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Wow, long time with no posts. I have no explanation really except to say that after a particularly brutal school term, I needed to a serious mental reboot. While I am working on school project this summer, I am also getting in my fair share of trashy novels and summer sun.

So Sailor actually has most of the summer off, but since he needs to update his Coast Guard license, he is still not in town as he needs to attend classes all over Hell’s Half Acre and take various exams as far away as Virginia.

What this means to me is that not only is Sailor gone, again, but I now have the added benefit of being car-less. As a one car family, Sailor needs it to travel so I am walking or biking my way around Erie…which fairly sucks by the way…

Mostly this is because Erie has, possibly, the worst population of drivers outside of Boston. Pedestrian signals are merely an annoyance and my mere existence in a crosswalk is apparently cause for vehicular manslaughter. A woman actually jumped the curb in her car on 38th street yesterday and nearly took me out in the process. This is because she was texting while driving. After the car came to a stop, she didn’t even bother to look to see if she had struck anyone or anything, she merely resumed texting until I started banging on the hood of her car demanding for her to step out.

There’s also a ass-hat that works at the Veterans Hospital that somehow has the idea that my bike is required to stop and let him turn into the hospital when I have the mother-effin right of way. So everyday has become a game of chicken where I am rushing ahead to avoid getting hit by this jerk-off.

My favorite people are the car load of reprobate teens who thought it amusing to lean out the window and try to push me off my bike. I guess it didn’t occur to them that such an act could quite conceivably kill me, so I didn’t feel too badly about grabbing the kid by the hair and half pulling him out the car window…little bastard…he screamed like a little boy.

But the strangest reaction I receive is from my co-workers. If I bike to work, this is somehow all right, but if I walk, then this is cause for concern. Why didn’t you just call me??

But whether I bike or walk, I encounter the same issues: hostile motorists who do not respect the law or my right of way. Barring that, when I just don’t feel like possibly getting killed and decide on traversing the sidewalk, there’s also the people who leave their kid’s toys everywhere, or who have spectacularly decrepit cement, or terrifically overgrown bushes and trees, or cars who block the sidewalk thus forcing one back into traffic.

So this interesting little experiment continues for the foreseeable future. Sailor return this week, but I am going to continue to walk and ride to work. I like the exercise, I like the time to myself, and maybe I just like the thrill of the evident danger that is cruising the streets of Erie.

Tally to date: Cars – 0, Inmate – 6.

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I’m coming up on final exams, going out of my mind trying to keep up with the workload and all the while saying to myself: Just two more weeks. Just two more weeks.

And as crazy as it sounds, even though being around a bunch 20 years olds all day is not my idea of a good time, I am going to be applying to PhD programs in the fall.

The logic for this is simple: I enjoy my field of study, there’s few of us out here who do it at a collegiate level, and probably most important: at my age, if I don’t do it now, while I’m in “school mode” I won’t do it. Ever.

This is a pretty recent decision on my part, and recently, I have begun sharing my decision with others.  My father responded with the question “What do you not like about real work that you have to hide in school?”

A close friend responded: “Dude, when are you going to get back out in the real world?”

Another friend: “Who needs that much education in their head? You’re obnoxious enough as it is.”

I’m a little thrown by the reactions I have been receiving. Since when did becoming highly-educated become the mental equivalent of being a slacker? How does trying to become an expert in a field automatically equate to one being a boor? Okay, I’ll grant the obnoxious part, but only out of my friend’s jealously of not being able to beat me at Trivial Pursuit.

More importantly: What the hell is it that Americans have against education anyway? We elected a President 8 years ago on the qualification of his beer-buddiness and looked how that turned out. Said same president appointed a director of FEMA whose greatest qualification was being president of an Arabian Horse association, and on that note, may I remind you of a little event called Hurricane Katrina?

