Wednesday, April 22, 2020

John

I came to know John through his wife, Meredith.

Meredith and I met when we were in our 20s and dating guys who lived in the same row house in DC. We eventually outgrew those relationships and grew into ours, and she became one of my very best friends. 

Lore has it she and John met on New Year's Eve 1999 when Meatloaf was performing at Madison Square Garden. Meredith had been selected from the crowd of thousands at the concert to join the band onstage during the song "Paradise by the Dashboard Light." (Things like this happen to Meredith all the time - her life is a series of bizarro incidents that sound made up but are not.) When John spotted her on stage, he turned to the friend he was with and proclaimed, "I'm going to marry that woman." (The reality is they'd met one other time prior to that, but this telling makes for a better story.)

When they started dating soon after, I asked about him and she told me he was a comedy writer. As Mer is one of the world's funniest humans and provides almost-constant comedic fodder, I figured this was a perfect union.

And in many ways, it was. They moved from NYC to LA and back to NYC - following writing jobs for which John was hired. As a native New Yorker and part of the comedy world, John had a community of comedian and writer friends who, if you didn't recognize their names, you'd definitely recognize their work. I got to know some of this crazy, creative circle during visits to see John and Mer, which at times included taking the train to Coney Island to ride the Cyclone, going out to restaurants, or just hanging out in their apartment. This circle grew to include my daughter, my Mom, and assorted friends I introduced, who immediately (and understandably) liked John and Meredith better than they liked me.
One of my favorite pics of these two
taken during one of the Writers Guild
Awards shows.
By any measure, John is an impressive guy. He graduated from an Ivy League school, received an Emmy nomination for his writing on "The Chris Rock Show," published a novel, did stand-up comedy, and wrote and produced the Writers Guild Awards in addition to many other notable writing and performing credits.

Additionally, John knew more about music than anyone I've ever met. And not only knew music but was, himself, an accomplished musician. (He and I shared a love for the Ramones. One of my favorite memories is when we were at a relative's house following Meredith's mother's funeral, and John sat down at the piano during the gathering and began to play what sounded like a classical music piece. After a few minutes, I realized he had actually slowed the tempo and stylized one of my favorite Ramones songs - then looked over, gave me a sly smile, and continued with his performance.)

He was really funny like that.

Other favorite memories of John are:

- On the way to my cousin's wedding on Long Island, I absentmindedly left my phone on the train. A Samaritan located and turned in the phone, but the LIRR would only allow it to be picked up in person, they would not ship it. John offered to head to Penn Station from their apartment (not a short trip) and send the phone back to me, which he did. While I know it was inconvenient and required a lot of logistics, he made me feel he was happy to help

- When Meredith and John had to move their wedding from Malibu, California to Orlando, Florida very quickly due to both of Meredith's parents being ill and not able to travel, John not only went with the flow, he also embraced it. So many things did not go as planned during the wedding celebration (photographer broke out in hives and left without telling anyone, audio did not work, so reception music was played via niece's Hello Kitty boom box and a microphone, etc.) and instead of either John or Meredith getting upset, they laughed at the absurdity of it all and as a result, set the tone for the most memorable and fun wedding I've ever attended

- When my daughter was born, Meredith came to my shower and presented me with a gift from she and John: a tiny Ramones t-shirt and the following original artwork:


- When I turned 40, John put together a mix CD heavy on the Ramones and other music he knew I'd like

- And perhaps best of all - for Christmas a couple of years ago, Meredith tracked down a (ridiculous, amateur) horror movie she and I had filmed years earlier and John edited and scored the movie as a gift, adding credits and graphics to the video. It was thoughtful and creative and hilarious and so very him

Some of my other favorite John and Mer moments through the years are captured in the posts below:

New Yawk - December 2008
New York Part 1 - Meredith - June 2009
Happy 10th Anniversary of Guy Who Flipped Over the Banister Day - December 2009
Psycho-phant - November 2010
The Red Carpet Treatment - February 2014
The Write Stuff - February 2015
A Martle By Any Other Name... July 2015 (this one is about Mer, so I feel it provides context)
Finding Mr. Write (aka Bob Balaban) - February 2016

As I'm sorting through specific memories over the past few days, it's clear that somewhere along the line, John became more than just my friend's husband - he also became my friend.

When John, who had never smoked and rarely drank, got sick five years ago with lung cancer, he and Meredith did not let it define him or their lives. Through the years, I often felt there would be no John without Meredith - she seemed to sense exactly what he needed and was able to provide it and support him in all his endeavors. She took such good care of him always, though particularly in the past few years. When I and others told her how awed we were by all she did for John, she brushed it off, saying it was "what anyone would do." Except it wasn't. It was extraordinary. And the most loving display I have ever witnessed.

