Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Ad Nonsense

You know, I love the Christmas season as much as the next person with a Christian background.  The sounds and smells of Christmas, the generosity and good will that is more evident at this time of year, and the thoughts of love and peace and spending time with your family.

What I don't like about Christmas?  The terrible, awful, no good 'Holiday' ads on TV and radio.   And this year, a new trend* is having people (or animated icons) badly singing a bad Christmas carol with all the words changed to shill their wares.  They completely ignore the spiritual meaning of Christmas, unless it really is all about Santa and boosting the economy.

As I write, there's an ad to the tune of Jingle Bells on TV.  Another ubiquitous one is the new store called "HM" or something which is SOOooooooo bad, to the tune of The 12 Days of Christmas, and then there's that Honda dealership with all the employees singing Fa-la-la-la-laaa.

a) Most of these ads have people intentionally singing off key and/or just plain bad.  It's actually a little painful.

b) Changing the words of a carol to sell your products is just... really not right.  Also sorta lame because it is SO overdone.  I can't wait to see the ad featuring "Amazing Grace"as Amazing Chase Manhattan VISA™ ...

c) These ads play every five minutes. The same ads.  Over and over.  ARGH!  Stop stop stop, you're making me crazy!

All of this is not only making me crazy, but it is impeding my ability to get into the Christmas Spirit.  And I've only got a few more days!

OH well.  Thank goodness there's a total lunar eclipse tonight.  I'll have to stay up for that.

Happy Winter Solstice, y'all!

*or maybe I'm just noticing it more thanks to the awful Quizno's cat commercial earlier in the year - actually made me boycott Quizno's until they stopped playing it.  I guess they thought it was cute. Note to Quizno's:  IT'S NOT CUTE!!!! IT'S HORRIBLE!!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Help

I read the wildly popular book "The Help" the other day.  It's really good!  It's written in three different voices: two black maids and a white writer from Jackson, MS in 1962-1963.  It's a fascinating time and an even more fascinating viewpoint, and it's written very well so I recommend it highly.

But I looked up at one point while reading and smirked to myself at the irony.  I was sitting in a bar (pool hall, actually, but not a skeezy type of pool hall), listening to rap music requested by the white patrons who were dancing and posing like the "gangstas" they wish they could be.  It's nearly forty -- ack, FIFTY --  years after the times written about in "The Help" and there are still racists and bigots, and minorities still have an unfair disadvantage in many ways -- but now it's "cool" for white kids to act black or Hispanic or anything other than the preppy "Biff" and "Muffy" ways the white kids acted in "The Help".

I just found it an interesting juxtaposition.  (I'm pretty sure Miss Hilly would not approve.)

And yes, I'm that weird girl at the bar, reading a book.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Basic Guidelines for Professional Sports

Last weekend, the Minnesota Vikings came to Washington, DC to play my Washington Redskins at Fedex Field and I overheard this conversation between my bartender friend (QOTJ), and a customer:

Customer:   "So, how do you feel about 'your boy' coming to town to play the Redskins?"
QOTJ:           "My boy?"
Customer:  "You know, Brett Favre, who you've been drooling over for years?"
QOTJ:          "Oh, I don't like him any more… he's kinda icky now."

I laughed at the conversation, but it got me thinking.  First, I agree that Brett Favre has gone down in my estimation because of his hijinks that were revealed this year (no pun intended).  He used to just seem like a pretty decent guy who could really play football.  And there was the whole "Something About Mary" thing (Favvrrvrrvr).  But now?  Skeezy.  Same with Tiger Woods.  And many, many other idiot superstar athletes.

I think Tiger Woods hit the nail on the head in his "apology" when he said basically that he thought he was better than everyone else and none of "that" (i.e. laws, ethics, humanity, decency) applied to him.  That  disgusts me. 

So, I started wondering why has there been such an epidemic of sex scandals, steroid scandals, criminal activity, and well, just general "better than thou" stupidity surrounding these so-called "role models"?

Not even to mention the fact that anyone could think it's a good idea to send pictures of their "junk" via email or text msg – sheesh!  First of all: EWwww! Second: Have they not learned that anything sent electronically will eventually end up on the Internet for public review?  (Again,  EWWWW!)

So, after all of this thinking, I have decided to give those poor overpaid prima donnas some help.

Gigs' Basic Guidelines for Professional Sports

Basic Truths
  1. Playing a game really well does not make you better than anyone.   Seriously.
  2. Money does not buy class.
  3. Money does not buy love.
  4. Money does not buy respect.
  5. All money buys is room, board, and stuff.
Basic Guidelines for Players
  1. Be thankful and humble that you are lucky enough to work in a business that pays you so much to play a game.
  2. Be gracious, and don't boast.  Quiet talent is always more appreciated than loud and flamboyant boasting.  (Example: Art Monk)
    • Corollary:  Do not go ballistic when you make a good play unless it puts points on the board or changes possession.  You are just doing your job, for Pete's sake!
  3. Be a team player.  If you play in a team sport, you are not any better than the team with which you play.  You might be the most talented player on your team, but you can't win the game without all the other players.
  4. Play fair, because cheaters suck.  If you want to be a better player, then train for it.  No steroids, no surreptitious filming, no pine tar, no blood doping or whatever the latest cheating mechanism is.
  5. Use your mind, open your heart, and help your fellow man.
  6. Respect your opponents.  They have trained just as much as you have for this competition.
  7. Be a part of your community.  The people in your community are the people who come to see you play and they are more likely remember you forever if they know who you are OFF the field too.  (Example: Darryl Green)
Basic Guidelines for Team Owners*
  1. You own the team, not the people.
  2. Owning a team does not make you an expert in the game.  That's why you hire coaches and staff.
  3. Hire the best people for the job, give them the resources they need to do it well, then let them do it.
  4. If you keep your employees happy, they will be more likely to respect you and do their best for you.
  5. You are responsible for keeping your customers (sometimes called "fans") happy and coming back.   They are not responsible to you.
*Can you tell I'm a Redskins fan?

Basic Guidelines for Parents
  1. Sports stars are NOT role models for your kids.  They are human, and sometimes they make mistakes.
  2. If your kid is ultra-talented, bring him/her up with the basic truths and guidelines above so they don't turn into the idiots in sports today.

Any additions?  

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    Wrap it up already!

    Um, I don't know if you noticed, but it's December now -- so I did not succeed in writing a post a day for November.  Ah well, I'm OK with that.  A lot happened in November!  I had three topics left:  1) A favourite movie (because of the British spelling, I'm wondering if this started as "Remember, remember, the 5th of November"…), 2) Something I could never tire of, and 3) Three great things that happened this month.

    OK, the movie is easy:  Henry V (Branagh version).  Or maybe Gladiator.  Oh no, wait, A Shadow of a Doubt – classic Hitchcock!  No… To Kill A Mockingbird.  Oooooo what about the Star Wars movies?  (Empire, of course, is the best).  Hmmm, "Empire" reminds me of Empire of the Sun – excellent Spielberg movie starring a very young Christian Bale.  Beautiful.  And then there are the kids movies – Toy Story, Wall-E, Harry Potter (not really kids movies anymore), all the Disney movies… sigh, maybe this wasn't so easy after all!  (Dang, I didn't even include Real Genius and Princess Bride!  Or The Usual Suspects or Pulp Fiction.   THE MUSICALS!!! Ohhhhh nooooo!

    I think maybe I have spent far too much time in darkened theatres…

    (It Happened One Night, The Philadelphia Story, Arsenic and Old Lace, Monty Python & the Holy Grail, Major League, The Thin Man, A Beautiful Mind, …)

    *shake*  OK, I'll stop now!

