May 30, 2004

 paint. cats.

today ray & i helped luc and laura paint the office in their new house. they haven't moved in yet and are still doing a lot of renovation... they've torn down walls, replaced floors and are generally overwhelmed (primarily because laura is pregnant and is under orders not to take on too much).

the color we were painting was a bright, bright apple green. at first i thought it was pretty glaring, but by the end the color grew on me and i really loved it. i'm more of an earthy-toned girl, though... i can't imagine something so vividly bright in my house.

later, as i was preparing dinner, i saw donna manley's phone number on my fridge and decided to give her a call. (she's the vet that we used to take our cats to; she left the cat hospital in a rush, and i've been curious to know what she's doing now.)

we had a nice conversation. she told me that was spending about half her time volunteering for second chance pet adoptions (something she said she's longed to do for quite a while). i was also very excited to hear that she's now working 2 or 3 days a week at legion road animal hospital near eastgate mall (it's a branch of timberlyne animal hospital). the phone number at legion road is 933-3331. (this information is for the dozens of people who have emailed me over the past few months, having searched for and found information about donna manley through this blog.)

anyway, it sounds like she really likes the new job, though she admitted that the worst part is having to care for dogs, now, too. ;-)

after we got caught up to date she asked how mimo's tooth had healed (i'm slightly amazed that she not only remembered his name, but his last ailment). she also told me that on those countless long days, waiting for a new job prospect to emerge, that she really appreciated hearing my voice on her radio in the afternoons.

she totally rocks. i'm so glad to have reestablished contact with her.

Posted by xta at 6:58 AM | TrackBack

May 28, 2004

 would this have come out better if it were baked in a mobile home?

from White Trash Cooking

2 boxes plain white cake mix
2 cans of chocolate icing
1 c. whiskey sauce (see below)

Mix cake mixes like they tell you on the box. Then divide each cake mix into half and color each one of the four layers in a different color, such as red, yellow, green and blue.

Then bake them separately in 8-inch cake pans until done. Cool them off before you start to put the icing on. Now put a layer of cake and a layer of icing until you've used up all the cake. You should have enough to cover it generously; if not, run to the store and buy another can. After it's covered, take 2 big forks and stick them in the middle of the top of the cake and force on it until it cracks open and you can see all the colored layers. Now pour your whiskey sauce into the crack and let the cake absorb it. Let it stand for 3 or 4 hours before serving.

This is a wonderful treat for someone that's going to, or just got back from vacationing at, the Grand Canyon. It's also very educational for children.

Whiskey Sauce

2 cups of sugar
1/2 lb. of butter (2 sticks)
1 tsp. pure vanilla
1 cup of Jack Daniels Black Label
1 pinch of salt

Blend sugar and butter and vanilla until mixed completely. Then add whskey bit by bit until it is a nice, loose creamy sauce. The sugar is supposed to be grainy.

let me just say that this cake was in NO WAY educational for children. it is a disaster waiting to happen. i wish now i had been wearing safety goggles or something.

charo's boyfriend tom not-so-subtly suggested that this cake would be a great birthday present from her to him. she (afraid of baking) asked for my help.

it all started innocently enough, giggling and adding food coloring to plain white cake mix. once the cakes came out of the oven, though, we knew we had a problem... they weren't flat. they were sort of humped in the middle. how they were supposed to rest on top of each other was beyond me. we figured we'd just fill in the gaps between the layers with frosting. [link is to a 2MB quicktime movie.]

of course that was a bad idea. the weight of the massive amounts of frosting caused the layers to crack and spilt. but we figured, "hey, the recipe actually calls for the cake to be cracked later on... so how bad could it be?" we felt a little better once we realized that the frosting itself has amazing adhesive qualities. we used it as glue.

but then the frosting suddenly began acting as a lubricant and the layers started sliding off of each other. we pushed on the layers, our hands getting slimy and chocolately, and tried to realign everything.

the REALLY exciting part was making the crack in the top of the cake. once everything seemed basically sturdy, i gently inserted two big bread knives and made the slightest of slits in the top... then we poured in the white, goopy whiskey sauce and watched that little crack get wider and wider and wider...

until finally the whole four layers split in two down the middle, and the entire right side of the cake started to slide off the plate. it all happened in gooey, slow motion, and charo managed to grab the whole chocolate mess with her hands (as if she were spinning clay on a pottery wheel) and shoved the two halves back together again.

as soon as she removed her cake-covered hands, though, it all began to disintegrate once again. there was nothing we could do... so we just slammed the lid on the whole mess to keep it contained.

then we put it in the back of the refrigerator with the hope that the coldness will somehow make it less precarious.

the whole thing was pretty much a disaster. believe it or not, though, the trickiest part is still to come... transporting the cake to the party saturday night will be --i predict-- a comedy of errors. i have my doubts that 1) it will make it in one piece, and 2) that anyone will actually want to eat it.

happy birthday, tom! :^)

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May 27, 2004

 don't forget to listen to divaville tonight!

Tonight on Divaville we'll be airing my interview with Gia Prima, wife of the late, great jazz singer, Louis Prima.

