God, I Hate Flying

An air travel rant. Cliché, I know…

There’s a reason it’s been twelve years since I’ve travelled by plane for something that was purely a pleasure trip. No matter how hard you try and how far in advance you plan, it is nearly impossible not to get fucked (hard and without lube) when using those little sardine cans in the sky. It’s absolutely nothing I’d ever do voluntarily, and for the past decade or more, it’s been something I only do because of relatives who live on the other end of the country–first mine, now Mark‘s. The thought of taking a “fun” trip to someplace that’s only realistically accesible by plane has pretty much  evaporated for me over the years. I couldn’t imagine getting on a plane if I actually had a choice.

I woke up at 3:30, after managing to get about two hours sleep, to make a 6:20 flight with my mom that was booked two months ago, so we could get decent seats. Upon waking, I immediately learned we’d been re-booked on a flight leaving three hours later, and arriving four hours later. Aside from the special excitement of an extra hour in the Atlanta airport, there were, of course,  only middle seats left on the new flight. This is unpleasant news for most people. For someone of my size (and increasing level of claustrophobia), it almost inspires panic attacks. Seriously. I haven’t been able to get back to sleep thinking about it; I feel my chest tightening up and my heart pounding, and I even considered scrapping the whole trip for a second or two. This is one of my nightmares. That’s why I book so fair in advance; so I can avoid this scenario.

Yes, I understand that I don’t fly often and that frustrations like this are an everyday occurrence for people who do–like my poor husband, who has spent many nights in airports in the past few years. But that’s sort of the point. I would fly considerably more if it weren’t such a gut-wrenchingly miserable experience, and if there were some viable option between first class and hell.

Or if they at least provided lube…

New Stuff. Sort Of.

Our front porch has a new column. Actually, it’s a restoration of an old column that disappeared sometime during the 45-year history of our house. Yes, the house is old enough that I’m speaking in terms of “restoration”.

And my mom has a new Hyundai. Which means that I’ll soon be inheriting her six-year-old, very low-mileage Buick. Which means that our garage will now house a Buick and an Oldsmobile. Which means that Mark and I are well on the way to being the old codgers we desperately so long to be.

Strangely enough, that six-year-old Buick will be the same age my 1991 Toyota was when I bought it, not to mention the same age my 1974 Firebird was when I bought it. I’m not a fan of brand new cars. I’ve only ever bought one, and it was the worst piece of shit I’ve ever owned.

Randomly Monday

It’s gonna be a really long, ugly week, so I’ll get these out of the way right now lest you not hear from me again for several days:

  • Is it really sad that I didn’t even realize the World Series was going on until I realized the DVR hadn’t recorded The Simpsons last night? And that I still don’t care?
  • Cool download via Scrubbles. This is surely one of the most bizarre albums ever recorded, featuring Hugo Montenegro (who wrote the theme from “I Dream of Jeannie” among other classics), an early Moog synthesizer, and covers of such groovy hits as “Dizzy”, “MacArthur Park”, and “Touch Me”, not to mention “My Way”. I remember it very well, as it may have been the first 8-track my parents ever owned. I think it came with one of my dad’s Buicks. For some reason, it sort of gives me visions of the cast of The Mothers-in-Law on acid.
  • Via my hubby: The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible. It’s a fundamentalist’s nightmare.
  • New site from the creator of Charlotte Eats: Charlotte Ads.
  • And don’t forget the newly remodeled Diners of the World, to which I may even be contributing soon.

Back to the grindstone…

Advice Column

The title refers to the fact that I’m looking for it, not providing it.

Mom and Her Computer:

The first question has to do with my mom. She’s had a computer for about eight years.  She’s actually become increasingly less adept at using it during this time. I’m talking about basic things, like being able to create a word processing document and then save it to a specific location on her hard drive and find it again later. My mom basically does not know what an application is nor how a hard drive is arranged.  The concept of highlighting items with her mouse and editing or moving them largely eludes her.

Early on, she learned how to use AOL  (to some extent) and that’s about it. She has no grasp of the basics. None. Now that she no longer has AOL as a standalone application, she doesn’t really even seem to know how to check her email; she has weeks worth of unopened messages every time I visit. I tell her how to look at them. I come back the next week, and she’s surprised when I mention that those same messages are still unread. And it’s getting worse and worse.

This is not just a case of my being anoyed at having to provide occasional tech support to get her out of a jam, which I’d gladly do. No, I’m questioning whether or not my mom has any business even using computer at this point. I’m not sure that she really can learn what she needs to know, but even if she could, I’m not sure who could teach it to her. My mom is an intelligent woman, and she actually worked with computers in the 1970s and 1980s, long before most of the rest of us, but she learned a certain set of tasks with no background context, and I think it’s too late for her to recover from that.

