Friday, August 31, 2007

On Board

I'm sitting in the train in the station in Pittsburgh, waiting to leave for home and my cousin's wedding, where I will return to the world of performance violin for one brief weekend. The train is spacious and wide and comes with an on-board magazine. The seats are comfortable and MY FEET REACH THE GROUND! Because my ticket was cheaper than the bus (and because my window has curtains), I have decided I will never again take a Greyhound when I go home. Additionally, there seems to be magical free wi-fi on the train. Apart from these wonders, I have seen the following things:

1. The electronic check-in kiosk, buried beneath an enclave of old yentas eating donuts and gossiping. I needed to use this kiosk because I just can't wait in long lines in the earl morning when technology is available. When I climbed over the yentas and their belongings to print my electronic ticket, they all exclaimed, "Well look at that! She got her ticket from a machine!" Everyone within earshot came to watch. I became a novelty act. I sort of expected applause when I finally left with my receipt.

2. A man and his wife with huge Yafa blocks filled with apples. The apples were all different shades and sizes. They rolled the blocks behind them on those portable dollies. I wonder where on the train they will stash their loot. Perhaps the baggage area?

3. An Amish family with one stroller full of babies and another filled with food and blankets. I wonder if they have been here for the Children's hospital and are now returning to Lancaster?

4. A man so drunk I gagged on the fumes coming off of him. Beside him in the boarding room was, of course, the only available seat. When I took it, he began a long discussion with me over the joys of playing instruments. My violin case reminded him of the days he used to play the guitar. He had a smooth southern accent and was taking a train for work. "I can't fly, you see, because my id got all fucked up."

"Of course," I told him, nodding. "That happens sometimes." He works for Wal-mart at night, remodeling storefronts and laying tiles. He hates working at night and has to drink a fifth of vodka at 6am or he won't be able to sleep during the day. His great hope on this trip is to secure a sleeping car en route to the next Wal-mart.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Welcome Back, Students!

Me: So, Student, how was your first day of class?
Student A: Pretty good. I only have one gay class this semester. My psych teacher is a fu@^ing c*%t."

Student B
walks in, with an assignment to read a mock editorial by Michael Rogers, which intimates that literacy is a thing of the past. The work implies that reading is a "luxury" and only an elite class should even bother learning the skill. Their assignment is to write an essay agreeing or disagreeing with Rogers. I ask Student B what he thinks of the editorial.

Student B: This dude has it pretty right. Look at text messaging! Also, those motherf*^ers workin' at Burger King don't need to read anyway. He's right.

Student C: Is it alright if I take my shirt off? It's hot as hell in this joint. No? I really can't take my shirt off? What you mean no shirt, no shoes, no service. I got to get comfortable. Sh&*, I'm taking off my shoes anyway.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Belly Update

My sister's burn is doing better. I have been told the pictures I post are repulsive. Well I think they are amazing. But I will honor the weak stomachs and suggest that if anyone cares about my sister's well being, they can just look here and see that she is doing much better. She can even wear real pants now. Almost.

Ice Cream

I am back in school, which means the end of seeing Corey. I work or have class until 9 every night but Thursday, which is the one night per week I can get to rugby. I was pretty delighted that I got out of work a tad early last night. Too late to make the end of practice, but plenty of time to pedal home and make Corey take me on a date!

We drove down the hill to the Riverside Cafe, where you can get softserve ice cream and a fantastic view of the Allegheny River. We were so gushy it was almost gross. We got swirly cones with chocolate sprinkles and sat staring at the full moon and listening to young people send text messages to one another.

Then, we drove home and watched two episodes of Trailer Park Boys. At first, I was very irritated by this series and wanted to stab Corey in the eyeballs for bringing it into our lives. Now, I can't get enough. We even watched an episode this morning. Ice cream and trailer parks. This has become our romantic bonding. We have even suggested that a better date would have been to go buy a gallon of ice cream and bring it home, so we could watch the show while we eat it.

