Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Fire Brigade

Do you ever wish you were in a pornographic movie? Usually, the idea of rampant STDs and general revulsion I have for exceptionally hairy men would have me answering "no." But after the evening I've had, I'm starting to reconsider.
I came home from the gym and began the normal evening routine: opened the newest letter from a credit comapny demanding payment, swooned at the very large number printed on the letter, went into the kitchen to rummage for food, which proved difficult since the credit woes make me feel bad about grocery shopping (but not about beers on Friday and Saturday nights) and decided instead of eating noodles and olive oil I'd instead call the credit card company and ask them to lower my APR so I would have less interest charged to my account as I pawn my dignity and beg my friends to start hating me so I wouldn't have a reason to leave the house anymore.
You may be thinking, "hey, Amy, when does the sexy come in?" Cool your jets. As I am on hold (listening to Bryan Adams) with the fine people at Capital One, our fire alarm starts blaring. Our fire alarm isn't the pleasant First Alert "beepbeepbeep," it's a piercing howl, kind of like Tweety Bird stubbed it's toe after sucking on a helium balloon and screaming into a megaphone. "MEEEEEEEP," it howled. My roommates started searching for the fire alarm that was being so loud as I continued on hold, not really minding the noise since it was making it difficult for me to hear Bryan Adams crooning. I popped out of my room to see if any progress had been made, but Deb and Emily were still running from the front to the back of the apartment trying to figure it out. I closed the door to my room and tried to ignore the "MEEEEEEEP" but it was difficult. The alarm continued as James Taylor told me that I could call out his name and he'd come running (an ironic song choice for a credit card company: I get the impression they're about two late payments from coming to break my elbows). The alarm was still going when someone named Cully actually answered the phone, obviously confused by the noise happening in the background. I heard Deb cry out from the hallway of the building that all the alarms were going off, not just one. It took very little persuading on my part for my friend Cully to lower my APR by a few points, probably because he wanted to escape the piercing din that was coming through the phone. To Cully: thanks. If you'd be a dear and wipe out my balance while you're at it, that would be great.
I got off the phone and decided that my expertise in fire alarms would be useful. I walked to the third floor, and saw Deb teetering on a stepstool trying to press the button that would make the horrible noise stop.
"Do you have a stick or something that I can poke this with? Like a clothes hanger or something?"
"Ooh!" I cried, taking off down the stairs, "I have that rod I got at Ikea."
Deb tried poking the button on the alarm, but the din continued. I felt like a very loud bug was boring into my brain through my ears as Deb got down from the stool and the girls in apartment 3 called the fire department. I tried not to be nosy, but I couldn't help looking around the apartment that was mine, but totally different. The walls were white and the floors were dull and dirty.
"The fire department says this kind of thing happens all the time," said one of the girls from apartment 3, "and they'll be on their way."
In about five minutes, a fire truck rolled up to University Road, all the lights flashing and a throng of firemen stomping up our stairs. "Huh," I said, snapping a picture of the truck with my camera phone, "there are firemen in the building."
Then I had the epiphany that firemen lift heavy things for their jobs. They have muscles. They are concerned with the well-being of others. According to my mother, they make oodles of money and retire early. As the heavy footfalls of the fire brigade walked past my apartment, I checked my ponytail in the mirror and flung open the front door of my apartment, the odor of testosterone and firehouse chili calling me like a siren's song.
Oh. My. God. My friend Heather loves the cop/fireman type of men, and usually I just laugh at her. But damn. Every single guy who walked in the building was hot. Of course, most of them had wedding bands too (although a man named Robinson was hiding his ring finger from my prying eyes) but it was the most testosterone I'd experienced in the apartment at once. It was an orgy of man-hot. I prayed that they were here not just to service the fire alarm.
"Wow, that's really annoying," Robinson said.
"It's been going for about half an hour," I replied, hoping I didn't stink too much of gym and despiration.
"Half an hour?" Robinson repeated incredulously, smiling broadly.
"Yeah, well, it all comes with the territory of living in a crack den."
Robinson laughed, his brown eyes sparkling like the chrome on the truck outside. He thinks I'm funny! I thought.
The girl upstairs we call the Clydesdale stomped in from the basement, fuming about how happy she was to move out in September and the "MEEEEEP" mercifully ended. A new group of firemen, somehow even cuter than the first came in from the second truck that had pulled up.
"Did you come from somewhere else since you're all dressed in the gear?" Deb asked, just as happy to see handsome men standing in the hallway about twenty feet from our beds.
"Nah, we sleep like this," one of the firemen replied.
"No you do not! I've seen Sesame Street, and I know you put that stuff on when a call comes in." Yeah, I referenced Sesame Street, because I've got mad game.
They ALL laughed at my joke, and I thanked them profusely for coming out for something the landlord could have easily fixed himself if he answered his phone.
"The alarms do that all the time," Deb complained, "and our landlord never comes to fix them."
"Next time you really should go outside," Robinson advised. "About six years ago a place in Newton had the fire alarms going off, and nobody took them seriously because they go off all the time, but there was actually a fire and five people died."
The group of men filed out after the alarm gave one last "MEEP" of protest and was then silent. Robinson was the last to leave, saying "it was nice to talk to you." Deb says she saw a wedding band, but I didn't so, Robinson, call me!
Thus begins my career as a pyromaniac. I am going to start setting small fires all over the apartment to bring my truckloads of men back to me. Perhaps I'll also call a plumber and ask him to clean my pipes, order some pizza and hire a pool boy for a wading pool I'll set up in the study.

As I am writing this, the alarms are going off again, at 11:20PM. Maybe my evening will end in hot fireman booty after all.

Update: The evening did not end in fireman booty, but instead with my roommate yelling at my landlord about his skills as an electrician. The firemen came back, slightly less than thrilled to see us again. Robinson was happy because I told him if he came back we'd bake him some cookies. Heh heh heh...

My Thoughts On the Oscars

So my usual Sunday television watching was preempted by the Oscars. I tuned in around 8:30 because I was watching "My Girl" on HBO and sobbing openly on my uncomfortable couch. (Come on, the girl's best friend died. That shit is sad.) Once I dried my eyes, I figured Chris Rock would comfort me. Below you'll find my thoughts on the Oscars, in order but not in a well-thought out way.

Chris Rock: Heh heh. "Can you imagine if you're interviewing for a job, and there's a movie out about how much you suck at it?" (Referencing Bush and "Fahrenheit 9-11.")

Is Renee Zellweger the 3rd member of the White Stripes now? I hope not, because she sucks.

As much as people complain about him, I still like Robin Williams.

If I could look like any other person on this planet, I would choose to look like Cate Blanchett. She just looks like a movie star, and not the Paris Hilton kind of movie star. She is a classy movie star that Hollywood is sorely lacking. She played Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator, and it suits her. (I also find Katherine Hepburn especially classy in a spunky way, so her coolness has melded with Cate's and made Cate even classier by assoication. If that makes sense.)

Morgan Freeman can be my black grandpa, if he'd like. He's a classy, classy guy.

Fucking snow! Fuck you! Die! No more! Bite me, winter.

Chris Rock goes "Jaywalking" (ChrisRocking)? Awesome!

I hate that they're doing this whole "using the space" by having people pop out on balconies and in the aisles. It's the Oscars. Chris Rock hosting brings enough "flava" as it is. Don't confuse people by having presenters pop out like ghosts at a haunted house. 18-34 year olds can handle people coming from the wings.

Scarlett Johanssen will show up for anything if she gets to wear a new dress and talk. I'm surprised she didn't try to sell me some damn perfume while she was there.

Best Costumes:
Squee! Pierce Brosnan! His voice is deep AND scratchy! Hottt!

It makes sense that the woman (Sandy Powell) who's wearing the best outfit would win for best costumes.

Best Supporting Actress:
Cate Blanchett! Whoo! Katherine Hepburn AND Cate Blanchett, all in one. This rules. Queen Amidala is good in "Closer." I just hope she's not in any more Star Wars movies, because it makes me hate her.

Cate Blanchett! Whoo! She should have won Best Actress for "Elizabeth" but this is acceptable. (In related news, fuck you, Gwenyth Paltrow.) Damn, Cate is classy. Yellow is not her color, but it's a beautiful dress.

Oh for fuck's sake. Johnny Carson was a COMEDIAN. Do you think he'd want a schmoopy retrospective? Just play his damn jokes. Also, when he botches a joke, he has an eerie resemblance to Bush when he botches, well, anything that comes out of his mouth.

Best Documentary:
Oh shut UP, Leonardo DiCaprio. Maybe I'm not a girl, but I don't find him hot. I hope "Supersize Me" wins, because I love Morgan Spurlock. I love him down to his handlebar mustache. Sure, whatever, child rape. I want the French fry guy to win!

Dammit!

Film Editing:
Orlando Bloom is cute. Kirsten Dunst needs a better wig. It looks like something Natalie Portman wore in "Closer." Thus, a stripper wig.

Counting Crows! Whoo! It's better than Beyonce singing in French. I would, however, like to shave Adam Duritz's head right this second. I'm expecting nits to fly off his head every time he moves. If this were American Idol, they'd be telling Adam that he needs to figure out what to do with his hands while he sings. He's flailing his arms like he's a windmill.

Best Screenplay:
Oh Adam Sandler. Enjoy the stage at the Oscars, because it's probably the only time you'll be there.

Wow, books? Do people still read books? I sure hope so. Or, I can only hope to meet someone famous, write something and have them adapt it so I can make oodles of money for doing very little. Maybe I can borrow Cate Blanchett's dress and go to the Oscars someday.