Ave's first visit to NYC in 2006 - John and Mer babysat her
in the hellhole hotel room we rented so Tim and I could have a night out.
Ave screamed her head off the whole time. They are very good friends.
Comedy Against Evil show at the DC Arts Center the
night before Rally to Restore Sanity, October 2010
Brunch with John, Mer, and my Mom at "Fetch"
(We were so trying to make "Fetch" happen)
November 2012

Brunch with Meredith, John and my Mom in November 2014.
I cannot remember why we were having a stare down, I just
remember we laughed all day. Especially when my
Mom declared she had a "hankerin' for some gravlax."
(She loved this day because she made John laugh, which
she knew was a high compliment, indeed.)

Tribeca Film Festival 2008 - Meredith starred in 
a short selected for the festival - John and I were there as
stalker-fans

More shenanigans with John at the film festival.
As I recall, I made an insensitive comment about the size of his prostate.

The last time I saw John was about a month ago. Meredith cleared with his doctors it was safe to visit as long as I was diligent about hand washing and did not hug him. That weekend, we spent all our time in John's room, told stories, and watched a video some of his comedian friends had created for his birthday. The video was hilarious and very sweet, with each person taking time at the end to share birthday wishes and talk about how much they loved John. When the video ended, John remarked, "there are a lot of people who love me."

As I was leaving the next day, I told John I loved him and that I would see him the following month (my daughter and I were scheduled to do a charity walk in NYC with Meredith at the end of April). Of course COVID-19 thwarted our plans, but we were still hopeful at the time.

On April 19th, Meredith called to let me know John had passed - at home with her, his Mom, and their dog, Baxter, snuggled up next to him - as always, surrounded by love.


Rest in peace, dear friend.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

It was MerMagical!

One of my best friends loves all things ocean and beach. She takes beautiful beach photos, aspires to attend all the major pro surfing events around the globe, and has decorated her apartment to feel airy and beachy. So it is probably no surprise she also loves mermaids.

Which means I was delighted to discover the largest Mermaid convention in the country (world?) happens here in Northern Virginia where I live - at an aquatic center in Manassas (which seems a little far inland, but what do I know?) The event is called MerMagic Con.

It also means for Christmas, I sent my friend the most presumptuous Christmas gift, ever - that being a ticket to MerMagic Con. (Some context: she lives in Manhattan, has more going on in her life than anyone else I know, and my gift to her required a weekend's worth of travel.)

I'm thoughtful that way.

So, several weeks before the event, she let me know she would not be able to make it this year. Rather than let our tickets go to waste, I invited my friend, Lisa to attend with me. And attend we did - last weekend. And while I'm not sure anyone would truly know what to expect at such an event, we found it to be completely eye-opening (in addition to being fun, inclusive, welcoming, interesting, and about 97.8% outside our comfort zones). Thanks to the mermaid community for letting us be part of your world (see what I did there?) for a few hours.

As with all new experiences, we were exposed to many new things (and more than one heinie), which I've captured below.

MerMagic Con 2020 - what we learned:

1. The exhibit hall was fairly small, which led us to brainstorm ideas for how they could expand in the future: t-shirts printed with the phrases, "Got Tail?" and "Got Krill?"; a Starbucks pop-up (think of their logo); celebrity photos with Vince Gill - the possibilities are endless.

2. When you attend the Mermen panel and the moderator asks the five panelists, "What do you like most about being a Merman?" and the first guy excitedly replies, "the tail!" and the next four say something along the lines of "inspiring people/making the day of little kids/letting kids know they can be anything they want" you're fairly certain the first guy would like a do-over for his response.

Photo cred: MerMagic Con Instagram
That's me at Camp John Waters - clapping
appreciatively on the far left, while my
friend, Ricky, gets a neck sit.

3. You look like the straightest, most boring person in the room when you are unadorned by any mermaid paraphernalia and flash back to your Camp John Waters experience when you were also the straightest, most boring person in the room. (see photo at left)

My mersona is no mersona.  
4. Custom mermaid tails are no joke. Nused tails were being offered for $3500 and weigh probably 50 pounds. It requires strength and training to swim in these things, and they can actually be dangerous and hazardous to those who are not properly trained. (That's okay, firefighters and cops - you still corner the market on swinging.)

5. People earn their livings as mermaids. Not many, but some. What I wouldn't give to be at that class reunion when a former schoolmate asks, "So what do you do?"

