Circle of Friends

Dear Miss Manners,

Help! The politeness is out of control!

When my neighbor went to New York on business*, I took care of her cat and kittens. It’s hard to find a nicer task than playing with kittens, and I was glad to help out, especially since two of the kittens were going to be mine when they were ready to leave their mother.

Eventually, the day came to pick up my kittens. I brought my neighbor a gift to thank her for all the care and love she had given my kittens – all the kittens, really. She gave them a great start in life, and I was grateful. She also refused to let any of the adopting families help with the food bills, so I thought a nice gift was in order.

I gave her this lovely tea set and a pretty thank you card. She seemed to be delighted. Two days later, she turned up with a bottle of wine and a thank you card, thanking me for my “too generous” thank you gift and card. Yikes. Do I need to thank her for thanking me for thanking her? How can I break the cycle of politeness?

Politely yours,

Suzy

*She was staying at the Soho Grand when Kirsten Dunst was robbed, but she had nothing to do with it. I swear! Otherwise, I’d have the Balenciaga bag and she’d have the Marc Jacobs, instead of our usual Chico bags.

Lady In Waiting

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What else to do on the last morning of this winter but wait for the cable guy? Hopefully, he’ll be a little more efficient and a little less scary than this one.

I’m already bored, and it’s not quite 10 am. You know how I feel about boredom.

I wish I could tell my boss I’d be in sometime between 8 and 12 (or, even better, 10 and 2), and not have to call if I’m late or don’t bother to show up, as is often the perfidious way of cable guys. They have time to waste, and it’s all yours.

In other ennui-related news, I’m heading to Detroit in a couple of days. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not Detroit that’s boring – quite the opposite – but I’m going for another money manager interview marathon, and with my classic bad timing, I picked a day that my dear and amusing Kathleen is out of town, being dear and amusing elsewhere instead of with me. There’s always next time – and I’m pretty sure there will be a next time. Maybe not soon enough, though.

For now, I’d settle for the cable guy being here now.

Update:

Turns out I was actually waiting for Godot. No cable guy, Carrey-esque or otherwise, deigned to show up.

I called the cable company, who told me that my appointment was for Thursday the 20th. I pointed out that Thursday was the 22nd and that I would not have booked anything for Thursday, since I’m going to Detroit that day. I further pointed out that I had confirmed today’s appointment twice with them. They said Thursday was the best they could do (also, apparently, both the least and the most), and I asked, quite reasonably, if they guaranteed that someone would show up before noon on Thursday.

Of course, they said, there are no guarantees.

You Can’t Get There from Here

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The Empire State Building

Looks a little ominous, doesn’t it?

It looked that way to me, so I spent half a day trying to change my plane reservations to leave before the storm hit. The airline told me that they could change it for me, at a cost of $294, but if I waited until 24 hours before the plane left, I could do it on line for $40.

Seemed like an easy decision.

When the appointed time arrived, I tried to change the reservation on line, but couldn’t. Called tech support. They needed the credit card used to buy the tickets, which I didn’t have, since my boss bought them. Called him in Calfornia. Got number. Called tech support again with the number, only to be told that the reservation couldn’t be changed on line because it hadn’t been made on line.

He transferred me to an agent.

This time, it was $278 to change the ticket, and I was informed that the $40 was fiction. I could go to the airport two hours before an earlier flight, and if there’s room, get a seat on that flight for $50. I decided to just stay with what I had, even though I suspected there would be problems.

There were.

The snow, drifting down picturesquely outside, was causing panic and chaos inside. When I arrived at the gate, it looked a lot like that LIRR train at rush hour. Nowhere to sit, people hollering into their phones, a feeling that there could be a riot anytime. My flight wasn’t ever listed as delayed, but considering it left over four hours late, I think we can safely say without fear of contradiction that it was.

At least it wasn’t cancelled, the doom that awaited the passengers of two other flights, who immediately stampeded the lone airline employee at the desk. I think the only person who hated his job more than that guy that day was the one driving the Crime Scene Clean Up Services van I’d seen earlier that day. I didn’t get to read everything written on the side of the van, but I did see “Homicides, Suicides, Body Decomposition” before it sped off to make the world a cleaner place.

