Thursday, November 26, 2009

Double Crappiness

Holy mother of god. I need to stop being so freakin' cheap.

I headed to NYC for Thanksgiving for the third year in a row. We've made a tradition of spending Thanksgiving in the city, watching the parade, seeing how much food can be cooked in a ten square-foot kitchen, and celebrating with friends. Family gets me at Christmas. Thanksgiving is for friends.

After last year's fiasco where we circled the city for three hours looking for a parking space, I decided that there was no way I was driving in. And after the Mexico trip last year, I became a big fan of buses. Well, Mexican buses anyway. And, if I can get along in Mexico on the bus, I can certainly do it here, right?

Perhaps I should have taken Greyhound. Instead, I took the local Chinese bus. For $35 round trip, my local Chinese bus picks you up on a random street corner in my nearest city, and drop you off on another random street in NYC. If you are lucky enough to survive the trip.

My first mistake was trying to travel anywhere on the East Coast on the day before Thanksgiving. My second mistake was the Chinese bus. Prof drove me to the bus "station" (he stayed home to be with his family) and we were 20 minutes early, as the website had clearly instructed me. There was a huge crowd of people waiting on the other side of the street in the rain. They looked angry. And mean. I was pretty confused about where I was supposed to be, but the little dude running the place kept waving us back and telling us that the 2:00 bus was 30 minutes late.

30 minutes my ass. The 2:00 bus pulled up at 3:00. Prof and I joined the angry hoard on the other side of the street to try to board the bus. There was yelling. And pushing. And more yelling. And more pushing. I tried to get my bag in the luggage compartment but couldn't get near it. The little dude grabbed my ticket and waved me on, past a really angry black lady who was screaming "I was here first! Number 1! There's gonna be trouble if I don't get on the damn bus!" I left my bag with Prof and prayed that he could get it in the luggage compartment. I was jostled to the back of the bus, but fought my way back up. Prof is still standing there, with my bag - they wouldn't open the compartment for him.

Turns out, Prof got in a little screaming match with the bus driver, and he eventually succeeded in getting my bag on, as well as a bag some little Indian woman gave him to take care of. Once I was reasonably sure that my luggage was going to go with me to NYC, I desperately tried to find a seat.

What I found couldn't technically be called a seat. The Chinese bus people had clearly gotten creative with bus remodeling because there was no way an ordinary human being could fit in the space I was jammed into. Thank god my seat-mate was pleasant and didn't smell. She squeezed in next to the window and turned her legs at an awkward angle into my "leg space." I did the same into the aisle. Before the bus had even pulled away, I noticed that I was getting wet. I looked up - the emergency hatch in the ceiling was cracked open. It was cold. And wet. I prayed that when we started moving, the wind would keep the water off me.

So, the journey sucked. Totally. I didn't have room to even pull my magazine out to read, and because we were so late, it got too dark to read pretty soon after we left. I could have turned the overhead light on, but, I doubt it worked anyway and because of the creative seat arrangements, it wasn't really in the right location. Besides, no one else on the bus had a light on. They probably would have lynched me if I had even attempted it.

So, instead of reading, I chatted with my seat-mate, Ebony. This was the only good part about the ride. She was pleasant, not angry and able to have an intelligent conversation. When we were bored of each other, I just started listening to people's stories. The $35 Chinese bus is kind of a sad place really. I was there for a lark, being cheap for cheap's sake. Most of the other people probably didn't have a choice. The angry lady was across the aisle from me. She scared the crap out of me and she was the last person I wanted to be sitting anywhere near - but then I overheard her story and understood why she was so angry. She was traveling with her 15 year-old daughter, who seemed to be not all quite with it, to visit her mother in NY. Her mother was paralyzed and in a facility. She visits twice a month and is hoping to get her moved closer soon. No wonder she was angry. Twice a month on that stinkin' bus, a crippled mom, a weird daughter, no car and not enough dough to take Amtrak. I'd be angry too.