It's a wonderful interview (22 minutes in length), in which she shares some touching stories of her life with Louis, both on-stage and at home.

An added bonus: we'll be giving away 8 recently reissued albums. These were all originally put out on vinyl by Louis' own label, Prima Music, back in the 60s and 70s. Gia has painstakingly remastered those recordings onto CD and has donated a copy of each for a giveaway tonight.

Divaville airs from 6-8pm every Thursday, on WXDU.

Posted by xta at 10:08 AM | TrackBack

May 26, 2004

 where are all the muses when you need them?

i need some inspiration.

i told ray i'd design a campaign website for him, but i'm a little stumped about how it should look. i've put up this placeholder page, and ray has given me all the content a gal could want, but now i need a design.

i don't want to go the red-white-and-blue route. that's not ray. (not that he's not patriotic... he's simply patriotic in a different way.)

ray says he doesn't care about the look, as long as all the content is there. he wants to appeal to the person who has a desire to read and learn about his platforms. but no one's gonna read the content if the site looks boring.

i tried futzing with it a little last night, but i couldn't escape the feeling that i'm in need a bolt of inspiration. even if i could settle on a color scheme, that would be a start.

what says "vote for me" without being all "rah-rah-i'm-a-politician"?

Posted by xta at 1:45 PM | TrackBack

May 25, 2004

 change and a sense of perspective

there's a lot of crazy-ass sh*t going on at work these days. our satellite situation is still up in the air (har har), resulting in a lot of unknowns about what our basic services will be in a couple of weeks.

what is known, though, is that things are going to change. and it's going to mean a lot of work, dealing with this change. on the increasingly long drive to work each day (at least it feels longer... with each additional degree in temperature the commute seems 10 minutes longer) i've been letting the wind blow through my still-wet hair as i contemplate the idea of change.

in my work environment i HATE change. i wish things could stay the same all the time. i wish i wouldn't have to scurry around for new low-cost streaming providers. i wish i wouldn't have to take the time to redesign the website. change means WORK.

but i've also been thinking about the times in my life where i have consciously enacted change. and honestly, those times have been relatively few.

there was a period where i just let my life happen to me. i didn't make decisive choices. i went to college where i got accepted, i kept studying the one thing i was good in, i moved in with the first guy who wanted to live with me... things just seemed to happen. i had no plan.

but then my boyfriend moved out, and i sat there, stunned, with life that was a direct result of happenstance. so i made a big change in my life: i decided to move the hell away.

it's the first time i ever made a big decision about my life, and it paid off surprisingly well. i made new friends, re-examined my life, and refocused. i can't even begin to contemplate the person i would be if i stayed in chicago and didn't force myself to change.

of course, back then i wasn't seeing it as a Big Life Change... i was seeing it as a way to escape a bad breakup and horrible winter weather. but it was a conscious decision to do something different, and i'm glad i came to my senses in that way.

another big change was making the decision to apply for the job i have now. at the time it was just a whim, but now i can see how important it was. my life has become richer in countless ways by working here.

i would like to say i continued making conscious changes in my life, but mostly things keep happening, i think. moving in with ray was just a natural extension of our relationship. buying a house was, too. i don't see these things as Big Decisions, but perhaps --down the road-- i'll look back and see that they were...

Posted by xta at 2:34 PM | TrackBack

May 23, 2004

 great weekend; long post

i left the house at noon on saturday & pulled into annapolis at 5:30. i made really good time, even despite two giant traffic jams on I-95. each one had us at a near standstill for 15 minutes or so. which wouldn't have been such a big deal if i weren't SWELTERING in my car. good lord, it was hot. maybe this will finally be the year i get the A/C fixed.

i was so hot, in fact, that i called the car talk guys while i was stopped in traffic. you have to leave a message about your car's problem and then if they like you they'll call you back when they're taping the show. so i left a message telling them how i keep putting off the A/C repair, thinking the car is going to die soon... it's a 1990, for god's sake, with 192,000 miles. BUT THE CAR WON'T DIE. so i'm starting to think that i should go ahead and get the A/C repaired, but there's some part of me that thinks that having operable A/C will actually cause the car to die sooner. a conundrum.

anyway, in my message i complained -loudly- that i was stuck in traffic and SWEATING MY ASS OFF, so maybe that will get their attention.

so when i finally arrive at the maryland hall i'm literally dripping with sweat. thankfully i was prepared and brought a change of clothes. i first picked up my tickets from the will call window and lingered as long as i could in the air conditioned office. (the building is actually the old annapolis high school, built ages ago without central air; the 'classroom' which was the box office actually had a couple of window units working overtime to keep that room cool.) i told the woman that i had just driven from north carolina in an un-air-conditioned car, and she was appropriately impressed.

the maryland hall has a nice cafe in the basement, so after i changed my clothes (and applied a new layer of deodorant) i went down and had a turkey, hummus & roasted red pepper sandwich and a (ice-cold) pear/apricot smoothie. dee-lish.