I'm not quite sure what I'll do when the weather gets cold and we have watched all the existing episodes of the series. Maybe drop out of school so we can go on real dates?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Long Way Home

This weekend was the Penn State Rugby alumni reunion. It was very special, as we honored the 1997 national champions, the first of four winners in one decade. Today, my college teammates and I piled into the Mazda in State College sore and tired after the full contact hellish game against the current team. We reminisced about the weekend and shared our favorite parts. Mine was the post-banquet celebration where 15 years of Penn State Women combined for a massive game of flip cup and were later serenaded by the Blue Band somehow. I loved spending time with these women, who set a precedent and developed a program that has literally changed the lives of hundreds of women throughout the world. Without those ladies, who now have babies and still play rugby, I would be floundering around somewhere. Lost and aimless.

Other people in the car liked making fun of people on the field, yelling "Kill HER!" when Turkl somehow stole the ball from the alumnae or when people wiped out and fell down, which is hilarious.

We talked about our collective weirdness, how freeing it is to get together and remember a time when we were surrounded by people who all knew exactly how crucial it is to absorb back sweat on a sunny day and who all loved us not despite but because of our anxieties and eccentricities.

So we were sharing and telling stories until we looked up and the highway was ending in a T. Somewhere in the middle of Maryland. Rather than turn to head west on 22, I just kept going south on 220, and that road disappeared but I kept on going straight on something else. A simple two-point-five hour drive home from State College stretched into a seven hour debacle through three states, with one person almost missing an airplane, another person wearing the wrong outfit to a Steelers game, and me having to drive on hot black leather seats for seven hours into the sun.

Not only am I aching from my first scrums in a long time and reeling from my excesses, but I am also cramped and my clutch foot hurts from the Steelers traffic that found me outside the Fort Pitt tunnel. I think, despite the extended drive of disaster, that this was a truly perfect weekend. I'm almost glad I took the long way home because it meant that much longer until it had to end.

Friday, August 24, 2007


I love to pop stuff. Lucky for me, in this humidity my face is a mass of giant zits. I've been digging at them obsessively and now I'm sad that I look like a disaster for my rugby reunion at Penn State this weekend. But juicy face zits are NOTHING at all compared to that bubble on my sister's burn. If it were me, I wouldn't be able to contain myself despite medical advice.

She's loaded up on Vicadin and is a nurse, so she knows that she can't go touching her burn wound, let alone popping the huge bubble. By day three, it had swelled up to this size:

My mom took her to the doctor, who suggested Betsy let him pop it. I say, no fair. I would have gladly driven 4 hours home to juice that bag. Just because he has a medical degree, my sister let him try to "heal" her. I think I should have been a doctor. I hear there is lots of popping involved. Katrina Firlik, whose book I reviewed, talks about popping little cysts that grow on people's brains. My friend Kathleen is a veterinarian and she gets to pop things on animals all the time.

Maybe, instead of being a doctor, I could be a popper. Like a moyel, only I go around popping things people no longer want attached to their bodies. Who would hire me?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Elephantitus of the Belly

My poor sister. She always has bad things happen to her. First, she had her little cankle problem and now, she has a really bad burn. She was making pasta the other night and reached up for the cabinet above the stove. She accidentally bumped the pot handle and spilled boiling water on her stomach and upper thighs. This is what it looks like now:

I feel so terrible for her. I can't imagine the pain of having that move and ache every time she breathes in and out, let alone moves. She was supposed to drive out to see us this week, so I'm even more sad at the lost chance to spend time with her and even MORE sad because I was going to trick her into playing rugby again.

I miss my sister. I hope her belly doesn't scar because at least one person in my family a belly nice enough to wear with bikinis. It would be a shame to cover that up.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Weirdest Business Lunch Ever

I show up at a store to meet the owner, about whom I'm writing a story for the corporate newsletter. He is old and wild looking, with crazy hair and visible smudges on his glasses. He's dressed fantastically in pin stripes, a blue shirt, and a cool black sweater. But he's carrying a Macy's bag instead of a briefcase.

