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spicebush's Journal
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Date:2009-03-24 21:32
Subject:next it will be chicken noodle soup

Things my parents think will cure carpal tunnel:

-dipping my wrist, with its inflamed, squeezed nerve, in hot salt water (it must be sea salt)

-eating meat, because carpal tunnel is surely caused by some deficiency you get as a vegetarian rather than, say, playing violin for the last 29 years

-seeing a *real* doctor--this can only be a doctor in New York City, because where else can you get decent medical advice?

The more my parents age, the more Jewish they get.

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Date:2009-02-12 13:04

I was at Target buying Motrin, and the guy behind the register licked his finger before picking up the box. He then licked his finger before opening up the cash register. I tend to veer between almost comically mousy and heatedly strident, and this caused the latter persona to arise:

"You shouldn't lick your finger before handling merchandise."


"You licked your finger before touching my aspirin. Don't do that."


"It's unsanitary. Now your saliva is on my aspirin."

*sheepish, possibly uncomprehending chuckle*

I watched the guy as he gave me my change, trying to see what impact my words might have had: was he angry? Annoyed? Thinking of me as akin to the schoolmarm who nagged him to do his homework? Cursing me out? Already on to the next topic of his thoughts? I could not tell. All I could think was that this is the sort of behavior that causes people like me to become shriveled, sharp old ladies who yell at everyone about everything. Then I washed my bottle of Motrin and my hands.

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Date:2009-02-05 14:11
Subject:walk like an egyptian

Last night, D and I experienced one of those moments where you know you're keyed into your generation's pop culture. We heard a strain of a jazz version of the Bangles' Walk Like an Egyptian on the radio, and both of us practically levitated off our seats in excitement. Was that the shit in the third grade! I totally wanted to look like Susanna Hoff.

Anyway, this made me think of all the lyrics I misheard back then. Below are real lyrics (penned by some Jewish guy), followed by my eight-year old interpretations:

REAL: All the school kids so sick of books
They like the punk and the metal band

IMAGINED: All the school kids so sick of books
They like to fuck in the meadowland (they must have been at least in junior high)

REAL: Slide your feet up the street bend your back
Shift your arm then you pull it back

IMAGINED: Strike Judah streak then go back
Shift your arm then you cola back (what?)

REAL: Life is hard you know (oh whey oh)
So strike a pose on a Cadillac

IMAGINED: Let sergeant know (oh whey oh)
To strike a pose on a Cadillac (he was totally into crossdressing)

REAL: All the Japanese with their yen
The party boys call the Kremlin

IMAGINED: All the Japanese, the pagans
The party boys call it gambling ('cause that's what party boys do)

REAL: And the Chinese know (oh whey oh)
They walk the line like Egyptian

IMAGINED: And the charities know (oh whey oh)
To walk a-like an Egyptian (the Italian version; maybe the charities are in the olive oil business)

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Date:2009-01-24 21:46
Subject:Wo de Zhongwen bu hao.

If my wrist is going to be out of commission, I may as well learn Chinese. After a week or two of studying, I have to say, Chinese is as difficult as you think. Even more so. If it doesn't have verb conjugation, it does have tones, characters, funny pronunciation (just try saying "ri"), convoluted sentence structures ("Is my Chinese good?" = "I possessive particle Chinese good not good interrogative particle?"), and probably more scary surprises. But I now know how to bargain. Oh yes, I will get that Ming vase knocked down five kuai.

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Date:2009-01-04 08:46

I think I have carpal tunnel syndrome.

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Date:2008-11-20 08:43
Subject:old lady

Of course, my eyeglass lens had to pop out right outside the men's bathroom, leaving me scrambling on the floor to find it, feeling around myopically with one hand, my broken glasses in the other, detecting the lens just as the door opened and a man walked out.

"Got it!" I said, and whisked myself away.

I fully expect a sexual harassment charge. Who knows what he thinks I was doing?

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Date:2008-11-20 08:37

Scene: yesterday morning; roommate walks in. I'm hunched over a bowl of cereal.

Roommate: It is so cold!

Me: You would think it was winter.

Roommate: It *is* winter!

Question: Am I ridiculously subtle, or is roommate a dingbat?

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Date:2008-11-07 13:05
Subject:important news

Starbucks has a roasted mushroom sandwich on multigrain bread with goat cheese and red peppers. And it's good.

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Date:2008-08-28 08:33
Subject:cultural dissonance

My Bulgarian roommate just got back from three weeks in her native land.