Why is Scarlett Johnanssen wearing a damn tiara? It's not your bachelorette party, dumbass, it's the Oscars. I hope that's not from Claire's.

Best Visual Effects:
Jake Gyllenhaal! Call me! Dump the girl with the stripper wig and get with the girl with the redhead!

Dude, this part of the show sucks. "Special effects." "Costumes." "Best Catering." The only cool thing about this part of the show is that the people actually are excited to win instead of feeling entitled. "Hi Mom! I did it! I love my wife!" I'd love to hear Colin Farrell or whoever say that."Um, right. I'm famous, I deserve this, and thanks to my baby momma."

The President Guy. He always sucks. "Love the troops! We still love the troops! Go troops! When you come back to America, make sure to shell out $12 so you can keep watching 'Cribs' and be jealous of how little you still have." As I typed that last bit, he basically said that. Holy crap, I hate Hollywood.

Okay, I am no film major. I don't know many directors. Hitchcock, Eastwood, Spielberg. That's about all I know. I am going to get a glass of water now.

What the hell? Why is Beyonce the vocalist of the Oscars? Did Jay-Z rough up the Academy? Put her in some damn hot pants and have her sing "Soldier." Also, she is wearing the amount of money I will make in my entire lifetime around her neck right now. Wow. Was that the Jigga Man in the Phantom mask? Awww, Jay-Z loves her.

Best Live-Action Short:
Jeremy Irons� oh my. Huh. Hummana. He looks kind of like death here, but, um, damn. His voice is like Johnny Damon's biceps: large and powerful. I'd comment on this, but I'm too busy mopping drool off my shirt.

Best Animated Short:
Laura Linney! She's cool. She's no Jeremy Irons, but who is?
Where does one see these animated shorts? I have never seen them. I think the Coolidge Corner Theater plays them right before the Oscars. I would not pay $10 to see a "short."

Cinematography:
Kate Winslet! Work it, you human-sized starlet! I wouldn't mind looking like her either. She is also very classy and doesn't let people tell her she's fat or less of an actress because she eats. Also, she's a good actress. Who eats. It's all good.

My patience is nearly at an end. I wish they'd get to the good stuff. While some film geeks and complete Us Weekly fanatics will stay on until the end, I could be using this time for sleeping, assembling a bookshelf or reading a book. I like watching famous people in amazing dresses held in place with double-tape walk around and congratulate each other, but not enough to stay up past my bedtime. I haven't seen any of these movies, for the most part. I know these people from my roommate's People magazine.

Hee hee. "Four presenters: Penelope Cruz and Selma Hayak."

Sound mixing? We couldn't have done this before the broadcast? I'd love for one of these guys to whip it out right now to mess with the FCC.

Sound editing? Fuck off, Oscars. This is why people don't watch this show. Nobody cares about the sound except the sound editing people. I'm glad you're including them, but, for real? My bookshelf is waiting for me. It won't assemble itself.
This guy is really defensive about sound editing and mixing. Now I feel bad for dismissing his work. But the Oscars aren't doing well with sound since they cut these dudes off.

Oooh, another song! Uh-oh, it's in Spanish, isn't it? Is Beyonce tri-lingual? Marc Anthony can sing, as long as J.Lo is at home trying to find out when she's ovulating and there is NO danger of her popping out and singing now. Wait, that's not the guy she's married to. Who is that dude? Walls made of rocks are very tormented and Spanish. I saw some of Carlos Santana's shoes in a store once. Not his shoes in particular, but the shoes he designed. He also designs neckties for men. I wish I cared more about this. Spanish-speakers have had to sit through endless Sting songs during the Oscars, so I suppose it's only fair.

That M&M commercial is funny. The past two times I've been to the movies I had assholes talking through the WHOLE thing. When I saw "Closer" (a dialogue-heavy movie) a girl translated the ENTIRE movie to her boyfriend. She recited the WHOLE THING in Spanish for him. I nearly jumped back two rows and ripped out her larynx. Then when I saw "Hitch" four high school girls narrated the whole movie. "Awww snap, he just hit her in the head! You know what's going to happen? She's going to get mad at him, and she's going to..." This is why I don't see many movies. If they sold giant M&Ms to give assholes concussions, I'd totally go more.

Documentary Short:
Natalie Portman is cute. I don't really care that she applauds the nominees, though. I am sick of Hollywood stars trying to be political, especially when they're in shitty Star Wars movies. Tim Robbins gets a pass because he was awesome in "Mystic River." I also wouldn't pay $10 to see a documentary short. That means a huge dose of sadness in a short amount of time. Oscars, I am getting sleepy...

Heh. Oprah's favorite white man. John Kerry proposed to Oprah. Chris Rock is very funny. I hope Billy Crystal never comes back.

Best Score:
I think that Damien Rice's song "The Blower's Daughter" should be up for song of the year. It's not this category, and it wasn't made for the movie "Closer" but it's used so well in that movie and is such a good song. I have no comments. Goddamn, this is boring. I am glad that I'm home in my PJs and not trying to keep my boobs in a tight dress in person. No wonder people go out after the show and drink their faces off.

It's a movie, Martin. It's not the Dead Sea Scrolls, it's fucking "Bridget Jones� Diary 2." Bring on the people I've seen in Us Weekly before I decide to sleep in my bed instead of in this semi-catatonic state in front of my television. Is this a hospital for sick Hollywood stars? Or are they fixing movies? What the hell is going on?

What is up with Annette Benning's hair? It's a spiky mullet. Yikes. Oh, it's the dead people homage. I'm surprised Beyonce hasn't taken up the cello and done this part too. Hot pants and a cello. Holla at your girl; B!
I LOVE a Raisin in the Sun. Hooray for the director of that movie.
Jerry Orbach! Nobody puts Baby in a corner!
Superman! The Bates motel!
Marlon Brando. HOTT!
I sincerely hope that my images are not paraded on a big screen when I'm dead. It's kind of disconcerting to have your entire life remembered in a few frames of film on an awards show that is largely irrelevant. I don't want people thinking, "Oh yeah, that chick died this year. Bummer. Oh, I can whiten my teeth in a week?"

Diddy! Where's Ashton? I'm sorry, what? The Polar Express? Did he just say that's hip? Is Beyonce singing again? Chreeeist. And Josh Grobin? Does Jay-Z know about this? Where are Beyonce's backup singers, er, I mean Kelly and Michelle? Why do I feel like I'm watching an episode of American Idol? The cheesy background, the lame songs, the lame CHRISTMAS songs? In February? While I am sick of looking at her, Beyonce is hot. Girl's got some back, but not in a bad way. She looks healthy and wonderful. That song sucked, sorry.

Best Song:
Prince! That little man is so confident that nobody cares he's about 4' tall.
Sadly, he cannot speak Spanish, nor can he fake speaking Spanish. Purple rain! Let's go crazy! Let's get nuts!
That dude who wrote the song is hot.

Best Actress:
Sean Penn! Eeeee!
Jeremy Irons! Eeeee!
I need to see Maria Full of Grace. That girl kicked ass in the clip.
Hillary Swank is totally going to win. Also, I'd still do Clint Eastwood.
Kate Winslet! I need to see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind too.
Meh. Who'd have thought the girl I thought was cool in "The Next Karate Kid" would win two Oscars? She is prattling on. My computer is about to run out of battery, so I'm off to bed. Have fun, Hollywood, and I'll see you in a couple of weeks at the next awards show.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Maybe it's time to buy a condo in Boca...

because this is ridiculous.
I don't know much about Christianity. I never went to church as a kid, I never got baptized or confirmed or bat mizvah-ed or whatever. My spiritual beliefs are basically that there's some higher something somewhere, and as long as you play nice, try your best and follow the Golden Rule than you'll be okay when you die.
But Pope? Dude? Seriously. It's time to retire. I know that's not a Pope thing to do. I know that it's supposed to be very dramatic: bells ring, they put the coins over your eyes and nominate someone else to be the Pope. You're in it until you go off to talk in person with God, unless you decide to call it off. Maybe you should say, "eh, fuck it." You had a hole put in your throat. I call out sick if my nose is runny, and you're running the world's largest church from a hospital bed talking out of a voice box? How can you offer the world spiritual counsel when you're talking like Ned from South Park?
I guess you're a good Pope. I don't really know what makes a good or a bad Pope. You've been down on wars, which is good. You've got some appreciation for the street. And, as Paris Hilton would say, "That's hot." But maybe you should be more of a celibate grandpa instead of God's highest-up on earth. Get a super condo in Florida. Floridians love the religion, so you'd be welcomed. Put on a hibiscus-print Pope-hat. Get a convertible top put on your PopeMobile. (Holy shit... it is a convertible! Wow! Thanks, Google!) Pop in some Jimmy Buffet, have a fruity drink and give out your advice to people who want it. Stay in when you have aches, pains or breathing problems. God won't mind. You did your best. But you're making me, and a lot of your followers, uncomfortable. It's time to collect your 401(k) and head to Boca.

Ikea-Related Dialogue

Scene: On the way to Newport Creamery after pizza at Papa Ginos. In the Forester, Amy at the wheel.