Adventures In Ology

Saw the cardiologist on Thursday. He had not received a copy of the ultrasound I had done, so couldn’t give me a diagnosis. But he did say that my heart skipping a beat or going fast isn’t a symptom of something really bad. I had the ultrasound done again, & will have to do the 48 hour heart monitor thing again on Jan 5 (happy new year!) since I’m now off the anti-depressants, which may have skewed it. So as usual: no answers, more tests. Why did I expect anything different?

The ologist’s office is located next to a hospital. Across from the hospital are a funeral home and a party supply place (The Balloon King!) – in the same building.

Tried to get a taxi in the pouring rain, to no avail. I did, however, have some guy pull over in his car, open the passenger door, and ask me if I wanted a ride. Sure! Drive me off somewhere and kill me! Why not? It was hard to persuade him that I wouldn’t consider his offer, whatever his motivation, and eventually, he gave up.

As I trudged damply homeward, somewhat unnerved by both the ology and the offer, I spotted a homeless-looking guy approaching, apparently talking to himself. I’m sorry to say that despite the season of goodwill toward men, I really wasn’t in the mood for a panhandling crazy at that point. He walked right up to me and demanded, “Are you afraid of me, princess?” I shot back, “Should I be?”, and he said no, then meandered off, swearing.

‘Tis the season.

When I checked my mail, I discovered, among other things, the keys to my old apartment were off the old ring. Now there’s just my house key, the keys to my post office box and gym locker, and my father’s dog’s ID tag on the new one. And notes from my sister in the change purse part.

I guess my heart finally caught up with my mind and I realized that I don’t live there anymore.

The Return

Wondering where I’ve been all this time? The answer is simple and dull: working and going to the doctor. Neither of these activities is sufficiently amusing for reportage as far as I’m concerned. I’m (not) doing it for your own good!

Really, I wonder why anyone wants their children to become doctors or lawyers. Given the fact that if your life has either doctors or lawyers in it, things are not going well, that means the public at large will either dread seeing your kids (at least professionally) or avoid it at all costs, and they will serve as the punchline for jokes as long as they stay in these undesirable professions.

But enough about them. Back to Me. For me, a week without doctors is like…well, someone else’s life. A very young someone else. The doctor of the week last week was the eye doctor. He horrified me by informing me that I have to get bifocals. Really, the grey poodle hair must be on the horizon. I can hear the beating of its wings. On the bright side, both he and the purveyor of the breathtakingly pricy old lady glasses* both thought I was 10 years younger than I actually am (thank you, Dermalogica!).

This week’s doctor is the cardiologist. Ologists in my opinion are not good. I’m not looking forward to the last doctor’s appointment of the year, though I’m hoping to actually get some answers. After all those years of school, why can’t they just tell you what’s wrong and how to fix it?

Early new year’s resolution: total doctor avoidance, other than necessary check-up and mammogram.

*Note to self: get better, or at least more entertaining addictions, instead of spending thousands on unenjoyable things such as anti-depressants (though I have broken that particular bad habit, it set me back plenty – at least financially) and bifocals.

More Songs About Buildings and Boobs

My friend and neighbor Charlie, who lives across the courtyard (and, more importantly, brought me the fabboo Venetian presents this summer) heard someone knocking at his door ’round midnight.

He opened it to reveal a woman he had never seen before, holding two cigarettes. She offered him one in return for using his computer, but alas, smoking is not one of his vices. Her alternate suggestion? “Want to see my boobs?” His civilized response: “That won’t be necessary.*”

It turned out that she is an (allegedly) former stripper that a girl in the building took on as a roommate out of desperation. Her boyfriend left her suddenly and she needed help with the rent. A couple of days ago, I saw (and heard) the two of them arguing in the courtyard, the roommate telling Boob Girl that she never wanted to come home and find homeless people in her livingroom ever again. This seemed to be quite a reasonable request to me, though not to BG, who expressed her opinion so loudly that someone thought police intervention was necessary. It probably was. Homeless person was ejected, and I haven’t seen BG since. This roommate thing seems to be somewhat problematic.

