Sunday, September 28, 2008

Observations from the Basement #3

Nothing a Good Sharpie Couldn't Solve:

The first debate was a bit dull. Is that a good thing? I don't know. At least it happened. I do wish they would stop calling them debates though. They're not. A debate is supposed to be an organized argument between different opinions on various issues. Not two people talking about how much the other person sucks. I don't want to know how one candidate supposedly voted on this issue five years ago. I don't want to be told that the other person will totally ruin the universe. I don't want to hear personal anecdotes or attempts at humor. I want them to actually answer the damn question and not in slogans or catch phrases that only serve to get people all riled up. Save it for the ads and campaign speeches.

So I vote that flip charts be used at all debates. As you talk, you must write your ideas in a list of bullet points so that we can see when you're done if what you've said actually has any merit or is just a circuitous, nonsensical pile of crap. Just think about it - when the debate is over, we'd have this big visual representation of what each candidate wants to do. Then Jim Lehrer could go up on stage with a big red marker - or Tom Brokaw could do it onscreen with a telestrator like they do for football games - and cross through anything that was mudslinging or conjecture or didn't directly answer the question. We would also get an idea about each candidate's penmanship and list-making skills. I for one would enjoy that.

A Long Strange Trip:

New season of "Amazing Race." Yay! I looove this show. It's exciting and educational. There is the obligatory melodrama and silliness that can grate on my nerves, but in the world of reality programming, I think this kicks ass. Plus, it gives people like me hope. With all of the physical challenges that I would totally suck at, what trips teams up the most seems to be the real challenges of international travel: not screaming in English at people who don't speak it, reading a map, using public transportation, and driving a stick-shift. I happen to rock at all of those things. Oh, and rowing a boat. I guess it's kind of a physical challenge but I am capable of rowing a boat. I mean, really, is it that hard? Yet every year there's a major meltdown with at least one team - who was somehow able to climb up the side of a castle on a ladder constructed of seaweed like champs earlier in the day - who can't row a frickin' boat. It's unbelievable. If I ever see challenges added that also involve using a label-maker, parallel parking, pop culture trivia, or a scavenger hunt at Target - that million dollars will be mine.

In Memoriam:

Don't know about you, but my salads have been tasting very sad.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Adorableness to Beat the Band

Last night I fell asleep around 9:30. I have a feeling one or both of these things may be the cause:
  • Impending-Armageddon-Induced Insomnia (I mean really, did you think yesterday's crazy rant was done at a normal hour??)

  • The peace that came with finally seeing Jim and Pam get engaged on "The Office." (Adorable, yes, but the Pennsylvania Turnpike? Seriously? I think we all deserved a little better than that.)

I woke up a little before midnight and couldn't go back to sleep so I checked in on the man who has lately been giving my affection for Jon Stewart a little competition. Craig Ferguson. If you've never watched his show, I recommend watching, taping, DVRing, Tivoing, or YouTubing - whichever your pleasure. He's just great. Nothing is scripted - the monologues or the interviews. Sometimes that means there's a lot of mediocre rambling, but even at those times he's better than a lot of rehearsed talk show hosts. Plus, he says what he thinks, doesn't mince words and yet he's still really nice about it. Oh. And. There's the Scottish accent. Definitely adorable.

Last night I hit the mother load. Tim Gunn from "Project Runway" was his first guest. "Project Runway" is definitely in the Top Five of what I miss not having cable and Mr. Gunn is one of the biggest reasons. He's a lot like Craig Ferguson - he's hilarious, he's brilliant, he's direct and says what he thinks and yet he's so nice about it. Turns out the two men are each a big fan of the other's show and their conversation together was so damn adorable I could barely stand it.

In case you haven't picked up on it - I have two main weaknesses when it comes to the opposite sex: an accent from the British Isles and a smart, dry-witted, gay man.

A little insight as to why I'm still single? Perhaps.

Here's the clip, thanks to YouTube. It's a bit long, but worth it to get to the end when they talk about Diane von Furstenburg. So great.

And really. Even if you don't care anything about either of them or their shows, it's refreshing watch two intelligent people carry on an articulate conversation without the use of teleprompters or sound bites.

