Friday, January 31, 2003

Nic Names

This is something else I was just thinking about - nicknames. His name is Nicholas - a nice enough name but not one I'd have chosen, necessarily - but I call him Nic. Note the absence of the K at the end...that's about all you can do with that name, really. But he's getting some strange nicknames...I just popped out with Chucky Chesterfield for some reason and it got me thinking.

Nic is also known as Nicodemus, Nickadoo, Nickerdoodle, Dibbity (which is DBD for "da big dog"), Nico, and Boyo.

Zoe is Zo, Zo-beana, The Bean, Beanie, Beanie Mareno and Das Bean.

Samantha is Sampantha, Sam, Sammy, Samalamadingdong and Ditty (for "sissy" - Zoe named her that.)

Andy isn't even his real name, so that's a nickname, as is Andrew, Kenny, Snidey Dave and Fritz. Strange thing - he went by Kenny, but he had a friend named Kenny whose nickname was Betty.

And me...well, my dad calls me Noodles but if you try it I'll break your legs.

I want a nickname.

Non-nom de plume-ingly


I'm an excellent driver. Definitely, definitely an excellent driver. Yeah.

Okay, so my Dustin Hoffman impression sucks, but you should hear my Sean Connery! "Shooow...nishe gooat. Schudn't we be mahking luv now?" I can pop my eyebrow like his and everything, oh you should see it, it's perfect.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Driving. Anyone who's ever had the misfortune of driving in Minnesota knows that we are the worst drivers ever. Even the agency that studies accidents and whatnot says so - I can't remember the name of the agency but you know the guys I'm talking about. They said that Minnesotans are the least likely drivers in the country to brake before a collision. What does that tell us? That either these drivers were a) not looking around at the other vehicles that could be potential accidents, or b) they were trying to speed up to get in front of other vehicles that could be potential accidents. Most likely scenario? Both.

There's a little saying here in Minnesota: Merging is a priviledge, not a right. I didn't realize how truely people believed this until last night, when Kare 11 (our local, what, NBC station? I think it's NBC - anyway, it was local news) had a feature on merging and how awful we were at it. It wasn't simply anecdotal evidence; they had a driving instructor actually take the reporter out on some of the busier freeways and point out what people were doing wrong as well as taking him up in a helicopter to show an aerial view of the freeways. Okay, so there's the proof that Minnesotans are, in fact, idiots. Pop quiz, hot shot: You're in your car and you're coming off an exit ramp - there's a semi truck driving in the inside lane - what do you do? If you're a Minnesotan you'll most likely misjudge how fast the semi is driving, think, "If I floor it I can get in front of him" and put the pedal to the metal, then realize the semi's going too fast for your intended plan so you change your mind and decide to enter traffic behind the semi instead. You slam on your brakes and swerve while the semi driver makes a highly unsafe lane-change to avoid hitting you. In the meantime, you're in the merging lane at a dead stop and other people behind you are coming around a blind curve...thankfully, they spot your dumb ass in the nick of time and slam on their brakes while you slowly gain speed and merge onto the 70 m.p.h. freeway at a leisurely 30 m.p.h. Without signaling. Or looking over your shoulder. Completely un-freaking-aware of how many lives your dumb ass just endangered.

If you are from any other state in the country you'd think...well, what's there to think about, really? Merge behind the semi. Duh.

Why are Minnesotans so bad at freeway driving? Get this - it's not taught during driver's ed. Minnesota not only requires less "behind the wheel" time during driver's ed than most states but they're not required to teach freeway driving and merging. But if you knock over a cone while parallel parking you fail your exam. What the hell?!?

This is a worry because roundabouts are gaining popularity. There are a couple in our town located in the Commons shopping area, and there are a few major ones on actual streets. The news crew planted a camera in front of one roundabout to show how bad people were at merging, right of way, and the rest. See, herein lies the basic flaw in a US roundabout...let's say, for argument's sake, that you enter a four-way roundabout. That's just a double circle (inside and outside lane) with four spokes coming off of it. Still with me here? You enter at road A and you want to exit the roundabout at road D, which would be a left-turn if this were a four-way stop. You have the furthest distance to travel around so what should you do? Get into the inside lane and leave the outside lane for other people entering and exiting the roundabout. Why should you stay in the outside lane making traffic for the guy who enters at B and exits at C? You shouldn't, but I betcha you will.

I'm allowed to criticize Minnesota drivers because I was schooled in Illinois. I was pregnant when I was in driver's ed - very pregnant, in fact - so I was cautious to a fault. I had five hours of freeway driving instruction alone (Minnesota requires six hours "behind the wheel" in total) so I feel qualified to offer my criticism. And my driving instructor's name was Mr. Carr, for whatever that's worth. Andy paid me the compliment once of saying that I was the only American he's ever ridden with who he thought would be able to pass the strict UK driving exam.

So yeah, I'm an excellent, definitely an excellent driver. It's the other guy's fault. I swear.

Pointing the finger-ly,



me: I'm in love with another woman.
andy: (deadpan) Really. Who is it this time?
me: Hang on, let me check.
andy: Sounds like true love to me.
me: No, I know who it is. It's Karen something. Karen Something-To-Do-With-Computers [yes, I can speak in hyphens, it's an inherited trait] Her blog's name is a spoof on something that makes me think of comics, let me check.
andy: If I had a dime for every woman you fell in love with...
me: It's Karen Zipdrive from Pulp Friction.
andy: Oh her? She's popular.
me: Oh no, is she really?
andy: I think MJ and Joel link to her.
me: Ah well. You can't discover something that's in the phone book.
andy: No you can't.



Thursday, January 30, 2003

An Open Letter of Apology to the Butcher at Whatever Store That Was I Went To Last Night

Kind sir, please understand that there are a couple of factors at play here. Last night I didn't want to go anywhere at all, sick as I was feeling, let alone trudging through streets I don't even know to visit a grocery store I'd never heard of. I don't know these suburbs yet and I've really never had much need to extend my shopping beyond the Commons, so you could understand how I could get confused over your grocery store and the other grocery store that I'd intended to go to.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. See, I've only realized that I like the dark meat on chicken. Until about a week ago it was white meat all the way for me; I never even looked at the dark meat because it was too fatty. Now I can't get enough of the stuff; I want it morning, noon and night. Imagine my bliss when I saw in a sale ad "ten-pound packs of chicken leg quarters, 28 cents per pound, one day only." I mean, come on! $2.80 for ten pounds of chicken bliss - how could I refuse? I was going on a stock-up expedition.

Another thing I've only just begun doing is being frugal in my grocery shopping. The booming economy of yesteryear saw me shopping at grocery stores with carpeting and crystalline lights hanging from the ceiling. There was always a pianist playing at the front and occasionally a harpist, and upon entering the liquore store the Armani-suited merchant would hand us a glass of wine and declare how nice it was to see us again, even if it was the first time he'd ever seen us at all. We not only didn't bag our own groceries but we didn't even have to carry them to our own cars - there was a slew of overly-polite young men who would do it for us, humble boys who would actually clip their heels together when they'd receive their tip. The days of conspicious consumption and vulgar opulence were upon us and I was covered in the filth.

Now I freak when I see a sale for chicken at a dingy little grocery store in the next town. I'm still adjusting.

I looked through your poultry section and didn't see any of the sale-priced chicken so I asked you if there were any more available. You were so kind to offer to make me up a package in the back and I saw the sparkle in your eyes when I said, "Make it ten." Yes, I was going to buy ten ten-pound packs of chicken quarters from you - I wonder what that would have meant for you? Would you have gotten a star on your nametag, or maybe your name printed on a white board in the back? Did you go into the cooler and tell the other butchers, "I'm about to off-load a hundred pounds of chicken on that lady out there!" I can't even think about that, I just feel too guilty.

You brought me the chicken and I saw that it wasn't, in fact, priced at twenty-eight cents per pound as advertised; rather, it was up around a dollar. You asked me if something was wrong and when I told you the price I was expecting your face fell and you informed me that yes, this was the sale price for this store, but the sale price I was after was from a different store. I understood the words you were saying but they were lost to me - in my mind I was seeing this scene from the eyes of the other customers who passed by, no doubt wondering about the strange woman shaking her head at the gift of a hundred pounds of chicken this confused butcher was trying to present to her. I saw the realization sink in and I couldn't speak; I just stood there opening and closing my mouth like some fish. You walked away and I walked away and I wonder which one of us felt worse?

Something similar happened to me once at my old, vulgar grocery store. I'd misread the label on some particularly good cheese and grabbed a few chunks of the stuff and made my way to the check-out. The woman running the register began weighing the cheese on a scale and I realized with a sinking feeling that the price I saw marked on the cheese was the price per ounce and not the total price for the entire unit. Thankfully I'd realized this in time to tuck my cash away and produce my credit card for payment instead. I couldn't admit my mistake to this woman; I felt that if I did I would be black-balled from every Byerlys across the state. I laughed about that one later but I didn't laugh over what happened last night. I truly felt awful about that.

If, on the off-chance that someone reads this and says, "Oh, so she's the chicken woman Wayne was talking about!" please extend my deepest apologies to him. I really do feel like an ass about this - I know that's of little consequence to the kind butcher at whatever store that was. I only hope that my stupidity didn't case you any trouble.