Kristen: What was in that pizza? I'm going freakin' nuts.
Amy: I don't know. Maybe it was laced with crack?
Kristen: Crack pizza.
Amy: Hee.
Kristen: Hee hee.
Amy: Hee hee hee.
(A pause)
Amy: We totally need to get out of this car.
(Amy's cell phone rings. She checks the caller ID.)
Amy: Holy christ. Did I call this? Didn't I tell you this would happen? As soon as I bought anything...
Kristen: It's the Whatever, huh?
(Amy opens the phone)
Amy: Hey, Whatever.
Whatever: Hey, Amy. How are you?
Amy: Good. Kristen and I are on a road trip of New England.
Whatever: Really? That's awesome. Where are you?
Amy: Well, we stopped at Kristen's parent's house Friday, went to Portland on Saturday, test drove some canoes, (laughing from Kristen and Amy) shopped all day today in North Conway, and now we're in Rhode Island. We're getting ice cream.
Whatever: That sounds like fun.
Amy: Yep. Totally is. Do you want to say hi to Kristen?
Whatever: Yes, er, actually, no. I'm calling because, well, I looked at it, and, I have to check something at work on Tuesday, but it appears that you owe me $166.78 for the car and hotel in Florida.
Amy: Um... (casts a glance in the backseat of the car where the LL Bean bag holding her coat is) well, I htmpafghrrgh, so I probably won't be able to get it to you right away, and it's really sassy, the red coat, and, er... what have you been up to this weekend?
Whatever: I've been here figuring out what you owe me!
Amy: Oooookaaay, then.
Whatever: Where are you guys going tomorrow?
Amy: We're going to Ikea.
Kristen: Where, I have heard told, you can get a coffee table for twenty four American dollars!
Whatever: Wow. Really? Twenty-four? Hmm...
Kristen: And shower curtains for four American dollars!
Whatever: Hmm.
Amy: If we see any great deals, do you want us to pick anything up for you?
Kristen: Only if the patina is right...
(Endless giggling from Kristen and Amy. The Whatever laughs, uncertain of what is funny. Amy and Kristen have arrived at the Newport Creamery, and begin to get out of the car.)
Amy: The stuff is really nice. It's particleboard, but it's classy particleboard.
Kristen: Burly men names Sven and Bjorn make the particleboard by pressing very hard with their hulking Swedish biceps.
(Laughing from Amy and Kristen.)
Whatever: What did she say?
Amy: She has a story in her mind that burly men named Sven make the particleboard by pushing it together with their biceps.
Whatever: Don't most of Kristen's stories involve burly men?
(Amy laughs hysterically, and has to explain to Kristen what the Whatever said since she was out of earshot.)
Amy: So is there anything you can think of that you need? Forks? Vases? Wrapping paper?
Whatever: I'm on the website right now, but I don't see anything that I need.
Amy: Well, call me if you change your mind. I'll buy it for you and take it off my tab.
Whatever: Okay. Well. I'll talk to you later.
Amy: Bye.

(The Varitek newsprint naughty bits happened during this phone call, but y'all know how that went down.)

In Which Kristen Assembles a Box
Scene: In the Forester, on the way back to Rhode Island after the visit to Ikea.

Kristen: Man, I'm bored. I need something to do. How long until we get there?
Amy: About an hour and a half.
Kristen: Okay. Oh, I know! I can assemble my boxes.
Amy: Okey-doke.
(Kristen rumages through her Ikea bag, and pulls out the boxes.)
Kristen: Now how do I do this. Okay, here's some instructions.
Amy: It says that you need a screwdriver.
Kristen: Bah! I mock their need for a screwdriver. I mock it! I need no screwdriver. Screwdrivers are for pussies. And I? Am no pussy.
Amy: O-kay. But look. There's a little man calling Ikea with the question that's in his thought bubble.
Kristen: That's Sven.
Amy: Where's Bjorn?
Kristen: He works at Ikea. He's in the building.
Amy: (in a bad Swedish accent) "Bjorn, how do I build zee box?"
Kristen: Hee.
Amy: How are you going to screw things in if you don't have a screwdriver?
Kristen: Hmm. Where are your keys?
Amy: In my bag, in the secret compartment.
Kristen: Okay. I shall use the keys. Now, let's see, it appears you screw this bolt into the nut--
Amy: Ha ha. Nut. I'm nine.
Kristen: --and then this folds into this. But I don't understand what this thing is. (Kristen holds up a long, rectangular piece of cardboard without any perforated holes to indicate a screw being placed through it.)
Amy: Maybe you put it in the corners. There's little holes there. Maybe that's to fill them in?
Kristen: Yeah, but it doesn't fit there. It kind of fits this way, but that doesn't make any sense.
Amy: I have no idea what that's for.
Kristen: Maybe it's just an extra piece? Like a patch for an inflatable pool?
Amy: Kristen, this is an Ikea box. The Swedes let nothing go to waste. Nothing! If it was just there, than they wouldn't do that because they could ship more boxes for less cost and it would be cheaper so that's not it.
Kristen: I don't think I need it.
Amy: That's your choice to make, I think.
Kristen: I'm making an executive decision. The little mystery thing isn't going in my box.
Amy: Hee hee hee.
Kristen: Oh, shut it.




The Happiest Place on Earth

When I opened the shade on my bedroom window on Monday, I was dismayed to see another few inches of snow on the ground. Since I was in West Greenwich, it was scenic: the snow had fallen delicately on the branches of the pine trees, so it looked like outlines on the dark green needles. I wasn't in the mood for the bucolic. I had shit to do, so the white stuff was a hindrance.
I went downstairs and found my Mom puttering around the kitchen, worrying about the fact that there wasn't much in the way of breakfast. "You're here earlier than I expected," she said, pulling eggs that my uncle brought over from his menagerie across the street. "I bought special ravioli, but I don't have much breakfast food."
I rubbed my Mom's back. "It's okay, Mom. Do you have eggs and coffee?"
"Decaf," she replied. I knew we'd be making a stop at Dunkin Donuts before we headed to Ikea.
After a breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast (very satisfying, thanks Mom!) and some more washing and drying of laundry ("So it's more of a tour of New England's free washers and dryers?" my Mom commented) Kristen and I got ready to leave. After earning $10 for coffee and donuts by shoveling the walk and clearing the snow off of my Mom's car, we stopped for gas and caffeinated coffee.
"My body isn't pleased with the clever ruse I tried to pull," Kristen said, flipping the top of her large coffee back and taking a greedy sip of the caffeinated coffee.
"Mine either. But the decaf tasted good," I said, balancing the iced coffee in my hand as I pulled out of the parking lot and onto 95 South.
Let the record show: I hate Connecticut. I know good people from Connecticut (my roommate Deb, family friends) but I can't stand that damn state. Every time I venture off the highway I get lost. There's very little in the way of good restaurants. On 95, you'll be traveling at 70 miles an hour, then suddenly feel the G-forces as you break to travel 45 miles an hour for no noticeable reason. But, until this fall, Connecticut is the home of the only Ikea in the New England area, in New Haven.
Previously known for it's prestigious Ivy League university (Yale), now New Haven is known by fashion-savvy bargain hunters as the home of Ikea. My friend Ehrin and I ventured there on opening day/my birthday this summer and left with some bedsheets, a cheese grater and an intense hatred of humanity. Ehrin was screaming at obnoxious pricks from New York who kept hitting her with their cart and I was trying to get out to make it back to Providence for dinner with friends that evening and was sick of said obnoxious pricks getting in my way.
I drove to Ikea ("You like driving, so I'm going to let you," Kristen said as she played with the CD player) and warned Kristen that she would hate everyone when she left.
"People are rude. They stand in front of everything you want. You have to be ruthless. But you'll leave with so much great stuff for cheap, so it's all worth it once you're away from it."
"I'm willing to take this risk," she replied, "because the coffee tables there are twenty-four American dollars. Twenty-four! And I am in need of a coffee table, so this is excellent."
When we got to Ikea, I was amazed to see that there has hardly anyone there. The first time I visited Ikea, I had to wait for over half an hour to get a spot. The second time, two people nearly got into a fistfight over the parking spot my friends and I were vacating. Third time is apparently a charm, because Kristen and I could actually see the entrance from where we parked.
We walked through the slushy parking lot and into the big blue and yellow warehouse known as Ikea. When you enter, you walk up a staircase to the showroom, where the particleboard is assembled in attractive combinations. There's setups for spacious homes, there's examples of small studio apartments, kitted out in the finest assemble-it-yourself housewares. Kristen and I stopped in the first setup, which featured dark bookshelves and a bed with a fluffy corduroy comforter on it.
"I am so happy," I cried, looking up at the ceiling, overwhelmed by the power of housewares.
"Holy crap, I want this," Kristen said, checking the price tag.
We wandered through the endless maze of furnishings. We oohed at the $200 couches. We sniffled over the beauty of stainless steel countertops. We sat on the couches, on the beds, on the office chairs. We contemplated buying alarm clocks. Kristen saw a coffee table for twenty American dollars.
After you wander the labyrinth of assembled furniture, you make your way downstairs again to visit the housewares section. You can buy plates, teapots, flatware, shag rugs and shower curtains ("for $1.98, American!" Kristen exclaimed). This is where the hatred of humanity begins in earnest. People stop in the middle of narrow aisles and glare at you when you try to walk by. The carts, due to some strange Swedish engineering, drift to the right so it's an endless battle to navigate. People can barely see over the piles of stuff in the carts. It's bedlam, even on a day when the parking is easy.
Then we moved on to the home decor section, which I made myself not buy anything. My apartment is in dire need of some wall art, but I tried to remember that all the money I had was spent on a red wool coat. We moved on to bedding. We moved on to lighting. We moved on to gardening, where I nearly bought a shrubbery for $10, but figured it would be hard to fit in the already crowded car.
When we were done buying comforter covers and reading lights, we moved on to the warehouse, which is the last stop before the registers. The store loses all pretense of hominess when you reach this point-- it looks and feels like Home Depot. The warehouse is where you find the beautiful furniture that you saw assembled and you then remember that you need to assemble the wardrobe, shelving unit, bookshelf, nightstand and bedframe that you liked upstairs when you get it home. It's sobering, but a monument to Swedish efficiency. Every box is compact, without a spare inch of room. Americans wrap things in plastic and large boxes, carelessly wasting space. The fine people Ikea get it tight and right.
Kristen picked up her $20 coffee table and we both picked up a $20 bookshelf. Sure, it's particleboard, but it's handsome particleboard, and it will make the stacks of books that I'm forever knocking off surfaces in my room look neat. So I can buy more books to stack and be a pain in the ass to move. We made our way to the registers, and I prepared for doom.
The total came to $89. Which is a lot of money. But let me tell you what I got for that:

