26 December 2006

Happy Merry Christmahannukwanzikah

We did it! We're not QUITE through yet (not until work starts on a normal schedule again.) But for all intents and purposes, we have made it through bulk of the dreaded HOLIDAY SEASON.

I did pretty well for Christmas... I got almost everything I asked for:
1. a train ticket to connecticut (yay sue!)
2. gift certificates for geeky places like barnes & noble
3. new shoes (okay, okay - i bought these for myself)
4. cool books (travel books, and a little Caleb Carr... and okay, i bought those for myself, too)
5. lottery tickets (i still don't know if i won yet... i'll check later)
6. new, good-smelling bath stuff (yay, pitt-people!)
7. some new fabulous clothes
8. a place to hang out and be with cool people (yay, again, pitt-people)

There are a few little things that I missed out on, like socks, and receiving the magical ability to clean up my apartment by wiggling my nose. But overall, I'd say it was a pretty okay year, considering that it really had a monumental propensity to really, truly, madly, deeply suck. For the record, divorce proceedings and the holidays do NOT taste good together.

There were a few things, however, that I received this year that I didn't ask for, including:
1. a reminder of how lonely the holidays can be when you've lost something or someone very close to you,
2. a reminder of how friends can be as supportive as your family when you need them to be,
3. a lesson that i'm stronger than i think i am, and
4. a lesson that i'm more lonely than i want to admit.

And there were a few things that I didn't get, that I realize are very important to me:
1. a hug from someone who really, really loves me,
2. a vague grasp of where i'm heading in my life,
3. vanilla ice cream with hot fudge.

I just read an inane article written by a married woman addressed to women who are single this year during the holidays. It basically said that she pines for her days of being alone, because she didn't have to worry about gift no-no's, could stay at the mall as long as she liked, avoided lame presents from lame boyfriends, and could spend the money that she saved on gifts on a spa indulgences for herself. I would agree, except that she's totally wrong.

She "pines" for those Christmas pasts, when she didn't have to worry about compromising on a tree, or not having to buy the perfect gift for her guy... she says that "once your hitched for the holidays" you simply cannot please your man anyway, so it's better if there isn't one.

I noticed that the author doesn't pine for those picturesque moments where you're microwaving a single-serving frozen pizza for your holiday lunch still in your pyjamas with your hair uncombed and your teeth unbrushed because hey, no one's here that cares how you smell. She never mentions putting on the James Bond marathon on Spike TV just to hear someone else's voice in your empty apartment. She omits the nagging thoughts of why you just weren't good enough for someone that you tried to love to stick around any more.... or what's wrong with you if there hasn't been one to love you yet.

Yea, I'll admit, I'm having a minor pity-party today. But that's kind of the point, really. One thing that I'm sure this happily-married woman chooses not to remember from her fabulous single-holidays-of-yore when she jaunted to malls and spas alone is that you are... painfully... ALONE. And as much as the holidays are about joy and happiness and peace on earth, they are also about remembering what's important. And companionship and love is important. I'm sure she wasn't skipping to her Brazilian session a-way back then, joyous that the she-male at the spa with the hot wax and masochistic cotton strips was her only holiday companion.

I'm wondering if she has a touch of the 'Christmas tree is greener on the other side' syndrome. Nowhere does she mention that the one thing that overrides all of these concerns when you're single is that nagging voice that you constantly try to play down in the back of your head... no matter how confident, self-assured, and optimistic you are, if you're a single woman during the holiday season, there's an undercurrent of fear that this will be every holiday in the future... That "alone" will become the status quo. Alone, with cats.

Being alone during the holidays sucks. It's just that simple. And yes, there are worse things, like being abused, or being hungry, or sick, or being in a horrible place like Darfur. And no, being married isn't easy... nor is finding the perfect gift (or receiving the most imperfect one.) But I've learned over the years that everyone has problems, and there is no sense trying to see whose is worse than others'. It just doesn't make any sense to compare. So don't tell me that the holidays are "better" when you're single. Cuz you're wrong.


I'd like to give a very special thanks go to the pitt-people, whose family embraced me as if I were one of their own, and treated me like everyone else - even including me in their very bizarre pajama ritual... Thanks for adopting me, even though I was the only Christmas orphan this year.

23 December 2006

Yellow Ribbons...

I was walking around the city today - it was a GORGEOUS day - and I passed a church. And all along the fence were yellow, green and blue ribbons...

They were tributes and prayer wishes to troops that have died (yellow), are serving (blue) or have returned from active duty (green.)
The saddest part was looking at the ages on the tribute slips... 20, 23, 21, 19, 26... All died protecting our way of life... protecting what they loved.

I cried today, for all the families, friends, and loved ones who will never see their children, friends, fathers, and husbands return... And for the people who are serving for us abroad and aren't going to be with their families, but instead, will be fearing for their lives...

So over this holiday season, let's take a moment to remember those who are alone, lost, apart, or saddened this time of year... it's easy to overlook the heartbroken amidst the gifts, trees, food and festivities...

Gave him the wrong finger

My holiday cards this year:

Happy New Year, everyone...

21 December 2006

Life as a guy

Dating, from the men's perspective.... (yikes)

A friend of mine sent me a video this morning (Thanks Chris)

(click picture or click here.

Men, are women really this psychotic?

And meanwhile, you might want to wipe that cheesy-ass grin off your face while you're walking down the street.

(just kidding)

(sort of)

20 December 2006

Adventures in Speed Dating

A few weeks ago, I met a friend of mine and his girlfriend at a fabulous little bar called Savoy. After a few drinks, we were inevitably lamenting over the plight of being – as the ever-optimistic web likes to put it – “suddenly single” in the vast and bizarre world of New York City. The conversation turned into online dating, upon which I’ve briefly touched in this blog, and alternatives to the crap-shoot that is online dating, and the alternatives offered.

This is when the topic of New York on “Speed” came up. Apparently, there is a vast world of “Speeding” in this town, of which I’ve been previously blissfully unaware. I’m not talking about the drug (or, I should clarify that if there *is* a rash of stimulant use in NYC, I continue to be blissfully unaware), but the idea of Speed Dating, and the other new-to-me concepts of “Speed Friending” (the same as speed dating, but without the sexual aspect and gender requirements) and “Speed Networking” (sort of a speed friending for professional reasons.)

Ready to dabble in anything new that would give me a basis for a good blog (and readily propped in my adventuresome spirit by several very good Cosmopolitans thanks to Michael, the Savoy bar tender), I went immediately home and signed up for a speed dating adventure. (Thanks a lot, Paul.)

I should add a disclaimer here... While I admit that I signed up for the speed dating that late evening when I got home, I didn’t recall doing this until I checked my email the next morning when the subject line: “Congratulations! You are confirmed!” greeted me. I had to take a few moments to remember, exactly, what I was confirmed FOR. Not wanting to lose my momentum of adventure (and not wanting to lose my deposit for the evening) I bravely went forward and last night, made my first foray into the bizarre world of Speed Dating.

Arriving at the location was a bit of an adventure itself. Apparently, local R&B performer Myame was performing at the upstairs dance club as well, so there was a line of about 15 men waiting outside the front door, all decked out in baggy jeans, sideways baseball caps, hoodie sweatshirts, and lots of heavy gold bling. I hate to stereotype, and didn’t want to judge anyone for anything before I give them a chance, but it just didn’t strike me as the typical crowd lining up for a speed dating. Resolving to suck it up and make the best of it, I traipsed up to one of the several 250+ pound bouncers at the door and said – as bravely as my karate training would let me – “Is there a speed dating thingie here tonight, or am I in the wrong place?” Yea, it sounded just as weak and pathetic as it reads.

Thankfully, the reply I received was: “Yep, in the basement.” Whew!! At this point, I was let through the velvet rope in front of the other crowd, and escorted rather unceremoniously through a blank door and a set of dark stairs leading precipitously downwards into … yep … the basement. I have to give the organizers props for this automatic screening of potential applicants. After all, if you weren’t scared off by the crowd at the door, the four bouncers, or the descent from an unmarked door into a dark stairwell, then you have to have some set of nerves.

Upon entering, our two hosts beckoned me over and gave me my brochure: A photocopied paper with an ice-skating hedgehog on the cover, wearing a tie, carrying a martini, and wearing a scarf emblazoned with the logo of the speed dating company. (I swear I’m not making this up. I don’t think I could if I tried.) On the corner of the front page: “F4”, which stands for “female” and “table 4” which was to be my assigned seat for the first part of the evening. On the inside cover: The rules, and then the “Selection Form”… a series of blanks labeled “Name of Date”, “Notes”, and the ever-so-personal choice of Y or N. That’s basically what the whole thing comes down to, right? Y or N.

I got a drink – screwdriver #1 – and found a stool near two other women: JA and IL. They were friends who came together on their first speed dating experience, and we bonded pretty quickly over the first few moments. The need to preserve a bit of anonymity was apparent from the beginning, though, and the psychology professor was hesitant about telling me where she taught until she reconsidered and said “Well, since you’re a woman, I can tell you. But I am not going to tell any of the guys!!” Fair enough. Apparently it was also a bit strange – as a woman – to come alone. Once again we see the social differences between men and women here. All of the men came alone, but most of the women came in groups of 2 or 3 for moral support. I am not sure if that’s a good thing or not, since women (as you’ll see later) can be quite nasty when they talk about men. (I know, I know… not telling you anything groundbreaking here.)

I don’t quite know what I expected of the men, but there was a good variety there – short, tall, suits, casual, artistic, businesslike, ‘big boned’, thin, and every skin tone was represented. Overall, however, I have to say that the selection of women was far more attractive than the men… but who am I to judge?