It’s really causing problems for her. She gets so incredibly frustrated–often to the point of tears–and that, of course, gets me frustrated and stressed as well. Frankly, I don’t think she needs that extra stress in her life, and I’m pretty sure I don’t either. The computer was supposed to be fun for her. That’s obviously not how it’s working out.

I understand that there’s more to it than meets the eye. She doesn’t want to give it up because doing so would mean admitting that her abilities are getting more limited as she ages (although I’m 95% certain something like dementia is not an issue at this time). My mom is already depressed, I know, perhaps even clinically depressed, so maybe it’s good that she keeps trying. But it’s hard to watch her, and hard to take answering the same questions over and over again and never seeing any progress.

Has anyone dealt with a similar situation? How do I tactfully suggest that the computer may be doing her more harm than good and that it’s sometimes even making me dread visiting? I’d like to spend the remaining  years talking to my parents, not getting annoyed by a piece of technology.


I recently discovered that someone I’m working very closely with on a project is also of a somewhat activist bent on the issue of “preserving” marriage (yes, we all understand what that code word means). This is someone I pretty much have to work with for the next few months, and I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to react the next time I see her.  We haven’t really discussed our personal lives all that much, and I’m not even sure if she realizes I’m one of those “radical agenda-carrying homosexuals”, although it’s certainly no secret and not something I’ve hidden either. I just can’t remember if it’s come up in the conversation; I thought I’d mentioned my husband in passing at some point, just as she has, but I’m not sure. We’re not exactly “chummy”, although we get along fine.

I can deal with people I disagree with, which is good, since this would include most of the population. But it’s hard not to take this particular issue personally, rather like it would be difficult for an African-American  to work with an avowed and vocal segregationist. We’re at the same point on the organizational chart, so it’s not a supervisor/subordinate issue, and it’s also not like the Agnes incident, because Agnes was nuts, and that involved a disposable part-time job anyway. Any thoughts on how to avoid letting this affect my work while  still maintaining my principles?


I hate lawyers.

I don’t, really.  I have in-laws and friends who are lawyers, and I don’t hate them. I guess what I really hate is the sort of institutionalized bureaucracy and down right idiocy to which some lawyers are more prone than are members of the general public. Like today, for example, when I had to drive to Reidsville to pick up a personal item from my uncle’s estate. The firm told me it was much too large to ship, so I had to come pick it up and sign some papers while I was there. I made an appointment for 1:00 today, because that was the least objectionable time for me this week.

Of course they “lost” the appointment, and when I called to say I’d be about five minutes late dute to misjudging my travel time, they asked if I could come later this afternoon instead. I informed them that I’d already driven an hour to get to Reidsville from Winston-Salem, and I had no intention of lurking around for a few hours with nothing to do but sit downtown and watch the rednecks stroll by. So they said I could come on in.

When I arrived, I saw that this “big” item was in a surprisingly small box that would’ve cost between five and seven bucks to ship to me.  The item itself was of minimal value. Thus, I wasted almost three hours, and between fifteen and twenty bucks in gas to complete a transaction that could have been handled for the price of seven dollars and two faxes. No wonder it’s taken fifteen months to settle this relatively simple estate if everything they do is this bloody convoluted. I shudder to think how many hours of this shit they’ll be billing for and how much of the final amount they’ll wind up with.

At Yum Yum

Yum Yum is this ice cream and hot dog joint in Greensboro. I grew up snacking there. In fact, most of Greensboro grew up snacking there; I think the place opened in 1906. Since it’s also located pretty much in the middle of UNCG, it draws a large and loyal crowd of varying ages.

Lately, my schedule has taken me there in the late afternoon, when the crowd tends to be older.  I was watching a couple this afternoon, a man of about 70, and his wife or girlfriend, who looked older but was probably about the same age. She looked very much like the stereotypical retired librarian, rather plain and shy and conservatively-dressed. I got the feeling she didn’t smile very often, and that she felt a little embarrassed about it any time she did. I got the impression that she didn’t get an awful lot of joy out of life anymore, but that going to Yum Yum and having a hot dog and a Cheerwine, followed by some ice cream, was probably one of the few things that completely filled her with happiness, even if only briefly.

I rather liked her, and I felt strangely protective of her, too. It struck me that if anyone were to do anything to cast any sort of shadow over her happy moment, I might have to hurt him. She deserved to enjoy every minute of her outing, and nothing was allowed to ruin it for her.

I’m not sure why I felt so attached to this woman. Maybe she made me think of my own mother, who really doesn’t resemble her in any way, but who seems increasingly sad and depressed herself lately. I wonder where or how (or if) she finds her own happy moments these days. I took her to Yum Yum one night a few weeks back, hoping I could help her find one.

I also wonder if I’ll be the same way later in life — if I’ll get to some dark point where my final days seem much closer than they do right now, and where I can’t find much to look forward to or get excited about myself. I really hope that if I do, Mark will occasionally take me out to Yum Yum and feed me ice cream and hot dogs. It makes the prospect of aging a lot less scary.

