Monday, November 30, 2009

Week in Review - Giving Thanks

I was indeed thankful last week. Here's what for:

1. Travel and Quiet Weeks at Work
When I get back from a trip I'm not one to say "I'm never getting on plane / staying in a hotel ever again!" No, I immediately start rooting about on the interwebs trying to figure out the next place I can go and how long before I can afford to go there. One of my friends and I spent some time on the flight back from Vegas perusing the Southwest Airlines cocktail napkin that had a map of all of their airports printed on it (we were bored and did not want to watch Twilight again on the other friend's iPhone). This same friend and I have also talked about going to Peru so when I got to work on Monday - with only a three day week and not much to do, here's what I discovered:
  • Peru? I could spend a pretty cool week in Peru for about $1,500. Not too shabby.
  • Italy? I'd go there once a year if I could afford to. Cheapest city to fly into right now - Rome. But even that was $900+. Ouch.
  • Good ole US of A? I priced flying to Chicago and taking a train from there to Spokane or Seattle and stopping mid-way-ish at Glacier National Park for a couple of days. Six words: More. Than. A. Week. In. Peru. Granted, if I wanted to sleep sitting in a chair on the train instead of reserving a sleeper car, then it would have been cheaper. Something has to be done about the convenience and affordability of train travel in this country, people! Anyway - another rant for another post...
  • Cheaper alternative? Fly to Denver, rent a car and drive to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks. Could probably do two weeks for the same - or less! - than the train trip.

2. My Grandmother

She recently moved to an assisted living facility here in Nashville and has been less than pleased. She also has a way with words. Many of them are not quotable here in blogland. We ate lunch with her at her new home this week and here was my favorite quote: "Roger [my dad/her son] took away my car. Said I wasn't allowed to drive anymore. I drive okay. Just have to keep one eye closed." Good times.

3. Non-Traditional Thanksgivings
I have a love-hate relationship with traditions. Generally speaking, I love them, but over the years many of the traditions I've grown to dislike revolve around certain "family" holidays. Where you're supposed to sit around the table with various relations and pretend that you're not all bat-shit crazy simply for the sake of tradition. I'm over it. And I think if Norman Rockwell were alive today, he'd be over it too. In fact, I think his next cover of the Saturday Evening Post could very easily have been of my Thanksgiving dinner this year. The meal: a beautiful array of all the traditional Thanksgiving dishes. Seated around the dining room table: six people - none of whom were related except those that were married to each other. Most of us had already participated in our "traditional" Thanksgiving meals earlier in the day or week that ranged from mildly annoying to really sucky. This one, however, was filled with good conversation, laughter, friendship and good ole fashioned merriment. No passive-aggressive behavior, snide remarks or years of pent-up hostility. Not to be all smug, but I think this is more of what Thanksgiving was intended to be. The lemon martini thingies we had didn't hurt either.

4. A Good Season
I know I go on and on about my beloved Boys in Orange, but I do need to give thanks for them. They've had a hard few years and this season was no exception - a new coaching staff, problems on the field, problems off the field, problems with other coaches. The list goes on. We end our regular season 7-5. On paper that's not the greatest, but I couldn't be more thrilled. They tried hard, they played smart, they learned from their mistakes and they never gave up. They could be 5-7 and I would still be as happy. This past Saturday in their win over Kentucky they did give me a flash-back to two years ago (speaking of Granny), but we all survived. So, for that game and every other game this year, I thank you. Hope you get to go to Tampa for your bowl game. But, if you should end up playing here in Nashville, I will be there with bells on. Orange bells at that.

5. Digital Cameras and Our Beautiful Country
I remember the days of non-digital cameras when I was (briefly) a photography minor and a photographer for our school paper. And I remember the anguish of ruining roll after roll of film while trying to process them in a dark room. And I remember the disappointment in crappy photo after crappy photo on those rolls that I didn't ruin. But no more! Go ahead - take a hundred pictures! Delete the ones that suck! Take more! Upload them to Flickr! Life is good!

So behold - vacation picture highlights! I did not include pictures of Las Vegas - only of Red Rock Canyon. I didn't actually take that many pictures of Las Vegas for some reason (no, I was not drunk) and the ones I did take are mostly of people's faces. And I have a pact with those people. It isn't "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas," but rather, "My picture shows up on your damn Facebook page - your picture goes on my blog." So, unless someone violates that pact, I give you only pictures of beautiful rocks and desert plants.