On the (thankfully) less wild side, Jeff, who also lives in the building, just got a new roommate. He already lives with his brother Aaron, and the new roommate’s name is, you guessed it, Aaron, which is so delightfully Newhart. “Hi, I’m Jeff, this is my roommate Aaron, and this is my other roommate Aaron.”

*This reminded me of when Dad and I were walking through the Tenderloin, favored hangout of hookers, and he was propositioned. He very politely said, “No, thank you very much” in his cultivated English voice, which made me laugh. He said, “There’s no point in being rude about it,” and walked on.

Silly

Now is the summer of our discontent….

A construction worker, talking on a payphone (how retro is that?):

“And that’s why this city drives me crazy. Honest to God!”

Two guys on bikes:

Guy One: “That’s the kind of bullshit I’ve had to work with here.”
Guy Two: “it’s all bullshit here.”

Maybe I should move.

I already have two summer-related stupidity injuries (Calamity Suzy did not stay in Florida):


  • A scrape on my left elbow. This was due to breezily informing a friend and hammock owner that I knew all about getting into and out of these summery contraptions. I may have gone so far as to boast that I had “skills”. The hammock promptly dumped me on the ground in a graceless heap to prove that I was just as wrong as I could be. That’s the “mock” part of the hammock. Yes, it mocked me for being such a ham.
  • A burn on the fingers of my right hand, incurred while attempting remove skewers of shrimp from my barbecue unassisted. I discovered that you really shouldn’t hold onto the barbecue with your bare hands (or fingers). Kids, don’t try this at home.

Warrior

At yoga class today, we were in warrior pose when the teacher asked me what warrior I was. I said, “Winston Churchill.”

He stared at me blankly – I guess a fat old guy with champagne in one hand and a cigar in the other isn’t his idea of a role model – and then walked away, saying, “Mine’s Xena.”

Hotel Life

Other than the four-tier dark chocolate fountain, which was girl-nip (I don’t think they would have been more excited by, or lined up as long for, Sex God du Jour – is it still suddenly single Brad Pitt? Or am I, as usual, behind the times and it’s someone else entirely?), the best thing at the party was all the waiters circulating with trays of delicacies. Not only were they always giving you shrimp and wine, they took away the empties and then brought you a fresh supply. Wouldn’t it be great to have that at your house? In the morning, they could circulate with croissants and fruit, then change to lunch things and dinner things, and of course, late-night snacks.

The only thing that would be better than that would be living at a very grand hotel. Eloise had the right idea (hmmm. Just noticed that I bear a startling resemblance to Eloise, what with the unruly, stick-straight hair and the pillowy tummy), and was lucky enough to live at the glorious Plaza before it closed. It is now being made into a travesty of itself, with all the rooms with the best views being made into condos, with the rest being hotel rooms available to the po’ folks who can’t afford the condos (or object to them on very solid philosophical and aesthetic grounds).

There are definite advantages to living in a hotel, number one being room service, which is one of my favorite things in the world. No dishes, ever, and if your plumbing acts up, just call the front desk. Daily maid service! On-site gym! Valet parking! They’ll take away your laundry and bring it back, all nice and clean and actually ironed.

And don’t forget the chocolate on the pillow at night.

Strippers & Showers

Yesterday, it was marigolds. Orange and variegated orange and red. Should I set a trap for the Secret Gardener? They probably don’t make Hav-A-Hearts that big, so I’d probably end up with a giant net &agrave la Gilligan’s Island with a screaming do-gooder inside who has instaneously turned into a do-badder. The curiosity is killing me, like the proverbial cat.

Still no hot water. The fact that my English grandfather used to have a cold bath every morning with the window open (and lived to be well into his 80’s) is not at all comforting. Neither is showering at the gym, especially after seeing that Seinfeld episode where George pees in the shower at the gym. Like I wasn’t already horrified by stepping into the damp, already used cubicle, trying not to think about bacteria and foreign hairs. Like showers weren’t already bad enough. I am longing for a warm, luscious, Lush-filled bath, the complete antithesis of my grandfather’s.

