Category Archives: Friends

It’s a Loo* Thing

*British slang for bathroom (at least it was in the 80s).

I have an odd hobby. Well, truth be told I have several, but I’m only willing to expose them one at a time. In today’s episode, I offer my interest in comparing restaurant bathrooms in Boston. A number of years ago, my friend Lora and I were going out frequently, and we found ourselves being able to remember the bathrooms from the previous night out to compare and contrast. Some bathrooms try really hard to be high-class with that little antique wooden stand holding real flowers clearly flown in from wherever shi-shi flowers are flown in from out of season. And big, thick paper hand towels that actually dry your hands and not leave them half wet as you head out the door, having to choose between flapping them like a dork or patting/wiping them discretely on your outfit and risk hand prints. Oh, and the fixtures that take you a minute to figure out how to work them because they look more like an art exhibit at the ICA or from page 57 of the Italian fine fixtures catalog, Bene Infissi. And it’s not just high-end places that have fancy bathrooms, let me tell you. Some times it’s decent enough, yet average restaurants that have these bathrooms. As if they are reaching for the water closet stars.

Mostly though, the average independent casual restaurant has the utilitarian bathroom: white sink, wall dispenser of brown towels, and 50% of the time, a bottle of hand soap from CVS. Also, the ear-splitting hand drier that self-importantly claims to have saved a 1,000 trees and untold numbers of forests. Perhaps, but what about my hearing loss from the high-pitched screaming of the driers? I guess at least the newer fast flow ones actually do dry your hands. The slower driers do the exact same job as the cheap brown paper towels.

Of course, then there are the dive bars and their matching bathrooms — cramped little affairs that have names, advice, insults, and phone numbers carved into the walls, aging them to the point of putting the pyramids to shame. They also have questionable cleanliness that actually encourages you to get more drunk, so you don’t really notice of the state of the bathroom.

I was in one of my favorite watering holes recently, an Irish bar, and noticed something different: the bathroom doors were standing ajar, with the open door pointing away from the stall at a 45 degree angle. I wrestled with it for several seconds, but it wouldn’t open any wider. I tried another door. Same deal. I finally moved to a door that was flush, and realized the doors push in.

So, if you’re a woman with a bathroom hobby, that begs the question: What the heck happens in a Irish bar filled with millennials who work in the financial skyscraper next door that creates bent doors? Is there some sort of trivia night or karaoke dark underbelly that leads to bathroom rumbles? Or was it some kind of X-File, and next time I’m there, I’ll find Scully and Mulder examining the hinges and having an argument about supernatural forces vs. vexed trivia night women?

See, bathrooms are fascinating.

Anyway, I went with friends recently to see Motown the Musical at the Boston Opera House. It deserves and will get its own blog, and I’ll write about that soon. I encourage you to see it if you can. It’s been going on for a while, and is only playing in London right now. So seriously, you’d better get a move on about that.

At intermission we headed for the bathroom. At the time my bathroom curiosity radar was off because during a show or event, a woman needs to focus. There could be 3 bathrooms or 30, but either way, you have to be at the front or you find yourself at the end of a long-ass line and miss the start of the second act. I was just hoping for more than 3 bathrooms, and when I got inside I saw about 14. Excellent. Suddenly, from above me, I heard numbers being called out. “Number 14 is open. Number 8 is open. Number 3 is open. Number 11 is open.”

Now I’m confused — women are entering and exiting the stalls at a rapid pace, and while the activity seems to be connected to the numbers being called out, I cannot figure out where the sound is coming from. First, I thought it was an automated thing, like announcing the floors on elevators, but the voice coming from on high had too many human inflections. Then I thought someone was looking in at us via a camera and that was just too creepy. The calling continued: “Number 4 is open. Number 7. Number 10 is open.” Amid the confusion of the doors opening and closing, suddenly it was my turn. I refocused on getting in an out in time for the second act. I was still puzzling over the thing on my way back to my seat, when my friend Lora caught up to me.

“So, what did you think about bathroom bingo?”

I burst out laughing, “Yes! That’s exactly what it was! Where was that voice coming from?”

“Didn’t you see the woman standing against the wall at the very back of the bathroom? She had a microphone.”

