Locks and Ladders

I was cooking ground beef for homemade burritos when I got the idea to check the mail.

If I run downstairs and grab the mail and come right back, it won't matter that the stove is on. It'll take less than a minute.

I grabbed the key from the counter top and dashed out. What was the big deal about checking the mail? I don't really remember. This was during my unemployment sabbatical from work. My best guess is that I was probably looking forward to receiving a letter from my best friend (or from Publisher's Clearing House).

I pulled the letters from the mailbox, locked it and rushed back upstairs to the apartment. When I reached the door, I looked at the lock. Then I looked at my hand. In my palm was one key: the mail key.

With a sinking feeling in my gut, I realized that someone, in an effort to travel lighter, had separated the mail key from the house and car keys. Sure, it might have been me, but for now it was easier to blame someone.

I attempted the credit card trick with the stiffest envelope in my hand, but unfortunately for me, credit card statements do not behave like credit cards. I pushed the mail key against the keyhole, thinking, maybe?

No, it didn't work. The movies always make breaking in seem so effortless. Well, I'm here to tell you--it's not.

As my bad luck would have it, my husband wasn't due home for another two hours. He was doing a dinner program for work, which left me home alone with the cats, who were all locked inside with no comprehension of English and no opposable thumbs.

I had to think quickly; the beef was cooking.

My first stop was the apartment office. Everyone cleared out at 6, but I was hoping someone would be hanging around late, that maybe I could enjoy a happy coincidence after my shitty luck.

The place was deserted.

If all else failed, I could call someone from the office to get the apartment key so I could unlock the door. The catch was in the small print of the apartment lease. If you called after hours, it was 50 bucks. Fifty bucks! When you're unemployed on a sabbatical, the best solution is the one that's closest to free.

I ran back to the apartment (the beef was cooking) and tried to devise another solution. I went around to the back side of the building, to the grassy hill that my balcony overlooked. Even though it was just one level up, I was in no shape to attempt it.

The movies make scaling a building look so effortless. Well, I'm here to tell you--it's not.

I could hear the smoke alarm screeching. I thought back to the conversation we had with the apartment manager when we toured the building. She said one smoke alarm would set off a chain reaction throughout the apartments that shared the same building. I'm happy to report that this was a lie. The only alarm going nuts was the one in my apartment.

I needed another plan of attack (the beef was burning).

Our apartment building shared the road with a duplex. I could see this house from the balcony window and I often wondered how the occupants felt about having a five story building towering next to their back yard. Did they resent us? I approached the house, but I wasn't going to ask them this just yet. I was going to ask them something completely different.

You see, parked next to the house was a Comcast cable van. On top of the van was a ladder. With a ladder, I could easily reach the balcony and get through the door that I didn't lock.

The people in the house were nice enough, but I had to wait for the cable guys to finish up. This was understandable; when you wait a week for the cable guys to come by, and you take off work so you're available during the four hour window when they're supposed to arrive, you don't want to let some interloper swoop in to steal your cable guy.

I waited in front of the house, making sure to glance in the direction of the apartment complex with an eye trained to any smoke plumes that might be rising from the vicinity of my apartment.

Eventually the cable guys emerged from the house. This was when I had to put aside my panic and be charming enough to convince them that lending their ladder wasn't an invitation to a lawsuit.

Let me tell you, the charm worked like, well, a charm. The guys pulled the van closer to the building and followed me with the ladder in tow.

"Please don't fall," said the guy who was holding the ladder. I reached the balcony and threw a leg over the railing.

Strangely enough, what I was doing was a repeat of something that happened when I was a kid. My family had set out to run some errands on a weekend, and for some reason, we ended up dropping off my mom. My dad, sister and I went home. It was then that we realized my mother was the one holding the house key. Even back then, someone was carrying out the sinister plot to separate keys.

Without bugging the neighbors or hounding innocent cable guys, my dad calmly took the ladder from the shed and extended it three stories up, to the balcony on the top floor while my sister and I watched from below. From there, he climbed over the railing and entered the house through the sliding glass door.

The fumes of burning beef and scorched teflon hit my nostrils as soon as I opened the door. I turned off the stove, opened the windows and went back outside to thank the cable guys.

Lessons learned:
1) Be nice to your neighbors; you never know when you'll need to borrow a cable guy
2) Don't check your mail if you're cooking
3) Don't separate the keys, no matter how much someone insists.


Just Like Heaven (part III: Never Enough)

Most people want to come out ahead of the game. You want to feel like you got every single bang for your buck, like you you walked away with the best possible deal around. In other words, you don't want to feel like you got cheated or that you missed out.