    Something I could never tire of is my snuggly kitty.  He snuggles up next to me on the couch when I'm on the laptop – and sometimes tries to sit between me and the laptop, which is a little difficult because he is 21 lbs.  When I go to sleep, I turn on my side and pat the bed and he curls up against me.  The other day he kept meowing all over the place and I couldn't figure out why because he had food, water, and a clean box.  And then I noticed that the temperature had dropped precipitously – which I hadn't realized because I was in sweats and wrapped in a blanket – and he was COLD!  So I pulled out another blanket and patted the couch next to me.  He jumped up, irritably, and I wrapped the fleece blanket around and over him, and he just snuggled right up next to me with his head on my lap.  It's about time I paid him back for all the love and snuggles he's given me!

    Calypso in the morning

    And last but not least: three great things that happened this month.

    1. My mom is OK.  A few weeks ago, she had a medical emergency and was put in the hospital. She went home from the hospital the next day and they are still trying to figure out why what happened happened, but… she's OK.  And my Dad is getting help for a different issue too, so things are looking up there.   And I'm going to drive down to visit them in December.  Yay!
    2. I got to spend time with my nephew.  Yes, I know, I've already talked about him a lot.  But I hadn't seen him since last Christmas!  I really enjoyed having a "date" with him to see the new Harry Potter movie at the Uptown (preceded by dinner at Spices, yum!).  He's so grown up now, even though he's still as much as kid as I am.  It's fun to see the world through the eyes of a 19-year-old again – especially when he's so much wiser than I was at that time in my life.
    3. "Hair" – The Musical.  My friend "M" was able to get amazing seats (Row J) for us to see "Hair" at the Kennedy Center.  It was much fun to have dinner and a show with my "Hoodlum" friends – and WHAT a show!  I did my best not to sing along, but then got to join my friends M&G on stage with the cast to sing (and dance) the finale "Let the Sun Shine".  It was brilliant, and I still feel the good vibes and happiness that enveloped me that night!
    From the Hair Online Archives

    Thus endeth my "November Postage".  Even though it's December.   heeheehee

    So, what's next?  This has been interesting experiment for me in a lot of ways.  I have enjoyed having a topic given to me to write about, but I also realized that I just didn't seem to have the time to write every day.  Or maybe I just didn't make the time.  Sometimes I didn't make the time because I was exhausted, but sometimes because there were just other things that were more important. 

    And occasionally, I had something else I wanted to write about – and sometimes I did, but sometimes I just wound it into the given topic for the day.  And sometimes I just waited.  Maybe that's a good thing, because now I've got some topics lined up for December now.  The bad thing about it is that some of those pieces I wrote in my head are… gone.  Must have been BRILLIANT, right? hahahaha

    All right, night night!

    p.s. Thanks to my sister for the pics of my nephew and parents!

    Saturday, November 27, 2010

    What Now?

    OK, so I was supposed to write on Day 25 about the contents of my purse, but I've already done that.

    The only differences are that I forgot to include the flashlight that I always carry, my "old" phone now works because my lost phone was returned and then stolen, and it's way too cold outside to include the fan…  SOOOO I'm skipping that day.

    And then Day 26, I was supposed to post a picture of some place I travelled.  Well, beentheredonethat too!

    Oh alright, I guess I could post my favoritest picture, which I took in Kitty Hawk a few years ago (MUST go back!):
    Sunrise through a Pier in Kitty Hawk, NC

    Or a Key West sunset
    Key West sunset

    Or just the Mall (hey, I "travelled" 10k that day!)
    Capitol Building 10/31/10, dawn

    But Day 27 was about me, a year ago.  What's most interesting to me is that a year ago is when I started this blog.  It was a weird time because I had to go to a funeral the day before Thanksgiving.  I haven't been the most regular of posters, but I have thoroughly enjoyed this journey and I've loved the feedback and it was kind of cool to become "famous" for a day when I got called out by DC Blogs *and* quoted on!

    And I think I'm getting the hang of it now, so yeah, I think I plan to continue writing -- whether you like it or not!  heeheehee

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010


    I skipped a couple of days, because I think that they are related to today's topic - so I'm going to bunch 'em up together.  The topics for Days 21, 22, and 24 are:  "Something that makes me rather happy", "Something that I miss", and "Something that means a lot to me". 

    The "something" that makes me rather happy should really be "someone" or "the people who" because I'd have to say it's my nieces and nephew.  I've been so happy to find that they have all grown up into amazing people.  They're intelligent, talented, kind, and they are funny.  They are all gorgeous and they just make me so happy to KNOW them, much less to be related to them!    And they like me! They really really like me! (Thank you, Sally Field! heehee)

    I really don't miss a lot of things (vs. people), but I think the thing I miss the most is playing my piano.  Yes, I live in an efficiency apartment and I have a piano (upright, natch).  Problem is that I haven't gotten it tuned since I moved in three years ago, and therefore have not played it at all since then.  I played a bit at my sister's house over Thanksgiving, but I would really love to spend a few hours with my music!  It's so relaxing and I think I might need the stress therapy!

    As for something that means a lot to me, I'd have to say my friends.  Being single (not by choice) has it's good side, but when you are experiencing the bad side, good friends are like gold.  It's hard sometimes to be alone, but good friends have a way of reminding you that you are not alone, and that can just lift you up in ways you never thought.  And MY friends make me laugh… a LOT.  I love that we have catch phrases that mean nothing to anyone else, but we can just say the words and bust out laughing.  Like "HOW DARE YOU!!!"  or "F*#$ me and grow a beard" or "Shepherd's Pie" or "Plural" (in a Scottish accent) or just pulling your lip when you talk.  And now I can't stop giggling…

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    Fifteen Facts about Me

    1.    I'm generally 5'2" but I have actually been measured at 5'3 1/8" at the doctor's office once.  That's when I found out that you are taller in the morning than at night because your back stretches when you sleep.  And then gravity pushes you back down into the ground all day.  But 5'2" rhymes better with "eyes of blue" so I just stay with that.  Speaking of…

    2.    Blue eyes, no matter what that girl at the Clinique counter says!  I tried green contacts once and they actually just turned my eyes bluer.  *sigh*

    3.    I've got a weird laugh. So weird that people routinely pick me out of a crowded room, just by my laugh. But they also tell me that they generally like my laugh, so it's not all bad, eh? :-)

    4.    I loooooove broccoli!  If possible, I would have broccoli with every meal.  I actually pack up zip-loc bags of broccoli spears to take to work so I can microwave them (90 secs) and have steamed broccoli.  Delicious!

    5.    I ran a marathon in 2003.  Well, I ran/walked the Baltimore Marathon in 2003 after training for six months with the AIDS Marathon Training Program.  I thought I was all cool and stuff because I was 40 and running a marathon and then found out that my running partner was 65.  Way to take the wind out of my sails, Jim!  BTW, we finished: 7 hours, 26 minutes.   But we finished!

    6.    I love to swim.  I don't actually remember learning how to swim, just being taught how to do the strokes correctly.  Maybe it's because I'm a Pisces, but I'm at my best and most relaxed in the water. 

    7.    I was engaged to be married once when I was 20.  But I got better!  Nuff said…

    8.    I am an American, born in a British colony in the south of China, in a Catholic hospital, raised by Southern Baptist Missionaries, and graduated from a Lutheran high school.  No wonder I'm messed up!

    9.    My natural hair color is probably gray.  I haven't seen it in 22 years, but I started turning gray when I was about 13.  