Wednesday, January 29, 2003

I'm still sick and I don't want to write about it and you don't want to read about it. Instead I bring you another installment of "Meet My Folks". This conversation took place a week or two ago when I visited my parents in Illinois.

mom: Come here, you have a blackhead.
me: Nice to see you, too. And it's a freckle.
mom: A freckle like that I've never seen. It's a blackhead. Come here.
me: I'm not a child anymore, I can take care of my own skin. And it's a freckle.
mom: Come here, let me see.
me: No! You're not getting those nails anywhere near my face. (hiding behind my father) Dad, tell her I'm not a child anymore and make her stay away.
dad: Leave her alone, this is why she never comes to see us.
me: (sticking my tongue out at my mom) Nyeh nyeh nyeh.
dad: And it's a freckle.
me: Aren't you supposed to be going blind or something? How can you even see my freckle from ten feet away?
mom: A blackhead that size even a blind person can see; and anyway, it was a staph infection that's stablized now. I have cream for my eyes and wash them with baby shampoo. I see you're a red head again.
me: Yeah, so what of it?
mom: You need to cover your roots. Why do you dye your hair? It's so beautiful naturally.
me: It's so black naturally. It's like used motor oil. When I get grey hairs they stand out too much - this way when I have grey hairs and dye my hair it gives me a nice highlight effect.
mom: What do you know from grey hairs? I was grey when I was seventeen.
me: Yeah, and now you're bald so there.
mom: It'll happen to you, too, someday if you keep dyeing your hair like that.
me: Then I'll buy a sassy wig, or wear bandanas of the confederate flag or something.
mom: Anyway, I read that story of yours. Why didn't you tell me you started writing again?
me: Because I didn't want you to know. You'd just destroy me like you always do.
mom: What destroy? When have I ever destroyed?
me: When I changed my major from engineering to criminology, for one.
mom: Ach, all I did was call you Scully and tell you that you were stupid for changing majors. You couldn't handle criminology, you're too soft. When I worked in the morgue I saw tougher people than you pass out. You couldn't do it - engineering, that you could do. All that takes is some math; anyone can do math. You should have stuck with something you could do instead of being stupid and changing.
me: See, that's what I mean.
mom: What? A mother can't give her daughter constructive criticism? You're too sensitive. That's why you could never make it in criminology.
me: At any rate, that's not a story, it was a dream I had that I weaved together a bit.
mom: You should write about what I was doing in your dream.
me: I'm pretty sure you were dead.
mom: No I wasn't - I had left your father and was living a fun life. You should write about the fun life I was having without your father.
me: No, I'm pretty sure you were dead in my dream. I had that feeling, anyway.
mom: I'll be dead someday after I leave your father and have fun. Write about that.
dad: Write about it, hell, just go do it and leave me alone.
mom: See what I have to put up with? You should write that book you're always threatening us with. You're too old to be anything special anymore, but still it's not too late.
me: What do you mean, too old to be anything special? I'm not even 26!
mom: Yeah, but if you would have written a book when you were younger people would have paid attention. They would say, "I can't believe she wrote this, being as young as she is!" Now, not so much.
me: Well for your information, I'm working on a book, as a matter of fact.
mom: Am I mentioned?
me: Oh yes. Heavily.
mom: Good. Now, you're not going to make me into some monster, are you? Because you know all memories are false.
me: I understand that memories are inherently flawed because it's only one person's perspective of a situation at a young age, if that's what you mean.
mom: No, I mean you can't trust your memories. Of anything. Remember when you swore you invented peanut brittle? And scooters, remember that? See? False memories.
me: I didn't exactly think I invented peanut brittle, I just made the recipe using the proper scientific names for the ingredients.
mom: You called the peanuts "protein pellets" - how can that be scientific?
me: It was easier than calling them "excessively caloric legumes" or "arachis hypogaea" or something like that. "Protein pellet" worked just fine.
mom: False memories. Remember when we went to Wisconsin Dells and you got carsick? Everywhere we went, you with the carsick. Even within a month of going your memory was that we'd gone to Arizona.
me: Well, I was sick, and could swear that I remembered driving in the desert. The haunted house we went to had an Old West theme. I got confused is all.
mom: I'm not going to tell your sisters that you're writing a book. It'll just upset them. And don't publish it under your own name, that way they'll never know. They're still mad that you called them "pigs" in that story you wrote in the first grade.
me: Somehow I'm not surprised. And my stories are going to be a mixture of fact and fiction. I'd call it "faction" if that weren't already a word. And "fict" just sounds like a swear word with a French accent.
mom: Just be nice to your sisters. You write bad things about them and they won't speak to you after I die. I want to know that you kids will stay friends.
me: I promise I'll be nice to my sisters.
mom: They know what you call them in your journal. That's no so nice.
me: "Ditz", "Hippy" and "Boob Job" are perfect descriptions of them. I call them that to their faces.
mom: But not to strangers. Just be nice.
me: And don't put my real name to it.
mom: Yes. That way if people say, "This sounds like Natalie" I can say, "Yes I guess it does. Maybe Natalie should get in touch with this person who wrote this book, this other person that's not Natalie."
me: Yep, that'll be pretty convincing. And when you loan the book out you can say, "Here's a good book that Natalie didn't write under a pseudonym."
mom: Don't be smart.
me: Okay. How dumb would you like me to be? Slightly dumb or extremely dumb?
mom: Don't give me any lip, missy.
dad: You two, play nice.
me: She started it.
dad: Well I'll finish it.
me: Sorry, dad.
mom: Him you listen to, me you sass. Remember, I brought you into this world, I can take you out of it.
me: I love our mother-daughter time. It's good for reminding me why I'm a neurotic.
mom: You're neurotic because you let yourself be. That's why you could never make it in criminology.

Post-nasal drip-ingly,


Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Because I am sick I am dripping from every orifice in my head, and when it lands it sizzles like on Aliens. I feel like I should post something but am in no fit state to write anything. Since I am an uncreative hack I've pulled the following thing - it was originally one of those email things that went around last year where a friend emails it to you and everyone in their address book, then you reply to everyone on the list and include everyone in your address book, ad infinitum; the point being, presumably, to introduce your friends to each other and, I don't know, get to know your friend's friend's. I hate these because they usually become an exercise in seeing who can out-obscure each other in the music and books department. I, on the other hand, used it to farm for email addresses that were nicknamed things like "Dad at work" and "Pastor William". I would then make sure those addresses were placed in my address book under "Dirty Jokes List". Anytime I got a dirty joke or picture in my email, dad at work and the good pastor would have it sent to them as well.

The funniest thing is that most of the time these strangers emailed me back to tell me that they liked the jokes. Crazy.

Anyway, this is my response to one of those things. Yes, I'm being lazy but I prefer to call it "recycling". Feel free to grab the form and start it going around again, either in email or on your blog. I promise, I won't send any dirty jokes to your grandma Kate (but I bet she'd like one).




Exactly where it is - on an alien lunar launch pad located in Vector 6.12-59 in the subsection of Galaxy Macrosan. I like it here, the rain falls upside down and there's a never-ending supply of haddock.

My toga for formal occasions, my fig leaves if I'm going casual.

BOOBS! No, wait, that's not right...hang on a second, shoot, what is it? Oh, yeah - it's boobs. Big old droopy man boobs, yeah baby!

An inspirational self-help book on cd to deal with my emotional baggage - it's called, "Daddy Drinks Because You Cry - Continuing the Abuse of Your Inner Child"

In the ripped-open carcass of a freshly killed caribou, trying to stave off death from exposure by urinating on myself for warmth. (I usually refer to it as "Minnesota")

Too far away from my beloved caribou.

The knobby bit on the underside of the webbing of my toes, you know that part? That feels FANTASTIC! The doctors want to remove it - they think they're so smart throwing around words like, "malignant" and "abnormality" but I like my knob. I call it Gregory and he gets angry if you stare. At least, I think it's anger he's expressing - when it starts throbbing and glowing green? Sure looks like anger to me!

I like a person who's strong in strength - that's always refreshing.

I do not understand the ways of your people - what is this "morning" you speak of?

I like that one show, it's on all the time, you know where they make up stories about places outside of America? Gosh those guys have great imaginations...the big storyline now is about this place called "Afghanistan" where people ride camels and hide in caves and's pretty amazing. How do they come up with this stuff? I can't wait for sweeps week, I heard that George Clooney is going to make a special appearance - do I smell a new love interest? Tune in and find out!

My mechanical bull. Who needs a mixer when you have a mechanical bull?

Any that don't come out during regression therapy. At least, none of those that require more electro-shock treatment.

Things that are funny. Weird, huh?

When people get in my face, trying to find out what makes me angry just to antagonize me. Just back off, okay!

Probably an instrument of torture. Or the triangle because it's an instrument AND a shape - I respect the triangle's diverse nature. Don't let anyone label you, triangle - stay strong!

The ones that don't kick me out for not wearing pants - so I guess, none.

Probably Patrick Swayze because we both have really huge cleft chins. And we both look like crap in drag.

I believe in afterdeath.

"Consolidating Debt for Dummies"

I really like paprika but have been surprised by my blooming passion for coriander, the sexy little beast!

Scraping the barnacles off the toilet seat.

I would speak in binary code. But I would hope that I didn't meet someone else who spoke binary code because I don't really have an ear for foreign languages - we'd have to communicate by writing messages on a white board or something, and I just don't have that kind of time.

My tattoo is the little guy on Fantasy Island who would say, "Da plane, da plane!" at the start of every show. I think his name was Eric.

