Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dead in the Water

Shortly after I posted this morning, I was informed that my 5:15 AM train to New Haven was, in fact, "dead in the water."

Was remarkably Zen-like about this development. I reasoned that a mechanical failure on land and track - even if it was the dreaded Trenton station - was far better than say, mechanical failure on air, in sky (and fuck you, US Air, again, irrationally).

So, I packed up my belongings and made travel magic, canceling my trains to Hartford and opting instead to rent a car in New Haven, which would get me to my meeting exactly on time, if the 7:20 AM from Trenton was exactly on time (yeah: it wasn't).

I maintained my sunny outlook through-out the morning; I was goddamn chipper. Positive energy obviously exuded from me, as strangers commenced chatting me up incessantly. First, the Indian man who works at the popcorn stand:

"Ooooooooooooh! You smell incredible! Give me your boyfriend number! I call him!"


Indian Popcorn Man spots ring on left finger. "Ah, he love you!"

Next, the tiny old woman knitting beside me on the platform bench.

"I was just looking at your shoes," she began cheerfully. "When I was much younger, I had an uncle who sent me those pointy shoes from Rome. No one had them here; but I couldn't wear them because all of my lady friends thought they were crazy!" Looks into distance, whimsically.

(This inspires me to tell the Tale of How HV and Fashion-Forward Friends Brought Capris to the States After Senior Trip to Rome. I tell that one a lot. But we totally rocked them first! Recognize.)

Where was I?

Ah, yes: Damien. I made a new friend today! He restructures companies for a living, and I deduced he was "The Bobs". (see: Office Space) He actually admitted he was Peter, and loathed his job but alas, had a young family to support and felt stuck.

I told him the secret (as am serene, Zen-Master) ; and assured him that as soon as he turned away from that negative self-talk, things would turn around for him. Hey - buck up, camper! (Who the hell do I think I am? But was in extraordinary, life-is-goddamn-beautiful mood.)

Damien very much appreciated my advice, and then told me he had a "prophecy" for me: I will marry J, move to the South, and have a brood of little boys with Southern drawls. (Me: Please - will they have blonde hair?!? Him: Yes. Yes they will.)

So, my day was weird and fruitful. On Acela bound for home. Must retire to the cafe bar now, where wine-drinking will commence.


The Irony

When I made plans to go to Hartford for an 11 AM meeting today, I opted to take the train. Less delays, I thought. Won't have to deal with nefarious US Air, I told myself. Will get loads of work done. Have not taken Amtrak since leaving New York, I reasoned.

Fuck. Me.

Is 5:58 AM. Have been up since 4:15 AM.

Am sitting in powerless Amtrak train in Trenton.

Need to connect in New Haven to get to Hartford.

Will miss connection.

Also: laptop battery? Dying.

Am tired. So, so tired.

I know it's illogical, but somehow, I blame US Air.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Mother's Helper

I spent the better part of this afternoon helping my mother prepare her room for her newest second grade class, starting next week. And man, if you have ever wondered why so many kids today have acute ADD, look no further than their elementary school classrooms. There is shit everywhere. I had trouble focusing; I can't imagine how the eight year-old set processes all the colors! And themes! And decorations! And books! And projects!

Is wonderful though. My mama is in her glory in that room, running around searching frantically for those tee-shirts, Melissa, where are those tee-shirts I made last year? I was sure I put them in this closet! I guess I will just have to make them again. Here, use these scissors to remove these rulers from the packaging, then put them in this basket. Oh, here are the tee-shirts! Now, assemble this box, see, I will put all of my posters in it...

She is high energy, my mama.

I reveled putting labels in the books, and sorting them into easy reads (Dr. Suess) and more challenging (Ramona Quimby!!!) novels. I can't wait to escape to this place again sometime soon to read these kids a story. The last time I visited, the children were so damn adorable. My mom proudly introduced me to them as her eldest child, then asked, "What are some of the differences you see in us?"

"She is tall!" They shouted. "You are short!"

"She has straight hair!" One mentioned. "You have poofy hair!"

"Now," my mother began, "Melissa lives in New York. Do you have any questions for her?"

Little girl raises hand in back.

"You're pretty," she gushed.

Seriously, how can you not love these goddamn kids?

And I am sure all the faculty at the school loved my mother today as - while they dutifully worked to prepare their classrooms - she popped in and introduced me to each and every person she knew.

