I Peppered His Feet

Reading the classics

I explained an idiom,
but he brushed me off,
pretending he’d already learned it.

‘Cause he knew it all,
that old Swiss boyfriend.

My greatest victory:
He told a new friend,
“That really peppers my feet”
and thought it was perfect English.

One of my favorite scenes featuring another know-it-all, although apparently he really did know it all, from Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

(Video link)

#20 (Gargleblaster page, with my favorite comments and Gargleblasters from the grid) What is a Gargleblaster? Respond to a prompt in exactly 42 words.

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Abandon All Subtlety


Languishing in a boring bank,
we talked music for hours
and grew close through mixtapes
we shyly exchanged.

From “Purple Haze”
to “Dixie Chicken,”
friendship crept toward
something more.

How’d my next one end?
“Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?”


#19 of 42 (Gargleblaster page, with my favorite comments and Gargleblasters from the grid) What is a Gargleblaster? Respond to a prompt in exactly 42 words.

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The Princess and the Peed Off Copy Machine Woman

Too Much! Image by Ross Berteig (CC by 2.0)

During my first year of teaching, I learned a tip: get on the good side of the secretaries and the janitors. What I didn’t know, though, was that there was another person more powerful than they: the copy machine woman.

Jackie ruled her domain with an inky fist. She had exacting rules for filling out a copy request form. More important, though, was the unwritten rule that newbies didn’t know about. The experienced teachers knew to ask her about her cats, which she photographed in holiday costumes.

Instead, I dropped off my copy requests with only a perfunctory greeting.

Jackie didn’t make any of my copies, not that day, not that week.

Bumblebee Cat Costume Image by Pets Adviser (CC by 2.0)

Now that I’ve been teaching forever, I can deal with whatever technical difficulties come my way. As a new teacher, though, my lesson plan was my life-preserver, and my lessons all centered around those unobtainable copies.

Out of ways to stall my classes, I went in early to ask for my copies. With a huge smile, Jackie told me they weren’t ready yet.

“I’m sorry, but do you know when I could get them?”

“I’ll get to them just as soon as I can,” she said.

I looked past her at the bulletin board and focused on a tableau of one cat wearing a feather headdress and another cat wearing a tricorn. Columbus Day? A Thanksgiving preview? Dear God, what were those poor creatures having to endure? I considered fawning over her cats.

Ambush in costume Image by Brett (CC by 2.0)

I couldn’t bring myself to do it, so I did the only other thing I could think of. I walked down the hall to her supervisor, and, feeling like a nerdy student, I tattled on her.

Her supervisor was appalled that I had fallen victim to the Great Copy Stonewall of 1997, and I got my copies, along with a new title every time I spoke with Jackie: Princess.

“Why, hello, Princess! Do you need those quizzes run off right away?” she asked.

“Well, no hurry. If I could get them by Thursday, that would be great.”

“Princess, for you, I will do them right now.”

This went on for weeks.

Other teachers complained that we weren’t allowed to make our own copies, and one of the machines was deemed touchable by teachers for three periods a day.

I skulked in and approached the machine.

“It’s Princess!” she said. “How can I help Princess today?”

“Oh, no thanks. I’m just going to make a few copies.”

I was then guilty of the greatest scourge on a copy machine Jackie had ever seen. I started to copy a textbook without putting paper over the uncovered portion of the glass. The resulting black band of toner would wreak havoc with Jackie’s machine.

My senses bombarded by the mechanical whirring, I had no warning that Jackie approached me from behind. She put one hand on my shoulder and another on my hand, all while leaning in to shout in my ear to stop.

Between the shock of her shouting, and the half-a-second-later realization that she was manhandling me, my circuits overloaded. I pivoted around, and, an inch from her face, screamed: “Don’t touch me!”

There’s no easy way to take it back once that particular cat is out of the bag. I apologized, but I had hurt her to the core. We were enemies.

She never called me Princess again.


Angry Rudolf Image by Ross Berteig (CC by 2.0)


  Thanks to the Bronze Lounge at yeah write for critiquing the first draft of this essay.

Posted in Scene from a Memoir | Tagged , , , | 28 Comments

Cruising Solo and Lovin’ It, a guest post by Diane

Today I welcome Diane who shares this guest post about going out of her comfort zone by taking a cruise by herself. Diane blogs at Thoughts, Tips and Tales.