  • a light comforter to put in my comforter cover (also from Ikea) in the summer so I don't sweat to death under my winter blanket
  • a mortar and pestle (mojito season is coming!)
  • three shower curtains
  • a rod that I thought would hold my curtains, but is too big
  • a flour sifter
  • two magazine holders
  • a bookshelf
  • two gifts for the kids I babysit for, whose birthdays are coming up
  • a shelf to display pictures and books
  • 100 tealights
I think there is more, but the receipt isn't with me so I can't recall. I had two bags full of stuff, plus the bookshelf. We wheeled the drifting cart away from the register and towards the food court. Since we were meeting my friend Sharon for dinner in Rhode Island on the way back to Boston, we didn't want to eat a big meal of Swedish meatballs or lox and spread. The food court by the entrance has small snacks for unreal prices. With the leftover cash from our coffee, we bought a hot dog, two sodas and a cinnamon bun and got change back.
"This is the happiest place on Earth," I said as I munched on my cinnamon bun. "I was just at Disney, and let me tell you, this place is way more fun."
"No kidding. I heart Ikea," Kristen agreed, squirting relish onto her hot dog.
We got back in the car and I drove us back to Rhode Island. We met my friend Sharon at the cheapest eating establishment she could think of, had a few beers and dinner. Kristen and I slogged through the slush and I drove us back to Boston.
And that was the great road trip of Aught Five, as Kristen calls it. I spent a huge amount of money. I spent a huge amount of time with Kristen, and didn't want to kill her. I ate a huge amount of food and enjoyed every minute of it.
I think I'll post some bits of conversation that really didn't fit in with the summary of what happened, because they are hilarious.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Negotiable American Currency

I woke up at 8:30am on Sunday morning and my brain immediately started on it's laundry list of concerns. Usually when I wake up my mind is slow and sticky like cold honey and I don't have to worry about rational thoughts occurring for at least half an hour. Sometimes, especially after an especially upsetting incident or after a night of heavy drinking my mind clicks on immediately and won't stop working away at whatever's bothering it.
I lay in the hotel bed, the itchy comforter against my face in an attempt to hide from the sun, my brain in no mood to drift back off into sleep. One hundred dollars on a coat? Are you serious? You should have brought along the Visa statement from last month to sober you. Sure, you look fabulous in it, but what good will that do you when you're calling the consumer credit helpline and sobbing into the phone because Capital One is indeed hassling you? They're going to break your knees. Stupid, foolish girl.
Around 9:30 I'd had enough, so I quietly got up and gathered my things to take a shower. Kristen rolled over and looked at me.
"Good morning, Sunshine!" I said quietly.
"Shut up, bitch," she murmured. Her brain was obviously not as concerned with the purchase of a polar fleece as mine was with the wool coat.
When I got out of the shower Kristen was sitting up in bed, blinking. She heaved a sigh and got ready to take her shower. I turned on the TV and watched approximately five seconds of Meet the Press before I switched over to VH1's Top 20 Countdown.
"I am fucking hungry," Kristen said as she walked out of the bathroom. "Seriously, I was about to fall down in the shower."
My stomach had begun to rumble too. It was quite a cacophony of noises in my body, between my stomach demanding I fill its stretched-out emptiness and my mind saying don't become one of those couples on daytime TV who have creditors calling at all hours.
On Saturday I'd suggested a good breakfast chain that I'd eaten at in Montreal one time, but it was a bit spendy, so we decided on Sunday morning to eat at Becky's Diner, where Rachel Ray had eaten when she went to Portland on $40 a Day. I was kind of hoping that she'd be there, oohing and aahing over the blueberry pancakes since I have a girl-crush on her, but she was nowhere to be found. A line out the door was there instead, and my stomach kicked up a noisy protest about waiting for a table.
There happened to be two stools open at the counter, so Kristen and I grabbed them and demanded coffee. A cheerful waitress gave us the steaming mugs of coffee and took our orders. "I promise I'll be much more communicative once I drink this coffee," Kristen said in monotone.
I didn't mind that she was so quiet since the diner was noisy. Our stools looked into the kitchen, so we could watch the two cooks bickering good-naturedly with each other. The older cook sang along with "Hot for Teacher" that was playing quietly from the kitchen's radio. The younger cook fetched fruit and potatoes as the elder called out orders like a doctor asking for instriments from a nurse. The waitresses chatted as they busily took care of their customers. The place was crowded and busy, but the waitresses handled it with good cheer. "Can you get my toast?" one would ask another. "Sure. Jess, can you see if anybody needs hazelnut coffee?" "Where's my home fries?" I have an appreciation for fine dining, but there's something about a diner and the greasy food that comes with it that will always hold a special place in my gastronome heart.
I got in the driver's seat and proceeded to leave Portland. We decided the fastest way to North Conway was via Route 302, which was far more interesting than sticking to an interstate. We passed the dilapidated farmhouses and fields of cows that seem unique to New England.
"I was watching The Phantom Gourmet" I commented to Kristen as we drove along, Dave Matthews singing quietly from the stereo, "and they had one of the local weathermen on talking about his favorite places to eat. The host of the show asked the weatherman if there was any other place he'd live if he had to live outside of New England, and the weatherman said no because New England has a little bit of everything in it. I think I agree with him."
"Me too," Kristen replied, looking at the high school we were passing, encouraging their basketball team to do well at the championships. "I mean, I complain about the weather and the cold, but you can do just about anything here in such a short time. Now we're in the mountains, but we were in Boston only a couple hundred miles ago. If you're driving through the midwest, it's all flat and corn. Or so you tell me, anyway. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else."
We drove along Route 302, past small villages with quaint stores with puns for names (something to do with Ewes in a yarn store), through barren stretches where snowmobilers crossed the street like gasoline-powered deer. We passed a small ski slope, and by a lake where snowmobilers were racing across the frozen surface. I nearly pulled over there to hitch a ride across the flat expanse, but Kristen reminded me that tax-free outlet shopping was a short distance ahead.
About two hours after leaving Portland, we ended up in North Conway, New Hampshire. We pulled into Settler's Green, the epicenter of shopping in the area. If you can name a popular chain, odds are there's an outlet here. (We did miss some of the high-end outlets that are in Freeport, such as Coach and Ralph Lauren, but since I was on a budget it was probably for the best.) We swung around the parking lot, fighting for spots with cars from as far away as New Jersey. Eventually we got a spot right next to a dumpster and began shopping.
I'll spare you the ugly details of where I shopped and what I tried on. But there were bargains everywhere. I got my brother two long-sleeved t-shirts for, as Kristen put it, "four American dollars!" I got a cute skirt at the Gap for $18. I got two roasting pans to replace my roommate's large Pyrex dish (the free guilt pan!) for $8.98. There were more purchases made, all of which adding to the non-stop mantra in my mind. You can't afford this. You can't afford this.
"We should just crash at my Mom's house tonight," I commented to Kristen as I struggled to haul my bags around the stores.
"Seriously, dude. That would be fine with me."
"We'd miss Vermont, though." We'd planned to stop at a microbrewry in Brattleboro.
"Eh, Vermont's just kind of there," Kristen said. "And it's ski season, and a holiday weekend on school vacation week in ski country. If we found a hotel there, it would be really spendy. Also, we could leave for IKEA from there, which is way closer than Vermont is, anyway."
I called my Mom's house to notify her that we'd be arriving for the night instead of just stopping in on our way back to Boston on Monday. She was out with a friend, so I told my brother we'd be heading down so he wouldn't lock the deadbolt. We stopped to get gas since we'd be taking the Kangamangus Highway from North Conway to Lincoln, and it was about 35 miles without a gas station, or any houses. I filled the gas tank in the blistering wind while Kristen ran into the convenience store for supplies.
"I got two bottles of water, salt and vinegar potato chips and cheese doodles."
"Awesome. Let's roll."
The Kangamangus highway runs through the mountains and a national park. The road twists and turns and has steep grades, so it's almost like driving on a race track. Since I don't have the pleasure of driving very often, I love to, especially when it's through the backwoods without any traffic. The Kangamangus was especially challenging since we were driving west during sunset. Kristen snapped pictures and rifled through all the CDs in her car as I made tire-peeling squealing noises in my mind.
We ended up in Lincoln, which is right by Loon Mountain. The skiiers were leaving en masse, so we munched on cheese doodles as the traffic slowly moved towards 93. People returned their rented skiis to the off-mountain stores. One sign advertised "Strap on rental-- $30."
"I don't know if that's a situation where I'd rent," Kristen observed, sucking the cheese powder out of her fingernails.
On the ride back to Rhode Island, Kristen and I got loopy. It was the longest stretch that we'd been in the car-- about four hours-- for the entire trip. We'd exhausted our CD collection ("I swear, everyone I know is conspiring to get me to like this damn J. Lo song and I will not do it," Kristen swore) and after a dinner of Papa Gino's pizza we drove to Newport Creamery for dessert since it was only 9pm. The Whatever had the misfortune of calling during our punchiness.
"Hello, Mr. Whatever!" I greeted him.
"Um, hi, Amy, how are you?" He asked, sounding slightly confused by my good mood.
"I am awesome. Kristen and I have done a road trip of New England. We're in Rhode Island now."
"Hiiiiiiii Whatever," Kristen yelled, giggling.
"Kristen says 'hi'," I relayed to him, as if he hadn't heard it.
"Wow, that sounds really cool," he replied, indeed sounding impressed that Kristen and I were driving around, crossing state lines and engaging in general silliness.
"It's awesome." We'd arrived at Newport Creamery, so I was trying to get him off the phone so I could drink my Awful Awful in peace. "What's up?"
"Well, I've sat down with it, and, I think this is correct, I need to check something on Tuesday at work, but I think the total amount of what you owe me from our trip to Florida is $166.78."
I knew he would call once I'd spent the money I'd planned on giving him in full when I got paid. I called him on Tuesday to tell him I had the money and he needed to tell me how much to give him (and to apologize for demanding a gorilla, but that's another story for another time). Since he hadn't called me back, I figured he was weirded out by my nonsensical demand for stuffed novelties and I wouldn't hear from him again.
"Oh, um, I...er," I mumbled into the phone as we walked towards the Creamery, not wanting to admit that I'm a deadbeat friend and the money I owed him was currently sitting in an LL Bean shopping bag in the backseat of Kristen's car. As we walked by the newspaper box for the Providence Journal, I spied a picture of Jason Varitek looking especially warrior-like on the front page.
"Look, Kristen" I said, the Whatever still on the other end of my phone, "it's your boy."
"Where?!" Kristen exclaimed. She got her face right near the metal box to look through the smudgy glass at the image of her beloved.
"Hey," I said between giggles, "I think I've got to run. Kristen's about to get her tongue stuck to the newspaper box."
Kristen and I both erupted into a fit of hysterics at the mental image of Kristen, kitted out in her new Celtics hat and Super Bowl Champions sweatshirt with her tongue stuck to 'Tek's newsprint naughty bits, and having to explain to the teenager behind the counter at the Creamery that I'd need a cup of warm water to free my friend's tongue from the paper box. The Whatever, still on the phone and by this point completely bewildered, laughed.
"Are you driving right now?" he asked, a somewhat paternal tone creeping into his voice, as if once he got off the phone with me he'd be Googling the Rhode Island State Police number and asking them to follow any swerving green Foresters with Massachusetts plates.
"No, we're actually at the ice cream place now, so I'm going to have to run because I don't want to be that girl on the cell phone."
"Uh, okay. Good talking to you."
"Later," I said, still gasping for air after the hysterics.
We got inside and shed out coats, still laughing. I assured Kristen my Mom would have the day's ProJo in the archives (recycling bin) so we didn't need to spend the fifty cents on our own copy. The waitress brought us menus and some water.
"You should have an Awful Awful," I recommended.
"What is that?"
"It's Awful Big and Awful Good," I replied.
Kristen looked at the poster on the window behind her. "It looks like a milkshake."
"It's not a milkshake," I said, a shade more aggressively than necessary. "It's an Awful Awful."
Kristen shrugged and looked at the sundae menu. "Whatever. They all have different names in New England. It's a frappe?"
"No!" I said. "It's an Awful Awful. You can get a Junior one, if you don't want a lot."
"Nah," she said. "I'm getting a sundae."
I shrugged. "You should totally get the Awful Awful."
I got the junior Oreo Awful Awful. The Oreos are blended up into tiny little bits that easily slide up the straw, but are big enough so when you bite down you can feel the texture of the cream between your teeth.
"I'm excited for Ikea tomorrow," I said between slurps of the Awful Awful.
Kristen nodded. "Me too. Are you aware that you can buy a coffee table for twenty-four American dollars at Ikea? Twenty. Four!"
"It is an amazing feat."
"I know I have to assemble the little pieces of particleboard that burly Sweedish men named Sven or Bjorn pushed together with their hulking biceps, but I'm okay with that. It's twenty-four dollars! For a table! American currency!"
"It's the best place on Earth, I swear," I said, an experienced Ikea visitor. "You'll hate humanity by the time you leave, but it's well worth it for the great crap you can buy there for cheap."
We paid our bill and headed to my Mom's house for an evening of free laundry and more television watching in an ususual location. I went to bed, resigning my brain to the fact that I'd be parting more money I'd yet to earn at Ikea the next day.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