So the rules as they were explained to us was that we would have 6 minutes to chat with each dude, and then they would ring a ‘gong’ and the gents would move to the next table for the next six minutes. We’d do this in two acts… with each person talking to 6 people in each act. I was perched on a very hard to describe box that was lit from within and was very uncomfortable. It also put me a good 8 inches above my date, which was exceedingly unhelpful since I was taller than – oh – everyone in the room. As I sat perched on the edge of my lava-lamp-seat, I met my first date… Here, gentle readers, is the play. I will include the notes that I wrote as I met the men, and recall what I can from our conversations…

Act 1: The first six
I.C.: My notes: “Asian. Scarf.” IC is a very artistically dressed gentleman with intricately shaved facial hair that would fit seamlessly into the Parisian beatnik café scene of Audrey Hepburn’s Funny Face. Very nice to talk to. Asian, his family is from Korea, but he’d lived in the US for most of his life and was in some creative line of work. But honestly I don’t recall much of this first interview, except for his very dramatic black and white scarf, and that when he stood to shake my hand after the gong rang, he barely came up to my waist. Sorry, IC, that would be an “N”.

P.G: I have no recollection whatsoever of this one. And no notes. Oops. I think I was still getting the hang of talking to them while not feeling awkward about taking notes... No recollection equals an “N”. Sorry, PG, my bad.

C.L.: My notes: “Greek, Glasses”. I do recall a checkered jacket, too, and that once the conversation warmed up, he did seem like a nice guy. He screamed “geek” in the traditional sense, with the thick-rimmed black glasses (is that chic, or geek? I can’t keep up), and we chatted a while about my visit to Athens in 2004 and how the Greeks do yogurt like no one else in the world. Not a great chatter, though, and I found myself starting up the majority of the conversation. Probably a "N"….

B.G.: My notes: “Car Salesman. Feet.” I couldn’t follow the conversation with BG most of the time, because it was like talking to three or four different people at the same time. He couldn’t sit still, and was so intent on telling me tales of his previous bad dates, that I barely got a word in edgewise. At one point, he actually said “Enough about me Let’s talk about you But don’t tell me the boring stuff like what you do for a living You’re hot so I’m already interested What do you do for fun I hope you like surfing Have you ever been to Colorado to ski” That was an actual sentence. I’m not kidding. I don't think he actually took a breath for the entire 6 minutes. He also kept taking off his shoes and scratching his toes during our conversation. I never knew that 6 minutes could be so long, or so exhausting. That would be a definite “N”.

F.Z.: My notes: “Tech guy.” Poor FZ – I couldn’t hear a word he was saying. Not only was Myame cranking up some serious bass above our heads, but the conversations in the room reached a peak at this point, and it suddenly seemed as if everyone was yelling. I’m not a loud talker either, so most of the 6 minutes was spent saying “Could you repeat that?” Sorry, FZ, that’s a “N”.

B.R. My notes: “Real estate. 50.” This was, honestly, the first one with real potential. Dressed casually, with a “few extra pounds”, BR had a great sense of humor and we chatted very easily. We had a really nice chat until about 4 minutes in, when I found out that he lied about his age to get into the speed dating group. He was significantly older than the age groups delineated by the event (women: ages 29-37, men: ages 32-42) and made me wonder how much else of his “I ran three companies and did really well and I’m now retired and I just put Real Estate on my business card so that it has something on there to fill my time” schpeil was less BR and more BS. It’s too bad, really, because we really hit it off otherwise. Call me crazy and maybe I’m a little hypersensitive about things right now, but in the last year of my life, I’ve had enough of men lying to me that I don’t feel like starting anything out with another lie…. Sorry, BR… that would be a regrettable “N.”

At this point we took a break for some “snacks,” which basically consisted of cheap sugar cookies, and some nachos with salsa. The hosts of the event must have shelled out a whole $2.50 for the highly-promoted “snacks provided”. Honestly, though, most people weren’t interested in heading to the bar for the stale tortilla chips, but for another drink. BR followed me to the bar, and we chatted during the 15 minute intermission, and really had a nice chat, which was – I’ll admit – happily lubricated by screwdriver #2.

During the second round, the guys were stationary, and the women rotated around This was actually a bit preferable since most of the men stood up when I approached and could see how tall I was. I’m not sure how that will affect my feedback ratings, but I hope not too poorly.

Act 2: The Second Six
My notes: “Italian. Bald.” Here’s where I have discovered the best pickup line ever: “What’s your favorite vegetable?” I’m not sure how we got onto the topic of food (probably coming off the tortilla chips, and the fact that he is Italian), but we started bonding over the fact that both of us dislike the slimy texture of fresh tomatoes. SD was – as my notes indicate – Italian and bald, but also very fit and very fun to talk to. He was energetic, funny, and great at chatting, which is a severely underrated skill in my honest opinion! Shorter than me, yes, but not so much that it was awkward, and later on I heard that he is a cartoonist, which is uber-cool. Hm… definitely has surprising potential to be a “Y”.

W.A.: My notes: “Tie, France.” This was the one guy in the room wearing a suit, and who was almost as tall as I am. Definitely the best looking, objectively. But he was definitely a quiet one, which was a little bit of an adjustment from SD, who was quite chatty and energetic. I don’t think he there was anything negative about WA, but I could definitely see why he says he has trouble getting dates. He’s very quiet, and I’m sure the bar scene in New York doesn’t fit with his personality. We had a nice conversation about France, though his favorite city being Paris (and not Lyon) might be a serious problem for me. The girls later said he was boring, but I’m speaking from experience when I say that maybe boring is not as bad as it sounds (and it’s a lot better than the alternative, which is someone who is TOO exciting for a relationship’s own good. Ooops, my baggage is showing again! Sorry…) Hmmm… have to think about this one a little more…

A.S.: My notes: “Brown M&M’s, Ears.” Okay, yea, I know that by this time you can tell by my comments when that second drink really started kicking in. But honestly, the M&M thing was not as far a stretch as you might think! Here, the new ‘favorite vegetable’ question took a turn into ‘what’s your most favorite (and least favorite) M&M color?” (For the record, my most favorite is green, my least favorite is brown... as was his - hence the "brown M&M's note.") He also had very sticky-out ears – hence the ears comment. A great chatter, and a psychology major as well, we had a nice conversation, but no sparks for me. He dressed well, which makes sense, since he works for a major high-end fashion retailer. If I cared more about shoes and couture clothing, he’d be a “Y”, but sadly, I like being stuck in an unfashionable rut, so I'm afraid the desire for handbags and haute couture straight pants won't turn it from a "N".

D.Y.: My notes: “Short. Jaded.” Oooh, that’s kind of harsh, isn’t it? Sadly, it was also true. He was very short, but in the interest of making the best of things, I kept the conversation lively. I asked him the “vegetable” question (it really sparked some interesting conversation with AS, so I tried it again), and he seemed to appreciate the change of pace. He told me that he was a frequent speed dater, and that he was a little tired of the scene… or it seemed to me that he was just tired in general. He admitted that this was the first time he’d been asked about vegetables, and couldn’t decide his favorite. I broadened the field: “Okay, what’s your favorite vegetable MEDLEY?” and he froze again… apparently the man doesn’t like vegetables. But his lack of health food decision-making abilities aside, there were no sparks, so DY is a “N.”

J.P.G.: My notes: “Tall! 4th Grade teacher.” Note the most important thing here to me – height. It was the first comment in my last two guys, and while I proudly managed to stay away from asking everyone about their profession (a common and oft-repeated conversation), we had a nice long chat about teaching 4th grade, and how the kids at that age aren’t old enough to put on more than a façade of attitude that’s quickly removed by a good teacher. A nice guy, really, but really didn’t react when I asked if he liked to travel… and in my life, travel is a priority, so I think I’m going to move on… sorry, JPG, the kids will have to do without me for now… “N”.

R.G.: My notes: “Beard. Short.” I should have added “no conversational skills at all” but it didn’t fit in the box. I’m not a big fan of facial hair either, so all in all, three strikes. Sorry, RG, but it didn’t’ take long to reach an “N”…

Finale: Post-party Catty Session
Whew!!! After 12 guys and nearly 2 hours of constant talking, the end of the evening was welcome. At this point, I noticed, the girls suddenly started huddling in groups of 3-4, and I was sucked back into a conversation with the women I met at the beginning of the night, JA and IL. The first, pressing question: “Did you have any Yesses?” I kind of hedged a bit, and said something non-committal like “It was rather overwhelming, I’m going to have to think about it a little more,” at which point they told me that they thought the group was a bunch of losers and they didn’t think they had found anyone the least bit interesting. Then, they started picking apart each one… I won’t get into details, but if you’re a woman, imagine your worst session of nitpicking the selection at a bar, and you get the gist. (Men – trust me, you just don’t want to know.)

They did manage to say that the Italian guy was the best of the bunch, and when I told them that I had busted BR’s age faux pas, they started scribbling madly in their pamphlets and seemed horrified. Oops, sorry BR. Overall, though, they seemed generally put off by the whole thing, and I’m not sure if they were too harsh, or if I’m just too nice. Probably a little bit of both.

The hosts told us that the next steps were to go home, log on to our accounts, and there we would find the list of gentlemen (or ladies) that we’d met, and that we should check off the ones we were interested in meeting. If there were mutual “checks”, then we would receive each other’s email addresses, and - here’s a great quote for you – “The rest is up to you consenting adults.”