I'm one of these people, and because I know I'm like this, I fully appreciate the saying, "Ignorance is bliss." Sometimes it's better not knowing the thing I bought full price went on clearance last week. Sometimes you're better off believing you got a great deal even if it's not actually the truth.

On the night of the show, my husband and I walked to Madison Square Garden from the hotel, skipping dinner so we’d make the 8 p.m. start time.

Looking back, skipping dinner was kind of a stupid move (in fact, it comes back to haunt me later). When your last meal was breakfast and the concessions available amount to beer, coke, hot dogs and cotton candy you’re better off grabbing something to eat and being a little late to the show.

Much to my relief, the seats were not crappy. They were on the floor level, but thanks to this fantastic invention called “risers” we weren’t stuck looking at the backs of thousands of heads. And, there were chairs. And, people were using them. And from the looks of the crowd, the Cure’s fan base was growing older, just like me. Most of the audience looked like they came from the 30-45 age range. For some reason this made me feel better. When you go out, you never want to be that person. You never want to he standout for being the oldest one in the crowd, garnering looks of pity from the kids as they talk in lowered voices and laugh about the fossil in their midst.

I don’t know why I was worried though. I did the math and figured out Robert Smith was about 50 (he’s 49). It tripped me out to think I am older than he was when I first watched the Fascination Street video on MTV (in the days when they used to play videos) and became enamored enough to go and buy Disintegration(on cassette, of course).

My husband dutifully went to buy food and returned with a dry hot dog and cup of diet coke. I watched people as they found their seats. There were a couple of girls channeling the early 1990’s in stripey tights with clunky shoes and pigtailed heads, but mostly everyone looked normal. Not surprisingly, my husband and I and a black man I had seen walking up the aisle ahead appeared to be the only black people in all of Madison Square Garden (not including anyone there selling food and tee-shirts).

The opening act was 65 Days of Static, a group that was good on its own, but to quote Austin Powers, it wasn’t really my bag, baby. I clapped in the spaces betweem songs and patiently waited for the main act. When the group hit the stage at 9, I was enamored again.

Aside from the age thing, my other fear had been not knowing their newer songs. Well, with 30 years of music to choose from, that wasn’t an issue. They played stuff from every album and it was loud enough for me to sing along without worrying if anyone could hear me. The only place I sing is in the car or in the house if I know there’s no audience.

The Cure took their places with Robert Smith center stage in a black button down and black pants and shoes. Black is slimming, I guess, even though he was looking, er, not so slim. When you think of a rock star, you think skinny, which makes sense. Fast living and burning up calories on the stage usually results in a stick figure physique. Lenny Kravitz and Mick Jagger--David Bowie and Steve Tyler--all those skinny rockers come to mind. All except Robert Smith. Poor Mr. Smith can't seem to shake that "softer" look, but like I always say, the extra just means there’s just more to love. Also, when one of your favorite singers has aged, you never see them how they truly are. You see them the way a kid looks at a beloved stuffed animal. Sure, an eye is missing and the synthetic fur is matted, but you don't care because that stuffed animal was there through the good times and the bad. The same applies to music and the artists who write and play the songs. In my teenage years, the Cure got it. After so many years, I don't want to see the wrinkles and the chub. I want to remember how they looked when they stared down at me from the paper posters I thumbtacked to my bedroom walls. I might be looking at this, however my mind is seeing this. (That's without beer goggles.)

In between songs I’d look over at my husband, who had given up trying to follow the lyrics and was now sitting and playing with his iphone. He’s typing in a facebook entry while they're playing "The Walk." Sometimes I’d attempt to engage him but talking during a live concert is pointless. I’d yell and my husband would nod, but that was either because he understood or he didn’t want me barking in his ear anymore.

After two and a half hours, the show was over and the audience was chanting for more. I never really got the encore thing. I mean why not play what you’re going to play and go home? Or come out, play one song and then really go home? Maybe even take a bow so we know you're finished. It seems like such a tease to keep going away and coming back.

Minutes passed and the crowd was still shouting for more. Then, just I sensed defeat settling in, one by one, the Cure emerged. took their places and played 2 more songs and promptly disappeared again. The crowd chanted and they came back for 3 more. Then, we waited again, but they didn’t come out. It was over, I told myself. Let's go before people flood the exits.

Besides, we we were hungry.

Before you enter the stairwells of Madison Square Garden, there are warning signs telling you that you can not return once you pass through those doors. The finality of that left me uneasy, but we descended the stairs. They were done, I told myself, a lot of people are leaving, so the Cure can't possibly do another encore. No one does 3 encores.