We were doing pretty well for time until we got to Exit 7 or so on the NJ Turnpike. Then we sat. And crawled. And creeped. I think we went 25 miles an hour from there all the way to the Lincoln Tunnel. Except once we got near the Tunnel, we just stopped. For like an hour, maybe more. And because we were no longer moving, it became apparent that the emergency hatch above me was the only fresh air on the bus. The heat was zinging, and the bus driver wouldn't turn it off. I started getting claustrophobic. And the rest of the people started yelling. "Its HOT!" "Turn the AC on!" "I'm gonna pass OUT!"

The driver jumped up (which he could do because we hadn't moved in like fifteen minutes) and shouted angrily "NO A.C.!" No A.C.!"

Oh my god. I thought he was done for. I really thought there was going to be a riot.

(PS, at this point, the bathroom started really, really reeking. Bad.)

Eventually, people settled back down, but it stayed ridiculously hot. I started sweating. So did the people around me. I wanted to tear off layers of clothes, but I only had one so that wasn't really an option.

I had never been so happy to see the Lincoln Tunnel in my entire life. What should have been a two and a half hour ride, maximum, ended up being a four and a half hour ordeal. Amazingly, nobody was trampled getting off the bus. People cooperated and helped each other. I think we were all pretty much united against the driver of the bus. I didn't see him when I got off - he was probably hiding, and good thing too.

Kiwi was there waiting for me, and we had a great time and ate delicious food.

There was no way I was fighting my way back on that bus - the mere suggestion made my stomach flutter - so sucked it up, spent the money and took the train. Oh how I love Amtrak. Clean, on-time, spacious, friendly Amtrak. No more Chinese bus for me. Ever. Lesson learned.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


The darkness when I leave work is having a serious impact on my energy level. I was going to write a big long post for you all, but I simply don't have the energy. My eyes are stingy. My body just wants to lay on the couch, be fed, and watch Grey's Anatomy. My head also would like a serious painkiller (I really need to nab that big bottle of Percocet at my dad's house. He doesn't need it anymore, but I do.)

So, I will leave you with some random thoughts and promise to bring you totally up to date soon:

1. The new mammogram guidelines are crap. Who cares if you have 2 days of anxiety, or repeat tests, as long as your boobs get to stay attached to your body?

2. A Dr. Beavers was discussing said mammogram guidelines on NPR. If you don't think that an OB/Gyn named Dr. Beavers isn't funny, well, I can't help you.

3. My father's doctor called me and left a message last week. I haven't called back. I think they are trying to schedule a follow-up visit. Guess they didn't get the memo.

4. Along those lines, the nurses from his hospital wing sent him a get well card last week. Guess they didn't get the memo either.

4. I'm having increasing moments of sadness. I keep trying to squash them because I don't feel like dealing with it. This is probably unhealthy.

5. I need to pay bills more often. I think the utility company likes to be paid monthly. I'm not quite living up to that.

6. Its dark ALL THE TIME. Perhaps you have noticed.

7. Prof and I have been together for six months. And I still like him. And I've never, not once, wanted to wring his neck. He's never made me cry. He's never made me mad. He's never made me feel unloved or unappreciated. My, what a difference a year makes.

8. I'm NOT having his babies. Enough said.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Love Cynicism, Exposed

I let Prof read my blog.

I'm going to let that sink in for a minute...

Ok, let's continue.

My blog has become a window to my soul. Sure, the blog can be amusing. I make fun of myself, I make fun of others (I really like those parts), I rant and rave about random shit that annoys me and I dish on boys. But there's all this other stuff. This sad stuff. This remorseful stuff. The me trying to understand myself stuff.

And I showed it to him.

This probably means we are either going to break up, or I'm going to end up having his babies.

I don't really know how it happened. We were hanging out, talking. Watching this couple talk about sex and why you shouldn't name your children after cars or liquor. (I don't know how he finds this crap). Then we started talking about our first few dates, and I told him how lucky he was that I had gone on really bad first dates with the engineer and wrinkly shirt guy right before meeting him. My expectations for my first prof date were so incredibly low, it made it sooooo easy for him to exceed them. Then all of sudden, he's all like "you should at least let me read about your first date on the blog. Come on. Its only fair." And I was all "no way!" Then I compromised and told him he could read about the engineer and wrinkly shirt.