I had a whirlwind romance ending in heartbreak with Captain Kangaroo at the tender age of four - we just wanted different things out of life, you know? He wanted his show to go into syndication...I was interested in boogers and eating paste. But I'll always have memories, sweet memories of pooping behind the sandbox. (That last part has nothing to do with love, I'm just fond of that particular memory - does it count as a memory if it happened today?)

The song that makes the whole world sing - I can't remember if that's the Coke song or the song that doesn't end.

Prefer them what? Boiled, fried...? Was this question cut off or something?

Joey "Loose Lips" Cabronne - but don't tell the Boss, as I didn't get his permission to whack the guy.

The certain individual who also received a picture attachment of themselves with a certain unnamed politician in a certain compromising position - you know who you are!

The FBI - they never come when you need them, but when you make just ONE threatening gesture toward a visiting foreign dignitary and they're all over you like white on rice.

The day I mooned the Pulitzer Prize winner and poet laureate, Maya Angelou.


Monday, January 27, 2003

Okay, the Dilly Awards page has been updated if you care to take a gander. I'm finding some seriously cool blogs because of the links people are sending in - blogs that are quickly becoming regular reads. I think when this is all over with some of them will find a permanent place in my blogroll but I don't want to do that yet in case any voters view it as an endorsement.

Notable changes include a revised form with categories and now you don't have to input your email or your blog or name or anything - totally anonymous. I've decided that the anonymity factor was more important than having your contact details in the event of a problem. When the time comes I'm sure you'll let me know if there was anything wrong with your submission.

Just go on and check it out, give me your nominee, nominate as many people/times as you'd like...just do it for the pickle, you know you wanna.



Okay, Super Bowl...Superbowl...SuperBowl...whatever.

We watched the half-time show and I was severely embarrassed for Sting. I'm sincerely hoping that the duet was impromptu - in my world, Sting would never have agreed to such a disaster. It was as bad as, I don't know, Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow? No, worse than that. Natalie Cole and her dead father? No, worse still. Liza and anyone? Now we're getting warmer.

Honestly, I couldn't watch it; I had to avert my eyes. It gave me gooseflesh. Even Zoe said, "What's wrong with Ding?" (She loves Sting - she says, "Mommy, play 'If I ever ooze my face'!!" Alternate lyrics include "lose my face" and "ooze my place".) Samantha, who is currently in a heated debate with her best friend over who is the bigger talent, Sting or Prince, groaned and said, "I'll be getting some grief over him tomorrow." Not for his performance, just that he shared the stage with Gwen Stefani.

What's up with her, anyway, with that 1950s Hollywood Leading Lady hair? Isn't she married to that guy Gavin from the band Bush? Now, he has some nice hair - he should have given her some tips.

I'm tired and can't sleep. I thought I had something really important to do and it was nagging at the corner of my consciousness but now I'm up and can't think of what it was. I'm going to make some changes to the Dilly Awards, most notably that if you've already won one you can still be nominated again since there's like a prize an' stuff. And I'm going to change the submission form to include categories - pretty much every submission I've received this far falls into a couple of the same categories, like funniest, best layout, best overall content, best political...that type of thing. As more submissions come in the categories will expand, obviously, but there's no sense in making this bigger than it is yet.

I may hop around now to see if I can find video clips of any of the commercials I missed - I was so out-of-it tonight that Andy changed the channel to some true crime program and I said, "This is the worst Super Bowl commercial I've ever seen!" I'm glad I missed the pre-game show, Dave Barry said on his blog tonight: "I don't know about you, but to me there's just something about tuba players gyrating their tubas to 'Black Magic Woman' that really shouts 'Super Bowl.' "

Really sorry I missed that. If I had seen it, at least then I'd have something to blame for my sudden insomnia. I can't complain, though, as in around three hours Andy will be getting up to catch a plane. He said he was going to Kokomo, IN, and without thinking I told him that there was also a place in the Bahamas called Kokomo. I nearly made him cry after the day of cold he'd had, just mentioning somewhere warm. Poor guy.

Wow, this post is putting me to sleep! (All together now..."You and me both, lady!") I think I'll go lie down after all, those commercials can wait.



Sunday, January 26, 2003

Football, schmootball.



The day started out the same as any other Sunday, filled with good intentions but lacking motivation. I dragged my butt into the shower at eleven and grabbed some grubby clothes to wear while cleaning the house. The pants, no problem - the shirt...well, I grabbed what I thought was an old sage green thing that I don't wear in public anymore (um...sage?) so I wouldn't mind it getting bleach and general yuck splashed on the thing. A quick glance in the mirror revealed something so horrifying, so puzzling, so disgusting that I had to avert my eyes before it all became too much and I spewed my tea all over the place. It's almost too much to even type.

I saw bears. On my shirt. Happy, warm little fuzzy teddy bears. Two of them, having a picnic in a field of sunflowers and marigolds, beatific smiles adorning their furry little faces. A bluebird is perched on a length of wooden fencing, presumably singing its' little bluebird heart out for the audience of bears nearby. An inchworm. A bushy-tailed squirrel. A watering can. Sandwich triangles with the crusts removed. A dancing mouse, complete with top hat and cane. And is that?...oh god, I think it's a bumble bee hovering around a glass of lemonade. It's truly a sight to behold.

How did this shirt come to be in my closet? How could this have happened? I wouldn't have bought it myself, not in the ever ever, and I don't even know any teddy-bear shirt people who could have possibly left this at my house.

My mother is slowly approaching the chasm of being a teddy-bear shirt person but she hasn't reached it yet. She's an Old Navy woman. My whole family are Old Navy people. I am not an Old Navy person. If K-Mart were a flaming homosexual it would be Old Navy - that's how I look at it. Old Navy wouldn't sell this shirt - I don't know of anywhere that would sell this shirt.

Is Andy playing a joke on me, perhaps? Did this shirt come in a Bag O' Rags that they sell at the hardware store? No, that couldn't be the case; those are usually ripped into squares. Is it maybe Sam's shirt? We share shirts, maybe it's hers. But no, she looked upon the happy bear scene with just as much shock as I.

In times of crisis such as these I have to rely on Occam's trusty razor...the simplest explanation is probably the right one. So what's the simplest explanation? Ah, of course - there's a portal to another dimension in my closet. In a parallel universe there's another me who wears such shirts as this. Somehow the laundry fell through one of these swiss cheese holes into my closet. That must be it, because a shirt like this shouldn't even exist in this dimension.

So I say to you, my other-dimension Natalie: I'm doing you a favor by keeping this shirt. In my world, it is a working shirt, something to become filthy, splashed with bleach and covered in cobwebs. In your world you wore this thing out in public. I can't let you do that, other-dimension Natalie - it's not fair to you and it's certainly not fair to your family. Do not fret over the absense of this shirt from your other-dimension closet. While you're looking through your clothes, asking, "Now where is my shirt with those happy little teddies on the front?" I can guarantee you that your other-dimension Andy is secretly glad it's gone. Just do me a favor and make sure none of your other-dimension clothes find their way into my this-dimension closet, okay? The hand of charity can only be extended so far - I can't keep doing this for you, it's too damaging.



Saturday, January 25, 2003

Wow. Have I had some massive interest in the Dilly Awards.

Just a brief note here to say that I'm doing this thang for real here. If you pick up the image below please give a link to this site with it. Spread the love, spread the pickle.

Thanks to Simon for the button. If you've won it, wear it with pride, folks.

More info to come later - check out the link and let me know what you think.



Friday, January 24, 2003

All together now: What do we want? DILLIES! When do we want them? IN A TIMELY MANNER AS PROMISED YESTERDAY! What will we do if we don't get them? READ A DIFFERENT BLOG. How will that make me feel? UNLOVED AND REJECTED, FEELINGS OF WHICH YOU'LL LATER PROJECT ONTO YOUR OWN FAMILY.

We can't have that, now can we?

So yes, the First Annual Dilly Awards are here. You don't win any prizes and there's no real reason for them other than the fact that I can, I'm bored, so I will. I'm using it as a showcase for my little loves here in case you haven't paid my links much attention - each one is dillier than the one before it. It's sort of, "If you like me, you'll love * fill in the blank* ". Everyone thinks their links are the best, don't they? Let the Dilly Day be a day when we break away from our arrogance and check out some of the links on other people's blogs and find some new loves. Okay? Okay.

Without further ado, let me generously bestow upon you your Dilly - these are in no particular order, this just happened to be the order in which they were randomly generated by my team of Award Monkeys whose duty it is to cull the internet looking for people to, I don't know, honor or something.

It's a Family Affair

This Dilly goes to Mike and Angela McBride. As I've mentioned before, they are an absolutely adorable married couple who maintain separate blogs yet visit each other regularly (and they get Angela's mother in on the action) and also posts the link to Angela's brother's blog. Mike maintains another blog which is devoted to surviving child abuse and donates half of the money from his department store and Amazon affiliate links to Prevent Child Abuse America. Mike's a real shoot from the hip kind of guy when talking about general tech stupidity and can be painfully honest when discussing his struggles. Angela's like a rock of support and a generally no-nonsense kind of gal, but in a very fun, "Can't you see the stupidity of this?" kind of way. With so much of their lives being readily available you really feel like you know them. It's like watching The Osbournes, except without all of the cussing.

What is This Guy On?