And what about college does not reflect the real world? I have conflicting personalities I have to navigate at all times. I work my ass off 60 hours a week reading, writing, and producing projects that are used outside academia. And I still have to prove I’m as capable as a man, if not more. I’m not some 24 year old who decided they didn’t like getting up and going to work at 8 am. I put in 15 years of professional experience and decided I better make change in my life before I died of an ulcer because I hated my job that much. I don’t study in some Ivory Tower. I work in a grubby, dirty, sticky lab with bad flourescent lighting and inconsiderate labmates. I rarely see my husband, I see less of my dog, and I have no life. Sounds like effin work to me.

And to father I respond: Are you freakin kidding me? I do believe you have a 30 year old sibbling of mine living in your basement, who has been down there since his teens by the way, and who is one step away from joining a Star Trek convention.

And to my friend I respond: read a newspaper once in a while, or better yet, a book. That, or stop challenging me at trivia. Some people know cars, other people know geography, I know tons of random and ridiculous facts of useless information. Sue me. My winning the game does not make me obnoxious. Obnoxious would be me calling you a drooling idiot because you didn’t know who wrote The Carpetbaggers. Which was Harold Robbins, but that’s not the point.

So enough bitching. I have to get back to work here. I have a paper due.

Lessons Learned from a 24 hour trip to Maine and back:

upper-hell1. US Airways sucks ass, per usual, but this abusive relationship is done. I am breaking up with them once and for all. They can find someone else to torture with their ineptitude.

2. The Philadelphia Airport sucks it even more, seriously, how much can a person hate one place on the planet?

3. #1 + #2 = 9 (as in Dante’s ninth circle of Hell)

4. Getting anywhere is usually more than half the battle anymore

5. Dark & Stormy’s are ass kickers

6. Given #5 I expect Turkish Prawn left a mighty big boot print somewhere on my booty

7. Holy Hell, does this chick have the most rockin’ voice ever! No kidding, I heard her at a party and she rocked Motown like a world class diva. Hear for yourself and if you don’t absolutely love her, you’re a tone-deaf Philistine who shall be dead to me.

8. #5 + #6 + #7 = a fabu going away party

9. Miss Portland, miss Maine, miss friends

10. Damn, I hated coming back here.

Emma over at Eriepressible tagged me for the Honest Scrap Award, to which I say danke schoen, Darling, danke schoen.

The Award and Rules:

This award is bestowed upon a fellow blogger whose blog content or design is, in the giver’s opinion, brilliant.

Regurgitation of the Rules:

1. When accepting this auspicious award, you must write a post bragging about it, including the name of the misguided soul who thinks you deserve such acclaim, and link back to the said person so everyone knows she/he is real.

2. Choose a minimum of seven (7) blogs that you find brilliant in content or design. Or improvise by including bloggers who have no idea who you are because you don’t have seven friends. Show the seven random victims’ names and links and leave a harassing comment informing them that they were prized with Honest Weblog. Well, there’s no prize, but they can keep the nifty icon.

3. List at least ten (10) honest things about yourself. Then pass it on!*

So here’s my list:

1. Blonder Than You. I like this blog because it’s gleefully naughty, terrifically dirty, and almost always cheeky. But I LOVE this blog because Suicide Blond is fantastic at throwing emotional curveballs when you least expect it.

2. Ill-Doctrine: Yeah, I know, it’s a video blog, but Jay Smooth rocks my world with his ability to tackle complicated social politics in a way I thought had disappeared when Dave Chapelle left television. And the man does it with great humor, integrity and style…sorry, Dave, the torch has been passed.

3. Indexed. Anyone who reads this blog regularly enough knows I loves me my geekery. The broad who writes this blog is a genius at combining elements of social studies, basic logic, and pure snarkery

4. Saudi Eve. A Saudi Arabian female trying to tackle work and and a personal life in a society I simply wouldn’t ever want to live in. I first came across her during the Israel bombing of Lebanon in 2006. Her entry for that time crushed me and I know I haven’t looked at that region in the same way since.

5. If you Want Kin… Who would have ever thought that white girl from Detroit would have so much in common with a teacher from Brooklyn of Jamaican descent? But time and time again, I find my thoughts, favorite poets, writers, movies, and other life passions reflected in her writing. I don’t know this woman, but I feel a stronger kinship with her than I do with most my blood relatives.