So I'm now off to a bar to watch the debates and guessing that my warm and fuzzy Gunn/Ferguson feeling won't last much longer.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Observations from the Basement #2

Mr. President:

My last political science class may have been taken before cell phones existed. I may not know a whole lot more about the Bush Doctrine than Caribou Barbie claims to know. And I can't manage my own household and its finances particularly well so I certainly don't have any business managing say a company or a country. BUT. In the spirit of my baseball observation...

This I know:

Going on television every couple of years for the sole purpose of scaring the shit out of people so they will hop on your bandwagon is NOT THE WAY TO LEAD A COUNTRY!

I won't dwell in your past attempts at doing this. I have my Sesame Street Terror Alert on my iPage as a daily reminder.

But for this more recent incident, let's review:
Stellar. And so much more thrilling than that guy originally scheduled to be on TV who'd been hanging upside down for three days.

But you know... this current pattern of yours sounds pretty familiar... let's see... oh yeah, that's where I've heard it before...


How did Gert handle her impending adulthood? Let's review:
  • In January of that year, I believe I was quoted as saying, "No worries. Where's the keg?"
  • By June I was all "Dude, look at my pretty diploma!"
  • That summer? Spent it happily living in a tent and skipping around in the woods.
  • September arrived. I suddenly realized the sky was falling.

It wasn't pretty. But you know what? I WAS TWENTY-FRICKIN'-TWO-YEARS OLD. The only things I was responsible for were my student loan, a Volkswagen named Jose Jetta, and a ficus. NOT THE HEALTH AND SAFETY OF 300 MILLION PEOPLE.

But again, what do I know? I am so far from being an economics expert it's not even funny. I'm more likely to be named Miss Alaska than Fed Chair. Well, actually, the opposite is probably closer to being true. BUT YOU GET MY POINT.

So... since we seem to have similar ways of obliviously keeping our heads up our asses and then running around like morons handling big problems, I would like to offer up my own life experience as a cautionary tale:

Of the three things I was responsible for during September Nervous Breakdown '93, the only one that was still alive by September '94 was my student loan.

Still in the basement,

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Observations from the Basement #1

I have great honor and respect for the game of baseball, but I shamefully admit to only half-assedly pay attention to it until it gets much closer to the World Series. Of the teams I do like (Braves. Reds. Cubs.), I'm certainly not a rabid fan and don't have any stakes in or ties to any rivalries or curses. To sum up, I am no expert on baseball.

But this I know:

You don't tear down Babe Ruth's and Lou Gehrig's stadium.

And I'm not exactly sure why this bothers me so much. Maybe it's because in this time where our country's greed and laziness and shortsightedness has gotten us into yet another big pile o' trouble, this just seems like a giant, ugly metaphor for it all.

I am glad I had the chance to go to a game in Yankee Stadium though. Don't have a clue who they played. We were so far up in the stands that I couldn't really even tell who was who. But it was fun. I enjoy seeing the enthusiasm and dedication of fans regardless (in most cases) of what team it is, and the Yankees are no exception.

It was a warm, early summer's night, a total blow-out, and to keep us entertained I think every Yankee broke some sort of random record - like Most Number of Base Hits in a Home Game in a Month not Ending in the Letter R - and that sort of thing.

There were also a great number of hot dogs and beers enjoyed in our section and my friend's boyfriend, being drunk, from New Jersey, and a bit of a tool, started loudly joking with me about being from Tennessee / the South. Others around us, being bored with the game, and what with not being able to actually see the game and all, started to good-naturedly chime in. They all took a liking to me and we spent most of the rest of the game with them telling me stories about coming to games and living in New York and we each practiced saying different words and phrases with each other's accents. I loved every minute of it.

Eventually they decided that with all of the random records being broken that night we each deserved a record of our very own. And they started with me. So you will be proud to know that I am The Tennessean to Consume the Most Number of Beers in Section 31 / Row ZZ / Seat 9 of Yankee Stadium. Ever. Take that Derek Jeter. I may be a bit fuzzy on the actual location of my seat and would need to dig out my ticket stub from a box in a closet somewhere if someone needs official verification. But that's pretty close and it's still a title I wear proudly.