This Dilly is given to Phil for his bizarre writing of all things other-worldly and just plain old weird. At first I thought his site was tongue-in-cheek but soon realized that he's a true believer. I bet he'd get along with my mother - that right there is cause for alarm. You can never know exactly where you stand with him because out of nowhere he'll steer the conversation toward something completely off-the-wall, like pasta or geese. I spend half of my time playing catch-up.

Sean Hegarty can also claim this award for his whacked, off-the-wall commentary on "Sonata For Unfinished Yelling." It simply defies explanation. He's currently trying to maintain his New Year's Resolution of not invading Samoa while he's broken his resolution to stop eating bananas because they make him angry and paranoid. You know how some people write funny stuff just to be outrageous? He's not one of them. I think the line between reality and fantasy are horribly blurred in this man's mind.

You're So Much Smarter Than Me
or What Does That Word Mean?

This Dilly is given to both Artichoke Heart and Joel Sax - one real dyke and one honorary dyke, both literate as hell. Joel's wife kind of scares me in the way that I feel like I could have my ass kicked online by her if she so chose - she's one scary-smart dame, as is AH. I'm not afraid so much of AH because she's very gentle and I'm pretty sure I'm bigger than she is. Joel is a bit of a pussycat until he gets pissed, but thankfully he's never directed his wrath towards me. Yes, I am seriously intimidated by overly-smart people.

Anytime I notice that AH or Joel has updated their blog I open a new window and hit the online dictionary because I know I'm going to need it. They can twist your mind in totally new directions without even trying and leave you with a whole new set of ideas to consider. I'm no slouch in the vocabulary department but they both consistently use words that I've never heard of and weave their magic around them and oftentimes leave you speechless. This is high art, folks; often imitated, never duplicated.

The first time I read AH I laughed so hard I cried. The first time I read Joel I cried so hard I laughed. Enjoy your Dillies, you've earned them.

Bitch Forgot Her Kava Kava

Why do I like bitches? Maybe because I can relate to them, I don't know. Four (yes, that's four) Dillies are awarded in this category. Cower in fear of these women cuz they'll mess you up.

First up is my very favorite bitch of all time, mopsa. When I first started reading her I was in awe of how pissed off she could get - I was impressed. But it's not just the pissed-off thing; she doesn't come across as a generally unhappy person or anything, and I don't believe she is, but it's the way she can deconstruct the events that have pissed her off and make sense of it. It's none of this, "Ooh, I hate that!", rather, it's more like, "Everyone else is stupid, now let me tell you why." And she does. It's a teaching exercise and I'm proud to say that I'm much more aware of my own ass-holiness than I was before. Not that I'm going to change, but hey, awareness is a good thing.

Then there's melly. I've sat here for a good five minutes just looking at her name. All together now: "How do you solve a problem like melissa..." She goes backward when everyone else is going forward, and by the time you catch on and go backward as well she changes it up on you and goes sideways instead. That sentence makes more sense than you probably think.

And Nicole. She wears her bitchiness like a badge, even stating, "There's only space in this room for one bitch, and that's me" as her personal motto. She used to work with Andy and when I first noted her presence online and asked him about her he said, "She's a real bitch, I think you two would get along. You're a lot alike." I took that as a compliment then and I'm sure Nicole will take it as a compliment now.

Which only leaves Leandra. Andy knew her way back in the day and remembers her fondly as being "sweet". I thought, "Great, she's some sickly sweet do-gooder who's going to make me want to puke." Uh, can we say Bitch Master? From the first time I talked to her I knew, "This ain't the little girl Andy once knew." She's on a one-woman crusade to straighten up the educational system in the Isle of Man and damn if I don't doubt that she'll succeed - she's already won a battle with the local government over the quality of her water supply and forced their hand to provide her with safe, bottled water during her pregnancy. She was in the armed services, if that gives you any indication, and she's married to a law officer but I'd be willing to bet he's probably a little bit afraid of her.

Why Can't I Be You

This goes to MJ for having the single most enviable life on the planet. It doesn't seem like she has any obligation to anything - her days are spent having fun online (why bother with doing anything useful? I want to play games!) and her nights are spent living this devil-may-care lifestyle full of parties and fun. I want her car. I want her house. If I can't have that, I'll settle for her being my sugar daddy.

Another person with a rather enviable lifestyle is Hugh. When he's not busy luxuriating he can be found writing fierce little snippets blasting pretty much anyone or anything that doesn't fit into his Hughdom. But in a fun way. Or he's telling stories about this designer or that famous person that he used to know back in his Studio 54 days...or he's writing a play...or he's creating some very serious cutting-edge art...he just basically sits around all day being creative and fashionable and I hate him for that.

Cream of Everything Soup

John Conners is the original comfort food. Andy had been keeping a journal of sorts for quite some time but it was John who introduced us into the whole "scene" and he's my one "steady away" read. He has this great knack for taking a seemingly mundane task and writing about it in a way that makes you go, "I never thought of it that way." And he's unapologetic - if a bit sanitized - in his writing. He doesn't try to shock you; he's more like, "Hey, can I get you a cup of tea?" He's my favorite cozy sweater.

Daisyhead is another comfort food. She has her life mapped out and is staying the course, steady as she goes, though there are some turbulent waters ahead with the new baby coming. It's refreshing to read about another person's journey into motherhood. She's a vanilla scented candle.

The Alumnus Among Us

Man, I don't even want to touch this with a barge pole - my own education experiences have left me feeling a cold shudder when I consider them, but Irish-Girl and Tribal Night are doing that school thang. It's interesting to read them one after another - TN is just starting out, finding her feet, being all groovy and artistic while IG is established in her own art, finding her niche and making the big decision on where to go from here. Literally, "from here" as she's a local gal (as are mopsa and Scott, come to think of it...Ian's moved/moving away but you can count him in the local section) and her sites are set on Oregon. Reading her blog puts me in a very, "Now spread your wings, you can do it" frame of mind, very "seize the day", very "I'd love to be able to do that but I can't so I'll mask my jealousy by pretending to be too world-weary for my own good." Yeah, so I'm full of crap, so what.

I know that I'm missing a couple of them off but I really can't sit here any longer - and I'm not quite sure where they all fit in? Scott is a Smells Like Coffee because in the middle of all of his personal (sometimes very personal) entries he kindly throws in reviews of places he's dined, which would be a useful guide for me if I ever actually went out, but in the meantime I live vicariously through him. Mike isn't quite "What Is This Guy On?", he's more like or A Little Bit Off. Check out his photographs, you'll see what I mean. Ian and Daddy are more like Steady As She Goes and they're both in the process of moving across country - I could come up with better stuff, clever stuff, but my butt really hurts.

Oh, and the non-link Dilly - I almost forgot. The Wonder Down Under goes to Fiona, one of my favorite visitors. She caused quite a stir back when she first arrived because she posted as "The Girl" without putting in her email addy or a blog url, so I thought someone was jacking with me. Andy informed me that it was an Australian IP address that was being posted from and then The Girl revealed herself to be Fiona. "Wait a minute, Natalie, I thought you said that this was to encourage us to check out other people's links and stuff - what gives? This chick doesn't even have a blog." Very observant of you, I'm glad you've been paying attention. That's true, she doesn't have a blog, but hopefully this will encourage her to sart one. See? "Ahhh, I get it." Thought you might.

What would this whole award thing be without mentioning my favorite blog of them all, Andy! Unfortunately, he's been disqualified from getting an award because of some scandal involving sleeping with the judge - I don't know all the details but it sounds a bit dodgy to me.

So there you have it, The Dilly Awards, a day late. It's just my little way of saying, "Hey, you. Nice work. Thanks."



So how about this - around six this morning my stupid neighbor (this is the good one; at least, he used to be the good neighbor until today) starts his car with his stupid little remote car starter, which doesn't even make any damn sense to own because he has a freaking garage but he never parks his stupid car in there...okay, Natalie, calm down...okay. He starts his car and thrash metal starts blaring out of it, right by my bedroom window. Now, I can dig on the thrash metal as much as the next guy but not at six in the morning. What's worse even than this is that I look out my kitchen window (I was standing in the dark, watching his house like a freak - don't worry, Andy already busted me) and I see lights going off and on through his house but does he pop out to turn down his radio? No. If you have a remote car starter please at least have the decency of getting something similar for your car stereo, or at the very least turn the damn thing down when you get out of your car at night.

I hate him now. I never really minded him much, though I wondered why he was living in a house the size of ours when he's just a single guy. He's also a freak about his lawn; he was watering and mowing as late as two weeks ago. Meanwhile, we haven't even raked up our leaves from last fall...or from the fall previous. Eh, it'll decompose, who cares.

As if this isn't bad enough, Sam's going on a school trip today to go see that kangaroo movie with a group from school. She informs me last night that she "can't remember" if I'm meant to drop her off at "the elementary school, the middle school or the high school" at "nine or nine-thirty...maybe it's eight-thirty". Does she have a note from the school telling her which it is? No. Since she's "all grown up" and nearly ten now the school has trusted her to remember these details and announced them over the intercom yesterday, but as Sam said, "They were all mumbly - I couldn't figure them out."

This means I have the joy of getting three kids ready and driving all over town to these three schools until I figure out which one is the right one, but I might be early (or late) so I won't know for sure if I've picked the right school or not unless I scout them all multiple times until I see other kids or buses.

Have I mentioned how fecking freezing it is outside? Yeah, there's that, too.

AND I have something purple and sticky on the side of my finger. Don't know what it is, where it came from, or why I can't manage to wash it off. Mystery purple sticky, first thing in the morning. What the hell?