Clearly, I did not.

So, now, apparently, jobs at the theater include ushers, ticket and merchandise cashiers, and … bathroom bingo callers.

 

17 Easy Steps to Fitting an Antique Buffet into a Prius

Exactly 4 years ago, (minus a day) I posted this blog. I’m helping the earth by reusing, recycling, and reposting. This has absolutely nothing to do with being busy with stuff. None. I was looking up post hits since I started my blog, and this one was pretty high up on the list. Even better I have an update. Not only have the recipients formally adopted the buffet, they have also adopted a little boy. Congrats!

Step 1: In your twenties, gain possession of one large, antique buffet for free from a friend who is cleaning out a family home and already has one.

Step 2: Be thankful for such friends.

Step 3: Allow the buffet to make up for feeling insecure about your working class roots, where no matter how many family houses you clean out, you will never find a piece of furniture like this.

Step 4: Be absurdly proud how it fits perfectly in your large apartment that actually feels like a home, and not a starter apartment with milk crates and hand-me-down particle board furniture. Revel in the pantry, a built-in china cabinet, dental molding (which you will have to learn about because you have never seen such carved beauty), pocket doors and a fireplace (Ok, neither the fireplace, nor one of the doors worked, but still – it was a FIREPLACE and POCKET doors!)

Step 5: Be blissfully ignorant of how the pride in step 4 only highlights your insecurities.

Step 6: Get priced out of said apartment and cool neighborhood and buy a condo in a less expensive, working class town. Be whiny and curse the fates that have brought you back to the type of place you thought you’d escaped. Cling to the buffet even harder, even though the condo does not have a formal dining room. Tell yourself it will be great for extra storage.

Step 7: Do not hug the movers who manage to wedge into the condo what you now realize is a monolithic piece of furniture.

Step 8: Find yourself 12 years later post-divorced, post-condo, and moving into a four-room apartment, but still in possession of the buffet. Be clear with yourself why you still have it and understand your attachment to it. Don’t let that stop you from putting it in storage and playing out a twisted Scarlett O’Hara kind of fantasy that one day, as the universe is your witness, you will never live in a formal dining room-less place again!

Step 9: Be sure to have other, more likable traits and make the kind of friends who don’t hold Step 8 against you.

Step 10: Get a grip and realize paying storage fees for over a year is stupid. Gather tolerant friends to see if anyone has space to hold the buffet for you or use it until your plan for formal dining room domination is complete.

Step 11: Get another grip and realize all your urban friends have small urban spaces. Widen the search to out-of-state friends with more space.

Step 12: Find a home in southern Maine. Have a Prius-owning good friend who will help you, even though you are way past the age when friends should ask friends for moving help.

Step 13: Have the Prius-owning friend also be the type who will measure to see if it will fit in the back. All of it: 5 feet, 6-inches long x 37 inches tall x 21.5 inches deep.

Step 14: Pick up the moving van you will drive to Maine in case the buffet doesn’t fit in the Prius. As you climb into a van that smells heavily like sweaty workmen who smoke, be more fervent in your prayers that the buffet will fit into the Prius.

Step 15: Spend 15 minutes, pushing, cajoling, and sliding the buffet in the back. Spend another 5 to 10 minutes adjusting the front seats to somewhere between buffet-sticking-out-the-back-an-inch to can’t-feel-your-legs-because-knees-are-in-your-chin. Settle on abnormally bent legs and pit stops as needed to reintroduce circulation.

Step 16: Deliver the buffet to Maine friends, who quickly find it won’t fit in their basement either. Discover it fits perfectly between their open floor plan dining room and living room. Smile and enjoy when their daughter begins using the buffet immediately to have her toy frog practice his skate board moves.

Step 17: 4 years later, move into an apartment with a dining room and realize that you really don’t need the buffet anymore. Let the stewards know they can keep it.

And a big thank you to my friends: Tim (furniture donor), Brad (for trying to help me find a home closer to home), Becky and Susan (Prius owners), and Gloria, Mary, and their daughter — current stewards adopters of the honking, big buffet, and as of last month, adopters of a sweet little boy. May they all have a long life.

Photo:  A perfect fit in the Prius: the buffet arrives safely in Maine. The driver and passenger were off to the side coaxing the circulation back into their legs.