    10.    My house is such a wreck I don't even know where to start to clean it.  So I don't… yikes!

    11.    I don't have a car.  Haven't had a car since 2001.  Now, had I been smart enough to sell my car when I first thought of it, i.e. July 2001, I would have been OK.  But no, I waited until October and got virtually nothing for it. Dang terrorists...

    12.    It took me 17 years to finish my Bachelor's degree.  I wasn't going to school for seven of those years, and most of the last seven were taking one class a semester while I was working full-time and part-time.  I look back at those times and wonder, "Who WAS that person?  I'm far too lazy to be that person…"

    13.    I love to read everything written by an author, in order.  Maybe that's a bit OCD, but still – when I meet a new author, I like to read their first book, followed by their second, etc.  Most times it doesn't matter character development wise, but it's always fun to see the writer's progression as a writer.  The problem with this method is when an author dies or just stops writing.  What do I read next?!?

    14.   I believe that people should treat people the way they would want to be treated. If everyone did that, then the world would be a much better place.

    15.    When I was a kid, my favorite Barbie name was Elizabeth Donahue Megalopolis.  Doesn't it just roll trippingly off the tongue?

    Saturday, November 20, 2010

    Bo-hai Birthday

    I don't really remember much about my sixth birthday.  Not too surprising really, because I had the mumps.  And the measles.  And chicken pox.  I could be wrong about the diseases, but I know I had three different childhood diseases ALL on my birthday.  Yay. 

    Now see, birthdays were big events in my house.  You got to be "Queen for the Day" (unless of course, you were a boy) and you got to choose whatever your favorite dish would be for dinner, and you got a birthday party. All of the other missionary kids would come over and everyone would have a good time with games and cakes and kool-aid (or Ribena or lemon squash). And Mom would make me a pretty dress.

    The main things I remember about that birthday are:

    1) I was sick as a dog but parents sent their kids anyway so they could all catch whatever I had and get it over with

    2) I didn't feel connected to anyone in the party because I looked funny and I wasn't my normal sunny self

    3) I ended up sitting outside with the bo-hai man (shoemaker), because he would let me watch him fix shoes.  Yes, while all the kids in the neighborhood celebrated my birthday inside the walls of 28 Oxford, I sat outside the gate with a gnarled Chinese tradesman.

    And you know what?  I was happy as a clam...

    Friday, November 19, 2010

    A silly self-portrait

    Many years ago, I used to listen to the Don & Mike morning show on WAVA radio.  Those two guys were fun, silly, and the music they occasionally played was good.  They would have contests and trivia questions and people would call in to talk to them.  In order to get a better idea of the people with whom they were speaking, Don Geronimo would always ask people "What celebrity do you look like?"  I never thought I would call up to talk to them  -- although the Jeopardy! game (with "Alex Trebek Geronimo") was REALLY tempting! -- but I started thinking about this question.

    People would invariably say they were a cross between two people, usually two very attractive people.    So, I thought and thought and eventually came up with "A cross between Julia Roberts and …

    ... Anne Ramsey."

    I figure I'm somewhere in between! ;-)

    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    Day 18

    (Yep, still working through the Blog-A-Day sweepstakes!  According to them, "Day 18 = What I wore today" - and somehow I translated that in my brain to what happened on the 18th, and what was I wearing.  I think I need some mental help...)

    January 18th it was in the 50s – very unusual for a DC January – and it's a holiday.  I was able to walk around in jeans, a t-shirt, and a sweat jacket.  And of course my Timberlands to trudge through the snow… I went to a movie.  What movie?  I have no idea… ;-)

    February 18th – recuperating from a fabulous few days in New York City, where I attended the Westminster Kennel Club show, visited the Bronx Zoo and played a lot of Wii with Chats, her dad, kaspi, Max, and Magoo.  It was a lovely time but I was very glad I was able to work from home today, especially in the wake of Snowmageddon last week.  So, of course, I am wearing my jammies all day.  Snuggly and warm!  (And Happy Birthday sister o mine!)

    March 18th is my birthday – or rather, the aftermath of my birthday celebration.  Because I was born in Hong Kong, I start my birthday a little after 12:30pm on St. Patrick's Day (yes, I play that International Date Line to my advantage).  On a rainy day like this, I indulged my hangover and sleeeeeeeeeept, still wearing the whatever green I wore yesterday.

    April 18th – Daphne and I were scheduled to go pick up a dresser from a horse farm way out in Virginia, but Zipcar called me yesterday to tell me that the car had been in an accident and would not be available.  We rescheduled for next weekend, so I ended up enjoying Earth Day by bundling up in sweats and reading a book out in my park.

    May 18th is still dank and damp.  It feels like it's rained for months, but I am in a good mood.  Last week I went with higher level people in my company to Yonkers, NY for a meeting to begin a beautiful relationship with a very well known consumer quality magazine.  Today I was able to tell the rest of our team what we would be doing in our team meeting, so I dressed up a bit. 

    June 18th – Ahhhhhh Friday!  I love working 1/2 day Fridays! It's a gorgeous day before the regular summer weather starts in DC, you know, hazyhotandhumid chanceofthunderstormsintheafternoon. I love this weather, just before it turns ugly: warm enough to wear shorts, but not so hot you start sweating as soon as you walk out the door.

    Happy Birthday M & E!  July 18th, I went down to Virginia to celebrate my niece's 21st birthday.  While she and her friends groaned and moaned about their hangovers, I reminded them about hydrating while you dehydrate and kicked their butts playing Balderdash.  It was a good day!

    On August 18th I am in the middle of the first delivery of my major project so I am wearing black pants and some colory shirt.   Yes, "colory" is a word!  Isn't it?  OK, maybe not.  My brain hurts!!! Oh yeah, and it's raining.  Argh.

    September 18th  - Saturday, glorious weather and did I mention it's Saturday?  We released the first phase of Major Project yesterday and it's… yes, I'll say it again!  Saturday!  Maybe some day I'll get caught up on sleep.

    October 18th – I slept and worked from home today because I went to the Redskins/Colts game last night with my sister.  Tooo much fun, except for the ending.Weather news came out today indicating that not only did we have record-breaking snowstorms last winter, but the summer was the hottest on record too.  Maybe the Fall will be the most average temps ever? 

    November 18th – Ahhh my summer vacation finally begins! (And my mom is back home from the hospital, yay!)  I went to the new Russell Crowe movie sneak preview last night (The Next Three Days – slow to start, but really good!), gone to the doctor's and now I'm getting ready for an evening at the THEeah-tah.  Going to the Kennedy Center to see "Hair" – so what to wear?  Should I dress up in nice clothes?  Nope, I decide to go hippy-chick.  I'm in a tie-dye t-shirt, jeans, tennies, silver rings on every finger, silver feathers in my ears, tiny braids in my hair and glitter ("my own personal starshine" as someone said) on my face.  Let's get groovy people!

    And of course, everyone else was wearing nice clothes and I was the only one in "hippy chick chic" … oh well!  It was a blast!

    December 18th – I don't know where I'll be or what I'll be wearing.  It's very possible I will be on my way down to Georgia to stay with my parents for a week or so.  If so, I think I'll be wearing something very unusual for me:  jeans, t-shirt, and/or sweats.  If not… probably the same! LOL

    Wednesday, November 17, 2010


    So, I'm still catching up from the 16th and the next topic is actually somewhat appropriate: my family and myself.  Why?  Because I got a call at around 3:30am on the 16th to let me know that my mother was in the hospital.  They thought it was a stroke but they weren't sure.  They said she had a seizure and went into a coma, but she woke up in the hospital in Athens, GA so they were doing tests.  Turned out that she did NOT have a stroke and they still don't know why she had the seizure. 