Overall it was a fascinating study of men and women interacting, and – as the host stated at one point – this pretty much instantaneously removes the ‘hardest’ part of dating, which is that first face-to-face meeting, and that first conversational hurdle. True, but it’s also hysterically fun to do! I’ll definitely do it again – if not to pick up men, then to just meet new people. In the end, the women were just as interesting to meet as the men, and I suggested the idea of combining the “speed dating” and “speed friending” into one event. After all, even if you don’t want to speak with the men in the room again, who knows if you’ll meet a really cool person to be a hang-out buddy for your next speed-dating adventure… Now that wouldn’t be such a bad idea…

The end result and review would be that I had a shockingly fabulous time! I was literally smiling the entire way home from the experience, and told my office mate today that she should try it out, even though she's seriously dating someone already. It's such a weird experience, but so much fun to socialize in such a bizarre, forced-yet-comfortable way. It was an amazing confidence booster, after some duds in the last few weeks, and I'll definitely do it again, when I've recovered from the screwdrivers!

The after party:
A sort of sad end note… BG – the car salesman with the itchy feet – was hanging out and did manage to try to pick us up with a lame “So, where’s a good bar nearby to party?” line. I told him to head to 9th avenue, and no, I wasn’t going to join him. I think, when I left, he was the last one in the bar, eating the leftover stale chips and trying to talk the waitress into joining him to party that night… and that he would buy the drinks. I can only hope that he washed his hands first.

18 December 2006

Long live the Roxy

I went rollerskating Wednesday night - yes, rollerskating, which I haven't done since I was approximately 8 years old - at a rink in the city that's regularly shut down for underage drinking violations. I wasn't quite sure what to expect with a weekly roller rink in NYC, but assumed it was appropriately skeevy, and that afterwards I would need to soak in a multi-gallon bath of Purell in order to de-grossify myself.

The rink is called the "Roxy," and touts itself as a pseudo-disco club. On Fridays, it's a gay dance club, and when it manages to avoid being closed by authorities, Saturday is a regular dance club. The discreet entrance (which is a nice way of saying "hidden" and "scary") is on West 18th Street, a deserted alley with nothing on it other than old warehouse-like buildings, chain link fences, a parking lot and some construction equipment. The faded blue neon sign looked kind of ghostly in the rainy evening, and you could hear it buzzing. It was like a movie set, complete with post-rain spatter and rats rummaging around the construction sites garbage cans. The bouncer at the door checking ID's was the complete package of club-bouncer stereotypes: Monosyllabic, tall, muscular, and dressed head-to-toe black puffy jacket and black baseball cap. It seemed almost a parody to be signing a release that he handed me that said "I accept responsibility for any injuries maintained while rollerskating." Slightly incongruous, yes.

My friend who accompanied me wasn't in the mood. But I had convinced her to go for 1/2 hour at most... knowing that it would be gross and we'd probably just head to a nearby Thai place for dinner and vow never to speak of this silly outing again. When we arrived at 8:30, we didn't expect anyone to be there... and we were pretty close. It was fairly quiet. After entering through a stairway lit with 6 blue light bulbs, we went to the "admission" booth and duly paid our $24 for skating and rentals.

For some reason, these people think that drunk people can hang on to minute slips of paper, because you got a paper when you paid, a paper when you rented your skates, and a paper when you checked your bags. When we entered, it was like a 1980's dance club... colored spotlights, black lights, neon green palm trees hanging from the ceiling, and lots... and lots... of roller skaters. Early in the evening, there were a fair number of us newbies represented and my friend and I took to the dance floor strapped into our four-wheelers. We looked ridiculous. I felt like I was 90 pretending to be 9. Every time I tried to push off, I'd pinwheel like a log roller, and simply grab anyone around me in order to stay off the floor. Remarkably, I didn't fall once! In the first hours, at least. I remembered the lessons I was taught in my first rollerblading class (bend your knees, stay low, and when you're losing your balance, don't stand up) and while I didn't look very cool, I at least stayed off the floor and the flying dancers around me.

The crowd was fascinating. I rarely see such a variety of people in one place in New York city. While the city is diverse, populations of like-people tend to flock together. Not so at the Roxy. There were African Americans, Latin Americans, people in their early 20's, and plenty who were in their 60's or 70's too. The fashions ran the gamut as well. From polka-dotted hot pants, to 1950's poodle-skirts (in camouflage print), from sequin socks to velvet bell-bottoms... it ran the proverbial gamut. You'll notice, however, that my entire sense of the fashion world of rollerskating is below the waistline. That's because - as my friend so eloquently put it at one point in the evening - "This is all about butts." When you're going around-and-around the floor, trying to stay upright, the place you stare is - you got it - at the butt in front of you. As a result, you start to identify people by their various leg wear and footwear... and when a new person joined the circling, I recognized that they were new not by their faces, but by their butt. "Oh, haven't seen those ripped jeans before"... "Look, the polka-dotted hot pants are back"... "The one in the white capris is really terrible!"... Only when there was something completely out of character (flashing light-up wheels, ridiculously ugly terrycloth headbands, or someone skating backwards), was the butt-staring alleviated.

The other thing about roller rinks is that people are constantly touching you. Whether your going to slow and someone feels the need to propel you along, or you're going to fast, and you have to grab the person in front of you to slow down, or if someone in front of you is falling and you reach out to offer them support... you're constantly bumping, supporting, leaning, touching, or otherwise maneuvering other people on the floor. (Note to all you single girls out there - this would be a great place to pick up guys... just run into one and fall down... he will inevitably help you to your feet and offer you a smile! Also, note to all those daters - they do play slow tunes, which turned into "couple" dances... so come to cuddle too...)

After a beer or two, the number of newbies falling suddenly increased. We'd been there over an hour, and the alcohol intake was increasing, and I think that either the confidence was overstated, or the balance was undermined. But it seemed that we suddenly were dodging flying people (or piles of people) at an increasing number. When people did fall, it was like a community effort to get them back on their feet. The security personnel (subtly wearing white shirts that said "ROXY SECURITY" in block letters) would rush over, and stand in front of the fallen person, directing oncoming skater traffic around the downed individual. Other skaters would stop to help, and within seconds, everyone was back in the groove.

Not wanting to break the groove, I managed to go down once myself. Not hard - and in my own defence, someone clipped my wheels - but enough to take another newbie down with me. Security was there in a blink, helping us both up and asking if we were OK. After a bevy of giggles and apologies, we were back up and running. No worse for wear, but definitely in need of some Purell.

By the end of our three hours of skating, I'd decided that one fall and countless bumps, grabs, pokes, pushes, and elbows were enough, so I called it quits. To tired to figure out the rainbows of slips of paper I had shoved in my pocket, I simply placed all my slips in front of the various coat check, ID check, and skate rental people to let them choose which color they liked best. Eventually I did end up with my own footwear, clothing, purse and ID back.

I'll go back, because it was super-fun and I promised my sister some photos. Next time I'll bring more friends with me to reserve one of the booths along the side. I'm also bringing my extra large bottle of Purell.

12 December 2006

Beth's Rules of Online Dating

So I finally broke into the bizarre and strange world of online dating in the last week. I have covered the gamut, I think, from Match.com, eharmony, Yahoo personals and yes... I have even ventured into the strange world that is Craig's List.

And while trolling this vast, virtual-reality meat market, I've come to the conclusion that precious few people know how to write / act / behave in the online world. So I've decided to offer some guidance to what I would assume are some of the basic rules of online dating....

1. Always post a photo
This may seem pretty straight forward, and you always see the disclaimers that "posting a photo will result in more responses!" Very true!! However, what they do NOT do is require that you post a photo of YOURSELF. Which brings us to the nuances of this fairly obvious rule number one:
a) Make sure it's a photo of ... wait, this may come as a shock... yourself.
b) Make sure it's a photo that's been taken within the last 15 years. We know you were hot when you were 22. But if you're now 48, that 22 year old doesn't exist any more. Love it. Leave it. And move on with your bad self.

This inevitably leads to other sub-rules, which are sometimes specific to the sites in question:
a) On Craig's List, don't post some stupid GIF image, just so you have the IMG marker next to your posting's listing. It's misleading and annoying.
b) On Match.com, try to post a photo that at least vaguely resembles whoever greets in mirrors when you walk in front of them. If you're 20 pounds (or more) heavier than when you took that photo, or over 5 years older, or have gotten you hair cut, shaved, grown out, or it's receded beyond recognition, then take another photo.
c) Yahoo and Match... smile!! For God's sake, if you try to look "tall, dark and and mysterious" you'll more likely end up resembling a child predator than a sexy date. Only a few men in this world can pull off that look, and they are famous for it. You are not one of them. So unless you have extremely bad teeth (in which case I recommend braces)... lighten up and SMILE!!!!

2. Be honest, with caution.
One guy I spoke with lamented that most of the women online posted their age as 10-20 years below their actual, real life age. Now, I'm a young woman, so perhaps this is a tad snobbish of me. But when you expect a 32 year old, and a 47 year old shows up for drinks, don't you think he's going to notice fairly quickly that you weren't honest? And I hate to be old fashioned, but when the first thought he has is "Oh, she lied to me," don't you think you're starting off on a bad foot? If you want to tackle this obvious age discrimination with a sense of humor, why not put your age at 102 years old? Sure, you will have to hit the online market a little harder when you don't come up in the "age match" searches... but at least it shows you have a sense of humor. This age issue, however, comes with it's own message for the men out there...

3. Date someone vaguely close to your own age.
Is it really all that ridiculous to be asking you to look for a woman that was born within the same decade as you? I'm amazed and flabbergasted by the number of 40- and 50- and yes, even 60-something men whose "age wanted" limits are 22-30. Are you kidding? I know that having a young, fabulous looking woman on your arm makes you feel better about your hair recession, pot belly and aching back... but you can HIRE a 22 year old for that. Why would you want to have dinner and a conversation with someone who wasn't even born when you graduated from college?