by the time i finished my meal people were starting to form a line outside the door. (the seating was general admission.) the hallway where the line was forming was not air conditioned, so i went and stood outside where there at least was a breeze. while i was out there i spotted two of the string players and chatted with them for a while. they told me stories of the mundane life of touring (dealing with laundry seems to be a big, bothersome issue). they seemed happy that i recognized them, and indulged my questions about the string arrangements in david's songs.

when the doors opened, i didn't rush right in... i figured there would be a nice selection of single seats available. and i was right. i found a seat about 8 rows back, right in the middle, and right in front of the row that was "reserved for david byrne." i didn't at the time think about how fortuitous this would be.

on my right was a slightly hippie-ish couple (bob & terri) who wanted talked about bela fleck and the bobs with me. (i indulged them, though all i know about those bands are their names.) they were very friendly and when i found out they hadn't seen david byrne since the talking heads were still together, i told them i'd seen him a lot and i knew they'd love the show. that clued them in that i was a big fan, but their hunches were confirmed when they saw my tattoo. i mentioned that i had driven all the way up from north carolina for the show, and they said, "oh! we heard about you!!" apparently the lady in the box office was telling everyone about me as she handed out the tickets.

as we waited for the opening act to start, a few people started to come sit in the "reserved" row behind us and i decided to strike up a conversation with an elderly couple there. it turns out that the woman (i think her name was sandy) used to teach with david byrne's mom... they're friends of the family from way back. sandy told me that her son used to play monopoly with david... she had nothing but kind words to say about him. she sounded so proud, you'd have thought david was her own son.

sandy also told me that david's parents were going to be there (they live near baltimore). and sure enough, 10 minutes into the opening act they arrived. let me tell you... david byrne looks exactly like his father. it's almost creepy. his mom is short and a little mannish, but in a totally adorable way. every once in a while during the show i'd turn around and look to see if they were clapping along or anything. they were. ;-)

so the opening act... her name was juana molina. she's from argentina, and david came out to introduce her. he had nothing but praise to heap on her, saying he had been given a copy of her album and instantly fell in love with her music. he called it "latin musicby way of iceland." it was amazing. everyone sat in perfect silence and really listened to her. we were all totally entranced; i even bought her cd after her set was over. her voice is breathy, and with her parter alejandro she makes acoustic/korg guitar/keyboard trancey soundscapes that are almost a stereolab-y. i listened to the CD on the drive home today and was SO glad i bought it. now i can't wait to get her 2nd CD.

after her 45-minute set (and a 15-minute break) david came out on stage and the house went wild. an immediate standing ovation. after we all sat back down again he thanked us for "being able to make it to the assembly". (the concert hall was the one-time auditorium of annapolis high school.) he also said there would be a quiz afterward. i was personally hoping for detention. ;-)

i wish i would have written down the set-list, but i totally lost my mind during the show. i didn't even remember to take pictures until it was almost too late. (i snapped two while he was singing "psycho killer", but they're not very good. oh well. i have others. :-)

what's interesting about this tour is that david has been booked into seated auditoriums (versus his last tour, which was all smoky rock clubs)... so people seem reluctant to get up and dance. it took about 30 minutes for a contingent of people to leave their seats and dance in the aisles. that was all the momentum that was needed... soon people were doing funny walking dances in the space between the first row of seats and the stage... it was almost like a conga line at one point. the vibe was very friendly, and it was great seeing people have such a fun time... whether they wanted to dance, or stay seated (like david's parents behind me).

my friend tony had given me a bootleg of a david byrne show from march in italy, which i listened to on the drive up to annapolis... i was really surprised how much the set list has changed since then. there were a number of new additions, which was a nice surprise! i wonder how much the set list will change before he comes to durham in september.

here are the songs i remember him singing, in their general order:

glass, concrete and stone (DB- grown backwards)
i zimbra (TH- fear of music)
ausencia (cesaria evora)
the man who loved beer (lambchop - from grown backwards)
why (DB- grown backwards)
UB jesus (DB- look into the eyeball)
the great intoxication (DB- look into the eyeball)
road to nowhere (TH- little creatures)
naive melody (this must be the place) (TH- speaking in tongues)
un di felice (opera!) (DB- grown backwards)
once in a lifetime (TH- fear of music)
like humans do (DB- look into the eyeball)
dialog box (DB- grown backwards)
tiny apocalypse (DB- grown backwards)
what a day that was (DB- catherine wheel)
psycho killer (TH- 77)
blind (kick ass!!!!) (TH- naked)
life during wartime (TH- fear of music)
heaven (solo acoustic!) (TH- fear of music)
desconosido soy (DB- look into the eyeball)
lazy (DB- grown backwards)

damn, that's a long list... i probably forgot something, too. i think he played for almost 2 hours, and every song was SUPERB. i've never heard his voice sound more strong, and he really, really belted out some of the high, hard stuff (like "un di felice" and the "ay i, i, i, i" in "psycho killer").

i am not even hesitating for an instant in saying this was the best david byrne show i've ever been to. (and i've been to a lot of 'em!) the venue was great, the vibe was great, the sound was better than another other DB show i've been to, i met some really nice people, the opening act was wonderful, and david seemed more full of life & energy than i've seen from him in a while. maybe it was because his parents were in the audience... (though his folks were at the show he did at the 9:30 club a couple of years ago, too, and this show beat that one hands-down).