My husband bought my birthday gift (a concert tee! Score!) and we walked back out onto the street. On the way back to the hotel, a heavy rainstorm hit. It was the kind that was born from a huge passing cloud. Giant drops splatted against the street and the sidewalks, and those without umbrellas hugged up to building stoops and under awnings to take cover. I brought an umbrella for the trip but it was in the hotel room. I imagined it tucked into our warm, dry bed, watching Jay Leno's opening jokes while my husband and I huddled under a grocery store awning in a midnight downpour.

The storm passed and we searched for a pizza joint. My ears were ringing and Saturday would involve a long drive home, but it was worth it. Going had turned out to be better than not buying the tickets in the first place. My last concert was in Baltimore, for the Wiggles. Don't get me wrong--I like them too, but it was due time for me to get back into music aimed at adults.

Once I got home, I checked the Cure’s website. The set list from the show was there, including the encores. As I read through the titles, I picked out the songs I recognized. Then I reached the bottom, where the author had typed the words: “Encore 3”


(ignorance is bliss!)


Just Like Heaven (part II: New York, New York--it's a helluva wonderful town)

We reached New York at one in the morning. The hotel was in midtown Manhattan, right next to Grand Central Station (in fact the view from the room was an extreme close up of the building and its signature columns). Days earlier, my husband secured the reservation through Priceline.

From my interaction with the Ticketmaster website, you probably realized that I don’t have the internal fortitude to deal with the likes of Priceline. There’s too much chance involved, too much of a risk of getting stuck with a bill for something you specifically did not want. It’s gambling, and I don’t like playing the odds if the outcome affects where I’m going to lay my head at night.

To my husband, though, Priceline presents a welcome challenge: find the best hotel room for your lowest bid. This is where his competitive side comes out. We’ve gotten great deals through Priceline when he’s at the helm, and this time was no different. In fact, after he reserved the room, he continued to scour the internet, searching to see if anyone else had done better. It was validation of his victory, I guess.

We got there late and went to bed with the idea that we’d get up three hours later to stake out our spots in Rockefeller Plaza. Yes, I’m talking about the Today Show. Yes, I know, those people are dorks, tourists with fanny packs from B-F-nowhere with their obnoxious homemade signs and stupid hats, teeming for Al Roker’s attention. And yes, it was my birthday, but I was not carrying a sign with the hope of luring Al to my side. No, we were there to see Rihanna in concert. The deal went something like this: my husband wanted to see her and I was supposed to go too, since payback was coming later that night when he had to sit through 3 hours of Cure concert.

“Oh, I see,” I told him, “A little trade off so you have your fill of eye candy.”

“No, no,” he said, “she’s just a kid. Besides, she has a porpoise head.”

“Ha-ha. Porpoise head.” I replied, while giving him the side-eye and thinking: You’re just saying that.

Needless to say, the alarm went off, but we watched the show (and the Rihanna concert) from our room.

After showering, we went to breakfast and then did what we usually do in the city: we walked around.

“Ooo, whoopee, walking around,” you’re saying, but if you’ve been to New York, you know it’s the type of place that entertains whether you plan for it or not. The action takes off as soon as you set foot on the pavement.

We went to Rockefeller Center and watched stagehands packing up Rihanna’s set. We took pictures of each other and our surroundings. Then we moved on.

I noticed my husband typed something into his iphone but didn’t realize what was up until we arrived at the Apple store. Sneaky, sneaky, I thought. He’s becoming an Apple Store aficionado. I have a love/hate relationship with the Apple Store. It’s mostly hate, though. (I promise you, in the near future I will devote a separate entry to a thorough explanation of said hatred.)

Strangely enough, the Apple store is planted outside of CBS’s studio, on the corner of 6th Avenue and 52nd street. In that same location, outside, was a stage and a gathering crowd.

Like any other nosy curious human beings, we joined the crowd. The signs surrounding the stage displayed Rihanna’s name. It turned out that we stumbled upon CBS's secondhand version of the very concert we had missed.

See? Whether you plan for it or not...entertainment!

After an hour of standing there and enduring the comments of others who grew impatient and left (“Did she go to da baffroom?” said one), Rihanna appeared on stage. My husband clicked away with his camera while I stood on my tiptoes to watch.

I thought. She really does have a porpoise head.

Okay, she doesn't really, but her forehead is rival to Tyra's in square footage. She is pretty, though.

Then it was on to the Apple Store. And after that, back to the hotel to sleep. The show started at 8.