Cruising Solo and Lovin’ It

By Diane

Ten years ago, I’d never have dreamed that I’d take a cruise alone. I thought only a pathetic, weird person with no friends or family would do that…

It began with a breakup right before a planned cruise where I told my ex that I was going, but he wasn’t. And I just returned from my eighth solo cruise — a seven-night Caribbean trip that was fabulous.

I had nice dinner companions and ate in the formal dining room every night, went on several shore excursions, took Zumba classes and line dancing lessons the three days at sea, walked the deck for exercise, listened to live music, spent hours lying by the pool and reading, relaxed on my own private balcony, and watched recently released movies every evening on the top deck. The week flew by, and it couldn’t have been more fun!

The key to enjoying a cruise alone is to remember that you’re never going to see any of the people on the ship again! Never. In your entire life.

So it really doesn’t matter what they think; you’re there to relax and have fun. I like to believe my fellow passengers (if they even realize I’m cruising alone) think I’m a confident, adventurous woman with a zest for life. I truly believe that’s what my friends at home think! (I convinced one workaholic friend to cruise alone and she loves it and does it often.)

And remember: what happens on the cruise ship stays on the cruise ship…

Thank you, Diane! You can read about more of Diane’s experiences at Thoughts, Tips and Tales.

Would you go on a cruise by yourself?

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Travel theme: Simplify

When traveling, it’s often the simplest moments that make the most vivid impressions, those little experiences when your senses are immersed in the local culture, and you have time to let it soak in. I love planning adventurous excursions when I travel; equally important, though, is to have plenty of downtime to just wander around or sit and watch the world go by.

In Amsterdam, I loved wandering through the streets and looking for Gevelsteens, gable stones that identified certain residences or businesses from before they used street numbers.

Die Vinders Kamer Gable Stone Amsterdam   De Meeremin Gable Stone Amsterdam

Walking through the Red Light District in Amsterdam was a strange experience, but this little moment of watching the swans in a small canal was peaceful. I like how the red lights are reflected in the water to instantly remind me of the exact time and place.

Swans in red light district, Amsterdam

Rushing through the Fes Medina in Morocco brought an intense collection of sights and sounds, but these beautifully arranged, succulent olives are what slowed me down for a moment. {See also: Fes medina video}

Olives Fes Medina Morocco

In Essaouira, we had a whole afternoon to wander the medina and watch the men working on the blue boats in the harbor.

Blue boats, Essaouira Morocco

In Greece, we had a series of memorable meals, but after two weeks of busting our budget, we were ready to simplify. One of our favorite meals was also the cheapest. After an afternoon of climbing ancient steps higher and higher to a cathedral at the top of an island, we made our way back down and devoured these freshly prepared gyros, packed with lamb, creamy tzatziki sauce, vegetables, and French fries, at little tables right on the street, motorbikes streaming by. They only cost $3; we went back for seconds. {See also: What I Ate in Greece}

Gyros Greece

In Thailand, we took a few moments on our way to somewhere to try the dragon fruit juice being sold by a street vendor. The lovely display is what caught my eye and made me want to try it.

Bangkok, Thailand

Sometimes, too, the simplest photos are the best. The vivid alpaca yarn in this photo was dyed by women in the Sacred Valley in Peru using natural ingredients such as insects and plants.

Dyed alpaca yarn Sacred Valley Peru

I am linking up with Travel theme: Simplify. Click on the link to see some more travel photos.

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Waters of Indifference

Little Skellig Ireland

I trawl through waters of indifference
to teach twelve-year-olds of Sirens,
but what do they know of longing?

Sneaking gum into class,
or texts at lockers,
they ride the waves of their impulses,

but can’t imagine
a lure that could destroy them.

#18 of 42 (Gargleblaster page)

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JellyPhish Salad

JellyPhish Salad Gargleblaster

Like jellyfish in a turbulent sea,
the crowd follows different trajectories,
yet pulsates to the same beat.

We ooze our way forward,
squeezing through momentary gaps
as this mass of jeans and t-shirts
expands and contracts.

At the stage finally, we dance.

(Link to Phish’s “Sample in a Jar” video)

{yeah writers: I put a different post on the supergrid, so here’s my Gargleblaster for the prompt, “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?”}

#17 of 42

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When the interviewer gets interviewed

101 things article
{Read the article: Part 1; Part 2}

When you’re a timid introvert, a perk of being a reporter is that you’re never the subject of the story.