It’s a Cute Hamster Week

Hi all, I was away this weekend visiting Sonia, my fellow U2 fan and friend extraordinaire. We had an awesome time and wondered why we had waited so long? The visit had started with us trying to see the band again. Then we realized we didn’t have to wait for Bono to croon to us for $300 a pop to see each other. Love you, Bono, but we’ll maybe catch you next time around. So instead we talked non-stop and had a lot of fun. It was a great antidote to a couple of stressful weeks, so while I’m feeling much more balanced, I had no time to polish any of the blog drafts I have. The 5-hour train ride was filled with great hopes of writing several blogs and finishing a book.

I fell asleep for the most the ride. Ah, well. Some times you just have to sleep.

Which brings us to: all I got is the cute hamsters. These are not ours, but they made me laugh.

This one just looks like Einstein and the way his hair is sticking out, he also looks harried. with a side of frantic. That’s pretty much what I’ve been feeling.

einstein hamster

This is is just about hanging in there. Have a good week!

Cute Hamster Animal Desktop Wallpaper

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Another year, another Boston Marathon. I first published this last year as part of my goal to fight Cheeto flea by getting more involved in racial justice. My progress has been slower than I would prefer, but like the marathoners, I try to stay focused on putting one foot in front of the other. I am reading a book called “Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era.” The author, Ashley Farmer, is a professor at my alma mater, Boston University, and I learned about her and her book from an email from the school — sometimes those annoying emails are actually useful! It is a bit more academic than I’m used to, but that’s OK. She talks about how Black women were working right alongside Black men to gain racial equality, reframing it and adding a female perspective. And she talks about women activists who make the case that it’s not just the big names like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth that we need to think about, but also all of the mothers and grandmothers who held the family together, often by cleaning white women’s houses, and who “found ways to financially and emotionally support [their] family in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and discrimination.”

So in addition to remembering Marilyn Bevans, the first Black woman to run in the Boston Marathon, I am also remembering her mother and grandmother and all the women standing behind her as she crossed that finish line. 

As a side note, I decided to Google “first Black women to run the Boston Marathon” this year again to see if we had made any progress on the topic in the past year. Guess what came up first? This blog post, followed by the same references from last year. If that doesn’t show that we all have something to contribute, I don’t know what does. Step by step, people. Step by step.

Today is Patriot’s Day in Boston, aka Boston Marathon Day. There will be an estimated 30,000 runners who have either a qualifying time, are part of a team running for charity, or are simply a handful of rogue folks who find registering and qualifying a bother, and good for them.

At 122 years, the Boston Marathon is the oldest, and is 26 miles and 385 yards, which reminds me of the Mass Ave Bridge’s measurement in Smoots — 364.4 and one ear to be exact. For some reason we Bostonians like our precision, even if it means adding yards or an ear. Oliver Smoot, by the way, was a 1962 graduate of MIT who stood 5 feet, 7 inches. You can well imagine how he was used as a measuring stick and that there was most likely alcohol involved. Perhaps the 385 additional yards in the marathon came about in a similar way. We can only hope.

Last year they retired the number of the first woman to officially register and run, Kathrine Switzer. In 1967 she registered with only her initials — there was this pesky thing where women weren’t officially allowed to run until 1972, so they gave her a number assuming she was a man. I guess that’s some progress. Mary Ann Evans had to take an entire man’s name of George Eliot to get published. Kathrine was inspired by the 1966 rogue run of Roberta Gibbs, who apparently jumped out of the bushes near the start and ran and finished the race. Wanting to run 26 miles is crazy and hard enough, without having to concoct a surprise way of joining in. A year later, Kathrine may have made more than 26,000 steps for herself, but also she made a giant leap for women athletes everywhere — at least the white ones. Marathon official Jack Sempe tried to take her bib, yelling, “Get the hell out of my race, and give me those numbers.” Her boyfriend, who was running with her, body checked Jack out of the way, but not before the whole thing was photographed and went the 1967 version of viral. There’s a well-done piece about the story in the Boston Herald.

