Wednesday, December 20, 2006

100 Million. Really?

I read yesterday that there are a 100 million blogs out there. That's a lot of fucking blogs, people. No wonder my comments section is dwindling in recent weeks; there are 99,999,999 other blogs you could be reading. Wait - are you reading them? What?!? I thought we had something special, Internet. Those other bloggers don't love you like I do!

This week I've been mulling over ways to increase my site traffic. Let's face it: I don't have a niche. I am not a Mommyblogger (and props to the Mommybloggers, because, God, I love you all). I am not an entertainment blogger. I am not a political blogger. Blog about sports? Nope. Won't find that here either.

I suppose then, you might categorize me as a "general interest" blogger. I contend that I am generally interesting, but when best friend Grace, featured often on the site, emails me every few weeks asking for the URL AGAIN, I begin to question my own blogging worth. We writers have fragile, fragile egos, you know.

I started a blog on Friendster many months ago, because I was itching to write. Well, in truth, I was already writing; I was itching for people to read what I wrote. I composed two incredibly weak entries, then threw out the whole idea. I wrote this: See "Beginning Blogger". Then I changed my mind.

I love this blog. I do. I love every single one of you who is reading this write now, even if you are extremely averse to commenting nicely (I am a comment-whore, damnit!). I love hitting the publish button after transcribing some inane story from my life, because it feels like I've accomplished something. I like to share. I am part narcissist, part aspiring novelist/newspaper columnist/editor-in-chief. The problem is - besides narcissist - I am not any of those things: yet. And the way to get there is to start writing and writing and then writing some more, and then getting published by others. You want to read my witty prose in print, don't you, adoring, extremely silent fan base? I thought so.

So I've decided that in lieu of merely increasing traffic here, I've got to quadruple my writing efforts on other fronts. I assure all five of you that I will keep up my blogging duties as best I can, because, as I said, I love you and all the blogging community and my own modest little webpage. Maybe I will publish rejection letters here as well! Could that be my new gimmick?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Well My Friends, The Time Has Come

Look, readers, I love Lionel. And I am okay with that. Really.

There is quite nothing like driving along 95 in New York state; the sun warming your face, the strains of "All Night Long" filling your rented Chevy Aveo. Pure bliss.

Once, Chaz and Grace and I sat in my living room, listening to the compilation disc that Grace had thoughtfully brought for her weekend visit. A familiar melody filled the air. The three of us, simultaneously, began:

That's why I'm easy
Easy like Sunday mornin'

We laughed uproariously. Chaz asked that we never mention that to anyone. You see, that's the power of Lionel. You can't help but sing along.

Tonight, Grace and Chaz are coming over to celebrate our final Queens hurrah, and also to dance on the ceiling.

I am characteristically overstimulated about it, though I can't help feel a bit melancholy. I'll miss these days. Ah, Astoria. You're once, twice, three times a lady. I loooooooove you.

Burn in Hell, Holiday Card Sender

I work in an industry in which I come across many, many different people. Thoughtful lass that I am, I collect contact information in a database in order to update my people on events, and also send warm wishes from time to time.

Yesterday my politically-correct holiday cards went out to my rather large database. Most people are gracious and reply with "Thank you, same to you!" Here are some of the more candid responses:

Please remove me from your mailing list.
- Consider it done, Grinch.

- Merry Christmas, George, you grammatically-challenged, naughty, disturbing contact.

WOW MEL it is good to hear from you I definitly would not have thought I would not hear from you again; did you switch Buildings; because I remember you working in a different building before have a blessed holiday Season email me back with updates
- Ummmm. Okay. (Unsure of who this person is, but slightly afraid of giant run-on sentence.)

Thanks for the holiday card, am not sure i remember who this this, but thank you.
- We're all friends here. Just spreading the joy.

And, my favorite, thus far:

Who the hell are you? If I know you, I'm sorry. If you're using this this holiday to sell me something, you're pitiful.
- Well, fuck you very much, you bitter, jaded soul.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Insight and Understanding, Courtesy of Zach Braff

The first time I saw Garden State, I knew. I sat in the theater next to Vanessa as the credits rolled, weeping openly.

"So what do we do?"

Zach Braff's character, Large, poses the question to a sobbing, beaming Natalie Portman. He's decided to stick around his hometown New Jersey suburb to be with Natalie. He's unsure of what will happen next, but he needs to stay and see. He's exhilarated. I am exhilarated.

"So what do we do?"

I dry my tears as our group of friends reassembles. "Well?" Brad asks eagerly. "Didn't I tell you?"

"Wow," I mutter. It's all I can say.

Some things just resonate: no rhyme, no reason. I couldn't stop thinking about the question Large posed. I was unhappy. I had been for years, quite frankly, but I hadn't allowed myself my misery. I ignored it and rationalized it away, until it began seeping in to my everyday thoughts.

You could leave him, it would suddenly occur to me. But I'd quickly push the thought aside. I can't leave, I'd retort. We just moved in. How can I leave?

And so it went. We went on as virtual roommates, pleasantly greeting each other as we passed by. We didn't talk about anything. I played happy and stayed away.

"So what do we do?"

Get out. I came to the decision suddenly, unsure of how to execute this newly formed plan.

New York would be my answer. It was always the answer. We had some unfinished business, she and I. An aching need to right the wrongs of 2001 and 2002 in downtown Manhattan; to forgive all that had been ripped from me in that year and to rebuild. I couldn't do that in King of Prussia, PA. I couldn't do that in this dead-end relationship.

So I moved. I determinedly clawed my way to Queens through an ex-boyfriend, mounting bills, and old apartment leases. If I concentrate, I can remember the exact feeling of that first night alone in my new life. Mistakenly getting on the R train (N, Melissa, N!). Vanessa's small one-bedroom littered with boxes. Searching through take-out menus for something appetizing. Crouched on the couch in a crowded living room, watching The Office on DVD. It was pure joy. It was liberation and Christmas morning as a child. It was the happiest I had been in my life.

Memories of that day now are bittersweet; as, in an ironic twist, I prepare to move to Philadelphia to live with the love of my life. I worried about the twinge of sadness that I felt for several weeks: was I making the right decision? Would I regret the move? Would I be a whole person still, when taken out of Queens?

And then it dawned on me, why I struggle with this: I credit Queens for saving my life. Admittedly, I didn't discover who I really was until I lived in Astoria. I made my peace with New York. I let go of the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that had nearly suffocated me years before. I achieved the proper and perfect amount of distance from my somewhat overbearing family, which was quite a coup at the time. I did it completely on my own: good job, exciting travel, great friends, fantastic boyfriend from familiar Philadelphia town.

Maybe it's not the end for me and New York. Maybe I can, in a year, convince J we need to move to Brooklyn. What better place to raise a family? Or maybe someone will publish my stunning and insightful debut novel, perhaps about a girl living in Queens, and we'll be able to afford that brownstone on 80th and Amsterdam.

Or maybe I'll find that I am still me no matter where we live; that I am still whole and good and blissfully happy. Maybe I'll look back on Queens fondly, without longing; I'll take my daughter to Astoria Park one day, and show her where Mommy used to train for marathons (by this time I'll have run one, I know it). I'll lug her giant stroller by my old apartment, past Plaza, past Athena's, up to Steinway. Then we'll head back to Manhattan on the N train, meander through Central Park and make a quick stop at Tasti D-Lite. And then maybe I'll roll her towards Penn Station, onto an Amtrak train, and wherever we end up, we'll both be exhausted and delighted to be home.

"So what do we do?" resonates still. I've come up with many answers since I first saw Garden State, but this is one I'll stick with: we grow and change and fall in love and relocate, and if we are very, very lucky, we keep a sense of humor about it all.

Monday, December 11, 2006

This Used to Be My Playground

My cousin Lauren and I met when I was nine and she was seven. On one blustery February evening in 1989, Uncle Rick brought his future wife and her two young daughters (Lauren and Jessica, then just five), over to our house to meet his sister and family.

At nine I was highly sophisticated. I knew exactly how to entertain my two young guests while leaving the adults to chat in the living room.

"You guys want to play Barbies?" I asked.

And just like that, a new family was born.

Throughout the years, Laur and I were often the best of friends, at times fierce competitors. I was jealous when she had the better toys (I believe she had all of the New Kids on the Block dolls, for JC's sake); she would tattle on me for the slightest infractions (Taking Jess around the block on my banana-seat bike, is not a crime, GOD!). We would amuse ourselves for hours dressing up and performing Mariah Carey's, "Vision of Love." We had countless sleepovers in which we'd typically watch (and cry during) A League of Their Own, then we'd lay awake singing "This Used to Be My Playground," which, you know. Awesome.

One Christmas season we agonized over Magic Nursery Babies. These dolls were special; after purchasing, you'd find out the baby's gender (or if you had multiple births) by opening an envelope inside the packaging. We simply could not GO ON unless we had these beautiful creatures in our permanent toy collections. I received my doll and she was glorious. And then a call from my cousin - she had received the Magic Nursery Baby Twins!

Blinding rage. Burning envy.

Eventually, we pushed the toys aside when we discovered boys. We made it through adolescence as the best of friends. I had never really had a sister; Laur was it.

But quicker than the New Kids became NKOTB and then fell off the scene completely and spectacularly: we were grown-ups.

I was in my White Plains, NY office in May when I ducked into the ladies' bathroom to take Lauren's call. This time, she was having, like, an ACTUAL baby.


Yesterday, I attended her baby shower. Baby shower! Little Riley Olivia will be here at the end of January, and I will be a first time Aunt HomeValley (yeah, I know not technically, but we're unconventional here).

"You should see all the stuff they got," I told J when I arrived home last night. "It's amazing! Maybe we should have a baby soon." Now I recognize that "for the stuff" is not the best reason to procreate, so it's birth control and B vitamins for me for many, many years to come.

An Open Letter to the Newest Addition:

Dearest Riley,

We all can't wait to meet you! We already know you will be awesome. Confidentially, I always knew your mama would be first to make one of you. Also, the fact that Mom is two years younger than Aunt HomeValley, and having you very very soon, makes Aunt HomeValley's Mommy very aaaannnngggrrrryyyy. So thanks for that, Ri. XOXO!

All my love,

Aunt HV

I can read between the lines.

Last week, at a routine check-up, my doctor told me that the birth control pill can strip your body of B vitamins. Thus, in order to alleviate mood swings associated with PMS, I should start taking a B-Complex.