6. In the "Creating your Mersona" panel, a woman sitting in the front row inquired of the presenter, "what age should I be as my Mermaid persona?" and the instructor helpfully noted that to make it easy to remember her backstory, she adds a zero to her real age. The person sitting up front added, "See? I knew Mermaids were older. My sister is a vampire and we always have this argument!" (See: "straightest, most boring person there," in number 3 above)

7. When you miss the "Merwrangling" panel, your friend suggests chatting up a Merwrangler in the hallway for the Sparks notes version of the panel. It is here you learn a Merwrangler acts as a bodyguard and schlepper (once in tails, Mermaids cannot easily get on stage or into a tank without help from another person) for the mermaids. And tells you that Mermaids attract a LOT of unwanted attention from the drunks at Ren Faires. (Aside: Can you imagine being really drunk at a Ren Faire and seeing a mermaid in a tank? Would you immediately begin adding up the tankards of beer you drank or closing one eye to determine if you were seeing things?)
(Ed. Some internet research has indicated most people can't imagine not being really drunk at a Ren Faire. This blog teaches me so much.)
Merwrangler. Merwrangling.
(photo courtesy of @theMerFriends on Twitter)
8. You will be simultaneously impressed and slightly horrified when your friend immediately understands what is meant by "LARP" when it is mentioned in a panel. (For the uninitiated, it is Live Action Role-Playing.)

9. After a couple of hours at the event when you become more comfortable with the art of mermaiding, you nod in agreement and solidarity when a panel moderator states, "I didn't think I was going to be a rose gold mermaid, but then I found a rose gold tail and here I am."

10. Being part of the mermaid community is much like being part of the Smurf community, as many words in the MerMagic Con program were converted into portmanteaux e.g., "Creating your Mersona," "Make your own Mercessory," and "Merlympics"

11. There are seminars and panels for things such as mermaid resume writing, traveling as a mermaid, basic tail repair, considerations about getting your own tank, and safe breath holding in the water. Since we had only a few hours there this year, we'll know what to focus on in '21.

12. You are reminded again about how much of a Dilettante you are because you could never get this into anything, and have a healthy respect for those who can and do.

They're mermazing,
Brutalism

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

A Winning Ensemble

(Ed.: This post was started a few years ago and I just promoted it from a draft. I feel our teenager would want it spelled out that she has not needed a babysitter in some time.)


We've hired a babysitter for our daughter on a couple of recent occasions. As her usual babysitter was not available, we solicited suggestions from neighbors and found a great high school student nearby who accepted the job.

The first time she babysat, we were dressed in all white, heading to Vienna's Diner en Blanc:

This reminds me of sorority initiation. Only with fewer animal sacrifices. And spankings.

Then, a few weeks later, (the second time she was in our home), we were headed to an Oktoberfest party:
You know what's fun? Running into the wine store dressed like
this on the way to the party because you forgot to get a hostess
gift earlier in the week.
And I was just thinking about how funny that must seem to her...it's not Halloween, we're adults, and we're not into any kind of weird fetishes. It just so happens that this is one of those random times that the social events to which we were invited included dressing in costume, which really does not happen that often...

...well, unless you count Halloween a few years ago...

...or the time we went to a "dress as your favorite celebrity" party...
(Yes, I went as Judy Garland. No, I'm not a gay man.)

...or the time we went to see the Legwarmers with the Dilettantes...

...or the time our friends had a roaring '20s murder mystery party...


...or when we attended a holiday party the month after the Salahis
famously crashed a state dinner and we determined the Salahis should
also crash their holiday party...
...or the time our neighbors had a pirate-themed party...

...or the time we went to see Richard Cheese at the 9:30 Club...
Looking back on all of these dress-up events reminded me of a dress-up experience a friend of ours shared. For his birthday one year, his wife had thrown him a pirate-looks-at-40 themed birthday party and had tossed leftover acoutrements (hats, eye patches, hook hands) on the bed in the spare room after the party. This happened to coincide with them recording traffic patterns for the local government with a video camera pointed out that same spare bedroom window, facing the highway on-ramp near their house. It also (fatefully) coincided with a visit from an electrician they had hired to install a ceiling fan in that room.

Which our friend didn't even think about as he turned the camera toward the interior of the room earlier that day to remove the videotape, which left it facing the bed. A bed that was scattered with assorted pirate costume accessories. And while the electrician didn't say anything about our friend's predilection toward costumery and videotaping in their guest bedroom, he did seem to work extra-fast to get the fan installed and get the hell out of there.

It's always the quiet ones,
Brutalism


Totally Forking With Her

A neighbor friend and I walk often, using the time to both exercise and discuss how to navigate raising kids in the hypercompetitive, Type A environment that is the Washington metro area. She is, importantly, a sanity check and bonus-ly, hilariously funny. We often walk more than six miles before even realizing it, as we are so engrossed in working through things and laughing. (See? I had to mention the mileage - I swear, it's a requirement for living here.)