4. Fill out the form
While it's annoying, yes, the "fill in the blanks" really do help. Leaving everything blank except some random paragraph that says "Fun loving guy looking for a soul mate. Looking for someone who loves to have a good time, has no baggage, likes to travel, and likes to go to restaurants. If you're this person, we could be a match! Write me." I guess there is some really GREAT news for these guys! This just about describes EVERY WOMAN ON THE PLANET. You might as well type in something equally helpful, like "Wanted: Female with breasts. Write me!". After all, it's been a while since I've met a woman who did NOT like to have fun, who didn't like restaurants, and who didn't want a soul mate. The only hang up, really, is the "no baggage" part... and the bad news is - asking for no baggage is like asking for someone who doesn't breathe oxygen... they're there, but VERY hard to find and not very much fun. Baggage is what makes us ourselves, and if you don't want baggage, get a puppy. If you're looking for a real woman, instead of stating the unhelpfully obvious about what you want in a partner (and at the same time stating nothing about yourself), why not fill out those helpful little sections that ask for things like - favorite books, movies, hobbies, and other randomly lame yet somehow very informative things? Just give it a shot... take some time to introduce yourself... or have a friend write it... if not for anything else than for laughs.

This leads us nicely to the interaction phase of the rulebook... when the "winks", initial "hello" emails and nice little "courtesy responses" are all used up, and things are actually progressing to real words that humans use to communicate. It's at this point you want to try to stick to some of the following guidelines:

5. Attaching additional photos is good! Attaching photos of your genitalia is bad.
What, exactly, do you think we're going to do with a photo (usually about the quality of a poor cell phone picture) of your penis? Do you think this sparks some sort of desire to meet you for dinner? Do you think it inspires conversation, inspiration, and intelligent banter? Sorry, but it does not. There's no need to prove that you have a member... what we really are interested in is the head on your shoulders, if it exists. We'll just give you the benefit of a doubt that the rest of your anatomy is par for the course.

6. "You're Hot, Let's Meet" is not an appropriate way to ask for a date of anyone other than Paris Hilton.
In this day and age of Dateline child internet predator stings, I am finding that a few emails back and forth really bring out the best in men... and the worst. You'd be surprised how quickly the text deteriorates into a "you're hot, I'm horny, let's meet" kind of conversation. Yes, women like sex too... but we don't want to admit to that right off the bat!! At least make an attempt to fake some intelligent banter before you try to douse us with drinks and talk of your bedroom prowess.

7. Do your homework - read the posting. Yes, it's boring, and the photos are more fun, and yes, it's more fun to fire off an email than to read through the stuff that she took the time to type in. But it's better than being surprised that I'm 5'11" tall, even though it says so right on my profile.

I'm sure that this is just the beginning... since I've only just dipped my toe into the world of online singles, I can state the obvious when I say that it's pretty overwhelming and terrifying. Hopefully things will improve... I'll keep you, well... "posted".

10 December 2006

Brian Williams vs. Fish n Flush

Before I start this commentary on the esoteric and mystical differences between "mock" news and "real" news, let me say that for 11 years, "real" news paid my bills, so I am still a fan of it... in a way. But this evening, when faced with the decision between the 6:30pm network news blathering or listening to "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" on NPR, I didn't hesitate before I switched to the satirical bent of Peter Sagal and his motley crew. (One day, I swear I'm going to be a contestant!)

At this point, I wondered why I was making that switch... and why, overall, ratings were floundering for the somber, information-driven evening broadcasts, while folks like John Stewart, Steven Colbert, and Peter Sagal were soaring in the ratings race, and hailing from number one positions in iPod podcasts and cable shows.

And the answer, as I was listening, was suddenly clear.

It is the Fish n' Flush.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I've decided that the likes of Katie Couric and Brian Williams are not facing declining ratings and advertiser revenue because of the new working hours of dual-income households (causing no one to be home in time for a 6:30pm broadcast anyway); not because of hundred-channel cable boxes fracturing the audience of valued Nielsen eyeballs; not because - as the Republicans would probably have you believe - the decline of moral values leads us away from the somber tales of woe and political misdeeds of our world...

Instead, it's because of things like... the Fish n' Flush.

Let me explain.

As I was listening to NPR's "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me," I heard news about the Iraq Study Group's report on the war and reaction from Donald Rumsfeld and others, the death of former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet, the space shuttle launch, and the military coup currently underway in Fiji (or is that over now?)...

But I also heard about Britney Spears being caught sans culottes by the paparazzi (for the second time... oops, she did it again), and the fabulous Fish n' Flush - a brilliant combination of a toilet and fish tank.

You'd never hear about these things from Brian Williams, you know...

Only on such venues as the John Stewart Show, and Wait Wait would there be such a precious combination of up to date news of the day, and, well... humor. That's what is really missing in these 6:30 broadcasts, you know. I think the next generation is looking for people that can not only show you that they are intelligent, but also demonstrate that they think the world is as ridiculous and hysterical as you do. This humorous approach is a necessary release from the stresses of the day's work, so in effect, you've got two birds with one stone: Headlines, with a dose of slapstick. Is the news of Former Secretary of State James Baker's commentary on the Iraq Study Group's official report any less newsworthy coming from comedienne Paula Poundstone than it is from NBC News' White House correspondent David Gregory? (Note: I happen to know that David is a very funny guy, so I hope he doesn't take this as a slam to his humor level. But you get my point.)

So, in sum, I suggest that if newspaper sales continue to flag; if ratings for the 6:30 broadcast news disappoints in the ratings race, let's not blame Katie's short hemlines... Instead, I suggest that Fish n' Flush invest in a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal.

The stocks would soar.

08 December 2006

Soundtrack to Life!


So, here's how it works:
1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For every question, type the song that's playing
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button
6. Don't lie and try to pretend you're cool...

Opening Credits: Clocks - Coldplay
Waking Up: Dead Man's Party - Oingo Boingo
Falling In Love: How to Save a Life - The Fray
Fight Song: I Write Sins Not Tragedies - Panic! At the Disco
Breaking Up: Empire - Queensryche
Prom: Boom Boom Ba - Metisse
Life: Dream On - Aerosmith
Mental Breakdown: Love Will Come Through - Travis
Driving: Hanging - Kristian Leontiou
Flashback: Don't Cry (Original) - Guns N' Roses
Getting back together: Gasoline - Moist
Wedding: In The Air Tonight - Phil Collins
Birth of Child: Christmas Bells, Carousels & Time (Instrumental) - Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Final Battle: Ready to Go - Republika
Death Scene: On Every Street - Dire Straits
Funeral Song: Touche (Feat. Lee Richards & John Kosco Of Dropbox) - Godsmack
End Credits: Karma (Karmastition Remix) - Alicia Keys

07 December 2006

Did you ask me question?

Name: Check.
DOB: Yep, I have one of those too.
Birthplace: A hospital
Current location: My apartment
Eye color: Hazel
Hair Color: Blond-ish
Height: Right now, probably about 5'. If I stand up, I'm 5'11"
Heritage: White woman here. I think there's some Lebanese in there. It accounts for the green hue. Or that might be the tuna fish I had for lunch.
Piercings: Some
Tattoos: (see "Turd The Makeover" blog)

Band/Singer: Right now? Kristian Leontiou
Song: "Shining"
Genre of Music: Sadly, it's mass-market pop. Sorry Jim.
Color(s): Blue-green, or any sunset colors.
TV show(s): Medium, BSG (geek-alert!), Daily Show, Family Guy
Movie(s): Casino Royale. And Toy Story. I'm bipolar like that.
Food: Yes.
Store: According to my credit card statement, that would be Taca Airlines and the chinese restaurant down the street.
#: Huh?
Favorite drink: Egg nog.
Clothing Brand: I'm wearing Gap right now. Pretty much head to toe. Eeh gads. That's embarassing.
Shoe Brand: 9 West, or Asics.
Animal: I'm a human, I'm pretty sure.
Pizza topping: CHEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSEEEEEEEEEEEEE (with slight deviation into pepperoni sometimes.)
Season: Anything but the dead of winter.
Month: Too many choices here. Pass.
Holiday: Mole Day (October 23rd)
Flower: Anything growing in the wild.

Sunny or rainy: Sunny... unless it's a tropical storm in a balmy place. Then thunderstorms are cool.
Chocolate or vanilla: Vanilla... with chocolate sauce.
Fruit or veggie: I said, vanilla with chocolate sauce!!! Can't you read?
Night or day: Cow.
Sour or sweet: Salty.
Love or money: Yes, please.
Phone or in person: DEFINITELY in person. Sex is always better that way.
Poor & happy or rich & miserable: I refuse to answer that question because it's stupid.
Looks or personality: Ditto.
Coffee or tea: Egg nog.
Hot or cold: HOT

Goal for this coming year: Get a divorce. Get a new apartment. Do 100 pushups (at once, not during the whole year.)
Most missed memory: Well, that's dumb. How would I know if it's a missing memory?
Best physical feature: Hair?
First thought waking up: What's that beeping? Wow, that's annoying. Hope that stops soon.

Do you want to get married? If you already are, how long? I choose option d: none of the above.
Do you want to have kids or do you already have kids? I married one already. They're overrated.
If so, how many: At least 59.
What do you want to name your kids or what are their names already? Bubblegum.