Attached to our refrigerator is one of those magnets meant to remind you of your dentist--a toothy mouth surrounded by red lips with a name and address inside--nothing too odd, except that it's in Cyrillic.

Every time I look at the refrigerator now, I feel a jarring sense of displacement, as if communists are going to storm our apartment if we start criticizing the government. Funny what a few lines and shapes can do.

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Date:2008-08-08 12:48
Subject:the worst writing in the world

You know when you start your comments to the author of an academic project with "Thanks for this piece of shit," it's really time for a vacation.

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Date:2008-07-21 09:03
Subject:sparkling sidewalk

One sad thing, among many, about my grandpa dying is that I will probably never again go to that apartment in Pelham Parkway where my sister and I spent so much time as kids. Though now decrepit and falling apart, with a front door that doesn't lock and grime on walls that probably haven't been cleaned since the 70s, the apartment building used to hold a certain glamourous appeal.

The sidewalk out front, which swoops down and upward again at a perfect angle for a run, has always shimmered with a kind of mineral glitter, little sparkly bits embedded in the grit. At the right time in the evening, it looks like a magical pathway to the front door, where we'd press the buzzer and hear the musical "Who is it?" of my grandma. "It's us!" we'd shout in unison, and then be buzzed in.

The elevator, which breaks down all the time now, used to convey us up with its big, heavy sliding door that seemed so old-fashioned and that protected a small window covered in a black iron grid. We'd thunder down the wide, dark hallway to the open door at the end, where two faces waited to greet us.

Once inside, there was the huge chandelier with glass globes dangling like earrings, probably very ritzy in the 1950s, which is now hanging at an angle from wires. There was the doll duster, a figure of a woman that now has no eyes, hanging from a nail near the refrigerator. There was the kitchen window, outside of which you could see Pigeon Park, so-named because we'd beg our grandma to go out and feed the pigeons bread. On the way, we'd pass all the old Jews lying around on lawn chairs on the sidewalk (this is the Bronx). My grandpa was the second-to-last of these left; the only one in the apartment now is Pearl, who thought she might be able to make a boyfriend out of my grandpa, and who uses the same Meals on Wheels service.

In our bedroom was a chest of silver under the bed (a great hiding place) and a Playboy behind the calendar (like we wouldn't find it). Other treasures included a seahorse in a glass dome and shelves of books I'm sure my grandparents never read--the pattern on the binding of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test looked like a strange, fat man made of blue and purple splotches. At night, through the crack in the door, we could see my grandpa reading the New York Times and rocking in his chair.

My grandparents slept in twin beds; a radio on the shelf told them what was going on in the world. My grandma's vanity was always a source of fascination. Round mirrors with handles and hairbrushes with an opalescent sheen reminded one of how women lived before the feminist movement. This was where my grandparents were when I made the mistake of calling from Oregon at what was 1:00 in the morning New York time--that was the first and last time I've ever heard my grandpa mutter in Czech.

Now he's next to her, in twin spaces again, with a windchime from a neighboring house making music over his head. I don't think either of them would really have wanted to have New Jersey as their final destination, but I suppose it was cheaper and more spacious than anything in New York.

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Date:2008-06-23 11:26
Subject:baking for change

I spent the weekend baking to support moveon.org's bake sale-fueled effort to raise funds for Obama. Vegan peanut butter cupcakes with chocolate ganache frosting from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World were fantastic--moist, well-flavored, and with just the right balance of lightness and heft. They also tasted like cupcakes and not like moral lessons or punishments (sad that the best compliment for vegan goods is that they don't taste vegan).

Those went to the sale in Silver Spring, which was located in an obscure park with no foot traffic. I trudged away with a heavy heart, certain that my floury progeny would wilt and grow stale under the hot sun with no one to delight in them. The lady emailed us to say we raised $500, but I still feel dubious about my cupcakes' fate.

The blackberry-pecan banana bread for Sunday's sale needed a little more fat and sugar, but still sold out within half an hour at the Takoma Park Farmers' Market. Next time: pumpkin pie brownies (located on the Vegan Cupcakes Web site). I could bake for Obama every weekend--just give me a time and place.

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Date:2008-05-16 07:44
Subject:whiskey and campfire

I took out my older violin the other day for the first time since the bluegrass festival a few weeks ago. I tucked it under my chin to play some Johnny Court the Widow, when a smell hit me. I sniffed at the wood. A wave of moonshine and smoke, seeped into the fiddle from hours of late-night jamming, hit me. Oh, my fiddle has been baptized.