"Hey, Betty! Sweetheart, meet a multimillionaire. 3 million dollars. All of it liquid." He puts his arm around me and guides me toward a man in a straw hat with bad breath and a piece of hay dangling from his lips. The owner, who I shall call Bert, turns to me and asks whether I would like some fried fish for lunch.

"No thank you," I say, explaining that I don't like to eat and interview. He disregards me and heaps fried cod onto a tray, covers it with fried shrimp and then squirts a half gallon of tartar sauce onto everything. We walk by the soup stand and he insists I eat clam chowder.

"Go get me three Pepsis." I look up, stunned. He is staggering around under the massive tray, now containing two salads and some fruit. I get the drinks and meet him in line. "I'm going upstairs. Just sign my credit card slip for me." I scribble Bert's name on the sheet and follow him.

We chat about fish and travel. He's just been abroad. I tell him a story about the Iditarod. I meet several of his brothers, sit back while two of them have a fight, and try not to laugh. Bert struggles to open his plastic salad container, mangles it with his hands and eventually gives up. He smashes it open with his fist and tomatoes fly all over the place. He drops tartar sauce on his lap and looks down, disgruntled. I see him look around and then dip his napkin in one of the Pepsis and use that to mop up his spill.

We talk about the products I'm writing about for awhile. Very interesting stuff. Tales of economic ruin and rebuilding, globalization, capitalism. Bert struggles to open the fruit salad and I take it from him and gently lift where it says "Lift here." Bert is amazed. Another brother comes and sits with us. He says, "Bert, when did you decide to cut your hair? I'm so glad you did because you looked like a hobo."

Bert pulls open a trade magazine and asks me if the Irish owner of a fish plant looks like his brother. The brother opens a map of Ireland to a picture of a lemur and asks me if it looks like Bert. I just laugh until Bert asks me, of all his brothers, who is the most eccentric.

"Well, Bert, I have to say you." He laughs and walks up to a fish display. He grabs a bag of the product we discussed and hands it to me, walking out the door laughing still.

Later, as I'm pulling out of the parking lot, the drive belt starts screeching terribly in the Nissan. Bert is walking across the street. He shoves his hands over his ears in pain and looks around for the source. When he sees me, he points and shakes his head as I squeal off into the rain.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Settling In

Things are becoming normal to me here at our new house. I have preferred routes to grocery stores and know how many pedals it takes to get up the hill on my bicycle (46 hard pumps up Bryant Street in first gear). More important, we forget to do our chores. The house is a mess and I got so distracted by Facebook this evening that I stopped mid-Swiffer.

I empty the dehumidifier twice a day and get excited about arranging the recycling in the dining room. It's easy, in these last few weeks of summer, to forget that I have to go back to school. My street is completely silent and if I close my eyes or do enough Sodoku puzzles, I could pretend I don't live in Pittsburgh at all. Maybe I'm in some faraway land where I have a housekeeper and a life of leisure?

More likely, I just feel settled in my new house and am finally learning how to relax myself. In the spirit of enjoyment, I will share a fun video from our housewarming party last weekend. I think it sums up my feelings on dancing, alcohol, and my home.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Irrational Anger

I'm in the only open student computing lab on campus. There is a woman using the only computer that has the scanner. Only she isn't using the scanner. She has chosen this computer among countless others because of its convenient proximity to the printer. She is taking a biology practice exam. I need to use the scanner to scan three articles for my fall syllabus and two contracts I need to get to an editor. I am filled with irrational anger.

I keep walking up to the help desk and saying, loudly, "Are you allowed to take biology exams on the computer with the scanner? No? Oh, well, maybe you should make your big, bold, red sign a little more visible."

For awhile, I stand behind her doing loud nasal breathing like my dad does when he wants to use the stove and someone's making Rice-A-Roni. I sigh repeatedly and crinkled my papers, fantasizing about the big F-minus she might get on her test. I hope to distract her to the point of tears, or at least make her go home and complain about me to her roommates.