after the show i immediately whipped out my cell phone and called my friend tony. (he's an even bigger david byrne fan than i am... but he had shoulder surgery on thursday, or else he would have driven up from charlotte for the show, too.) he was all doped up and in a good deal of pain, but he was still happy to hear my report on the concert. i then checked in with ray.

after that 2nd phone call was complete, i decided to go back into the hall to see if maybe david was hanging around anywhere. he wasn't... i'm guessing he was still with his family & friends. oh well... it's probably all for the best. i've gotten pretty good at talking to celebrities over the years, but david byrne still makes me weak in the knees. i've met him a half-dozen times (including an interview with him many years ago) but i still get tongue-tied, even though i'm sure he knows who i am by now. (he even invited me backstage once.)

so after i calmed down enough to drive, i made my way to poolesville to spend the night on my friend jen's couch. (she's a huge david byrne fan, too, but didn't drive to annapolis since she's going to see one of his shows at the birchmere in DC in a couple of weeks.) i gave her a quick summary of the show, but on the one-hour drive to her house i got pretty sleepy (long day!) so i crashed as soon as i could.

i woke up when the sun started beating in the window... at a painful 7:30am. the rest of the house was quiet, and rather than wait around for people to get up i decided to just slip out of the house. i knew that an early start would mean a COOLER CAR and less traffic, so i left a nice thank you note, packed up and left.

the first thing i did was fill up the car with gas... and look! direct evidence that mr. pinky was right in telling me not to top off when i fill up. (for some reason his comment and his helpful link are now gone from that old post... d'oh.)

anyway, i didn't drive straight home... i went to ikea first. i spent an hour and half in that freaking store. it's a time-sucker. i spent less than $100, though, and got a new light fixture for the kitchen, 8 new soup bowls, 6 new wine glasses, and a swank red carrying case for a hopefully-soon-to-be-purchased new laptop.

and then i drove home. i pulled in the driveway around 4pm and immediately took a shower to rinse 2 days' worth of car-sweat-scum off of me.

aside from the ridiculous heat in the car, i would do the whole trip over in an instant. the show was that phenomenal. i'm actually trying to figure out of i could reasonably get to any other concerts before he comes to durham in september...

Posted by xta at 5:54 PM | TrackBack

May 21, 2004

 workin' for the weekend

these last couple of workdays have been weird. we just found out that at the end of june (less than 6 weeks from now) we'll be losing one of our satellite uplinks.

(there is actually a whole lot more to this story than just that, but it's boring as hell, so i'll skip it. come to think of it, even this much is likely too boring. oh well. sorry.)

anyway, all of the engineers around here are flitting about, trying to find some way to get our signal back into space. i think they may have found a potential solution through oral roberts university, of all things, but for many reasons (all of which are technical and not philosophical) it's not ideal.

especially un-ideal for me is the fact that this change means i'm going to have to run around to all of our streaming providers and tell them they're going to have to buy new equipment to receive us. i'm glad the weekend is almost here.

and what a weekend it will be. ray & i are going to go see turandot tonight. neither of us have seen this opera before, so that'll be fun. plus, we both adore the director of this company. he's a big teddy bear.

then tomorrow i'm driving 6-hours to annapolis to see david byrne. he's performing at the maryland hall for creative arts. it sounds like a small theater (800 seats, i think) and of course the show is sold out. it's also *general admission*, which should be interesting. (i'm envisioning throngs of middle-aged talking heads fans politely choosing their seats, looking around the theater and saying quippy things like "this ain't no disco!")

after the show i'm sleeping on the couch of an acquaintence, then driving home sunday. i'm thinking it would be foolish to pass up ikea on the way home, so i might not be back until sunday evening.

and, yes... i'm doing all of this by myself. i didn't really look for a travelling partner. i'm kind of excited about being alone for a whole weekend. the only sad part will be having no one to share the "concert afterglow" with. oh well... i'll get tons of that in september, when david byrne will be playing right here in durham.

Posted by xta at 3:48 PM | TrackBack

May 20, 2004

 a fun night in chapel hill

if you know ray, you know that he loves astronomy. i got him a telescope for christmas last year, and he told me it was the best present he's gotten since he was 6 years old. (that gift was a little motorized car for him to ride in, which --i have to agree-- is pretty damn cool.)

he spends hours looking through the telescope at planets and stuff (can you tell i'm not as into this as he is?), but his all-time favorite activity is to spot the new moon. he has a big book full of astronomical data that makes my head hurt just thinking of it; among other things it graphs out each new moon and how old --in hours-- each month's crescent will be. the younger the moon, the thinner the crescent and the harder it is to spot.

he tells me this is an ancient game, trying to spot the new moon. he usually asks me to go with him to look for it, and i usually agree. for me, though, the entertaining thing is watching him get excited; i rarely do any helpful spotting.

anyway, last night the new moon was 19 hours old. ray was all jazzed because it would have been a record for him (i think the youngest he'd spotted previously was 22 hours). alas, it was cloudy and rainy last night so he couldn't have even spotted the sun if he wanted to.

