her dogs Spot and Rover, and her cats Puffy and Fluffy and her seven goldfish and two hamsters Thing 1 and Thing 2, watching movies, watching TV, digging holes in the yard, watching Daddy cut grass, raking leaves, Helping Mommy inn the kitchen, taking walks with the dogs, taking walks without the dogs, playing with her little brother, talking on the phone, going shopping with Mommy, Aunt Judy and Aunt Lisa, having sleepovers with her friends, visiting with her cousins, coloring, reading books with Uncle Bob, riding her bike, flying kites, going on vacation, building sandcastles, going to Build-A-Bear, bungee jumping at the mall when she goes shopping with Mommy, making paper airplanes, singing in the car with her Hannah Montana cd, and eating ice cream.”


Needless to say, we left early. I felt a little bad, until I talked to The Girl’s teacher who said her son was up next and when he was done, she was leaving, too. I don’t know how long it went, but we stayed for an hour and they only made it through two grades. There were four more to go.

8. I need a sitter this weekend and I hate finding a sitter. I hate asking people to watch my kids. I mean HATE it. Almost to the point of not wanting to go out to avoid it. I don’t know why, I’m just crazy.

9. A teacher in Alabama was teaching his class geometry and to help them learn about angles, he used the scenario of assassinating the president. You know, I am having a very hard time with the fact that this kind of behavior is escalating and is somehow acceptable.

10. Her dad is as awesome as she is.

11. Being broke sucks. Hard. Whoever said “Money can’t buy happiness” was a douche. I am guessing it was either 1) some poor slob trying to make themselves feel better bout being poor, 2) some unhappy rich person who didn’t know how to properly use their money, or 3) some happy rich person feeling guilty and trying to convince themselves that their happiness wasn’t related to their money. Because while money can’t buy actual happiness, it could buy me a lot of things that would make me happy, like no debt, a nice house, cars that don’t suck, time off to be with my family, a personal chef, and vacations. So suck it stupid quote person.

12. OK- time for some vanity: You know what bugs me the most about getting old (other than the bitchslap of mortality)? No – it’s not the gray hair, or the weight, or the dumbassery. It’s the lashes. I never in my life wore mascara – I had long, thick lashes. People always commented on them. No one could believe that I wasn’t wearing any mascara. And suddenly in the past year or so, I started wearing mascara. I started because I was using powder shadow, and it would drop on my lashes, so they needed mascara for the color. But now I realize that I need it regardless. They are still longer and thicker than many people’s (I mean – I can’t wear some glasses because they bend my lashes), but they aren’t the same as they were in my youth and it pisses me off. I don’t know where this burst of vanity is coming from – I am not generally a vain person. Seriously – I wouldn’t even color my hair if not for walking into my BFF’s salon and having her say, Oh HELL no and throwing color on me. I guess it’s because my eyelashes were always “my thing?” I don’t know. But regardless? Aging is a fucker.

13. Today was The Girl’s kindergarten end-of-year program. Somehow the end of kindergarten is hitting me harder than the beginning. My baby is growing up. Hold me.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lost - but not the TV kind

On Saturday, The Girl, Rapunzel and I decided to go geocaching. I programmed some caches into the GPS, we packed a picnic lunch and off we went. We decided to do the easiest, single cache first, then stop for lunch, then hit as many of the other as we had time for. And, as is so often the case, fate got wind of our plans and said, HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

We started off up a gravel path, headed for the cache. About halfway up, we had the typical question of “which way?” The GPS points you to the right coordinates as the crow flies, and since that straight line is often through impassible areas, it causes problems. Since we are not crows, nor can we fly, we have to try and figure out which path or trail is going to get us to where we need to go . Sometimes we guess correctly and sometimes some backtracking is required. This time it was the latter. Which is fine – we don’t mind a little extra hiking – it’s good exercise. But we were all a bit hungry and were anxious to get there so we could head back and eat.

Eventually, we reached the inevitable point where we would have to go off-trail. We bush-whacked our way to the general area and after the usual “OMG, we can’t find it” drama, we located the cache, made our trades, signed the log and patted ourselves on the back for being so awesome. Then it all went to shit. We had to climb out of a small ravine, which – the day after heavy rain – was slippery and muddy – at least when going up. I went first to pave the way for The Girl and proceeded to slip and start to fall. As I was falling, I grabbed and roots and branches to catch myself. And as I let go of one of those (sizable) branches, it snapped back and hot me in the face. Directly in the eye. Somehow I managed to not cry like a little baby and got up the bank. I pulled The Girl up and then Rapunzel came. As she was coming through, a large jagger branch swung towards her. I grabbed it to keep it from hitting her in the face. And it turned out to be the kind that releases its thorns. So I cane away with a handful of tiny, sharp splinters. Awesome.