This tweet (which I recently sent her) pretty much encapsulates it:


We also discuss other things, of course, including some health issues we’ve dealt with. Not long ago, she had some pretty severe abdominal pain and bloating.This had been bothering her for a while, so her doctor scheduled a test to determine the cause.

A very specific test, it turns out.

She was required to allot about five hours at the doctor's office and bring the following at the appointed time:

  • A hard-boiled egg
  • Buttered toast
  • Orange juice
  • A plate and knife and fork with which to eat the egg

The test was structured in such a way that she would eat one of the food items she brought, wait, and then the medical team would scan her abdomen to see how the item was being digested. Then, rinse and repeat. For FIVE HOURS.

(Please note: a bit of internet research shows this test is called a 'gastric emptying scan' and includes the following explanation: 'Before the scan, you'll eat something solid, something liquid, and a small amount of tasteless radioactive material.')

While all writing benefits from a certain level of detail, I hardly think the flavor profile is the most concerning part of that sentence for most patients.

Anyway, being the naturally inquisitive type, I had several questions:
  • Would she digest this differently if she was simply eating the egg without first plating it and delivering it to her mouth with a fork?
  • Is it important the egg was hard-boiled and not prepared some other way? Does this harken back to the 'scrambled egg/false positive' lore that forever haunts every medical resident?
  • Would it have altered the results had she brought buttered bread instead of toast? Or, quelle horreur, an English muffin?
  • If the appointment was scheduled later in the day, would the menu have been adjusted to feature a club sandwich and chips or perhaps a nice Cobb salad? 

     And possibly most importantly:
  • How many doctors were standing on the other side of the two-way mirror enjoying how obligingly she participated in this ‘test’ without even questioning it?

Tasteless indeed,
Brutalism

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Nitpicking

During a visit with my Mom and her husband in Virginia Beach, the conversation turned to strip clubs.

As it will.

As we drove through old, familiar areas of my hometown, we all wondered aloud where the strip clubs that were once fixtures in the area had gone, and started listing the names of the places we remembered (hear that, JB's Gallery of Girls?)

Which is when my Mom’s husband remarked, “There was one place called ‘Head Lice.”

Incredulous, I shrieked, “There was a strip club named HEAD LICE???”

Which is when he clarified it was, in fact, called "Head LIGHTS."

Straight outta a Norman Rockwell painting,
Brutalism

Standing Ova-shun

(I'm really proud of this post title, BTW)

So, this happened a while back: "Guy with TV on head leaves old TVs on front porches of homes."

The authorities are assuming this is some kind of performance art piece, or a robber who does not understand what being a robber entails. All I know is if I had security cameras installed on my house, this is EXACTLY the type of thing I would want to see.

It also brought to mind some shenanigans Mr. Brutalism and I got into with friends of ours back in the shenanigans-heavy (read: pre-children) days of our early marriage. We were visiting these friends in Boston and after a night of drinks, we made our way back to their apartment, a building with a security camera on the front porch which had a feed visible to all residents of the building through a closed-circuit television channel.

Upon learning this information and watching some extra-boring feed of people coming home and fumbling for keys and leaving for runs, we decided that to make this more entertaining, we should introduce something unexpected to the tableau and create some drama.

I wish I could better remember the conversation that led us to our decision of what to place on the porch, but we ultimately came up with fried eggs. It was perfect! Recognizable enough that people would know immediately what it was, yet random enough that anyone who saw it would wonder why they were on the front porch, as it is not something that would slip out of a pocket or go unnoticed had they slipped off a plate.

Our friend offered to be the one to place the eggs, which required some technique in case anyone was watching on the feed. He dressed all in black, took the eggs (which he had salted and peppered - nice touch!) on a plate downstairs to the front porch, and stealthily (and gently) slipped the eggs from the plate to the center of the top step. He then ran back upstairs and waited with us while we watched for the approach of unsuspecting neighbors.

And it was better than we could have hoped in terms of reactions. After coming upon the eggs, people went through a spectrum of emotions - surprise, amusement, confusion, disgust, and even fear. One woman, nearing the house with a small child in tow, spotted the eggs and instinctively thrust out her arm to hold the child back from approaching the eggs.

While we certainly enjoyed ourselves, I was a little disappointed our audience totaled just four people as this caliber of entertainment deserved a much larger audience.

If only we'd had a PR rep as good as ol' TV head's.

MAGAlomaniac

My friend's daughter who works as a barista at Starbucks told her Mom they recently received a mobile order under the name, "Impeach Trump Now!"

So when the order was ready, they (rather gleefully) announced that in the store.

If you need me, I'll be spending the rest of the day determining what types of coffee-cup protests I should do. And perhaps I'll get my friend, Beleth, to help.