"What are you doing in Portland?"

When I was a young kid, I hated road trips. During my entire childhood I took three trips by airplane—to Florida twice to visit my grandmother and one trip to Arizona to visit my stepdad’s mother. Usually, our family vacations involved piling into the car with a cooler full of Kool-Aid juice boxes and a bag of Doritos and watching trees fly by the car windows until we got to some location where my Mom could go antiquing and my brother and I could count down the hours until we’d be allowed to go swimming in the hotel pool. By the second day, my brother and I would whine that we were bored.
“Just enjoy the drive,” my mother replied from the comfort and ample leg room of the front seat. I’d always roll my eyes, completely unaware of the cathartic power that the flicker of the white lines holds over adults.
Since I’ve been able to drive, I love road trips. I like looking at a map to make sense of the red and blue lines, to figure out the best path from place to place. There’s a certain exoticism in crossing state lines, in seeing coolers full of beer and wine in the gas stations of less puritanical states. It’s America, it’s homogenous, but since I’m used to it the shades of nuance are exciting.
Kristen and I left her parents house around noon on Saturday. We had a leisurely breakfast and packed our belongings into Kristen’s car, which thanks to the folks at the garage was no longer squealing with every turn it made. The air was colder than it was on Friday, and I was beginning to regret the idea of strolling around Portland on a twenty-degree day. I’d let winter control my social life for too long, however, and I decided I wouldn’t be deterred by some cold breezes. After a pit stop at Dunkin Donuts we were underway for Maine.
Portland is a lovely city. It’s sort of a mini-Boston: there’s the old cobblestone part of town (Old Port) and a more professional area with lots of banks and loan offices. Since it was about twenty degrees and windy, much of downtown Portland was deserted. Kristen and I had no solid plans (the best way to do a road trip) so we strolled around the many stores in the Old Port. There were two used bookstores in a three-block radius, which was very exciting to bibliophiles such as Kristen and I. I got a used copy of Lady Chatterly’s Lover and Slaughter House-Five for a little under ten dollars. Kristen got some used sports writing books. I returned to a pottery warehouse store to buy some more of the milk and juice glasses that I bought there two years ago. I handed my credit card to the man at the pottery store, and he asked if I went to school around Portland.
“No,” I said, “we’re visiting from Boston.”
He smiled and nodded at me. “Everyone who’s been in today has been from out of town. The locals all hibernate for four months.”
I couldn’t say I blamed them. I wasn’t entirely prepared for the cold in Portland. Kristen and I had parked on Commercial Street, which runs right along the docks. The wind blew right through my jeans like I was wearing nothing but a gauzy skirt. My fingers began to tingle even in my gloves. I had my red knit hat on under the hood of my ugly red coat and still my ears were cold. It got better the further away from the water we got, but when a breeze came up my eyes watered.
After a couple of hours of shopping it was time to check into the hotel. We paid for our parking (two dollars for a little over two hours—an unreal bargain when compared with Boston’s parking rate) and headed for South Portland, which isn’t nearly as ghetto as it sounds. We were about ten minutes from downtown Portland, and it was $55 for the night. We hauled our stuff into the room and turned the heat on high to warm up after traipsing around. Kristen tried to plug her laptop into the hotel phone to get any news of baseball or Tedy Bruschi’s health while I made sure that the Gideons had placed a Bible in our hotel room. They had.
“Kristen, the Gideons have come and given us a Bible. It was really weird—when the Whatever and I were in Florida, there was no Bible in the room.”
“It was probably for the best,” she replied, plugging the phone back in. “You were cohabitating in sin, so it was a little late for a Bible.”
“I suppose so. He also yelled at me for jumping on the bed in the hotel.”
Kristen rolled her eyes. “Well, that’s just nonsense. You’re supposed to jump on hotel beds.”
“That was my view on the situation as well. I am glad that you understand.” I then proceeded to jump on my double bed. Kristen then decided to see how many rolls she could complete from the head of her bed to the foot. She got one. I got one and a half.
“Are you ready for dinner?”
I looked at the alarm clock. “It’s only four. Why don’t we hang here for a while and leave around 5:30? Maybe we can get some snackies?”
Kristen grabbed her wallet. “I saw a vending machine in the lobby.”
We retuned to the room and feasted on chips, candy and diet Pepsi and watched Made on MTV. “Kristen,” I said, “while this appears lame, you are aware that we are watching MTV in a hotel room, right? So it’s cool.”
“Yep,” she said, munching on a pretzel.