    But this episode highlighted something about my family.  We are so used to living apart that when something happens, our first instinct is "how do we get there?"  We have grown up really spread out, but we are actually a really close family.

    One of my sisters lives in Charlotte and she and her husband were able to drive down to be with Mom and Dad in Georgia.  My brother was able to stop in with Dad on his way to training in SC, and his wife and oldest daughter went to see Mom in the hospital.

    My other sister and I felt somewhat helpless because we lived too far away to be much help.  (Plus the fact that my cell phone had gotten stolen that weekend, so my number didn't work and they couldn't reach me.  Thank goodness for that work cell phone!)  My mother was sent back home the next day, but apparently she will no longer be able to drive because of the seizures.  And she has been the driver for my parents for a few years!  So what are they going to do?

    I've got some time off in December, so I'm thinking about heading down there to stay with them for a couple of weeks.  But will that be enough?  I'm worried about my parents, so I'm thinking about something more long term.  Of course, I will have to see if it's an idea that will even fly with them.

    I'm the only kid in the family who is single, so I feel that I have a little more freedom to possibly move in with them.  My job is pretty flexible about telecommuting, although it might require a shift in job responsibilities.  What about my cat?  I think he's too big to carry on a plane, and who wants to go through the groping required to fly these days anyway?  But I can't leave him alone for two weeks, or even longer.  I have friends who could come check in on him, but two weeks?  I don't think *I* would last!

    Anyway - lots of questions, lot of serious thoughts, and now you know why I haven't been writing this last week.  (Well that plus "The Next Three Days" sneak preview, "Hair - The Musical" at the Kennedy Center and the new Harry Potter movie... twice. Oh, and the Redskins won on Sunday!  Woot!)

    Thanksgiving is in two days, and I'm really looking forward to sharing it with the Virginia contingent of the family (i.e. The Flying Cavini), and of course, the obligatory Harry Potter movie on Friday.  I have seven work days off for this vacation/holiday, and it is going tooooooooo fast.  I need more time to make decisions!  And to clean up my house!  And to sleep!

    Oh well, more next time...

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010


    I am SO far behind! This past week and has been pretty busy so I have not kept up with my Post-a-Day schedule. I'm not sure I'm going to catch up with everything, but I'll see what I can do. I'm on vacation right now so I don't have a lot else to do! LOL

    So - Day 16 was supposed to be "A celebrity I’m swooning over" so I'm going to talk about Russell Crowe.

    I've been a fan for a while now. Funny thing is that I saw a piece in Entertainment Weekly about "L.A. Confidential" (LAC) before it came out (1998?) – the fact that both the leads in this very American movie were Aussies – and I distinctly remember saying to myself, "Russell Crowe: he's amazing!" But for the life of me, I can't figure out what I'd seen him in prior to that movie. (And trust me, I've seen all of his older movies by now!)

    Anyway – he was fantastic as Bud White in LAC. He was supposed to play this huge burly cop with a heart of gold, but he really wasn't all that big, so he rented a teeny apartment to make himself feel bigger – and he just filled the screen in the movie. And you couldn't help but feel for him when he goes back to Lynn and asks "Why me?" I was intrigued by this guy.

    A few months later, I saw a trailer for a movie that captured my imagination:  a guy skating down a river and funny stuff happening and then I heard that voice...  So, it starred that Russell Crowe guy, along with a bunch of other fun actors.  When "Mystery, Alaska" came out, I caught a matinee and laughed my ass off.  It's a very silly, fun, romantic, hockey movie for adults, and I loved it!  And Mr. Crowe looked nothing, and I mean NOTHING like that guy in LAC!

    And then "The Insider" came out.  I was already intruiged by this actor, but this is the movie that made me a fan.  His performance was absolutely brilliant, and once again, he looked completely different from either of the characters he'd played in the past two movies.  He was nominated for an Academy Award and IMHO, he should've won.

    I started looking him up on the Internets and found out that he was a year younger than me, single, and really quite handsome.  I remember getting the Oscar issue of Entertainment Weekly which I started paging through as I answered the phone one day.  At that time, the Oscars were in March, so this issue came out around my birthday, and my friend Holly asked me what I wanted for my birthday.  I turned the page to this:

    And I said, "That!  I want THAT!"

    Strangely enough, Holly couldn't see what I was pointing at, probably because she was on the telephone in Philadelphia at the time, but…

    I started looking out for his older movies (to figure out which one I had seen before LAC), and ran across "Romper Stomper" and "The Sum of Us" – two great, and extremely different, Australian movies.  I learned about how invested he is in character development.  I liked him:  he's irreverent, does not suffer fools gladly, and he is extraordinarily talented.   He's my age, he's intelligent and he's handsome.  And he was  single!  It gave me hope.  Not that I would ever meet him (although I joked that he wasn't married because he hadn't met me yet... it was a JOKE!!), but he gave me hope that there were single, intelligent, handsome guys my age out there – something I had pretty much given up on.

    And then there was this ad after the Super Bowl that year:  It was really simple, but beautifully done.

    Ridley Scott directing Russell Crowe in the tale of the General who became a Slave, who became a Gladiator, who defied an Empire.  Whaaaaa-haaaat?  Visual master Ridley Scott who sometimes has problems with character development is teaming up with Russell Crowe, virtual master of character development?  Ooooooooooo!  Bouncy bouncy clap clap clap!  I was a teenage girl all over again!

    I waited four long months and then took the day off to watch the matinee show when "Gladiator" opened on May 5, 2000.  I had already planned to see it on Saturday with a friend, and Sunday, I just HAD to go see it at the Uptown.  And then I had to see it again during the week.  And the Uptown again on the weekend.  And so on and so on.

    Around August of that year, I found a fan-site for SKG Dreamworks which had a Gladiator discussion forum.  They had a room for each of the main stars, plus rooms for Roman History, discussions on the movie itself, and many other topics.  I found a new family!  And I've been chatting with many of the friends I met on that board, plus many other new friends, for the last ten years!

    In the last ten years, I've gone to LA to watch the Oscars (on TV!), I've gone to TOFOG (his band) concerts in Austin (twice) and New York, and I've seen just about every one of his movies.

    I actually took this pic!  I was sitting front row center. Awesome!
    Yes, Russell Crowe has some faults, just like any of us, but he still seems to be a regular guy, happily married to the love of his life (not me!  I'm sure you're all surprised), father of two gorgeous boys, making plans for a new tour in 2011, and currently doing all the press for his latest movie "The Next Three Days", and enjoying himself on Twitter.  He's still irreverent, he still has no use for fools, he's still handsome, and he is still amazingly talented.

    Yep, I'm still obsotted!

    p.s. All of these pics are courtesty of my friends at kaspinet

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    Miss Dependent

    Something I never leave the house without:  My cell phone.

    It has become my lifeline!  I now use my cell phone as my home phone, so that is not hyperbole.  I can access my email, get texts, make calls (what a concept!), and can check my bank balance.  I check my fantasy football stats, take pictures, look at videos, and can even read books!

    Well, I could.  That was before it got stolen on Friday night.  *sniffle*

    Yes, it was my fault.  I left it on the bar while I went to the Ladies' Room, but I do that quite often when I have friends still sitting at the bar.  But, apparently, my friend was checking his phone and although he thought it was "hinky" when a guy quickly moved his hand from the bar to his side like he was hiding something, he didn't really realize what was happening.  Until I returned and asked, "Hey, where's my phone?" 

    Dang it!  When did I get so dependent on my cell phone?

