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.