Our coworker Karen recommended a place in downtown Maine called Kathadin. “It’s pretty cheap, and they have a good blue-plate special.”
Once we were seated and our menus were given to us, we flinched. The least expensive entrĂ©e on the menu was $20. Local art hanged from the funky-colored walls, and smooth jazz wafted from the speakers. I was wearing a grease-stained sweater, jeans that were two sizes too big and worn-out Merrill slide-on sneakers. Kristen and I were the youngest people in the restaurant by at least five years. But it had gotten colder since the sun set, so the idea of leaving and looking for a cheaper place didn’t hold much appeal. We ordered a beer, some soup and our entrees.
People in Maine look different than people in Massachusetts or Rhode Island. There’s something solid in the way they look, like they’ve all been out hauling lobsters in from boats. Our waitress at Katadin was the epitome of what I believe a Maine woman should look like. She had broad shoulders and her arms looked strong in her sweater. She wasn’t fat, but was sturdy, like you’d need a lot of force to move her. She had a large face, but her features were spread out nicely. She had a wide smile and laughed and joked with her customers. The best example of how people from Maine look are the illustrations in Robert McClosky’s children’s books.
Kristen and I were so full after our dinner that we decided to walk to the bars in the Old Port that we’d passed earlier in the day. The streets were deserted. There was no traffic passing by, and very few pedestrians walked with us. It was eerie. The man at the pottery shop was right—the locals were all in hibernation. As we walked, we passed the Cumberland County Civic Center (“the CCCC,” Kristen explained). A sign sat out on the quiet sidewalk advertising that tickets were available for that night’s game. We went in to see how much the tickets were. They were six dollars for standing room to see the Providence Bruins play the home team. We were tempted, but standing up for an entire hockey game wasn’t appealing. We left the civic center to find a bar.
“I am so full,” I whined as we walked, gripping my stomach.
“Me too,” Kristen moaned. “Is that a Cold Stone creamery?”
I let out a loud groan. “Let’s get ice cream after the bar. Will it be open then?”
We walked up to the door, and the ice cream store would be open until 11pm. “But we could be out later than that. And we want to go to LL Bean too.”
“We really should get it now, to be sure it’s not closed later. Let me just stop at the ATM next door.”
We jumped into the heated ATM. I put in my card and prepared to answer the host of questions about the fees I’d be charged. I answered them, and when I got to enter the amount of money I’d like to take out, the ATM asked me to withdraw in multiples of five.
“Five dollars!” I shouted into the security camera. “Multiples of five? Holy shit, that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. Sometimes, all you want is five dollars. That’s it. Two dollar parking? Five dollar ATMs? This is the promised land.”

After our ice cream, Kristen and I ended up at the Bull Feeny Pub. Kristen and I are not trendy people, so the Irish bar is where we usually end up. People aren’t dressed up and there’s no need to put on a pretentious act. We found a spot at the bar on the second floor and made ourselves comfortable. It was only eight-thirty, so the bar was still pretty empty. The NBA All-Star Skills Competition was on the television, so we kicked back to watch.
Lately I’ve been checking out every living thing with a pulse and all visible evidence of being male, so I was people-watching as much as basketball watching. When we first arrived, a group of young guys was sitting at a table eating salads and drinking beer. They were cute in that twenty-one year-old Abercrombie way. I listened to them directing girls to the bar, and the various groups of friends started showing up in couples. A cute guy walked by Kristen and I with his adorable girlfriend. Endless pairs of people walked into the bar as we sat drinking.
“Christ,” I muttered to Kristen, “do they let people out in this town without a significant other in tow? What do the single people do?”
Evidently, they come out after nine. A group of college-aged kids walked in and ordered their drinks over my shoulder. One good looking guy kept looking my way, so I smiled at him. I watched some of the slam-dunk contest and yelled at the players on the screen along with Kristen.
Eventually the good-looking guy introduced himself to me. His name was Ted, and he lived in Portland. When he asked where I lived, I said Boston.
“Really?” He asked in disbelief, his dark eyebrows raised so high they were under the knit cap that covered his dreadlocks, “what are you doing in Portland?”
“We had the weekend off, so we figured why not have a road trip? Tomorrow we’re going to North Conway, then down to Connecticut and Rhode Island on Monday, then back to Boston.”
“That’s really cool,” he said, flabbergasted that anyone would willingly be in Portland.
Something happened in the NBA game, so I stopped talking to Ted for a minute. He got up and left. I tried to talk to his friend Chris that he’d introduced me to, but Chris had no interest in my witty comments about the dude who jumped over another guy to slam dunk the basketball.
Really hot men came and went from the bar as the crowd picked up. Kristen and I swooned as each of them paraded in front of us like ducks in a shooting gallery, completely unaware of their peril.
“I die of the hot,” Kristen said, holding her second Sam Adams as I nursed my Shipyard winter brew. “Seriously. It’s like Tom Brady called these guys in and said, ‘Okay, I’ll look impeccable during the Super Bowl parade and nearly kill her with the hot, and then you guys show up wearing World Series champion hats and Carhart coats and complete the job.’ I think I’ve lost all feeling from the waist down.”
“I think we now know where all the men are,” I said. “We need to move here immediately.”
Kristen got up to break the seal as I ordered my second beer. It was about eleven by then, and we’d decided that we could leave for Freeport to go to LL Bean late at night any time after eleven. Kristen came back, and reported that she’d been hit on while in line for the loo.
“Which one?”
“The guy in black over your right shoulder.”
I’d seen him hovering over there, and he had the kindness to not be mad when Chris had stolen some of his French fries that had been sitting on the bar smelling good for hours. I thought he was one of those guys who hover around different cliques of women, desperately trying to hit it off with any woman who’d give him some attention. It turned out he was there with a friend, and was hitting on Kristen as reconnaissance work. Their names were Eric and Scott, and they managed to get up the nerve to talk to Kristen when I got up to use the bathroom.
“Hey,” I said, a little leery of them at first, since I thought Scott was That Hover Guy.
Kristen introduced me to the men, but I was still a little nervous. Also, Scott had obstructed my view of the television.
“You look so scared right now,” Scott said, smiling. “You’re looking over your glasses, you’re not really talking, and I don’t blame you because you get up and these two guys are talking to your friend.”
I smiled, and pushed my glasses up to the bridge of my nose. “No, my glasses need to be fixed and they slide down. It’s a little weird to have two guys camped around my stool, but it’s fine. Where are you from?”
“Oh, I live in South Portland, and Eric lives around here too. Where are you from?”
“We’re down from Boston for the weekend.” Kristen was talking sports with Eric.
“Really? Why are you in Portland?”
“You’re the second person to ask me that tonight. We just figured we had three days off, we have a car, so why the hell not get out of the city for a few days.”
“Wow,” Scott said, smiling and paying very close attention to me. “That’s so cool. That’s so cool.”
We talked for a while longer while Kristen had to apologize profusely to Eric for asking him if he was a Yankees fan. Scott and I talked about the cars we had in college (from the conversation I could tell that he was about ten years older than me, but I didn’t let on my relative youthfulness) and the fact that his ex-girlfriend loved Jason Varitek’s thighs like Kristen does (though it’s doubtful that she could have the same burning passion that Kristen does). They were nice guys, and were into us, but when I gave Kristen a piece of gum around midnight they got the hint.
“Uh-oh,” Scott said to Eric, “they’ve got the gum out. It’s time for them to get going.” Ladies, let this be a lesson to you. No young guy would get that hint as well as these gentlemen did. Exhibit 5,642 why older guys are better.
“Well, we have to go test-drive some canoes,” I said. Scott and Eric looked at me with faces of complete befuddlement at the apparent line I’d just given them. After a beat I broke the silence.
“That’s not a euphemism or anything.”

Kristen and I got to Freeport around 1am. The LL Bean flagship store is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. “I don’t know why anybody would decide that they needed a kayak at four in the morning and could not wait until a store opened to get one,” Kristen said as we took our picture on a giant boot by the front door.
“It’s the American system at work. I am just glad to know that the option is there should the need arise for thermal underwear at any hour of the day.”
We’d decided to go just for the novelty, but it was actually a pleasant experience. There was one older guy walking around the home goods section and a group of high school kids wandering through the shoe section, but other than them and the employees the store was deserted. Kristen and I both made purchases—I bought a calf-length red wool coat for $100 and Kristen got a new polar fleece. Despite the pangs of guilt I felt for charging the coat, it was a beautiful color of red and my coats are all too loose now anyway.
I drove the Subaru back to the South Portland HoJo and we went to sleep content. We’d had good food, good drinks, had some men hit on us and got to browse through sheets and polar fleece at 1:30am. I’d wake up at 8:30am in cold sweats over what my credit card statement would say after the coat went through, and was especially nervous about the next day’s journey to North Conway, New Hampshire, the outlet capital of New England.