Just like Heaven (part I: the TicketMaster® trials)

I recently celebrated my birthday (33rd, if you must know). I’m happy to report that this one qualified as “best birthday evah!”

Part of the story behind it involves not getting tickets to the Cure concert when they were in town. The first I heard of their tour was last year, when the Washington Post Express newspaper advertised that they would be playing in September. Should I go? I asked myself. Nah. I had seen them in concert as a lively teen, in the heyday of my Cure love, so it wasn’t such a huge deal. Every day I saw the ad for the tickets, I convinced myself it wasn’t worth the trouble of going. That would mean getting a babysitter and getting off work in time to make the show and so on. Life was considerably more complicated when you were an adult. You have to plan everything and that’s not fun. Sometimes planning ends up being such a hassle that you don’t even make the effort. As a teen, there was no question whether I’d go or not. I got the tickets, lived the days up to the show in anticipation of the event, and then went, screamed, danced, sweated and returned home with ringing ears and a grinning mouth.

One morning, I opened the paper and saw that the show had been canceled. Good thing I didn’t bother with tickets, I thought, while also wondering what happened. Then, a few months later, there was a new ad. The show was set for May 9th in Virginia. “Tickets from September date will be honored!” said a blurb. This was a new opportunity that stuck to the back of my mind. I didn’t buy their last album and I hated “Bloodflowers,” I thought, why would I possibly go? Also, who would go with me? My husband? Not a fan. In fact no one else I knew was a fan and the thought of going alone sounded kind of, well, not fun.

As the May date drew nearer, I tried to think of solutions. Even though I had talked myself out of buying a ticket, I wanted to go. I have over 200 Cure songs on my ipod. I had most of their albums, even the early ones, back when Robert Smith sang the words clearly and it sounded like they were playing inside of someone’s basement. I had bought some of these albums multiple times, first on cassette, then CD and then, when new, digitally remastered versions came out on itunes, I bought those too. I was a true fan. Even if I didn’t buy the last album, I thought, I had every right to go to the show.

Early in the week, I threw out the bait.

“Would you want to go to a concert with me?” I asked my husband.

"Sure...who's playing?”

“The Cure?”

The face he made told me the answer was no. This was no surprise; we've already established that he wasn’t, isn't and probably will never be, a fan. He disliked any music that involved whining (anything sung by Ginuwine is an exception), wailing or too much treble and not enough bass. He likes rock and loves Lenny Kravitz, but once you stray from the upbeat, he walks away.

“Never mind,” I said. To be fair, I didn’t tell him they were playing at the end of the week and that I was not asking a theoretical question. Only after the local show date came and went did he realize my question had been real.

“Why didn’t you tell me you wanted to go?”

“You said you didn’t want to go. Why would I subject you to that if you don’t want to go?”

“I would’ve gone if you asked.”

“I did ask. And you said no.”

Everyone who emphasizes the importance of communication in a relationship should also add that the communication should be direct. In other words, don’t be like me.

I went online and checked out the remaining tour dates. There was a show on my birthday in New York. It was a four hour drive, but we could make a trip out of it, dropping the dog and the kid off at my mom’s on the way. It could happen.

“There’s a show in New York…on my birthday.” I called to my husband, who was working in the loft.

“Hm,” came the disinterested response.

“Never mind.”

Another month passed and the thought of the concert stayed in the back of my mind. You don’t even know their new stuff, I told myself. The first concert I went to was, well, okay. I was right up front and there was no seating. It was a hot summer day in San Jose and by the time the opening act finally finished, much of the crowd smelled like beer and sweat. Then, when the Cure hit the stage, there was a crushing push from behind as everyone rushed forward. I savored my spot up front, just a few feet away from the beloved Mr. Smith, but after awhile I grew claustrophobic, so I retreated to the bleachers and watched the rest of the show from the sidelines. What if this was a repeat of the show from the Wish tour? If it was, then I was too old for that shit.

I changed my mind after reading a message posted by a person on a message board (Naturallycurly.com, if you must know). The message was along the lines of, “I went to the best concert. I got to see the Cure and…”

Well, you get the point. If that was all it took to convince me to go, then the truth is, I wanted to go all along, since nearly a year earlier, when I first saw the ad in the newspaper displaying the ill-fated September dates.

My birthday was coming up, and my husband asked if I wanted his parents to meet us for dinner. That was nice, and they are always very giving and good about celebrating special occasions, but we did that every year. With a sigh, I said, “Sure” and thought, "not really."

