Sunday, March 29, 2009
I'd spent practically the whole vacation nodding and smiling, understanding little to none of what was actually being said. I would raise my eyebrows in interest as if to say, "I'm listening," and then politely turn to Eric for a translation.
"They said you have nice hair," he would whisper to me.
"Oh...GRACIAS!" I would shout in their general direction as though they were hearing impaired as well as Spanish-speaking. I usually tuned out during conversations, relying solely on Eric to provide me with the necessary information. Towards the end of the vacation however, I began to catch on to fragments of sentences and random words I remembered from my high school Spanish classes.
"Make a left here!!" I once shouted excitedly in a quiet car when I recognized the word izquierda. My reaction was much like a small child's when they become elated at the opportunity to show off their smarts.
"That car is blue!! Look mommy!! A blue car!!"
"That's right dear," his mother might say, proud of her son's astuteness. With me, the habit wasn't nearly as endearing. So, the vacation to Texas to meet Eric's family and attend his brother's wedding lit a spark in me to learn Spanish. I had always envied people who were bilingual and envisioned learning Spanish would change my life.
It must have been a weak spark because a solid year passed after returning home before I made any attempt at learning the language. I reasoned that I was mostly busy with school and work and didn't have the time or money to invest in classes and lessons. Since graduating though, I still don't have the money but I certainly have the time. So, the thought of another day spent overcoming my mind-numbing boredom is what drove me to the bookstore in search of instructional books.
I live in Chicago's Boystown neighborhood and my local bookstore has a wide selection of fiction, nonfiction, children's books, local authors, and gay erotica. It's a cozy store so packed with books that it's almost impossible to move through the shelves without knocking something over. I quickly found a massive shelf full of a series of books called "Everything About..." Everything You Need to Know About Religion OR Everything You Need to Know About Anatomy OR Everything You Need to Know About Golf. I found the book titled Everything You Need to Know About Spanish Grammar and lingered just a while longer, looking for any supplemental material. After an accidental turn into the Gay Erotica section, I decided it was time to checkout and be on my way.
This would be a piece of el pastel, right? Read a few pages, memorize a few words, tape a few notecards around my house and I would be bilingual in no time. And I was ALWAYS being approached by lost Spanish-speaking women on the street asking for directions. And I can guarantee you that I don't look Hipspanic. If you don't know what I look like, reference my picture in the 'Whozits and Whatnots Galore' blog (I'm the one on the right). Besides, I took three years of Spanish in high school. Surely, those lessons would come flooding back to me in a wave of recognition and understanding. Incorrecto, mis amigos.
It dawned on me that while I may have been in the Spanish Honor Society, I skipped the induction ceremony for a Dave Matthew's Band concert. Now that I think of it, the only vivid memory I have of sitting in Spanish Class was being told by my neighboring classmate that my toes are freakishly long and should be called "Tingoes" (a cruel combination of 'fingers' and 'toes'). And my only real exposure to Spanish outside of Eric's house was poorly bartering with vendors during two family vacations to Mexico, and our usual birthday trips to Chi-Chi's Mexican Dining. Chi Chi's was a classy 'unlimited chips and salsa' kind of establishment that made you stand on a chair and dance while the servers sang Happy Birthday. It wasn't until high school Spanish Class that I learned the Spanish version of Happy Birthday was not sung to the tune of La Cucaracha. Those dinners usually ended with my Mom's enormous van pulled over in a parking lot because Gracie had gotten sick in the back seat. At first we thought it was just a fluke but when the tradition continued, we started ordering Grace peanut butter and jelly sandwiches off the kid's menu. (In a non-Spanish related note, Grace has admitted that she would occasionally lick the brown faux-leather carseat, knowing full well that she had vomited on it in the past.)
I also thought that my role in our high school's production of West Side Story would have had a lasting effect on my connection with the Spanish language. You see, I played the role of Consuelo, a saucy but compassionate Puerto Rican who worked alongside Maria and Anita in the local dress shop and who also appeared to be a bit loose back on the island. My role, along with the other Sharks, required intensive Spanish lessons with one of the school's Spanish teachers in order to make our portrayal of Puerto Rican immigrants living on the mean streets of New York City more raw and gritty. We would spend fifteen, even TWENTY minutes with the tutor learning mostly Spanish explicatives that the Sharks of the 1960's may have shouted at the Jets, our rival gang.