Once I tended to my wounds, we headed out. And then – for the first time in all my years of playing in the woods – I got lost. Not lost, exactly, but I couldn’t find the place where we went off trail. I knew the direction of the trail, but we couldn’t get to it without going through thick, high brush. Clearly, there was a way, since that’s how we got there, but we could not find it. It didn’t help that we were all starving, plus The Girl was whining. Finally, we found a trail, but not the trail we were looking for. We had to decide which way to go. We chose the way that 1) looked like it would lead us to the original gravel path we were on before we backtracked to the dirt trail, and 2) went in the direction closest to the waypoint of the car. But between the whole “crow flies”/GPS issue and the crazy-ass, step-hilled, switchback nature of the trails? We chose wrong.

While we were never really lost since we were on a trail the entire time – it was exhausting and frustrating. And we were too far along on the trail to want to turn back. I knew we’d come out somewhere, but I was afraid of where that would be. We hiked for a LOOOONG time. And the last mile or so of the hike was all uphill. A HUGE hill. Every time the trail looked like it was leveling out, we came around a bend to see yet another steep climb ahead of us. By this time, I had a sinking feeling that I knew exactly where we were going to emerge from the woods and I was right. On a high-traffic state route with no sidewalks – making it a dangerous place to try and walk.

I was never so bummed to be right.

We were happy to be on the main road, but we knew we had another long hail ahead of us. A couple miles down DangerRoad to get to the park access road we needed. Then another mile or so down that road. Then two or more miles through the park (also not easy walking) to get to the car. All of us hungry and tired and lugging backpacks and a pissed off six year old.

Just before we headed off down DangerRoad, I noticed an elderly woman in her driveway across the street and I decided I had better verify that we were going in the right direction before we started walking. She told me we were and we talked for a few minutes. As I ran back across the street, her husband and sister-in-law pulled into the driveway t pick her up and she yelled over and asked if we would like a ride.

I debated a few seconds, because I really didn’t want to teach The Girl that it was OK to take rides from strangers, but quickly came to the conclusion that HELL YES we wanted a ride. I figured I’d talk to The Girl about it afterwards. So we piled in the car with them and spent the next 5 minutes on the most harrowing ride ever. The guy was pushing 90 and he drove not only like a 90 year old, but like an insane, homicidal, 90 year old who spent the morning smoking crack. Seriously – that ride was scarier than the entire lost-in-the-woods hike. Luckily, we made it intact to the head of a trail that led to our car and we only had to walk about a half mile or so to get there.

When we got there, we grabbed our blanket and cooler and got settled in for a picnic lunch. While we were eating we realized that, despite everything that happened, we actually had a really fun day. And a bonus? Food always tastes better after you narrowly avert death.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sexy Miss USA Pics Don't Change How I Feel About Pageants - I'd Hate Them Anyway

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March for Maddie Giveaway is still going on. Can you help? Donate and you could WIN!

So there’s a bit of a controversy going on surrounding the Miss USA pageant. It seems that the pageant has posted photos on its website of the contestants in sexy lingerie. And some people think it’s going too far – too sexy, too sleazy, too…something. But me? I just don’t care. The women that participate in the pageant are all adults. They can make the decision on whether they feel comfortable posing like that. They aren’t being taken advantage of (assuming that they weren’t forced into doing so unwillingly, and since I haven’t heard any reports I am going with the assumption that they were all willing). So no – I don’t dislike the Miss USA pageant because of these photos. I dislike the Miss USA pageant because it’s a pageant.

I’ve always been pretty clear on my feelings about pageants. I’ve seen firsthand a family member pushed into pageants throughout her childhood. It wasn’t pretty – and it wasn’t nearly as extreme as what you see on those revolting Toddlers & Tiaras-type shows. I hate that pageants are teaching young girls that what is important is what’s on the outside – that beauty is far more important than intelligence or kindness or any number of other good qualities. Supporters of pageants like to blab on about how it gives them confidence and poise and strength. They like to talk about how pageants are scholarship contests, not beauty contests. And OK – I’ll give them some of that. I’m sure that being in pageants does help build a girl’s confidence. But so do sports and music lessons and girl scouts. And none of those things require a fake tan. And sure – sometimes the prizes in pageants are scholarships, but back in the day, I did a lot of interviewing for college scholarships and NOT ONE of them required that I wear a bikini. Go figure.

