Archive for May, 2008

Me, As a Goth?…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 26, 2008 by tigereye

This came up the other night while some friends and I were emailing each other and appreciating Jill Tracy’s music. I don’t remember what the actual segue was, but my boyfriend and I started talking about how I’d just missed the whole Goth thing — it was just starting at my school when I was released from it, having paid my debt to society.

I suppose in a lot of ways I would have fit right in. I’m the palest person you’ll ever meet (step aside, Nicole Kidman, and nice try), and one of the most overtly hostile, although most of the Goths I’ve met since then — you get a lot of ’em in bookstore work — were much more passive than pissy. I have a chip on my shoulder roughly the size of Pike’s Peak, and after years of other people trying to squish me into the role of Doormat, I rebelled mightily and haven’t really been pushed around since.

I wear a lot of black, too. Sue me. Red hair and pale skin = lots of black clothes, although it’s a pain in the ass to keep them up when you take in a mostly-white cat. I even have the obligatory almost-black lipsticks, reds and purples so deep you’d expect only Mina or Lucy to wear them. I used to work in cosmetics; I got a sweet discount. I trot these out every now and then, too — I wore the dark-blood shade of red to a Velvet Revolver concert and fit right in, despite being older than most of the crowd.

I would have hated the music, though. All that Ministry and other unlistenable crap? I even get tired of NiN sometimes, although I could easily listen to “Head Like a Hole” forty times when I cue it up. I would have been the only Goth in the crowd listening to the Eagles, Jimmy Buffett, Tom Petty, Bonnie Raitt… All my soundtracks might or might not have fit the mold. I could have snuck “The Shawshank Redemption” past the music police, but I don’t think “An Inconvenient Truth” would have gone over so well.

Other stuff would’ve got me kicked out of the club too. I’m a huge college football fan (there’s an orange lipstick, the exact shade of my team’s color, right next to the dark purple one); I run; I watch “American Idol,” for God’s sake.

And the kicker: I refuse to smoke.

Still, it’s nice to see what might have been.

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One Hard Drive Crash and Two Customer Reviews, Sort Of

Posted in Slices of Life (add $1 for ice cream) with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2008 by tigereye

So a lot of y’all know my hard drive recently went to Windows Heaven, right? The day after I got a job working online, and had just downloaded a ton of software for it, I came face to face with what a computer tech later called the Blue Screen of Death. It wasn’t pretty. The situation, I mean, not the blue screen, although I doubt I’ll ever be able to wear that color again without flinching.

I had a lot of good experiences in getting back online, and one lousy one. One of the good ones involves the tech store that installed a new hard drive for me, and when nothing could be salvaged from the old one, they were nice enough to take roughly 1500 iTunes files off the hard drive from a previous computer and transfer them onto the new one. But they’re local, so recommending them around the country won’t do anyone any good. Then there was AT&T, whom I’ve maligned in the past, but who did a great job of getting me set up online again when I got my squeaky-clean-new-hard-drive-havin’ laptop back home. Those were a couple of seriously nice — and patient — guys. It’ll be a while before I bitch about AT&T again, I hope.

But two experiences stand out. Let’s hear the bad one first:

I called Norton/Symantec to get my virus protection reinstalled. This was on a morning when I was going to the hospital, where my dad was having a test done that day, and I was a little jumpy anyway. The tech logged onto my computer with me… and kept me there for three hours. He had trouble with my product code; he ignored me when I told him that, due to a vision problem, I couldn’t read a code he was providing; he then told me three times to enter the code I couldn’t see myself, although he had been able to access the first one. Then he had to install and deinstall stuff over and over.

I’ve had emergency room trips, flights to Chicago, final exams, and concerts that didn’t last as long. By the time the Norton installation was done, my extremely abundant hair had dried on its own — a real accomplishment — and I was late to the hospital. (My dad was OK, but that’s beside the point.) Lesson: I hope I never have to call Norton again, and if I do, I’m going out on the street and buying a Valium from the first dealer I see.

But the good news:

I had over 5000 songs and 20 days of music in iTunes, and while not all of it crashed, a big ol’ honkin’ chunk of it did. Now, I load a good chunk of music onto iTunes from home, but I also buy a lot from them — enough that I felt a block of ice in my stomach whenever I tried to assess the damage in terms of money. Then I had trouble getting my iPod to sync with my new hard drive, because it recognized the new drive as a whole new computer, and I wrote iTunes about it to find out what I could do. In passing, in this email, I mentioned that I’d lost a lot of music in the crash, and wanted to hold onto as much of what was left as I could.

