Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Miss May Part 2

This morning, May told me she is retiring on January 6! She will have ten years put in on January 5 but wants to finish that week of school. She says she needs to be home with her husband and that she's worked long enough. What will I do? I asked her what if the new person doesn't hold my bus for me because I'm a grownup, but she promises that all the guard staff are wonderful. I don't know. I feel unsure. I've gotten so used to a crossing guard I may not remember how to look both ways. I think I'll take her some cocoa in the afternoon on her last day and we'll celebrate.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Crazy Bread Lady

I stayed up pretty much all night long baking bread. I don't know why. I have this sort of mania sometimes. Like I'll read about something and have to do it immediately or I can't think about anything else until it happens. So Ellen gave me this memoir/cookbook about a woman who seems just like Ellen. This lady thinks all tables need flowers and that all meals MUST have a salad course with separate plates. I guess when you're over thirty you stop eating food out of the pot with a fork, I don't know. I'll have to wait and find out.

Anyway, this lady insisted her bread recipe was amazing and super easy. So I sent Corey out to buy wheat flour and yeast and I kneaded some dough. Because many of my experiments like this (I'm referring to the multiple yogurt disasters) have gone terribly wrong, I was super impatient about my bread dough. I was convinced I had effed it up and it would just sit there like a sticky lump and do nothing.

I peeked at it every five minutes. I couldn't sleep, even though I knew it was ok to let the sucker rise over night. I just had to keep peeking. And sure enough, it looked like it was doing nothing at all. My heart sank, I fell asleep. But then, this morning, it was sort of puffy! When I punched it, my hand sank into the dough, air escaped. I had made bread rise! It was so awesome. So I slapped it around for awhile, covered it with a towel and went back to bed.

Then, when I came back to the kitchen at 830, it had risen again! I have made bread. I have it in the oven right now.

As I questioned earlier this week, why do I do these things? Why am I reading a memoir cookbook and baking bread? I bought the Mrs. Beeton book, I have 30 pounds of bridal catalogues to read while I knead dough. It's so satisfying to do these things, too. It feels really good to know that I took some raw ingredients and formed them into something way more delicious than the supermarket could do.

It's also really neat to sit down to a meal I made completely from the beginning. I didn't grind the flour or stomp the olives, but I certainly infused the oil and kneaded the dough. I'm pretty jazzed to make french toast from my new loaf of wheat bread. Yum!

Ok, so the final product is a little crunchy. As in rock solid on the outside and a LITTLE soft in the middle. It's ok warm with butter, but not so good just on its own. It certainly does not melt in my mouth like the book suggests. I wonder if I cooked it too long? Or if I did something wrong with the ingredients. When Corey gets home from work, I'll send him to the store for more yeast. I have to get this right!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Anger Sharks

My anger sharks are swimming inside me this morning. For starters, I am having so much trouble with my writing project this semester. I have to keep revising a 60 page paper and with so much revision, I don't know where to start. Usually I just sit here and stare at my monitor. Then, Corey is totally sick and has to get up every hour to hack up phlegm. So I can't sleep at night and lie there thinking of my paper instead of getting refreshing sleep. Also, the kitchen is full to the brim of dirty, disgusting dishes. I can't bring myself to wash them and now there are sooooo many I wouldn't even know where to put dirty ones while I make others clean. Plus, even though Corey is sick, it is not my TURN to do these dishes. And I just can't make myself help him out when I do so much else domestically around here that I feel like I should get a uniform and ask for a Christmas bonus. Even those dishes in the dish drainer are dirty. We just put them there because there was nowhere else to put them. I can't even cook dinner tonight because all the pots and pans are dirty. And look at the disgusting crap in the drain!