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Old Joke

I know I'm getting older. It's not a secret. I still look fairly young for my age and for that I am thankful. And apparently that's all I should be thankful for since I've recently learned I'm old enough that no longer will anyone contradict me when I joke about my age.

Conversation One - Las Vegas Casino

Friend (who was constantly on the lookout for / trying to pimp me out to cute boys he spotted): "Look! Sailors! That little blond one is cute - you should go talk to him."

Me: "He is cute, but I think I'm old enough to be his mother."

--- Crickets ---

Me (pretending to be Friend): "Oh no, Gert - NO WAY! You're not that old!"

Friend: "Oh. Sorry. Was I supposed to have said something?"

Conversation Two - My Mother and Stepfather's House

Mother (while we were watching an interview show with various new UT football coaches - most of whom are ridiculously young): "That's the Quarterback Coach!? What is he - 12?!"

Stepfather: "I think so. And what's Lane Kiffin [new head coach] - 34?"

Me: "Yeah. I think I'm older than everyone on the coaching staff except Monte Kiffin!" [Lane Kiffin's dad, who's like 70]

--- Crickets ---

Me (pretending to be parents): "Oh no, Gert - NO WAY! You're not that old!"

Stepfather: "Oh. Sorry. Was I supposed to have said something?"

Monday, November 23, 2009

Week in Review - Learning Las Vegas

So, on those lists everyone makes of places they'd like to go, you know, "Before I Die," "If I had all the Money in the World," "Just to Say I've Been," "Because George Clooney has a House There," etc., Las Vegas has been on... well... lets just say it's never been on any lists of any places I'd like to go under any circumstances. But I have friends who love to go there and they twisted my arm. Actually, they didn't really twist my arm so much as I'm a sucker for peer pressure...

But you know what? It was so much fun!

I even learned some things. And who goes to Vegas to learn stuff?? Anyway... I wasn't there for a whole week, but nothing else happened the other three days, so here's my Top Five - Vegas Edition:

1. Clowns: Still Creepy
I saw a Cirque du Soleil show - which I also wasn't sure I would enjoy, but did. My fear was that there would be clowns and mimes. And I DO NOT enjoy clowns or mimes. There was a bit of that, and it was indeed dreadful, but I got over it. The rest of the show was too amazing to be put off by them for too long. If you happen to be in Las Vegas and can go and see "O" (the one with the water), it is worth every penny.

2. Adding is not My Thing
I learned to play Black Jack. Well, I sort of learned and then sat between two friends who know how to play and would knee me under the table whenever I did something wrong. We played for a few hours at one table and the same two dealers kept switching back and forth every 20 or 30 minutes. One would add up your cards for you as he dealt and one wouldn't. I'll let you guess as to which dealer I tipped more. At one point I was up $100. And then lost it. But I broke even with my gambling money overall for the weekend, so I considered that a win.

3. I Can Still Find a Way to Be a Geek, Even in Vegas
One morning we were lounging around the hotel room and one of my friends was flipping through one of those visitor bureau magazines they have free in the hotel and said, "here's five dollars off admission to Bodies the Exhibition - what's that?" I jumped up from my knitting (yes, I did bring my knitting to Las Vegas), startling the others with my excitement. I've been wanting to see this exhibit so badly and the closest it's coming to Nashville is Cincinnati and Atlanta. And do you have any idea how hard it is to get someone to take a road trip with you when you start the conversation, "Hey! Wanna drive four hours to go see an exhibit of perfectly preserved cadavers?!" Needless to say, no one else in the room really wanted to see it either - even though it was only in the hotel across the street - so that afternoon I went by myself. And it was fantastic. Again, worth every penny. If for no other reason than you can regale your travelling companions over dinner with phrases like "do you know how big our liver is?" Or, "and then there was a case with just someones skin..."

4. Vegas May Have Been More Fun Than I Thought, but Some of It Was Just as Icky as I Imagined
I have this theory that you could ban all signage and advertising for strip clubs, peep shows and whore houses and financially they would do just fine because, really, if someone wants to partake in that kind of thing, they're going to find your establishment even if you don't have a giant hot pink and purple tacky neon arrow sign pointing them in the right direction. And they will certainly find their way without you lining the sidewalks of Las Vegas with people shaking fliers and coupons at them as they walk by. Turns out these people lining the sidewalks are not allowed to touch you, so they do this weird flicking thing with their fliers as they shove them in front of your face. They may not have been allowed to touch me, but there was more than one occasion where I wanted my elbow to make contact with a few of their noses.