I'm sure later in the day this won't seem like such a big deal to me but for now I'm seriously pissed off. I think I'll go take it out on my neighbor...he's in his mid-thirties and still listens to Slayer so he should be expecting to get some grief thrown his way every now and again.



Thursday, January 23, 2003

Today marks two annual events, one new and one that's been around for a couple of years now. The first one is the third birthday of The Bean, that lovely little monster who lives down the hall. Yes, three years ago today, three years ago this very minute I was slowly recovering from the worst birthing experience imaginable. That was her way of letting me know that she was going to become the hell on wheels that she is today - it can never be said that I wasn't warned.

Happy birthday, Beanie Mareno. I love you, even if you do make my ass tired.

The second event is new - you may have noticed that none of my lovely friends on here (and by "friends" I mean people I link to) have been nominated for a Bloggy, which is unfortunate because some of you guys really are stars. I think we've all been ignored because The Man wants to keep us down - he knows it's the only way to keep us in check. So I say damn The Man, fight the power. Let them eat pickles.

Which brings me to (drumroll, please) The First Annual Dilly Awards (and the crowd goes wild!). The rules are simple - if I like you, I give you a Dilly and say some nice things about you. Does any of this matter? No, not really. Do you get a prize? Just my love and affection, which can be melted down to make any number of unique and beautiful jewelry items. (Think of the Blackadder episode where they're trying their hand at alchemy and Percy presents Blackadder with a lovely lump of green rather than gold. That's the quality we're talking here.) Since I slept on the couch last night - Andy took a tumble after hitting his knee on the coffee table and I thought it best to let him have the bed to himself - I am tired and sore, so only those of you who I link to are getting awards, with one exception to be revealed later.

Speaking of Andy's poor knees, here's some history - he shattered both of his kneecaps playing, what, rugby, I think? Most likely he was playing soccer but I think his major injuries came from rugby. Anyway, they're both busted and were never properly set to heal, which means they always hurt him. So of course, in some cosmic twist of fate, his kneecaps have become magnets for blunt-force trauma. Seriously, he is always hitting them on something. One day that I remember quite well (because I am sadistic) was when he was working on setting up the dvd player in the basement room for the kids, which was a difficult task because it involved him rigging some wires this way and that. He finished it and declared, "I am a genius!" - I'm cracking up just thinking about this, picture it with me - he said "genius" as "genie ass", by the way - so there's this tall, stately-looking man declaring his victory, "I am a genie ass!" with his fists in the air when he turns to go back upstairs. THWACK goes his knee into the corner of the door and he goes flying across the room. He was airborn for a few seconds and landed on his back right at my feet, rolling around like a turtle on its' shell. I - just - lost - it. Funniest damn thing I've ever seen in my life.

Of course, I thought he was faking - it was all timed too perfectly - and felt like a real ass when I realized he really was hurt, but for that brief moment I thought he was the greatest slapstick comedy genius of all time. No, not genius...genie ass.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes - the Dilly Awards. I was actually thinking of doing something like this around Thanksgiving, like the whole, "I am thankful for the following people for providing a seemingly endless source of entertainment" blah blah blah but since I am Native American I decided it would be an affront to my native people and the rich culture that was so brutally stolen from us by the White Man. Okay, so not really, I was just lazy.

So sit back, grab a cup of tea, and wait for the Dilly. That will come in the next post - I don't know when the next post will be, though. I think I'm going to give myself an award for being the "most flighty".



PS - One thing I do have to mention is that I think pickle juice underwear should have been nominated for a Bloggy for the coolest blog-related merchandise. They have no sense of humor over there, I swear.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

So this isn't a real entry, but anyway - for all of you who subscribe to Reader's Digest check out page 23 under "Grass Roots". See that guy there, Chad Pregracke? I went out with him a couple of times in high school but ditched him because he was too much of a tree-hugger. His goal is to clean up crap out of rivers and the grand old Mississippi (the love of my life) remains a huge focus - sure, it's a noble cause, but a lousy date. Anyway.

For anyone who doesn't subscribe (and I really don't blame you if you don't) let me share with you the first line of this story: "'That's tight, dawg,' says Chad Pregracke, admiring the goose decoy his shipmate pulled out of the Ohio River." It's nice to see that Peter Pan is alive and kicking in Chad - the guy's 28, for crying out loud. Dawg. Honestly.

Congrats, Chad - hope this fosters a greater public interest in your cause and pulls in more donations. (Though I have to say that I'm disappointed that he still uses the word, "Dude". It was with him when I first said the phrase, "Look, don't 'dude' me, okay?")



Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Now try telling me you're not in love, I just dare you.



Monday, January 20, 2003

Missed me, missed me - now ya gotta kiss me.

Yeah, I guess I'm back (I think). I'm still in the process of having some home-truths slapped down on my white ass, but I'm adjusting. I just came back from visiting my mother - which wasn't emotionally draining in the slightest, thank you very much - and have, like, stuff to say an' stuff, but not tonight. I'm still processing the whole drive home, which I somehow managed in around six and a half hours when it usually takes me an hour longer than that. Oh Iowa, behold Iowa, how I loathe thee! I must have hit a snag in the time-space continuum (or space-time continuum, depending on how you were schooled...I don't judge) that sucked me through an hour earlier than anticipated. And for that, I'm eternally grateful to whatever Powers That Be.

Iowa sucks, plain and simple, but there are sources of amusement to be found. Iowegians, as they're know to us in Minnesota and Illinois, are a notoriously funny people and prone to erecting billboards on the least-travelled roads of the state. I take one such road and tonight was blessed with both, "Politicians take note: HOGS DON'T VOTE" as well as "Our dogs shoot back." For as much NPR as I listen to, I can't remember either of these points being made an issue of in the last...well, in the last ever, really. But they're fun little signs, no?

At any rate, I'm still decompressing but wanted to give it the old "Hi, how ya doing, you're super, have a nice summer" thing. To everyone who sent emails and left messages to me I say "thank you" (to mopsa especially - you truly are a gem, lady) and to all of those who didn't get in touch I give you my customary, "Go boil yer heads." For all you know, my last post was written with Andy holding a gun to my head - maybe he wanted me to stop, maybe I was forced to leave my beloved pickle juice for a week (a week!!!) under distress, but did you take the time to find out? Noooo. So screw you, go eat fish heads.

And on that friendly note I'm off to sleep. Love you, missed you, hoped you missed me too...if you set it free and it comes back, it's yours forever but if it doesn't it never was. Oh, how I love pj, I realize this now.

There's a real post to come later but for now - good night.



Tuesday, January 14, 2003

I'm taking a break. Said all I need to say for now.

Monday, January 13, 2003

(It may be a bit heavy for a Monday morning but I woke up with this on my mind - it wanted to be written.)

Kurt has a black BMW and a huge wad of cash. I don't know for certain how he got either but I have a sneaking suspicion. We're driving along the river, summer traffic quickly becoming small dots in the rearview mirror, and he's scowling at the Martin Lawrence tape he has playing. He looks like a pissed-off six-year-old but he thinks he looks intimidating. We're listening to the comedian talk about nothing in particular when Kurt suddenly hits the power button, plunging us into silence and says, "He doesn't get it. That's not even the fucking point." I wasn't paying enough attention to the stand-up to offer a comment and have become too lazy in the summer sun to even hazard a guess as to what was so anger-inspiring about the comedy so I sit back and let the vibration of the engine massage my back. The quiet seems too pregnant to me so I begin telling Kurt stories - stories about me, about my life, and he laughs readily, but too long and too loud and at all the wrong things so I quickly tire of this and we fall back into silent cruising. Back and forth by the river we drive until I have every business, every picnic spot, memorized. He's playing with the transmission, seeing how quickly he can slip in and out of gear like he's trying to sneak one past. I know what's going to happen even before I see the blue smoke - we're driving too fast for games like this, especially when they're being played by a guy who should never have had a BMW in the first place.

He doesn't curse when the engine goes, he just scowls again as we pull over as far as we can on the narrow stretch of road. Happy river people wearing cut-off jeans pass us in their beat up Chevy pick-up trucks, laughing at us with poorly-disguised jealousy, trying to pretend that a dead BMW isn't better than a running Chevy any day, and I stretch out on the grass, unembarrassed. I don't hear Kurt call for a tow-truck but he must have done because one arrives rather quickly. He reaches into the car and grabs a handful of loose cash that I wish I'd have noticed and thrusts some at the driver, still looking like a child. The driver seems confused - maybe at Kurt's lack of anger, or maybe his lack of interest at what garage the car is being towed to; who knows with Kurt. He doesn't get into the truck with the driver; instead, we begin to walk up the hill to the school as the crippled car is pulled away.

My sister is there, it seems like she's always there, standing in the parking lot with a chunk of chicken sandwich in her hand, waving it wildly to punctuate her anger. She's complaining about the small food allowance my father's given her but I can't feel too sorry for her about that. I remember my own days here and my own allowance and know that she's raking in five times more than I did. Still, to her, that's not enough. Kurt looks away, silently studying the passing students, as she tells us about her friends who have ditched her to start their own religion. She's at that age where she knows everything, and everything is true. I don't want to be there when the novelty of that ideal wears off. I blankly stare at her, knowing that my presence is incidental, knowing that I can do anything right now and she wouldn't even notice. I have the urge to say bad things, to mutter racial slurs or to flash my breasts but I know that won't deter her from her verbal tirade. I notice that she's stopped waving the sandwich and assume she's finished speaking but I realize I have absolutely nothing to say to her. That's fine, though, as she's now wearing the same face as Kurt, only she's looking in the direction of a car full of girls that's just turned in to the parking lot. The cult, I guess, has come back to school. I can see the internal struggle all over her face - she wants to run to them but wants them to pay for leaving her, for devaluing her like that. I can't watch this so I turn and walk away without saying good-bye.