The next day I finally admitted I wanted to go to the show in New York. Getting tickets would be easier than it had been when I was a wee lass of 16 years. Instead of cutting morning classes to go over the hill to Tower Records to buy tickets, they were a mouse click away on Ticketmaster. As long as you could decipher the warped looking words, the site would process your request and find available seats.

With just over five days until showtime, the site kicked back tickets for seats on the floor level. That would have been okay, except they were way in the back.

“Those look kind of crappy.” My husband said.

"Damn it, I should have bought them sooner," I lamented.

We tried again. This time around there was nothing available and I panicked. “But we just had those seats!” I said. What had initially been perceived as “crappy” was now ideal. I could’ve worked with those, I thought as I typed in the warped words and refreshed the Ticketmaster® site. Then, there they were again. I exhaled.

“Let’s see if I can find something too,” my husband said as he opened his laptop.

“Hurry up, they only hold these for a minute and a half. Then these tickets get released to the public.” I said, reading the words from the screen. The seconds ticked by. Ticketmaster® bases its business on first come first serve. If you stand there too long trying to decide whether you want fries with that, they will skip you and take the next guy’s order.

The session times out and I go into a panic. I felt like pounding my head on the keyboard and shouting “I’ll never get it!” like Don Music from Sesame Street. “Calm down.” My husband replies, “I have them on mine.” Sure enough, the same tickets that had disappeared from my screen are now available on his. He passes his computer to me and I hurry to grab my wallet from my bag so I can buy the tickets. I’m shaking as I check and double check the credit card number for typos. The ticket options are a blur. You can have them mailed to you, or you can pick them up, or you can print them in the comfort of your own home. I neglect to see which option my husband has chosen. 45 seconds remain and I enter the order.

Seconds later, the confirmation screen pops up, informing me I have two tickets and slightly more credit card debt. I breathe easy at last.


Worm Holes

Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. It’s true…don’t even believe everything written in this blog. Sure, I put things out there like truth, but don’t be fooled; sometimes I throw in a little extra to keep you reading.

When I refer to “the internet” I'm also talking about the email messages you receive from friends and family members. We all know at least one person who makes you hate opening anything they send because you just know you'd be better off skipping it entirely. The one who likes to forward everything in their inbox to the rest of the world? Yeah, that person. Sometimes I think these people have their mail automatically set up to do this since they are so prolific with their forwarded messages. Sometimes you receive a joke, sometimes you get a series of funny pictures and sometimes it’s false information, passed off as fact.

I had a coworker who liked to do this. Most of her messages involved prayers (which had to be passed on to 10 friends or else you’d be doomed to the depths of hell) but she also liked to send “true" stories that contained one too many coincidences and a neatly packaged conclusion. One day, when she sent me a story that wrapped up a little too cleanly, I decided to get a second opinion.

As expected, snopes confirmed my suspicions that the entire message about September 11th and the firefighter who perished after saving a pregnant woman in the World Trade Center was a lie (naturally, the imaginary baby that was born months later, was named after this heroic fictional firefighter). I didn’t have the heart to tell my coworker that the "true story" was indeed not true. We were just a few years removed and not far from the Pentagon and I wasn’t going to be the bad guy.

Yes, that’s usually how it goes, the one trying to offer the truth is the bad guy. Usually you get a response like, “Thanks, I didn’t know,” or “Oh, okay.” and even though the response is neutral, you just know the sender was seething as those words were typed. And if you thought you were doing a service to everyone by hitting “reply all,” then congratulations, you just succeeded in making the sender look like a dumb ass in front of his or her entire distro list.

Sometimes you have to weigh the message you’re sending against the reaction you’ll get. I'll forgive the harmless stuff(“The Statue of Liberty is black, y’all!”) or sappy crap, but if your message is alarmist in nature, I will call you on it.

Case in point—one of my friends sent a message about someone who had itchy breasts and upon visiting a doctor, discovered worms living in holes around the areola. And then, like any authentic message, there were pictures to prove it! Eee-yew, I thought as I clicked the attached photo. When I returned from the bathroom*, I re-read the story, analyzing it for truth. Usually tales like these involve some exotic location, as if something so horrendous would never happen locally. In this example, it was from the bra the person was wearing during a recent trip to South America. Ding-ding-ding! This was another job for snopes.

If you guessed that it was another untruth, good job. The people sending these things should know better. They’re usually well-meaning types who just didn't pause to long enough to question the original message (undoubtedly forwarded to them by some other well-intentioned soul). If you recognize that you might be one of those people, next time you get the urge to hit "forward" in your attempt to save the rest of us, ask yourself: Is this just a little too terrible (or too good to be true) to believe? If you have any doubt at all, check snopes (or press "delete"). In doing so, you have spared us from the gory photoshopped images of breasts riddled with worm holes. Thank you!