J has taken to leaving these vitamins out for me on the counter, where he can be sure I won't miss them.

Fine, I took the damn B-Complex this morning. But I am not sure why, as I am always a perfectly-behaved, non-hormonal little angel.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Syracuse, I hardly knew ye.

I flew into Syracuse this morning on JetBlue, and holy shit: this airline is amazing. The seats are enormous and a comfortable, cushy soft leather; plus, there is DirecTV available on each! Do you know that I got to watch Justin Timberlake on VH1 during the duration of the flight?? And also, that new Weird Al Yankovic video that just kills me. I literally laugh out loud at "White and Nerdy." Strikes a chord. The irony is, I've been traveling to Cuse on a prop plane from LaGuardia for nearly two years, and on my last trip here (moving, y'all, but MUCH more on that later in a heart-wrenching "Ode to Queens"), I discover this incredible airline with it's fancy televisions and actual jets at JFK. Figures.

I've got 20 minutes to get fabulous in time for dinner, but I wanted to let you know that my room at the Comfort Inn smells like the inside of a bong. And also, I read an article earlier this week that described Syracuse as one of the worst places to live in the country. A quote (I'm paraphrasing), "I went to college and lived there for four years. I don't know how people drag themselves out of bed in the morning. What motivates them to even brush their teeth?"

Farewell, Cuse, you winter wonderland, you. Be thee well.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Heart Attack HomeValley - and Happy Birthday, J!

Last Monday night, J and I flew into Philadelphia and stopped off at my other grandfather’s house to have a quick bite with my mother and brother, Mike. Over leftover lasagna, I entertained my family with tales from our trip, even telling Mom, “I swear, if I hear one more thing about hyper or hypoactive thyroids, I’m gonna kill myself!”

Oh man, talk about imminent karmic retribution.

On Tuesday night, my heart rate started soaring again. This happens from time to time, most recently on Friday night at the movies, watching (and loving) Stranger Than Fiction. I had been drinking a giant diet coke, and eating whoppers, and I sat there, unnerved, as my heart thumped loudly and swiftly in my chest. I went out for air and came back, but the heart racing persisted. J asked if we should go to the hospital. “No,” I said. “I’m fine.” And in ten minutes or so, I was.

But during A Charlie Brown Christmas on Tuesday (*sniff), it started again, just as J called. It seemed to lull, then began again in earnest. My heart felt fluttery within my throat. WebMd instructed to call a health professional if my heart rate was higher than 100 beats per minute. I checked my pulse, and became a bit alarmed. “It’s definitely over 100 beats,” I tell J. “I think I’ll just pop in the ER across the street, see what they can tell me.” No big deal.

I am immediately taken back to see an ER nurse when I explain my ailment. She takes my pulse, listens to my chest. “That’s a fast heart rate,” she says amiably. “160. Now come with me.” She leads me through a door where a gurney waits for me. “Sit here,” she says. She wheels me back to the bustling emergency room, where at once I am surrounded by a million nurses and orderlies. I am given oxygen, an IV in my arm, and am attached to several heart monitors.

This is not the way to soothe HomeValley’s racing heart. Once I am properly situated, orderlies begin walking by and gaping wide-eyed at the heart monitor. “What is it?” I ask, alarmed. “I shouldn’t tell you,” one young man says. “It’s high.”


I am inundated with questions from various people, all very kind. One man comes over and takes my information (name, address, emergency contact), and then asks, “Any religion?”

“For last rites?!? Jesus!”

I call J. He is on his way.

And oh my God. The hospital is frightening, and lonely, despite a million people walking around gaping at you, or waking you abruptly and sticking a large needle in your arm to draw blood yet neglecting to tell you what the hell they think they're doing?? One Queens woman insisted upon discussing with me the explosive diarrhea that brought her to the hospital that evening. Another elderly man with a BOOMING voice was placed next to me after Trots left; he’d just been attacked by his Rottweiler. And he did not. Shut. Up. All night. At three in the morning, he and his wife were still loudly discussing that damn dog and the events as they unfolded. (“I was just putting the spaghetti on my plate when he jumped at me!”)

After many, many hours and many different tests, it appears my heart is healthy and strong. I’ve been diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia (, or, in layman’s terms, “rapid heart beat.” Don’t worry: my cardiologist assured me, “I don’t think this is the lethal kind.” I need to take meds when I feel like it could happen or when it starts happening, and eventually I may need an invasive procedure to correct the electrical misfiring in the old ticker. But here’s the rub: the whole thing could be caused by… wait for it… a hyperactive thyroid! That’s what I get for tuning out during Grandma’s diatribes on her own mysterious thyroid issues. Lesson learned.

But, more important than Heart Attack HomeValley: J celebrated his 30th birthday on December 1st! It was a momentous weekend, as I cooked dinner for him on Friday night, and even rented him Harry Potter, and even tried to stay awake during the film (for the record, we both failed). On Saturday night we celebrated with friends and family at our favorite Thai restaurant in Manayunk, then had everyone back to J’s. Grace drank wine like it was apple juice and danced around for hours in her pink velour sweats. Success!

Sunday, November 26, 2006


"And if one more car passes on the highway, I am going to jump out and start running."

-J, obviously tiring of quality grandparent time.

Thankfully, we head back to Philadelphia tomorrow, and not a moment too soon. My grandfather is not such a good listener, and seemingly only enjoys giving information. ("You see, that used to be a bustling shopping center, but now all the stores have closed. There used to be a Best Buy. And a Michael's. But they've all closed now.")

J, grits teeth in backseat of car.

They also duped us into believing that they wanted to see our pictures from Greece; in reality, it was a ploy to show us photos from their last Caribbean cruise.

J, cowering in upstairs bedroom.

Oh, and since Grandma was sick with a cold last week, she opted not to cook Thanksgiving dinner. Instead, she made reservations at The Academy Hotel for brunch.

Except, The Academy Hotel was actually the Best Western, Academy Hotel, and it wasn't so much a fancy brunch as it was a table set up in the lobby of the hotel. Next to the swimming pool. Somehow, a tattoed fat man cannon-balling into the water doesn't fill one's heart with warm holiday sentiments.

In Grandma's defense, she hadn't realized what the ambience in the place would be. We chalked it up to an unorthodox Thanksgiving meal, and I took advantage of the complimentary champagne.

Next, we crashed a neighbor's celebration. We'd been invited for dessert but were a bit early.

J, mortified on neighbor's deck.

The house actually belonged to my grandparents' neighbor's father, The Colonel. The Colonel fought in World War II and lost most of his hearing flying fighter jets. The Colonel is a close-talker. Also, The Colonel believes that "those goddamn Muslims won't be happy until they raise their green flag above the White House."

"Oh my God," whispers J, smiling politely as The Colonel drones on. "Our whole life has become listening to old people! It's like, all we do now!"


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Rocky Mountain High

At thirteen, I was scrawny. Though quite obviously an adorable child, I wore braces, and occasionally, "headgear." I enjoyed dancing, reenacting entire "Fire Marshall Bill" skits, and musical theater.

In fact, Koos and I were at that time so enchanted with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, that in 1993, in order to "thank" my grandparents for a fantastic two-week vacation in lovely Colorado Springs, Colorado, we performed an elaborate scene from the musical. We rewrote a song from the show to describe all of the amazing things we'd done and seen on our trip. And we choreographed it. And um, we rehearsed. Tirelessly, each night. And then, we shamelessly allowed our final farewell performance to be videotaped.

Surely you know where I am going with this? Because that tape? Was screened for J last night.

I think I am still in a relationship this morning, but J is fast asleep, breathing audibly. (We have much trouble breathing at 6500 feet above sea level, so we have become notorious "mouth-breathers.") Perhaps when he wakes, we'll "have to talk."

My throat aches (no doubt from all the mouth-breathing), and I am writing this crouched on the bathroom floor. If my grandparents sense I am awake and alert, I will at once be inundated with information. Do other grandparents do this? J said yesterday, "At some point, they are going to have to stop telling us facts about things." That sums it up nicely.

My grandparents are wonderful, warm, hilarious people, if a little, shall we say, accommodating? They are also extremely religious, which I never saw as an issue. "They never preach," I assured J last week.

Of course, last night, as we dined on delicious red wine chicken (a Far-Mor specialty), Far-Far asked J which religion was he?

Shit, I think.

J explains calmly that he is not associated with any particular sect.

Far-Far explains that we are all born with a void in our hearts, and until we accept Jesus in our lives, we will attempt to fill that void with drugs, alcohol, sex, or workaholism.

I smile brightly at J and ask him to pass the broccoli. Emphatically.

And bless J's heart, he continues smiling politely but doesn't add to the discussion. I continue drinking (void?), and soon we manage to quell the Jesus talk and escape to the living room to watch Hitch.

Other highlights of the trip thus far: Riding the Pike's Peak Cog Railway to the summit of Pike's Peak, elevation 14,110 feet; and Far-Mor praying elaborately before lunch, asking Jesus to bless our meal and also HomeValley's "husband-to-be." ("It just slipped out," she said.)

Did I tell you that I got into 30th Street Station in Philadelphia at midnight on Monday evening, and out of sheer exhaustion and frustration, I jumped in an old lady's cab when she hesitated? And also, she had a cane? Granted, there was another cab directly behind her, but still. The karmic retribution is imminent.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Things I am sick of this week:

  1. Chase credit cards.
  2. My post office.
  3. Finance charges.
  4. Noise.
  5. Drilling.
  6. My “lovely” cube in Chelsea.
  7. Ceilings leaking toilet water.
  8. Relocating cubicles.
  9. Drilling.
  10. Sitting next to the office fax machine.
  11. People who don’t know how to fax.
  12. People who ask me to help them fax.
  13. Death.
  14. People with hacking coughs on the N train.
  15. Blog spam.
  16. Conference calls.
  17. Global warming.
  18. Chipotle.

Things that made this week slightly more bearable:

  1. J.
  2. Borat, and the Real JC.
  3. Buttery movie popcorn.
  4. A talk with my fabulous Far-Mor Stina.
  5. When Far-Mor said, during chat, “You and me: we will always be friends!”
  6. Imminent trip to Colorado.
  7. Daydreams of serene silence I will experience on Cheyenne Mountain.
  8. The closet door installed in the office.
  9. Cleaning out my hope chest.
  10. Rediscovering a copy of Bridget Jones on VHS in my hope chest.
  11. Acela hot dogs.
  12. Vladimir Nabokov.
  13. Aidan Shaw.
  14. The Philadelphia Eagles.
  15. The paper Gingerbread Man sent to me by sister Meghan. My mission is to show that Man around the city, then write a journal entry! And I’ll be damned if I don’t get that thing to the top of the Empire State Building!
  16. J.
  17. Chipotle. (How I love and hate you, simultaneously!)