"Hi Mr. Jennings! This is my daughter!" And on, and on. And each person shook my hand warmly and said, "Nice to meet you; your mother brags about you all the time."

Mom. But what twenty-seven year old doesn't need to hear that once in awhile?

Did I tell you that my mother went to college at the same time I did, while working full time? Did I tell you she finished just a year and a half after I did? Did I tell you that the entire family went to her graduation and screamed and cheered for her? (Brother Mike also sporadically belted "SHE'S A LADY!" Which just killed us every time.) Did I tell you that she was offered the first coveted position she applied for at our local elementary school? Did I tell you she cried in the lobby of the bank when she got the call, because she had, at age 49, finally realized a lifelong dream?

Yes. Am very proud of her too.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Mean Reds

Somebody's gotta case of the Mondays, and it's Tuesday evening.

I can't seem to shake the "mean reds" today, and thus I can't decide if my 5:45 Pilates class will elevate my mood, or further enrage me. That class is serious, y'all. It's all about working your "core" and that means abs, and then abs, and then sit down and lift your legs and hold them still in mid-air and squeeze those abs, and then mermaid pose! On most days I can smile as my abdominal muscles atrophy and I pant and grunt and groan during the most severe crunching. Today, I may kill the instructor (and I love her) when she inevitably shouts: "Come on! This is NOT yoga!"

Fuck, I am cranky.

And I shouldn't be, because lo! Finally, the wedding event gods have smiled upon us. We have an official date, all official-like: July 11, 2008.

'Tis awesome, as that will be the third (!) anniversary of the first time J and I just knew we were destined for coupledom (or, as J tells it, the day I "molested" him in his living room.). (So did not happen, for the record.) (But wouldn't that be a nice tidbit of information for the program?)

And the place? Is fabulous, in lovely Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. I wonder how that works with the wedding being in Spanish?

Meh. At this point, does anything really matter past "swim-up bar?"

I thought not.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Overheard in Philadelphia, Part II

Late last week I was hurrying from the Starbucks on Main Street in Manayunk to the Christie's Nails, in pursuit of an eyebrow waxing. My tunnel vision is so severe that I rarely see what's going on around me (excellent trait for a writer, in case you were wondering), but suddenly a young man clad in large jean shorts and a baseball cap caught my eye. He smiled at me for a moment.

Then he beckoned across the street. "Now that's something you don't want to see here," he said, shaking his head.

On a bench on the opposite side of the road, an Indian man sat with a turban on his head; arms crossed. He was dark-skinned and could very well have been Arabic.

Oversized Jeans looked expectantly at me, waiting for my reply. Oh, the things I should have said, had my brain been functioning! Had I not been caught off guard, making a beeline for a waxing!

Instead, I just smiled wanly and shook my head disapprovingly.

"What?" He asked, a bit defensively. "I'm an American!"

He said it. I didn't.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

HomeValley's Pop Culture Picks!

This past weekend was filled with much hosting, driving, movie-watching, cleaning, and reading. And also - much tambourine playing. Behold! HV's Pop Culture Picks of the Moment:

OK, I realize this movie is about three years old; I didn't realize I owned it (read: borrowed from someone years ago and never returned) until Ry, my sixteen year-old brother, came to stay with J and me for a few days. I rented 300 for the occasion, but no one was in a particularly Spartan-esque kind of mood on Friday after returning from the Brew Pub, where we feasted on cocktails, sushi, and chicken parm. (Why don't teens understand the joy of raw fish and avocado? Kids these days.)

We wanted funny, so I charged Ry with going through my DVD collection and choosing a film. And sadly, Harold and Kumar was the best he could do.

Admittedly, the dirty martini made me a bit sleepy, and I dozed off during some of the movie. I was awake for a hilarious dream sequence in which Kumar courts a gigantic bag of weed; and also, a scene in which a young woman shows her boobies, which is always v. comfortable when viewing with younger male siblings. *Shudders.*

The verdict: Meh. Definitely had its moments, and no doubt would have been fucking gut-busting when I was sixteen, a time when I most certainly did not engage in any illegal activity. No sir. Overall, a worthy film for having just arrived home from a night of drinking, though certainly not any other illegal activity. (P.S. Ry? Don't do drugs. Please? Thank you.)

(And also, I think Kumar is pretty hot. No?)