Road Trip: Friday

The Road Trip New England started out not with a road, but a train. A very crowded train filled with people just like Kristen and I. People who were scrambling onto a packed subway car, enduring the one last press of humanity until they could get home and do whatever they pleased with their weekend. Kristen, myself and the huge duffel bag that had the weight and dimensions to be a dead body instead of two weeks worth of laundry smooshed on the train with only the thoughts of not being on the train again for three days keeping us from ripping the ears off whoever it was who was listening to country music, then gospel music, then oompah music at loud volume.
"There's a train right behind us," croaked the disinterested driver. People continued to push onto the train.
"There's also an Easter bunny and a Santa Claus," I said grumpily, moving my duffel bag so an old woman could lean against the doors. I took a quick look around and said, "I didn't ruin that for anybody, did I?"
Eventually, we ended up in Quincy where Kristen's car was parked. Once I got off the train the sweat that had been pouring down the back of my legs froze. I sauntered up the escalator with the bag and crushed into the elevator with a group of heavily made-up women carrying flowers and Coach purses. I couldn't wait to get out of the city.
I threw the laundry/body bag into the back of Kristen's car and heaved a sigh of relief, my breath floating out in front of me. Kristen flopped into the driver's seat and turned the car on. It started easily, but began to squeal as we backed out of the spot.
"Yeah, go ahead," Kristen snarled, "squeal like the little bitch you are. Go ahead! I don't care." A guy walking to his car looked over at the Subaru like it might explode. You'd think that these people had never been around a car with loose belts before.
Since it had been a long week and a long drive was in front of us, Kristen and I decided that a run to Dunkin Donuts was in order. It didn't have a drive-through, so we had to get out of the car into the frigid ocean air to get our fix. I also got a cookie, because half a bag of peanut butter cups wasn't enough crap for one day. As we left the store, a car pulled up next to us and a couple who barely looked old enough to drive got out. The girl was skinny and cute as most sixteen year-olds are, but instead of having the good sense to put on a coat when it's 20 degrees and windy, she strutted around in low-slung sweatpants and two gauzy tank tops.
"Kids these days," I said to Kristen as I slurped my hot coffee. "That girl should really have a coat on."
We then watched as this dizzy broad tried to open the fire exit which, from the outside of the store, didn't have a door handle. A thinking person may have decided to walk over to the side of the store with the door that could easily be opened, but apparently the synapses in this girl's brain had been slowed by frostbite. The girl slipped her fingers into the space between the door and the jamb and tried to pry the door open. Eventually, she gave up and walked over to the door her boyfriend was holding open for her, Kristen and I laughing uproariously.
"I never would have stopped laughing if she'd lay down on the ground and tried to open the door like a cat," Kristen commented between giggles.
The drive out of Boston was easy. We listened to the wide variety of cheesy mix CDs Kristen owns and called Kristen's Mom to tell her we were indeed on our way. The only traffic we got into was at the tolls on 95 in New Hampshire. We sang along loudly to Ashlee Simpson and Tina Turner as two sailors from Texas looked at the curious sight with looks of fear with the occasional raised eyebrow to get our attention on their Honda with a cracked fender.
We arrived at the Merrill household around 8:30. I brought my bag of laundry into the house and gladly accepted the beer that Rick (Kristen's Dad) handed me. The house smelled like frying chicken and was warm. I started a load of laundry as my stomach grumbled for some actual nutrition.
The chicken was delicious (thanks Sue) and it was good to sit in a proper house for a meal that didn't come out of a box or from a handsome waiter for the first time in weeks. Kristen and Rick discussed football and hockey, both of which I know little about.
"Come on, Amy," Rick boomed at me, "what do you think of Adam Vinatieri's contract? What do you have to add to the conversation?"
"Umm," I said, knowing full well that I was far outgunned by Rick, Kristen and Sue in this conversation, "can we talk about baseball?"
"We're getting there," Rick replied as Sue stole the cherry from his Manhattan.
After some discussion of funny moments in baseball (Rick saying "How is it possible that that bird managed to fly in front of Randy Johnson's pitch at the exact moment that it did? What are the physics of this situation?") we decided to go to bed. I fell asleep, lulled by the sound of my clean clothes tumbling in the dryer, thinking of exploding birds and what Portland, Maine would be like in the dead of winter. I'd find out on Saturday.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Road Trip!

Okay, so it's not summer. It's not even spring, and there's certainly no leaf-peeping like there is in the fall. But there's a three day weekend-- approximately eighty hours of freedom from the cubicle. While I could spend this time in reflecting my life and it's current direction, out at a bar scavanging for a businessman to be my sugar daddy, at home watching endless reruns of the "Real World," or out trying to find some kind of supplementary income (be it through sugar daddy or actual labor and toil) I am instead hitting the road with the person who spends more time in my head than I do, Kristen. We're getting in the Subaru Forester and touring New England. Please, save your applause until the end of the post.
It'll probably cost me more than I can afford (spending any money is more than I can afford) and it's going to be cold. But I have a big ugly coat, gloves and the desire to get the hell out of Boston for a few days. "But Amy," you may say, "you were just in Florida a month ago." To which I say, "Yes, and I've also had three illnesses, been dumped and developed an addiction to candy since then. I think it's fairly evident I need a change of scene."
Hopefully, Kristen's parents will loan their digital camera to us for the weekend, so we will have photo essays to post on Tuesday when we're back in the cube. For tonight, we head to New Hampshire to fill up on Sue's fried chicken and get the Forester into the shop so it doesn't squeal like an Ashlee Simpson vocal for the entire weekend. Then, tomorrow morning, we begin our trip in earnest. Wish us luck...

Substance Abuse

My name is Amy, and I have a substance abuse problem. No, Mom, it's not a drinking problem (insert "drinking isn't a problem" joke here) and no, I haven't taken to crack, mainly because sleep is the only thing that keeps me from going insane with boredom after work. My problem is an unregulated substance, one which should be kept away from me at all costs. There should be a five-day waiting period for purchasing a bag of these gems. My name is Amy, and I'm addicted to Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.
I think the endless supply of Valentine's Day candy in my office got me started. One of my coworkers brought in sandbag-size sacks of hard candies for our department's enjoyment. Necco hearts, Sweet Tarts and hard, fruity-flavored hearts took up residence on a small table that's positioned outside my cubicle. In order to do just about anything (get a glass of water, use the loo, sharpen a pencil) I have to walk by the table and I'm presented with Sweet Tarts, which I actually like. So I grab a handful after I sharpen my pencil. I grab a handful to eat with my glass of water. I think there's some sort of sweet-tooth fertilizer in these things, because I haven't been able to walk past a piece of candy this week without eating it. Usually sweets are the last thing I want to eat-- I'm much more of a chips and french fries aficionado. But this weekend I had a hankering for peanut butter cups, and since it was Valentine's Day, I figured I could treat myself. So I bought a small bag of candy at Target on Sunday, figuring by the time I finished the bag my craving would be more than sated.
Not only did I buy the bag of Reeses, I also bought the smallest container of vanilla ice cream I could find. Why vanilla? So I could open the Reeses, drop them in a bowl and add half-melted vanilla ice cream into the mix. I did this on Tuesday, and consumed the entire concoction in two minutes. I don't think I took a breath as I shoveled the chocolate, peanut butter and melted sugar-cream into my mouth. I thought if I did it once, I would feel sick enough to not want to eat it again.
But where was I after I left the gym last night? In Star Market, buying a half-price bag of Valentine's peanut butter cups, destined for a shared bowl with the remaining ice cream. The cashier looked at me quizzically as I set the lonely bag of candy on the conveyer belt.
"Do you want a bag?" He asked, looking nervous as though I would chew his arm off if he manhandled the chocolate.
"No, thank you," I replied as pleasantly as possible, not taking my eyes off the gleaming cellophane bag as he tossed it down as if I'd told him to put down his weapon and come out with his hands up.
I at least had the self-control to wait until the Apprentice was on to open up about six of the mini-Reeses, crush them up and dump a couple of scoops of mushy ice cream on top. My roommate and I watched TV, she eating lukewarm french fries, me with my troth of sloth and gluttony, looking the part of stereotypical Americans. I'm leaving town this weekend for a Road Trip of New England, so I can only hope that once I finish this bag the problem will have passed. Otherwise, I'll go through withdrawl while shopping for steeply discounted khakis at J. Crew. Somebody hand me a bag of carrots and a Dexatrim before I am too far gone to be helped.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Damn you, internet!

I had a whole thing typed out. It was kind of funny. Then it got deleted because the internet is sick of me wasting space. Fuck off, internet. I will not show you my boobies in order to gain your favor.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Kristen and Amy's Cracked Conversation

In which Amy and Kristen exchange IMs altogether too late at night. Explanation of "Ninjas of Love" will be forthcoming once I complete the actual important work I have to do.


Kristen: Dude, you so hate me. Don't try to claim otherwise.

Amy: I do not. I just speak to Yvette very seldomly and love her oodles and miss her.

Kristen: *growls*

Amy: Why do you growl?

Kristen: Because I couldn't think of another appropriate response.

Amy: Perhaps, “Yes, Yvette is lovely?”

Kristen: Don’t you go putting words in my mouth!

Amy: Dance, poppet!

Kristen: I am not your monkey.

Amy: Dance!

Kristen: I might be your gorilla, however as gorillas are not monkeys.

Amy: I have no gorillas. Only murderous gorillas who resent being in cages. And they are in my soul.

Kristen: Shit, that made me laugh so hard I snorted.

Amy: Hee, hee, hee.

Kristen: I'm a fucking catch.

Amy: I am serving my purpose.

Kristen: Careful, I will start blaming you for my dry spell.

Amy: It matters not. This weekend we do a cold-weather version of Thelma and Louise. You can be the one who gets Brad Pitt.

Kristen: Woo hoo! But unless things go horribly wrong, I would prefer not to drive off a cliff.

Amy: Only if the gorillas in my soul get out and take control of the car, dear.

Kristen: “Gorillas in My Soul” is a fucking kick ass band name.

Amy: Soul Gorillas.

Kristen: Awesome. Fucking awesome.

Amy: It's the “Ninjas of Love” solo project.

Kristen: We rock. I heart us. Also, I think I may have another date Thursday.

Amy: Nice! Are the Celtics playing again?

Kristen: Nope. Drinks and dinner. In Boston. He shall come to me.

Amy: As it should be.

Kristen: Dance, puppet!

Amy: Exactly. I should go to the Beer Works and find my waiter and make him my beer bitch. I started writing fan fic about him to Alicia, but I think it was scaring her.