I sent the myth busting link to my friend (but I did not “Reply All”), and when she sent back an “Okay, thanks,” I could feel the chill. Minutes later, she replied to everyone else that had been burdened with the “Breast Holes” email message, explaining that it wasn’t true.

And then...I never heard from her again.*

*not true



My first celebrity crush will be in town later this month. Yes, folks, George Michael will be at the Verizon Center for one night only as part of his retirement tour.

I didn’t fall in love until Faith came out. It was 1987 and I was a brand new seventh grader at Pomona Junior High. This was the big time—no more elementary school where you shared the halls with kindergarten kids. This was the cusp of young adulthood, which required more mature tastes. I had scoffed at the bleach haired, “CHOOSE LIFE!” t-shirt wearing, bouncing-around-the-stage-with-glee George Michael of Wham!, but the jeans wearing, leather jacket sporting, guitar-strumming, solo act version was worth a second look. Like the brilliant wings of butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, the aviator shades and five o’clock shadow signified that the man had matured into something better than what he was before.

Even though I had my own stereo “system” in my room (Fisher dual cassette player with high speed dubbing!) I had very little of my own music. So, with my hard earned allowance (I was up to $10 every two weeks by then), I went to Sam Goody and purchased George Michael’s album, “Faith," on cassette, of course.

Side one was chock full of hits—Faith and Father Figure were first and second in the lineup. Then, there’s the song—the song with the catchy beat that captures the very basic truth behind 99% of all R&B songs.

That song, of course, was "I Want Your Sex."

Instead of embellishing the lyrics with flowery euphemisms (“make love?”) the man came out and told us exactly what he meant. It was pure genius.

There were three parts to the song on the tape, though part I was the only segment to get radio play. Then there were a few lesser hits, “One More Try” and “Kissing A Fool” among others. All in all, my allowance money was well spent. In fact, I became a retroactive Wham! Fan when my hunger for more put me back in Sam Goody with the album “Make it Big!” (cassette, of course) in my hands. The cashier regarded me with a smirk of amusement. “Wham?” she said. I nodded. At that point I was shamelessly obsessed. Anything that would offer more of George Michael’s sweet, sweet voice was worth a little temporary humiliation. Yeah, yeah, we know it wasn't all GM, there was that other guy, but do you remember his name?

Shortly after he release of the “Faith” album came the tour. I wanted to go, but when you’re 13, it’s not likely that you’ll be attending a concert alone. Here's the embarrassing part: not only was I a George Michael fan, my dad was too. I even remember an afternoon when my aunt was visiting and they shared a good laugh over “I want Your Sex,” marveling at the in-your-facedness of it all. I wanted to disappear that day.

But back to the concert. I wanted to go, said so, and my dad offered to go with me. Er, what do you say to that? You know you’re not going to feel free to belt out the lyrics to that song when your dad is right next to you. You know it’s going to feel ultra creepy hearing “Father figure” when the real thing is by your side. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I wanted to go, just not with him, so I did the next best thing.

I told my mom.

She completely understood, but there was no solution but to just not go. Besides, I probably didn’t have enough allowance saved up to pay for a ticket anyway.

It’s twenty years later and so much has changed. We’re all older and no one’s wondering “Is he or isn’t he?” anymore. He’s clowning Dr. Phil , which somehow affirms that I probably would like the man if I actually knew him. I’m also old enough to not feel weird inviting my dad—

—unfortunately he’s "no longer with us" (yes, another euphemism)to enjoy the show.

Aside from that, floor seats cost $250 apiece.

Yes, yes, I know, I could get the cheap seats, but I can say with certainty that George isn’t going to see me proclaiming my love from seat 12 of row F in section 411.

So I'll do it here:

Love you George, but considering the cost of donating to your retirement fund concert tickets, your preference for men and my being married, we'll just have to accept that you and I were never meant to be. ♥


Just In Case

What happens when you want to buy something but can't justify the purchase? You find yourself weighing the “want” factor against the “need” factor (and the debt factor?) before you make your purchase. I’ve wanted things I swore I couldn’t live without, some of which are now gathering dust in my closet. At the pinnacle of the wanting, I would daydream about the object, envisioning myself dancing in a flower-filled meadow with the object of my desire in my hot little hands. That object symbolized happiness.

Yes, yes, I know, happiness comes from within. We all seem to know that, but even so, we still hold onto the belief that one little purchase, that thing we want, that will be just what we need to be even a little bit happier.