Is it wrong that I get sick satisfaction from watching my neighbors clean their cars in the freezing cold? It's like when I watched Destiny move in the day after Corey and me. I just sat in my pajamas and watched her haul furniture in the stinking heat. This morning, I enjoyed watching Freya dig out her car wearing dress-up clothes. This is just wrong!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Miss May Saves the Day

Every morning from ten past seven until nine thirty, May Webber is the most important person on my block. For the past ten years, May has been guarding the intersection of Stanton and Negley in East Liberty, assuring safe passage for neighborhood school children. Nobody walks or drives through the intersection without her approval.
Webber is a fount of information, a parent to all. She can tell you the most accurate weather forecast for the next three days. She holds your bus for you if she sees you running down the block, even if you’re a grownup. She always has a smile for you, regardless of the temperature. Sometimes, in the afternoon, she doubles up as art critic, talent judge, or referee as kids rush to show her projects, sing songs, or demonstrate new dance moves. Today, I saw her showing some school kids how to make proper snowballs.
Sometimes, she has to work two corners. “I got 37 kids today!” she’ll say, flustered, as she looks up and down the street in four directions, checking to make sure children aren’t walking into the busy intersections alone. May works with private and public school children, elementary through high school students, in addition to all the adults she guides to work each day. Many of the students May shepherds attend schools that were recently scheduled to close in Fall of 2006. If that happens, “Well, I’ll be out of a job.” According to May, guards who work closer to the closing schools with more seniority will be assigned to the rural corners without traffic lights.
May is kind of low on the seniority list among crossing guards. She retired from her job as a supervisor in the housekeeping department of the nursing home on Stanton. Ten years on the street corner is nothing, a drop in the bucket for the old-timers guarding the intersections for their entire lives.
Today, I was surprised to see her when I left for my bus at 9. I knew the schools were on two-hour delay from the snow and thought maybe she just came in early. "You got to sleep in today, huh May!" I yelled, above the roar of slushy traffic.
"Not me! On snow days we work double!" Many of the parochial schools don't follow the closings and delays. May and the other guards work double shifts in case the kids don't hear the news. She sends them right back inside.
Since the weather is so variable in Pittsburgh, I've seen the full range of crossing guard fashion these past few months. On rainy days, May gets a huge yellow slicker. Her cold weather gear is also yellow. A fur-lined, knee length parka goes over her flat, navy hat. On nice days, she just wears her light blue button down with black pants. There are different gloves for the different weather conditions. Today, snowy and white, necessitated thick, black gloves.
The one thing that never changes is the siler-plated whistle on May's wrist. It hangs from an equally shiny hoop, and she blows it with caution. One day a few weeks ago, in the pouring rain, a screaming fire truck came dashing through a red light in May's interesection. She was glorious, holding back the traffic whistling at the children to stay put, checking behind her to make sure no kids ran through her other corner.
"We're so short handed now! I work double corners every day." She tells me in the afternoon. The kids trudging home through the snow made sure to stop and hug her. As she stands in the middle of the road, blocking the traffic so I can cross into my apartment, I think that I just might want to hug her, too.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Actual Snow

So instead of concentrating on my revision of my 60 page piece of crap paper, I decided to go to Target and spend my magical money from heaven on some presents. There I was shopping away for about an hour. I came outside, and there was the snow! Covering everything! It took me forever to get home. I was maybe 80% as scared as I was driving on Going to the Sun Highway in Glacier. They sure aren't kidding when they say bridges freeze before roads. I'm so glad I had so many to drive on! And, as I'm sure Corey has complained to you in the past, there is a stop sign at every intersection in Pittsburgh, most of these on hills. There was a lot of careful shifting going on tonight!

Now that I am home, I am still not doing my revisions. My proposal still lacks frame and focus, and I guess I don't care anymore tonight maybe? Who can say. I did 5 loads of laundry, drank a daquiri and took some photos of the blizzard:

Not terribly exciting, but I think it's a nice change from staring at my laptop. But let's face it. I really haven't spent too much time staring at my laptop tonight, have I?

Monday, December 05, 2005


So I just realized that I have quite a collection of etiquette books. I have the Grrls guide to etiquette, I've been reading some Mrs. Beeton. After reading some fascinating Margaret Atwood books, I got really interested in how to run upper class households in the 19th century, so I bought some guides to that. Since I got engaged, I have tons of Emily Post books and stuff from The Knot laying around. Why is this? I consider myself a feminist. Surely I don't agree that there are proper ways to respond to dinner invitations and certain formulas involved in calculating what to spend on a wedding gift. Do I purchase these books out of hidden shame for my enjoyment of burping? Perhaps I feel badly that I don't own lace gloves or a purse?

