Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Happy thoughts

Sometimes when I’m getting yelled at, or feeling annoyed, or really hungover, I’ll access the happy thoughts portion of my brain to keep me sane.

I’ll vividly remember eating boiled crawfish on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in New Orleans while I return an angry phone call from my desk in South Carolina.

I’ll remember how PERFECT the weather was at my recent birthday park party while I wait on hold for the electric company, again, to figure out why we haven’t gotten a bill for the third month in a row.

I’ll even go as far as to dream about sitting on my couch watching bad reality TV with a bowl of Kraft Mac and Cheese to ease my mind while I go to the eye doctor.

Yet, like gym music, happy memories can lose their effect after a while.

Sure, there are some “go-to” happy memories — like laying out on the beach with a juicy celebrity magazine, or remembering the look on my horrible former boss’ face when I told her, “I quit!!!!! OH YES I DO! I QUIT, QUIT, QUIT!”

While those are particularly happy memories, I find I need a fresh, regular supply in order to continue to function.

I’ll forget the exact feeling of older happy memories, and less-than-vivid thoughts don't always get me through an all-nighter at work. Or cheer me up when I check my account balance.

Thankfully, I got more than my share of new, happy memories this past weekend at Jazz Fest. They're gonna sail me right through spring.

It was just a perfect, perfect weekend back home, even with torrential rain, a 12-hour drive to get there and daily hangovers.

I spent the entire weekend with my boyfriend, who is fortunate enough to live in the city, and we danced OUR FACES OFF to true New Orleans music — during the day, at night and well into the early morning hours.

A large percentage of my happy memories involve dancing to live music, you see. And the bands we saw during Jazz Fest were just perfect. Can I say that again? Perfect? Ok, once more. PERFECT!

For me, happy memories that involve dancing are even better when the memory includes someone else to dance with.

All weekend long we fast-danced, slow-danced, Zydeco-danced and I even danced on a bench against the wall to better see the bands play. My boyfriend kept holding my hand and dancing in front of me.

All that dancing went right into the happy memory vault in my brain, locked away with that time I caught a ridiculous fly ball in kickball and the day I graduated college.

Another happy Jazz Fest memory was spending time with my brother, who I only see a few times a year.
He’s in the movie business and pointed out actor Steve Zahn from the TV show Treme at the bar we were at.

He was just sitting by a doorway tapping his foot to the music. A celebrity! I tried to check out what he was drinking.

“I’ve never seen Treme,” I pouted, as I looked at the actor without recognizing him. Damn HBO for being so effing expensive!

“Well, he was also in the movie, ‘You’ve Got Mail,’” My brother said.
“Ooooooh, reeeeeaalllllly???”

Even though Steve Zahn didn’t excite me as much as, say, Justin Long “the Mac Guy,” I placed the memory of checking out a celebrity at an awesome bar in New Orleans into the happy memory vault as well.

I made some surprising happy memories at the George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic show during Jazz Fest, seeing as it was pouring down rain pretty much the whole time.

I made new friends among the umbrellas and raincoats — Monty and Bill — a gay couple that welcomed me into their seating area without judging me for being at the festival alone.

I hadn’t planned to go to Friday’s festival alone, but a torrential downpour and the possibility of hail and tornadoes scared my friends away. Wusses.

I, for one, would not be deterred. Of all the bands playing all three days, the ones I was most excited to see were George Clinton and the Black Crows — come hell or high water!!!

As I was waiting for the show to start, I made a reference to a movie called PCU to the strangers sitting next to me because George Clinton had made an appearance in it. Monty and Bill said they knew exactly what movie I was talking about and started quoting it. We became instant festival friends.

Monty, Bill and I watched the hour-long George Clinton show together, pointing at people falling in the mud, clapping and cheering when the rain subsided and wondering aloud exactly how old George Clinton is.
It didn't matter than we were dirty, smelly and soaking wet. It was much more fun than being alone. Happy memory vault check.

Give these happy legs a bath STAT!

That Sunday — the one day I skipped the festival due to exhaustion and my throbbing calves from all the dancing — I met up with my dear friend Tatiana, who I have known since I was 7 years old and who has a wonderfully fascinating life in the French Quarter.