too bad for him. but good for me, as the cloudy skies freed me up to go hang out with mary a little earlier than planned. so we decided to use that extra time to drive to chapel hill for a night of reminiscing.

we first headed to pepper's pizza, which definitely brought back a bunch of memories. mary & i met each other while working next door, at the one-time record bar (which oddly remains one of the best jobs i've ever had), and we used to spend a lot of time drinking endless pitchers of beer at pepper's after we clocked out.

mary & i talked about the good ol' days and marveled over how pepper's salads are still as good as they used to be. (the pesto slice rocked, too.) we also ran into paul and his son, as well as ruby and her boyfriend. it was comforting, the whole experience, and reminded me of that feeling of... of being an essential part of chapel hill. 8 or 10 years ago i felt like i knew everybody there. i went to all the shows, all the parties... i knew everyone and felt like i really belonged there.

it's weird now, thinking back on that time . i'm not sad for it. i don't miss it. it's more an interesting anthropological issue for me to ponder... i was once a crucial element of chapel hill. and now i'm not. it seems almost counter-intuitive, but i think my life is actually richer now. it has more depth. but it was a nice feeling back then, that feeling of belonging.

after we finished our pizza mary & i decided to go down to the west end wine bar, which is another place we both like but rarely visit anymore. i had an incredible shiraz and a spanish rioja, which brought me up to a total of 3 glasses of wine in just a few hours (i had one at pepper's, too). it must've loosened up our jaws, 'cause both of us just talked and talked and talked. the wine bar was not crowded... just perfect.

we noticed that there was a competing wine & coffee bar about 10 doors down... it was totally empty except for the 2 people that worked there. it looked kinda cute. maybe i'll go back and try it out one of these days.

pfft. yeah, right... before last night, i hadn't been to chapel hill in a month. and that was for a rock show, which i showed up for and then left town again. it really never occurs to me to go to chapel hill and linger... but now that the students have all gone home it seems like a more appealing place. in fact, maybe i'll take joy there one night next month while she's visiting.

goodness, this post is getting long.

on the way home from the wine bar i noticed that i had a message on my cell phone from my brother. i immediately thought, "they had the baby!" but when i dialed into the voicemail that notion was immediately squashed... apparently rob has learned to preface every message with, "nope, no baby yet", and only then continues with the reason for his call.

i phoned him back and we had a great conversation (the wine was still lubricating my jaw), and though i can't exactly remember what all we talked about i do recall laughing a lot. i was sitting in my car (it was already 1am and i didn't want to wake ray with my drunken, loud voice), i had the drivers seat reclined all the way back and my feet were sticking out the window, and i just lay there in the perfect spring night and capped off my evening with a jolly conversation with rob.

Posted by xta at 10:12 AM | TrackBack

May 19, 2004

 butting my nose into my friends' business

i try not to, but i usually end up investing a lot of my emotional energy in my friends. for instance, right now one of my best friends is having a difficult time and i've been expending a lot of energy keeping in frequent touch with her, trying to entertain, distract and listen.

and then last night the landscaper was at my house for a little while, and i chatted with him about how busy he is, holding down 2 jobs and wanting to open his own auto shop. and when he mentioned that last bit my mind leapt to lisa. i thought, "i wonder if he & lisa would make a good match?" and i actually completely tuned out his 3 next sentences and let my mind wander to how i might be able to help out a friend.

i do things like this all the time. and when i stop to think about it, i have to wonder whether it's doing any good. i feel like my mind is always searching for ways in which to help my friends... and i don't really know whether my attempts at entertaining and match-making are even welcomed. worse, maybe i'm even being harmful! (sometimes i think i'm being harmful to myself because i often feel emotionally drained and very, very tired.)

i'm not sure where i got this habit of caretaking. lord knows my dad didn't give it to me. it's probably from my mom... she's always butting into everyone's business. ;-)

i feel like at some point someone's just bound to say, "leave me alone, christa... you're a great friend, but i can handle my life on my own." and when that happens i may cry. or i may suddenly get a really good night's sleep.

Posted by xta at 3:47 PM | TrackBack

May 18, 2004

 gia prima

i just got off the phone with gia prima, wife of the late louis prima. i interviewed her for an upcoming edition of divaville that will air thursday, may 27.

she was a pure delight. gia is in her 60s and now manages louis' estate full-time, including licensing his songs for commercials and movies, and issuing DVDs, books and CDs of louis' life and music.

as part of our chat, she told a few funny stories about the stage antics that went on in her performing life (she was also louis' singing partner after he & keely smith split) and excitedly talked about their children, who are now doing a lounge act in vegas.

the interview, when it airs next week, will be accompanied by a big CD giveaway. we'll have 9 recently-reissued albums for divaville listeners to win.

so, like, mark this in your calendars, ok?