"BASURA!!!" we shouted in unison.
"Vaya Tiburones!!" was our rallying cry.
"Marchese!" we ordered.
"I like to be in A-MER-EE-CA!!" we sung in unison.
But the fun of the show wasn't about perfecting a Spanish accent. It was about costumes and beehive hairdos and covering ourselves in bronzer in an attempt to look Puerto Rican.
Sure, we all attempted to imitate Spanish accents to the best of our ability, resulting in a veritable hodgepodge of sounds that was surely difficult to understand, painful to watch, and quite possibly even offensive to any native Spanish speakers in the audience. My friend Rick probably had the most trouble with the accent, rolling r's when it wasn't called for, accenting the wrong syllables, and sometimes sounding more like Fantasy Island's Tattoo than he did Spanish. There was one particular line that required Rick to say the name 'Beatrice,' and try as he might, the name sounded more like 'Batteries' when showtime rolled around.
So perhaps my memory of my adventures in Spanish was cloudy. And when I cracked open my Everything You need to Know About Spanish Grammar book, my suspicions were confirmed. It would seem 'everything I need to know' required a much larger book.
At first, I was actually optimisstic. Masculine and feminine nouns? Got it. Rules of possession? Check. Indefinite and definite articles? Okay... Demonstrative pronouns? Ummm.... Past Participle Verb Conjugation? Que?? Soy arturdido. I closed the book at page forty and never looked back. The thing is, it's so much WORK. It would require studying and memorizing and patience- UGH. I won't lie, I had planned on writing this blog weeks ago when I actually bought the dumb book but had nothing subtantiative to say when I gave up a week into it.
So here's the deal, I figured writing about my plan to actually commit to learning Spanish would, in turn, hold me accountable to learning it. Once I click the little "Publish Post" button at the bottom of the screen, there's no looking back. People will ask me how goes the Spanish and I can't lie! Well, I can lie....but I won't (wink). Sooo, here it goes... I'm gonna click it...right....NOW!!!!!
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
“Just ten more seconds! C’mon, ten little seconds! TEN!…” Nicole shouted enthusiastically.
I can do this
Ok, a little shaky but I got this
Deep breath Ann
Oh my god, we’re only at six?
What am I doing to myself?
This is the worst pain ever!
I swear I’ll just get right up and walk out of here.
“TWO!!! Almost there, you can do it!!”
Just shut up Nicole, SHUT UP!
“ONE!! And release, nice job everyone,” she smiled encouragingly.
THANK YOU GOD.
I collapsed to the ground, arms shaking, heart pounding, and really pissed. Class was about five minutes in, and I was already regretting it. I like to think I make good use of my gym membership and take classes there regularly. Spinning, Muscle Pump, swimming laps, or even a good run on the treadmill—I’m determined to get my money’s worth. However, I also work at a spa that offers Yoga and Core Fusion classes, the latter of which I happen to avoid like the plague. Try as I might, Core Fusion never gets any easier and I usually vow to never take the class again. On several occasions, my legs are so sore the following day that walking is painful, and I end up looking like a baby zebra learning to take its first steps. There's something unnatural about a class that does that to a person so I usually protest it on moral grounds.
However on this particular day, Sara tricked- no, conned- no, HARASSED me into trying Exhale's newest torture technique, Core Fusion Sport. Our menu describes Core Fusion Sport in the following fashion:
With words like firm and chisel, I couldn’t help but be a little interested. It had been quite some time since I’d taken a Core Fusion class and I probably forgot how much I loathed it. That coupled with Sara’s incessant nagging (“Sport! Sport! Sport!”), I caved and agreed to a Friday afternoon class. When Friday finally rolled around, I packed up my workout gear and headed to work for my early morning (6:15am!!) shift. After my shift ended at 2:15pm, it was Sport time. However, my confidence began to wane as my blood sugar began to drop mid afternoon. When it was nearing class time, my attitude (or Ann-itude as Sara likes to call it) was rapidly turning sour. While Sara wanted to Sport, I wanted to nap. I had every intention of ditching class and heading home to my waiting couch, but Sara laid on a guilt trip for the record books. Begrudgingly, I Sported. I’ve since come up with a more accurate description of Core Fusion Sport:
This one hour class is designed to slowly and effectively turn your body’s major muscle groups into soft putty. Feel your knees buckle and your heart pound frighteningly in your chest while you struggle to maintain your last shred of dignity and your classmates look on in horror. Time will practically seem to stand still as you fumble with your weights, lose your balance, and silently cry to yourself.