Tatiana lives in a beautiful brick apartment on Royal Street where her grandfather used to live, and I’m fully convinced that if the apartment could talk, it would beam with pride at the number of musicians, artists and pot luck dinners found within.

Tatiana’s house has become a makeshift hostel for musicians from all over the world, and she fully embraces each person’s talent, spirit and life experiences. Inside the house there's swing dancing, authentic New Orleans music from 1940s and postcards from all over the world.

It just so happened that on that Sunday, the French Quarter musicians threw a “Tatiana appreciation party” on Royal Street and set up instruments, food and wine outside her apartment, playing music and singing a capella.

There was Tatiana — my best friend — being celebrated for being such a wonderful person and it was wonderful to witness.
We caught up with one another as I drank a screwdriver in the street, people on bicycles peddling up and giving her hugs and kisses.
Happy memory vault check.

The last happy memory before I returned to South Carolina was a makeshift early Mother’s Day dinner we had Sunday night, since my brother, twin sister, Joy, and I were all in town at exactly the same time.

My dad grilled steak — using the same recipe we ate growing up — and we sat on the back porch in the mild weather eating and drinking wine.
My boyfriend came, too, and even he had a good time hanging with my family. What a trooper.

I put these new memories to use right away. They were exactly what I needed to focus on during the 12-hour drive home Monday. With a wine hangover.

Work today has been rough, with 105 emails I've accumulated in my four-day absence and 8 voicemails that needed immediate attention.

I sat at my desk this afternoon, SAD. Sad that I had no crawfish for lunch, sad to no longer be in New Orleans, and exhausted from yesterday’s drive.
Then I started remembering things. And immediately started to feel better.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Girly games on the open road

You know those statistics about the amount of time you spend doing everyday things?
Like, “The average person spends 4 days of their lives brushing their teeth! Two weeks every year pumping gas!”
And then you think, well, not at one time! Gaw!

Well, I’m going to spend an entire day—24 hours — in the car this weekend, pretty much all at one time.
It’s 12 hours to get to New Orleans from South Carolina and my twin sister, Joy, best friend, April, and I are hitting the road for Jazz Fest.

Have you ever taken a 12-hour road trip? It’s kinda fun; whatever time you leave in the a.m., that’s the time you’ll get there in the p.m.

-Leave at 8 a.m.? Arrive at 8 p.m.
-Leave at noon? Get there at midnight.
-Fall asleep in the backseat? Get there faster.

I’ve made the road trip back to New Orleans nearly 10 times in the nine years I’ve lived in South Carolina, several times with Joy and April. I’ve even done it alone.

I remember being so tired on the solo drive when I got to Atlanta that I stopped at a shopping area and bought a David Sedaris book on CD from a Barnes and Noble. The minute the first CD went in, I laughed and laughed all the way home.

Years later, when Joy and I saw David Sedaris perform, I waited in line for AN HOUR to tell him how awesome it was that his book on tape got me through the long haul.

“It was so funny!” I said, as I gave him my book to sign.
He looked at me and blinked.
“So…you like road trips?” he asked.
(He’s kind of an oddball)

I don’t mind road trips. I like to think I’m a good road trip companion because I’ve got stories and jokes and fun games like “I say a unisex name and you tell me if you think of a boy or a girl:”


I also like road trips with girls because we can talk about boys, which can take hours.
Once, when my friend and I were on a road trip we played a “I hate Charlie because…” game. (Charlie being her ex-boyfriend). That game lasted surprisingly long.

Another girls' road trip, we took turns picking out our favorite elements from ex-boyfriends to build the perfect man: I’d take Brad’s smile, Jason’s abs, Conner’s sense of humor, Jordan’s car…
(It was very shallow. What can I say? Men are pieces of meat. Kidding mom.)

Mom thinks the “I packed my trunk for a trip” game is a classic that will never get old, but I disagree. I think DUMP, MARRY or SCREW is much more engaging and revealing.

I promise we're not mean people. We’re just cooped up in a car for 24 hours and sometimes you need something silly to think about. Like, if you really had to dump Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, or Matthew McConaughey. (I’d dump Brad Pitt! I swear!)