Posted by xta at 11:11 AM | TrackBack

May 17, 2004

 pizza palace

terry's back home in florida safe and sound, and tonight i'm looking SO forward to sleeping in my own bed that i'm going to make this quick.

charo, ray & i went to pizza palace tonight. the white board just inside the door says "90 days!!" and i immediately asked faye about it. she says they will be at the current location until july 24. (they have to be out of there by the end of july, and she's giving herself a week to close down.)

she also told me that she might sign the papers on a new place tomorrow... she seems really excited, but she said "it will need a lot of work." at which point i (perhaps stupidly) volunteered my help. i told her i had just renovated a bathroom, and i knew a little bit about knocking down & building walls, about installing sinks & toilets, and could even paint and stuff. she seemed happy when i handed her a card with my name & phone number. we'll see if she calls.

i didn't ask her where the new location could be, but she said "it's really nearby." yay!

in other news, my toenails are now a lovely shade of lavender. i have somehow become addicted to monthly pedicures.

Posted by xta at 10:36 PM | TrackBack

May 16, 2004

 terry's visit, continued

while ray & his mom are at church (a sacrfice ray is making because it's easier than dealing with the guilt of just dropping mom off at the door), i have a few minutes to update.

the primate center made me sad. i was more or less promised that it wouldn't, but it did. the center keeps hundreds of lemurs in their wild, natural area, but of course we didn't see those. we were led on a tour of about 30 lemurs in cages and cinderblock rooms. it broke my heart. ray tried to comfort me by saying, "but they live longer lives here..." but i know i wouldn't want to live a long life inside a box, even if i knew that my hosts were doing all they could to rescue my species.

anyway, that's the only bad thing that has happened since terry arrived (and i think i was the only one who didn't enjoy that tour); everything else has gone smoothly and flawlessly. she's such an easy houseguest, content to nap in the afternoons and just watch what our lives are like.

we had a small dinner party for her last night. i cooked a pork tenderloin that came out pretty well, as well as mashed taters and snap peas. joe made an amazing applesauce and mary cooked a red pepper soup that had us all exclaiming. really great stuff. for dessert charo had the brilliant idea to whip some cream for the fresh strawberries she bought at the farmers market that morning. it was all good. and ray even spotted a comet in his telescope after the meal.

i put this in the comments on the previous post, but our friday trip to duke gardens & duke chapel were really nice, too, as was our dinner at pop's on friday night.

this afternoon we're going to see the nc symphony. terry leaves tomorrow afternoon.

ooh, also, one GIANT shout-out to charo for swapping cars with us this weekend. she's taking my un-airconditioned 2-seat CRX while we use her 4-door, A/C enhanced civic. thanks, charo!!

Posted by xta at 10:53 AM | TrackBack

May 13, 2004

 ray's mom arrives

i had an extra (yet well-planned) 20 minutes before i had to pick ray's mom up at the airport, so i stopped by the wide shoe warehouse for a quick run through the store, since it's right there and all. i found a totally cute pair of wedge sandals and made it to the terminal with about 2 minutes to spare. whew. (when i told terry --ray's mom-- what i had been doing just prior to picking her up, she laughed and said she couldn't wait to see how cute the shoes were.)

ray cooked up his specialty for dinner, and after we cleaned up the mess we walked down the street to tom's house. he was having a dinner party for a half-dozen friends (to which we were invited, but ray had already planned on cooking this welcome dinner for his mom), so when we got to tom's we just sat and watched everyone else eat. it was a little awkward but still nice to see everyone.

when we got home i remembered that the west wing had taped while we were gone, and since terry watches the show, too, we just plopped ourselves on the couch for a while. (but not until i performed some major surgery to the video cassette to extricate a balled-up section tape inside the cartridge. all those years working at vis-art really comes in handy!)

now it's late and we've got several really full days ahead of us... terry & ray are coming out to visit me at the station tomorrow. on friday we'll do all the touristy things in durham. saturday is the primate center and a small dinner party. sunday we're going to the symphony. then she flies home monday.

whew. i'm pooped just thinking about that list.

Posted by xta at 12:05 AM | TrackBack

May 11, 2004

 lest ye be judged...

one of my worst faults is that i can be judgemental.

i try to catch myself before the judgements manifest themselves in actual, harmful behavior, but sometimes i fail.

for instance, last year i found out two of my friends were having an affair, and the first reaction i leapt to was one of judgemental scorn. i immediately placed my value system upon their lives. "what they are doing is wrong," was my first thought. it turned my stomach in painful knots.

it wasn't until i talked to ruth that i realized that life is much easier (and more fulfilling) if i approach people with love and acceptance rather than judgement. i try very hard at this, but like i said... sometimes i fail. this is difficult stuff.

ray & i had a giant, blow-out fight last month that was basically the result of my being judgemental about a very specific behavior of his. i was, once again, asking him to live within my value structure. this is a complicated situation, though, in that an intimate relationship is far more successful if the two people have similar values.

anyway, i've recently been the target of judgemental behavior, and now that i'm on the other side i'm determined to work even harder to stop myself from being judgemental. it's not fun being on either side of this.

a girlfriend of mine seems to think my life is worthless unless i have a baby. (of course, my GYN is guilty of this too, but it's easy to just find another GYN... it's harder to find another friend.) if i hear, one more time, "it changed my life! you should totally have a baby, too!" i think i'll VOMIT. please do not impose your life decisions upon me. what's good for your life is not necessarily good for mine.