Then I realize I am acting like I am five. After all, I am in my upper 20s now. This little rule breaker is probably only 18 and might fail out of college. Or even get alcohol poisoning later this month. I sit down at a computer near her and try to ease my fury.

I have decided what bothers me most about the situation is not that I have to wait for the scanner. She is doing something wrong, deliberately inconveniencing others. I feel that she feels entitled to use that computer for her biology exam, others' needs be damned. I find solace knowing that sometime in the near future, she is going to need a parking space to get a fake bake at Hollywood Tans. And I will be in the 15 minute loading zone space for at least a half hour. On purpose.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Attention Ohio plate EH11ZJ: I am onto you. I hope I get your driver or passengers in class someday so I can fail you for being a little misogynist shit. You think you're so macho, driving down the highway with your "SHOW US YOUR TITS" sign?

Someday, you will have daughters and men like you will objectify her in this manner and you will be horrified. I hope you remember this incident, and how you reacted when our car full of women responded with our own sign: RESPECT WOMEN MORE. Calling us all dykes because we wouldn't show you our breasts reveals your true incapacity to be someone's lover. You will never have a meaningful relationship. You just might die alone, a miserable death with your pornos and your Bud Light and your TV tray.

My small consolation to your misdeed is that when you followed us to the rest stop, your 16-year-old bravery melted away at the sight of our fierce rugby powers. You weren't so tough when you wanted us to eat with you at Burger King, and we refused to acknowledge you, were you?

Now, leave us alone so we can stand on the pedestrian walkway at the rest stop on I-90, where the Mac trucks zoom forward and we can fantasize about them flattening your patriarchal smallness as you fail to look both ways.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mixed Emotions

I had to go to the lady doctor today because I'm out of birth control pills. I had been dreading this visit since January, when I was informed the University would no longer subsidize the cost of the pills. As my health insurance doesn't cover them, I had been very thankful to get contraceptives for $10 a month at the student health clinic.

Apparently, my favorite Republicans decided universities should no longer be allowed to subsidize contraceptives for students. This includes free condoms, discounted pills, the ring, all of it. I feel this is terribly irresponsible. Morally apprehensible. I'm a graduate student looking to not have a baby and I just don't have $46 a month to spare for these sorts of things.

I've been unable to find news articles, none of the doctors could tell me which representatives to call and voice my opinion as a voter, and my supply of the cheap pills has dwindled. Today, when I slumped up to the cash register at the pharmacy, I braced myself, clenched my muscles.

"Ten dollars, please," said the clerk.

"What?!!!" I screamed, actually raised my voice. It turns out my health insurance started covering my pills somewhere in the middle of the night. Since I buy generic, I can get three months' worth for ten bucks. This is fantastic!

I just have to remember to not let my temporary joy override what I view as a much deeper problem. We cannot return to the days where diaphragms were illegal. I almost feel like Corey and I should take the difference in money we saved and donate it to Planned Parenthood. Certainly this is something I will do when we have a steady income.

This is one of the reasons it kills me that my sister (and other young people) thinks politics do not affect her. Do you want to not make babies and simultaneously afford your tuition? Vote! Go vote!

I will now dedicate the rest of my evening to discovering more information about this bill and how I can vote against it.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

City of Sleep

Nothing in Pittsburgh opens early. I cannot get over this. I come from a place where people, like my grandmother, eat dinner at 4 and then go to bed by 6pm. If you don't get a nice early start on your day, you might as well not even bother getting up because it will be too late.

I was shocked to discover I couldn't get my face waxed, buy lunch meat, or go to the garden center until 10am. I was at the post office by 830, dropped off our recyclables by 9 and had to settle for some Home Depot supplies because I wasn't about to make another trip out into the wild.