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Date:2008-05-16 07:42

Wearing a new shirt and walking to the metro, I idly scratched my left breast. I felt something slick, and pulled off a small, round sticker.

"X small," it said.

Thanks a lot, Ann Taylor.

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Date:2008-05-03 23:56
Subject:do you like American music?

I had the most stressful work week after getting no sleep at a bluegrass festival, and today I skinned my knee in my new jeans and discovered that I needed a startup disk for my Mac that will not be found. In tears, frustrated, throwing around the junk in our storage closet, I came across a treasure chest.

A box full of tapes from the 90s.

I popped in They Might Be Giants, Apollo 18. "Who's that playing?" sang one of the Johns, and a funky bass line started. "The guitar? Is it Jim? I don't know. Is it Jim? I don't know."

My heart screamed with joy. In line to be heard are Concrete Blonde (Bloodletting--remember that one? I do, to the tune of illicit cigarettes and beer bought from someone's older sister in college), Bad Religion, the Violent Femmes ("Tell him hell. . . . lo for me, a great big hello for me; Jesus always taught me that I should love my enemy"), and more.

Really making me feel ancient are the Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts summer orchestra tapes, circa 1991 and 1993. Granny played classical violin once.

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Date:2008-04-22 08:29
Subject:Passover junk food

As if it couldn't get any worse, the other day, when I went to Giant to stock up on my yearly rocky road macaroons, etc., I saw gummy gefilte fish. Yiich!

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Date:2008-03-01 12:15
Subject:tropical rainforest living room

My roommate constantly cranks up the heat in the living room to 75 degrees, then leaves it like that all day while we're both at work, or all night. Thin-skinned me is constantly finding herself turning it down to save heat. Today, I came in and it was at 80, and had probably been all night.

We don't pay for heating, so I can't ask her to keep it down on account of cost. If I bring it up, I'm going to have to go with the goody two-shoes approach of mentioning fossil fuels, the destruction of the environment, etc. I can't think of how to do this without sounding impossibly preachy. What to do?

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Date:2008-02-28 16:06

My roommate, an intelligent and professional person, had a colleague who made inappropriate comments, stared at her bosom, and otherwise acted like a (middle-aged) lout. He's now emailing her from his new job. Her response?

"I think I should write back. I don't want to be rude."

To which I stopped wrapping Dan's birthday single-malt scotch and lamented the horrible practice women have of doing things they don't want to do because they don't want to be rude.

"Do you want to write to him?" I demanded.

She hemmed and hawed. Clearly, she didn't.

I told her sternly that it was not rude to not write to the guy--that, in fact, he probably knew that he'd been a cad and was counting on her feminine desire to "not want to be rude" to keep a correspondence going.

I think she's going to write him back. He will want to meet her for coffee, and she'll keep him dangling with vague evasiveness. Oh, how I hate this tendency, which I only recognize because I, myself, have "not wanted to be rude."

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Date:2008-01-30 12:38

Because D did not want the massage I bought him last year to help him weather the stress of the job search, I went and used his gift certificate this weekend, opting for a hot stone massage at the Serenity Day Spa.

I walked for two hours to get there and two to get back--my usual weekend jaunt, but a bit more extreme. I entered after a panicked phone call because I could not find the joint, and the fashionable ladies at the desk peered at me rather disdainfully. They led me to the room where I was to take off all my clothes and put on a robe, but didn't give me the full explanation of the facilities they gave everyone else who walked in. This immediately made me feel paranoid and resentful.

The massage was decent but not overwhelming--I wanted a good walloping, and only got a light stroking. Forty minutes into it, the fire alarm went off and DID NOT STOP GOING OFF THE WHOLE REST OF MY MASSAGE. My one opportunity to relax plummeted out the window as the harsh tones of the alarm hacked through the New Age muzak. "It's alright," I quipped to the masseur, "I'll just imagine it's the Amazon rain forest being chopped down."

So much for my $120 mini-break. Next time, I'll just drink a few pints of Guinness and incite a brawl.

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Date:2008-01-14 10:32

Too bad the people in one's dreams melt away, never to be seen in real life. That nice Jewish boy that I was getting to be best friends with last night evaporated like last night's rain. Too bad--we really had a connection, and I could use more friends.

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