Kristen: I am going to pretend that he spilled all that beer because he was so overcome by our collective beauty.

Amy: I like that too.

Kristen: Hee. Was there licking of spilled beer involved?

Amy: No. I was dominating him.

Kristen: As one would.

Amy: Giving him orders…hee, hee, hee.

Kristen: “Get me a beer, bitch!”

Amy: “Yes, mistress.”

Kristen: He appeared to be that kind to me. “Bring me blueberries! Feed me beer-soaked blueberries!”

Amy: “I didn't say you could speak, slave!”

Kristen: Dude, the boy has no idea what he missed out on.

Amy: Well, that could be good or bad. He missed out on a budding dominatrix, if he likes that shit.

Kristen: Two, in fact.

Amy: If not, well, fuck him.

Kristen: Except, yeah, fuck him.

Amy: I also had a Whatever dom thing going too…”Get my gorilla, bitch. I WANT MY GORILLA NOW, BOY!”

Kristen: Well, yeah.

Amy: I could have grabbed that waiter by the tie and...ahem. Dragged him across the table and hidden him away behind the beer drums.

Kristen: Mmmm, yes, I believe that's how it went in my head too. Except she was blonde.

Amy: Hee hee hee. He even had a Boston accent. It was nice on him.

Kristen: It is on some guys.

Amy: Dude, I am writing fantasies about a waiter, and it's been about three weeks. This is sad.

Kristen: Um, I am engaging and adding to your fantasies. What does that tell you?

Amy: We must go to bed. Immediately.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Last Update

So in the past hour, not much happened. Bridget came over and talked about baseball with Kristen. I nodded politely. I read some more, kind of. I ate more Sweet Tarts. I went onto Mini's website and made my dream Mini Cooper (convertible, British Racing Green, standard, Union Jack mirror covers, heated seats, iPod adapter) so when Johnny Damon chases me down I can stop suddenly and he'll be hog tied in my backseat before his biceps can even flex and make me swoon. More to come when I can form a coherent thought instead of an Eliot-like ramble to amuse myself until I can kill myself with carbs.
Is it still Valentine's Day? I'd forgotten, but the DJ on the radio won't shut up about it. Shut up, shut up. Put on more G. Love, disc monkey.

Hahahaha!

Burn, baby!  HA HA HA HA!



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Also, please note that this card sucks really hard.  The front

reads "I'd love to love you, my love."  This person is right to

burn this card on principle, and should file for divorce

immediately.  Reason:  allowing someone to make money off bad

poetry.

Update

Kerri said that I am entertaining her, so I shall keep on. She has refreshed my supply of Sweet Tarts, so I have fuel.
The only thing entertaining that's happened in the hour is that Kristen nearly choked on a Sweet Tart. I am glad she is not dead.
I dig bluegrass music. I don't know how this has happened, since five years of riding the school bus with blaring country music at 6:30am soured me on most music from the South.
Last night I watched Extreme Home Makeover, and it was a special 2-hour episode where they built a duplex in this community for homeless families so the families can save up some money and not live in a shelter. There was this awesome guy named John who lived at the shelter with the two families who get to live in the new houses who was so kind, and he just got laid off from his job and didn't have the money to pay his rent. He had his Ford hat and the prototypical old man face (with the chin jutting out as far as his forehead so his mouth looks like it's hiding in a cave) and the contractor of the job gave John a job as a security guard. John got to call the families he knew from the shelter to tell them, and he seriously cried for about twenty minutes he was so happy. It's frightening how easy it is to become homeless; all the people on the show had homes but lost them when they got laid off. If it weren't for my Mom's house, if I lost my job I'd be right there with them. Except not in Denver. Of course, I cried. And ate peanut butter cups by the handful.
I think Fleetwood Mac may be the best breakup/bad relationship reminder music ever. Nothing like having to write songs about your ex that your ex is going to have to sing backup on.
"Okay, Stevie, just fucking say it. You hate me. Why do you have to write this cryptic gypsy shit about it?"
"Well, maybe if you didn't try all this experimental rock crap I wouldn't have to, Linsday. Pass the coke."
"Wait, I thought that song was about me, Stevie."
"You fucked Mick too?"
"Shut up and pass the coke, Lindsay."

Photocopying?

Dude, seriously. Something's gotta happen around here. Or somebody's got to hit me with a blunt object so the day ends sooner. I am reading a recap of a show I don't watch. I have eaten all the free oatmeal raisin cookies that the rest of the office forsook for the false god of chocolate chip. The rose is in water. I have admired my new baubles endlessly. Someone, please make something happen. Or else I'm going to take the matches out of my desk and mindlessly start lighting them.

Update

Black Monday Update:

Karen has presented me with a beautiful white rose. She also gave one to Kristen, thus leading me to believe it's a pity for the single girls rose. But it's great and I accepted it with a tear in my eye. Mainly because a wave of self-doubt has wiped me off the boogie board of the self-help affirmations I've learned from Oprah and Bridget Jones and I am treading water. "I am crazy. Boys can smell crazy like they can smell hoebag and cookies. I am dying alone. With baubles and beer, but alone." Emailed Sharon, feeling better.
Then Sinead O'Connor came on my iPod, and she can commiserate, because it's all their fault. I'm going to put my white rose (purity?) in some water. I sure hope work picks up soon...

I Wonder Where They Registered?

Kids 'R' Us?
It's kind of odd that it's now okay for these two to be a happy couple with a strong love and "friends of the couple" since all I can feel is "Ewwwww."

Praying Drunk

In honor of Valentine's Day, I give you a poem (not involving love in any way) to read. It is awesome.

Forgive me. This is my favorite sin: despair-
whose love I celebrate with wine and prayer.
--Andrew Hudgins

Sunshine and Breakfast

"The chimpanzees in the zoos do it
Some courageous kangaroos do it
Let's do it, let's
Fall in love..."
-Ella Fitzgerald



Get your swerve on, gorillas. It's got to be better than online dating...

In Good News...

Kitty!  Oh my God!




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(Courtesy of Sam's Blog.)

Emotional Communism

Fuck you, Valentine's Day. Fuck you hard. Fuck you with barbed wire condoms.
This amount of vitriol can only mean it's Valentine's Day and I'm single. Again. Some more. I long the halcyon days of elementary school where everybody got a valentine in their tissue-box mailbox. If you gave one kid a valentine, you had to give everyone a valentine. It's the shining example of communism working in reality-- I never had hurt feelings in elementary school. Maybe it's because I was a borderline kid-- not really cool (but not getting slammed into lockers) so it allowed me to think, even for a day, that I was cooler than I thought.
Then came junior high, and the illusion was gone. Different groups ran events for Valentine's Day, but the emotional communism was gone. You could buy someone a carnation for a dollar and it would be delivered to them in their last period class. You could buy a bag of candy for a dollar and it would be delivered to the first period class. Of course, someone has to think enough of you to shell out a dollar of their babysitting/allowance money so I never got one. Actually, I think my science teacher may have felt bad enough for me that she bought one after my endless complaining. Teacher's pet, maybe, but at least I had a carnation and wasn't stigmatized as the Girl Without a Valentine.
Valentine's Day is bullshit. People complain about Christmas being too commercial, but I think Valentine's Day is by far the most blatant money-making scheme going. Christmas at least has the decency to exploit an ideal of good will towards man and kindness. Valentine's Day plays on people's insecurities. If you don't get a card or flowers, you're unloved. If you're single, stay home and watch the Extreme Home Makeover Reunion show like the unattractive freak of nature you are. If your boyfriend doesn't buy you something worth a lot of money and take you to a fancy dinner, he doesn't love you as much as you thought. Maybe he's going to dump you. Did he take another girl he dated before you out to a nicer place? Does that mean he liked her more? Did he forget Valentine's Day entirely and get these roses free with a ten gallon fill-up at the Shell station? While our logical side knows it's bullshit, we've been exposed to endless romantic comedies and commercials that get this little undercurrent of doubt going and, if you're a misanthrope like me, it turns into a flood.
But I will not be intimidated. I almost had a Valentine this year (believe you me, if he'd soldiered through another week of my company, I'd have made it worth his while) so I'm doing better than previous years. I've also got a girl's night out planned, so at least I won't have to slog through another hour of Ty Pennington's screaming. And I did get a card, which is on display in my room, to remind me that the days of emotional communism may be over, but there's still people in the world looking out for me and taking my side.
(Be on the lookout for posts all day... I'm sure some emotional baggage will be circling around the carousel today. Because that's how I kick it on Valentine's Day.)

Friday, February 11, 2005

Cheers, Arthur

Sniff.

As a bibliophile and former high school drama geek, the passing of Arthur Miller saddens me. He wrote two of my favorite plays (Death of a Salesman and The Crucible). He's one of the best modern playwrights, and not because he used lofty language or was avante garde. He wrote stories that people can relate to. Willy Loman is one of the best characters in any play, ever, in my opinion-- the tragedy of the common man. If you can watch or read Death of a Salesman without a pang in your heart then you are dead. The world is changing too fast for Willy to keep up with, and it depresses him. I love that play.
The Crucible is also great, and is the Miller play I read in high school (hi Sharon! American Lit, whoo!). You've got to love the fact that he wrote a play about witch hunts during the McCarthy era and got away with it. Arthur Miller had balls the size of a rock star's, and it landed him Marylin Monroe, for a while.
So, thank Arthur Miller for writing some of the greatest plays of the twentieth century today. Perhaps sit down, rent the movies and enjoy them. If you're working on the Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature, review some page proof. Now I miss acting...