it's hard to avoid, though... this judging of people. it's somehow part of our nature. it's everywhere, and it's easy to do. (every SUV, for instance, causes me to practically spit in disgust... but this judgemental reaction doesn't make me feel any better, and it's not a productive emotion.)

much to my relief, i just had a great discussion with deana about how i had misperceived a way in which i thought she judged me... we ended up talking about how people need to feel justified in LIVING OUT LOUD... in being themselves, unabashedly, and standing up for what they believe in. unfortunately, though, in the course of living loudly, some toes will probably be stepped on.

so... how do you continue to be who you are, yet hold back from screaming at people who you are? i think --and this sounds so simple-- that you've got to proudly be yourself, but to not expect the rest of the world to be just like you, too.

why is this so hard?

Posted by xta at 1:36 PM | TrackBack

May 9, 2004

 ta fucking da!

the tub is finally done.

the faucet is hooked up & functional. water is flowing and draining, without leaks.

the caulk is drying, the grout is setting.

a shower curtain has been purchased.

a trial run is set for tuesday night.

i can't believe i'm done.

i'm really, truly done.

i stood in the middle of the bathroom this afternoon and cried. i've worked so hard for so long... tearing down walls, building walls, putting down a floor, installing a toilet, sink & tub, and finally tiling. i'm incredibly proud of myself.

Posted by xta at 9:56 PM | TrackBack

 i have become intimate with my grout

when we were last with our heroine she was lamenting the touch-up work to be done on the grout. today she met that challenge with a tool heretofore unused:

her finger.

there was just no other way to get that grout deep into those bubble holes. so now i have touched, with my right index finger, every square inch of grout around my bathtub. i think i have a callous. i'm sure i have sore shoulders and a bruised knee (i fell off the ladder). i'm going to be a mess tomorrow. i just took 6 advil (!) to try to fend off what i'm sure is going to be a painful morning.

to be honest, the finger-grouting was difficult and cramp-inducing, but cleaning up after myself was worse. as i mashed the grout into the cracks i guess i also mashed it onto the tile face itself... so tidying up behind myself was extra hard.

ow ow ow.

Posted by xta at 12:04 AM | TrackBack

May 8, 2004

 i'm posting this purely to incite discussion

...and also because mojitos have rendered my brain incapable of producing my own original thoughts.

from issue 24 of bitch magazine, an interview with susan j. douglas, author of the mommy myth:

"...and then there are these very contradictory TV shows, not unlike what we saw in the 60s. 'Buffy' is an example: that show is loved because it's edgy, but it also speaks to adolescents about the horrors, if you will, of bodily transformation and all of the social, psychic hells that young people go through in high school. And what young girl wouldn't want to watch a show where the only person who can save the world is a teenage girl? It's very compelling.

But of course she saves the world in her low-cut, miniskirted, high-booted outfits -- she still has to be young, blond, slim, and beautiful. It's the 'Charlie's Angels' model. So we're seeing women take on the ability to physically dominate and conquer men -- in cartoons, TV shows, and movies. And yet, they must do so in six-inch heels and skintight clothes and so forth. So it's a very mixed message about empowerment."

Posted by xta at 10:46 AM | TrackBack

May 6, 2004

 maybe it's pms

i wish spring would last forever. i love the slight chill in the morning air. but a promo for the late local news last night promised a dire warning about the upcoming mosquito season. i don't need to hear that shit already! let me enjoy the perfect weather for a while! sheesh!

maybe tonight on divaville i'll play as many spring songs as possible. that'll show 'em.

so a few days ago i bought a bottle of l'oreal eye makeup remover at eckerd. this, only because my bottle of lancome stuff had finally run out. (when i did my giant, first-ever makeup purchase back in october, my 'beauty consultant' gave me a free sample bottle of this stuff.) anyway, i knew the lancome makeup remover was going to be expensive and that anything from the drugstore would probably work just as well.

not so. that l'oreal crap was terrible. it didn't remove waterproof mascara and it stung my eyes. so i took it back, then headed straight to the lancome counter at hechts and bought a bottle of the stuff i had been using.

twenty-one dollars, people. $21 for 4.2 ounces of eye makeup remover. and men say they don't understand why we're emotional all the time... jezus, i just spent good money that could have been used on CHOCOLATE to buy liquid to take makeup off my face.

Posted by xta at 9:25 AM | TrackBack

May 5, 2004


i started grouting last night. i began at 6:30 and stopped around 9:30... and i was beat. this is much harder than i thought it would be. i mean, in a way it's easy... you don't really have to worry about alignment or anything like you do when you're laying the tile. but the grout is the most important part... it keeps the water out, so you've gotta get it right.

it was the smearing on and wiping off that was so hard... it took a huge toll on my right shoulder. i probably could have gone later than 9:30 last night if i weren't in such pain. thankfully a good night's sleep seems to have set me right again, and i'll likely finish the job tonight.

well, actually, i probably won't finish. because when i went to admire my work this morning i noticed that all the grout that looked so good last night is now pockmarked with little bubble holes. it looks like the grout is shrinking as it dries, so i'll likely have to do a second coat over the whole thing. (the instructions on the grout suggested i might have to, but i was hoping to avoid it.)

so, with 3 more hours tonight maybe i'll finish the first coat. then on saturday i can do a second coat.

what really sucks is that i was really hoping to do some yard work this weekend, but it looks like i'll be stuck in the bathtub again. we also need to start cleaning the house... ray's mom arrives a week from today.