6. Fox and Maus. My buddy ole pal from my little island off the coast of Maine. I like Turkish Prawn’s New England sensibility, plus he gives me news from home.

7. Computer Nerd Composer. What can I say? Hildi is my favorite Viking from one of my favorite countries.

And my 10 Honest Confessions:

1. Walk by my house on a summer evening and you can usually hear me rocking out, top of my lungs while doing whatever it is I am doing inside. Sometimes it’s Opera, sometimes it’s Irish ballads, lately, it has been  a lot of Elton John, circa 1970’s.

2. While I appreciate Aretha Franklin, I really don’t think she is the greatest female rock singer. And to be really honest, I think she kind of sucks. I can easily list dozens of other women with better voices.

3. The older I get the more I want to go back in time and be even more reckless than I was already.

4. I’m honest to the point of being mean. I’m trying to work on that.

5. When Sailor is gone, I can go months without shaving my legs…in the winter anyway…

6. Despite the tattoos, dirty jokes, and perceived social aggressiveness, I’m actually a little conservative and can be quite shy.

7. Although I love my family, with the exception of my sister, I don’t like them very much as people.

8. I won the freakin’ lottery in the In-Law departent. My mother and father in-law rock.

9. My husband is so nice, so thoughtful and so good to other people that I feel unworthy sometimes.

10. My dog is my longest and most successful relationship.

Morbidity and Mortality, or M & M’s, is a practice where doctors discuss the events surrounding the death of a patient and how they may either prevent futures deaths of that nature or how to perform a better job in general when faced with such events. It sounds sick and twisted, but I get how it can be a useful practice. If we did a post-mortem on all our mistakes in life, we’d be the better for it.

So I’m managing a contract on behalf the school. Lot’s of undergrads, young students, kids really, some of them girls. Thankfully, I have a pretty even-keeled bunch. My cohorts, however, have a much different group of students. And that is where the problem lies. I’m 36, I have years of experience managing companies and people, my fellow managers are 23 without such experience.

There is a young girl, recently turned 21, who is on another team and is going through some “stuff”. My fellow managers have not yet noticed only to say that she is behind on work and may need replacing. They don’t know what to say, what to do, and they are going to turn it over to school faculty to deal with. Clearly, this is something I don’t need to be involving myself with. I am busy with school, busy with life, and no time to be dealing with the turmoils of a 21 year old girl.

But said 21 year old girl is in a class with me and when she got out of her seat the other day, we happened to lock eyes and then I saw it: she’s ready to break. And by break, I mean, utterly ready to lose her shit…mind…shit, whatever…

So I invited her out for a drink, forced her really. I heard her story: break up with her first serious boyfriend, ending an unhealthy friendship, moving out on her own, a sick parent…basically everything that throws you into a tail-spin. She tried to justify it by saying she was just stressed. I told her it was deeper than that and that she was a mess. She admitted she was and began to cry.

I don’t have time for crying. I don’t have time for this girl’s problems. I’m so swamped with school and life at any given time that I can barely keep my head above water. I don’t have time for this girl and her tears.

But she got to me.

She did, she got to me. I know what it’s like to have your world fall down around your ears while trying to deny to yourself that your world isn’t falling down around your ears. I know what it’s like to be cut-off, to not have anyone to talk to. I know what it’s like to be so overwhelmed by the coming weeks that you can’t see your way through the next 24 hours. She got to me.

Mostly though, I know what it is like to be surrounded by women, older women, women with experience, who have been there…and frankly, these women, they could give a damn that you’re there now, in the trenches. They make you dig your own trench, even if that trench is being dug in the wrong direction. Because they are busy with their own lives, or they feel there is something to be learned by digging a trench alone, which truth be told, teaches you nothing. Digging a trench may make you stronger, endure more, but it doesn’t make you smarter, doesn’t prevent you from making the same mistakes that required the trench digging in the first place.