    Well, as I said, it was my own fault.  But, I was able to call Verizon and suspend the service AND, something I didn't realize was possible, I was able to put a password on it by remote!  Who knew?  And why hadn't I done that before?  Because I'm an idiot, that's why.

    And why didn't I get insurance for my phone, even after losing it a few months ago (and getting it back)?  Because I'm an idiot, that's why.

    Now – the lucky thing is that I have a work cell phone, so I'm not completely isolated.  But, it is a WORK phone, so I really can't use it the same way I used my old phone. 

    I still have my old LG enV handset which I could use until I get a new phone.  It's got all my contacts on it.  Well, the old ones anyway.   But it's not a smart phone like my Droid was.  So, I probably can't download books onto it or have all the shortcuts and apps that I was used to having.

    So, should I spend the money to get a new Droid or should I just go back to my old non-smart phone without all the bells and whistles? (Does that make it a dumb phone?  Idiot phone?) 

    It's a puzzlement.

    I just found out that a new Droid phone will be about $500+ so…. Hello LG enV!  It's been so long! lol 

     I don't get my "new every two" discount until 12/25/11, so I think I'll just wait a while on the new phone.   At least until my tax refund…

    Sunday, November 14, 2010

    Favorite Song

    I don't know if the Hallelujah Chorus is my favorite song, but it is RIGHT up there in the "fun song to sing" (or play) sweepstakes!  My sister posted a great video on Facebook today and it just makes me feel... ahhhhhhhhhhhhappy!

    It is not just the absolutely fabulous gloriousity of the music, but the concept of a "random act of culture" -  650+ people of all ages, types, and races took over a shopping mall and SANG their hearts out, accompanied by the Wanamaker Organ - the world's largest pipe organ!  Just wow!

    Can you imagine how much fun that must have been for unsuspecting Halloween shoppers? I know if my sisters and I had been shopping there that day, we would have joined in spontaneously because we all love the music and that's just the kind of people we are.  (Wait, you want us to sing?  Out loud?  In front of people?  OK!!!!) 

    Not surprising really, but there are several videos of this on YouTube.  I've chosen this one because it's not as jerky as what seems to be the "official" one.

    If you have the time and inclination, check out the other "Random Acts of Culture". It's cool!

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Three Blogs I Like

    According to the November to Remember list, today is when I'm supposed to tell you about three blogs that I can't get enough of.  Disregarding the grammar issues in that last sentence, I still had to think a bit on it because I don't have a lot of time during the work week to read blogs.  There are a few other great blogs that I check out about once a week, but I read the following three blogs just about every day.

    In no particular order:
    The Pioneer Woman
    Officially "confessions, cooking, photography, and home schooling" but truly a treasure trove of hilarious pictorials of Ree Drummond's family, home, and animals;  great stories of her life and travels on the road;  lots of her insecurities and strange sense of humor; and fun contests of trivia, photography, or just to win a Le Creuset french oven or Nikon camera.

    My favorite posts lately have been about her basset hound Charlie and the new cat "Kitty Kitty", but I also love how much she loves her family, including her brother Mike whose favorite curse words are "turkey damn butt hell ass!" and the lovely "Things I appreciate about my mom" volumes.  I love the fact that she has a tendency to break into Ethel Merman and that she is just as much of a goof as I am.

    All Hail the Pioneer Woman!


    *snicker snort*

    OK, I'm slightly biased on this one, but it just makes me SO proud!  My niece is a senior in college, learning to be an English teacher.  Her insights and beautiful way of expressing them have made me laugh, cry, and just beam with pride.  She inspired me to write a blog too, so I guess all I can say is "It's all your fault, Em!"

    I might have mentioned this one before… ;-)  This is the DC version of a blog that was started in NYC called "Gothamist" which focuses on "local news, events, food, and entertainment for an avid audience of young urbanites." I seriously don't know how I survived without DCist!  I read it in my Google reader, so I am alerted whenever there's a new post, and I must admit, I read almost every one!

    "Overheard in DC" and the commentariat are hilarious and I have learned so much about what goes on in the District.  And I love anything which elicits the response of "Sqweeee!" such as the current plethora of lion cubs at the National Zoo and I read the Morning Roundup and Go Home Already features every day.  DCist has figured out how to provide the news of the day with a heavy side of snarky.  RIGHT up my alley!

    Look for an "ist" near you - there are quite a few of them!


    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Peace Love Understanding

    According to the list of topics for every day in November, I'm supposed to write about something I crave.  After thinking about it and coming up with really lame cravings, I realized why I was having difficulty: it's Veterans Day.

    So, I decided to write about that instead and then I came up with something!  I crave peace.  I want a world without war.  I want people to stop screaming and maybe open their minds and come up with something that works for everyone.  Give a little, get a little.

    And most of all, I want all of our troops to come home safely.  I hate the fact that so many of our citizens are facing life and death situations, or getting maimed physically and emotionally.  I truly appreciate what they do for me and for all of us.

    Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13).

     So thank a veteran and wear your poppy in their honor.   Not just today though, remember them every day if you can!

    p.s.  I wrote this on Thursday 11/11, but did not post it until 11/14 because I'm an idiot. Sorry!

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Food for the soul

    For a while there in the mid-80s, I lived in Atlanta and would drive the 1.5 hours down to Eatonton almost every weekend to stay with my grandmother.  I did this initially because I had no money and no where else to go, but it eventually became one of my favorite things to do for several reasons.

    One was the piano.  My grandmother eventually willed that piano to me but she gave it to me when she moved to a smaller house.  I was able to have it picked up and moved to Maryland about a decade ago (thanks Mary Ethel!).  But at the time in Georgia, it was just a fantastic release for me to be able to spend hours and hours and hours just playing.  It was my stress relief, and boy, did I need it!  I played hymns and popular music, ragtime and Godspell, show tunes and classical compositions*.  And sometimes I'd sing along too. 

    After playing for what seemed the whole day long, I'd pack up and start back to the rest of the house and often stop short because my grandmother was sitting in the yellow satin high-backed chair, fast asleep with her head bobbing over her elbow.  She'd wakeup suddenly when she realized the music had stopped and then, inevitably, she'd ask, "Would you like something to eat?"

    For Saturday night, we would often have Brunswick stew and barbecue sandwiches (Georgia barbecue, i.e. pulled pork sandwiches).  Or maybe tomato soup and cheese sandwiches, but then we would have to have some vegetables as well.  Just a nice cozy Saturday night meal, followed by Wheel of Fortune and hopefully a movie.

    It was just the two of us, but for Sunday lunch, she would make a "small dinner" consisting of fried (or grilled when I said I was on a diet) chicken, pot roast, sometimes a pork dish, green beans (hand-shucked and boiled with fatback), home-made creamed corn, home-made mashed potatoes, gravy, home-made biscuits or just sliced bread if she didn't have time, sliced tomatoes (fresh from the garden), at least two types of pickles, maybe a congealed salad, and iced tea. 

    And she would eat like a bird.   So, I would either stuff myself silly, or we would pack all the left-overs up in used Cool-Whip containers or whatever else she had instead of Tupperware, and voila!  I had meals for the whole week.

    I also learned then that my tastes had changed since I was a kid, and she knew better than I did sometimes what I would really like.  Like once, when I said I didn't like tomatoes, she nearly lost it!  "Oh yes you do!  You just haven't had MY tomatoes!"

    Being properly admonished I said, oh alright I'll try a really small piece of that giant Beefsteak tomato you just picked from your garden and sliced up…  YUM!  Just a little salt or pepper and I ate the whole plate!  Of course that doesn't work on every body.  I know for a fact that my sister wouldn't be able to do that because she is allergic to tomatoes.  I'm very VERY glad that I am not!