Fresh out of college, I worked as a reporter for a small town weekly paper. That experience helped me for years. Although I’m bad at small talk, I had learned to go into “interview mode.” I would spring a few juicy questions about what made someone tick, imagining which quote could be offset in bigger type. Most people love to talk about themselves, and when I was an interviewer, I never had to be the center of attention.

Over the last few months, though, people encouraged me to reach out to the media about completing my list of 101 things in 1001 days. One woman told me how I inspired her to go back to college; another said she went to the movies by herself for the first time; still another decided to enter a horse show, something she had wanted to do for years. I still held back from sharing my story more publicly. It was one thing to write on my blog, my tiny little corner of the Internet where I am all-powerful, and quite another thing to hand over control to someone else.

irony too timid quotation

A few weeks ago, my friend Linda texted me that she saw a woman on Good Morning America talk about her bucket list, but that my list was more impressive. I looked up the segment, and while the woman impressed me plenty, Linda had started something. I half-heartedly sent a press release to my local paper. Within a few hours, a reporter set up an interview. In a moment of grandeur, I reached out to Oprah too.

During my interview, I sat on what felt like the wrong side of the table and chose my words carefully, knowing that any phrase I happened to babble could make me look bad.

The interviewer, Michael Torelli of The Cheshire Herald, had done his homework, clicking through my blog to find the most interesting tasks. He and I laughed over my scary trapeze class, my Dance Central ineptitude, and my suburban confusion about how exactly to milk a cow. He confessed a fear of heights himself, and we commiserated over mind-numbing moments trying to climb a simple ladder. I caught myself enjoying the attention.

I then had over a week to stew about the article. “What’s the big deal?” I asked myself, but I woke up in the middle of the night worrying. What if people misunderstood an offhand comment I made about not liking fasting for Ramadan? What if people thought I was obnoxious for bragging?

The irony wasn’t lost on me that I felt too timid to promote that I am no longer too timid or that I had to go out of my comfort zone to promote that I went out of my comfort zone.

On its publication day, I stopped into a convenience store and saw myself in full color on the bottom of the front page. My chest tightened in fear. I tore through the article, searching for anything that would embarrass me, but everything was positive.

Over the next few days, friends and family reached out to congratulate me. At one gathering, people surrounded me and poured praise over me like warm honey. I found it unnerving to be the center of attention, but this timid introvert found it exciting too.

Maybe putting myself out there isn’t so bad? If I hear from Oprah, I’ll let you know.

   Thanks to the Bronze Lounge at yeah write for critiquing the first draft of this essay. {Links to the article: Part 1; Part 2}

Cheshire Herald article part 1   Cheshire Herald article part 2

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Rich Relations

Amsterdam flowers

A day with rich relations
loomed across the state.
My state: annoyed.

They called us slobs
and the Addams Family.

So I ignored my flowery jumper
and wore my army green t-shirt,
bleach-splotched and torn,
truly insisting that it was my favorite.

army green

#16 of 42 (Gargleblaster page)

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It watched me like a hawk

Red-tailed hawk in Connecticut backyard

Red-tailed hawk

I spied a huge hawk and turkey vulture in my backyard. Phone in my pocket, I crept back there for a photo.

Turkey vulture and hawk

Hawk tore into the nasty remains of a baby raccoon I had seen it guarding two days earlier. I crept closer and closer. Turkey vulture alighted onto a tree. Hawk just kept tearing into the dead little lump and ignored both me and a cloud of buzzing flies.

(Red-tailed hawk video link: Eating amid a cloud of flies)

When I was within about 12 feet, turkey vulture got upset and with great, scary flaps took off from the tree.

Even though I was close, Hawk just looked at me like, “Hawk don’t care. Hawk don’t give a &#$%,” and I knew that my eyeballs were in jeopardy if I crept any closer. Hawk let out a call that said as much, the screaming “eagle” call that Stephen Colbert plays.

(Red-tailed hawk video link: talking to me)

After about 10 minutes, I backed away slowly, only to go into the house and return with my real camera.

Red-tailed hawk

I had originally planned to keep creeping closer until I recorded video of it flying away, but I decided that I didn’t want to scare it, that I wanted it to feel welcome in my backyard.

Yeah, that’s it, not that I was worried it would attack me and I would lose my eyeballs in pursuit of a sharper photograph of a hawk in my backyard.

Red-tailed hawk in Connecticut backyard

Are you looking at me?

Posted in Et Cetera, Video | Tagged , | 2 Comments