It has been a trying few days for HomeValley, but things are improving. On Tuesday evening, J and I will be Denver-bound on a Frontier Airlines flight (yeah, I have never heard of that airline either) from Philadelphia. I have ambitious plans to post each day of our trip to detail our journey; but I may just climb a mountain, where I will sit for six straight days, contemplating life and enjoying the blissful, ubiquitous quiet, until a mountain lion inevitably attacks and devours me.

Just that kinda week, y’all.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Seven Things This Week

1. J was in a wedding on Saturday, and I went as his super-cute date who knew only one other reception attendee. The evening turned out to be surprisingly wonderful: by the end of the evening I had danced to Michael Jackson with the bride's dad; been told by a very drunk older gentleman that I looked like that blonde woman he'd just seen in that movie! (Gwyneth Paltrow); and, seen a drunken reveller's breast flop out of her unfortunate black tube dress during "Don't Stop Believin'."

2. The following day, J and I had a lengthy discussion about NippleGate 2, as he was pleased that he had predicted the snafu the moment he noticed the boxum woman flailing about on the dance floor. J recalled that it came out like a pancake, as it was quite large. "I'd never have that problem," I said wistfully as we were painting the office a lovely sage green. "Aw, babe, you're perfect!" Beat. "But it's nice to see big ones once in a while."

3. Am exhausted. Have been in Philadelphia, White Plains NY, Queens, Waterbury CT, New Haven CT, Queens, and Providence. In that order. I write to you from the trusty Acela Express, since a department budget crunch has grounded me (mostly) for the remainder of the year. This is fine by me; I avoid airport security lines that culminate in me stuffing my $20 lip gloss in a plastic baggie and/or throwing liquids over three ounces in the trash that I neglected to check - but also the hot dogs here, they are unspeakably yummy.

4. My O Magazine obsession? It's getting worse. Not only do I pour over every single word in the publication whilst dog-earring pages of interest; no, now: I highlight whole passages. I worship you Suze Orman and your sound financial advice! Send help.

5. I created a budget in Excel. J is so proud. I should tell you, I am desperately trying to pay off my student loans, so I opted to get super-organized. I must say, I am pretty impressed with my budgetary development skills. I add sums in columns like it's my job, and I have also listed all of my "entertainment" expenses, dollar by frivolously-spent dollar. I love my budget so much that I can't stop looking at it, and thinking up more features to add. I have taken to writing notes to myself next to entertainment expenses, like "Starbucks Grande Light Caramel Frappucino - 4.65: That's too much $ for a drink. Stop buying these." Then I laugh at myself and my funny notes. And then I realize that I am very, very sad. With all of money meticulously accounted for.
6. I skipped Lost last night because I was too tired to stay awake until ten. J's mom taped it, so we're okay. Don't tell me anything!

7. I keep singing "Tryin to get to yoooouuuu and that booty" in my damn head. Constantly. What is this song?? Also of note: I tried bison. Delicious!

Workin' for the weekend in NYC. More to come.

Friday, November 03, 2006

86574 Weddings and a Sandwich

You know, I can’t remember meeting J. He can’t remember meeting me either. I like that. It makes it seem like we’ve always known each other.

How do I tell this story? It starts with a sandwich, many years ago.

J was a “friend” of an ex-boyfriend. I use “friend” loosely, as I’m not sure they ever really liked each other. They ran in the same circle. They went to the same college. They pledged the same fraternity.

I’d say that’s about where the similarities end.

I’ll avoid characterizations of the ex. We were introduced by Grace. After about a month of dating, Grace and I found ourselves in the car, driving somewhere.

“I want out. I don’t think I’m that into him,” I say. I’d woken up that morning with my mind made up. I was moving back to New York for senior year in a few weeks; I didn’t have time for dating. Certainly not for dating boys I was only minimally interested in. I explain this to Grace.

“Well, if you really don’t like him, then end it,” She says. “But if you’re just doing it because you’re leaving, why not stick it out and see what happens?”

I think about this. Grace is seeing the ex’s roommate. It is nice to be spending so much time with her lately…

“We’ll see,” I say.

I don’t make a decision yet. I move back to school.

And then, well: September 11, 2001.

I often wonder how my life would have been different, had it never happened. The reality is, the day changes me. It shifts my foundation. I am still me, just different. For a long time, I am weak. I am clingy. I am sad. I am angry. I am paranoid.

The personal ad writes itself, no?

Somewhere in all this darkness, I must meet J. J is very cute. He’s also very sweet, and kind. We get along immediately. And though I don’t look at him romantically in those early days, I always prefer him to be around. I enjoy talking to him. He feels like a kindred spirit.

One day, I get to the ex’s house (which later becomes J’s house when the ex moves out). I am dressed in a denim skirt and the red and purple top I adore from Urban Outfitters, as we’re all headed to the Manayunk bars for the evening.

When J sees me, he says hello, then adds, “Wow, Melissa, you should be a model.”

He probably doesn’t remember saying it, but I swear: I’ll never forget the compliment.

Another time, J pulls up to the house and realizes he’s forgotten something at his apartment, a few minutes away.

“Do you want to see my place?” He asks me. I immediately acquiesce. We talk amiably the whole time. His home is cozy and clean. I pour over his old high school football photo album. Eventually (reluctantly?), we head back.

After I’ve graduated school and moved back to Pennsylvania, I visit J’s house (now the Manayunk home) again to meet the ex. I’ve spent the weekend in New York, and am in a wonderful mood, and also bloody starving.

When I arrive, I find that everyone's already ordered lunch, and they've just finished. Of course, the ex wouldn’t have called me or ordered me anything. Though admittedly, this is one of the lesser offenses he’s ever committed.

But then there is J. He must see my face fall as I am once again a casualty of the ex’s patented selfishness.

“You want me to make you a sandwich, Melis?” He asks. I nod gratefully. He pulls me into the kitchen with him and chats with me while he fixes me ham and cheese with mustard, on toast. I don’t eat plain white bread because I’m weird. J doesn’t judge.

I find out later that afternoon that the ex has lied to me yet again. This time, he’d told me he’d had a guys’ night out the weekend prior. I learn that there was no boys’ night; he’d actually gone to a party that he didn’t want me to attend.

Any guesses why he wouldn’t want me around?

My blood boiling, I take off for home. I tell myself this is it; that I need to break it off and get him out of my life for good!

But you know I don’t. Am still weak. It’s not an excuse; it’s just that I haven’t found my way out of this mess yet.

I choose instead to wait for him to do it. He breaks up with me for the 278783 time a few weeks later.

Then, after he has his weekend off, he asks to get back together, because who else can he take to the David Gray concert next week?


The reason I mention the show at all is because J is there. I get to call him to meet us in the venue. He is dating a nice girl, whom he likes very much as a person but is never really into. I think she is nice too. We have a beer with them before the concert, then part ways.

But it’s always good to see him.

Months later, we’re in Maine for a mutual friend’s wedding. We’re sitting on the couch in the home the couples’ rented, and J’s strumming his guitar. I tell him that my absolute favorite song ever is “More Than Words” by Extreme (shut up).

“If you could play that, I’d marry you in a minute,” I tell him.

Of course he knows how to play it. Naturally.

We dance together at the reception. We probably think little of it. We’re friends. We enjoy each other’s company.

Months after that, we attend another wedding. I’m stuffing my face with snacks at cocktail hour and chatting with a few friends, when J’s roommate’s girlfriend, P offers, “I think J loves Melissa.” I giggle. “No,” she says again to the table, “I think J really loves Melissa.”

I have no idea what we were talking about before her comment, but I blush and feel deeply flattered. She may not remember saying it; but again, it’s one of those moments I’ll never forget.

Time passes. Any time we find ourselves at a party together, I inevitably gravitate towards J. I want to hear all about who he’s dating, what he’s been up to lately. We have lots of conversations, and I always appreciate the way he looks me in the eye when he’s discussing his latest bad date or his vast appreciation for The Twins from the Coors Light commercial.

And because I am so fond of him, and because I find him so freaking adorable and sweet and wonderful, I decide that it’s a good idea to set him up with my lovely roommate, Vanessa.

The short version of that story? Yeah, not so much.

Nothing much happens with that, except perhaps future, painfully awkward conversations and general unease and discomfort.


What happens shortly thereafter? Well, I finally (finally!) get wise and make changes. I get out of that bad relationship once and for all, and I move back to New York. I feel Fantastic. Better than that; I feel Invincible. Am single, charming woman left alone in the city to my own devices! It’s a wickedly exciting time.

And soon, I am heading to another wedding. This time P and J’s old roommate are tying the knot. The wedding’s in Princeton (which is a helluva long way from Queens, y’all), and I make myself pretty and primp and hop in the Hyundai (shut up) to get to the reception on time. I’m apprehensive because the ex is going to be present, and since I am driving I need to avoid cocktails; but I am terribly excited to see Grace, and all of the old crew.

And, well, of course: J.

He’s in the wedding, and he looks very handsome. In the ceremony program, there’s a short, hilarious bio about him. It describes him as a bachelor who enjoys long walks and cuddling by the fire; as a homeowner who is studying for his pilot’s license.

Damn, I think suddenly, huddling awkwardly in the back of the room with Grace’s mother. I should be with J.

Am a bit startled by the thought. At dinner, J comes over to my table and kisses me (chastely on the cheek, mind you) hello. We smile and talk for a brief moment, and then he is gone again.

Most of my evening is spent avoiding the ex at all costs. Grace drags me out to the dance floor at some point, where I find J nearby. I grab his hand for a dance.

He immediately snaps it back and looks at me as if I am mad.

“Whoa,” he says seriously. “We can’t dance together.”

I chuckle. “And why not?”

“Your ex is here. It’s just... Against the rules. The code.” (We all know that this “code” speak becomes obsolete soon enough. Still, the rejection stings.)

“Fine,” I say, and get the hell off the dance floor as my drunken ex starts jabbering in the background, settling down on a chair for a lap dance from one of the burliest guys in the wedding party (Yes, you read that sentence correctly).

I tell Grace’s mother what J’s just told me. “If it’s possible, I feel even more awkward now,” I say.