I’d even like to do the dishes…without having to boil water first. This is getting to be too much like camping. The only camp I’m even remotely interested in is the campy Batman kind. They really raised the camp ante on an episode I recently saw, with Julie Newmar (totally the best Catwoman) and famed stripper Gypsy Rose Lee (with all her clothes on, as a newspaper reporter), in the same episode.

After spending all that time in Florida, I belatedly learned that the only stripper school in the whole USA is located in Clearwater, just a short drive from where I was staying. Alas, and dang.

The Miss Exotic World pageant is being held on my birthday. How Suzy is that? Since I didn’t celebrate my birthday last year, I think I should celebrate it twice as much this year. Only 30 shopping days left! Think sparkly!

Surprises

None of the usual suspects admitted to being the Midnight Gardener, but his/her addiction seems to be, if you’ll pardon the pun, growing (as they so often do – just ask any devotee of say, serial killing, internet porn or eBay). The hydrangeas and lavender (French, as it turns out on closer inspection – oooh, l&agrave l&agrave!) have now been joined by red and pink geraniums. What’s next? I can hardly wait. I so rarely experience random acts of beauty.

On the other hand, there’s no hot water. At all. The building manager claims that it will be fixed tomorrow…or the next day. I actually had to shower at the gym. With all those other people. And then I had to take the bus to the doctor. That’s way too much public exposure (seems to be Monday punday around here) in one day. I’m going to hide in the house now and see if I can catch the Midnight Gardener. Maybe it will be roses this time!

Goodbye, Josephine

Well, it’s official. My life is completely Josephine-less. We lost our darling cat Jo in 1999 – as befitted a unique and beautiful person, she died young and tragically – and I have now sold my car Josephine, pictured above. Unlike Jo the cat, Jo the car is old (vintage 1966), but as you can see, both Jo’s are beautiful. In fact, I named the car for the cat, because it is the color of her eyes.

When I lost my parking space in the building next door, I looked for another one anywhere within a 12 block radius which was less than $300 a month, and failed. I couldn’t park Josephine on the street, because she has a soft top, the doors don’t really lock, and you could start her with a hairpin. It would be just asking for it (someone keyed the hood when I parked her in the Pier 39 garage. Human nature – you just gotta hate it). I only drove her on the weekends, anyway, so I brought her up to my brother’s in the country for a vacation.

That was three years ago, and in spite of keeping her under wraps over the rainy winters, the car cover wasn’t really enough to prevent the weather from damaging her. I couldn’t find a parking place in the city that wasn’t outrageously expensive or so far away that I’d have to either take public transit {*gasp* – to be avoided at all costs – it’s either walk or taxi for me, thank you} or a cab to get to it. The decision was clear, but facing up to it was hard.

As luck would have it, John has been friends since high school with a guy who is a total Mustang fan, and he agreed to buy Josephine and ship her to her new home. He will have the pleasure of restoring her to her original glory as well as driving her (in fair weather only, of course), and she won’t really be gone – I can still visit her. And in the meantime, I know she’s being loved and cherished.

But I’ll still miss her.

Boy Friends

Still have the headache. I’m going to have to try some of your very helpful suggestions (hee!) and/or stop by one of those scary herb stores in Chinatown for wing of bat or eye of newt. Maybe Shakespeare was onto something.

I had a call yesterday from my friend Paul. I haven’t seen him since we had dinner back in May. His life has been the usual: full of adventure, mostly good (including a new grandchild on the way), and it was great to catch up. He’s wintering in Florida this year, she said grandly, and invited us to come and stay with him. I just might take him up on it, ending my lifetime streak of never going to Florida. But I’m not going to Disney World, or Disney Land, or any other Disney-related place, whether I go to Florida or not.