Cool story, right? It made me wonder about other firsts, like the first African-American man and woman to run the Boston race. And that’s where that little ole thing called racism creeps in. Granted, Kathrine’s story was splashed all over the news because of the retired number thing. And there was that 1967 viral photo by a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer, no less.

However, it should not have taken as many Google searches as it did for me to get to those other firsts. I mean isn’t that what Black History Month is all about? Digging up historical stuff that we’ve been covering up/not caring about for, like, ever?

I found two sources, and the second one, the National Black Marathoners Association history project gets credit for actually including a — — woman. Both sources say Aaron Morris was the first Black male runner in the Boston Marathon in 1919, 47 years before a white woman. The first and only reference I can find of the first Black woman to run in Boston is Marilyn Bevans in 1977; and she placed 2nd. That’s pretty amazing right? Where are the stories about her? Granted once I knew her name, more came up in the search, including that she is considered the first lady of marathon running. But doesn’t that warrant her coming up in the more general searches of first women/first Black woman to run the Boston Marathon?

Maybe in running circles this is common knowledge, but let’s face it, most of us think marathon running is crazy, unless it’s a big event in your city and you get the day off. Or you do it to celebrate a milestone birthday. I personally try not to be friends with people like that, but one tries to be open and flexible to others’ obvious lack of judgment.

So today, I salute you, Marilyn Bevans and Aaron Morris. I like you, too, Kathrine and Roberta, but you’ve been saluted enough. You all remind me that marathons take time, effort, and preparation. That sometimes people don’t want me to accomplish a goal, so I have to jump out of the bushes or avoid getting my bib grabbed. That sometimes remarkable accomplishments go unnoticed because of skin color or gender or both. That many times I need to remember that and be curious beyond the story of a white woman’s amazing accomplishment.

Happy running.

 

 

 

We Still Have to Pitch In

I’ve been sick the past 4 days, so I need to make this short. I wasn’t able to go to the March for Our Lives event in Boston,  but many of my friends did. This picture is from the gathering at the Boston Commons, courtesy of Becky.

I hope I’ve been misunderstanding many of the adults’ comments about the young people leading this movement. Yes, we are proud and cheering them on. But every time I see a quote or post along the lines of “This generation will be great leaders” and “These kids will lead the way,” it sounds to me like the adults are breathing a sigh of relief that we are somehow off the hook. Or that we were/are helpless to change anything, and a new sheriff has arrived in town to save us. I hope I am wrong.

Instead, I hope their voices have inspired you to start engaging to help change things you think are wrong. If you have been doing that already, I hope they inspire you to do more. If you’ve become discouraged, I hope their voices lift you up and keep you going. The more of us who wake up, keep going, join in, the better chance we have to make real, lasting change.

Yes, let’s cheer them on, and let’s dig in.

 

 

X-Files: The Bad Boyfriend I Can’t Leave

Dear Chris Carter:

When we last met I had grounded you for essentially using us fans to make 6 useless episodes in 2016 that were billed as a standalone special event, but were really just a cheap ploy to make Fox TV give you another season of X-Files. It was not a standalone event; it mocked us and took to us to the brink with Mulder, minutes from sure death by the alien plague. Then a spaceship hovered over Scully and Mulder, and boom, that was the end. With no contract in place to guarantee the story would continue. Even as badly written as that story turned out to be, that ending was unforgivable.

Now you’ve turned the tables on me. You did score the additional season, and despite my serious misgivings, I once again find myself watching Scully and Mulder race through dark parking garages and driving rental cars on empty country roads. And, after all you put me through, I still foolishly expect closure, which makes me feel not like your pissed off mother, but like you’re the bad boyfriend I just can’t quit. You used me, you told me pretty lies, you dumped me, and then went off for 2 years with no contact. After the last time, I swore I was done with you. I didn’t care if I never saw you, Scully, or Mulder ever again.

But then I started watching the old X-Files again and remembered all of the good times we had — like the time I was too afraid to put my feet down after a particularly scary episode. It made me hunger for more Scully and Mulder, so I suffered nobly through the actors’ other mediocre shows just for a glimpse of them.

So, when you showed up at my door in January, I hadn’t changed that stupid lock, and I hadn’t made you leave your key. The charm of seeing Scully and Mulder again, a few sweet promises of closure, the passage of time dulling my memory, and I welcomed you right back in. I even offered you a seat and a beverage.