Dance in the rain: Absolutely.
Shower daily: Um. No comment.
Like thunderstorms: Yay! That would be a YES.
Sing: Some people would call it singing...
Play an instrument: Digeridoo
Think you are good looking: Trick question - if I say "no" then I have poor self esteem. If I say "yes" then I'm egomaniacal. I think I am attractive to some people, and unattractive to others. I think I'm okay, but don't know if I'd want to sleep with me.. I'd have to get to know myself a little better.
Get along with your parents: No comment.

Can you whistle: With what?
Right or left handed: I have both of my hands, thank goodness.
Your bedtime: About an hour ago.
Biggest fear: Loneliness.
3 things you can't live without: Air, Water, Gravity.
Color of your room: Yellow. But the room with the padded walls is pink....
Siblings: Yes.
Middle name: Yes.
Pets: One husband, but he's been adopted by someone else, so he's leaving soon.
Nicknames: Roonie (don't ask)
Thoughts on abortion: Hm, that's a doozie of a question after softballing me with the "nickname" question... Going from "Roonie" to "abortion" is just weird. Who are you exactly?
If you could be anywhere right now where would you be: In a cab heading to the airport to catch a plane to a cruise around the world that would last for a year. Or eating vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce.
Do you wear contacts/glasses: I wear my sunglasses at night.... (now that song is stuck in your head, isn't it? And if you don't know what I'm talking about, then you're too young to be reading this blog, so go away.)
Are you afraid of the dark: Depends if there's scary music playing.

06 December 2006

What's up in my life... randomness.

i have a zit in my ear.

and i'm going rollerskating tonight, which i'm REALLY looking forward to.... but probably won't help the zit in my ear.

i'm wearing a cute new bra today (polka-dotty) with matching undies!

i got a "$7 Special Holiday Deal!" manicure today and when she asked "what color you like?" i said "whatever, you pick" and she painted them a DAAAARK red called "Wicked." it looks kind of cool, but WOW i'm definitely a very, very pale white woman.

i'll take photos.

of the rollerskating.

and the nails.

not the bra.

i'm eating lean cuisine now. spaghetti carbonara. i'm wondering if it's real bacon in there. probably not.

now i have a craving for a reese's peanut butter cup.

tomorrow, my work includes making a personalized cheese board with a wood burning tool.... and they're paying me for that... sometimes i don't just don't get the entertainment industry.

my apartment's been on the market since labor day, and so far, i have had nearly 100 strangers come through to see it. no one, however, with an offer.

i have done absolutely no christmas shopping. the one gift that i *do* plan on every year is back-ordered and i don't know if it'll come in time to put it together.

i think i'm going to skip sending out christmas cards this year. bah humbug.

my husband is stalling the divorce and i'm not sure why. ironic, for a man who says he wants his 'freedom.' frustration. sadness.

i don't know any of the answers to the Jeopardy questions tonight.

i think i may get my hair cut and get bangs this time.

i worked out three times in the last four days, and feel really good about that.

i ate way too much macaroni and cheese last night. but i also had a lot of broccoli (organic), so that balances it all out.

that's my life.

05 December 2006

NYC Photo of the Day - Daycare

Waiting for mom to pick him up from day care:

03 December 2006

Craig's List social experiments...

At 2pm yesterday - it was a slow Saturday afternoon - I had an idea. At heart, I think I am a sociologist, because the culture of people and human behavior fascinates me. Faced with the prospect of soon having to start dating (and probably "internet dating" at that), I decided to run a little social experiment of my own. My plan: Put a posting up on Saturday afternoon for a dinner date on Craig's List's "personals" site, and see who responds. Here is my post... and please note that to protect the innocent, insulting, insane, and just plain idiotic, I've edited responders' names in the ensuing commentary:

Tall blond, looking for a Saturday evening dinner date - 33

Reply to: pers-(edited)@craigslist.org
Date: 2006-12-02, 1:57PM EST

Hello all... Who knows if this Craig's List thing actually works, but hey, life's an adventure, so I'm just going to take a leap and give it a shot. Me: Tall (5'11"), athletic blond-ish, intelligent, and a great conversationalist who happens to have left a long-term relationship a few months ago and has no plans for this evening in New York City.

What I'd like: It's a Saturday night, and things are sort of slow in my dating life. Lots of offers, but not a lot of interesting guys. So tonight, I'd love to have a nice dinner, a great chat, and some fabulous wine... just a relaxing, no pressure kind of situation.

You: Smart, tall, intelligent and can carry on a good conversation over a great meal and wine. Dessert is TBA... let's see what happens at dinner first. (Are you noticing that conversation skills are a key here?)

The usual CL disclaimers: D/D free, please send a picture, no spam.


That's the posting... simple, straight forward and fairly low key. I swear that when I wrote the "dessert TBA" thing, I wasn't thinking dirty... I honestly meant chocolate cake or something.

When I first thought up this little social experiment of mine, I thought it would be kind of fun - to write a blog about Craig's List and the weirdness of online dating. To be sure, I received plenty of strange and humorous responses, including "J" who wanted to make some cultural assumptions: "'cheers' means your British?" while "D" let me know exactly where his priorities were right off the bat: "I've got my Bruins on til 8 but after that I am free", and super-date "F" was "here to save the day :-))" complete with a double-chin smiley.

"L" apparently has a problem with backslashes: "M39 nyc here/ East Midtown Manhattan area 235lbs/ brown eyes/ dark hair/ 6'2''Marketing consultantI like to travel/ golf/ movies/ the beach/ romantic dinners/ good wine/ long candle lit baths/ kissing ........" and "R" apparently doesn't have much to say quite yet: "hi. I live on the ues..6 feet/185 finance, blah, blah, blah." Hm, wonder what part of the conversation requirement he didn't get...

"V"'s email (submitted sans photo) was short and to the point. I'll quote it in it's entirety here: "Find anyone?". But "Vinnie's" was the one that scared me the most: "www. freewebs.com/ woofwoofbone"... and no I didn't go there, and no, neither should you. Yet another, from "S": "oh, I'm sure we'll get to dessert! (*winky smile*)" (gack.)

"I" was brief and strangely insightful: "With your athletic background... ever dabble in martial arts! " Hm. Why yes! Why does he ask?

Others were confident, like "A", whose response email was titled "tall blond looking for me!". In the body of his email, he says: "I am replying to your post because it's simple and honest. And you have a warm, vibrant smile." Interesting how he values honesty, and so very nicely complements me on my smile. There could be potential here! Oh wait... In my original ad, I didn't post my photo.... So, how does he know what my smile looks like? Uh oh, I think I just busted a "cut and paste" responder! Another confident responder - "M" - apparently works for Nike and is a tad competitive: "Lets do it. I am taller then you probably in better shape too." Get the impression we'll end up arm-wrestling over who will be paying for dinner?

"D" was much more verbose, with no less than a 7-paragraph self description ending with a very clear list of what he requires when responding to him: "If I am indeedright, ONLY IF YOU ARESERIOUS ABOUT WHAT YOU ARELOOKING FOR, would I loveto know whatyou do fora living, what brought you tothe site, what doyou like doing for fun, what you arelooking for, what turns youon/off in a man etc." (to his credit, at least he gave me the option of picking whether or not he was "indeed right"... and - a side note - apparently has a problem with his keyboard space bar. I really wonder if any woman really does have any prepared notes on what turns them 'on/off in a man etc.' Quite interesting, however, was that earlier in the same long email, he explains his lack of required photo by stating that "i do not havemy picture handy sincethis was totally spontaneous (a nature of mypersonality)." Is it just me, or with all of his requirements for a response, it's clear that he doesn't want spontaneity from his date? Hmmm...)

Congratulations are due to "M" who was the first to respond. I posted at exactly 1:57pm, and his response rolled in at a time stamp of 1:58. So a special prize to you, "M" for being on the ball when it comes to trolling CL for new listings! By the time the clock hit 2:05pm, I'd received 15 emails.

Through the course of the afternoon and evening, I received two very strange offers to take me shopping:
"F": "Seeking a hot girl to take shoe shopping once a week. very submissive and love to be bossed around" (eww!)
"I": "A suite at the Mandarin Oriental or Hotel on Rivington (a getaway in the city). A facial and massage at the Ritz Carlton (Central Park of course).. Private tour of Bergdorf (Courtesy of Amex). Maybe some Shoes, Maybe a necklace, Maybe some La Perla, Maybe a dress..dinner at Daniel or Per-Se.. table at Tenjune (its all about being current) or Bungalow or Butter on Monday nights (I have trust me, but need someone lovely to do this with). (First off, what is it with men and shoes? Second, I think what I really want to respond to these two guys is 'They're called Professional Escorts... give 'em a call sometime'. )

I also got a fair number of photos... some very artistic, and some pretty straightforward. More than a few were close-up photos of men's genitalia... I'm not quite sure where that fits into my request for good conversation, though. (If anyone has any ideas on that, please enlighten me.) Other photos were just plain work-ID types, but some were quite creative. One was a photography buff who sent me a photo of his chin. Yep. Just his chin. For the record - "B" - you should shave before taking and distributing another photo of your chin to potential dates.

Believe it or not, the chin-shot wasn't the most baffling, though... The photos that really confused me were the ones that included the prospective dinner-date with his arms wrapped around another woman that was definitely NOT his mother. This happened twice, and in one photo, "C" very clearly had his hand on her tush. The accompanying note said "Here's a photo of me, and my friend." Hmm. Note to "C": When sending a photo to a prospective on-line candidate for a prospective off-line dinner date, it's best to at least edit out with Photoshop your former girlfriend... or at least edit out your hand on her arse.