I offered my revised version for our menu but management wasn’t interested. Admittedly, I may have eaten a Chocolate cupcake with Guinness frosting before class which could have added to my sluggish mood. And, let’s not forget I was at work at 6:15am people!! Plus, I’d be lying if I said the spastic gene didn’t run in the Lindsay family. My dad often notes that with three daughters, he assumed at least one of us would have been athletically inclined. No such luck.
Perhaps the epitome of our spasticity was at a neighbor’s Labor Day BBQ. A friendly game of volleyball was organized amongst the kids of the neighborhood as the adults sat leisurely and enjoyed the weather and an afternoon off. I chose not to join the game, knowing my volleyball skills certainly weren't up to par. Sara, however, must have been feeling confident and decided to give it a whirl. Just as Sara's turn to serve approached, there happened to be a lull in the adult conversation so their attention turned to the game. Sara positioned herself, stepped her left foot back to gain momentum, and gave the volleyball a grand vertical heave into the air. As the ball made it's way back towards her, she reached her arm high behind her head in preparation for a strong serve. It looked promising. My Dad held his breath as he waited for the ball to make contact with her hand. The ball certainly made contact... with her face. Apparently, her timing was slightly off and her hand missed the ball entirely, landing instead on her upturned face. My Dad lowered his head in an all too familiar shame.
In an effort to foster a sense of athleticism, we were enrolled in a variety of dance, gymnastic, and even karate classes throughout our adolescent years, at none of which we really excelled. That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy our time on a balance beam or learning roundhouse punches, but our lack of coordination usually caught up to us and left us at the end of the pack. Karate was the last of our athletic endeavors, and then my mom smartened up. She enrolled us in Art Class.
Sure, Sara tried her hand at golf, and it ended with a golf club to her throat and an incident with an errant swing that left my Dad with a few fractured bones in his hand. And my Dad and I used to toss a football around until I jammed my finger and wanted nothing more to do with it. We tried baseball and again, jammed finger. Basketball in gym class, jammed finger. I took it as a sign to avoid sports for awhile.
I'm happy to say that Core Fusion Sport concluded without incident except for being sore to the point of immobility the following day. Ok, so maybe I won't be joining a baseball league or even a kickball team anytime soon but at least I'm not terrified of anything ending in 'ball' anymore. Well, not as terrified.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
I washed my face, brushed my teeth, and snapped in my retainer for the night, my usual routine. My space heather hummed in the background as I cozied myself in my twin size bed. And then things got confusing- lizards and other various reptiles and big fat hairy spiders. I’m talkin’ spiders the size of house cats. The first time I encountered the spiders, they had no reptilian companions and I awoke feeling anxious and terrified. The second time that week the spiders made an appearance in my dreams, I awoke feeling curious. Spiders again? Couldn’t I be a bit more creative?
I won’t bore you with the details of the dream, mostly because I can’t remember them, but also because I find it boring, PAINFULLY boring, when people recount their dreams. Dreams are only interesting to the person who had them. I find my mind wanders and my eyes glaze over the moment someone starts a sentence “So I had this dream last night…” On that note, I will proceed to write a blog about my dream.
I’m not usually one to buy into the idea of dream interpretations. Dreams, at least for me, seem like a random collection of thoughts and images that mingle together and make no sense. In addition, moments after waking up I’ve most likely forgotten my entire dream. I frantically grasp onto the little nuggets of dream I can recall, but to no avail. Unless of course that dream involves house cat sized spiders. Even more than the grotesque creatures themselves, I was perturbed that I dreamt of them twice in one week. So, I decided perhaps I would entertain this notion of dream interpretation.
As a general rule, I find those who swear by dream interpretations, tea leaf readings, or astrological signs to be untrustworthy. The same goes for those who watch Medium. Here’s the thing, if the Chicago Tribune lists my daily horoscope, am I to believe that every Sagittarius in the country, or at least Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, will have the same day as me? I think not.