As Kurt and I walk I again tell him stories about me, painful stories, and nearly choke on the bitterness. This time he doesn't laugh and I'm grateful. I know I need to go see my father but I don't want Kurt to come along. I'm terrible at ditching people politely so I simply blurt out, "see ya" and abruptly turn the other direction.

When you walk for too long, especially in the mood I'm in, it can take on a life of its own. The thud, thud, thud of your footsteps, the sound of the cars whizzing by, passengers occasionally shouting at you, words stolen by the wind, the thoughts jumbling about in your head all take on a new meaning when you're walking alone. If you think about it for too long you come to realize that there's always a part of you that's walking, forever walking, no matter how restful you may be.

Too soon I reach my father's house, the house where I was raised. I see that he hasn't been out to collect the mail in many days so I grab at the spilling correspondence. I know without looking that it will be a bunch of junk - no one writes to him and the bank has long since taken over paying his bills from an allowance I've set up for him. Hanging on the door is a thick monstrosity that at first I think is a phone book, but it's around three times thicker than the phone books in this area usually are. It is, in fact, a phone book, a special large-print version that I'd ordered for him months ago. It's heavy, and for some reason it's packaged in a plastic folder. That's probably a good idea, I decide - since it's the large-print version the publisher could reasonably assume it's for an elderly person, an elderly person who may be prone to knocking over glasses and spilling drinks. I feel a flash of hatred for the bastard that made this connection - it seems like he's peering into my father's life and I'm angry for the intrusion.

I step inside the house and see my father standing in front of the window, just as he had done the last time I left. For one insane moment it occurs to me that he hasn't moved since then but of course he has - it's been days since I've seen him. The house smells faintly antiseptic and I know the nurses have been in - he's alone now, has been for years, and while I'd feel better if he lived in the safety of a nursing home I know that this is a selfish desire so I've never voiced my feelings on the matter.

He greets me with a confused look and asks, "Did you let the cat out?" There are more question marks in that statement than I'm comfortable with, like he knows there's something wrong with what he said but can't put his finger on exactly what word should be different. In fact, the whole statement is nonsense, as he doesn't own a cat, but I reply with a silent nod of my head. His confused look passes and is replaced with a megawatt smile as he spies my bundle. Eagerly, like a child at a birthday party, he scoops the mail and phone book from my hands and settles down at the table to look through everything. I smell tomato juice on his breath, the most forbidden of all the juices, and ask him if he's been drinking it. He replies with a sheepish grin, an admission he would have afforded no one but me. He knows I won't admonish him for drinking it, not like my other sisters. Had it been anyone else who discovered this little indiscretion, father would have been treated to a lecture about the evils of tomato juice and would have suffered the greater indignity of having his cabinets rifled through until the juice was found and summarily dumped into the sink. All I do is raise an eyebrow at him and make a mental note to warn the nurse of the cause of the impending stomach ache.

We look through the mail together and he grows increasingly pleased at every pizza coupon he finds. He hasn't had pizza in years and never really enjoyed it when he was able to eat it but now it's come to symbolize something else, something before, and I don't have the heart to stop his trembling hands from carefully tearing out the promising coupons. He reads through every ad, every work-at-home offer, and every notice of college-recruitment fairs that have been inappropriately sent to a man whose days are spent waiting to die. He mistakenly reads an email address as "Mitedu" and comments that he's never heard of that school. I shrug.

I tell him that I'd been to visit my sister at school and again the smile returns. He loves hearing stories about the sisters as if they're some long-forgotten friends. Some days he reacts like they're in some prison somewhere and my mentioning them makes him feel guilty about not visiting them so his penance is to bleed out every detail I can provide. This, in turn, makes me feel guilty, as I don't visit him as often as they do but that point only seems to matter to one person in the room. He's simply happy to have me here but his gratitude at being remembered sits like a stone in my stomach. I never wanted him to feel this way - he views attention as a special treat, I view it as deserved.

As I'm telling him stories about my sisters, wildly embellished stories meant to entertain him, he's slowly dismantling the phone book, liberating it from the plastic sheath. I gently suggest that perhaps the cover was meant to be on the phone book and again he's delighted. How clever, he exclaims, how thoughtful. I shudder.

Maybe it's better for him like this, I think. Maybe this is his reward for suffering so much in his life. Alone but not lonely, pleased with pizza coupons, happy for the quiet, the quiet he so desperately craved all those years when his house was full of screaming children, then grandchildren. I imagine how giddy he must be when he's sneaking a glass of tomato juice, how he must relish the devilry of getting one over on us, just like we'd done to him so many times. A mind that's reverted back to the simplicity of a child's; maybe that's not so bad after all. Maybe if he had control of his faculties, he would pity me. And that makes me happy.



Sunday, January 12, 2003

After reading Artichoke Heart’s conversation with her cat, Yuki I was reminded that it’s been a while since I ripped off her idea. Ahem.

Conversation with Mother
or “Now you know why I am the way I am”

…On Christmas…

mom: You do know that my Christmas present was late, don’t you?
me: Yeah, I figured it would get there late, but I wanted to make sure it was finished and perfect before sending it.
mom: You could have started on it earlier, you know. Then it wouldn’t have been late.
me: You’re probably right. Did you like the clock?
[side note: my mother is extremely superstitious and believes that getting tiny clocks as gifts are helping to prolong her life. She’s guilted us into starting this collection for her and has said to me, “If you don’t get me a clock and I die, I don’t want you to think it’s your fault.” That’s how good she is. Hence, every year each sister buys her a miniature clock. Oh, and she has a thing about miniatures, too. Miniature everything – don’t ask me why.]
mom: Sure, the clock was nice, but it doesn’t really fit in with the rest of them. I asked for a clock shaped like an old-timey bicycle, what’s with the dragon?
me: It’s a Chinese dragon, for prosperity. I thought, you know, the clock gives you extra life and the dragon brings you prosperity while you’re living it. Two birds with one stone.
mom: But it’s so green.
me: Fine, you don’t like the clock? I’ll get you a different one. Or you can just go exchange it.
mom: Oh, I already did. I got the old-timey bicycle instead. That’s what I asked for to begin with.
me: Good, then everyone’s happy. Why didn’t one of the other girls get you the bicycle one?
mom: Because they bought me a grandfather clock instead.
me: (pause) They didn’t tell me they were doing that.
mom: Well, it was a miniature grandfather clock.
me: How small can it possibly be?
mom: Oh, it’s about the size of Andy, but that’s small for a grandfather clock.
me: (pause) No one told me they were chipping in for a grandfather clock.
mom: They probably thought you wouldn’t send your share of the payment down in time, I don’t know.
me: At any rate, we all got you your clock so I guess you’ll live another year.
mom: I’d be willing to bet that the grandfather clock bought me a few years worth of life, to tell you the truth. But your little dragon helped out, too.

…On bigotry…

mom: I’m so glad Ditz’s baby doesn’t look like a beaner.
me: (horrified) What did you just say?
mom: Beaner. You know, a spick. The baby doesn’t look like a wetback.
me: When did you start using words like that?!?
mom: Since I realized that I don’t like Mexicans.
me: No, you don’t like Ditz’s boyfriend – don’t you think it’s a little unfair to project those feelings onto a whole race of people?
mom: (with more than a little awe in her voice) No, the older I get, the more I realize that all Mexicans are lazy and worthless.
me: (with more than a little sarcasm in my voice) I hope to be that wise when I’m your age.
mom: Oh, come on, you’re bigoted, too! What about the Kennedy family, hmmm?
me: I’m a bigot against the Kennedy’s because they’re vulgar, not because they’re Irish. Whole different thing.
mom: So you’re not bigoted against anything at all. Oh, what a well-adjusted person you are.
me: Not true, I’m bigoted against pumpkin pie. That’s because the worst pumpkin pie I’ve ever had really isn’t that different from the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever had. Hence, I’m a bigot against pumpkin pie. Besides that, Ditz’s boyfriend has never even been to Mexico – the guy was born in Iowa.
mom: Still, he’s brown, isn’t he?

…On lesbians…

mom: By the way, your friend E* was back in town to visit her family. She stopped by to see me – she’s become a military lesbian.
me: A what? Do you mean a militant feminist?
mom: Whatever. She was wearing combat boots, at any rate. I thought she had a boyfriend with her until your father pointed out that it was just a bald woman. A bald, black woman. E* looked terrible, she was dressed badly. She looks like a homeless person. Very boxy.
me: She has style-aggression issues.
mom: All lesbians have style-aggression issues, that doesn’t mean they can’t put on a little make up and try to look pretty.
me: E* doesn’t want to look pretty, that’s the whole point.
mom: That just doesn’t make any sense; why would a nice girl like that not want to look pretty? At this rate she’s never going to get married.
me: Do you even listen to yourself when you speak?