5. It is the Land of Extremes
Everything there is bigger, longer, faster, taller, flashier and crazier. You don't just get a margarita. You get a guava mango margarita. In a three-foot tall glass. That you can drink while you're waiting in line for a thrill ride. But not just any thrill ride. One at the top of a 110-story building. And then you can continue drinking your margarita while walking down the street or shopping in the mini-market on the way back to your hotel room which you can only get to by going around the 20-foot gold-leafed lion statue, through the giant casino and past eight different restaurants and bars - from Wolfgang Puck's to McDonald's to something blaring club music where the waitresses dance on the bar every so often in leather miniskirts. Literally, the walk from my room to the Bodies exhibit in the hotel across the street took a solid thirty minutes. Madness.

Even nature is extreme there. We went hiking one day in Red Rock Canyon and it was amazing. Plants growing in a little crack in a rock. Mountains just jutting straight up out of the earth - no rolling foothills like I'm used to. In the sun it was hot and you were sweating and spraying yourself down with sunscreen, but step two feet into the shade and you were shivering and had to put a jacket on. Also, the desert is extremely dry. Did you know that? My now really chapped lips (and nose and ears and sinuses) were a bit in denial, apparently.

Anyway... All-in-all I give Las Vegas two very tired and chapped and poor (but happy!) thumbs-up.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Dear Mr. Manning,

Thank you for salvaging what had been a disappointing weekend of football.

(Yes, I know the Titans won, but it didn't make up for the beating that Tennessee's original football team received from Ole Miss on Saturday.)

It is true that you are not the prettiest quarterback in history. But I think you're lovely just the same.

On behalf of my fellow orange-blooded Volunteers, congratulations.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Week in Review - FOR MELISSA

Jeez - you make one declaration that you're going to make weekly posts and then some people start to expect it...

1. An Explanation

Some of you have wondered about my disdain for Elmo. Well, his high-pitched baby-talk is annoying and the fact that they now devote a third of the show to him is even more so. (Yes, if I am home sick I enjoy watching Sesame Street. Or used to...) Besides, what the hell was ever wrong with Grover, people!? Well, earlier this week NPR explained it all. To compete with the onslaught of annoyingly-voiced kids show stars around that time, Sesame Street had to come up with something to go up against the likes of Barney. And that's what they created. And I realized in that moment that is precisely why I dislike him. He's a tiny, furry, red Barney.

2. Grass is Always Greener

It was inevitable, really. Prior to the Great Gutting of Gert's Living Room 2008-09 I had a small, unpaid, part-time job reading design, decorating and architecture magazines and websites. I also constantly suffered from house envy. But once the GGGLR began (Hmmm, pronounce that acronym and it sounds like someone drowning. Coincidence?) I really had no desire to read how easy it is to hang crown molding or recover an antique chair with vintage curtains you find at the flea market.

Well, now that GGGLR is mostly complete, I have dipped my toe back into the glossy pages and interwebs and damn if my house envy isn't back. One of my favorite websites for this is Apartment Therapy. Why "Apartment" Therapy I do not know, because it's mostly small houses. Small, real houses where real people live. And this week there it was - my newest victim of house envy. A restored bungalow with the perfect mixture of craftsman, mid-century and art deco furniture. Comfy rooms in earthy colors where nothing is overly matched but it all just sort of goes together. My favorite was the busy, hodge-podge kitchen that looks like people actually cook in it. And that pot rack? Fantastic. If Marie had only seen this, she could have found a use for Jess's coffee table and let him keep it.*

3. Groundhog Day? Please?

Most of this week was just irritating as all hell. Nothing horribly bad. Just annoying. Tuesday especially. Because the only thing better than over-sleeping and running out the door dressed like an eight year old boy, is doing so with wet hair AND meeting your neighbor's new - and cute - housemate who is friendly and wants to chat while you're running late and look like a drowned rat / eight year old boy.

Then there was much website drama at work that afternoon. Which I handled oh-so maturely by sending my boss an email at 4:59 explaining said drama and then promptly turned off my computer and ran from the building like a big fat chicken...

Where I then got into my car and drove to my father's house so we could divide up all of the furniture and such that my grandmother didn't want to take to her new apartment. And of course that all devolved into drama - as these things often do when people transfer years of feelings and emotions onto inanimate objects instead of dealing with them like mature adults.

So yeah. A do-over for Tuesday would have been nice.