An hour later I make to leave. I say my goodbyes and rush to the exit, pleased to have made it out of the party virtually unscathed.

And who should be standing there, at the door?

“You taking off?” He asks.

“Yup. It was good seeing you,” I say honestly.

“You too.”

“Well, when you’re in the city, you should give me a call,” I say.

“Sure,” he says. And we say goodbye.

And uh, in case you’re wondering, he never calls. I continue dating in the city, and only occasionally let my mind drift back to J.

One idle Friday morning in July 2005, I email him to say hello.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Sometimes I look back on those days and can’t quite believe how surprising life is. Sometimes I ask J if he thinks we’d still be together today if we’d started dating 5 years ago, around the time we first met. We swap stories from our shared history, and wonder if maybe we always knew on some level? I’ll wonder aloud what was I thinking back then? Why did I stay in a bad relationship for so long?

But then J assures me that everything worked out the way it was supposed to. That every thing that happened in the past led us to where we are today. And today - today is pretty fucking great.

A few months ago, we were at the 7479 wedding together; only this time, J was all mine.

And I finally got my dance. Better late than never.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Lost, You Have Betrayed Me


Fucking Lost.

How could they?

Mr. Eko?

I'll say this: I've alluded to the fact that from 1998 - 2002, I was slightly obsessed with Felicity, on the WB. Felicity moved to New York when I did; started college when I did; had relationship troubles when I did. The show was always wrapped up spectacularly by episode's close, when Sally, Felicity's pen pal/mentor, would offer the viewing audience sage life advice. I took a lot of that wisdom to heart. Week after week, the show had me thinking, reflecting. It moved me. In making some of the biggest decision's of my life, I've often remembered a "Sally" quote, things like: "The hardest part of moving forward, is never looking back." That's good stuff.

J.J. Abrams created Felicity. I lurrrrvvveee him. I didn't start watching Lost until the second season (relax, I watched the first season on DVD), but I figured I may as well dive in: the show was wildly popular; J loved it; and well, J.J. I luuurrrvvvee him.

But now I remember that something happened in Felicity's third season. J.J., if I recall correctly, wasn't so involved anymore. Suddenly, the show diverged from a thoughtful, entertaining, heart-string tugging hour of television, to a melodramatic, soap opera-esque piece of crap. I still watched every week. I still loved it. But when heroin-addicted Brits move in with Felicity, accompanied by their heroin-addicted beaus, and then Crazy Heroin Stalker Man comes to Felicity's Christmas party packing heat, and proceeds to shoot partygoers? I couldn't relate. Where was J.J. at that writer's meeting?

I have a sneaking suspicion that J.J. created a brilliant, inventive, mind-boggling show in Lost, and then has slowly drifted away from creative control.

Because - Eko??!!

And now, from the pantheon of the Super-Lamest Arguments in History:

9:54. HomeValley, on phone with J: Oh, God! No... It's Eko. Eko will die tonight.

9:54 - 9:59: ABSOLUTE SILENCE.

10:00: HV. Some tears. Anger. Rage. Shuts TV off immediately. Fuck the previews!

HV: I can't believe this show! This sucks! First, they make me cry, and second, how can Eko be dead, while Charlie and Claire live to see another show? This show sucks! Where is J.J.?

J: Well, I still like the show, so maybe you should stop saying these things.

HV: You are telling me you're not upset that they killed Mr. Eko?

J: It's their show.

HV: [Frustration!] Ugh. I am going to bed, J.

J: [Frustration!] OK.

Seriously, Lost, what are you doing to me? You're the one TV show I watch (Friends aside), and now you have managed to kill Eko, AND cause me relationship strife in one fell swoop.

You're dead to me.

Until Wednesday.

P.S. I am debating whether to hit "publish," as this post makes my priorities seem dangerously out of whack. Will do something good for humankind this week, in effort to concentrate on real world events and ameliorate actual human suffering.

P.P.S. EKO?!?!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Sex Panther, by Odeon

In a valiant effort to increase my productivity (and also to not feel guilty about heading out at 5 PM today. There are shoes to buy, people!), I dragged myself out of bed at 5:25 this morning. I was out the door by 6:30. (Would have been earlier, except I was briefly distracted by Singles on HBO. Damn, Campbell Scott was deliciously cute and nerdy. Remember the grunge scene? Seattle? The triumphant rise of the coffee house? I miss you, 1994.)

So what to do with yourself when you get to your lovely cube in Chelsea at 7 AM, armed with a tall iced coffee, prepared to attack the day?

Well, you rationalize that since you are in so early, you have time to compose dorkified emails to your friends re: Lost, entitled: Who will bite it on tonight’s episode? (My money is on Jin. He lifts right out.)

You of course then have time to skim your favorite blogs, and subsequently drift into a blog-induced reverie, dreaming about the day when your own website traffic will soar! (Yes, I absolutely keep tabs on the traffic.) The day when literary agents and publishing houses will be fighting for the rights to your first work of superb fiction! Hooray, National Book Award!

Right. Back to “work.” It’s time for your daily news briefing, so you take a moment to read

Instantaneous email to Allie re: Reese and Ryan splitting up. The trauma! (Really, we’re still smarting from the Nick and Jessica split.)

Allie says: Who is this alleged “costar,” and what does she have that Reese doesn’t?!? If Freddie and Sarah split, I may need therapy.

It’s amazing what you can get accomplished before 8 AM, Internet.

Next up: The Curious Incident of the Gum in my Hair After Falling Asleep in the Cab, or Why I Should Give Up Drinking for Good.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Effing HomeValleys

I’m not sure what it is about my father’s side of the family, but with the exception of my grandparents, we’re all born with some bizarre uncommunicative gene. It afflicts each of us on different levels. I consider myself on the slightly less harmful side of the spectrum; sure, I am a notorious phone screener. And I am not the best at timely return calls. And, OK, I might not give you a much-deserved thank you card until years after my college graduation. But rest assured: that card is coming. And won’t it be a delightful surprise when you receive it? Won’t we all have a laugh?

I’m trying. I’m trying to be a better person, trying to be a better communicator. I am trying to say what I feel and mean what I say and just get my goddamn point across once in awhile, in a calm and collected manner. I’m trying to be an adult. I’m trying to lay down ground rules for navigating my life: what’s acceptable behavior (to me), and what’s not.

Other HomeValleys are far more nefarious offenders. Some will forget to call you on your birthday (even if someone had a hand in your creation). Some will decide that you probably wouldn’t be interested in attending a roller skating party, and will not invite you to that party, even when you want nothing more (and have uncharacteristically expressed this desire) than to play a hand in your little sisters’ upbringing. (And, WTF? Have you ever met me? I’d totally be down for some skating family fun.) Some will plan trips across country with you, and will then have to back out of the trip; unfortunately, you’ll be the last to know.

Some will have falling outs, and not speak to each other for years. Some still won’t speak much. Some will give up on their children when they’ve made grave mistakes. Or perhaps they had already given up years ago? How would any of us know?

We never speak to each other. We’ve got a bad gene.

Now, the best I can do is to express myself. Let them know where I stand; then let go of hurt feelings. Perhaps amend my expectations of them. What is the definition of insanity again?

My solace is to do better; to make sure I don’t pass on the mutation to the next generation of HomeValleys, damn ridiculously good-looking babies they’ll be.

I feel better already, Internet. Enjoy your Monday. Maybe call your parents.

Besides, there are more important topics at hand: Did you hear that I drank beers this weekend??

The sobriety, she is ended. More on that later.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Hello, Internet!

I greet you from Syracuse, New York, city of perpetual night, rain, snow, sleet, and general misery; or, the city where everyone knows Donovan McNabb's name. Take your pick. Though I have been a super-busy kick-ass career woman this week, I thought I'd sneak a blog to inform you that I, Melissa P. HomeValley, remained bone dry this past weekend, and wow, I feel great.

Sober HomeValley orders Shirley Temples at restaurant bars. Sober HomeValley subsequently orders club sodas with a twist of lime. SHV pretends to clean the bar with napkins as friend Dee's two year-old son looks on, perpelexed. (SHV also sings the clean-up song.) SHV laughs unroariously. A lot. (Apparently, sobriety can sometimes cause extreme giddiness.) SHV sleeps like a log throughout the night, and wakes up refreshed, smiling benevolently like an angel in the mornings. (If an angel is characterized by minimal morning grunting and no F words.)

The bottom line: this sober chick is damn nice and pleasant. What can I say? Sobriety suits me.

P.S. I miss beer.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Everybody's Workin' For The Weekend

Still sober!

It’s been five days, and I haven’t had a sip of alcohol. Not even when old friend Nikki came for a sleepover on Wednesday night, fresh from an awful break-up. I offered the requisite glass of wine as soon as she walked through the door, but she declined, saying matter-of-factly that she didn’t want to self-medicate.

(And well, yeah. She’s awe-inspiring. She’s so damn strong and beautiful and hopeful through the hell she’s going through, and she has the presence of mind to turn down mugs full of sparkly weird pink cider. She’s going to be just fine, that one.)

Nor did I falter when I arrived at J’s parent’s house for dinner last night, after logging time in the dreaded Port Authority Bus Terminal. I’d made the two-hour trek from the city to Hellertown, PA, and reluctantly stopped J’s Dad mid-pour.

“Not tonight,” I say mildly.

Mr. J stares quizzically, clearly baffled at this strange turn of events (The man once commented, “Wow, you sure can drink for such a small girl!”)

J, in an astounding and loving declaration of solidarity, adds, “Yeah, we’re not drinking tonight.”

Mr. and Mrs. J look on, confused.

“Well, I had this bad experience last weekend, and I decided to see if I could stop drinking any alcohol for a month,” I explain. (That’s the ticket, HomeValley, tell your boyfriend’s parents about Vomit Fest ‘06. And also, can I call you Mom and Dad?)

“Well,” Mrs. J says, “How about you just don’t drink so much?”


But really, Internet, how long can my sobriety last, when J made next weekend plans with the Real JC? When the three of us get together in Manhattan, there is a certain formula by which we operate:

Funny-Smelling Dive + Juke Box + $7 Pitchers + No Toilet Paper in Bathroom for HomeValley + Late Night Snack Food in Close Vicinity = Blissfully Happy Drunken Trio

Who am I to disrupt an equation that has proved successful time and time again?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

More Reasons Your Grandparents Will Love Me

Am actually a senior citizen, I'm discovering.