So I am sad for those guys today. I know that if Neyland Stadium were ever torn down I would be devastated. And even though I would never consider myself a Yankees fan - and, truth be told, if I lived in New York City I would probably be a Mets fan - I will always have a tiny spot in my heart for the Yankees.

A tiny spot in my heart for Yankees???

That's quite something coming from this Southern girl.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Time to Rejoin the Real World?

Let's take a peek outside and see...

Well, apparently everyone in my town is insane.

This wasn't a huge surprise, but it still really, really sucked.

And this - just keeps getting better, no?

Aaaaaand we're going back downstairs...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Kinda Counterproductive if You Ask Me

I'm still down in the basement, but couldn't help but comment on the Martha Stewart Tip of the day that appeared on my Google iPage:

"If you have a headache,
cut a lime in half and rub it
on your forehead and
the pain will go away."

Really? All it does is make me want a gin and tonic.

Which could very well be how I got the headache in the first place.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Dear Universe: If You'd Like to Reach Me...

I'll be in my basement.

I told a friend yesterday, that with all of the things going on with you right now, maybe it was time for me to take my Trusy Tornado Preparedness Backpack and head to the cellar to live with the crickets for a bit.

It's a very cute (LL Bean. Duh.) and chocked full of goodies like bottled water, a hand-crank flashlight, tiny battery-operated radio, granola bars, canned dog food (not for me) and a small first-aid kit. If I throw in a crossword puzzle book, my back issues of Real Simple, and a notebook on which to write my manifesto, I think I could get by for a few days while you work out some of your issues.

And by then maybe


and this...

and this...

and this...

and this ridiculous nonsense ...

and hell, of course how could I forget this...

have time to get better, go away, or for this freaky-assed thing to get all revved up again and swallow us in one giant gulp.

So please let me know when it's all better. Just drop by and stomp on the kitchen floor. I'll know its you.

Ta-ta for now,


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Gert Slept Here

OK, not there... well, actually... I'm sure there were a few days where I lounged on the grass with my trusty LL Bean backpack for a pillow and enjoyed a nice disco nap on the quad between classes....

You see, while the main purpose of the weekend was to visit my friend and see a football game, much of our time was spent walking down memory lane. The team I was going to the game to see was from where I attended grad school, but my friend was also so kind as to take me to visit my undergrad Alma Mater. It's a small, quaint liberal arts school (above) of about 2,000 students just outside Columbus in a small, quaint Victorian town of 10,000 or so people (below).

I did, however, sleep here.

There on the first floor, the last two windows on the right - it used to be much more cutely covered in ivy. Those were the front two small rooms of a suite that included a large bathroom on the side that then connected to two more small bedrooms on the back side of the building. For university dorm standards it was fantastic. Ten-foot ceilings and windows with ledges deep enough to sit in and read a book. A large bathroom with tiny vintage tiles and pedestal sinks. For real world standards it was insane. That 500 or so square feet housed six college senior women and all of their crap. I don't care how cutely tiled and pedestal sinked your bathroom is - that's not easy.

One of my roommates was a campus tour guide and would include our suite on her trips. A half-dozen or so prospective students and their parents would wander through a couple of times on Thursdays and Fridays with mouths agape at the quality of dorm life in our fair university. We - her roommates - would try to be at our collegiate best. Or at least not be in the shower. Our long, straight hair and rosy cheeks donned adorable woolly sweaters or college sweatshirts, and were usually seen studying, folding laundry or making Ramen in an electric tea kettle while college radio alt rock played artfully in the background. We were good.

One late afternoon on a perfect fall day a tour group came through as we were all hanging out in our common room (the widows pictured above) enjoying the crisp air and getting ready to enjoy the eve of one roommate's 22nd birthday. We had a friend in the oh-so-adorable men's a capella singing group and as we were chatting with the parents and students, our friend and some of his fellow singing buddies walked up to our open windows, and as a birthday gift, stood outside and serenaded us with Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl." Speilberg couldn't have scripted it better. I think three tuition checks were written right on the spot and I'm still not convinced that we shouldn't have gotten a commission of some kind.