So, as usual, it was great to catch up with him. And it got me thinking (so look out). I seem to have quite a lot of male friends. Only one is an ex-boyfriend*, and all the others have absolutely no taint of sex at all. There’s Paul. There’s Richard, who has been my friend since high school. There’s Adrian, an all-around great guy. There’s Randy, who used to be my boss (!), and who now lives near Chicago. He will be the first call I make after room service when I go to our conference in Chicago in mid-January (brrr). There’s Gary, who used to be a client, which makes it possibly even weirder that we remained friends after our professional relationship ended than staying friends with your former boss. There’s Raven, who used to be my sister’s boyfriend long ago. There’s Charles, who is also my jeweler. There’s Lance and Sal and Wade, who are admittedly gay, but boys and friends, nonetheless. And that doesn’t include miscellaneous friends of Dad’s, who have become my friends, too, over the years; or the friends I have through John and my brother, but who are also mine; or the husbands/boyfriends of girlfriends who have won me over in their own right (like Candi’s Brian); or the guys whose blogs I love to read and whose minds and wit I admire.

I wonder why I seem to have so many more male friends than female ones. I generally have a higher opinion of women than men, right or wrong, and feel there is a real strength in the bond between women. But if you look at the facts, I have more male friends, though I wouldn’t confide in the male friends in the same way I would the female ones. Maybe a girl just needs both. After all, when I can’t decide between two things, I just take them both. The “all of the above” category on tests was invented just for me, you know.

*Other than him, I wish there was some planet they could be sent to, so you never have to run into them or hear about them ever again. Especially if they’re hugely successful and much happier without you, when they should be in a hell of terrible, searing regret from losing you, even if you are no longer the slightest bit interested in them.

Right from wrong

Sometimes, it’s nice to be proved wrong.

Can you believe I said that? She who is always right?

After work on Friday, I went to MOMA, with the intention of seeing the exhibit of Lewis Carroll’s* photographs. On arriving at the museum, I discovered not only that my membership had lapsed (a problem which has been rectified), but that there is a wonderful artist I had never heard of before and whose works I had never seen, a problem also rectified on the same day.

Before I reveal the artist’s identity, I have a confession to make, which is: I have never been to Germany or Austria, and that those Germanic parts of the world don’t appeal to me in the slightest. A friend kindly pointed out to me recently, and with some truth, that this means that I am seeing these places only through the prism of others’ experiences, which is probably true, but still doesn’t have me reaching for the phone and calling Lufthansa.

Having said all that, I will now say this: Gerhard Richter, the subject of the MOMA exhibit, 40 Years of Painting, has a versatility and range I have never before witnessed in any artist ever. Most artists stay within a certain scale, big or small, and paint similar subjects (portraits; landscapes), and develop a style over the years that is uniquely his/her own. But Richter is equally successful at large and small scale, abstract paintings and paintings that look like artistically blurred photos. It amazed me to think that all of these paintings- rooms of them – were painted by the same man, and painted well.

To give you some idea, here are three examples:

One

Two

Three

And they were all painted in oil, on canvas. Amazing.

*Am I the only one not convinced that he was a raging pervert? That seemed to be the gist of most of the remarks I overheard while looking at the photos.

Personal Space

You know your mailman reads your postcards, don’t you? Yet I was surprised to actually catch one in the act yesterday on my way home. This federal employee was not in my own neighborhood, but a neighboring neighborhood, and was leaning casually against the postcard owner’s door, reading it while having a relaxing cigarette. Somehow, it seemed just a little beyond the casual glance while putting the postcard in the destination mailbox, which would be acceptable even to Miss Manners, I think.

It’s like how people seem to feel it’s perfectly acceptable to look at whatever is on your computer screen when they come over to talk to you, either in your office or in your home. Now, if I’m doing anything even remotely personal, such as email, or writing this blog – things I would never do on my employer’s time, just like a mailman would never take a smoke break and read other people’s mail on his employer’s time – I minimize that window and try to look productive (it helps to always have actual work going at the same time so the switch is fast & easy, the way I like nearly everything). Though my observation is that most people don’t, and that they don’t seem to mind other people checking out what’s on their computer screen.

So the question is: where and what are the personal boundaries?