Last Friday night, you could catch J and me sound asleep at 11 PM. I was likely dreaming that Matthew Fox was my boyfriend, as that seems to be a recurring theme these days (probably because J is so reminiscent of Dr. Jack.) (Without all the crying.)

Anyway, when the Manayunk bars close at 2 AM, all hell breaks loose on J's street. Car alarms sound, wasted girls cackle, drunk dudes yell and toss each other into parked cars. Assholes rev engines and likely kill pedestrians. I don't know what the fuck goes on. It's loud. VERY LOUD.

And this makes me cranky.

"Damnit! What is their problem? Don't they know people are trying to sleep around here?"

J, amused: "Like you were never loud coming out of a bar, babe."

Me, indignant: "Not like this! Please!" Lie.

J, nearly asleep again: "Riiiigggghhhht..."

Me, upstanding citizen: "I just feel bad for your neighbors. They have a baby, for God's sake!"

J, snoring.

Me, wide awake, fumbling in darkness for laptop. Sweet, sweet Friends DVDs.

This morning, you could catch me doing 45 in the righthand lane of I-95S on the drive home from Boston. It was still very, very dark! And raining! And I am practically blind at night, what with the oncoming headlights and all.

Sigh. I got so tired of road ragers flashing their high beams at me that I had to pull over into a rest area. There, I scarfed down an Egg McMuffin from McDonald's. And do you know who is at McDonald's at 6 AM?

Senior citizens. And truckers. And HomeValley.

Now if you'll excuse me, I must prepare for a night with the girls, Blanche and Rose. Care to take the over/under on what time I indulge in a glass of vino?

Love Always,

Dorothy Zbornak

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

54 Truths (Disclaimer: This idea is not original.)

  1. HomeValley is my last name.
  2. In English.
  3. Translated from Swedish.
  4. Yes, I am part Viking.
  5. And half-Italian.
  6. My Swedish father moved to the States in 1964.
  7. He was ten.
  8. He learned to speak English by watching Saturday morning cartoons.
  9. Remember cartoons, before the Cartoon Network?
  10. Good times.
  11. Dad no longer speaks Swedish.
  12. That's a shame.
  13. Especially since, as a result, all I can say is "Wilkomen!"
  14. But I do call my grandparents "Far-Far" and "Far-Mor."
  15. But I started doing that last year.
  16. My first name is actually Melissa.
  17. I've always liked that name, despite its rampant popularity during the 1980s.
  18. I was born on February 1, 1980.
  19. I weighed nearly ten pounds.
  20. I barely fit in the incubator.
  21. People pointed at me and remarked"That little boy baby looks like a linebacker!"
  22. My late grandma Bea overheard and snapped, "That is my grand-daughter, thank you."
  23. She was hilarious and died when I was eight.
  24. She had an aneurysm in front of a slot machine.
  25. I like to think that's how she wanted to go.
  26. Soon after my birth, My uncle Rick coined the nickname "Melissa Monster."
  27. When you meet him, he'll tell you this.
  28. He'll also tell you that I was an incredible baby.
  29. This is because at nine months old, I sat in a playpen next to him and watched an entire World Series game without making a peep.
  30. I have one "full" brother, one half-brother, one step-brother, and two half-sisters.
  31. A lot of them call me "Sis."
  32. It's awesome.
  33. My "full" brother is just 14 months younger than me.
  34. Growing up, people thought we were twins.
  35. We started a band together in '88.
  36. We loved heavy metal.
  37. The only song we played was Joan Jett's "I love rock and roll."
  38. And by played I mean I sang, and he banged on the washer with chopsticks.
  39. Incredibly, we never had a paying gig.
  40. The band did launch my short-lived singing career.
  41. I sang at church, then in chorus, then in school musicals.
  42. I once sang with Kenny Rogers.
  43. The Gambler.
  44. Well, me and twenty other girls from our high school chorus.
  45. Still.
  46. I have one tattoo.
  47. I got it because Allie was getting one, and it seemed like a good idea.
  48. It's a butterfly.
  49. I have just learned, via an episode of Parental Control, that it's often called a "Tramp Stamp."
  50. Parental Control is a brilliant show.
  51. My high school yearbook quote was "Tis a far better thing doing stuff for other people."
  52. Someone saw Clueless one too many times.
  53. This is my brain off alcohol.
  54. Oh man.

Shameless Plug

My gorgeous, super-talented cousin Tina Marie Connell is blowing minds all over the Lehigh Valley, y'all. She's moments away from exploding onto the scene in a Kelly Clarkson blaze of glory.,0,7031104.story?coll=all-artsideas-hed

One day you will see HomeValley on VH1's Driven, talking all, "We knew Tina was going to be a star because she was totally harmonizing as a baby!" But really, she was.

We love her.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Alcohol, My Fair-Weather Friend

The alarm blared obnoxiously at approximately 4:54 AM this morning. An early train to Boston forced me from my warm bed, and I began fumbling around the dark apartment, willing myself to remember my phone charger and laptop cord. Groggy and still dead tired, I slowly and painstakingly prepared for my trip. I was out the door by 5:40. On the N train, I realized I WAS STILL HUNGOVER.

The hangover had certainly dissipated overnight, but I still felt a bit fuzzy and vaguely nauseated. My brain stubbornly refused to focus. I was rereading whole paragraphs of articles in my O magazine, when I came across a piece posing the question, “Are Girls the New Guys? The bars, the buddies, the all night partying…What’s going on out there?”

The hell?

Soon, sentences began to sound uncomfortably familiar; some twenty-something Carrie Bradshaw-wannabes prancing about the city in fancy shoes, sipping cosmopolitans with “the girls” on weeknights?

I was completely wary of the sensationalism of the piece; surely the author can’t speak to an “epidemic” by visiting three bars in Manhattan one weekend. (But oh shit, I was just throwing back dirty martinis at Joshua Tree on Friday night!)

Yet the article induced some of the patented HomeValley introspection. My head still dully aching, I thought about how often and how much I imbibed. Each time I consume more than three drinks per occasion, I am binge-drinking. Binge-drinking at least once per week. And I wonder why I can’t do simple math in my head anymore?

I concluded that I am murdering brain cells at an alarming rate, and that my current alcohol-hazy mind will not propel me into super-blogdom, or even a good MBA program for that matter. How can one aspire to world domination living in this perpetual fog?

Internet, behold my experiment and be incredulous. It went like this:

Composed email to J with fantastic brainstorm:

“For the next month, I am not drinking any more during the week, and on the weekends I’ll limit myself to a max of 3 drinks.” (You see what I did there? Look at me all not binging.)

Clicked send. What a monumental sacrifice! I mean, I intended to deny myself a few glasses of pinot noir after a long day of travels on weeknights, damnit!


Composed second email:

“Forget it. From this moment forward, I will not drink ANY alcohol. For one ENTIRE month, I will be clean and sober. I know you are thinking that I won’t be able to do it. So am I. And that is exactly why it needs to be done.”

Day One has nearly passed without incident, although when I told Koos the plan this afternoon, I remembered that I have a wedding to attend in two weeks. I nearly allowed myself a reprieve, then shook it off and felt pleased to be J’s designated driver.

So this is my challenge. I will remain steadfast and sober and hopefully even sharper and more quick-witted. (I know what you’re thinking, like I can get ANY cleverer.) (More clever?) (Cleverer?)

It is going to be a long 30 days.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Greetings, gentle readers, from hell.

It is inevitable; once a year, alcohol will suddenly become my nemesis. Last May, tequila turned it's back on me during Vanessa's birthday happy hour. This year, it was two glasses of wine, one green tea martini, one flute of champagne, and 8 Miller Lites. And they were certainly unkind.

My ability to write coherent sentences has evaporated (I'm willing to bet that is partly due to a Flavor of Love marathon that I am still inexplicably watching), so I'll spare you the details of the weekend until I've recovered. I never made it to the Guggenheim. But my GOD, the bar-hopping.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Defense Rests

Well, fuck.

Admittedly, yesterday's anonymous comment poster sent me into a brief frenzy of self-reflection. Could it be? Have I become a woman who has lost her independence; a woman who's world revolves solely around her man? As soon as I'd read the comment, my face flushed scarlet; I wondered who was this poster (who is obviously someone I know) and OH MY GOD, do they actually have a valid point?!?

And then I took a deep breath. And then I said to myself: hell fucking no.

I believe what I was trying to say was that I still do relish my independence, and my quality friend time away from the bf; nonetheless, I kinda wish that I could spend a night or two away from him, and then come home to him. For all intents and purposes, I live alone. It would be nice to have him around more, is all. And I don't (and won't) feel bad about feeling that way.

But still, the comment struck a nerve.

I have loved being on my own. I rock out on my own. I dance around the apartment. I eat junk food. I watch Sex and The City reruns. I sing in the shower for an hour. I read books and books and then Oprah magazine and then more books. I attend networking events that frighten me. I meet friends for drinks. I am addicted to A Baby Story on TLC. I travel. I stay alone in hotel rooms. I chat up strangers. I attend writing workshops. I combat my fear of flying, mostly alone. I work two days per week in a cubicle, alone.

I don't want to lose myself in a relationship, and I don't believe that is what I've done. I am learning how to compromise, which is difficult for me. It's also necessary. I want to be in this relationship, because it is really, really good. I am learning it is not always about me. I am learning how to be more selfless, because I am in this relationship with a man who personifies selflessness; who always puts my needs before his own.

It is really, really good. So good it needs to be italicized for the world to see.

It's a delicate balance, reconciling my independence with this partnership. Sometimes I do a fine job; other times I act like an asshole. Ask J.

I rest my case. Now, the HomeValley Uber-Weekend of Independence shall commence. On tonight's agenda, chick-flicks, diner food, and a few bottles of Pinot Noir with old college roommate, Nikki. Take that Internet naysayers!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

At least Lost is on tonight.

J and I spent a long, fabulous weekend together in Philadelphia. We did wondrous things we never do, like renting two movies on a Friday night and eating greasy Chinese food and eschewing alcohol for one blissfully sober evening. We also went out to dinner at a fancy steakhouse (something we've never done), and my God, the drywalling (and the sawing!). And I am so thankful for the fantastic fantasticness of it all, because we now must face the dreaded, the abhorred, the abysmal:

Nine-Day Separation.

Um, okay, so it is totally not the worst thing in the world. In fact, it's true what they say about absence and hearts and fondness and all that. It's just, well, sucky. It sucks. It's completely healthy and awesome to spend time with the boys and time with the gals, and to be apart and have separate interests; it becomes difficult when you spend zero time together between those nights and separate interests, y'know? When your contact consists of calling each other during the Lost commercial breaks, wondering when they will just kill Kate already and put us all out of our misery?