And like great make-up sex, the first episode — a flashback to the time just before the brutal cliffhanger — felt amazing; I was all in. There’s Cigarette Smoking Man, Scully, and Mulder doing their immortal conspiracy dance. I was drunk with it and gulped down a few more episodes. But then I got confused. The episodes were about other things. The monster-of-the-week things, as we call it in the X-Files world. Where’s Scully’s and Mulder’s son? Are we still in a flashback? Where the hell are we in the timeline?

Then I read that there are just 10 episodes, and only 2 are mythology episodes. Damn you Chris Carter! I fell for you…again! I was ready to break up, for real this time. But then you came around with episode 5, with its theme of Scully’s unbreakable bond with her son William and the fallout from her decision to give him up for adoption to protect him from Cigarette Smoking Man. The episode captures perfectly the parental torment resulting from doing the right thing at the time, and how hard and awful that is, and then much later you find out maybe it wasn’t the right thing. The regret is unbearable, but there was no other way to know then or now.

You followed that episode up with one focused on the long-suffering, FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner. You gave us his difficult back story, brought it into a perfect X-File themed present, and delivered an ending was so poignant, I had tears in my eyes.

Damn you Chris Carter!

There are now 4 episodes left, and I can only hope Jillian Anderson has the strength that I lack. She says this is the last season she will play Scully. She will break up with you for good. And then, maybe, I can too.

 

 

In Your 20s and Confused? Get Over It

I try to stay out of the internet fray. In my 20s I remember getting steamed over all the articles about about the baby boomers. You couldn’t pass a newspaper or magazine without seeing a headline about how many of them there are, their spending habits, who they were marrying, where they were choosing to live. And the TV shows! I let “Thirtysomething” piss me off every single week. (Apologies to my beloved sis who loved that show — love you!) There were way more of them than my Gen X, and it seemed to me they were just this giant vacuum cleaner of materialism sucking up all the resources in their path. The media coverage of it led them to think they were entitled to it. Meanwhile Gen Xers were left with their crumbs and dust and a string of Republican presidents to try to patch together a life. So, yeah, that’s why they call us cynical.

Did me getting pissy about it change anything? No. Did I manage to patch together a life? Yes. And maybe I could have done it faster if I hadn’t wasted so much energy getting my panties in a twist about them. Or maybe that’s just the nature of being a 20-year-old. Your fairly new life panties get twisted about stuff. You are at the start, and while you know the most you’ve known in your whole life, it’s still not actually that much. You have to figure it out as you go. One thing I learned from those years is that I am happier if I don’t get caught up in the media stories about stuff that is only a thing because they are writing about it. Sometimes it’s insightful or entertaining, but mostly it just makes you feel bad.

So I set up a bubble against what I think of as psuedo news stories (as opposed to fake news — that’s a different post). Pseudo news is: yes, it’s true that the boomers are a very large and influential generation; however, that fact alone does not make them news. Of course staying in the bubble was much easier when it was just print and TV. The internet pummels the bubble much more, and it’s inevitable that things slip through. Just retrieving my email on Comcast, I get pelted with clickbait headlines and pictures of people I don’t recognize, “ripping” other people I don’t recognize. But no matter, I’m older and crabbier now, so even when the bubble is breached, my alter ego Blanche takes a drag on her ciggie, downs a shot, and says we don’t give a flip. I get my real news elsewhere.

Except on rare occasions when my pissy 20-year-old is poked.

I read a story about how all the #metoo and attention on sexual abuse has got men in their 20s questioning their own behavior. That’s a good thing. The situation also seems to have men and women in their 20s allegedly confused about the rules of dating. The article earnestly quotes men and women who say they don’t know how to act, and interviews with concerned therapists who say their male clients are so befuddled they are afraid to even go on dates. Wah, wah, wah.

Cue eye roll. This, my friends, is pseudo news.

Just because you have more information about something, especially about sexuality and dating, don’t expect it to make things easier. In fact certain information will make it a lot harder. But that’s what is called “growth,” which often hurts like hell when you are going through it, but can make you a better person.