Saturday Surprise

When the phone rings at my house before 7 in the morning, I can be reasonably sure that it’s a member of my family, since they know I am congenitally incapable of sleeping in, even with the best of intentions. Of course, I can’t know if it will be bad news (my younger sister calling me at 6:30 a.m. to tell me that Dad was dead) or good. Wouldn’t it be great if they could make a caller ID that told you it was bad news so you could just ignore it and pretend it isn’t happening? I wish my reality was as stringently edited as “Jaws” playing on the Family Channel. I never want to know the bad news.

Since those in charge of technology development consistently ignore what I want, like the bad news caller ID and teleportation to Europe, I have to just answer the phone and hope for the best. Today, it was my city-hatin’ brother Jonathan, unexpectedly in town and inviting me for breakfast across town with a bunch of people I had never met before.

So I got dressed and took a cab to the Lower Haight. The Haight is not a place I go to very often, so it was fun to hang out in someone else’s neighborhood for a change. It’s a funny thing: although I live in a city, I don’t often venture outside my neighborhood or the Financial District, where I work. Jonathan’s friend C lives in a converted brake shop in a block of lovely Victorian houses. His place has a huge hammock hanging from the industrial-sized skylight in the livingroom, which also features a bar, found art, and a fairly impressive record collection. Definitely a bachelor pad.

A couple of C’s friends, who live around the corner, joined us for breakfast at the euphoniously named Squat & Gobble, where we had fresh OJ and eggs scrambled with chicken apple sausage. We sat outside with Jonathan’s faithful dog Jed at our feet, whose usual patience and good manners were rewarded by her very own plate of sausage, as well as miscellaneous breakfast food items that were surplus to requirements. It was nice to hang out and laugh and talk, especially since I had such an exhausting and horrible week. No-one can be uncheered around Jed. Happiness is, as Charles Schulz so truly observed, a warm puppy. Even when she’s almost 9 years old. Maybe especially.

Animal etc.

Dichotomy du jour: the guy running up California Street this morning (and I do mean up – it’s one of the steeper hills in the city) with a cigarette in his mouth Bogart-style. Even though I saw him do it, I can still hardly believe that anyone can run up that vertiginous hill while smoking. I walk up it every day on my way home and by the time I get to the crest of the hill where the Fairmont is, if I had anyone to talk to I’d sound as breathless as Marilyn Monroe.

One of the fun things about working in the Financial District is that it is a favored place for Guide Dogs for the Blind to train guide dogs. This morning, they were unloading the dogs from their van and it was so hard not to pet them, especially the happy little yellow Lab puppies! Can you imagine that being your whole job: training and playing with guide dogs? I’d pay them to be able to do that.

They reminded me of the time I was with my father and we were taking the train to Guildford, Surrey, together (travelling by train is surely the most pleasant possible mode of transport). Dad assisted an elderly blind lady into the train, accompanied by her guide dog. She told us that she was going to visit her former guide dog, who had gotten too old to be her service dog but now lives with an old friend of the lady’s in the country. The lady said she loved her new dog, but was still deeply attached to her old dog, who had served her for almost 15 years!

One of the animal charities John and I support is the wonderful animal sanctuary in Utah, Best Friends. They put out a monthly newsletter that is exceptionally entertaining, informative, and as they put it “all the good news about animals”. We support many animal charities, but I can’t bear to read the tales of cruelty, neglect, and abandonment. So the news from Best Friends is always especially welcome. This month’s issue had an article on a parrot owned by Winston Churchill. Churchill was my father’s hero since he was a a boy, not surprising since Dad grew up in London during WWII (when I visited Dad’s parents in the Silver Jubilee summer of 1977, Dad’s wartime picture of Churchill was still pasted to the wall in their bomb shelter). I wish I could share this story with him:

“The owner of a parrot who was taught to swear by Winston Churchill is claiming that the parrot is the oldest bird in Britain. Charlie, a blue and gold macaw, is reported to be 103.

He seems to be getting a bit cantankerous in his old age, but still manages to whistle away happily. Although he had two owners before Churchill, his colorful use of language is said to spring directly from the late Prime Minister.”

If I live to be 103, I fully expect to be cantankerous and using colorful language!