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

More Fun Than It Sounds

Over the weekend, my husband asked me to carry the sealant he had purchased during our trip to Home Depot so he could haul the heavier items to the car. Earlier that same day, he sent me photos of an outdoor space in our backyard he planned to power wash.

I know what I've described here makes married life sound like quite the slog. Which is why I was surprised at my friend's reaction when she texted and asked what I was doing and I replied, "holding Tim's caulk while scrolling through his deck pics".

Saturday, May 11, 2019

London...What (The Royal) We Learned

For spring break a few weeks ago, we traveled to London, a place I've now been thrice. I spent a semester there whilst in college, had a brief stopover on the way to Germany a couple of years after that, and now - spring break 2019! Cheerio!

And as I like to do with all big trips for the little Brutalism family, I document things we learn from traveling internationally, because what is travel if not a way to broaden your mind?

That said, here is London 2019, what we learned:

1. You will find yourself playing that fun game of "Don't remember because I'm old?" or "Don't remember because I was drunk the entire semester?" daily when exploring the city and visiting historic sites. (Note: there are no winners in this game.)

The student group from the college semester in London.

(About four years ago, I had to give up drinking permanently due to adverse
interactions with a medication. When I shared this fact with a close friend, he matter-of-factly
noted, "Well, you kinda front-loaded, so if you average it out, you'll consume a moderate
 amount of alcohol in your lifetime.")

2. You will be very excited when you happen upon this while strolling on the South Bank of the Thames your first afternoon in London:

Yes, that's Stephen Colbert about 10 feet from us.
Just conducting an interview - very low key. 
He swapped glasses with his interviewee because he thought
they were cool. 

3. While enjoying the Chihuly exhibit at Kew Gardens, and then taking a lunch break at the food trucks there, you'll hand your daughter cash to buy food and your husband will proclaim, "She needs a credit card is what she needs!" Later that same day, your daughter will declare, "I'll be mad. I'll be real mad!" and you will accuse them both of starring in a 1940s film noir because WHO THE HELL TALKS LIKE THAT? You will mock them incessantly and it will strike you so funny that you will then burst into laughter while brushing your teeth, when trying to fall asleep at night, and several times on the flight home.
She needs a non-ridiculous family is what she needs, doll...see?

4. You will learn that you've lost your fear of confrontation when you exchange words with a cranky British woman on your flight who reclined into your lap when you ask her to kindly not do that. ('Kindly' may be overstating it...but still...who DOES that? This is why we left and started our own country, lap-invader. By the way, nice job with Brexit.)

Delta Airlines released this bit of news the very next day. I'm certain the
two incidents were unrelated.

5. Your body will crave fruit and greens for weeks after a steady diet of steak pies, sausage rolls, bangers and mash, fish and chips, and beer. (Oh...and porridge...which I had to eat while declaring, "This is the best porridge, ever!",  "I love porridge!" "Anyone want some porridge?")


Assorted pub grub. And porridge.












6. You will learn how great it is to meet other people in the course of your travels, like lovely Shirley who sat at our table in the crypt of St. Martin-in-the-Fields for a mid-week jazz concert. She lost her 'beloved' 18 months ago and the jazz concerts were something they did together. So now almost-80-year-old Shirley takes the tube quite a distance to attend the concerts and enjoy a glass of wine while utterly charming her table mates.

Jazz show in crypt = how to get me to church.

7. You will worry that your 13-year-old child might be disturbed by an evening Jack the Ripper walking tour in the East End of London. Instead, she will be fascinated by every bit of gory information and will devise her own theory of who the perp was based on the narrative provided. When you return home, she will ask you to read The Five aloud while she tries to fall asleep, and this will (terrifyingly) send her drifting off to dreamland.

Next up for bedtime reading: The Tell-Tale Heart

8. You will be happily exhausted after visiting the Tate Modern and British Museum, taking a coach to Stonehenge, doing a London bus tour at night, riding the London eye, seeing a show at the South Bank Underbelly festival, spending hours at the Tower of London, listening to the speakers in Hyde Park, and having tea in a tea room/vintage shop that used to be a horse stable in the heart of Camden Market. (There's nothing particularly amusing here - just using this bullet as a diary of what we did so I can refer to it later as I remember nothing because I'm old - see #1 above.)

9. You will realize how much better connected your child is than you are when she runs into three kids from her junior high on the streets of London. You know, just like we all did when we were 13...

We also visited Foamhenge at Cox Farms last year. We are big fans of henges. 

10.   You will be a little sad you missed the royal baby by a few weeks because seriously...how much fun would it have been to be in town when that happened and celebrate some happy news for a change?