And while I hate those women, I also want to be them. I don’t have time for this. This 21 year old girl and her problems. My own problems are much bigger. But she got to me.

So I heard her out, she received a talking to, and then we made a plan. We planned how she was going to get through the next 24 hours. Then the next 48. Then the weekend. Come Sunday night, the planning starts anew.

She has my number with strict instructions to call if she needs to melt down. Another thing I don’t have time for and I fervently hope she keeps it together and doesn’t call. But if she does calls, I know I’m sucker enough to answer.

By nature, I’m not a particularly good or even nice person. I try, but I usually fail. But Sailor is a nice person, the nicest I know, and I am surrounded by so many nice and good people I wonder why I can’t be the same. My instinct is to take care of myself, my needs, and be selfish with my time. Sure, the girl got to me, but the instinct to pull away remains the same. To not be a nice person. I’m willing to admit that this now, what I’m doing with this girl, is abnormal behavior.

But I’m in it now. I’m hoping for the best. I hope she can pull it around. I know she will because I will make her. I’ve gone out on a limb, now I expect acorns. I’m hoping my involvement remains minimal. I’m hoping this won’t be a massive time suck. I’m hoping there are no more tears.

Because while I want to be a better person, I don’t have the time for it.

battle_of_trafalgar_poster_1805I have come to a few conclusions:

Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson: Pansy. Ghengis Khan, William the Conqueror, Alexander the Great, Oliver Hazard Perry: Mamma’s Boys.

Yeah, that’s right, I said it. And I don’t care that Admiral Lord Nelson won the Battle of Trafalgar, until said sailor dude has wrestled a 120 mastiff into 1940’s, high-side, ceramic tub with a damn slippery tile floor and ceramic commode conveniently in the way, his victories are for nothing, NOTHING, I tell you!

After spending yesterday afternoon with my in-laws and their friends drinking ourselves stupid and playing dice games, I came home to a tremendous stink in the house. Now, granted, puppy-dog was due for a bath anyway, but she got into something that I can only describe the smell as “death on a shit-stick covered in rotted-corpse sauce”.

So into the tub she went. And three hours later, we were still engaged in battle. I would no sooner have her in my sights with the soap bottle and water cannon when the dog would tack her sail and nimbly escape my grasp. Multiple escapes led to multiple chases throughout the house and basement where I would eventually corner the dog, haul her back upstairs, and back into the bathtub. More water ended up on the floor and myself than on the dog or into the tub.

This dog, my dog, has the fortitude of MacArthur, the cunning of Wellington, and the tenacity of Napoleon. With my dodgy back and alcohol fueled ill-temper, I had enough of her shenanigans and finally tethered the beast to the hot water nozzle in the tub. This of course led to a decisive victory.

..and me, lying on the living room floor, waiting for the spasms in the back to cease…

As Nelson lay dying on the deck of Victory, his reported last words were: “God and my country”.  And mine? “You are so going to groomers next time!”

It is my belief that part of being a good military leader is knowing when to call in the commandoes and mercenaries, or in this case, the dog groomer.

lupo_mannaroA mere 40 arbitrary days after smearing oneself with burnt whatever and you get to celebrate the encore performance of a dead Nazarene on stick with pagan bunnies and psychedelic eggs whilst eating cocoa bean by-products from Central America! Top it off with multiple airings of the “Sound of Music” and you, my friend, have the fixins’ for a perfect weekend.

Dammit, I love Easter!!

I don’t know what it is about this holiday that makes me all crazy nut-so insane, but it does. And alas, Sailor Man is off to sea at present so I am wholly unable of yelling him to put some clothes on when he’s talking on the phone to my mother. Not that he walks around naked. And he certainly would never actually talk to my mother on the phone (best not to engage mom in that fashion…at all..took him years, years I tell you, to learn that lesson).

So I am denied my fun.

Seriously, I have got the trouble bug something fierce and that itch needs to be scratched, I tell you. It’s been many, many moons since I’ve gone out to a bar pretending to be a dyslexic stripper from Arkansas with a backwards tattoo on my ass….and I’m surrounded my college kids all day who truly do not know how to go out and create mischief.