    But other than the piano and the amazing food, I realized the most important part of why I really enjoyed going to visit Grandmother Smith:  she was an AMAZING story teller!    After lunch or dinner, we would delay clearing up and just sit at the table in her kitchen and she'd tell me stories about how she met "Mr. Ruil" (my grandfather) and how she and her sisters would get in so much trouble with her mama.    We would laugh and laugh – and I must admit, sometimes I was laughing because she got so tickled she couldn't even get the story out.  Her shoulders would pump up and down and this "hmph hmph hmph" sort of chuckle would escape from her closed lips.  She'd open her mouth to continue her story… but just couldn't!  It would set me off again, and that would set her off and… you get the picture.  Too much fun, and no alcohol necessary!

    I am so glad I had that time with my grandmother, and I'm eternally grateful to her for not only feeding my body, but for feeding my soul and reminding me that laughter is available even in the darkest of times.  And I'm glad I was able to give her something too.  She told me once that she had never had anyone play ragtime music in her house before, because it was "that evil drinking music".  She told me that she was so glad that I had played it because it was so much more beautiful than she could ever have imagined it to be.

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010


    Today I'm supposed to write about the last item I purchased.  Well, I got groceries last night, but really the last "fun" thing I purchased was an e-book.  I found out recently that I could download both the Kindle and Nook apps to my Droid cell phone - and I can buy books through or Barnes & Noble and read them on my cell phone, instead of having to buy an actual Kindle or Nook!  So, I downloaded Kindle and then remembered I had a $50 B&N gift card, so downloaded the Nook.  And bought a book!

    It's one of the latest Nora Roberts books, but what I found really fun is that I automatically got three free books with the download.  And they are: Pride and Prejudice (my favorite book), Dracula (which I've never read), Little Women (never read either - I know, shocking!), PLUS samples of two books I've never heard of:  American Assassin and The Lost Hero (Heroes of Olympus).

    Pretty cool!  Definitely a good way to introduce the classics to people who absolutely MUST have the latest techno gadget! ;-)

    You can download the classics for free on Kindle also.  I like it.  Now, I will never be stuck without reading material again!  Woohoo!

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    The city in which I live

    I love DC!

    As I mentioned in my post the other day, part of why I like DC is it reminds me of the Hong Kong in which I grew up:  height restriction on buildings, very cosmopolitan, and any kind of ethnic food you can imagine.  But there's more.  I like the fact that I can live here without a car, but that I can rent a car and drive an hour each way and find such amazing history among mountains, beaches, or just neighborhoods. 

    I've lived in the "DC Area" for about 24 years now, just over half of my life.  I think I probably moved about 100 times in my first 24 years!  But, I ran away screaming from Atlanta (I'm NOT a Southern girl) and found myself in "DC" because my sister lived in Virginia (Alexandria) and my best friend lived in Maryland (Rockville, but she grew up in Bethesda).  I lived in various Maryland locations (Rockville, Laurel, Bethesda) for about 20 years and then finally... FINALLY!  I moved into the actual District of Columbia.  Who knew what a difference there was?  I had loved living in Bethesda -- right on the Metro, 200+ restaurants within walking distance, 2 major movie theatres, walking/running trails, location location location.  But, then I moved into the city and became a DC resident.

    It is SO different, but it's really hard to explain.  One thing is that I now very rarely go out of the District, except to visit family.  What, you want me to drive somewhere?  I can't take a cab or the Metro?  Uh... no.   Too difficult. :-)

    Another is:  I didn't vote in the last election.  Why not?  Because it just. didn't. matter.  My rights are now being controlled by a man who was voted into Congress by the fine, upstanding citizens of... Utah?  Yeah, that makes sense!  I really think it is deplorable that American citizens who live in DC do not have voting representation in the House or the Senate.  Definitely taxation without representation, which I believe is what the original Tea Party was all about, right?

    Hmmmm, I think I might have to write another blog post about that...  ANYWAY, back to DC.

    Where did Glenn Beck and Jon Stewart/Steve Colbert have their rallies?  And could I have walked there?  (Yes... did I?  No)  Where did Top Chef have its latest season?  And did I see any of the contestants?  (No, but I watched the show and followed the comments on DCist, does that count?)  Where do they have the National Book Festival every year?  Yep, right here on our Mall!  (And btw, the "Mall" is not a shopping mall; it is "The Mall" where you will find museums, memorials, tourists and a lot of red, white, and blue popsicles.)

    DC is only four hours away from New York City, three hours from the beach (Ocean City), and about two hours away from the mountains.  We have a park in the middle of the city.  It is GORGEOUS here and I have proof!

    Taken during Snowmageddon - 02/07/2010

    The view from my office

    Taken on my walk to work from the Dupont Circle metro station
    And we have sports!  OK, only the Caps are doing anything good right now, but hey, the Redskins are better than they were last year! And the Nationals have some pretty good young guys in there, so hopefully they will be better next year!  We won't talk about the Wizards/Bullets...  (No bad vibes, only good thoughts, good thoughts...)

    Where was I?  OH yeah...

    DC is also an up-and-coming foodie place with some really excellent restaurants and people wanting to create more - and remember that ethnic food comment I made earlier?  You really can get pretty much anything you want to eat here, and it generally will not cost an arm and a leg.  Unless, you WANT to pay an arm and a leg, but that's just crazy talk.

    And yes, there is a lot of government business here, but there are also a whole bunch of non-profit organizations which aren't necessarily related to the government at all!  (Disclaimer: I work for one, largely because I couldn't stand being a government contractor any more.)  Yes, there's an over-abundance of lawyers, but not ALL of them are bad... (don't write to complain, some of my best friends are lawyers!)  One of the things I love about this area is that you also have the snarkiness of the Express headlines, City Paper, and to keep you sane.  How I survived without in my Google Reader, I just don't know!

    And that leads to one of the most unique things about DC:  you seem to get news by osmosis here.  Our local news is often national or international news, and it's EVERY WHERE. I love that.

    Yeah, I wasn't born and raised in DC, but I figure that I've been here for almost 24 years so I should be able to say I'm "from" here now.  No, I guess I can just say I'm "from the DC area" until I live in the District for 20 more years... :-)

    Sunday, November 7, 2010

    A song for the day

    Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life
    (Eric Idle - Monty Python)

    Always look on the bright side of life
    Always look on the bright side of life

    Some things in life are bad, they can really make you mad
    Other things just make you swear and curse
    When you're chewing on life's gristle, don't grumble give a whistle
    This will help things turn out for the best

    Always look on the bright side of life
    Always look on the right side of life

    If life seems jolly rotten, there's something you've forgotten
    And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing
    When you're feeling in the dumps, don't be silly, chumps
    Just purse your lips and whistle, that's the thing

    So, always look on the bright side of death
    Just before you draw your terminal breath

    Life's a piece of sh!t and when you look at it
    Life's a laugh and death's the joke, it's true
    You see, it's all a show, keep them laughing as you go
    Just remember the last laugh is on you

    Always look on the bright side of life
    And always look on the right side of life
    Always look on the bright side of life
    And always look on the right side of life

    Saturday, November 6, 2010

    Three favorite quotes

      In the words of Socrates, "I drank what?"  (Chris Knight, "Real Genius")

      I can resist anything, but temptation.  (Oscar Wilde)

      Come up and see me sometime!  Try Wednesday, it's amateur night!  (the incomparable Mae West)

    And because I'm an over-achiever:
      If you don't laugh, you die!* (me)

    *Closely related to:  "Cake or death?" by Eddie Izzard

    Home again, home again, jiggity jig!