I also received several photos of men scowling into the lens... Trust me, guys, you will fare better with a toothy, cheesy grin than an I'm-serious-handsome-and-mysterious photo that - in all honesty - makes you look more like a child molester than an appealing dinner date. Yes, I know we all ask for tall-dark-handsome-mysterious types, but what we really want is someone who isn't afraid to laugh a little.

A few responses, however, made me really worry about the "women" (I put that in quotes because like the lottery, you never know) that are posting on this site. And about here is where I started feeling a little guilty about my fun social experiment.... when I started getting warm and fuzzy, I'm-lonely-just-like-you responses like these:

"DL": "Hi. Hope you're having a nice day. I saw your posting on Craigslist. You sound like a nice and normal woman."
"TL": "Thanks for your honest post about where you are in life and what you hope to find."
"L": "Wow, you're a real person!"
"C": "I found your posting to be sincere and quite articulate. What a refreshing change!"
"J": "I may be a sucker for brains and a well-penned posting but I had to reply, and I guess I only get one shot at this so here goes."

These were just a few of what I dubbed the 'nice-guy' responders. Of course they all could be fakes, just hoping to figure out if I really am a "natural" blond, if you catch my drift. But the impression I got was that there are - simply - a lot of lonely people on this planet, and they're all just hoping to catch a break when it comes to companionship and intimacy. I feel a little bit unethical, posting a listing as simply a misleading social observation and experiment. My only consolation is that few people really expect to get responses from these kinds of postings... I think... I hope...

Nonetheless, to the authors of the thus far 79 email responses I've gotten to my posting: Thank you for participating in this study. You can get free orange juice and cookies on your way out the door.

01 December 2006

Best. Footwear. Ever.

Sock monkeys ROCK!!!!

Here are my most favorite things in the whole wide world... my brand new slippers:

I might just wear them rollerskating next week...

30 November 2006

The Photo Ode to the Subway iPod

Ever noticed how many people wear iPods on the subway? This is just a 6-stop ride on the E train tonight... and I counted nearly 25 iPods... Here are a few...

29 November 2006

Photo blog of the day: Locks for Love

My sister has always had long hair. No, wait... I take that back. She cut her hair short once in... I think it was around 1986... and was so traumatized that it takes years for her to get up the courage to cut it now. Her husband - a strapping, handsome man of 6'5" and who could pick me up by my ankles without even adjusting his center of gravity - loves her hair long. VERY long.

So when she got her hair caught in the engine of the leaf blower a few weeks ago, she decided that she needed to cut it a little shorter. And seeing the length of her hair now, she decided to donate a few inches to Locks for Love. (And by a few inches, I mean... a foot.) Her husband refused to cut her hair... so she asked me to help her out.

I - being totally willing to do anything because I'm adventurous (and because it's not my hair) was ready and excited! To be honest, we were all a little nervous... she because we were about to cut off a foot of her hair... and me because, well, her husband is a big guy... and so far, he seems to like me, and I didn't want to jeopardize that.

But we plunged ahead... rubberbands in hand... scissors at the ready... tv on for soothing background noise. I'm not sure why we had to put a bed sheet over 50 square feet of the floor, but hey, who am I to judge? The goal was to lop off ... uh, I mean, carefully and lovingly hack two braids... and then make the remaining ends look neat. Or, as neat as I can... (*wince*.)

Here goes...

I've always wanted to try being a red-head... but hopefully, another person somewhere with NO hair will enjoy it more...

Yay Sue! (And please forgive me, Matt... but it was for a good cause...)

28 November 2006

Let your vote count!

The time has come, dear readers, for me to decide where my next adventure lies! So let your vote count, and let me know which place you think I should go. Those who know me know that travel is my greatest addiction (with the possible exceptions of air, water, and chocolate), and stirs my soul. It also keeps me occupied and intermittantly gives me a really good tan.

Fortunately, I've managed to work my way into a professional situation where I'm going to have two whole months... yes, MONTHS... off next year. I've been saving my pennies, and it's time to book the trip. Since I won't have a ton of options to take long trips until... oh... I'm 80 years old... I figured I will have to enjoy what time I have while I'm still young, stupid, and highly mobile. But now, the challenge! I have to decide where to go! So I'm asking you to vote on which of the below trips I should take. (Legal disclaimer: After all the votes are tallied, I will count them carefully, take them to Florida to have the chads verified, and then throw all the ballots out and let Katherine Harris decide...)

Candidate A: China, Tibet, and the Yangtze River
A 22-day tour cultural and culinary tour of the far East, including Beijing, Xian, a 5-day cruise on the Yangtze River, Lhasa, Tibet, Chengdu, Wuhan, and Hong Kong with an added 5 day tour of Angkor Wat and Siem Reap, Cambodia tacked on to the end, just for giggles.

Candidate B: The Adriatic - Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, and Bosnia
A 16-day cultural tour of Zagreb, Sarajevo, Dubrovnik, Split, Lovran and Ljubljana, with a side order of 3 nights in Budapest, Hungary and dessert consisting of 3 nights in Vienna, Austria. Shorter trip, but to a super-cool place with the options of extensions to pretty much anywhere in Europe. Can you say 'cross-continent train extension'? I thought you could...

Candidate C: Amazon River Cruise and Rainforest tour
An 11-night tour of Iquitos, Lima, and an Amazon River Cruise on Río Marañon and Río Ucayali on a privately-chartered 19th-century-style riverboat. Options to add a pre-trip to Bolivia and Peru, and / or a post-trip to Machu Picchu and Cuzco, Peru. Now THAT would definitely require some serious innoculations... and the bugs there are probably bigger than I am... I could run a contest: How many mosquitoes does it take to bleed Beth dry? Sounds like fun!

Candidate D: Thailand, Cambodia and Laos
A 21-day trekking and backpacking tour starting in Thailand's Golden Triangle, where the borders of Burma, Thailand and the Laos meet. Travel by boat down the Mekong River, through Laos' mountains and jungles to Luang Prabang. Then, off to the present day capitals of Vientiane and Phnom Penh, before finishing with a 3 day visit to Angkor Wat. Optional 3-day extention to the serene Thai island of Koh Chang for recovery by snorkeling, beaching, massages and elephant treks. I could also take a trip to my friend Alex's pad in Singapore, cuz hey... it's the same friggin' hemisphere, so it MUST be close by...

Let's feel the power of Democracy!!! On your mark.... get set.... VOTE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now, who wants to come with me? (*wink*)

26 November 2006

What's wrong with turkey?

The great American tradition of stuffing oneself full of an average of 3,000 calories in the name of giving thanks is over (and that doesn't include the other tradition of snacking before and after. But don't worry, a mere four hour run, five hour swim, or 30-mile walk will burn all that off.)

My Thanksgiving was truly awe-inspiring, especially because my sister and brother-in-law hosted and I didn't have to cook a thing. My donation to the meal - the can-shaped cranberry jelly that makes a satisfying "schlurp" when it is removed from the container and whose first ingredient is "corn syrup" - was well received. My sister's in-laws were in town - and let's not forget her four children - so all told there were a total of 9 people (and one dog) to enjoy the Thanksgiving bounty. And while this is probably not the most dramatic of crowds, the weekend was made even more challenging by the fact that the week before, my sister's dishwasher broke, and (perhaps even more tragically) the oven too. So my sister was facing the challenge of a Thanksgiving dinner with a serious and severe shortage of major kitchen appliances.

She was surprisingly calm about the whole thing. Most likely because she wasn't the one cooking. That fell on the shoulders of her husband.

My brother-in-law was also surprisingly calm in the wake of this lack-of-kitchen-appliances storm, and made an amazing spread that we were all too happy to gorge on. He deep-fried the turkey (which was absolutely delicious, but I still find the idea humorous. Only in the land of deep-fried Mars bars, Oreos, and Twinkies would someone even conceive of the idea of configuring a way to boil an entire 19-pound-turkey in a vat of oil. I challenge each of you to a brief adventure: Search "deep fried" on Google images, and several terrifying experimentations pop up.) The deep-fried turkey is an amazingly culinary feat... and tastes absolutely stunning, is surprisingly moist, and actually gives some flavor to an otherwise fairly tasteless fowl. Perhaps the best part is that it only takes about an hour to fry a 19-pound turkey... a vast improvement over the requirements of my mother's cooking during my youth, which included early rising and multiple bastings during the day which usually ended with a turkey so dry that it actively sucked the moisture from your salivary glands. (I think that's why gravy was actually invented.)

Which brings me to the point: I had turkey for Thanksgiving. But I know of so many people who didn't. The new age of "personalizing" the meal has taken a turn for the bizarre and strange. One friend of mine was graciously invited to a friend's parents home for dinner, and was treated to a lobster dinner. Her host, at multiple points during the day, explained that lobster WAS the traditional meal that the Pilgrims had. I laughed, and scoffed, and vocally doubted that the Pilgrims in their time had lobster dinners. But becoming rather curious about it, I did my due diligence, I looked up what the Pilgrims did, indeed, have for their "Thanksgiving" meal (I put that in quotations, since it wasn't called "Thanksgiving" back then... it was a celebration of the harvest and the colonists' recent victory over the "heathen natives." But I digress...)

It seems that the earliest versions of the harvest meal probably included fish, berries, watercress, lobster, dried fruit, clams, venison, and plums. Yep, lobster. It did *not* include potatoes (considered poisonous by most Europeans at the time), milk (there were no domestic cattle at the time), butter (which I'm guessing seriously compromised the lobster), or pies of any sort (the supplies of flour had been long diminished, thus preventing any sort of baked good from making an appearance until much later.) In fact, the word "turkey" itself applied to any foul, so when the governor sent his men "a-fowling", they would have been lucky to return with wild ducks.