Here are a few more photos:

My favorite building on campus. Just walking in the door made you feel smarter - it had a large central staircase with worn mahogany banister, old wooden tables, chairs and cabinets in the class rooms lit by 12-foot windows - and of course more vintage tile. It used to house the geology and geography departments, but a new science building was built and this one was renovated and restored using all environmentally-friendly techniques. It now houses - get this - the English AND Environmental Studies departments. Being one of probably only two English / Environmental Studies majors at the school ever - I feel quite honored. Could have put my name over the door too though... just sayin'...

Our football stadium. I think my high school stadium was bigger. Of course, the size might have something to do with the fact that we used the single-wing offense from 1894-1994. Yes, if you know football, that's 100 years without using a quarterback. 100 years.

Fraternity row is directly behind where this picture was taken and there's a large hill to the right that overlooks the stadium (or would, but big evergreen trees have grown up and blocked some of the view). So on Saturday mornings you didn't have to bother with buying a ticket to the game - or walking all the way down to the row for kegs and eggs - they would just roll it all over to the hill. A tailgating dream. No quarterback, but still, a tailgating dream.

The brick path that goes to through campus and to the chapel (and the clock that has never worked). Your freshman year officially begins in a small convocation in the chapel with your first-year classmates and all of the faculty in their academic regalia. You leave from there and process to the larger outdoor induction ceremony - two by two - down the brick path lined with the robed and hooded faculty clapping and welcoming each of you as you go by with a pat on your head or your shoulder.

You all meet together again, four years later, for another small convocation in the chapel. And then you process to the larger outdoor graduation ceremony - two by two - down the brick path lined with faculty, clapping and patting you on the head or shoulder as they say goodbye.

I think it's safe to say that if you're looking for a school for yourself or someone else, I can't recommend this one enough. Of course, these pictures don't do it justice. It was rainy and cloudy and the trees haven't changed yet, but in my head it's forever mid October and sunny. Luckily it's forever like that on the website too. They're no fools. I may spend the rest of the afternoon just occasionally going back there and clicking refresh.

Thanks for indulging me. Stay tuned for the rest of the trip.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

As an Elephant's Eye

I'm back from my weekend jaunt to Ohio. And I drove. Being a city mouse that doesn't have to drive much I've really come to dread long road trips by myself. In fact, I have this theory. "If the interstate narrows to two lanes - it's time to turn around and go home." But I used to looooove road trips. Made entire soundtracks for them. Had fantasies of driving cross country one day. Would drive home from college for the weekend - a 7ish hour trip - and it wouldn't phase me a bit. Not any more.

I had wanted to fly, but the awesomely cheap flights from Southwest left at awesomely ridiculous times and no one wants a house guest they have to schlep to the airport at 5am. So I drove. And to cope I decided to take a page from a former shrink's suggestion book and just break it all down into little segments. And you know. It totally worked. Middle of Tennessee to the Middle of Ohio? No, no, we're just going to drive from Nashville to Bowling Green. It's an hour. College kids do it every weekend. Then from Bowling Green to Louisville. Two hours. Boring, but very do-able. Louisville to Cincinnati - a measly hour and a half. Cincinnati to Columbus - same thing! Unbelievably boring! But still only an hour and a half! Toss in a few pit stops, some CDs and Diet Cokes and voila, I'm there.

Only there were no CDs as I forgot to pack them. Thankfully there is a public radio station accessible from just about anywhere in the country. There are also digital cameras that you can point toward the passing scenery and take random photos to pass the time while you're driving. Yes, while you're driving. That's why God created auto-focus.

So, in case you're wondering just what it looks like to drive from Nashville, TN to Columbus, OH on a Thursday afternoon. I'll show you.

For most of the trip it looks a lot like this:

Lovely hills and trees. The occasional rolling pasture with a grazing cow and old weathered tobacco barn. At some point north of Louisville all that loveliness starts to get a bit dull, but just as you're about to get antsy the road gets curvy and the hills get tighter and steeper and then suddenly you come around a bend and whammo - there's the Cincinnati skyline.

Cincinnati's a fun city to drive through as long as traffic isn't too bad. You get to go over a big bridge. See the new stadium. Lots of cool old architecture and tall buildings.