Sigh…I really need to get out…something about this time of year makes me wanna howl at the moon…

Visiting a beach located on the North Sea in March hardly seems like a good idea, but we’d been given an afternoon reprieve from the rain in The Hague and we thought we should make the most of it.

My companion for this errand is “Doc”, whom I have discovered is my iPod soulmate. We spent the afternoon one-upping each other on WWII cantina songs. I swear, I never thought I would meet a person as into the Andrew Sisters, Mel Torme or Glen Miller as myself.

Reaching the beach from the embassy district in the The Hague is amazingly easy. Both trams and busses make the trip regularly, so pack a 1.6 Euro and you’re all set.

koerhuis1

The beach at Scheveningen is a trip back in time. I mentioned before how the candy-striped awnings of buildings in town reminded me of Newport, Rhode Island circa 1900, well, Scheveningen has that in spades.

A palatial hotel and restaurant, Steigenberger Kurhaus, lords over the mile + long beach and is flanked by an esplanade and board walk housing more shops, restaurants, and bars than one can count. Depsite the wind blowing a steady 30 knots dropping the windchill to about 15 degrees, the beach has hundreds of people milling about, chasing the tides, playing with dogs, and throwing their bags in the air to see how far the wind will take it.

It’s a little too cold and to windy for the Doc and I, so we head out to the covered pier, a half-mile long, double-decked structure that stretches out into the ocean. The pier has small satellite structures featuring a casino, a restaurant, and bungy jumping. In the summer, it is filled with the expected tourist shops, but at this time of year, it’s just hosting bedraggled tourists such as the Doc and I who do not want to brave the cold.

We walk off the pier and head around the other side of the Kurhaus to have a look. It looks swank. We, decidedly, do not. But we’re going in anyway. The worst, to our thinking, is that we’re kicked out for a dress code violation, but that is certainly enough time to snap some pictures before we receive the boot.

011_galerij_imagesThe interior of this hotel is amazing and we have only just hit the lobby. I can imagine that a night in a beach side room will set you back a month’s mortgage payment. No one seems to care that two women with scary windblown hair are lurking about so we venture forward towards the grand staircase engulfing the room and start climbing.

We reach the top and find ourselves in the grand ballroom. The appointments and general luxury remind me of the movie Titanic. Doc is snapping pictures and I am turning circles to take it all in.

Behind me, above the staircase, is wall painted to look like a movie screen. Pictures of the hotel and guests from over a hundred years ago are projected from where, I don’t know. Directly under this “screen” is a grand piano where a woman is quietly playing standards.

Doc and I note a bar in the far end of the room. We scamper over to have a drink and spy on the diners. From this vantage point, we can see the entire room. In my walking shoes, sandy jeans, and winter jacket, I more than feel out of place.

We order the house wine, 9 Euro yikes!, and an appetizer of bitterballen which will serve as dinner. Bitterballen is a Dutch “meat-based” snack of what I am assuming is meat-byproducts, flour, and broth, rolled together and fried. You usually receive either mustard of mayonnaise (the Dutch eat a tremendous amount mayo), and when we initially ask what is in the appetizer, the waiter replies “you don’t want to know”. I take this to mean that it is something akin to the American hot dog, so I go for it and don’t think twice.

We lounge about for a few hours requesting songs of the piano player whom we discover is American. It’s a nice relaxing evening away from our fellow travelers who are no doubt out and about making a nuisance of themselves. We eventually pull ourselves out of our chairs, leave the hotel, and make our way to the tram stop. Not a wild night out, but a pleasant evening nonetheless.

Just like everything else in The Hague, Scheveningen Beach is pleasant, it’s clean, it’s orderly, and it’s nice.

A Jew, a Muslim and a Christian walk into a bar…

No, seriously, they did. Embassy workers and the cheeky lads were kind enough to invite me to dine with them. I played my part of the shocking and bedeviled American and more wine was probably sprayed from laughing than was properly consumed. Not a bad way to enjoy the afternoon.