And let’s be honest – remember Miss Teen South Carolina a few years back? She of the following quote:

"I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, um, some people out there in our nation don't have maps and, uh, I believe that our, uh, education like such as, uh, South Africa and, uh, the Iraq and everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should, uh, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, should help South Africa and should help Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future."

She got THIRD PLACE! Third place out of 51 contestants! How stupid were the other 48 contestants if this is the third place “scholarship” winner?

COME ON! Let’s be honest. Pageants ARE beauty contests. And beauty contests aren’t exactly teaching our girls much of anything beyond the Pretty is Best mentality. And the folks behind them know it or they wouldn’t be so gung-ho on telling us otherwise.

But hey – maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they’re harmless. Maybe it’s OK to put blush and eye-shadow and false eyelashes on a 5-year old, because her own natural beauty isn’t enough.

And maybe it’s OK to give a 2-year old hair extensions because her baby-fine hair isn’t beautiful enough.

And maybe there’s nothing wrong with making a child wear big false teeth and fake tans because proudly showing their first lost baby tooth just isn’t proper pageant decorum. Or because they don’t have teeth yet and as everyone knows, tiny little toothless smiles are hideous, right? And soft, porcelain , undamaged skin? YUCK!

And dressing them up like Vegas showgirls and hookers is totally cute!

And it wouldn't be a pageant if the contestants didn't show off their sexy curves in a bathing suit competition, right?

And of course it’s not at all disturbing to retouch photos until the once beautiful, normal looking little girls look like they are wearing pancake makeup. nothing says "adorable!" like that coffin look.

But the girls like it the pageant people keep telling us. It’s good for them.

And one day these little girls will grow up into bigger girls. Older, more grown-up girls, but still girls. And if they are lucky, they will become a part of the Miss USA family. And they will be seen by the whole world in borderline soft-porn photos, right there on the Miss USA website - which is fine if that;s what they want. But when we look at those photos, my first thought isn't exactly, Wow, they all look very confident.

I'll take this any day - messy, stringy hair, missing tooth, pale skin, no eyeliner to be seen, and the most beautiful thing I've seen today (even in crappy cell phone photo form):

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Friday, May 7, 2010

Her Mom Probably Embarrassed HER, Too

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March for Maddie Giveaway is still going on. Can you help? Donate and you could WIN!

Yesterday on the way into work, the radio station was asking for embarrassing mom stories and I immediately thought of…oh…one hundred million of them. Seriously. There are so many I couldn’t even narrow it down. I’m sure we all have them and I’m sure our kids will have them, too. Of course, in my case, I sort of get double, since my mom has an identical twin that I am really close to. And since they are together so much: Embarrassing times two.

If I had called in to try and win a prize, I would have been tongue tied trying to decide which one is best – like maybe the time my mom & aunt decided to dance (or actually “dance”) at one of my birthday parties, thought it would be a good idea to finish the big “dance” with a dip, so they yelled out “Dip!” and then both dipped. And fell into the TV. Yeah, that was fun. At least they didn’t fall into my Shaun Cassidy cake (I had him on my cake several years in a row. Shut up). Good times. (You know, now that I am thinking about it, that one wasn’t actually Aunt Twin, but my Aunt Cee, and since she reads this, I probably shouldn’t be telling you about it, but – and I hope you are reading this Cee – TOUGH SHIT! Because even though I love you very much, I still feel the pain and trauma of you de-pantsing me in front of Old Joe and sitting on me and doing that gross spit thing, and let’s not forget the time you locked me out of the house IN THE SNOW! WITHOUT SHOES! And I had to walk a whole block in the snow to get my mom and Gram to come home and fix your ass SO THERE! And also – after you left me pantsless behind the couch while Old Joe was visiting and you took off? He used to give me money! I WIN!!!!)

Where was I? Oh yeah – the embarrassing mom stories. There are many, many more. The fact that my mom and Aunt Twin seem to think that if they don’t move their lips when they talk that no one can hear them makes for many, MANY ways to embarrass me. Like when the immigrant cab driver was driving us around Toronto and they were “whispering” about how they thought he was cheating us because “they say” that the cab drivers will do that and even worse, some will abandon you in a bad part of town and make you pay them to get you out, blahblahblah UglyAmericanCakes. Or the loud search for a non-Portuguese cab driver because one person they knew met a Portuguese man and he used her to get into the country (thus all Portuguese men are guilty of this). Not that Portuguese cab drivers are easy to spot or anything.