We hit the open road in T-minus 45 minutes. We’re driving through the night and won’t get to New Orleans until 6 a.m., which pretty much makes us badasses.

Ex-boyfriends, watch your backs. ;)


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The trouble with veggies

I spent last Friday cleaning out the refrigerator because the whole house smelled like something had died.

Green onions had died. They died from neglect and non-consumption, and ended their two-week life in the fridge by pulverizing themselves into a thoughtful, brownish liquid and spilling all over the bottom bin.

The green onions belonged to one of my roommates. I know this because they a.) both regularly cook and b.) are vegetarian.

Exploding vegetables is the only downside to living with vegetarians. Trust me; almost all my roommates over the past nine years have been vegetarians. The green onion episode was not my first, second, or even eighth time removing a slimy, wet bag of vegetables from the bottom drawer.

The vegetables are a welcomed addition to the fridge before they explode. They’re healthy and colorful and have uplifting phrases like “good source of…” written on their bags.
But one day — one day, friends — the vegetables will turn on you. They will turn on you and explode.

Exploded vegetables is one of the worst, most offensive smells imaginable: a layer of body odor stench permeating the house, like a bad banana that’s been sitting out in the sun for a month. In Calcutta.

There’s no discrimination. Any vegetable can go bad very quickly, as well as pasta (Beware opening that tupperware! Especially if the pasta was made with cheese...ten days ago).

The absolute worst of the worst, though, is the smell of exploded potatoes. Have you ever smelled exploded potatoes? It’s positively gag inducing. It makes dog poop smell like roses, sewage smell like apple pie. I often wonder how French fries are so delicious.

There really is no excuse for potatoes to get to the point of exploding. They warn you by sprouting these gross white polyps all over and then you’ve got two, maybe three days until the warfare.

Let’s just say your college roommate decided to put a bag of Yukon Gold potatoes on the top shelf of a dark pantry and forgot about them for a month.
You’ll wake up one day to an unusually sweet, but foul smell that could arguably rival the stench of a rotting dead body, with slow-moving flies hovering over the bag of liquid and the sticky, brown goo spilling (burning?) through the bag, forming a layer on the shelf.

Smelling potato liquid up close in order to clean it up and the mountains of brown-stained paper towels filling up stinking up the trash can is an absolute nightmare.
The only silver lining from that experience is that I now have a great plan of revenge for any enemies. It will only cost a few bucks and a month of waiting.

Once the polyps sprout, the bag will be shoved in a forgotten closet or car trunk of an unsuspecting victim. I honestly can’t think of a worse prank. I’d rather have shrimp heads, or a skunk in heat, hidden somewhere over exploded potatoes.

I could chock up the veggies going bad to forgetfulness, or (in the potato case) dumb college moves, but I think the real reason veggies turn sour is that it’s hard to buy and eat vegetables for just one.

I don’t know why, but none of my vegetarian roommates have ever consolidated their produce, and, really, who can eat an entire onion by themselves before it goes bad? Or a stalk of broccoli? Better question: who would want to??

Not only is it a lot of food to consume, but people get sick of broccoli and asparagus and cabbage and then they have an impromptu happy hour and end up eating dinner at the restaurant and then Oh! Another thing after work the next day! and the veggies never get cooked and a week later someone is breathing into her armpit as she takes liquid green onions out of the fridge. (For example).

I know how annoying it is grocery shopping for one. I get funny looks from the deli people when I ask for a quarter pound of turkey. No, not a half-pound. A quarter pound. Yes, 8 slices. Thanks.
Loaves of bread routinely end up turning moldy and hard as a rock. Gallons of milk turn to chunks. Grape tomatoes get wrinkly. Strawberries get covered with a fuzzy layer of mold. And, for some reason (see: sucker) I end up being the one throwing everything away.

This is why I hardly ever buy vegetables. The only reason I go to the produce section is to get onions (because I love onions and can, actually, eat a whole one before it goes bad) and avocados, when they are ripe and not ridiculously overpriced.

I often wonder what the inside of my fridge would look like if I lived alone. Probably just a case of diet coke, a six-pack of beer, string cheese and pre-made dinners. And eight slices of turkey and an onion.