Welcome to Den Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaag….

pict3004Do remember though that you must respect Low Sidewalk and High Sidewalk. High Sidewalk is for walking, Low Sidewalk is for cyclists and you best mind your P’s & Q’s when tress-passing on the Low Sidewalk because the Dutch are armed with bells and they are not afraid to use them.

Next stop: the local grocery store. The Netherlands are damn expensive and eating out will put you back a pretty penny or four so I hit the market and pick up enough food to crowd into the mini-bar when I get back to the hotel. Nothing terribly noteworthy about Dutch grocers except for the staggering variety of dairy products. Takes up nearly a third of the store. A clerk was kind enough to explain the varieties of milk and for what foods they are specifically engineered.

If this entry is disjointed it is because that was my experience. My hair and sleep cycle did not meld with The Hague. It’s all now a bit of a blur due to sleep deprivation and the strange habit I have of viewing a new city through the lens of the last city I visited. Hence, the Netherlands is viewed through Iceland who was viewed through Ireland who was viewed through France who was view through Morocco and so on and etc.

So my summation is this: the Dutch are groovy kind of folk. They like their bikes retro, their cars small, and their dogs breed-neutral. They have a complicated style of dress that only years of study in the areas of architecture and Dadaist art could I then begin the assimilate. They serve a cup of coffee with a cookie which is exactly how life should be.

The Dutch will take the time to tear up an asphalt covered street only to be replaced with brick laid in a herringbone pattern. That’s a lot of brick. That’s a lot of patience.

pict3014The architecture is Baroque on top of Baroque on top of more Baroque with snippets of astounding Art Deco and modern structures. But all building have the same M.O: large windows with, often, no curtains drawn. They suck up as much light as they can during the day and and rarely bother to draw the shades at night allowing for seriously people watching in their natural habitat. When asked about this, a local store clerk informed me that Dutch people did not assume the worst of people as Americans clearly do.

Attached to these large windows, however, are retracted candy-colored striped awnings just begging to spring out. The most common color are white and orange which I can imagine make the place reminiscent of Newport, Rhode Island the summers of the early 1900’s where the Astors and the Rockefellers and other Masters of the Universe would keep “summer cottages” (read: massive mansions constructed before the introduction of the income tax). I would actually consider a trip back here just to see these awnings in full glory.

I like these people. Their national color is orange, they’ve adopted mint tea from their citizens of Moroccan descent, they ride their bikes rain or shine, hell, I saw a family of four commute to work on a tandem bike with attached side car. Amazing. This in a city with the best public transport I have ever seen.

The only complaint I can conjure is the weather, well, that and a disturbed hotel-roommate. The weather has either been pissing rain, misting rain, or blowing rain the entire week. The only reprieve was the last day when the sun finally broke through and the temp reached a lovely 50 degrees. Rain however, was not enough to keep me from visiting the beach.

I’ll get into that tomorrow though. Right now, I’m still so jet lagged, I’m ready to call it a night even though it’s only mid-afternoon.

1. If you really are worried about men not taking you seriously, maybe you ought to reconsider the micro-mini, fishnet stockings, see-through blouse and come-fuck-me-pumps.

2. In addition to #1, you also ought to re-think hooking up with the Dirty Man-Whores who like to kiss-whathaveyou-and tell.

3. Failing #1 and #3, Dirty Man-Whores are best engaged only on the very last day of a long conference trip and only then as a last resort.

4. If employing #3, do also employ the necessary armor and while we’re on subject, you might want to double bag it…and use Lysol…and make sure your shots are up to date.

5. Walking three miles in uncomfortable heels does you no favors.

6. Neither does taking off said heels to expose your stank-ass feet.

7. Prodigious amounts of giggling and saying the word “like” incorrectly and frequently does not help with #1.

7a. Especially after you invited a general horde of conventioners up to your hotel room for Kahlua shots. 

7b. And while we’re on topic, Kahlua shots? Seriously

8. And if all of the preceeding is just too much for you to handle, maybe you ought to consider staying home next year.