And a pic of my husband to prove he was also there.
Cheers, London!
================================================================

For what we learned, Indonesia and Hong Kong, click here
For what we learned, Costa Rica, click here
For what we learned, Italy, click here
For what we learned, Iceland, Belgium, and the Netherlands, click here
For what we learned, Bahamas, click here
For what we learned, France and Morocco, remind me to get off my ass and finish the post I started last year.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Finance Schminance

Captain Spreadsheet has scheduled about a thousand appointments with our financial planners of late, as they have some kind of scenario tool where you can type in variables and it lets you know how soon you'll run out of money based on your input. I have not seen my husband this excited about anything possibly ever and every day he talks about new scenarios and variables and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. (I requested they run a scenario to indicate how soon I'll run out of patience based on the amount of meetings we have with our financial planners, but they politely declined that request.)

For the latest meeting, I dialed in rather than attending in person. During this appointment, I could not see a graph the financial planner was sharing, so my husband helpfully took a photo and sent it to me. To wit:

This appears to indicate there is a 92% chance we have $82 million dollars.
Or there's a 50% chance of a full moon. I may want to pay more attention to what they were discussing.
Or how to read graphs.

Because I wanted him to know I appreciated the gesture and was taking this seriously, I added some of my own notes and immediately sent it back to him:


I think there's a 92% chance I'll be attending the next meeting in person,
Brutalism

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Wholesome Family Fun

Recently while watching a scuba diver in a tank at the Virginia Marine Science Museum:

Speaker: "Okay, kids -- next, the scuba diver is going to show us his equipment."

Mr. Brutalism (quietly, to me): "I didn't realize it was that kind of show."

I'm a Simple Gal(lagher)

I wrote something recently and as always, ran it by my editor (Mr. Brutalism) for his assessment. 

He was fine with it except for the last line, which he felt was veering into the "cheap laugh" category by using profanity.

When I responded that I thought it was not too far over the line and effectively got the laugh, he replied, "What's next? Smashing watermelons?"

Peepsles are Back!

The Washington City Paper rocks! In the three years they've been running the Peeps Diorama contest (having taken it over from the Washington Post, a publication that has no appreciation for talent), I've placed three times - most recently, with the 2019 creation, 'Peepsles are Back!' featuring a clinic offering measles immunizations. The healthy, pink Peeps with their tiny Peeps band-aids covering their inoculation sites are leaving the clinic, while the sickly, pale pink, measles-infected anti-vaxxer Peeps are protesting.





The concept was 100% my daughter's - she was inspired the moment she saw new cotton-candy-flavored Peeps that were pale pink with blue speckles. And from there, complete monopolization of the kitchen table, micro management, and sleep deprivation began. 

As a bonus, we had to schlep the diorama into the District to the City Paper office - and while en route, I ran into a friend I have not seen in years:
When you deliver a Peeps diorama to the Washington City Paper
and randomly run into an old friend on the street who is now some kind
of big-deal lobbyist and realize just how much your paths have diverged...
Now, we wait and see where we placed. And if we don't - I know who to hire to lobby on my behalf next year.

UPDATE: We came in third! Even after forgetting to promote this on social media so our friends and family would feel obligated to vote for our diorama! Perhaps there is no need for a big-deal lobbyist, after all. 

Previous wins are listed below:

·        2018 – 6th place in the Washington City Paper contest with “Peeper Curry is Awed by Marshmallow Obama at the National Peeptrait Gallery”
·        2017 – 3rd place in the Washington City Paper contest with “Peep Haring as Photographed by Annie Peepovitz”

The Butt of the Joke

Because we live in close proximity to Washington, DC, we make an effort to go into the city every year to see the cherry blossoms when they're in bloom.

Taken by the kid after two donuts. 
Because we also live in close proximity to a 13-year-old, we need to come up with bribes to get her out of bed and into the city early to beat the inevitable cherry blossom crowds. This year, we went with Duck Donuts - delicious made-for-you-and-served-warm donuts to encourage her to get in the car at 6:45am.

Our plan worked, so after a quick donut stop, we headed into the District. And even though we've lived in this area for a million years, we completely forgot to check and see if any events might affect parking or access.

Although, to be fair, there is not usually much happening in this sleepy little burg.

As soon as we got close, we noticed many of the streets we wanted to drive down were blocked, and then we saw the hordes of runners because of course the annual Cherry Blossom 10-mile run was underway. After much searching, we finally found a parking spot about a mile away and trekked toward the tidal basin. As we got close, we realized there was no way we were getting to the tidal basin, unless we wanted to cross the runners' route and risk being stampeded by and creating obstacles for the runners. We did not - so we stood in place and cheered, screaming things like "Good job, unicorn pants" to a couple wearing pants with a unicorn print, and "I ate two donuts this morning and you're running 10 miles - you are so much better than me!" We had fun, although not as much fun as this guy:
Negative motivation is still motivation.
When there was a break in runners, we crossed and took our obligatory cherry blossom photos, then headed back to the car. During the drive home, I happened to glance at my daughter in the back seat who, at the moment I looked back, was opening the donut box and licking the donut icing that had dripped into the box, getting icing on her nose, chin, and hair in the process. I commented, "Well, those cotillion classes have certainly paid off...this is a delightful display, lid-licker..."