Or the numerous times she drove me to school in her pajamas (which in the grand scheme of things is not so bad, but when you are 15? Kill me!)

Or the time my we went to the pool and my mom mentioned that she hated walking past the front row of women in lounge chairs because she always felt like they were looking at her and judging her, and Aunt Twin said, “Leave it to me” and proceeded to make a GIANT ASS of herself as we walked by – presumably to make the focus off my mom, but OH! MY! GOD! I wanted to DIE!!

Or the time when my mom got mad at me for something stupid and then my Aunt Cee got mad at her for getting mad at me and then my Nana got upset because everyone was mad. And then my mom was chasing me, so I ran out of the house and up the street to the car (I don’t know – did I think I was going to drive away? I was 12 or 13.), and Cee was chasing her, and Nana was chasing us all. I jumped in the car and my mom jumped in after me and grabbed me by the hair (don’t get all crazy with the abuse claims here – anyone with a teen can relate to at least wanting to pull their hair). So Cee opened the door and grabbed my mom by the hair. And then my mom let go of me and grabbed Cee’s hair and they fell out of the floor onto the street between the car and the curb and rolled around, both refusing to let go of each other’s hair and my Nana was doing a Fred Sanford to get them to stop and I was sinking down in my seat praying no one would see this. And then the next day in school, not one, but TWO people told me they saw me and my aunt and my mom and my great grandma running down the street and when I tried to say they were crazy, they proceeded to describe the entire scene in front of the entire lunch table and then I died of embarrassment. The End.

(I feel the need to say that Cee is appearing in these stories a great deal. Cee – consider yourself ON NOTICE!)

But one of my favorites (??) was the time my Gram was watching me and my cousin Cheryl. I was eight and she was two. We ordered pizza with mushrooms, since it was our favorite topping. We got it from a brand new pizza place called Pizza Shack. In those days, all the pizza shops used canned mushrooms, but Pizza Shack used fresh ones. And if you’ve ever had fresh mushrooms on a pizza, you know they aren’t the prettiest things. Anyway, the pizza was good and we ate most of it. And then my mom and Aunt Twin came home. They took one look at those unpretty mushrooms and decided then and there that Pizza Shack was trying to kill us with spoiled, poisoned mushrooms. My mom called Pizza Shack and ranted at them about the spoiled, poison mushrooms. And though they tried to assure her that their mushrooms were perfectly normal, she was having NONE OF IT.

They were freaking out, crying and saying incoherent things about poison and hospitals and stomach pumping. I heard those words and decided that I would rather die of poisoning than experience that. So I told them I didn’t eat any mushrooms that night – I picked them all off. Somehow they believed me, despite the fact that I LOVE mushrooms, and the fact that there was no evidence of picked-off mushrooms on the plates. They looked at Gram next, but she’s a tough bird and told them to shove it (actually, I think her words were something like “you two are crazy and the mushrooms were fine and I’m watching my show and not going to any damned hospital so shove it up your ass, I need a drink and a cigarette!”). All that was left was poor Cheryl, who - at two - was too young to know what was coming and escape the crazy. The poor thing got packed up into the car and dragged to the hospital, where they had no choice but to believe that she had eaten spoiled, poisoned mushrooms and treated her with a nice big dose of ipecac.

Although I felt bad for her, I was glad I missed that torture. What I didn’t know was that I was in for an even more delightful treat. As we left Gram’s house to head home, my mom grabbed what was left of the pizza. I didn’t understand why, since she was so sure it was poison, but I was hoping maybe I could sneak another piece when we got home. Unfortunately, my mom had other plans. She drove to Pizza Shack. And while I sat in the car under the lights (where I thought everyone in the entire world could see me), my mom proceeded to stand on the front steps of Pizza Shack and announce to the gathered patrons that Pizza Shack served SPOILED POISON MUSHROOMS!! Then she dumped the remaining pizza on the steps and – Good Lord – jumped up and down all over them. Then she realized she couldn’t see me (since I was ducking down in my seat so no one would see me) and started yelling “Gina? GINA!?!” thus killing any chance I had of remaining anonymous.

Looking back I can laugh, of course. But that doesn’t mean I’m not doing my best to make up for it by embarrassing my own kids. It’s the circle of life, people.

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Pay It Forward

Don't forget - my
March for Maddie Giveaway is still going on. Can you help? Donate and you could WIN!