A past job interview only supported my beliefs. About a year ago, I was looking to expand my horizons and began searching for a new job. Having worked in a salon as a receptionist for four years, customer service had become my forte My search began shortly after the New Year and I was delusional about resolutions and a ‘new me.’ So, I began searching more alternative spas that I would have otherwise described as phooey. I happened across a spa nearby called Karyn’s and landed myself an interview. As I visited Karyn’s website to prepare for my interview, I found her services and offerings a tad unconventional but brushed it off.
On the day of the interview, I met with Barbara, a woman with short curly hair and a tendency to cut me off as I was answering her interview questions. She apparently was good friends with Karyn herself and would be my direct supervisor were I to be hired. She asked the obligatory questions about my strengths and weaknesses or why I’d be a good fit at Karyn’s.
“Well, with my years of customer service experience, I’ve become quite adept at--“ I paused because Barbara had given me a look. She tilted her chin up and looked down her nose at me with squinted eyes and a slight smile. It was a look that said I’ve got you all figured out.
“What’s your birthday sweetie?” she interrupted and asked it as if she already knew the answer. She was the type of woman who referred to everyone as sweetie or hun. I found it obnoxious but thought it best to keep to myself on a job interview.
“Um… November 26th,” I replied, slightly confused about the question’s significance.
“Hmm… Sagittarius,” Barbara replied with a knowing nod. I needed to hear no more to know that Karyn’s and Ann did not a good match make. I refused to work at an establishment that rated my performance or competence based on whether Mars was in retrograde. I spent the rest of the interview giving half-ass answers with no intent to return. To my surprise though, Karyn’s wanted me to return. When they called to invite me to a second interview, I kindly told them the pay wasn’t what I was looking for and thanked them for the opportunity. They must have been itching for a Sagittarius on staff because they offered me a pay raise on the spot and insisted I come back for a second interview.
In the spirit of open-mindedness, I begrudgingly showed up for my second interview to meet with Karyn. She was itsy bitsy with long black hair and tanned skin and appeared to be in her sixties. She looked nothing like the dozens of pictures of her posted throughout the spa that were evidently taken 30 years prior. She walked with an air of confidence as she proudly showed me around her spa. From colonoscopies to ear candling to raw food— Karyn’s offered it all.
As she brought me upstairs, she paused to stop at a fluffy armchair paired with a large strobe light. She leaned in close and whispered something to what I thought to be a small child in the chair. “It’s ok baby, just relax. That’s right, just relax right here,” she cooed.
“Poor thing,” she turned to me, “she’s thirteen and nearly blind.” How terrible, I thought. However, as I rounded the corner and peered over the chair, I saw not a child, but a cat. Fair enough, I reasoned, some people have a close bond with pets. Who am I to judge? I was more concerned with the strange strobe light flashing continuously at the chair. Almost sensing my confusion, Karyn explained the light, “It’s light therapy. It cures blindness,” she said proudly. Unfortunately, this only made me more confused.
She then led the way towards her office, making various stops along the way to explain a therapy or service that was offered at the spa. Forget massages or facials, apparently Karyn developed a pedicure tub that cures arthritis. Now, I had my doubts about the place before the interview even started, and with this light therapy and pedicure business, I was sure I had a one way ticket to Crazy-Town. Ironically, I was concerned with seeming weird myself and that’s what stopped me from leaving mid-interview. Instead, I followed Karyn around and feigned interest.
We then approached what appeared to be a large, white, plastic coffin-shaped cubical that was standing upright. I no longer remember the name of the machine but Karyn informed of its purpose.
“This has been known to cure 10,000 cases of AIDS and cancer,” she remarked surprisingly casually. I thought the coffin shape a strange choice for a machine with such remarkable powers, but that wasn’t the only flaw that came to mind. I thought it quite selfish of Karyn to keep this technological miracle to herself. Surely, there were people across the world who would have appreciated a head’s up about the cure to cancer. And isn’t there some talk about wanting to cure AIDS too? At the very least I’m sure she would have been handsomely rewarded for her plastic coffin.