And so, he did. I cut and pasted it into an email and sent the stories to him. Not that I should have bothered, since he already knew where the blog was. To his credit, he has known how to find my blog since our 3rd date and he hasn't read it. Until I told him he could. Now I've opened up all kinds of cans of worms of various types and sizes.

It was nice, actually, watching him read what I had written six months ago about loser guys, then about him. He was incredulous that the engineer didn't walk me to my car - then was reminded that he didn't walk me to my car either that first night. He laughed (I am friggin funny) at my funnies, and made sympathetic noises at my sads. And it was so nice, in a way, to be able to finally share this with him.

Then, I freaked out when I found out that he kept reading them after I left his house last night. (Oh yeah, I stalk the people that stalk my blog). I'm not sure I had even started my car, and he was back on the site, reading my take on him and this summer. I told him he could, but I didn't expect him to. Why, I don't know. I'm an idiot. Of COURSE he was going to want more! He's wanted to read it forever. ("The whole world can read your blog, except me! How's that fair?") And I gave him permission.

He read more this morning. Then, apparently got bored of me (I don't know how that's possible, really).

It freaked me out. It was fine when I was sitting there, watching his facial expressions as he read. It was safe - if I saw that something had bothered him, we could talk about it immediately. But when I'm not there, its out of my control.

We talked about it tonight - round and round and round in circles (all due to me and my unwillingness to tell him what I really wanted to do). I want to be able to let him read it, uncensored and unmonitored, but I can't. It leaves me really, really, really vulnerable. My walls have been shattered over the past few months - this is too much. It removes too many of the remaining bricks. So, we came to a compromise. He is allowed to read them, but only with me, as a joint activity. That way, we can talk about what I was going through at that particular moment, why I said or thought the things that I did, and he won't stew about it or wonder. Or think I'm the biggest freak he has ever encountered.

I knew this day would eventually come, and I've been dreading it. But, I think I'm handling it ok. After what we went through with my family last month, it really seems silly to shut him out of this part of my life any longer.

Friday, November 6, 2009

First Week

Going back to work and school this week was a surreal experience. I felt like things should be different; feel different; but they didn't. After all, I no longer have a father. Or any grandparents. I have endured this major life-changing event that makes people make the pity face whenever I walk into a room. I have never gotten so many cards in the mail in my entire life; well over twenty just this week. I feel like I am absorbing all of the available pity within a 10-mile radius.

But I don't feel different. I smile. I laugh. I go to the gym. I sweat. My muscles hurt. I listen to the iPod and sing. I still feel refreshed when the sky is blue and the air is crispy. I bitch about work and my boss. I even play Beatles Rock Band.

And I feel guilty for all of these things.

Monday was the worst. It was the first time many of my co-workers had seen me since the ordeal started. When they asked me how I was doing (complete with pity face), I smiled and said that I was "hanging in there." I felt like a traitor. Shouldn't I have been in tears? Unable to function? I felt like I didn't deserve to have had off all week. Shouldn't I have had to prove that I was so wrenched with grief that I couldn't drive? Tuesday wasn't much better. I went to class for the first time in several weeks, and our professor had shared with everyone what was happening in my life. A couple of them got me cards. One of them brought me a box of chocolates. I felt like an impostor.

I know I shouldn't feel guilty for being able to hold my shit together and continue on with my life without collapsing. But I do.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Old Home Place

Today, we put my father's ashes in the ground. I feel an immense sense of relief - I've fulfilled one of my final promises to him, plus his ashes aren't sitting in Prof's living room any more. I'm not even going to comment on how creepy it is to have your dead father in a plastic box while ghosts and vampires are knocking on the door begging for candy.

Ok. I am going to comment. It IS creepy. Creepy, creepy, creepy. Enough on that.