Alas, bachelor parties must be attended to. And fabulous girls' weekends in the most fabulous borough of all. And this is good. I've suddenly realized that this may be my last weekend alone in Astoria before the Great Relocation of 07. Now is the time to visit the Bohemian Beer Garden and pound Hoegaarden with gusto; to run around the Astoria Park track until my legs buckle. To visit the Guggenheim. To buy shoes. To feast on Tasti D-Lite.

Get ready, Allie. And Internet. I foresee a drunk posting in our future.

Monday, October 09, 2006


Yesterday a portion of my vast readership (read: The Real JC) threatened to begin reading other blogs if I didn't update soon. In truth, I've started many, many posts, only to become immediately and utterly bored with the topic at hand. Unfortunately, this does not make for good blog reading. Yet fear not, loyal readers, I'm back and prepared to bring you up to speed.

What HomeValley Has Been Up To Lately:

  • Witnessing the horrifying inner workings of the United States justice system. And no, I won't elaborate.
  • Attending a weekend wedding in Atlanta, in which J served as groomsman. I served as Atlanta neophyte, traveling with J's friends to aquariums, Olympic parks, and CNN Headquarters food courts. Oh, also: I drank. A lot.
  • Acquiring more reasons to hate flying. Sometimes, on your way home from Atlanta, people will start seizing on planes and flight attendants will run around like frightened children screaming, "Is there a doctor on board?!?!" HomeValley will sigh, look at her watch, and continue reading her Phillipa Gregory book. (Don't worry, Seizure Chick was fine in minutes.)
  • Crying during Monday Night Football, two consecutive weeks in a row. Incredulously, men mock us for our tendency to watch Steel Magnolias repeatedly; in reality, the NFL and ESPN are completely emotionally manipulative. The Saints game in the Katrina aftermath? The Eagles making young, sickly Charlie Pena "Coach for a Day," thereby realizing all of his dreams and allowing him to meet all of his idols? In one breath J was chastising me for buying into these emotionally-charged vignettes; in the next, he was shushing me until the end of the segment. "Okay," he conceded. "That one got to me a little."
  • Drywalling. J and I have been converting a bedroom in his house to an office, and I am, if I may be so bold, a bonafide Construction Diva, asking J to get me my own tool belt, as the tape measure looked a bit silly attached to the waistband of my sweats. And really, I measured things! And used a miter saw! And didn't cut off any appendages! It was all terribly exciting for us.
  • Watching Little People, Big World, and feeling my heart break each time young Zach - an "LP" with an average-sized twin brother - is onscreen. Why is the tinkly piano of sadness always playing anytime the kid is speaking?
  • Feeling sorry for Terrell Owens. I know this makes me a huge asshole. I also know T.O. is a huge asshole. I just don't think it was very nice to chant "O.D." during yesterday's game.
  • Meeting one of J's wonderful work colleagues, and finding I have everything in common with... her sixteen year old daughter. We are both obsessed with musical theater and Friends. And extremely cool and sophisticated.
  • Questioning Catholicism. Catalina called on Friday night to ask me to be her confirmation sponsor. In the Catholic faith, this is quote an honor. The problem is, I don't feel very Catholic anymore. I haven't been to church in years, though I contend that I am still an excellent spiritual sensei. I consulted my very wise 15 year old brother on this one. "Ry," I asked him yesterday, "you'd want me as your spiritual guide right?" (Bear in mind, this little angel once wrote an essay on why I was the person he admired most, because I was funny and we made jokes together and I went to all of his football and basketball games.)

"Nope." He replied dryly (and very quickly at that).

"Ry! Come on! Who better to have as your spiritual mentor?"

"Why do you think I didn't ask you? You don't go to church. You're not there with me in the trenches every week."


So thank you all for your patience as I ponder questions of faith and complete construction projects. More tomorrow from Providence, Rhode Island!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Break Out the Sippy Cup

Memo from high-level assistant this morning to all company employees:

Please be careful with your drinks and your laptop. They definitely do not mix. We have had a couple of incidents of drinks being spilt on laptops which is a repair cost. So, please, please, please keep your drink away from your laptop or use a cup with a lid.

I get the distinct impression that the "Employee of the Month" title lingers just beyond my grasp.

Rest assured, my Toughbook is hardy like a prop plane and made it through surgery like a champion; she is now resting comfortably at the Computer Fix-It Place.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Kindness of Strangers

So earlier I am dashing around like a madwoman, trying to get to Penn Station as early as possible to get to Philly to see J as early as possible. (My Verizon wireless card for my laptop allows me to work remotely, even from NJ Transit trains.) (Also, should point out that I am using my "loaner" laptop, and it is as big as a house.)

I digress. I am lugging my heavy suitcase and ginormous computer to the N train, then transfering to the 3 train, and finally I am before the NJ Transit ticket machine. I punch in the proper codes, insert my debit card, and am at once interrupted by a peculiar man. He looks like an Hasidic Jew at first glance (telltale hair and beard); yet upon closer inspection, he is quite harried and carrying a trash bag. He's approaching everyone imploring them to help him.

"How do I get to Morristown, New Jersey??" He questions the woman to my left. She ignores him. I quickly scan the machine and locate Morristown.

"How do I get to Morristown, New Jersey??" He asks me loudly.

"It's code 558," I reply calmly. "See? Just follow the prompts and type code 558."

"Morristown?? Can you do it for me? I can't do it!" He barks.

"I'm sorry," I say. "But I'm in a rush."

I scurry away, listening to him command another traveler: "You do it for me!" Instantly, I regret not taking a moment to help the frazzled man. In truth, I had a few minutes.

In Hudson News, I'm elated to find a copy of the Philippa Gregory book I've been meaning to buy. I grab it, along with some Sweettarts, and head to my Trenton-bound train.

Fuck, I think suddenly.

I forgot to get my ticket from the machine.

I managed to pay for my ticket, tuck my debit card back in my wallet, but with the slight distraction, I forgot to grab my bloody ticket.

Idiot! I berate myself. The universe mocks me. Ha! Should have taken the time to help that poor man, she singsongs.

I race back to the ticket booths, but the line is now far too long. I quickly visit a nearby ATM and resign myself to the five dollar surcharge for buying the damn ticket aboard the train.

Then I am sitting on the train, sweat beading on my brow, when a benign conductor stops before me.

"Where to?" He asks kindly.

"Trenton," I whisper, smiling wanly. I move to hand him my twenty.

And then, that beautiful conductor places a ticket on my seat and continues on, ignoring the cash in my hand.

The obvious moral here is that sometimes when you're an asshole, and neglect to grab your train ticket after you've purchased it, you will run into a nice conductor who can read your mind, and has mercy on your deflated, scatter-brained soul.

I love New York. Hell, I even love Jersey today.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

HomeValley: The "A" in "Adult" Stands for "Ass."

This fall, I am resolved to resemble an actual grown-up. I define "grown-up" as someone who actually sends things for actual occasions. Like birthdays. And wedding showers. And births of actual babies.

What has precipitated this new resolution?

Exhibit A:

Friend Dee just got married, and had a wedding shower months ago. Grace and I were both going to be out-of-state, so we neglected to attend. (Aside: Our mothers, who were in attendance, mused that perhaps we felt slighted at not being asked to be bridesmaids, and thus decided not to attend in protest. I assure you: we're just assholes.)

A grown-up would visit the wedding registry, would ooh and aah over dainty china place settings and tea sets. (Aside: Tea sets?? Do brides even ever request these? Why have I never seen a wedding registry?!?!) A grown goddamn woman would pick something lovely, and, in preparation of her absence at the event, would make sure the lovely thing was mailed and gift-wrapped and there to be opened in front of the many lovely shower guests.

But what would I do? I would pick up a Home Depot gift card a week after the party when J dragged me to the store to buy some fancy tool or another. I would also unceremoniously hand it to Dee as she lounged on a hotel room bed sipping Coors Light at her bachelorette party. (Aside: Oh, and Grace? She'd do almost the same, except she'd purchase the Home Depot gift card at Wawa.)

Exhibit B:

A coworker's wife had a baby. I was quite friendly with the Syracuse-based coworker, had even had dinner with his wife, so when Baby came along, I went out and bought something to send the bouncing boy. A grown-up would send something, no? I purchased a Phillies onesie and an Eagles bib for the kid. Said Phillies onesie and Eagles bib sat gloriously untouched on the makeshift bar in my foyer for a year. (Aside: The liquor most certainly did not.) I finally tossed them. WTF?

Exhibit C:

I've regifted.

Grown-ups don't do this! I regifted for another friend's wedding shower (and this was a damn nice Vera Wang gift, mind you) because I needed something in a pinch. And the punishment for regifting, should you not know, is agonizing for weeks over the possibility that you mistakenly left the original card in the box. Perhaps a note: "Dear HomeValley, You're an ass but here's this Vera Wang china anyway. Love, X" still lingers in the folds of the tissue paper?

Exhibit D:

Grace's birthday, 3 weeks ago. I knew she wanted a Fry Daddy. (Aside: She's funny like that.) So I remembered to pick up a card for her, but neglected to actually send the Fry Daddy. Thinking quickly, I scribbled: "Dear Grace, Love you lots! Happy happy! Fry Daddy in mail! Love Always, HV."

Grace, immediately: You didn't order this.

HomeValley, feigning shock: I did! I'm insulted, Grace. Honestly.

September 20th, 2006 says: HomeValley, you still have not ordered that fucking Fry Daddy.

(Aside: I totally sent it today.)

Friday, September 15, 2006

We haven't run since.

With last week's computer meltdown excitement, crazy travel schedule, and short-lived RA reunion, I didn't get the chance to discuss my very first 5K race, the one I forced J to run with me, because, well, it was for a great cause! And it would get us up early and exercising! In gorgeous Central Park!

Of course, J was a wee bit apprehensive. His neck often hurts and bugs him when he runs a lot. Additionally, I often hurt and bug him when he tries to wake me up in the morning with a soothing, low-voiced: "Babe, time to get up..." In reply, I growl and snap, "No, J, maybe it's time for you to get up! And also hit the motherfucking snooze button damnit or I will murder you! Now leave ME ALONE! GOD."


The morning of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure we are both surprisingly chipper. We wake at 7:30, throw on our running shoes, stretch a bit, and head to the N train.