Twitter alert: Life is just awkward and uncomfortable, if you’re lucky. It can also be much, much worse. If it’s just awkward, count your blessing and move on. And if you happen to be a confident, focused 20-something, you will hit a confused patch at some point. There’s no skipping stages.

So forgive me if I’m rolling my eyes at the 20-somethings who are confused about dating. Since the cavemen were trying to hit cave women over the head as a way of asking them out, or hoping her brother was home instead, or she was more interested in gathering nuts and berries with the hot cave ladies, dating has always been confusing. More so when you’re 25, but it’s no picnic for anyone. If you work at it, you just get better at knowing your worth and what you want. And even when you do, you still sit across from your date and think, does he like me? Should I go home with him? Is spinach in his teeth and his collection of antique dentist equipment a deal breaker?

Wah, wah, you’re confused about dating. Welcome to Human 101. Now you’ve forced my hand, and I have to tell you a Story. One of those Older People Stories you hate, because who gives a flip about older people? Well, you brought it on yourself, so listen up.

When I was in college, my friends and I went to a frat party, and did all of the usual things one does at frat parties — drink, dance, and then sneak past the “Private Do Not Enter” sign in the stairway to raid the refrigerator on the 3rd floor when our drunken snackies set in. What? Like anything in a frat house is private, and BTW we were the ones in danger — it was food that 20-year old boys were pretending was edible. It was slim pickins, believe me, but we represented ourselves well.

Anywho, a very large, drunken frat brother named Quentin started dancing with me. As a nerdy, introverted woman, I had ZERO experience with boys. In high school I had an unrequited crush on a friend, and as a junior I went to the senior prom with THE king nerd of the class, pocket protector and all. He was a nice enough, but two shy nerds do not a make out session produce. Freshman year in college was no better. Another unrequited crush on a friend, and I had been hit on by a super awkward guy in a chem lab class (it mostly involved staring, so I have to take my friends’ word that he was hitting on me). Another friend had professed his like for me while he was drunk and I was trying to get him home safely. Not a super turn on. Oh, also, I had been told plenty of “scared straight to virginity” stories. And I was brought up Catholic. See? You think you have dating problems? Puh-leaze.

So there I am dancing to Micheal Jackson with Quentin; then a slow song came on, and I was enveloped by his gentle, yet giant bear-like arms, and suddenly there was a tongue in my mouth. A sloppy, drunk tongue, if I’m going to critique it 30 years later. Okaaaay. I was not really enjoying it, but here’s the thing. He was black, and I thought if I pulled away, he would think I was a racist. See? This is what I’m saying about awkward, stupid shit in your 20s. So I let it go on for a while, plotting my escape. I think he may have asked me if I wanted to go back to his room. So I took the opportunity to say, “Wait here, I just have to tell my friends.” I know, I know! Why not just say “No, thank you,” and move on? Because you’re 20, and you don’t know what the hell to do because Catechism never covered this, except to tell you never have sex. So all you are left with is to do dumb stuff like try to prove you are not a racist and running away.

So I ran off and found my friend Rosemary, who I unceremoniously grabbed and marched her home with me. And during the 20-minute walk home I was on a drunken, sobbing loop to her: Dance, tongue, big arms, he’s black, I’m not a racist, I just don’t like tongue in the first 5 minutes of a non-date; Dance, tongue…and on and on until we got home.

The next day found me immobilized with the double-whammy of physical and emotional hangovers. I sought out Rosemary to apologize and studiously avoided Quentin (who of course lived in my dorm). But here’s the thing:

Neither of them remembered anything about that night. Rosemary stared at me blankly during my apology and then laughed at me. At one point Quentin saw me, and I saw the same blank face. Had I gone to his dorm room, he would have surely had that face in the morning. Awkward.

The racism guilt lingered until finally my friend Sonia, who is black, told me to knock it off. So I did.

As the Who sings in “Another Tricky Day,” “You irritate me my friend, this is no social crisis … just another tricky day for you.”

I get it, it is confusing. We’ve all been there, and there is no magic way around life’s obstacles. Keep your good friends close, have an escape route, do your best to learn what you can from each awkward encounter. Oh, and stay off the internet. That thing will make you crazy.

Photo credit: Flashbak