Which means, ladies and gentlemen, that Thanksgiving as we know it - is a farce. But you probably guessed that already, since the holiday is less about the Pilgrims now than it is about turkeys, pumpkin pies, and Christmas sales than anything else.

Needless to say, like the annual craving for candy corns, the human brain has evolved to the point where even a "traditional" Thanksgiving meal of lobster is not quite satisfactory. Two days after the lobster feast, on our weekly trip to the local diner for lunch, my friend had to order mashed potatoes simply to quench the annual craving. Another friend enjoyed the bizarre experience that is "tofurkey." (For the record, I've tried tofurkey, and it's kind of like an oversized excuse for vegetarian sausage combined with a good dose of Silly Putty. Vegetarians swear it tastes great, but let's face it - vegetarians are crazy.) She's been craving stuffing with sausage ever since. And let's not even try to figure out who came up with "turducken," okay? (I admit, the idea of "turducken" and "tofurkey" is more unappetizing than anything else, so I'll take a deep-fried anything over that.)

My brother-in-law deep fried the turkey, made the green beans and pumpkin soup on the stove, purchased a pumpkin pie, and borrowed the neighbor's oven for the must-have stuffing and sweet potatoes. Since then, I've had several people offer stove top-stuffing-recipes (not the boxed "Stovetop", but the actual, physical STOVE. TOP.) I have yet to hear anyone suggest how to make a pumpkin pie on the range, although my suggestion that they make it in the toaster oven was met with a few raised eyebrows... For the record, it was meant as a joke.

I was in charge of the dishes.


22 November 2006

Why jump out of a perfectly good airplane?

My soon-to-be-ex-husband, when I asked him once why he lost interest in me, told me that I’d “lost my fire”. I’m not quite sure what that means, except perhaps it was his way of saying that he was bored with our marriage. But in response to this (among other influences), I found that at age 33, I have begun to do things that would convince myself that I had not, in fact, lost my fire… whatever that meant. In the process of re-igniting my fire, I found myself doing things that should only be excused if you are between the ages of 15 and 23 – easily the most stupid developmental years of any human being’s life.

I’m going to refrain from writing about some of my juvenile-like exploits of the last 7 months, which have included: Getting a tattoo, traveling to a third world country alone (okay, I’m kind of proud of that one), and other embarassingly weird and dumb things that I will forever - under oath - refuse to admit to doing as a legally competent person. (Fortunately, very few of them have left any visible scarring... but I digress)...

First of all, let me say that the jumping out of an airplane idea wasn’t totally impulsive. I’ve been thinking about it for a few years. And for the record, I’ve never considered myself hyperactively acrophobic, either. I can psych myself into being rather brave when it comes to edges of things like buildings and canyons. But I’ve never been amazingly fond of heights (especially heights without barriers between me and it), and can also psych myself into being quite a wuss. So skydiving to me ultimately represented something that I needed to do in order to sort of face my fears. Kind of like SCUBA diving certification was for my mild phobia of being underwater. At least that’s how I reconcile it in my head. But what propelled me most recently to actually ‘take the plunge’ and actually, well, take the plunge? Having lately been accused of playing life “too safe” by a husband who was looking for someone with ‘more fire’ (and ultimately found someone, thank God), I think I needed to prove that I could actually follow through with … well … something stupid. And brave. And fire-like. Or whatever.

But I didn’t want to jump alone. So I took my sister with me.

I will admit that this was probably the dumbest part of the whole thing. After all, if I managed to plummet to my death from a-way up there, there would be mourning, and some logistics to clean up (as well as a Beth-sized mess), but not much more than that. My sister, on the other hand, is the drop-dead-fabulous mother of four boys. (Pun not intended, I swear). So asking her to jump out of a plane was probably not the smartest thing for me to do. That being said, she’s my best friend on top of being my only sibling. So I couldn’t *not* ask… and I kept reminding myself that she could always say no, and simply meet me when I was down on the ground. And anyway, I needed a ride.

The actual decision to drive 2 ½ hours to the Skydive Ranch was made rather impulsively the week before. I chalk that up to my theory that once a decision is made to do something really, really stupid, it should be done with very little opportunity to change one’s mind. That’s the working theory today, anyway. It’s also kind of a theme of my life… while I don’t consider myself a crazily impulsive person, I am prone to intermittent bouts of “well, I’m not getting any younger” and go off on some tangent of life, like getting a tattoo, and justifying it by saying things like “once a decision is made to do something really, really stupid, it should be done with very little opportunity to change one’s mind.”

Since I don’t own a car (or rather, since my husband has our car, and it’s 4-door sportiness wouldn’t handle the 7 people anyway, especially since four of them require car seats to be legally installed), my sister’s family - including the dog - and I all piled into their Honda minivan and headed up to Skydive the Ranch, which is located about 30 minutes south of Woodstock (peace, dude.) My nephews were glued to the minivan’s video monitor the entire ride, enthralled by some never ending video featuring the Peanuts gang reenacting various historical events, like the Mayflower voyage, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and other – to use my sister’s phraseology: “Obscenely educational” things.

My brother in law – sandwiched between the two eldest boys in the back – slept, stirring only when his 7-year-old son started absent-mindedly fingering his face.

My sister drove and I narrated directions and tried to keep our minds off of the incredibly moronic afternoon activity we’d planned. It didn’t work very well, and every once in a while during a lull in our conversation, we’d glance at each other and say supportive and nurturing things like “This was a dumb idea.”

The website for the Ranch outlines what to expect when you arrive, and gives you a chance to do some preparation at home in order to shorten your “training” time when you arrive. Since my sister and I are geeks, we watched all the videos (made circa 1982) that told us that no parachute is perfect, no plane is perfect, no jump is perfect, no person is perfect, that accidents happen, and to enjoy the ride. One narrator from the National Parachute Safety Guild (or something) looked like a ZZ Top wanna-be and I could only imagine what his crotch-length beard looked like as he plummeted towards the planet at 200mph. We also printed out the waivers that we would need to sign, and read them thoroughly in order to understand that Yes, we waive our right to live; Yes, we won’t sue if we die; No, we aren’t drunk; Yes, we have life insurance; No, it doesn’t apply here; Yes, we understand what DIE means; Yes, we’re absolutely, 100% positively sure we waive our right to live. We also watched an amazingly helpful video that told us what to do as we were plummeting out of the plane – hand signals, where to put your feet, hands, how to read the altimeter, how your tandem jumper will help you, and what training you’ll receive when you arrive at the jump site. Of course, none of this actually happened, but I’ll get to that later. All told, this preparation material would have been amazingly terrifying, except that the people who made the videos seem to have a pretty good sense of humor: A 12-inch action-figure Grim Reaper made several cameo appearances throughout. Oh, and they also told us to wear warm gloves.

But we weren’t worried too much, figuring that we’d get more actual training when we arrived. We were – how shall I put this? – completely wrong.

Arriving at the ranch, most of our crew being under 7 years old, the first stop was the bathroom. I should have known then what kind of afternoon we were in for. The outhouses were barely past port-o-potties, and the only reason they weren’t portable any longer was because they’d sunk into the ground over the years and been rooted to the earth with weeds and grass.

The “Ranch” consisted of: A large tent, two or three trailers perched on cinderblocks, and one hull of a wheel-less, hollowed out school bus, on which was painted “Skydive the Ranch”. Oh, and a wooden fence that separated this professional establishment with the “runway” and “landing field”, which was basically a strip of grass. One group of jumpers were landing as we arrived, so we watched them come down. There were several “pros” who were wearing matching parachute / jumpsuit combinations, or had fancy arm-wings which I can only assume helped them steer or look more like Batman, I’m not sure which. There were a few first-timers (you could tell because they were tandem) who came down mostly screaming or laughing or both.

My sister and I set up Matt and the boys on a picnic table, and headed over with our waivers in a nice manila folder to check in. We handed our prepared paperwork to a 15-year-old suicide blonde who had a shock of pink hair dyed bangs and more piercings than would be permitted through a metal detector at an airport. It would have been comical, except for the fact that we were about to die. After taking our credit cards, they assigned us to our tandem jumpers, and my videographer. Dave, my tandem guy, reminded me of the guys that never left high school – at least, mentally. When I asked where he was from, he almost immediately told me that he’d just driven in from Indiana where his girlfriend had dumped him and all of his stuff was in his car in the parking lot. I half expected him to ask to move in with me, and I wondered if he would still want to if I threw up on him during the jump. I also hoped that he wasn’t despondent over the breakup to the point of doing something dumb, like forgetting to pull the parachute out or something. My sister’s tandem guy was from Holland and didn’t speak a word. Ever. I still don’t know his name. I don’t know which was worse, honestly.

About this time, Dave told us to put on jump suits (the only time that the term literally applies.) They were amazingly fashionable (not)… approximately the color of a yellow Hi-Lighter and slimming… much like wearing an industrial shower curtain liner. After donning these ridiculously ungraceful suits (which were surprisingly hard to get into, since we’d worn multiple layers), and dutifully putting on our mandatory gloves, Dave said “Do you have everything out of your pockets?” Since there was no way to actually GET my pockets at this point, I said “Yes.” I have no idea to this day if there was anything in my pockets. Then, Dave put on our harnesses. At this point, my sister’s guy led her off to the field. Expecting to follow, I turned to Dave, at which point he said “Oh Shit!” and ran off to his parachute pack. I can tell you, first hand, that one of the last things you want to hear when you’re contemplating jumping out of a plane with an “expert” on your back is your “expert” exclaiming “Oh Shit!” and running away. It’s almost as bad as waking up during surgery and hearing the surgeon say “Oops.” The only redeeming part was that we were still on the ground.