Now I know what you’re thinking: Jenny, that’s it? That’s all that you’d keep in your fridge??
Yes. Don’t worry. I’m not counting the vodka because it belongs in the freezer. And it never explodes.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The grass is greener

I live on a fairly busy road, which — like hitchiking or eating Taco Bell late night — has its pros and cons.

The pros are that it’s easy to give people directions, because I live on the busy street. Yes, on it!
Four houses from the blinking light!

Also, I don’t think a burglar could easily rob us blind (knock on wood) because people who know me and my twin sister, Joy, drive down the road everyday and check out our house. Yes they do! I’ve caught them doing this!

(It’s also very hard to get a large truck discreetly in and out of our driveway to load up our things. The burglars would have to walk out into traffic and stop cars in order to pull in and out. It would be a problem.)

The cons of living on a busy road? Just your average early Saturday morning wake-up call with fire trucks, ambulances and police officers wailing down the street to cut through town.

My friend, April, spent the weekend at my house and was not pleased by the sirens, which were particularly bad last weekend. Someone must have really been caught in a pickle.

April lives in a neighborhood that is so quiet deer and foxes actually run in the road and nibble on the front lawn. The only way an emergency vehicle would drive down her street is if the neighbor at the end of the cul-de-sac had a heart attack.

Not our road! We have motorcycles! Buses! Large postal trucks! And Jehovah’s Witnesses! Actual ones on bicycles!

This older woman used to come to our door on the weekends and give us pamphlets on the dangers of prescription drug abuse.
“It’s a widespread epidemic!” she would say, week after week, asking us to choose God instead.

Our roommate at the time eventually collected the all brochures that were piled up by the door and mailed them to her friend. (She told us it was an inside joke and her friend would find the whole thing hilarious.)

Another problem with living on a busy road is that it’s easy to mistake our house for other houses. When Joy and I first moved in three years ago, we had this teeny tiny problem with a rough-looking middle school bicycle gang ringing our doorbell every night.

We’d peek through the window and ask them what they wanted, but they’d run (bike) away without saying anything.
We knew they were at least ten years younger than us, but they were bigger and they were boys and we weren’t very well going to open the door.

One day, Joy called me crying, frustrated and spooked because the bicycle gang had returned and she was home alone. She locked herself in her bathroom as a precaution.

“That’s it!” I said. It had been a week of this foolishness.
“We’re not going to be scared in our own house!”

The next day the gang came back, and I swung open the door.
“Can I help you with something?” I asked in my meanest voice. I made sure to put on heels so I’d at least be as tall as them. And I crossed my arms.

The “leader” (also the fattest, largest kid in the bunch) took a step backwards and the other three boys stared at me wide-eyed.

“Um…does a guy with a beard live here?” he asked.
“No!’ I said. “No! You have the wrong house!”
They never came back.

Getting the wrong house, or driving past our house completely, is a challenge for first-time visitors.
Our road is no place for somebody traveling 10 miles per hour looking for numerical addresses. (If you do this, you will get honked at by a bus. I’ve seen it.)
This problem has been made considerably easier by our WHO DAT flag on the front door. HOLLA!!

It would also not be wise to have a dog (or a toddler) on this busy road because if either were to get out in the front yard, it would not end pretty.
Thankfully, Joy and I are happy not have either of those right now.

On the PRO side, the busy road is nice when you order things to get shipped by mail. There’s no apartment number, no obscure street name. Any delivery driver in this town knows where our road is, no problem.
Also, since it’s a busy road, it’s a very quick drive to get anywhere: the grocery store, the pizza place, the beach, Wal Mart.

(If you need more beer, for example, you can actually buy some and be back before the commercial break is over. If you hurry).

It’s also nice living on a busy road when you throw a birthday party. Or a Memorial Day Party. Or a Labor Day Party. Or a Christmas Party. Or a Superbowl party.
This is not a neighborhood that minds a little noise (see: ambulances, buses and trucks). We have never been called out by a neighbor or had the cops called on us for loud, obnoxious dance parties on the back porch.