    Five years ago was a pretty good year for me.  I had started planning to go back to Hong Kong in 2003 for my 40th birthday… and then SARS hit.  So, I decided that I would rather wait and NOT be in danger of dying!  In 2003, I had already saved enough frequent flyer miles to get an upgrade from economy class to business class on United Airlines, but I decided to make a more concerted effort and see if I could save enough for a *free* round-trip ticket.

    So, I got the UA credit card, I signed up to earn miles through my Safeway card, signed up my credit cards to earn miles by dining out, buying flowers online, etc.   I transferred balances from other cards to the UA card, and by the end of 2004, I had done it!  So, instead of having to pay $1,700 for the economy class ticket, I could use that on my hotels!  Yay!

    I started planning and decided that I would go to HK for 10-12 days in August.  Yes, I know, August is not really the best time weather-wise to be in HK, but… it would feel like home!  Hot, muggy, humid, with chance of typhoon or monsoon.  HOME! ;-)  It was the kind of weather where you are always soaked either from sweat or rain, and there was no real chance of getting dry.  Unless of course, you stayed inside in the A/C. ;-) 

    When I was growing up, one of the special things to do was to have High Tea at the Peninsula Hotel.  This hotel is THE hotel in Hong Kong – it's absolutely gorgeous, the service is impeccable, and it is really is a piece of Hong Kong history.  I had always told myself that when I grew up and was rich and famous, I would return to HK and stay at the Peninsula.  I would be picked up at the airport in a Rolls Royce, and live in the lap of luxury.  So, I got online to find out if it was possible… and it was!  Well, for two nights.  I booked a "spa package" which allowed me to be picked up at the new airport (on Laan Tau Island  ACK!) in a Rolls Royce (not a Silver Cloud, but still very very nice!), have breakfast and lunch on the Pool Terrace and get hour-long massages and facials, and the most painful shampoo I've ever received (poor girl put extra effort into the head massage portion – I felt like she was crushing my skull OUCH!), all on my first two days in HK.  My room was amazing, and I was right in downtown Tsim Sha Tsui (Jeem Sah Jui) so I could get to the Star Ferry, the Ocean Terminal, the #7 bus, and the Metro.  Perfect!

    Star Ferry heading to HK Island
    Since I couldn't afford more than two nights at the Peninsula, I looked around for other deals and found one immediately across the street from the Peninsula:  the Kowloon Hotel.  The room was TINY, especially compared to what I was coming from, but mine had everything I needed: a bed, a bathroom, a hot water pot, a TV, and a fridge.  I went to the Stop'N'Shop and stocked up on bottled water, soda, beer, and juices to fill up the fridge, and some ramen noodles for quick breakfast or snack.  I took to boiling water at night and letting it cool overnight so I could refill my water bottles.  So, call me cheap, but I had more important things to spend my money on!

    From my Kowloon Hotel base of operations, I was able to get a tour of the new campus of my old high school (HKIS), shop at Stanley Market, meet up with my friend Andy from high school (he now owns seven restaurants in HK), and revisit my old stomping grounds in Kowloon Tong.  What a great time!

    At the "first" waterfall
    I planned to relax on my last couple of nights in HK by staying at the Silvermine Beach Hotel on Laan Tau island.  I had a distant hope of being able to climb up "my mountain" to visit the Laan Tau Mountain Camp where I spent just about every summer of my life, but I didn't want to go alone and I had not been able to get a cell phone rental.  On the last day that I had time to do it, a woman came up to me at breakfast and asked if I knew anything about the hiking trails on the island… "As a matter of fact, I do!"

    Small world, she was from Bowie, MD!  Who could have predicted that I would meet a fellow Marylander (I lived in Bethesda at the time) in Hong Kong, on Laan Tau island, who wanted to go hiking?  As it turned out, she didn't listen to me about buying enough water and/or food for the trek so we only made it to the first waterfall, but at least I got to hike a PART of the trail!  I was a happy camper.

    The hotel was a very old hotel (I think my family had stayed there when I was LITTLE little), but just what I needed.  After the hustle and bustle of staying in downtown HK, I liked being able to relax a bit.  But, I still went back to HK on my last day to make all the remaining purchases. J  And I finally went back to Kowloon Tong. 

    Good ole Lion Rock!
    I think I had been afraid to go there because the rest of HK had changed soooooooooooooo much!  But I'm very glad that I finally went back to where I grew up.  I walked from the Kowloon Tong metro station, down Waterloo Road, to York Road, then over to Oxford and Hampshire Roads, and down by Essex Crescent.  None of the houses I knew were there anymore, but the new buildings were still low buildings with very few residents.  Probably exorbitantly expensive condos, but… the Asia and Dairy Farm  markets were still there!  The tennis courts and the big ole Hialeah (?) mansion were still there!  And of course, the Baptist Hospital, College (now University), and good ole KBC were there too.

    I was SO glad that I had been able to get back to Hong Kong!  My trip was wonderful, and it also changed me in some important ways.  For example, after I got settled in at the Peninsula on my first night, I sent an email to my family with the subject line: "I'm HOME!"  And when I returned to my apartment in Bethesda, MD after ten wonderful days and a very VERY long flight home, my first email to the family was titled, "I'm home!"

    Now that might not mean much to everyone, but to a third culture kid like myself, it was HUGE!  Ever since I left HK to go to college, I felt like I had no home anymore, especially in 1997 when HK went back to China.   My trip back to HK in 2005 reminded me that "you can't go home again", because life goes on when you're not there.  The HK in which I grew up was a lot like DC in a lot of ways:  height restrictions on the buildings, very cosmopolitan, and any kind of ethnic good you can imagine.  But now that they have moved the airport, there are no more height restrictions and HK has just BOOMED – and now it's more like Manhattan.  Which I love!  But it's not the same place. 

    And that's OK, because I'm not the same person. Hong Kong grew up, and so did I!

    Silvermine Bay at dawn, my last morning in HK
    I also learned that Business Class is the ONLY way to fly around the world!  hahahaha

    More pics from my trip here...

    Friday, November 5, 2010


    So I was supposed to write yesterday about a dear friend.  I started it, honest!  But then I kind of got bogged down.  Well, there was the work thing too, but that wasn't really it.

    I was having a hard time picking "my dearest friend".  What a hardship!  I have so many "dear" friends that it's difficult to figure out who is the dearest! LOL

    It's true – I've got a LOT of friends.  That's partly because I grew up overseas (Hong Kong) in a very transient place, and now I live in another very transient place.  I've got a lot of different "sets" of friends… my HK friends, my old college/Hoodlum friends, my old "Bob's" friends, my work friends, my Nanny's friends, my trivia buddies, my Aroma friends,  my RHR friends, my family friends, etc. etc. etc.   Some of these "sets" overlap in weird ways too, but it is a bit nice to have a lot of friends who don't necessarily even know each other!

    But, when it got down to it, I asked myself: "Who would you say is the one person on whom you can always count to be there, to make you feel better, to make you laugh?  Who will always have a piece of your heart?" 

    And I realized that that one person isn't here anymore.

    Hasn't been for about almost 27 years.

    And that's why I couldn't write.

    But… it's important to write about him, isn't it?  If it still hurts 27 years later, maybe writing about him will make it a little better.  So… let me introduce you to James.

    James moved to HK when he was about nine months old, shortly before I was born.  His dad and my dad were both surgeons, medical Southern Baptist missionaries.  My understanding is that Uncle Don (his dad) came to HK to work with my dad (who James called Uncle Lewis) in the Baptist Hospital (which my dad had just finished building).  As it turned out, their entire family became my family's best friends.  Aunt Mary and my mom got on like a house on fire, their oldest son was the same age as my brother, and I was between James and his little sister Donna. 