We find the registration table to get our numbers (hee!) and our tee-shirts. As we near the booth in the center of the park, around 72nd Street, J becomes increasingly jittery.

"There better be some guys running this. If it's all women you might have to be on your own, and I'll just cheer for you from the sidelines," he says, as a psychotic child races to find tees in our sizes.

"There's plenty of guys running! Besides, it's for a great cause! Breast cancer! And you support women! And breasts!" I do a quick scan, silently willing there to be men running, because there does seem to be an overwhelming amount of ladies in the vicinity -

"Wow!" J says suddenly. "Look at all these women! I'm gonna have to tell [The real JC] about this race! This is a great place to meet girls! If I was single..."

Ah, J. Heart of gold, that one. Loves to help people.

In the end, of course, there are a ton of men and women runners and walkers. We begin on 77th and Central Park West, learning that 22,000 have come out in support of the cause: a cure for breast cancer. And it is powerful; I find myself choking up more than once reading the backs of the participants' shirts, which indicate: "I run in celebration of..." or, sadly, "I run in memory of..." We are both thankful to be a part of it, even if it is 9 AM on a Sunday morning. The weather is brilliant, and we finish the race in about 32 minutes.

On the way home, we meander down Madison, pleased that the street is relatively deserted.

"I kinda wish the tee-shirt colors weren't red and pink," J says.

* J in his sunglasses in the middle.
** Totally kidding.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

My Motherboard, Myself

On the drive from Springfield to Peabody, Massachusetts, I thought of a hundred different things I could write about today:
  • My fifteen year old brother's visit this past weekend, in which he demonstrated his vast sardonic charm and startling knowledge of all things The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
  • My Monday night reunion with the old RA crew, which unfortunately was limited to an hour due to my uber-demanding travel schedule. But what a wonderful hour it was! People are married and living in Vermont! People are learning to speak Arabic in North Carolina! People are skipping town for greener pastures in San Diego! Sigh. I missed these friends.
  • An entire thesis on the inevitability of Mario Lopez's emergence on Dancing with the Stars. Remember the time he proclaimed football barbaric and flitted around The Max in tights, all to appease that neurotic egghead Jessica Myrtle Spano? Yeah, me neither.

But how about the fact that I am furiously typing this prose at a $0.20 per minute PC Station at a FedEx Kinko's because I managed to spill a tablespoon of cold coffee on my laptop keyboard this morning, thereby rendering it useless and quite possibly destroyed?!?

"Please," I whispered earlier to the gentle company IT man on the other end of the line. "Can we save her? I mean, she's sort of - she's my lifeline."

Torturously long pause.

"Yes," he said confidently. And so I am taking his word as gospel and furiously backing up my files on a USB drive before I send my precious baby for her first (and last) home office repair job.

I'm sorry I'm such a clumsy asshole, my beautiful, sweet, kind, Panasonic W2 Toughbook that weighs a mere 2.5 pounds.


Monday, September 11, 2006

The One Where I Stop Talking About it Already.

Today I feel grateful.

It's the 5th anniversary, and I feel positively grateful. Five years ago, at this very moment, I felt as if the world had ended. It didn't. Although I've been somewhat diligently focusing on work this morning and afternoon, I have also frequently been thinking about what I was doing at this exact moment in 2001...

7:30 AM - Getting ready for work. Putting on brown polyester pants, red top, and chunky brown boots. Shudder.

7:50 AM -Leaving William Street apartment and walking three long blocks to World Financial Center.

7:59 AM - Musing silently about beautiful day. Walking through North Tower.

8:05 AM - Likely late my first day back. Grabbing coffee and settling into cubicle.

8:10 AM - Browsing Internet.

8:30 AM - Internet.

8:46 AM - Thunder?

And so forth... As I ate lunch today at noon I remembered sitting in the back of a stranger's pick-up truck, heading uptown on the FDR.

It is a day that is so personal and so public. As Aaron Brown said on the day as he watched the Towers crumble: There are no words.

I hope this post finds everyone hopeful, and well.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Anniversary Party

My junior year in college, I applied to be a Resident Assistant. Seriously. The position had some clout at our school, y'all, and not only did it provide room and board, but the lucky RA received a small monetary stipend each month, as well as two entire classes paid for per semester. As a young woman struggling to pay for school with student loans and part-time jobs and partial scholarships, the gig would have been a dream come true.

So I studied my ass off. I actually sat down and read (and highlighted) the student handbook. I learned everything I possibly could. I updated my resume. I wrote eloquent essays expostulating on why I was a born leader and thus needed to guide young freshman through that first tumultuous year. I coaxed professors to write excellent recommendation letters. I charmed the pants off the hiring committee.

The spring day I opened my mailbox and tore open a letter of congratulations, I was ELATED. My heart was beating fast; my legs were wobbly with triumph. And yes, I know this is damning evidence that I am an Uber-Nerd, but shut up. It was a blissfully happy moment in the life of HomeValley. (Oh yes, and it also furthered my theory that I actually was Felicity, from the series? Yes, the similarities were a little too coincidental back then. Another post.)

Junior year ended. I spent the summer in Philadelphia, as an Editorial Assistant at the WB News at 10. (Read: intern). I did "stand-ups" and "field-produced" and learned "if it bleeds, it leads." Life was wonderful.

I returned to school in late August for a week of intense Resident Assistant boot camp. Each day we role-played, and participated in horrifying team-building exercises. And I rolled my eyes and groaned but I loved it just the same. And some of the people were insufferable but most of them were wonderful. On the last day of training, September 1st or 2nd, we were forced to complete a scavenger hunt that somehow led us to Windows of the World. It was my first and last time at the restaurant.

Finally, our apartment renovation was complete. It was a large suite on the 16th floor of an old building on William Street, downtown, and as an RA I got my very own bedroom, as well as the smaller bathroom for three, rather than the larger bathroom designed for six. I called my roommates and gleefully announced that we had the most amazing view: "You can see the World Trade Center as you're showering!"

And until one bright Tuesday morning, everything was as perfect as I imagined.

And then, several weeks later, we were back in school, and everything was wrong.

As RAs, we were in charge of everything it seemed. We carefully scrutinized lists of students, found housing for misplaced students, counseled students, all the while continuing to perform inane drug raids and break up parties in the wake of disaster. Nothing seemed real, yet we had a job to do. I don't remember how I handled it. I am not sure I did. But time passed and things seemed to get better. I had friends who were so blessedly kind and a boyfriend who so obviously (though not to me) wasn't, but through the entire ordeal, I had this gig. Some days, I resented the job intensely. How could they expect me to work this weekend? To sit in this apartment just blocks away from the disaster, alone with my own thoughts and fears? And to take care of other people? And to respond to emergencies? Like the time the building reeked of gas, and I had no fucking idea what they wanted me to do about it?

But maybe it saved me.

In fact, what if I hadn't had this job, and this responsibility? What would I have done? Started drinking more? Sink deeper into depression? Drop out of school?

Yes, it most definitely saved me.

In the years since, each September 11th, I've gotten a group email from the old RA boss. Thinking of you guys, she'd write. And I get it. Our experiences of the day and the ensuing weeks and months are eternally intertwined. This year, however, I got an e-vite. This year we'll get together on the anniversary, blocks from the old dorms, to catch up. We'll laugh and chat about the past and the present, and I know I'll speak hopefully about a future that at one time look bleak and tiresome, before I was reminded that life certainly does go on.

I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to it.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Kids Say the Darnedest Things

We're trying to plan a Thanksgiving trip to Colorado with my aunt, uncle, and their two young children. So last night, I call Uncle and to my delight get cousin Anders (age 10) on the line.

HomeValley: Hey buddy! How's it going?

Anders: Good! I started school on Monday.

HV: Well, that's cool. How's your teacher?

A: She's really nice.

HV: Is she older? Younger?

A: Probably, like, middle-aged. You know, like... 25.

HV: [laughs uproariously] You know I love you, buddy, but the next time I see you, I'm going to have to rough you up.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Turbo Prop, She is Hardy

I hate to fly.

There, I said it.

I love to travel, but I hate to fly. Thus, flying is a necessary evil. I took my job because I love to travel. But I still hate to fly. Hate. To. Fly. To sum up: HATE.

Typically, I can stomach the bigger jets. Or, just, you know, ANY jet. But there ain’t many jets that will take you to Syracuse, y’all.

Behold – the Turbo Prop.

Just the word “prop” is enough to invoke fear in the heart of this jittery air traveler. We used “props” in my high school musical performances (shut up.). We totally used fake suitcases that no one cared about for one particularly rollicking song on a train in The Music Man. So, as my example flawlessly illustrates, prop = fake.

The Prop plane that just pulled into Gate F 20 at Philadelphia International to transport me to Syracuse has two propellers. Two. Propellers. It is too tiny to warrant a jet way, so any minute now I will be shuffled out a doorway, placed onto the tarmac, and begin trekking to the door of the plane. There is always a lovely flight attendant on hand to welcome me aboard. Typically she says, “Sit anywhere after Row 4.” Yes, my 134-pound ass needs to move to the back to level out. The. Weight. Of. The. Plane.

It just puts my soul at ease.


Driving on I-76 to the airport this morning, I hold J’s hand firmly in mine. We don’t say much at 5:55 AM, but for once I am not grumpy. It’s a nice change. I am, however, acutely anxious. We listen to the new Ray LaMontagne CD and my eyes dart from side to side. “Pretty foggy this morning,” I start.

“That doesn’t have anything to do with how planes take off. They don’t take off based on what pilots can see.”


“Then how come planes sometimes can’t land in a fog?”

J says nothing.

The irony is I have been welcomed into a family of flight-lovers. J’s dad is a commercial airline pilot. Last week, he flew to Bangkok and possibly Uzbekistan. I know! J also loooooooovvvveeess to be airborne and has taken flight lessons; even flown a plane or two (he’s badass, ladies). So naturally, I expect J’s dad to assuage all of my in-flight fears. At dinner last night, I bemoaned the prop plane trips I frequently take.

“Well, the prop plane is really like any jet,” Dad of J assures me. “It’s just… Hardy.”

And then later, in flight…

They actually just canceled the beverage service on my tiny “plane” - the one beacon of light, the single ray of hope – as “it will be quite bumpy,” and they don’t want the lovely flight attendant to be injured while serving me my diet coke and miniature bag of pretzels.

Save my Jeebus!