Continuing HomeValley Family Fun Weekend, I trekked to Jersey on Saturday to pick up l'il sisters Cat and Meg for a girls' lunch and an afternoon showing of Hairspray. My adorable sisters where characteristically underwhelmed, but I - having seen the musical twice now - found more reasons to adore it. It's delightful; complete with a deliciously evil Michelle Pfeiffer looking gorgeous as ever and a terrifying yet lovable John Travolta prancing about in drag. And, it's fucking funny. So funny that thirteen year-old Cat gaped incredulously at me several times during the film when I guffawed.

The verdict: Two words: Christopher. Walken. Go.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Housseini

There are certain books that have left an indelible mark on my soul; books that have remained with me for years, that have quite possibly concocted the person I am today. Judy Blume's Just As Long As We're Together tops my list, as does Go Ask Alice. As a young girl, I read and re-read these books countless times. I sought solace in them; they brought comfort when my adolescent world seemed out of control.

But in all my years, of all the books I've read, I can't now recount having been so moved by any one work of fiction. A Thousand Splendid Suns is Housseini's follow-up to The Kite Runner, a similarly harrowing tale set in modern day Afghanistan. The novel follows the lives of two women, Mariam and Laila, through the Soviet invasion until the devastating rise of the Taliban.

I can't do the prose justice here, nor the story of these two women who endure the incomprehensible. What I know is this: in my own life, I hadn't heard the world "Taliban" until Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I knew nothing about Afghanistan, and I suppose after the devastating attacks here, I assumed that the Taliban were Afghanistan. I knew nothing. The depiction of modern Afghani history through the fictional lives of Mariam and Laila was startling; I was stunned and overwhelmed by our shared humanity. Reading in bed each night, I felt outrage for what was happening there; and incredibly thankful for the privileged lives we enjoy here, the basic freedoms we take for granted each and every day (like traveling alone outside of our homes, without a male escort, or our entitlement to education).

I wept when I finished the book this weekend, and then I wiped my tears and asked J if we could have twin girls and name them Mariam and Laila? ("That would be a little weird.") And also, could we join the Peace Corps? ("Sure.") Help UN Refugees? ("Of course.")

The verdict: Please. Read.

At our tenth? Eleventh? trip here, the Panang Curry only gets better. This BYO is quaint and lovely and makes the best Thai food this side of the Schuylkill.
The verdict: Try it; you'll see.

And, finally:

J and I hadn't been to Flat Rock in years, so it was nice choice after dinner with friends Lauren and Eric. One martini into the evening, I suggested Jaegar bombs, which, I confirmed, are nasty.

The verdict: But then, a little cover band called Love Junk happened, and they handed yours truly a tambourine:

Which I played.

And played.

And also sang a little, through my playing.
I don't want to boast, but J called me the "best tambourine player ever."
I concurred.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Babies, Babies Everywhere

Congratulations are in order to friend and blog-reader P, who just yesterday was blessed with a baby girl, albeit a few weeks early. Hooray, P! Wishing you and your baby girl all the best.

Did you know that everyone is pregnant? At least most of the people I know, anyway. Except myself, and Grace. This morning, we attempt to name our future offspring via email:

From: Grace

To: HomeValley

I will have Helen and Grace.

From: HomeValley

To: Grace

Did you know that my new favorite boy's name is Henry? How cute will our little regal children be running around?? Henry, Helen, and Grace! Now that is classy.

From: Grace

To: HomeValley

I like Henry. Can I call him Hank after a few glasses of wine?

From: HomeValley

To: Grace

NO WAY. Well, as long as no one else hears and picks up on it. It will be like my mother forever protecting me from "Missy". I owe her a lot for that.

From: Grace

To: HomeValley

well then you cant call my daughter Nan.

From: HomeValley

To: Grace

Yeah right! I am totally calling her that.

From: Grace

To: HomeValley

Hank and Nan. Sounds like the Boxcar Children...

From: HomeValley

To: Grace

Like the Little Rascals. All we need is for you to have a Spanky.