The Week

It’s been a week of insanity, complete with 18-hour workdays, augmented by homework and one big family gathering on Sunday. I’m pretty well worn out and not really ready to start the whole thing over again this morning. This week should be slightly calmer, though. I think.

A few weeks from now, when I’ve lost all brain function, someone please remind me of how all this extra stuff I’ve taken on this year is really good for my career, OK?

Photos from our annual “It’s the Weekend After Labor Day” cookout, held Sunday in the lovely subterranean 1968 Room of MurderingStream Estates:


It was six years ago today that the boy who had already moved into my life also moved into my home. Suddenly, it became our home, which was a pretty wonderful thing once we got all our stuff consolidated and all the boxes unpacked. And it’s been a pretty wonderful thing ever since, as well.

Right now, we don’t get to spend a lot of time together. Mark’s job has him in San Francisco more than he’s in Winston-Salem by a factor of something like three-to-one. That’s hard, especially for him, and maybe that’s why I find myself thinking of this particular anniversary so intently tonight. Of the three days we recognize as part of our “anniversary trilogy” (the others being the day we met and the day we got hitched at City Hall in 2004), we probably give this one the least attention. Yet it’s possibly the most important one of all in some ways, since it really sort of marks the specific moment when we started living our lives together.

Tonight, we’re three time zones apart, but I’m thinking of him, and remembering that day when we moved all his furniture into my already crowded hovel in San Francisco. I’m remembering dinner with his sister and brother-in-law at The Dead Fish (and developing a craving for scallops) and how completely worn out we were afterward. I’m pondering how nervous I was at the prospect of having my first “live-in”, but also how excited I was at the thought of waking up next to him every morning.

Tonight, we’re at opposite ends of the country, and I’ll be waking up alone tomorrow morning. But the thought that we’ll be together again, even if only for a few days, at the end of the week still gets me all giddy and excited. And it allows me, once again, to experience the anticipation of being able to do it every day again soon.

I love my boy, and I wouldn’t want to spend my life with anyone else. Heck, I wouldn’t even consider it.


Today would have been my grandmother’s 100th birthday.

The photo above is from about 1926, before she married my grandfather and gave birth to my mom and three aunts. I can’t help but think that photo pretty much defined my grandmother’s perception of herself for her whole life; she had a lot of that Scarlett O’Hara “belle of the ball” thing going on.

Grandmother (she did not liked to be called “Grandma” or, heaven forbid, “Granny”) was a generally very pleasant lady, and one people liked, despite her numerous quirks. She loved her children and grandchildren and was willing to fight for them and do what needed to be done, although to call her “selfless” would be a bit of a stretch. She sometimes tended toward passive aggression, and I’ve always wondered if she weren’t much better suited to the role of grandmother than to that of mother.

Other quirks included her propensity for painting upholstered furniture (and I mean the upholstery itself, not the wood trim), gluing lamps and other things to tables so they wouldn’t move, and asking her 12-year-old grandson change light switches without turning the breaker off. She was definitely a character, and not your typical sweet little old lady.

Easter Sunday, 1968.

She led a colorful life, marrying three times and divorcing twice, at a time when doing so was unheard of in the south. During the Depression, she worked in cotton mills and ran cafés that were probably better described as roadhouses (while living upstairs). She travelled quite a lot over the course of her life, crossing the country at least once, and the ocean more than once.

Until her death, she rented “light housekeeping rooms” in her house to single men who otherwse might have lived in fleabag hotels, a practice fairly common among a generation of widows in the south, but one she also practiced while married and raising her four daughters. Into the 1990s, her front door was never locked, so that her “roomers” could come and go as needed. She ran the place with something of an iron hand (no alcohol, no male or female visitors upstairs, etc.) and without fear, although her daughters were sometimes nervous about the arrangement as she got older.

72nd Birthday, 1980.

Her three-story house was enormous: 4084 square feet of heated area, says the county, and I’m guessing that doesn’t include the top level. I spent a lot of time there as a child, interacting with the roomers, placing newspaper ads for her and screening callers on the phone. I rummaged through her attic, and spent nights on her sleeper sofa. She loved “Sanford and Son” and “The Gong Show” and hated soap operas. Later, when I was in college and still living at home, I’d sometimes housesit for her, offering me much-needed independence and a place for doing things with other boys that Grandmother probably wouldn’t have approved of.

Independent as she may have seemed, she never learned to drive, a bit of “helplessness” she often used to her advantage when she was in her passive aggressive moods.

One day prior to her death, 1991.

Grandmother died in 1991, a few days after her 83rd birthday.

Cool photo

I was scanning some old photos today and I found this one. I just thought it was kind of cool, what with the reflection and the fact that it has that whole mid-1960s muted color pallette, like an ad in Life Magazine or a movie about suburban housewives.

I assume my dad took it with the trusty Instamatic. I’ll have to ask him.