Line dynamics

I will never understand line dynamics. Not the math kind, or the geometry kind, or the late unlamented dance craze now moldering wherever dance crazes du jour go before being recycled into yet another one, but why lines of people are the way they are.

When we were in line to get tickets for “Road to Perdition” on Saturday, there were only 4 or 5 people ahead of us in line, but it took nearly 15 minutes for us to get to the window, where we paid with exact change and were out of there in seconds. Why does it take other people 10 times as long to buy a movie ticket?

I have observed the same thing in post offices, grocery stores, and airports. In the post office, you wait in line while time seems to stop, as the people ahead of you mail large, untidily wrapped packages of what appear to be body parts to countries with unpronounceable names, and without the correct paperwork or actual money.

The use of actual money is so unusual in this country that I wonder if they aren’t going to do away with it altogether and just implant chips in our hands to access our bank accounts and credit cards. A couple of weeks ago, I let a guy go ahead of me in the express line at the grocery store, because he only had one item. He thanked me and said, “And I’m even going to pay cash.” I joked, “Isn’t that positively un-American?” His response: “I’m Canadian, so I think it’s OK.”

Honestly, though, non-Canadians seem to think nothing of writing checks for $5 or using their ATM card for amounts almost as small. And in the express line, too. If you know you’re going grocery shopping – and how many of us do so on an impulse? – get the money first. Or get it at the ATM with which nearly every store is equipped. Your fellow Americans will thank you. Or at least not openly glare at you while cursing you and generations of your family.

As for airports, even if I’m going to Europe for three weeks, I never have more than carry-on. Bring outfits you like, about 5, and mix and match, doing laundry where necessary. Wear the one good outfit, fit for going out to dinner or to the theater. Bonus: airline staff, on the ground and on the plane, tend to be nicer to you if you’re dressed well, even if you’re flying cattle class. By limiting your baggage to carry-on, it’s a faster check-in. I also always book my seat ahead, which not only makes sure I get what I want (my main goal in life), but also makes check-in faster. But even assuming you haven’t done these things, why does it seem to take so long for people to check in? I’m not talking post-9/11 security measures, I’m talking standing at the counter for 15 or 20 minutes before finally finishing the checking in process. What could possibly take so long? Enquiring minds want to know. Well, not really. I just don’t want you ahead of me in line.

Rainy Monday

When the alarm went off this morning, it was raining so hard that I almost called the whole day off on account of weather. But after a cup of coffee and a couple of chapters of The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle, the rain had decided to go and annoy someone else. The sky looked very confused, as if it, like me, was wondering where the hell this rain came from and why it took so long to go somewhere like Seattle, where it belongs. I hope my umbrella stays where it is, gathering dust, until Thanksgiving. After all, it’s practically summer.

Which means that the TV season is ending. Seems like just about every show has its season finale this week or last week, other than Sex & the City, which starts up again in July. It used to start on or near my birthday, but S-J Parker’s unscripted pregnancy seems to have thrown the show’s writers a curve. I wonder how they are going to handle it? They can’t have both Carrie and Miranda with babies. One baby is more than enough, and has often been proved to be too much. Look at Mad About You. Destroyed by Mabel.

I watched the season finale of Dawson’s Creek on Sunday morning. Yes, I realize that I am far too old to be watching the Creek, and that everyone else is over the Creek, but since I have no vices to speak of, I think I can be allowed this one. Anyway, Pacey was trying to talk to Audrey, his justifiably pissed-off girlfriend, before she got on a plane to go home to LA for the summer. So he bribed a security guard to let him use the PA system, and broadcast a heartfelt apology (which of course won her over). He ended his impassioned speech with an equally impassioned “Free the West Memphis Three!”, which I thought was so cool I almost woke John up to tell him about it.

If you aren’t familiar with this case, check out this site and/or watch the two documentary films, Paradise Lost and Paradise Lost 2: Revelations. Truly one of the worst miscarriages of justice in recent years, and especially frightening when you consider that these three young men are facing life in prison in two cases and death in the other simply for daring to be different in their intolerant, Bible-beating home town. So help if you can, and be thankful you don’t live somewhere like West Memphis. If you do, move. Now.