Still, I raised my eyebrows and slightly tilted my head as if to say Wow, you don’t say… all the while planning an escape route in my head. What’s strange is that the plastic coffin didn’t frighten me as much as the prospect of having to turn down an offer of employment. Always a people pleaser, I was once dangerously close to purchasing a timeshare simply because I was so uncomfortable with the pressure of saying no. So, I imagined myself answering questions about colonoscopies and tending to the blind cat simply because I wanted to avoid what was sure to be an awkward conversation.
She then led me into her office and motioned for me to take a seat across from her. The moment I sat down we were joined by several more of her furry friends who apparently were free to roam the spa as they pleased. She continued to conduct the interview as I sat with two dogs on my lap, one of them a poodle the size of a small pony.
"I've been on a raw food diet for 30 years. I'm 63 years old," she boasted. Her tone suggested I was supposed to be impressed with her age so I played along. However, she absolutely looked to be in her sixties in my opinion. The remainder of the interview continued in this fashion. She would spew a slue of facts about herself that she found particularly impressive.
"I've been on the Oprah Show," she said. I smiled and nodded.
"I'm sending a pilot to the Food Network," she beamed. I smiled and nodded.
"I haven't had allergies for more than 15 years," she bragged. I smiled and nodded.
The one thing we didn't discuss in the interview were my qualifications for the job. However, something told me that this wasn't the type of establishment that was interested in facts and statistics. As the moments crawled by and I began tuning out Karyn's incessant talking, I tried to reason with myself into accepting the job. Expand your horizons Ann! A colonoscopy sounds like fun! Who doesn't love a good poodle? I was determined to convince myself into taking a risk. Forever a creature of habit, I wanted to make good on my New Year's resolution of becoming a 'new me.' So when Karyn said I'd make a great addition to the team, I smiled and nodded. I shook her hand and the deal was done. Barbara would call with details.
As I said goodbye and she showed me out of her office, she casually added, "Oh, and there's no meat allowed on the premises." Show me a pedicure that helps arthritis and I'll bite. A coffin that cures AIDS? Sure! But "no meat on the premises"? You mean I can't bring a turkey sandwich to lunch? A girl's gotta draw the line somewhere. So I smiled and nodded and never looked back.
So, after an experience like Karyn's, you can understand my hesitation towards the more unconventional beliefs of astrology and even dream dictionaries. But the spiders twice in one week irked me so I gave it a go. As it turns out, while being a symbol of femininity, spiders are also a symbol of "creativity due to the intricate webs they spin," according to dreammoods.com. OK, so what about the lizards? Apparently, those too symbolize "emerging creativity, renewal, and revitalization." With all the new bloginess lately and the millions of ideas I've got swirling around in my head but don't know how to put into action, perhaps I'm just someone who recently graduated college and is confused about what to do with her life but is itching to do something, ANYTHING, creative and imaginative. Yeah, that sounds about right.
Ok, so maybe I'll be a bit more open from now on to astrology and even Medium. But you still can't take away my turkey sandwich.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Random Fact: There’s nothing more immensely satisfying than to cut Styrofoam with scissors.
From time to time, I’d like to use this blog as a showcase for a series of short stories written by and starring moi. I figured this week was as good as any to begin the storyfest seeing as how I spent most of it lying on my new couch, doing absolutely nothing, therefore leaving me nothing new to write about. While I’d like to say I was simply celebrating the couch’s existence by spending as much time with it as possible, that’s not entirely true. Instead, I was lucky enough to catch my second cold for the month of February, and this one was a fighter. Lying lifeless on the couch had a bright side though. It gave me time to marinate with a few story ideas and become well-versed in several varieties of cough drops (I recommend Halls Natural Harvest Peach with the soothing honey center). So pop in your favorite cough drop and enjoy.
Squiggle Penn and Teller
In the 1990’s there was a squiggle pen craze. You may have missed this fad as it targeted a very specific demographic: grade school girls. Every Claire’s Boutique and KB Toys were fully stocked with these goofy pens that had no other purpose than to make your handwriting look a little sloppy. Essentially, the pens were equipped with a teeny tiny motor (or something else equally scientific-y) that caused the pens to vibrate and squiggle when turned on. If that weren’t exciting enough, the ink color was interchangeable to coordinate with perhaps your outfit or mood. Naturally, my sisters and I owned several of these ridiculous pens.
I’m sure we quickly grew bored of the pens, and this may have led Sara to make the decision she did. It began on a boring afternoon in fall or winter, a Saturday most likely.