My goal had been to buy garden fencing, a rake, the black carpety weed blocker, and some late season seeds like cilantro, spinach, and lavender cuttings. I spent the last few days in between rainstorms hacking away the wilderness in the back yard. I have an 8' by 2' space hacked and raked with a walkway all around. It kills me that I could only get started in late summer and have to wait 6 months to plant anything. When I finally discovered some things I could plant, I had to wait even longer because the city is still sleeping.

Maybe everyone is resting up for the Steelers/Packers game later? Perhaps Pittsburghers plan ahead and buy supplies Friday nights? Maybe this is a message that I myself should learn to sleep later and only start my weekends around noon.

Friday, August 10, 2007


This is a post about water. It's everywhere in Pittsburgh. Too much of it. The air lately has been so full of water I honestly feel that I can see it, that if I breathe out heavily enough I'll make a space for myself in the wet haze.

Mid-week, the dew point reached 75 with over 65% humidity. While I don't have a great understanding of meteorology, I take this to mean that the vast majority of the air was water. It's been wreaking havoc on my sinuses as rugby practice gets going and crew practice builds in intensity. This week, when I got splashed with river water I honestly didn't even feel it, and it wasn't because we were just rowing too fast to notice.

What surprises me most about the moisture (and the torrential downpours that do nothing to relieve the humidity) is my new thought process since becoming a homeowner. As I stand in the rain, a little bit of stinging rain, as Forrest Gump would say, I think briefly of my misery and then dwell on the condition of the basement. Have we taken on water again? Will one box of baking soda be enough to fight off the mildew smell??

When I encounter strangers, I find myself engaging in the small talk I so greatly despise. Hey Jim, how about this weather? Did you get any water in your basement??? Only I'm not really saying these things as a substitute for real interaction. I really care about people's basements. I really want to hear what other Pittsburghians do to dry those suckers out.

Yesterday, it rained so much that rugby practice was canceled. For the non-ruggers among the seven readers out there, this is a big deal. Rugby is never canceled. Ever. As I had no power due to the electrical storm, I didn't receive the message and drove through a small landslide only to discover myself alone among a field of soggy homeless men.

Corey and I drove instead to a Thai restaurant with partial power to eat dinner by the light of a huge bug zapper and worried more about the house. Have our windows been properly sealed against moisture? Should we have a roofer come check the chimney flashing? Ignoring our enormous pit stains and lower-back-sweat puddles is a true sign that something has changed in me. I have replaced an opportunity for incessant whining with genuine concerns, something concrete to worry about. The tides of these swollen rivers have turned.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Drive It Like You Stole It!

This weekend was the Can-Am Rugby tournament in Saranac Lake, New York. It's my most favorite weekend of the entire year. I get to spend ten hours in the car with Penn State ruggers, past and present, and remember once again the magical world I uncovered when Marcel kidnapped me at the involvement fair nine years ago. For two magnificent days, I get to wear a Penn State jersey again.

This year's adventure was just as much a drunken debacle as it is every year. We successfully sneaked a young Japanese player into a bar using an older Vietnamese player's ID, because apparently Adirondack bouncers think all Asians look the same. We told the bouncers we were there for my bachellorette party, so the whole crew of us only had to pay half the cover. We floated in Mirror Lake drinking nasty beers while watching an enormous person capsize a kayak. And we played some good rugby.

Sunday morning, we played against a team of ladies who traveled all the way here from Enniskillen, Ireland. Cheering from the sidelines before a scrum, one of their supporters yelled "Drive it like you stole it!" I laughed hysterically at this for two days, until I decided that's how I felt about the whole weekend. It all went by so fast, a huge blur of bagels and smelly jerseys and long conversations. It felt a bit like I was stealing a peek back into Penn State Rugby, the best thing to ever happen to me. Now that it's all over and I'm recovering with an ice pack on my neck, I wish we hadn't driven away from it all so quickly.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Fall Season

Last night was the beginning of fall rugby practice. It feels awesome to re-enter my comfort zone. Thanks to Andrew and Becky, I have discovered a small video that sums up my feelings on the upcoming rugby season. Don't you just feel like kicking some butt?