And back on earth…

I live to write another post. Do you think my general practitioner prescribes valium?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Burma or Bust

J and I are in the early stages of planning our next big trip. In late May – early June, we explored Greece (plus one night in Paris). Some day soon I will begin to write about how insanely wonderful Greece was, from the Acropolis in Athens, to the small island beaches of Naxos, to the delicious octopus and cheap wine I consumed each night, to the spectacularly beautiful (and likely indescribable) Santorini, the island formed from a volcanic eruption (And J and I stood next to the mouth of that volcano! We are awesome and fearless.), to the whirlwind adventure of Paris in one night (seriously, you haven’t lived until you’ve trekked from the Invalides, to the Eiffel Tower, to the Champs d’Elysees - or in J-Speak, The Avenue of Champs -, to the Arc de Triomphe, to the opera house, to the Louvre in like, 3 hours. I am not kidding. That is one intense 9 mile loop, kids.).

* Have just drifted into a Greece-induced dream state, and will likely begin the process of depicting our journey tomorrow, because it was just that awe-inspiring and fantastical and fucking wondrous.


Our next ambitious trip may be Thailand, which I hesitate to talk about because 1.We are not totally sure we can go at the appropriate time (i.e. not in typhoon season); and 2. We are not completely confident we can afford it until we gather how much it will actually cost.

And also: 3. We really need someone to tell us where not to go. Yesterday J sat intently reading the travel guide we purchased this weekend, and matter-of-factly suggested we skip Bangkok, head to Chiang Mai, and then perhaps country-hop to Burma or Laos.

“Sounds great!” I say, but I usually smile and think everything is awesome and wonderful. I am useless in trip-planning in this respect. I also take helpful notes where I transcribe things like, “Bangkok = crazy sex trade” and “Must remember to tell J not to point feet towards Buddha in temple.” All the important things.

J continues reading. “Hmm,” he says, “Maybe we won’t visit Burma (or Myanmar).” He reads aloud from the book, depicting a border conflict that can intensify and result in HomeValley and J getting hit by pieces of shrapnel or other weaponry.

“Fun!” I assert. Thailand is going to be an amazing adventure and I love it already.

Later that evening, we continue to peruse the handy travel guide. “Hey!” I perk up. “Do we need any, like, vaccinations?”

“Hmm,” J scans the pages seriously. “Only diphtheria (got it), tetanus (have it), hepatitis A and B (hmm...), measles/mumps/rubella (MMR – money), polio (I guess?), typhoid, and varicella (WTF?)."

“Awww, honey,” I say. “We can get our vaccinations together!”

Who wouldn’t want to visit Thailand with this girl?

How to Win Friends and Frighten the Ladies

Last week, in the Springhill Suites in Peabody, Massachusetts, I ran my first full four miles in forty minutes. I tried to be blasé about it, but when I finally turned off the treadmill, a kindly older man remarked, “I think you wore out the machine!”

“I know!” I boasted merrily. “My first four miles!”

When you travel a lot of the time, you make friends where you can. It gets lonely on the open road. The man and I chatted for some time, discussing our businesses, our residences, my intense marathon training schedule (No, really).

At some point a random, lurking man had entered. I had seen Random Man in the elevator the evening before, after I had gone for a long run and subsequently raided the makeshift kitchen by the hotel’s lobby. Armed with a frozen dinner, microwave popcorn, granola bars, and sodas, I greeted Random Man (as you do), and sheepishly looked at the food in my hands. “Dinner,” I said. And then I bid him good night as I headed towards my room.

So Random Man lurks in the gym now, and slips himself into the conversation just as I am saying goodbye to Kindly Older Man and making to leave.

“So you’re from what part of Philly?” He asks.

“Um, just south of the city, actually,” I offer. I grasp the door handle.

“Wait – um, so… My brother lives in Philly.” He asserts.

“Cool. What part?” I ask politely, if slightly impatiently.

“Hmm. The suburbs, I think.”

I get the door open. Kindly Older Man slips out. “Well, great, so have a good - ”

“Uh – wait!” Random, suddenly Nervous Man, commands me. “You were the girl I saw in the elevator last night?”


“Yes, that was me,” I assure him.

“So... Are you going to eat another frozen dinner tonight?”

Ah, the awkward segue.

“Yeah,” I say cheerily. “Love those Lean Cuisines!” (What the fuck am I doing?)

“Well, um, because I was thinking, maybe we could grab a bite to eat?” From Random to Nervous to Earnest.

“Oh,” I say, smiling kindly as I prepare to offer an oft used cliché for letting a dude down gently: “I don’t think so. I have to get up super early tomorrow. But thanks.” I smile again sympathetically (because I’m kind of an asshole), and turn to leave.

Oh, but we’re not done yet.

“Oh man, me too! I mean, I have to get up really early too. We don’t have to make it a late night.”

“Um, I don’t - ”

“Seriously, I’ll just work out here, then get showered, then we can go.”

From Random to Nervous to Earnest to Creepy. Time for the big guns.

“Yes, thank you, but I really have some work to do upstairs, plus I have to call my BOYFRIEND. But thanks.”

He is unfazed. “Are you sure? Because - ”

“Yes. But thanks.” Finally, confident that I have sufficiently thanked him for the offer, I remove myself from the gym and retreat to my room, though not before grabbing one of those delicious Lean Cuisines and marveling that life on the road certainly has its perils.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The one with all the lameness.

I only wish I had some pearls of wisdom to wax poetic about this afternoon, faithful readers, but alas, my weekend was loooong and muuuuuundane and at times quite painful.

I am suddenly this really lame yet completely lovable girl who misses her boyfriend terribly when he goes away for debauchery-filled bachelor party weekends.

And I did have good intentions for my alone time, and even created a list, y'all, of things I planned to do. Here is what I accomplished:

  • Got yelled at by irate cab driver who was horribly resentful that I forced him to drive to Queens.
  • Yelled back.
  • Did not tip cab driver and slammed door with all my force as I struggled to get my bags out of cab before he took off, tires screeching.
  • Apologized to boss, who was still on the other end of my cell, amused at the exchange.
  • Muttered, "I fucking hate New York."
  • Consumed 1.2 bottles of pinot noir.
  • Danced around gloriously messy apartment to Beyonce's "Deja vu."
  • Visited picturesque Astoria Park twice and ran (a bit) and hiked (a lot).
  • Got much-needed pedicure, complete with bright red toenails.
  • Ordered prints from Greece.
  • Neglected to pick up prints from Greece.
  • Ate three bites of delicious, low-fat mint chocolate chip ice cream.
  • In drunken stupor, placed ice cream in fridge overnight.
  • Refroze ice cream. Bad idea.
  • Shopped in SoHo.
  • Saw Little Miss Sunshine, and awwww.
  • Slept with cell phone clasped in hand.
  • Whined something fierce when J called at 1:30 AM on Friday night.
  • Answered trivia questions about J at 1:30 AM on Saturday night when friend of J called from bachelor party.
  • Got two out of three trivia questions wrong.
  • Watched four episodes of Sex and the City. Contemplated titling this post: "I couldn't help but wonder..."
  • Realized that I need to see boyfriend, at very least, once per week. Discovered going without could potentially bring out psycho hose beast within me.
  • Watched a reprehensible woman and her absurdly repugnant mother plan a wedding on Bridezillas. I'll never get that hour back.
  • Teleconferenced with Allie during Teen Choice Awards.
  • Had mixed feelings about K-Fed performance. Have definitely gone insane.

I remain hopeful that the upcoming week, and weekend, will restore my fabulousness and stimulate the creative juices. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I gotta know right now.

I just adore my boyfriend J. He's kind and caring and supportive and totally AWESOME. He didn't even make fun of me last Sunday evening when I tearfully recounted the Tale of the Wide-Eyed Boy at the Theater, a young lad of about twelve or thirteen who was completely excited about meeting the cast of Beauty and the Beast, and whom I looked at and felt my heart swell, for surely this child was special and kind and was probably picked on mercilessly at school. And I cried for this boy on Sunday night, like some sort of PMSing psycho hose beast. But J just nodded and listened and understood, and promised that our future son would never be bullied, even if he ended up taking ballet lessons or being completely into musical theater. You see? He humors me and makes me feel better. And he brings me flowers for no reason. And he cleans my apartment. And he doesn't yell when I break or spill things. I really couldn't ask for more.

So J and I always talk about THE FUTURE. In THE FUTURE we will live together, and get married, and have completely successful careers, and then we will have babies and drive minivans and be infinitely happy forever and ever and dance on our piles of money. Not even necessarily in that order (kidding, Mom!). We're not in a real rush, even though someone (friends, family, coworkers) inquires at least once a day if I am engaged? Or when do I think I'll be engaged? And it will be before Christmas, right? And when do I expect we'll start trying to have HomeValley and J juniors???


To sum up, I love J. And relax, everyone. It will happen. In THE FUTURE. Though I dare say, I think my darling sweetest sweetheart does have some causes for concern about the Imminent Move In Date to be Discussed in Another Post, most of which were brought to light this evening in a forty-minute telephone conversation:

Me: I haven't been feeling that great this week.

J: Oh no? Should I pretend I am you for a second? [Mimics HV voice]: That's it! We are making you a doctor's appointment this instant! Those symptoms are not normal!

Conclusions: I am a hypochondriac.

Me: I actually ate too much yesterday, alone in my hotel room with the minibar.

J: Oh man, you are totally going to be one of those wives who sits around all day and eats bon-bons [laughs].

Me: [seethes because I hate that stereotype that seemingly has no basis in reality] Of course, but when you get home from a long day at the office, I'll make sure I have your ice cold beer ready, and dinner on the table. No - we'll actually eat dinner in front of the television and only grunt at each other.

J: Yeah, well, we'll have to regulate the bad TV you watch.

Conclusions: I am extremely lazy. And watch too much Bridezillas and What Not to Wear.

J: Aw, babe, I do want to take care of you for the rest of my life, and it's great that we can split the tasks, you know? Well, except the sewing. And the ironing. And the... [trails off].

Conclusions: Should you think otherwise, he is busy listing skills I have never acquired.

Perhaps J should do some sort of Pro/Con list before making the leap? I advised him to sleep on it, and give me an answer in the morning.

P.S. The only I thing I do before 8 AM is obsessively edit blog entries and post them, or perhaps run. I may also answer a call from J, but then I truly only grunt at him. But I will not - no, cannot -answer calls from coworkers pre-shower. Why are they blowing up my phone?