I got very clear, painless instructions back on how to sync up the new computer, and then the tech said, basically, Hey, if you’ll go into your purchase history and tell me what you lost, I’ll see if maybe I can restore some of it for you.

Note I hadn’t even asked for this. In fact, if anyone had suggested I go begging to iTunes for my music, I’d have said, Sure, and I’ll ask them for a pony for Christmas while I’m at it.

But I did what the guy had suggested, and scrolled painstakingly through 21 pages and four years of purchase history. (Told you I buy a lot of music.) I listed order numbers, dates, and songs out the wazoo, and as I typed these into a historically long email, I thought, You’re going through a lot of trouble just for someone to tell you they’re sorry but you’re still screwed.

The next day I got an email back from the iTunes tech that told me to go into my account and click on “purchased music to download.” It turned out iTunes restored over 1200 songs that I’d bought in the past four years. Several were duplicates of music that hadn’t been lost, but frankly, this was such an unexpected blessing, I don’t care that I have to erase some duplicates: they still saved me probably $500 in music. And remember, I didn’t ask them to do this — their tech volunteered.

So anyway, there you have it — like my own little personal Angie’s List. Norton/Symantec was a pain in the ass on a par with getting my wisdom teeth yanked, and iTunes was like hitting the Pick 3 in the local lottery. Make of that whatever y’all want, but personally, I think it’s an even better advertisement of Apple than the PC/Mac commercials (which I love). And if I ever meet Steve Jobs, I’ll probably throw my arms around him. 

Happy Mother’s Day to Me; or, Yet Another Reason I Can Never Have Children

Posted in KittyMonster with tags , , , , , , , on May 12, 2008 by tigereye

Mother’s Day is usually fairly peaceful for me. I send my mom a card; I send my favorite aunt a card; I send my grandmother a card; I send John’s mother a card; I call my mom on Sunday. That’s usually it. Sometimes I visit, but considering that the half tank of gas required to get to my mom’s house and back now costs more than most presents I could get her, we have an understanding.

Yesterday, though, I got to be the mom.

I rounded up Spike last night to put Advantage Plus on him, as I do once a month. For those of you without pets, this involves squeezing the watery, chemical-smelling contents of what seems like a large tube onto the back of the pet’s neck, where he can’t lick it or scratch it away. Spike is pretty laid-back about this most of the time — I give him a treat immediately after I dose him, so it’s probably got good associations for him — but for some reason last night he went all squirmy on me, with the result that some of the chemical mix dribbled slightly down his neck.

I didn’t think much about this until 15 minutes later or so, when I caught him licking furiously at his shoulder, right where the stuff could have dripped. I should also point out that there are roughly 1,000 warnings on the box that say, “Do NOT let your pet ingest this liquid! He’ll burst into flame right in your living room! He’ll melt into a puddle of fur and fat! He’ll sprout wings and possibly another head, with enormous fangs, and will pursue you around your home for your negligence!”

(OK, I just made that last one up.)

I tried to dissuade or distract Spike from licking, but as anyone who’s ever met a cat knows, this just made him glare at me and lick harder. I envisioned my broke-ass self schlepping the cat to the emergency vet clinic, explaining that he’d licked up his Advantage Plus, and being charged $500 and sternly lectured for letting him do it. I saw, in my mind, Social Services coming to take Spike away from me, possibly blaming me for his amputated leg. I saw Judge Judy refusing to let me have custody of my cat again.

Yeah, I know, I really need to get out more.

So, on Mother’s Day, I did what any quick-thinking parent would most likely not do. I grabbed Spike up, plunked his furry little butt down in the bathroom sink, and proceeded to give him a half-body bath with Healing Garden Oatmeal Shower Gel, which was the first thing I saw that wasn’t made by Clinique.

I was pretty lucky. Spike likes water. At my old apartment, he would sometimes hop into the shower with me. He’s not wild about the bowl shape of the sink, though, because before I got the gel worked into his fur, he managed to knock a bottle of perfume, three kinds of hair product, some hand lotion, and my contact lens solution all the way across the bathroom. It’s a small bathroom, but this is a fairly advanced feat to perform on three legs.

Then he realized he was getting a water massage and settled in. He purred; Spike never purrs. He looked the way I probably do when my stylist is washing my hair and I’m thinking ahh, this is nice, and now getting the tangles out is all on YOU.

I’m no fool. After I rinsed him, I didn’t get the blow-dryer out. I toweled him and brushed him and generally did what felt like relieved-mom procedures, and then gave him a kitty treat for his troubles.