Raise your hand if you've justified a purchase using any of the following excuses (or something equally ridiculous):

-I'll end up in Mexico if I don't buy a GPS for my car.

-I won’t rest until every TV in my house is a flat panel.

-But those shoes would go perfectly with my outfit. I’m destined to buy them.

My hand is up--I'm guilty.

Then there are the purchases bought solely because they were on sale, or worse, on “clearance.” "Sale" means, you’d better get it while it’s hot while "Clearance" means you’d better get it before it’s gone! It’s very easy to convince yourself you need something when the words “for a limited time only!” are flashing through your head. You can get worked up thinking, “Well if I don’t buy it right this second, that’s it, the door to happiness is closed forever!”

So you buy it.

And then, next week, you notice there’s a new and improved version of your ticket to happiness, making what you already own obsolete. This is very common in electronics, but it happens in other areas too. The fashion term “last season” is just another way of saying “obsolete” or “outdated,” or simply, “out.” Which means you have to start the to-buy-or-not-to-buy process all over again.

Steve Jobs of Apple knows all about this—his answer to those who are holding off on a purchase in anticipation of the next advancement is that you’ll never buy anything with that kind of thinking. You’ll remain gun shy forever because there’s always going to be something new and improved right around the corner.

He has a point, but when you have a stockpile of perfectly functioning devices not being used (because the new one has video, or you got an iphone, rendering your ipod useless), you have to believe the man is onto something by making each new version of a product more enticing (and usually more affordable) than the last.

On another note, what happens when your favorite product is discontinued, or something you love breaks? Some people look at this as an opportunity to find something new while others will mourn until they find a duplicate or an adequate replacement. This thinking is fueled by the fear of running out of that beloved, irreplaceable thing. The fear that you will have to find a replacement, but no matter how hard you look, you will not capture the magic of the original. Buy it and hold on tight, your mind says, just in case you don't find this very thing ever again. I fall into the second type of thinking.

Let me explain—

I have a pair of sunglasses I bought a month ago, Kenneth Cole Reaction Aviators—list price, $50, that I found for $9.99 at Marshalls (Even though I mentioned the term earlier, I have no problem with “last season’s” wares). Anyone who shops at Marshalls knows it’s a needle in a haystack establishment. I saw no other shades like this pair. In fact, I had to take another pair that was similar (but not the same!) to the register because the ones I wanted did not have a price tag (let me reiterate that this was Marshalls).

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. I was at work and my prized sunglasses were hooked into the neckline of my shirt. I bent over and they fell to the floor. I picked up the glasses and placed them on my desk. Seconds later, I looked at those glasses, really looked, and noticed, hey, a lens popped out!

The horror!

I paced the office, backtracking my steps since lunch, when I last remembered wearing my intact sunglasses. No luck. The lens was gone and I felt positively sick inside. Yes, they were $9.99, and I could probably find something similar for that much, but that was not the point. I liked these glasses and a couple of weeks was not an adequate amount of time for me to attain a full appreciation of my purchase.

I searched the floor under my desk and dug through my purse, but came up empty. I knew exactly what I had to do.

I had to go to Marshalls after work to see if they had another pair.

So I did.

And they didn’t.

I forced myself to go to Trader Joe's (which is in the same shopping center) so it wouldn't be a completely wasted trip, but I still drove away feeling as if I had failed my mission. I had to think of another plan of attack.

The next day, after work, I scoured T.J. Maxx (another needle in a haystack establishment). At first I found a pair with the same style frames, but in a different color scheme--“Not the same!” my mind screamed, but I was willing to compromise. I spotted at the rack of sunglasses on the opposite side of the store, in the men’s section. I held onto the pair I found, but walked over there with the farfetched hope that maybe I would be lucky.

I turned the rack. It looked like it held a blend of men’s and women’s frames. This was a good sign. I looked at the bottom of the rack…could it be? It was! In no time, I swapped the wrong colored shades for the right ones, a perfect match for the pair with the missing lens. I had arrived with a silly dream of finding the exact same pair—the last pair of its kind in an entirely different store and magic happened.

Redeemed, I paid for the glasses and left the store feeling as if a weight had been lifted from my heart. So really, I paid $20 ($21, if you count taxes) for two of the same pair of sunglasses. Really, it wasn't a bad deal considering the original price for two pairs would have been $100 ($106, if you count taxes).