4. A New Low

So here I am on a Friday night babysitting and I just finished reading the new Vanity Fair with Robert Pattinson on the cover. I am officially 12. But, can I just say... yum! I have some friends, who will remain nameless (because they are big perverts!) who think that Taylor Lautner - the other male lead in the Twilight movies - is rather nice (and 17!). Well, they can have their buff, tan, shirtless (and underage!) wolf-boy. I will take a pale, scruffy-faced, messy-haired, vampire-man in a cable-knit sweater and wool pea coat over that any damn day. We're drawing names for Christmas gifts in my family this weekend and to the person who gets my name - I will gladly take enlarged prints of any of these so I can like totally frame them and like hang them in my locker...

5. Tumbling Down

So Monday was the 20th anniversary of the demise of the Berlin Wall. One of my very dearest friends grew up in what was once East Germany so it gave me a tangible reason to think about this event off and on throughout the week. Way more than I probably would have otherwise. And it made me realize how different our lives might be now if it hadn't happened. And how world-changing events don't just affect the big picture, they affect things and people on a much smaller scale for years and years after. And how all of us - no matter where or how we grew up - really aren't all that different when you get down to it. So Claudia, if the Wall coming down means, if nothing else, that I now get to enjoy a cup of coffee and/or a glass of wine with you every few days, then for that I am thankful. Happy Anniversary.

* If someone (other than Katie!) knows what I'm referring to, then you get a gold star in your pop culture crown.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Loneliest Number

Imagine my surprise when I turned on my computer this morning to discover that today is Lost Sock Memorial Day.

Totally makes me feel better about the fact that I have on two different brown trouser socks today.

Originally I blamed it on it being Monday and me being lazy and a poor housekeeper.

Turns out I'm just doing my part to celebrate one of our lesser-known holidays.

My guess is that the majority of my lost socks are probably the result of being herded into and then buried in the back yard by the Evil Genius.

Perhaps that is what has happened to all lost socks.

If so, I plan to market her as the "Great Pumpkin" of Lost Sock Memorial Day and use the money to pay for a dog psychologist.

And of course, more socks.

Happy Monday!

Credit to The Pigeon Club of NYC for the image. Don't know what the heck lost socks have to do with Pigeon appreciation, but it is a cute picture. Unless... maybe there are sock-stealing pigeons in New York? Elsie may have competition...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Week in Review - Harvest Moons and Other Things

The work never ends, no? I think I've given up on anything more than a weekly post. If that. Perhaps one day I'll be more organized. Until then...

1. From 60 Minutes to Morning Edition

My conference last week went really well but was exhausting. I got home on Saturday afternoon. On Sunday afternoon I fell asleep on the couch and woke up 12 hours later. Feeling much better now.

2. A Study in Contrast

The bad thing about fall and the time change is that it's dark when I come home from work. However, to lessen the blow, the moon has been gracious and kind and absolutely stunning every night on my drive home. Earlier in the week Green Girl in Wisconsin posted a gorgeous picture of the moon from her back yard. The views from my neighborhood haven't been quite this picturesque, but I like them nonetheless. So I give you - "Moon Over East Nashville Liquor Store through a Dirty Windshield":

The moon is the blurry orangish blob in the middle of the picture. But that liquor store has a shelf in the back where you can choose any three bottles of wine for $20.

3. Stitch and Bitch

I'm learning how to knit. So far the results are less than spectacular, but I've only done it once. I don't have a whole lot of time to spend knitting but then I realized that in a couple of weeks I am taking a short trip to Las Vegas and was all excited that I could take my knitting with me on the plane. Then I thought, "knitting on the way to Las Vegas? I mean, why don't I also get a giant plastic sunvisor, a bedazzled Wayne Newton t-shirt, some knee-highs to wear with my black sandals, and an enormous white pleather purse to carry all my tokens for the slots in..."

It would be the next nail in my Tragic Spinster coffin that I'm not quiiiite ready for yet. But I'll probably still do it anyway...

4. Road Trip!

Two friends of mine and I are headed to Knoxville this weekend to watch the Tennessee / Memphis game. Neither of them have ever been to a Tennessee game, so it should be a good time. Especially if we play like we did last week. Oh yeah, that's right - have I not mentioned the spectacular beat-down we gave to Steve Spurrier and his South Carolina Gamecocks last week? I will only repeat: spec-frickin-tacular.

5. Happy Birthday Sesame Street!

I have loved you my entire life. Except Elmo. May you have another wonderful 40 years!