But it was about as close to being a mom as I’ll ever come, and that’s a good thing. If I wig out this much over my cat, can you imagine what kind of neurotic wreck I’d be if I took care of anything I’d given birth to? I’d be one of those parents who turn up as extras on medical dramas, hauling the kid into the ER every time he sneezes or stubs a toe.

So, from somebody who just lived it and that’s as close as I want to get to the real thing, happy belated Mother’s Day to all my mom friends, and all the friends with pets, too. Spike also says hello. He’s sitting next to me, probably wondering when I plan to buy him a rubber ducky.

McMansion on the Hill

Posted in Slices of Life (add $1 for ice cream) with tags , , , , , on May 5, 2008 by tigereye

I live in a neighborhood that’s probably too good for me. I moved here when I still had a chunk of savings from my high-paying but loathsome retail management job; I’d found a house available from a very, very nice landlord who could’ve charged a couple hundred dollars’ more rent than he wanted for it. It’s a small 2-bedroom house in an area where, less than a mile away, several football players whose summer training camp is in town have put up lovely mansions, with the team flags flying out front. Closer to home are more modest but still well-appointed houses of stone and brick, with Lexuses (Lexi?) and Mercedes Benzes in their driveways. These houses are clearly expensive, but not flashy or gauche: whoever owns them knows where the line lies between tacky and tasteful.

Except one.

Last year, one street uphill from mine, someone bought one or two of the smaller lots available, which had brick homes about the size of mine on them, with pretty white picket fences and gardens of tulips and irises out front. These houses were promptly razed to the ground, and then the grass was dug up with them, as if the new owner wanted to salt the earth to make sure no evil traces remained of the former owners and their relative broke-assedness.

It lay as a huge lot of red dirt, which swam onto the sidewalks when it rained; when I ran in the mornings, I left red footprints for half a block. Then the new foundation was laid, and Holy Saint Joseph was it huge. It was about the size of the pro football players’ homes, except it was on a street of more modest buildings. It looked like a gigantic ring on the finger of a street that normally wore little jewelry.

The framework went up, and clearly you could take my home and my next-door neighbor’s home (we rent from the same landlord; his house is about the same size as mine) and set them down inside this place, with a little border garden to spare. It stood for months on its garish swath of red dirt before the walls — stone, natch — went up over it.

I once mentioned it to an across-the-street neighbor, whose back yard borders the new monstrosity’s. He told me they’re putting in a pool.

“Where?” I asked. I couldn’t see any place for it, and frankly, if it had gone indoors I would not have been shocked.

“Practically in my back yard,” he said.

The house went up. The roof went on. Expensive window frames were put in. A stone walkway was laid in the front yard, where a fine dust of red earth covers it every morning. The construction company building the place stuck a sign in the front yard, which will probably have the effect of putting everybody else on the street off the business if they ever need anything built.

Last week I ran by it one morning and noticed a circular path in the front yard. What the hell? I thought. Then the next day a fountain went in. No fucking kidding. In keeping with everything else I’ve come to assume about these new homeowners, they chose the tackiest, cheesiest fountain available: a couple of bronze cherubs emptying an ewer. I ran by that with my mouth hanging open in shock. A little more cash, I thought, and they could do what that WorldCom jackass did and put in a sculpture of Michelangelo’s David, pissing water into the air.

From my living room window, my view, which was once of clouds above my neighbor’s house, is now almost entirely of the monstrosity home. I walk around my house naked or nearly so at times; now, if they want, these homeowners will be able to look out their decorative window and watch me do it. (I may end up on the internet in some non-written capacity.) I look at the roof and think of Sting’s song, “Island of Souls,” in which he describes a ship built in Newcastle, so large that “its great hull would block out the light of the sun.” In fact, I bet Sting’s house isn’t as big as this one. I feel certain it’s in better taste.

I don’t know the homeowners, but I have plenty of reasons not to like them. They planted this cuckoo’s egg in a street that could’ve been flashy but chose not to. Why didn’t they spend a little more money and live down the road, near the football players? Haven’t they seen that a fountain on this street will be as unnatural and ill-fitting as lipstick on a toddler? In fact, have they even seen the street they’re building on? It’s understated, quietly wealthy but not ostentatious. Now this tacky McMansion will dominate it like a giant pimple on the end of its nose.

Sometimes when I run past the house, there are men walking its red-dirt yard who are obviously not workmen. They look like they’re dressed for an executive job, or, on the weekends, a round of golf. They’re always yapping into cell phones, checking their watches, consulting their Day Runners. I don’t know if they’re the owners or the realtors. But when I pass the house, I usually smile and nod to the workmen, who reciprocate, and these business-boy types do not. That’s fine with me. These aren’t people I’m going to want to know.