I’ve always been the "sucker". I mean, I don't think I'm a sucker at all - but other people often do. You know – the one who gives the panhandlers money and puts change in the half-assed can on the minimart counter labeled “For Chairity.” I know that many times, I am probably being taken for…well…a sucker. But I don’t care. I’ve always been a firm believer that even if 9 out of 10 of those panhandlers take my money directly to the liquor store, that it still leaves one that I might actually be helping. And helping that one person is more important than not helping the other nine.

I’ve been known to do things that other people think are crazy – buying breakfast and a bus fare for a woman and her mother who were stuck at a hospital all night with no means to get home. They cried and felt bad that they couldn’t pay me back. I told them don’t worry – just pass it in. I once stopped – in the Hill no less – to help a man and his two young grandkids whose car had broken down. I gave him some money to get a cab and he wanted my address so he could send it back to me. I told him to pass it on. I try to help people whenever I can, and my response is always pass it on – pay it forward. I believe that even simple acts of kindness – like taking back someone’s shopping cart, or helping someone carry their groceries, or giving up a seat to someone on a bus – really can change the world. And I believe that it will eventually come back to you.

Many years ago, I was on a business trip in Chicago. Around the time I was there, the city was having a rash of pick-pocketings. Everywhere you went, businesses had signs about holding on to your bags and purses. Restaurants warned women not to hang your purse on the back of your chair. I took the warnings to heart and carried a tiny purse that I wore across my body. It had a button flap and a zipper. It rested right against my hip. It was pick-pocket-proof. Or so I thought.

My last night in the city, I walked a few blocks to a restaurant. I had an amazing, relaxing dinner and asked for my check. When the waiter was getting it for me, I reached into my purse for my card and discovered that my wallet was gone. I had it when I had left the hotel and didn’t take it out along the way. But apparently, somewhere in the crowds on the way to the restaurant, someone did.

I was in a panic. I had visions of washing dishes (like they always do in the sitcoms when they can’t pay the check). I had visions of being arrested. I was terrified. When the waiter came back, I was in tears as I explained what had happened. He told me to come with him and led me to the front desk to speak with the manager. I was literally shaking, worrying not only about the dinner check, but about the fact that my money, my debit card, my company credit card, and my ID were all gone and I had a flight home the next morning.

The manager was a sweet woman who immediately told me not to worry – that she would help me (which of course brought on more tears). She told me not to think twice about my meal – it was on them and they were glad to show me that their city was better than the pickpocket who had ruined my trip. She told me that the waiter would be taken care of when I worried about his tip. She wanted to give me money for a cab back to the hotel but I refused, since it was only a few blocks. She insisted on calling the hotel to let them know what happened, so they wouldn’t think I was trying to get out of paying. I sat at the bar with a (free) glass of wine, watching this amazing and kind woman take care of things for me – talking with the hotel and finding out that they were going to provide me with cab fare back to the airport the next day (because otherwise she intended to do so).

While this was going on, the couple sitting next to me spoke up. They told me they had heard what happened and they were sorry that something like that happened in their city. They told me that they wanted to help me and handed me $40. I refused, saying that I would be fine. But they insisted. They said that I couldn’t go to the airport with no money. They said you never know what might happen and that I might need it. They said I needed to eat something. They said that they wouldn’t be able to sleep that night if they didn’t help me out. So I gave in and took it and asked for their address to pay it pack. They told me they didn’t want me to pay it back, they wanted me to pay it forward. And I’ve been trying to do that ever since.

This post was inspired by Secret Agent L. If you don’t read her blog already, you should check her out, along with It Starts With Us.

And pay it forward whenever you can.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My Fairy Godfather Drank Black Velvet

I posted this Last April and - just like I described in the story - when I called, he came. Shortly after I hit "publish," Walt and I found each other again. We caught up and had a lot of laughs. We've talked on the phone and emailed and chatted on facebook. I was looking forward to getting together with him in the fall for our college homecoming celebration. I laughed as I pictured myself walking around the old campus, yelling, "WALT!" knowing that - as always - he would answer.

But today, I got an email from another old friend telling me the sad news. Walt - my friend - my fairy godfather - passed away on Sunday. He lived in Texas, so I can't be there. I won't see him again. All I can do is tell his story one last time. I'll miss you, Fairy Godfather.

I was having a conversation recently about “the good old days” and we were bringing up people in our past who were “characters” and the one person that always comes to mind for me in that situation is my friend Walt.