    I don't remember first meeting James (probably because I had barely been born) but there are SO many pictures of the two of us together as little little kids, I'm just imagining that we were best friends from birth!  I used to call him my "twin brother from another mother" (after the Dan Fogelberg/Tim Weisberg album of the similar name -- to which I was introduced by James, of course).

    James was hilarious.  He was very very smart and could use words like a paint brush.  I remember in elementary or maybe even in Jr. High school, he convinced his parents to let him open up an ice cream store… in their living room!  I, of course, was his willing assistant, and I think Donna, Paul, and maybe even Devra got into the act.  I used to go over to their house to spend the night, and it alternated somewhat between staying with Donna or James… but mostly James.  I remember magic shows and other entrepreneurial adventures, and still love the fact that his parents let us do them!

    And I remember hours and hours playing with James, Donna, Paul, and Devra creating towns with the Fisher-Price people, connecting them with the Matchbox tracks as highways… from James and Paul's room, all the way down the hall, turn left and all the way down to the living room and back. 

    I remember playing circus under the dining room table.  They had this great tablecloth that looked like a "Big Top" and we would while away the hours under there with James's imagination keeping us entertained.

    I remember one time when I was sleeping on the bottom bunk, and James jumped off the top bunk in the middle of the night.  I called to him but he didn't answer, so I followed him.  Down the hallway, down the stars, open the house door, down the driveway, and then he went out of the gate and closed it.  (I stayed INSIDE the gate!)   I heard him say something like "Oh crap!" as soon as the gate was locked, so I called him again and never heard such a grateful James.  Apparently, he had a bit of a sleep-walking problem! 

    I remember in Jr. High and High school, we would sit in the huge living room while James introduced me to Fusion Jazz on the family's quadraphonic stereo (I especially remember that they had reel-to-reel tape!) .  Or, we'd just listen and laugh our butts off to Bill Cosby.

    I remember visiting the family in Louisiana on one furlough – I think I must have been going into third grade – and they had two horses, a black one and a brown one.  Which James of course, had named "Bwack and Bwown Booty".  I sat behind him on "Bwown Booty" and laughed and laughed!

    We had both started school at Kowloon Junior School, but he was a year ahead of me.  Then his family moved to the US for a furlough and they put him back a year because he was too young for the American system.  As I mentioned, we visited them in the states a few years later, and then they went back to HK and we stayed in the US.

    When they returned to HK, James went back into the British system at KJS and then KGV (King George the 5th).  I came back for 5th grade and was sent to Beacon Hill School so I didn't get to see James at school at all.  So, I would head over to Essex Crescent nearly every day instead!

    I started going to the American school (Hong Kong International School – HKIS) in 7th grade, and I believe James's family went back to the States while I was in 8th grade.  When they came back, James joined me at HKIS and we were in the same grade… and in some of the same classes.  That was perfect for me!  We had English (1st period) and Humanities (6th period) together, and along with my good friend Scott Morris, we put those teachers through hell!  But even they couldn't help laughing. 

    I lived in Atlanta in 10th grade, and we didn't really write all that much, but when I got back to HK, we were inseparable again.  His girlfriend Tracie wasn't really that excited about it at first… I left Atlanta the day after school ended, which was about a month before school ended in HK.  So, James convinced me to come to school every day and hang out on the Village Green, an area set up in the cafeteria for hanging out purposes.  It was great!  It was made up of four large blocks (about 6' by 15'?) covered in green indoor/outdoor carpet.  James, Steve I. and I would move them around into interesting shapes and sit in precarious positions reading, playing cards, or whatever.  And then Tracie (who I knew from 7th – 9th grade) pulled me aside and said, "He's MY boyfriend!"  To which I laughed and said, "Yeah, but he's my BROTHER!"   Then I explained using our last names, which when combined was the name of our dads' fairly well-known partnership at the time, and how I'd known James since birth, and she went "Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh!"

    James and I had 11th and 12th grade together at HKIS, and he was still the amazing, senstive, creative, wonderful guy I'd always known.  In 11th grade, my parents and I moved to an apartment on Nathan Road, which was no where near anybody else, and made me fairly depressed.  But James would go out of his way to walk me home and cheer me up (usually involving something like wearing his underwear (CLEAN!) on his heaed), so I wouldn't feel lonely.

    We moved back over to 30 Oxford Road, and for some reason, James started coming to stay with me after school.  We'd get home at about 4:30pm and I'd make cheese omelets.  We'd turn on Sesame Street (only show on the English channels at that time), or play piano and sing, or we'd joke about soccer, or something.   I think our upstairs neighbors had gotten the trampoline at that time (which had travelled from the Harvey's house (28 Oxford) to our old house on York Rd to the house on Essex Crescent and back), so sometimes we would sit out there and plot our take-over of the universe… no, not really.  We'd just talk.  About life, the universe, and everything.

    And then we went to college.

    I went to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, and he went to Baylor University in Waco, TX.  Once again, we didn't write that much, but we would call each other at least once a month.  Freshman year was hard on me,  and the worst was that I didn't get to see James at all that year.  Sophomore year was weird because I got mono for part of the year and didn't know about it until it was almost over.  (Messes a person up!)  But I was able to get back to HK during summer and hang out with the teenage Devra, which was fun!

     Junior year was the worst.  I sort of "unofficially" dropped out of school for one semester, and then officially dropped out the next when Vanderbilt put me on academic probation.  A lot of that time is a bit of a blur for me, because a LOT went on in my head then.  I went back to Vanderbilt the next Fall and thought I was doing well until my English prof failed me – even though I had aced every test and paper – because I didn't show up to class enough.   When I went to protest it, I found out he had gone on sabbatical so I had to wait a year.  Needless to say, the things coming out of my mouth at that time were NOT the most complimentary!

    I had also met a guy and gotten engaged.  I found out later that he was sleeping with a friend of mine and decided, "uh, this is NOT going to work!".  But at the time, I was just a bit of a basket case.   I was out of school, living with my boyfriend, and working part time at a sub sandwhich shop (along with my boyfriend).  I felt like I was having a meltdown – nothing was going right and I just didn't know how to change it back to the right path!

    And then one night, I was working at the Sub Base and I got a call from my brother.  James had killed himself.  He didn't know all the details, but he knew that I would want to know as soon as possible, because he knew how close we were.  I felt like I had been stabbed.  I was very lucky that my (very dear) friend Megan was there that night because I just could NOT take it all in!  I took over washing dishes in between phone calls and crying jags – and washing dishes surprisingly helped a lot.

    Megan called my boyfriend to come pick me up (I not only didn't have a car, but I didn't know how to drive), but he couldn't do it.  I found out later that the reason he couldn't do it was that he was tripping his brains out – this was AFTER he had told me he wouldn't do acid anymore, so it was just one more thing.  He also had the gall to give me crap for getting a guy he was not very fond of to drive me home.  Needless to say, every bit of my anger and grief and vituperative bile came out at him, and at all the other people tripping balls at my house.   (Also needless to say, we didn't stay together for much longer.)

    I went back to Hong Kong for a month to recuperate, and I'm sure my parents were very worried about me.  This was in 1984 and I suddenly realized why George Orwell picked that year – it was a horrible year!  But the absolute worst part was that James died because he didn't think anyone loved him.  I did!  And I still do.  And I always will.

    I learned something very important that year:  do not ever assume that your friends know that you love them.  Tell them! 

    OK, I'm going to stop crying and leave the office now…