The next morning I grabbed the plastic bag that held the empty food containers I had taken to work the day before. There, at the bottom, was some kind of disk shaped object shrouded in the bag. I was puzzled—what could that be, I wondered. I reached in, grabbed hold and—

The lens. It was the lens, missing for less than two days, and safely tucked in my bag the whole time. I laughed at the irony—all that stressing over something that was there all along. I cleaned the lens, found the frame, and popped it back into place. Good as new.

I decided to keep both pairs anyway. I can spread the wear and tear that way. Or if one pair breaks I can use it for spare parts in the event that the other pair has a problem. You know, just in case.



You know when you need to change lanes? Do you use the turn signal or not? (I do. In fact, I feel twitchy if I’m turning and don’t signal. I even signal in my development when no one is behind me)

Anyway, there are times when you just know the moment you click on the signal, you’re activating the competitive switch on the guy in the next lane. Yes, sir, the moment that flasher starts blinking he’ll do everything in his power to prevent you from getting in front of him (we’ll be sexist and say it’s a guy). There's a line of cars behind him and you are several car lengths ahead, but from the moment you turned on that signal, he’s closed the gap.

You eye the vastness ahead (or maybe just a few car lengths—enough for you both, anyway) and speed up.

And he speeds up.

And you speed up.

And so on, until you both qualify as moving violations.

Then, when you get ahead enough to squeeze in, the guy switches lanes and speeds off, victorious.

Why do we do this? What’s the point of turning a trip from Point A to Point B into the Indy 500? People are supposed to be the smartest creatures on the planet, and maybe that would be true if our egos didn’t get ahead of our rational thought.

Here’s another one:

One afternoon, I’m exiting the metro station garage. Ahead of me is a gray car that could easily kick the pants off of mine (it's a Subaru Impreza WRX, for those of you who are wondering). Sometimes the people who drive these cars are normal. They have a fondness for high velocity and occasionally they test the posted speed limit but they also have enough common sense to know rush hour is not the time to do it. Then there’s the other kind--all speed, all the time, those that think if your gas pedal isn't permanently floored, something's wrong with you. I didn’t find out which one this guy was until later.

So the gray car proceeds into the line of cars corralled at the exit gate. Well, there’s another exit that allows you to access the other two exit gates more easily, you just have to turn right and then go through the other way out of the garage. So guess what? I turned.

I paid the parking fee, exited and in my side view mirror, I see the gray car is still there, stuck in the pipeline of cars waiting to get out.

“Heh,” I think, “should’ve turned right, buddy.”

I get onto the highway and the gray car is now a fading memory. But then wait—there, in the side view mirror, who do I see growing larger and larger behind the words “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear?”

The gray car.

Here it comes, barreling down the asphalt, passing me and whipping ahead onto the exit ramp.

“Go on and do your thing,” I think. If the guy wanted to play the real life version of Need for Speed then who was I to stand in his way? We’re both heading in the same direction onto the interstate. He opts for the “express” lanes while I stay local. Usually I go express, but that afternoon, that section of the the road did not resemble its label.

For the second time in five minutes, I pass the gray car (who’s trapped on the other side of the concrete barrier). As I do so, I can almost feel the burning stare radiating from the driver of the gray car. “Ha-ha,” I think, “should’ve gone local, pal.”

The weekend goes by and then a day, maybe two and once again I’m exiting the metro station garage. Who’s there, just a few cars behind me?

(Dun-dun-dunnnn) The gray car!

I make it to the highway and don’t think about the gray car again. Then I check the rear view mirror. Guess who’s there, so close that I don’t even see the headlights?

At this point I realize I'm being tailgated--bullied, really--on purpose. The driver obviouslyknows my car; it’s a bright blue thing with a black roof and black racing stripes on the nose. Why did I have to spec it to be so damn obvious, I chided myself. Why did I feel the need to be so different all the time?

Panic flashes through my gut when I check the mirror again and see that he's still there.

Thoughts scroll through my head: “He can’t be mad about the other day. It's not possible; he doesn’t even know me. Besides, how can he be mad that the local lanes were moving and I happened to take them and he didn't. It's not my fault he made the wrong choice, I mean sure, I chuckled to myself but how would he know that? I didn't point and laugh at him as I passed.” This wasn’t road rage, it was “Road grudge” with a hefty dose of a special kind of crazy.

I switch lanes (evasive maneuver!) and he’s right there with me, as if a two foot rope is connecting our bumpers. I move over again, and he swerves and keeps on me for a second.

Then the grudgemeister swings into the carpool lane (illegally, I might add) and disappears, victorious. I let out my breath and let my car blend in with the rest of the evening traffic.

Sometimes winning involves finishing first and sometimes it just means letting the nutjobs have their way.