So I stood, alone, waiting for my video guy and Dave to train me. My sister was off – one of the bright yellow spots waiting on the field. I waited about 10 minutes, which made me nervous, because if I was going to jump out of a plane with my sister, I would prefer that my sister actually be on the same plane as me. It also gave me plenty of time to become even more nervous about the fact that – oh yea – I was going to be jumping out of a plane. I double-checked to be sure that I had my gloves on.

Eventually, Dave and the video guy came back. Dave asked if I wanted to wear a helmet. I tried to make some joke about how a leather helmet probably doesn’t help much when you splat. Dave chuckled, and explained that the helmet was mainly to keep your head warm. The video guy made the crucial decision for me, however, when he explained that for video purposes, I’d look better without the helmet. It was purely vanity, but I chose not to wear it. In hindsight, as I look at the photos, I’m not sure how much worse I could look with it, but in order to look as cool as possible, I decided to skip the helmet. (My sister, for the record, wore the helmet. I’m not sure who looked dumber: Her with the hat, or me with my hair straight up like some bad 80’s punk music video.)

Dave then took me to “train”… which was basically standing inside a wooden box (“This is the plane”) with a hole in the side (“This is the plane door”) and being told to keep my head up (“It’ll look better in the video.”) Then, we pulled on some straps that were attached to a few pulleys (“When I say ‘flare’, pull these down”) and that was it. It took less than a minute. We then walked over to where my sister had been standing for 20 minutes (with her mute tandem guy) and waited for our plane. That was all the training I got which was, apparently, 100% more than the training that my sister got. I kept waiting for the video we had to watch, or the official legalese that they had to read, or the official training information session that we were going to get. There was none. The next step was climbing on the plane.

When the dual-prop plane came rumbling down the field, I was reminded of the school bus. Empty, minimal, and in desperate need of a new coat of paint. It stopped in front of us, and we went around the rear of the plane. The props were spinning, of course, setting up a nice little backwash of wind that I was totally unprepared for. It knocked me a few steps sideways, and I thought “Well, that’s annoying” and then realized that the wind coming from the props was nothing compared to the wind that would be coming at my whole body when I jumped out of the plane. Gack. So we climbed on the plane. There were two benches on the plane, which we straddled and sat – basically – in each other’s laps, lined up like sardines. There were a few ‘pros’ on board, but there were a few tandem first-timers too. The plane started rolling – and I realized that we were facing backwards. I remarked that it was disconcerting taking off in a plane facing the wrong way, and the tandem-guy in front of me went off on a safety lecture about how facing the rear of any traveling vehicle was the safest way to travel, whether it was by plane, train or automobile. My sister made some quip about how hard it would be to drive facing backwards. I couldn’t help think that I wanted him to be my tandem guy, instead of my recently dumped “Oh, Shit!” friend, Dave.

At this point, we were told that we were going to climb to about 14,000 feet, which was when we were going to jump. It’s amazing how little difference there is between 100 feet and 14,000 feet… after all, if something goes wrong at either height, it’s only a matter of a few seconds before the inevitable happens. As someone once gracefully explained it to me, the falling isn’t the challenge… it’s the landing that poses the problem. I remember reading a book once that said that in order to fly, all you have to do is hurl yourself at the ground, and miss it. So that was my backup plan – if the chute malfunctioned, I would just miss the Earth and I just fly to safety. Nice.

Just about the time that we reached 6,000 feet, they opened the door. I had a sudden moment of panic, and then watched a guy slip out the opening, and then they closed it. It was very sudden, and rather jarring, and a little bit of bile rose into my throat. “Oh shit,” I said to my sister, “That guy just jumped out of the plane! Did you see that?!?” “Um, yea,” she replied. About this time, I had a sudden wave of guilt over having my sister – the mother of four – join me on this trip. I turned to her very seriously and said, “If you don’t want to do this, you don’t have to.” At the time, it felt like the responsible thing to say – to remove any pressure she may be feeling from me. However, as she told me later, the only purpose it really served was to freak the crap out of her, which wasn’t exactly what she needed, having been already freaked out by the fact that we were now climbing to over 9,000 feet and getting ready to – oh yea – jump out of a plane.

The plane was loud – a dual-prop plane usually is – and was made louder by the fact that the “door” was actually a heavy plastic shield and not an actual, technical door. As we reached about 10,000 feet, Dave told me it was time to strap up. So he scooted up closer behind me (I hadn’t realized that getting closer without actual penetration was even possible until that point) and started attaching his harness to mine. The straps were pulled amazingly tight, probably not helping the “I can’t breathe” feeling that was creeping up since we took off. Once securely attached, I re-checked my gloves (yep, still there), and looked up – they were rolling up the plastic door, and I looked down and saw clouds. We were above the clouds. Significantly above the clouds. And significantly above the Earth.

The next steps happened very quickly, which I think is on purpose, because if we first-timers actually had a chance to THINK about what we were seeing, we’d back out and come back down in the plane, at which point they would have to pry our trembling bodies out of the corner of the plane. As people jumped, we scooted forward on our benches, with our tandem guys firmly attached to our asses. I double-checked my gloves. Still there. As I looked ahead, I could see people jumping out of the plane door.

Actually, jumping isn’t really the right word. Falling really doesn’t describe it either. It seemed to me that they were being SUCKED by some gigantic vacuum out the door and down towards the planet. They fell so fast that it seemed that they were being propelled by more than just gravity. I’ve been on roller coasters, and felt that stomach lurch that comes at the top of a long drop, and I couldn’t help but wonder if my stomach would feel that way the entire trip down. It didn’t seem possible to keep from puking if that was the case, and I was surprised that no one mentioned this earlier. I asked Dave, “Which falls faster, puke or people?” and without pause, he replied, “People.” Apparently, he knows this from experience.

Next, the tandem couple in front of my sister was sucked out of the plane, and it dawned on me that we were the last two out of the plane. It also dawned on me how stupid it is to be last off the plane, after having watched everyone else get sucked out of the plane. And then it dawned on me again that overall, it was stupid to jump out of a plane no matter what order you happen to be in the line. But it was too late to say anything to her, because she was being scooted towards the door. I have my sister’s jump on my video, and on it I can hear her saying “Aaack!!” and can hear myself saying “You’re good! You’re good!” I’m not sure if she heard this, if she needed to hear this, or if I was just saying it to make myself feel better about talking her into this. But that was the last thing my sister heard me say before she was sucked out of the door and plummeted towards the planet.

As I watched her fall, I remember quite distinctly thinking: If I live through this, she’s going to kill me.

Then it was my turn.

We shuffled towards the door, and I held onto my harness straps for dear life, just like Dave told me. The wind from the props and the plane moving was intense, but I was too freaked out to feel anything like a temperature. We rocked in the doorway, and then we tipped over the edge and my feet slipped of the edge into… nothing. My stomach lurched, almost painfully, and then stopped lurching. I recall a moment of relief when this happened, thinking that at least my stomach wouldn’t come out of my mouth completely. The noise was deafening, as the air rushed past us and we started falling faster. I remembered to keep my head up, and my feet back… and suddenly the camera guy was in my face, reaching for my hand. I reached out to give him a “high five” as he told me he might do… and then opened my mouth to smile for the camera.

That was a mistake.

For future reference, when you’re traveling 200 mph, opening your mouth is not a good idea. Why? Because air has an amazing ability to inflate your mouth and lungs with a terrific force, and suddenly I couldn’t exhale, and my face skin was flapping in all sorts of funky, flappy ways. Remember those guys in the old space-training movies? They put them in a wind tunnel and then film their faces flapping? It’s all very funny… until it’s your face. The whole Superman flying gracefully through the air looks great in the movies, but 200mph does a little more than just ruffle your hair-gelled curly-cue. No matter how much gel you have in your hair, the air feels practically solid, and it flattens you. And your hair.

I managed to close my mouth, and start breathing again, and then I had just a moment to actually look around. About this time, we went through a cloud. It wasn’t much of one – just enough for me to see white… feel wet… and then it was gone. And all the video training about what to do when you're falling? Never occurred to me. Sooner than I realized, Dave was pulling my hand to the rip cord. I gave it a yank and the parachute came out. After a few bumps and swings, we were floating, and I realized I wasn’t deaf any more. Dave asked “How was it?” and I replied “Holy shit, that was CRAZY! My sister is going to KILL ME.” He laughed.

We had a nice float down. We did some turns – which basically meant spiraling weirdly and wildly one way and then the other – and I was laughing most of the way down. I felt like a little kid. When we got closer to the ground, Dave told me to put my legs straight out, and when he said “Flare,” I pulled on the straps, just like during training.

My sister said that my landing looked hard. But I don’t recall it being all that bumpy. Then again, I was so high on adrenaline, that I don’t know if I would have noticed broken bones for a few hours until the high ran down. The photos of us afterwards show both of us rather wide-eyed and freaked out by the whole thing. When I ate our picnic lunch about 20 minutes later, my stomach was still twitching from nerves.

In the end, we free-fell for under a minute – about 50 seconds, Dave said. I’m not sure if it felt like more or less – it was all kind of a blur. My sister said that she took a look around at the world while she was falling. I kind of missed that part, except for the clouds. I was too busy trying to breathe, keep my mouth closed, and try to keep my flapping face under control (I failed on that last one.) I think that I’ll have to go one more time, if only to have the opportunity to enjoy the freefall a little more, now that I know to keep my big mouth closed.

And for the record, my sister didn't kill me. And in case you ever go skydiving… keep your mouth closed, and don’t worry about gloves. Contrary to what the videos tell you, gloves don’t really matter all that much.