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.