Because she's 13 and likes to correct every single thing I ever say, she snarkily retorted while rolling her eyes, "It's not the lid, Mom, it's the bottom of the box."

To which I snarkily retorted, "Fine, bottom-licker."

...and sometimes these posts just write themselves.

Other pics from our excursion with the bottom-licker:





Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Whatcha Got Under There?

During the daily check-in call with my daughter when she gets home from school:

(Me): "Hey, Toots! How was your day?"

(Her): "Great! And I've been so productive since I got home. I just cleaned out my backpack and found a fork, a bunch of lunch bags, and some underpants" >pauses< "they were mine, don't worry."

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Seeing Red

A couple of nights ago, my husband and I attended our town's holiday stroll - an adorably festive event the community hosts every year where merchants stay open late, carolers warble, and the crisp air is filled with the delightful aroma of marshmallows roasting over fire pits. Or if you're downwind from the petting zoo...alpaca dung. 

We window-shopped and chatted as we walked down main street, enjoying some downtime together. 

[Now: a bit of context for what is to follow:A few months back, I had a less-than-pleasant interaction with a local merchant. As we walked by and noticed very few customers in that merchant's shop compared to the hordes of people in others, I maturely remarked to my husband, "Good! That place is the worst and I hope it fails miserably." The second this bit of holiday cheer popped out of my mouth, I remembered we were enjoying a festive stroll! During the holidays! so I followed up the statement by singing, "fa la la la la la la la la."]

A few moments later, a gentleman promoting a new yoga studio inquired, "Would you like a free aura reading? I immediately replied, "Absolutely!" and with some prodding, my husband reluctantly agreed and we followed the gentleman into the new yoga studio.

We learned the aura is the energy field around the body. It represents a current state of mind, which means that agreeing to do this during the Trump administration was obviously a terrible idea. 

Because I was excited to do this, I had my aura read first. I sat down and placed my hands on the reader which was attached to some kind of aura-reading app. (Ed. There really is an app for everything.) The way this works it a biofeedback unit measures electromagnetic energy from the acupressure points at the ends of your fingers. This measures aura and chakras as lines of energy (meridians) from your hands lead to all parts of your organs and body. 

And in mere seconds, everything I fear about my being was displayed in vibrant color on a screen large enough for everyone in the studio to enjoy. Although we were hoping for a fairly equal balance among all the different chakras, the screen popped up bright red with a few spots of red-orange. 

Depending on your read, this could mean many things. The more generous interpretations describe red auras as passionate, driven, social, and successful - someone who is full of energy and needs to find ways to unleash physical and emotional energy without hurting themselves or others. The less kind explanations indicate that a red aura is somewhat of a "red flag" as it means a focus on materialistic thoughts, stress, and a deep-seated anger.  

When it was Canetto's turn I asked the reader, "Is there an aura that indicates a love of spreadsheets?" She replied, "That's exactly the type of sarcastic comment a 'red' would make." (Note: this didn't really happen. Out loud. I saw it in her eyes.) 

Mr. Reluctant put his hands on the reader and guess what the results were? Pretty much the ideal balance (displayed in pie-chart format for maximum in-your-facedness) of blue, yellow, and green. Meaning: he is highly developed spiritually, intuitive, has a generous and giving spirit, is open to new possibilities, calm, easy-going, relaxed, playful, and optimistic. To recap: he is perfect. And to the surprise of absolutely nobody, my husband is completely balanced, and I am completely not.
 
Because he's also competitive (which by the way, seems pretty 'red' to me), my husband asked the aura reader, "So what you're saying is this is the best aura reading you've ever seen?" The woman played along and assured him that his was what most people strive for. She also tried to mollify me by focusing on the more positive interpretation of my reading... 


...likely a survival technique she employs when dealing with those who have severe anger issues.


I wonder if the aura reader can also detect my tiny, black heart?

Friday, October 05, 2018

A Beacon of Hope

I started a new job recently that requires a considerable amount of time and focus, which means, of course, it became a priority to write a letter to the editor of The Beacon in Virginia Beach about nonsense.

The Beacon is a very thin tabloid insert in my hometown's newspaper. There is nothing prestigious or worthwhile about being named here, which is why I want to be...badly. (For further insight, see: done, everything I’ve ever.)