Several days before dad was unable to speak anymore (and on the day that I had made his funeral arrangements - I never got to tell him what a deal I had gotten) I asked him where he wanted his ashes to be put. He was fairly noncommittal, but thought that somewhere in the small rural crossroads that he had grown up in or on the family farm would be a good place.

Well, I tossed out the idea of the family farm immediately. The farm was auctioned off in the early 60's. My great-grandparents hadn't made a will, so when they died, the 13 grandchildren squabbled about who would get what. As a result, everything was auctioned off, including the 16th century stone farmhouse, and each sibling got a paltry amount of money. My father was always bitter about it. He worked the farm as a child, rising before dawn to milk the cows and spending summers cutting hay, and walking uphill to school both ways, and I guess thought he would someday have a share in it. He never talked about it much, but I'm sure the bitterness backed up on it as he was struggling to pay for a mortgage and braces in the Reagan recession years by selling American made cars that people wanted to buy less than they want to buy Hummers today.

But my mom didn't toss out the idea. In typical mom style, she was undeterred by the fact that the farm no longer belonged to my family, or that we didn't know the family that owned it. Last weekend, she drove up there, saw a sale sign out front, marched up to the door, chatted with the elderly man that lives there and secured both a tour of the historic house and a place for my dad anywhere on the property. I was incredulous when she told me. That woman is persistent; and while mostly annoying (like in the case of the great chicken salad incident of 2009), sometimes it pays off.

So, today, mom, brother and me drove up there with mom's boyfriend and brother's lab puppy in tow to tour the house and find a spot for my dad to spend the rest of eternity. Boyfriend and puppy stayed in the car. Mom's boyfriend is a perfectly nice man who have never said a bad word about my father (even though he had reason to) but it would have been weird to have him physically with us as we dealt with the ashes. So, I was relieved when he stayed behind.

Mr. L greeted us with probably the oldest German Shepard I've have ever seen. My brother and I introduced ourselves, then we went into the old house for the first time ever. My great-grandparents lived and worked there. My dad grew up in a house embedded in the hill below (since condemned and demolished) and spent lots of time in the old house with his grandparents. The house looked huge from the outside, but was small and cramped inside. I guess because the walls are so thick? It smelled like old. Old people. Old stuff. Old books. Old wood. It had been renovated in the 70's, but needs some updating now. Too bad its hours away from my job. And is listed at 900k. Sheesh. Its not that nice. But with the land, and the views, my god, the views, its probably worth every penny.

After the house tour, we grabbed a shovel and the ash box out of the car and walked around looking for a good spot. I had initially thought that down the hill by the stream would be a good place, but changed my mind when we got to the very highest point on the property, where the entrance to the milking barn used to be. It was breathtaking. The sun had come out after days and days of rain. The leaves on the trees below were gold and auburn and orange. You could see the stream, and all the rolling hills that Dad used to look at back in the day, only occasionally interrupted by a disgustingly large and out of place McMansion. That was the spot. It was perfect.

Brother dug a small hole, and I opened the box, feeling a little sick. Seriously - all that is left of dad is in this tiny little box, in a bag closed off with a twist tie. A twist tie! I didn't really know what to expect, but the ashes weren't really ashy. More grainy. It freaked me out a bit. But, I gritted my teeth and emptied the bag into the hole. Old German Shepherd nosed his way in a couple times. I'm sure he smelled bone and wanted a piece, but we managed to get the hole covered before he got in there. God, I hope that dog doesn't dig it up.

I didn't know what we were going to do after we placed the ashes. Were we going to say nice things? A little prayer (not that we know any)? We hadn't talked about it. I figured I would just let it happen organically. And it did. I think I just said "I brought you home Dad" and that was it. I teared up a little, as did my mom. My brother remained stoic and perhaps slightly annoyed. That was it. No hysterics. No prayers. No speeches. Just a hole, some ashes, some flowers and a nosy dog.

We made our exit quickly, thanking Mr. L profusely and wishing him luck at the 55+ community he will be moving to. And now its over. And I still haven't lost my shit. I'm beginning to think I have no tears left.