…On terrorism…

mom: If you don’t stop driving your SUV then the terrorists have won.
me: If I concede that this is an interesting point do you promise to never, ever use that phrase again?
mom: I’m being serious, I saw a report on it…something about our dependence on foreign oil funding terrorists? Something like that.
me: Aren’t you even mildly sickened that people are using the word “terrorist” to further their own agendas? It’s like those, “These are the drugs that Dan bought, this is the dealer that sold him the drugs” commercials.
mom: No, this is legitimate, see, because SUV’s use so much gas…let me find the article…
me: Let me guess, the research was funded by the Alternative Energy Institute.
mom: Oh, so you read it, too?

…On being mentioned on pickle juice

mom: Just make sure you don’t make me sound like an idiot.
me: I’d never do anything but quote what you say.
mom: Thank you.



Friday, January 10, 2003

Jumping on the bandwagon...check out Friday Fishwrap if you need a fridge primer.

Our Fridge.

Andy took the picture and I'm a little peeved off that he cut off my pickle pocket there - one shelf in the door holds three (yes, that's three) jars of pickles with varying levels of juice. When they get low I throw in some vinegar, garlic and celery salt and mix it around again. I do this until the pickles become too disgusting to eat.

(And Andy, just because you've hidden the chorizo and tortillas that doesn't mean you're going to deter me from making enchiladas - you've escaped for tonight, but tomorrow...tomorrow you shall pay.)

Just looking at that intact four pack of Guinness is making me feel all woozy and neglectful - I'm off to crack one now.



And another little celeb-o-scoop that Andy reminded me of...Steve Burns from Blues Clues (who is not gay, by the way) has become a balding indie rock star weirdo. He's currently working on a project with a guy from the Flaming Lips.

I am not making this up.



(Note to Andy - this post contains a bunch of stuff about people you've never heard of - feel free to ignore it entirely.)

I have a really great computer downstairs that has fallen into a state of neglect since Nic's been born, for various reasons - most compelling being the temperature (it's freezing down there) and also because Andy's computer is upstairs, right in the thick of things. When Nic's asleep in my room I'm right here next door so I can hear him if he cries. I get downstairs on my own computer at most once a day to check my email - because of this, Andy wants to steal my flat-panel monitor and put it up here on his computer. I don't want him to do this but it will probably happen because I've pretty much taken over his computer - why suffer with this monitor? Ah, dilemmas!

I finally broke down and changed his homepage to my preference (with his blessing) and I realized that this is what I miss most about my computer - my page has all of my little news and noteworthy items (read: celebrity gossip) and today I've been going through the archives, catching up on all that's frivolous. Let's dish, shall we?

I feel so out of the loop - I didn't know Mariah Carey showed her yoo-hoo on my local television station, how did I miss that? I've followed her descent into madness like most people watch their 401(k)'s - she's like Blanche Du Bois in "A Streetcar Named Desire" except ever so much more tragic. Andy and I almost saw her in concert by accident one year during Gay Pride in Manchester. We went into the city and saw her on stage but thought she was a female impersonator - I should have guessed that things were going downhill for her then. Poor little creature.

Paul Reubens, aka Pee-Wee Herman, is in trouble again. ("You don't want to get mixed up with a guy like me. I'm a loner, Dottie - a rebel" - I loved that movie.) This time it wasn't because he showed his own yoo-hoo, as he's wont to do, but because of child pornography. Courtney Cox and David Arquette have spoken out in his defense, ("it's erotic art, not pornography, and it's kitschy") but all I have to say about that is this: If you're ever accused of doing something immoral, illegal, or just plain insane, never - I repeat never - have anyone from the Arquette family come to your defense. It does more harm than good, seriously.

What did I find most shocking about this story? The fact that Pee Wee Herman is fifty years old - can you believe that? Fifty. Time flies, huh?

I think that pedophilia is contagious - Jeffrey Jones (better known as Mr. Rooney from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off") is faced with some charges stemming from an incident involving a young boy and some lewd photos. Most shocking? He's fifty-six. I wouldn't have put him as being over, say, forty-five - he's certainly aged well.

What have I learned from this? I'm really bad at guessing people's ages.

So yeah, it's old news but it's new to me. There's also some scary stuff going on in North Korea but I didn't get a chance to read about it because I saw the link to Mr. Blackwell's Worst Dressed of 2002 list, and that's easily the highlight of my year right there.

Speaking of the list, I was happy to see that Christina Aguilera was mentioned - when did she become such a skank? I mean, she's not a normal skank, she's Superfied Skank-o-rama. I mean, damn. The first time Andy and I saw her was when she performed at the Grammy's, I think it was, and she was dressed in a Victorian-era type gown and had her hair done up in dreadlocks. Andy likened her to Gloria Estefan - a legitimate Latina talent with a subtle sexiness. I agreed wholeheartedly. But now she's totally sold out on her talent and skanked up - it's a bit sad, really, especially since even my nine-year-old daughter is disgusted by her now. That's fine for Christina, as I'm sure that for every nine-year-old female fan she loses she gains about five middle-aged male fans but I doubt they're buying the cds. The thing that I think is truly pathetic about her is that she doesn't seem to realize that she's taken the easy route to a punchline; there's no legitimacy to her any longer. (Did you see the episode of Saturday Night Live where Sarah Michelle Geller did a spoof of the video for "Dirty"? She was like, "How about if I take a crap in the corner with a bunch of guys dancing around me? Maybe we can show some dogs getting in on and I'll throw a bucket of mud on them - would that work?" Totally hilarious.)

I don't have a body anything like hers but I betcha if I got on television and skanked like she did that I would get just as much attention (okay, maybe not just as much attention, but a lot of attention) and I can't even sing (though I do this one move with my hips, it's a really great move, you'll have to ask Andy about it...maybe I shouldn't mention that). It's easy to be a slut but it takes effort to be sexy. As in a real sexiness, not plain old "in your face" sex.

Anyway, she's rich, I'm not, and I doubt that she cares much about my opinion. But I bet that somewhere, Britney Spears is sitting there thinking, "HA! I was number two on the Worst-Dressed list of 2001, and Christina was only number nine in 2002. Not only did I get there first, but I ranked higher than she did - I beat her again!" I like to picture Britney getting all "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" - yeah, I'm probably just jealous but oh well. I'm sure I'll become famous someday in my own right - maybe I'll die in some freak auto-erotic scenario that will make the "Oddly Enough" headlines from Reuters and someone will turn it into a blog entry, you just never know. A girl can dream.

Now that I've caught up on all the real news I may check out that whole North Korea thing - I don't know if any celebrities are involved but if there are I'll be sure to let you know.



Thursday, January 09, 2003

I've spent most of the morning (and some of last night) constructing a long, rambling entry about tolerance, hatred, homosexuality and the rest of it but I'm just getting too damn angry about it. I just looked at what I've written and it spans four pages already and I'm nowhere near finished dumping my mind so rather than subject you to all of that, allow me to direct you to the bullshit that's going on with MJ. She expressed the issue far better than I could have done - and if she decides to start any kind of civil action I fully expect us all to be behind her 100%.

I've ran through the whole gamut of emotions already today and am very taxed. Standing on the brink of so much anger really takes a lot out of you. Sorry this isn't amusing in the slightest, but it can't all be about cabbages and arses, now can it?



When I was in seventh grade I ran for vice-president of the student council. I ran unchallenged. I like to think that it's because whatever potential contenders I had saw my name and said, "No way am I running against her; I'd be fighting a losing battle!" In all probability, however, it was that my school was too small to afford a second candidate. I won, of course, and even though I ran with no opposition I felt strangley superior to those candidates in other races who had lost. You wouldn't believe how tense I was waiting for the principal to say, "And for vice president, Natalie." I think I showed up to maybe five meetings total and I'm pretty sure I was kicked off of student council but still, I felt pretty cool about winning. (What's that quote about the journey being better than the destination or something like that?)

At any rate, Hugh has thrown his hat into the ring for a Bloggy Award for the best GLBT blog (which, of course, stands for, "gay lettuce, bacon and tomato" - it's a really good sandwich, really.) but I know that everyone will just go and vote for themselves. Hell, I put myself down as both the best Asian blogger as well as Latin American blogger. Why not?

So please, do go and vote for yourselves - it can't hurt anything and you just never know, do you? Spread the love, baby, and if you do manage to win the 2,003 pennies I'd like my fair share for pointing you in the right direction.

(I'd thought about playing this as a "Keep 'little.yellow.different' down" type of post but that would extend my hate-crimes to not only the Asian populace but also the gay contingent. And it's wicked to hate that many people at once, it really is. But if you looked around online you'd see that LYD has had more than his fair share of time in the sun. Anyway.)



PS - Tomorrow will see a much pissier Natalie. Oh lordy, do I have a story to tell.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Since I can't reach Andy on IM or on his cell I'll just post this here - Nic just rolled over from tummy to back for the first time and erupted in a smile even bigger and longer than the one last night. That is all.



Alright, I've finished up my little project...

How's this for product placement, eh?

Yeah, baby, yeah! Do it for the pickle, oh yes, the pickle. I wanted the pickle image to be lower but this is the best I could do. I'm thinking of buying a case of these (I get through a lot of underwear...Andy has sharp teeth, grrrowwrr) and wearing them with low-slung jeans and walking around Mall of America to see if anyone recognizes me. There's a little pickle juice logo on the back, too - I think they're very cute.

Like I said, it was more for my enjoyment (and my stupid sense of humor) but hey, grab a pair if you want. Or even make some yourself - who wouldn't want, say, a pair of boxers that say "Fact or Fiction", eh? Or "Standing Room Only" - that'd be a laugh. Though boxer shorts that say "Being Daddy" might be a bit of a turn-off - unless you're gay, then it's fun for all!