Last night, I was working with a student on her paper about Adrienne Rich's ON LYING. Rich parodies society's roles for women; she ironically challenges our behaviors. I made this student work very hard to differentiate between Rich's opinion of a "woman's place" and society's definition of the same. The student and I gave virtual high fives, talked about girl power. Today, I started an application process to teach women's studies courses next year.

So why the fascination with etiquette guides? I could tell you I buy them because they're funny or that I analyze them to scorn the women for perpetuating a servile role for themselves. But I don't do these things. I read these guides and secretly wish I wanted a china dinner service for 12. I wish I had glasses for all types of alcohol, sterling silver flatware to bring out for company. I wish I knew the rules of appropriate hours to make phone calls. I wish I sent people thank you gifts wrapped in satin bows around expensive boxes. Why don't I do these things?

I have taken up knitting with fervor, I learned to bake apple pie from scratch this summer, and I infuse my own olive oil. I pick up after a man and I curl up with the writings of the Victorian Martha Stewart. What is happening to me?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Dancing, Snow and Ethiopia

Well, I decided at last to welcome my fellow writers into my home. Despite my not having hung photos on the wall yet, everyone was impressed with the charm of this gorgeous building. Everyone's awe at the high ceilings and fantastic built in fireplace and bookshelves reinforced my confidence that I was right to pressure Corey into moving in to this building. The back yard is kind of creepy now that it's winter time. The big old oak tree by the fence has destroyed the iron fence. Its roots have pushed up sections, knocking it off kilter. The snow covered dead plants around it (I thought sunflowers crumbled after they wither, but no! They stand there like dead Christmas trees) make the whole yard creepy. But the rest of the building is awesome.

Anyway, the dance party was a hit. Sarah Harris and Taha from fiction got totally hooked on DDR. They stomped the night away to Neverending Story screaming "This game is like crack! I'm totally hooked!"

And then Corey's PSU friends came in preparation for a snowy mountainbike adventure. Only Alyssa would dance. I think the three boys were too ashamed that Corey is so good at DDR. They just played dominos in the kitchen. Whatever. Dancing is way cooler.

We went bowling at a totally creepy urban bowling alley on Saturday. The employees screamed at one another over intercoms. "No, asshole! The people who want Christmas music are up front!" "Look, jerk, just turn the radio to BOB!" It made me very uncomfortable. I had to drink some Iron City just to deal. The ball return didn't work and small children kept coming and taking our balls. It was definitely my strangest bowling adventure ever.

THEN we went to Abay and had Ethiopian food again. I was so glad five people were there because we got to try eight different dishes. We did everything but pick up the communal platters and lick them. The waitress tried to take away our platters after we had eaten most of the food, but Corey stopped her so we could dip our bread into the saucy patches of onion and lentils left on the tin plates. It was amazing. Ethiopia has the best food I've ever eaten. How did they get this reputation for famine? Their recipes are amazing. Plus, you get to eat with your hands and you scarf bread with every bite. What could be better??

Friday, December 02, 2005

Steamboat Captain

I finally decided to be proactive about the radiators. For some reason, Corey suggested that my constant bitching about them wasn't helpful. I don't know why he doesn't enjoy my pinching him awake every morning at 5:20 to listen to the clanging. Anyway, I called the rental people and they asked me the following questions before they would send a specialist: 1. Is your radiator turned on? 2. Are your windows closed?

The super nice heater fixer discovered that the water release valve on the radiator has been painted shut. As soon as he chopped it off, the whole house was instantly, silently hotter. It was a miracle. He is now in the bedroom with a hammer making some magic happen for the radiator.

Corey is sitting in his office in his pajamas (yes, pajamas at 4:30 in the afternoon) supervising. I'm so glad to have the problem solved before our ultra fun Dance Dance Revolution party this evening.