It has been three days since I emailed the following. Response thus far? Crickets. Score? Brutalism - 1; Fun - 0

Dear Mr. Beacon Editor,

While out to dinner recently with a group that included my mother (a long time Virginia Beach resident) and a friend I met while attending Bayside High School in Virginia Beach, our conversation turned to The Beacon (as it will).

We discussed how being mentioned in The Beacon was a rite of passage of sorts, and just about everyone we knew had been featured in its pages at some point in their lives. (For example, my mother has been named in The Beacon at least three times she can remember, and my friend at least twice.)

I live in Northern Virginia, which has been my home since graduating from college. It’s a lovely area, and since moving here, I’ve had my share of successes recognized by Washington-area publications. My annual Oktoberfest party was written up in The Washington Post; my finalist Peeps dioramas were featured in The Washington City Paper; and the Dilettante Club I founded was interviewed by Washingtonian magazine. While this is nice and obviously career-boosting, I’ve never experienced the joy and validation of being recognized by my hometown paper.

When I shared this fact at the above-mentioned dinner, everyone at our table began teasing me mercilessly. To defend myself, I noted to the high school friend’s husband, “Hey! I was even in the Guinness Book of World Records." To which he inquired, “For what? Most consecutive years of not being in The Beacon?”

I lived in Virginia Beach from the impressionable, formative ages of seven to 23, during which time I watched my mother, sister, and all my friends mentioned by name and sometimes, with accompanying photo, in your publication. Were my foreign language day at Pembroke Mall, participation in the Latin convention, and 3-8 record on the Bayside field hockey team all for naught? My perfect attendance in elementary school, 2nd place win in both the third grade spelling bee and community pumpkin-carving contest achievements not worthy of a mention? I even placed second in jump rope during Field Day one year. Was none of this good enough to warrant a few words in print?

While this (I’m sure, inadvertent) snub has likely motivated me to work harder through the years, it has also left a void in an otherwise fulfilling life. However, I believe it is not too late to right this wrong. I have a beacon (heh) of hope that one day I will be featured in your esteemed periodical. What do you say, Mr. Beacon Editor? Can you make a hometown girl’s dream come true?

Humbly,
Kathleen

UPDATE: While at the grocery store last night, I learned of this Northern Virginia periodical, so perhaps there is still hope of my Beacon dreams coming true one day, albeit in a different Beacon.

I mean, sure, it's targeted at those over 50 - but it's probably "the new 50" -  I mean,
they're celebrating area artists - this must be the publication for young, hip, 50+ers...

...or not...















UPDATE #2: My friend, Bonnie, crafted the following to help me feel better. She perfectly married my need to be in The Beacon with my utter distaste for the word "unguent" and capped it off nicely with an actual photo from my youth that showcases my Mother's lack of bang-cutting skills. I'm verklempt.


UPDATE #3: An email I received from the Beacon editor this weekend:

Ms. Canedo,

What a wonderful email, the best I've received in years! It's so true, being mentioned in the Beacon is a rite of passage. And it's so sad that your family and friends have subjected you to teasing due my publication's snub of your many achievements.

Let me try to right this wrong. I'd like to write my upcoming Beacon column about you. OK?

To do so, I need more information. First, I already tried to do a quick search of your name, including a simple search of "Canedo," and found nothing in our digital archives. But they can't be trusted. We've lost a lot of archive material as we've shifted software over the years.

I must confirm that you indeed were snubbed, so let's clarify - would you be named "Kathleen Canedo" if you were ever in the Beacon? Also, I'd like to search for the stories your mom and your friend were included in. Would you please provide their names and a general timeframe of when their "mentions" appeared (even guessing the decade would help)? And, when did you graduate from Bayside? What college(s) did you go to and when did you graduate from them?

By the way, I found the Washington Post story about your party. And by Googling your name I found this link: https://patch.com/virginia/oakton/ev--meet-oakton-humorist-kathleen-canedo

How wold you describe your current career, including any side jobs? Do you still have a humor column?

My Beacon column is short (example of a recent one:https://pilotonline.com/news/local/columnist/from-beacon-editor/article_02e82d1e-c5a6-11e8-b7e9-f72cdb8bc7fb.html) , so much of this won't be included in what I intend to write. But the "rite of passage" theme is important, so I hope you'll cooperate with this endeavor. 

I'll be writing this up today and tomorrow. Feel free to call me at the number below, if you'd like.

Currently loving the Beacon, 
Brutalism

FOURTH AND FINAL UPDATE: A dream, realized. Getting Your Name in the Beacon is a Rite of Passage for Virginia Beach Natives. 
Kathleen Canedo today, holding a scrapbook that includes her first-place ribbon for the
Pembroke Meadows Elementary School science fair. And many, many participation certificates.
Now what?
Brutalism