Andy saw these and proclaimed me to be a dork, but hey, whether he likes it or not he's getting some "pickle juice" boxer shorts.



Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Home again, home again, jiggety jig. The visit with the midwife went well - she told me I was looking pretty foxy. I said, "I know, wanna kiss?" and snapped my thong at her. Okay, so not really, but wouldn't that have made a good story? Is there a market for new mommy/midwife porn? Must be.

I'm currently working on a project that shall be revealed to you when the time is right. When you're ready, little hopper. Actually, it's just something I thought of last night that really cracked me up - you might think it's stupid, like Andy does. Either way, it's for my amusement primarily, and if you get some lateral enjoyment from it, well, all the better. But not yet - I'll show you when I'm ready. I really shouldn't build it up, because when I show you what it is it'll just be a huge let-down, I'm sure. What's the phrase, over-promise and under-deliver? Something like that anyway.

I'm feeling a bit MJ today in that I was spending a lot of time looking at goofy stuff and found this item, which is particularly useful here in the Tundra. I don't speak freaky deaky dutch or whatever, but apparently the word "penis" is universal, which is always good to know.



For any of you hep cats and cool kitties who dig on that whole poetry thang you may want to check out a little project that Being Daddy has going on - personally, I can't write poetry to save my life. I have have a hard enough time constructing prose, let alone making it all rhyme and stuff. Well, I did write a very long, rambling love poem to David Helfgott when I was much younger, but it's something I don't like discussing, as it puts people off. But I do have an appreciation for the classics, such as, "Me Chinese, me play joke, me put pee pee in your Coke" and the whole "There Once Was A Man From Nantucket" series - that guy has some tales to tell; he's lived a very rich, full life. If you're not familiar with this gentleman in question, go as your local Borders and ask the salesperson for the complete unabridged "Nantucket" series; I think you'll be pleasently surprised. Who wrote it, Wordsworth? Donne? Someone in that genre, anyway. If the clerk pretends he or she doesn't understand your request you have every right to get all pretentious about it and declare your knowledge of classic poetry as superior to theirs...throw in a few choice phrases like "iambic pentameter" and "rhymed couplet" just to make yourself sound all smarty-pants. Insist on speaking to the manager and demand that they begin carrying the "Nantucket" series, even the volumes annotated by the venerable Dr. Robert Cat Goldthwait. Let me know how that works out for you, won't you?

Ah, I amuse myself.

I don't know that I'll have time for a regular entry today, as I'm off to see the midwife, the wonderful midwife of St. Paul. Now I get to embark upon the joyous task of getting the kids ready - seriously, just taking these two out in public is like mobilizing the troops, it's that involved.



Monday, January 06, 2003

291 pages later I'm still thinking about Very Deep Things and trying to stave off a depression that's growing like a migraine, deep in my spine and traveling north at a rapid pace. Thank you ever so much, Pamela Stephenson, well done - you're married to a comedy genius and you somehow manage to write a book, supposedly about him, that ends up throwing me into a downward spiral of funk. Bravo, you should be very proud. Clinical psychologists should never write books about comedians, never ever ever.

Now Billy Connolly should write a book that's nothing but his stand-up routine. I'd go and buy it right this very second, I swear I would. I hate being faced with Very Real Truths, it buggers my whole day.

The one shocking thing that I've learned is that comedians have groupies, can you believe that? Many comedians do have a sex appeal in that they make you laugh, which is a huge turn on, but I can't think of a single comedian that I've ever thought, "Hey, break me off a piece of that yum-yum!" about. Except maybe Eddie Izzard. And that Elivra something or other chick, she's pretty hot. And maybe Margaret Cho, and Bob Mortimer - okay, this argument is quickly losing all validity. Still, it shocked me to read about it. Or maybe it shocked me that his wife was writing about it so frankly, I don't know if I could do that with Andy. Though most of Andy's ex-girlfriend stories start out with him saying, "I once dated this lass, she had a heart of gold but was nutty as hell..." I ask him how he would describe me if I were an ex-girlfriend and he just levels his gaze at me and refuses to answer. I wonder if that's a bad sign?

Anyway, I'm cold, the bed's warm, I'm going to sleep. G'night.



Sunday, January 05, 2003

Don't come in here, I'm naked!

I'll be dressed in a while - in the meantime, why don't you bugger off and feed your cat or something, I'll let you know when I'm dressed.



Saturday, January 04, 2003

Andy's home, which means he's on his unix box upstairs, which means I've had to come downstairs on my computer. This is a good thing, because it means I can modify my template (he's running Netscape up there and it fudges things up on blogspot, sigh) but it's a bad thing because I've wanted to mess around on here for a while and it's easy to get carried away. Plus it's cold down here and smells faintly of vinegar, for some reason.

Anyway, I'm looking for some feedback on stuff I've put up here - a couple of experiments, if you will. I have my little image cycler under "Say What" and an audio link for Nick Harper singing "The Galaxy Song" from "The Meaning of Life". The optimal performance of these two snazzy little features are as follows: The images (five of them at the moment) are meant to change every, say, ten seconds or so without interfering with the rest of the page. The audio, a simple little href to an mp3, is meant to play in whatever your default audio application may be...I was fighting with embedding a media player but gave up - I'll revist this at a later date to make it easier on you.

Please, do check these both out and let me know if you have a problem with them - and if the audio works for you, you may want to follow along with the lyrics here. These are the originals so they're slightly different than what Nick sings but similar enough so that they don't have Eric Idle spinning in his grave. Wait, is Eric the dead one? Or was it the American guy who's the dead one? Well, either way, enjoy the song - and you realize I put myself at great personal risk by publishing these lyrics, as they provide some real geeky search terms. Do I want dorks visiting this site? Well, it's run by a geek so I guess that's fine. I'm nothing if not fair.



The Galaxy Song

Whenever life gets you down, Mrs. Brown,
And things seem hard or tough,
And people are stupid, obnoxious or daft,
And you feel that you've had eno-o-o-o-o-ough...

Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's evolving
And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour,
That's orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it's reckoned,
A sun that is the source of all our power.
The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
Are moving at a million miles a day
In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour,
Of the galaxy we call the "Milky Way".

Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars.
It's a hundred thousand light years side to side.
It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick,
But out by us, it's just three thousand light years wide.
We're thirty thousand light years from galactic central point.
We go 'round every two hundred million years,
And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe.

The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
In all of the directions it can whizz
As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know,
Twelve million miles a minute, and that's the fastest speed there is.
So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure,
How amazingly unlikely is your birth,
And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space,
'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth.

This isn't a real entry, exactly, but I've been moved. I picked up the biography of Billy Connolly the other day from Borders for Andy and have started reading it - because, honestly, they guy just won't find time to read anymore. When we first got together I was so happy to see that he had books in his house...a real reader, and a reader of a lot of the same stuff I liked. I was very pleased. I used to keep this kick ass limited edition of "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" on my coffee table just to gauge how "cool" my friends were. The ones who came in and said, "Hey, Douglas Adams!" were keepers - the ones who said, "Oh, I didn't know you were into astronomy" were less so. Pretentious, yes, but I needed some metric. When Andy told me about having an autographed first edition my reaction was one of a Jewish American Princess being hit on by a doctor, it was that intense.

I've been reading and rereading "The Corrections" which I think has, in part, fueled my introspection and melancholia, so a break was in order. I cracked the spine on that Billy Connolly book and it was like the snap of a tree branch in autumn. Ah, I thought, here is where I'd find humor! Surely this will drag me out of my funk.

Okay, so reading dozens of pages about how bad things were in wartime Glasgow and about his sexual abuse from his father aren't exactly setting the scene quite like I'd imagined, but it's a wonderful story. Billy has come from such a fractured beginning it's really no wonder why he's such a funny guy. (And I think only those of us who have had to overcome some seriously bad shit can understand that statement.) The writing isn't exactly top-quality stuff but it's very lovingly written by his wife. Which reminds me:

Andy: You know, Pamela Anderson is his wife.
Me: No she's not.
Andy: Well, she's his common law wife.
Me: No she's not.
Andy: Then maybe she's his ex-wife.
Me: No she's not, she was married to the Motley Crue guy and now she's married to that other Motley Crue guy. Or maybe Bon Jovi. But not Billy Connolly.
Andy: (adamantly) Yes she is!
Me: (just as adamantly) No she's not!
Andy: (grabs the book) Right here it says...oh, Pamela Stephenson. I knew it was Pamela Something-son.
Me: You're adorable. Wanna touch my hiney?
Andy: I hate that word.
Me: Hi-hi-hi-hiney!
Andy: When you say that word, I lose all interest.
Me: (in a deep Barry White voice) Ha-ha-ha-he-he-he-hiney!
Andy: 2500 square feet of space in this house and you have to be right up on me?
Me: (mumbling as I dance around, shaking my butt) hiney. hiney. wanna touch the hiney. hiney.
Andy: You make my ass tired.
Me: But what do I make your HINEY?

Okay, so there was no point in any of that, I just really love that he hates the word "hiney". If I'd have known I had such an easy-to-use weapon in my Arsenal of Annoyance I'd have brandished this fella ages ago.

Oh yeah, and read the Billy Connolly book - it's called, oddly enough, "Billy". It's about $20 hardback and thus far it's worth much more than that. Pay attention to the book, people, as we'll be having a quiz later.