I mean, if we had a party on April’s back deck, we’d be joined by deer and rabbits and snakes and coyotes. And neighbors would very well complain if Lil Wayne came on the radio.

Sometimes I fall victim to The Grass is Greener mindset. Like, it would be nice to go to sleep in a quiet neighborhood and not get woken up by automotive traffic.
And those gated communities look so inviting with their gyms and their pools and their pass code that Jehovah’s witnesses don’t know!

But, then again, I like my packages delivered on time. And my late, loud parties. And I have a feeling a homeowner’s association would make us take down our WHO DAT flag. In that case, I’ll take the noise.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010


I turned the TV on to ESPN last night so I could fall asleep.

It wasn’t the first time I’ve used ESPN for its snooze powers. It’s the only reason why I know it’s on channel 7.

I discovered ESPN’s zzzz effect while visiting a friend’s house, and quickly fell asleep on the couch listening the announcers go on and on about things I didn’t understand or care about.
I wouldn’t have fallen asleep, for example, if Project Runway was on. Or Jersey Shore. GTL people!!

I don’t care to follow sports unless it’s the Saints or LSU football. Or women’s gymnastics.

As I laid in bed waiting for all the NCAA talk (zzzzzzzz) to wash over me, I realized how girly it is for me to find ESPN so boring that it induces sleep.

I mean, I don’t consider myself that girly really. I hardly ever wear makeup, purses and handbags don’t excite me and I have no problem drinking canned PBR.
I’m on a flag football team, I use the microwave more than the oven to cook, and I’m really good at driving stick shift. (insert voice of Tim Allen: ho ho ho!!!)

I played lots of sports growing up, and my mother, a feminist, would scoff at the idea of me and my twin sister, Joy, being cheerleaders.
“You want people cheering for YOU!” she would say, as she signed us up for cabbage ball, softball and gymnastics.
We would joke and say we were going to be servers at Hooters just to see her reaction.

The independent woman-mentality has carried over into adulthood. I enjoy, yet still get slightly uncomfortable, when the MAN pays on a date.
“You don’t want to have to owe him anything,” my mother warned us.

Right mom!! I pay my own tab! I carry my own bags! I have a large assortment of T-shirts! I’m AWESOME!

Yet, in the midst of my woman empowerment, I began to think of all the things that actually are really girly about me.
I can’t build anything, for one. Especially IKEA wood furniture. Have you ever had to follow IKEA directions? They're in pictures. Pictures! You have to figure out which screw and nail and piece of wood corresponds with which picture and number, and I always get it wrong.

The latest thing I’ve tried to build was a TV stand (not IKEA) and I ended up with a half a bag of screws left over.
“How nice that they give you extras!” I told Joy.
“I don’t think there are supposed to be any extra,” she said, as we both re-read the directions and took another sip of wine.

Other girly confessions? I’m not as natural a blonde as I appear, I enjoy pedicures and shopping for clothes and I don’t hate the TV show Wife Swap.
I take online quizzes entitled “What kind of garden are you?” and “What’s your love style?,” and I hate bacon! What boy hates bacon??

I’m petrified of roaches, (like…petrified), my bathroom has more bottles of products than days of the week and sometimes I tear up at sappy commercials. Joy and I have also always gotten a boyfriend to mow our lawn for us.

But, wait! I don’t use fabric softener! I dress like a boy at the gym! (No matching cutesy outfits here!!) and I hate the color pink!
Plants die under my care! I own a pair of cleats! I burp out loud! (Ho! Ho! Ho!)

Yea, I’m beyond tough! I reassured myself as I started to doze off to the TV. Practically a boy!

But, wait… what exactly does NCAA stand for?



Friday, April 2, 2010

Got Jesus?

Of course I’m craving a hamburger on Good Friday.

Too bad! I can NOT have a large, juicy, mouth-watering piece of meat today because my Catholic background states that Jesus was buried today, and we followers must sacrifice.

Personally, I don’t think Jesus would have a problem with me eating a burger. (He’d probably also give me permission to wear white pants all year round, and not wait until the day he rises from the dead, but, hey, I didn’t make up these rules.)