Each Saturday began the same way. My Dad would wake my sisters and I up at what I was sure was 6am but was more likely 9am or so. He needed only to knock on one bedroom door because we all three chose to sleep stuffed into the same pink bedroom even though we lived in a house that technically had four working bedrooms. He would then proceed to yank the blankets off each of our tiny sleeping bodies and maniacally laugh as we awoke from our peaceful slumber… or so it seemed to me at the time. And then came his favorite part of the Saturday morning routine, the chore time dance. He’d enthusiastically yell, “It’s chore time! (pronounced ‘cho’ time)” and then clap his hands and do an odd version of the cabbage patch while singing the beat to MC Hammer’s hit, “Hammertime.” We would begrudgingly climb out of bed and put on our designated ‘weekend clothes,’ a sweatpant suit.
After the dancing stopped and the chores were finished, we were free to spend the day as we pleased. I like to think we were industrious children who spent playtime wisely. Occasionally we would gather all our jewelry and place it on our kitchen counter with clear Tupperware placed over it to form a faux glass case. One of us would then choose a particular piece and describe its winning attributes as the other acted surprised and impressed as though we were on the Home Shopping Network. “You’ll notice the intricate detailing on these purple plastic beads,” I might say. “Why yes, I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” Sara would reply. “Well, it’s a Claire’s Boutique original and today it can be yours for just four easy payments of $49.98 when you use our flexpay option,” I’d say. “What a bargain!” Sara would exclaim.
Sure, we were a little strange, but no one could say we weren’t creative. And in the same spirit of creativity, Sara also had a passion for Legos. She would eagerly dive into a bucket of multi-colored Legos and build to her heart’s content for hours on end. Grace and I would generally sit back as Sara tediously and laboriously constructed the Lego house we waited to play with. With two floors, kitchen cabinets, a hot tub, and a patio, these Lego houses were more lavish than my current apartment.
On this particular afternoon, shear boredom and perhaps a rebellious streak caused Sara to begin experimenting, so to speak. As I made my way down the stairs, I heard Sara call my name.
“Annie,” she beckoned somewhat secretively, “Come here!”
I found Sara in our front room kneeling in front of the fireplace. I joined her on my knees about two feet away. I can picture the green and pink flowered carpet under my legs as I leaned forward to find out what her mischievous smile was all about.
“What?” I anxiously whispered. Had she found something hidden in the fireplace? Was she about to share a secret with me? I leaned in even closer.
“Ok, watch this!” she excitedly said. What proceeded to happen has forever been seared into my memory. Sara held up one of our many squiggle pens as if to display a much practiced magic trick. She gingerly removed the ink from the pen and in its place, dropped a small yellow cylindrical Lego into the pen’s ink shaft. With an animated smile on her face and flourish of her hand, she flipped the pen’s switch, and it began to vibrate and squiggle. She then happily and willingly STUCK THE PEN UP HER NOSE and dramatically tossed her head back. When she brought her head back down and pulled the pen from out of her nose, we both simultaneously realized that the Lego was no longer in the pen’s ink shaft but instead was inside her nose. As we locked eyes, I smiled and Sara immediately screamed, “It’s stuck up my nose! IT’S STUCK UP MY NOSE!” as she darted to the kitchen to find my dad.
She continued to shout, “Dad, there’s a Lego up nose! It’s stuck up my nose!” We found my dad sweeping in the kitchen while Gracie ate lunch. He was flabbergasted, believing Sara had managed to wedge a full-sized brick Lego up her. Gracie sat at the kitchen table looking at Sara in bewilderment. I followed Sara close behind, wide eyed with a massive smile painted on my face. I secretly hoped this would require a doctor’s removal.
My dad decided not to waste much time asking how the Lego had gotten up her nose, but instead instructed her to “BLOW!” Sure enough, the yellow Lego went soaring into the Kleenex clutched in Sara’s hand. And in a moment’s notice, my dreams were dashed and our Saturday was back to normal.
Strangely, it wasn’t until now that I decided to ask Sara just how she came up with her infamous disappearing Lego illusion. She readily ‘fessed up to having stuck the squiggle pen up her nose for kicks on several other occasions. The Lego was “just an addition to an already ridiculous act. To be honest, I’m more embarrassed about the sweatpants.” Really, though?