Walt was a legend on the campus of my teeny-tiny (first) college. Legend had him anywhere between 21 and 27, depending on who was retelling it. He was an icon. A permanent fixture. Don’t get me wrong, he was a smart guy and loved college. Or “college”, if you will. He was a stocky guy with the white blond hair. He almost always had a smile on his face (probably because he was at least a sheet and a half at any given time).

The first time I met Walt, I was a little intimidated. Here I was, a freshman, a baby, and there HE was - a. . .well. . .I have no idea what he was, since legend had it he was in his 6th or 7th year. But he was older. He was a grownup. As a sophomore, my friend Dave would drag me to Walt’s place to party, and I’d feel uncomfortable the entire time. The crowd there was always (to me, at least) a little older, a little smarter, a lot cooler. I have to admit, the discomfort was totally on my part - everyone there treated me just fine, but I felt inferior and stupid. But in time, Walt became my Fairy Godfather.

I never really thought he noticed me. I figured he saw me as the kid Dave dragged around with him. I didn’t even think he knew my name. But one day, I was walking to Victorian Literature (otherwise known as Stick Hot Pokers into My Ears and Eyes Lest I Explode from Boredom class) and I heard a voice from across the quad yell, “Hey! MaidenName! Let’s go drink a bottle of Black Velvet!” And given the choice of going to the world’s most boring class ever and downing a bottle of Canadian whiskey with a somewhat intimidating near-stranger - no contest!

I sort of thought he was kidding - that he just had some beer or a partial bottle left over from his last party or some good bud and was just looking for some company, but when we got back to his place, he pulled out two shot glasses and a brand new bottle of Black Velvet and we got to drinking. We spent the next couple of hours drinking and talking and having a great time. By the time his roommate (another older, even more intimidating silent-type) got back, along with some of the other of the usual party crowd (including Dave, who was until now, my only ticket into the place), Walt and I were pretty much trashed and laughing like fools. The roomie gave us a raised-eyebrow and everyone else looked a bit surprised. So perhaps I right and they were just tolerating me, or maybe they were just surprised that Walt was drunk on whiskey with a sophomore they all barely knew. Or maybe they were just surprised that I wasn’t with Dave - we were pretty much inseparable and I found out years later that everyone thought we were a couple.

Regardless, from that point forward, Walt became my Fairy Godfather. No matter where I was or what I was doing, if I thought about Walt, he would suddenly be there. We’d be partying in my friend’s dorm room and we’d say, “Walt should be here”, and a minute later the door would open and he’d walk in. Or we’d be at a hotel for homecoming, and wonder where Walt’s room was. So, we’d walk up the halls and just say, “Walt!” In 30 seconds, a door would fly open, and there he’d be. I’d be walking to class and think, “I really don’t feel like going today - I wish Walt would come rescue me” and before I knew it, I’d hear the by-then-infamous, “Hey MaidenName! Let’s go drink a bottle of Black Velvet/tequila/case of beer/” and off we’d go.

My favorite magically-appearing Walt occasion was after he graduated and I had left our small-town college for the last time (as did Dave). It was 1980-something, at a Dead show. It was the first of two shows and I had a ticket for both nights, but my friend Trish only had one for the second night. She came along anyway and we met up with Dave and some of his friends to party. A few hours before the show, we were making our rounds of the parking lot and a few people cut through our group, and in that sea of people, that was all it took to be separated from all my friends. I spent the next couple hours walking around looking for them and occasionally hanging out with some fun strangers. I finally gave up when it was time for the show to start. My ticket was a single, so I couldn’t even find them in their seats, since I had no idea where they were (not to mention, that at a Show? Seats, Schmeats!). I ended up running into a guy I knew who was also on his own, so I hung with him during the show. Afterward, we parted ways and I was once again alone in the lot.

I went to where they had been parked, but they were gone. I spent about an hour walking around, wondering how the hell I was going to get home (it was after city buses quit running, I had no money for a cab and it was way too far to walk, especially since I’d have to make my way through the Hill District to get home). I was feeling pretty freaked out and was about to find a group of folks who would let me hang for the night, when I started thinking about Walt. So I took a chance and said, “Walt!” And I swear - a van door popped open and there he was! That’s when I knew it was official - Walt was my Fairy Godfather.

Since last night, I can’t get him off my mind. We got in touch a few years ago and emailed a few times. He lived several states away and was married with a child. We lost touch again and I regret that. He was a good guy and a lot of fun. He was an unexpected friend. I find myself thinking about him quite often. So I have one thing to say:


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