From: Grace

To: HomeValley

too many jokes in my head right now

From: HomeValley

To: Grace

Today's life lesson:

"If a kid asks where rain comes from, I think a cute thing to tell him is "God is Crying." And if he asks why God is crying, I think another cute thing to tell him is, "Probably because of something you did." - Jack Handey

From: Grace

To: HomeValley

as I was raised on the motto that "Children should be seen and not heard." -Diz (father of Grace)

From: Grace

To HomeValley

We are going to be great mothers.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Popping In

The Internet has turned against me. I have been absent from this beloved forum for so long, it won't let me in anymore. I am writing this to myself via email. It has gotten that bad!

Am also trying to figure out why, since J and I cleaned out our closets on Sunday afternoon in The Great Bedroom Redecoration of '07, our second floor smells of dirty laundry, and our closet reeks of cat piss. Seriously: why?

And speaking of TGBRO07, yes, we did spruce up our sanctuary just a bit, thank you for asking. We've really taken it to the next level. I wanted serene, and oh, we went there. The room once had a dim orange glow to it; it's now been transformed into a blue and white halcyon oasis. And it is glorious, right down to the fake orchid that now adorns our night stand. And it only cost us considerably more than we planned on spending. Still. Glorious.

It was also the perfect time to survey everything in our drawers and closets, and determine which items were Salvation Army-bound. (Didn't I just do this?) Ladies: a moment of silence for the two errant canvas Coach totes that were chucked into the big black trash bag unceremoniously. Yes, they were both nearly 4 years old, and neither had aged well. If only I could have done something, anything, to save them from this fate! But alas, a spot treatment stain remover did not work; and of course there was no way to patch the leather that had been scraped away through years of abuse. Still. It hurt. Take care of your Coach, will you?

In travel news, I wrote a long, eloquent post on paper (!!) last week upon my arrival at the Columbia airport in South Carolina. It was quite clever actually; I discussed how trying it is to travel most of the time, until you realize how many wonderfully beautiful and quirky people you can meet in an airport bar, like a chemist who recently discovered the reason why there is so much nitrogen in the soil, y'all! A scientific breakthrough that warranted me giving him my last quesadilla, because hey! It may seem banal, but I have discovered nothing lately. (Well, unless you count unearthing this wretched cat piss odor out of our perfectly-arranged wardrobe?) So, I wrote until my hand cramped and then it was 197 degrees in Columbia; and I decided it was much easier to drink pinot noir to combat the heat, and not post; and then I was so busy the rest of the week that I had no time to write; am lazy, procrastinating simpleton, etc.

In Big Party news, there may be a destination for the Event J and I will be hosting next July. More to come on that when the details have been sorted.

In I Didn't Realize HomeValley Was That Nerdy news, not only do I have a "Currently Reading" document in my files here (which lists all the books that I have read since 2004), but I also just discovered a list entitled: "Books I Must Read". Heh. Am lovable, and also well-read.

Finally, please, see the film Once. For your own good.

More to come, friends.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

I Still Miss Someone (or City)

Spent lovely day in Manhattan yesterday, mostly working from my hotel room on 92nd and 1st, instead of trekking to our Manhattan office, way downtown at Broadway and Wall. Had dinner plans with Vanessa, but asked her to kindly meet me at Coach in Rockefeller first, because I was a woman with a bonus who wasn't afraid to spend it!

Alas, I was afraid to spend it. Damn you, J! Now I am acting all kinds of sensible. Behold, the bag I did not purchase:


Over the most expensive glasses of Pinot Noir evah, Vanessa and I chatted the night away. In celebrity sighting news, V recently dined next to Tom Brady and Gisele at a quaint West Village Italian eatery. The word? They are the tallest people she has seen ("like giants!"); Tommy wore a leather jacket that he never removed, despite the oppressive heat; and Gisele is positively gorgeous sans make-up. Oh, and they made out the entire time. Fabulous.
I took the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan yesterday, something I haven't done in years; and impossibly, the views are even more stunning than I remember them. My alma mater, Pace U, lies at the base of the bridge downtown, and even that looked positively gorgeous yesterday in the bright sun. Immediately emailed J upon arriving at the Courtyard Marriott and told him that not only should we move back to New York, but we should probably just live underneath the Brooklyn Bridge.
Of course, during my hellacious commute this morning (10 blocks in sweltering heat to 86th and Lex, approximately 1 billion people clamoring to get on the 6 train, transfering to the 4 train at Union Square, all while lugging a giant computer bag and sweating profusely), I marveled that there was nothing quite like having a home office.
Unless perhaps my office was on the Brooklyn Bridge?