I went to an all-girls Catholic High School in New Orleans, and every Friday during Lent they only served fish sticks and cheese pizza in the cafeteria, no ifs, ands or buts.
The lunch ladies didn’t care if you were Jewish or an atheist — no meat, end of story.

We had to go to mass during school once a month (twice during Easter!!), and we had to wear these horrible wool blazers.
The priest at our school had a speech impediment and had to talk in a sing-song voice or else he would stutter.

The only reason we knew about his stutter/sing-song problem is that Joy, my twin sister, laughed aloud at his musical range on our first day of school and got into trouble.

Joy figured there was a time and place for singing in church, and it wasn’t during the greeting and homily.
She tried to muffle her laughs into the large shoulder pads of her blazer and pretend she was coughing, but a school official spotted her and snatched her from the “pew” (gym bleachers).

Father has a speech impediment and it’s not funny!” the large lady who worked in the sanctuary told her. That lady was always lurking around campus looking for troublemakers.
“Oh, I didn’t know he had a speech problem,” Joy said. It was the first day of school.
“How would you feel if someone made fun of you when you were trying to talk to a large crowd?” she scolded.

Joy wanted to ask why he was talking to a large crowd if he had a speech impediment, and still maintains that our friend, Nicole, was the one who started the giggling.
No matter, she still got a detention for it.

We took four years of religion in high school and some classes were taught by a nun with a funny accent.
It was especially entertaining when the nun was chosen to teach human sexuality class.
I wasn’t sure she knew anything about human sexuality, proven by her opening lecture: “I am married to Jesus!” she proclaimed, showing off the gold band on her ring finger.

"Where's the diamond?" someone asked aloud. Everyone laughed.

One year, we took a Bible study class. We had to pick a verse from the Bible we were particularly “moved” by and read it aloud to the class along with a journal entry reflecting on the message.
We also had to play a song from a CD that went along with the passage’s “theme.”

I got a “B” grade for my pairing of a Bible verse about how “God will provide” with Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds.”
I protested.

“How did I get a B on this?” I asked. “The song goes, ‘every little thing….gonna be allright!’” (In Sing-song, like the priest!!)

The teacher looked at me and blinked.
“Like, with God, every…little…thing…gonna be…allright?? Get it???? Get it???”
When she didn’t change the grade, I wrote her off as someone who didn’t appreciate the Rastafarian culture.

At least she didn’t stop my song in the middle, like she did to another classmate. I guess she didn’t see the relation between a Bible verse and the song “Tennessee” by Arrested Development.

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Rachel, the student, had attempted to make a connection between the song and going to Heaven, since the lyrics state at one point, “take me to another place, take me to another land.”

“Ok, Rachel, that’s enough,” the teacher said.
I’m pretty sure she got rid of that lesson after our class.
The only people that got A’s were those that played Brad Paisley songs. Blech!!

I went with my parents to church last week when they came to visit me in South Carolina, and I promised them I would attend Easter mass on Sunday.
Since I normally don’t go to church (unless it’s Christmas or a wedding), those times I do attend, I’m reminded of mass at school.

Oh, there was lots of drama during school mass.
I remember how certain students were selected to hand out communion and us commoners were overly judgmental.

The students chosen for the task of handing out communion were the ones who “embodied the religious spirit” (and had an A average). But, (uh, the horror!) one girl handing out communion would smoke cigarettes in her school uniform at the nearby park after school. NOT RELIGIOUS, we’d say. NOT RELIGIOUS AT ALL! DON'T GET COMMUNION FROM HER!

During mass, we all sat with our class and had to shake hands or acknowledge one another during the “peace be with you” portion of the service.
Often, high school girls would be in fights with one another, and we’d sometimes go out of our way to ignore our neighbors. NOT RELIGIOUS.

“Uh, did you see her totally snub me during peace? I mean, GOD!” (haha)

Nearly 10 years (gasp!) have passed since I graduated high school, and I’d like to think I’m a bit more reverent these days.

I have my palm fronds from Palm Sunday mass in a vase in my house and I don’t ignore people anymore during the “Peace be with you” portion of church. I hardly even judge those handing out communion. Unless they're wearing a horrible outfit.
Just kidding.

Now, excuse me while I scarf down this cheese pizza.


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