But then about 15 minutes later it all changes. The hills disappear. The asphalt highway turns to sections of flat, flaaaaaaat concrete with spacers between them that make the last hour and half of your trip the Midwest version of Chinese water torture. Ga-gunk, ga-gunk, ga-gunk, ga-gunk. For ninety miles. And all you can see is corn. Corn. For. nine. ty. mi. les.

And no, I've never had the privilege of driving through any of the big, square, scary states, so I'm sure that this is quite a breeze in comparison. But when all you have are your own thoughts, a digital camera and Terry Gross to keep you company, you can see how a person could go a bit mad.

But I made it safe and sound (ish) and will be sharing more of my weekend adventure later. That's all for now. Safe travels.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Seasons Greetings

How was your holiday weekend? Mine sucked. I worked. And then, I worked. And when I was done, I worked a little more. But at the time it was ok because I knew that Monday evening marked the start of the most wonderful time of the year. College football season.

Yes, some teams played on Saturday, but football doesn't really start until my boys in orange take the field.

Which they did.

And then lost in overtime to a team in CALIFORNIA.

And I KNOW the logic behind not playing a cupcake team from a lower division for your opening game. And I agree with it. And I KNOW that this is how last season started out (but even a bit worse, actually). And it all ended up ok.

But the thing is, all summer when I could have - no, SHOULD HAVE - been reading up on new players and stats - I was working. When I could have been watching highlights from scrimmages or learning the rule changes - I was working. And I'm not talking about the 8 hours in which I'm supposed to be working and not on I'm talking about free time. What was I doing? Working. So now it's football season and do I understand the new clock rules? No. Did I know where our new offensive coordinator came from? No. Do I know how much faster Monterio Hardesty can run the 100-yard dash this year? Uh, no. So, what would have been a frustrating but minor loss is now just a symbol of something much greater and much grouchier.

So I still say GO VOLS. But I'm also thankful that this is a bye week.

And how am going to spend this bye week? Going to a football game, of course. And celebrating - in all likelihood - losing a football game. How is this possible you ask?

I'm going to visit one of my very best friends in Columbus, Ohio and we are going to the Ohio State / Ohio University football game. She and I attended Ohio University (she has an actual diploma though) and are big Bobcat fans. Chances are good that you've heard of Ohio State University, but not of Ohio University. It's a much smaller school with a much less-successful football team.

Normally there wouldn't be a huge rivalry between in-state schools that are so different, but one of the years I attended OU there was a big dispute. You see, it wasn't enough that Ohio State refers to itself as The Ohio State University (no, I'm not kidding), but when colleges and universities were given the opportunity to license different letters and nicknames for their sportwear, Ohio State decided that in addition to owning the rights to "Ohio State," "OSU," and yes, even the letter "O," they also wanted the word "Ohio" (not sure if they tried to own "The" as well).

Thing is, Ohio University rightly laid claim to that nickname. Just as the University of Michigan is "Michigan" and Michigan State University is "Michigan State." Or the University of Florida is "Florida" and Florida State University if "Florida State." Not really rocket science, right? But no, some are slow and like to be big bullies and a legal battle ensued. It made national news. Granted, no one outside the state really cared. All that matters though is in the end, the right Ohio prevailed. Ohio University's homecoming theme that year was "There's Only One OHIO." And even though their opponet was the university of Akron, most of the parade floats involved some sort of bobcat beating up a buckeye. 'Gotta love it.

This Saturday no one acutally expects Ohio University to win the game. But that's OK. Ohio's football fans aren't used to winning all that much, but they cheer just as loudly for a completed pass or a good punt as other teams do for touchdowns and field goals. They're never bitter or feel slighted because another team outplayed them. They're just happy little green-clad, oft-intoxicated Bobcats, proud of their school and proud of their team and having a damn good time regardless. Without sounding like a sap, it's really quite touching to see. It also doesn't hurt that the marching band totally kicks ass.

So, if you're around on Saturday afternoon and you're a fan of good ole fashioned team spirit, tune into ESPN at 11am C / 12 E and watch the Battle for Ohio and cheer for the underdogs. The 34-point underdogs.