Posted by xta at 12:21 PM | TrackBack

May 4, 2004


i came home tonight and found this guy lounging at the end of the driveway. he's easily 3 feet long.

what's weird is that i would have never noticed him except our gate was closed. and we never close our gate. i had to get out of the car and as i swung it open i saw him there on the other side.

he doesn't look dangerous. is he?

we were actually questioning whether he was alive; he wasn't moving at all. ray threw a stick in his direction and he slithered away, down some kind of drain pipe i'd never noticed before.

it's all very mysterious... where did he come from? why was my gate closed?? and where does this drain pipe go??

Posted by xta at 6:10 PM | TrackBack

 so sweet, you make my mouth water

i just found some candy in the on-air studio. a bag of rowntree's fruit pastilles. i'm not sure how they got here, but i suspect our british morning dj.

the pastilles are sugar-covered, fruit-flavored jujubes, more or less, and are quite yummy.

there's nothing like unexpected candy to brighten your day!

Posted by xta at 3:36 PM | TrackBack

May 3, 2004

 from bad to good

for the last few weeks i've been in a funk at work. hardly any ambition. it makes getting up in the morning painful. i'm doing the least amount of work possible while i'm there, then going home and feeling guilty about it.

this happens every once in a while. maybe twice a year. maybe even less than that. i'm hoping i'll snap out of it soon. life is much more pleasant when i'm enjoying my job. (and really, there's no real reason not to. well, there is one reason, but i won't go into that.)

anyway, two good things happened at work today:

deana (clad in a bright, eastery purple that made me smile) said all kinds of nice things to me that helped crack that shell of negativity. she's the sweetest. i'm thankful for her.

then dick gave me a copy of "sing a song with riddle", which seriously made my whole friggin' day. i photocopied the sheet music that comes along with the album... maybe i'll do a karaoke night at divaville one of these weeks! nelson riddle knows what he's doing, arranging songs. jesus... he's good. this album is swingin'.

then dinner at pizza palace with ray, lisa & mary. 2 pitchers of red oak consumed, a double-order of garlic bread, and calzones all around. plus the good news that the PP has been guaranteed at least one month extension on their lease. what happens after that is anyone's guess, but thankfully --for now-- there's still delicious pizza in our future.

Posted by xta at 9:03 PM | TrackBack

May 2, 2004

 bathroom, bathroom, bathroom...

we finished the tile today!! unfortunately it took longer than i thought, even with lisa's help.

i wiped out at one point... i had been standing on the edge of the tub, reaching to put a tile at the very tippy-top and i lost my balance and fell, face-first, onto the floor.

amazingly enough, i didn't hurt myself badly at all. i know lisa was panicking, though, so the first thing i said was "i'm ok!" my tooth poked through my upper lip a little and i have a bruise on my wrist, but i could have hurt myself a lot worse.

the instructions for the grout say to wait 48 hours to let the tiles set... so maybe tuesday or wednesday i'll finally finish this project.

i found a great old picture of of the bathroom... it was taken at the peak of the demolition. (i wish i had more photos of the bathroom in its original, grody state... not long after we moved in we started demolishing it.)

anyway, here's the photo, followed by a photo taken yesterday from the same angle. nice progress! :-)

Posted by xta at 5:31 PM | TrackBack

May 1, 2004

 sometimes i blog just so i can remember how i spent my time...

my neighborhood had a big "spring clean" today. the association asked everyone to put their old, junky crap on the street, and they'd come around a pick it up in a big garbage truck and haul it off... for free.

so last evening everyone was carting big piles of shit out to the curb. for a few hours the neighborhood looked really strange. ray and i went to a movie and on the way up the street there was just crap everywhere. "junk!" i'd say, and point. "junk! junk! junk!" it was everywhere you looked.

all of this junk made for good 'dumpster diving' (except there was no dumpster)... i saw a few neighbors checking out each others' piles. ray wanted to grab some old strappy plastic lawn chairs, but i talked him out of it.

the movie we saw was "bobby jones, stroke of genius". i couldn't believe ray suggested we go... he doesn't like movies very much, and he's not crazy about golf. i think he suggested it because he knew it would make me happy. what a sweetie.

alas, the movie pretty much sucked. the story of bobby jones is fascinating (he was the only player in the history of golf to win the grand slam, and he never turned pro), but the movie was poorly acted and edited. it was downright corny. which is too bad... i'm a jim caveizel fan from back in his "thin red line" days, but he was downright flat in this film. (i never saw him pretend to be jesus, though... was he un-flat in that?)

so then this morning i accompanied lisa on her quest to buy a 1982 vw westfalia vanagon. i don't know where in the hell we travelled... somewhere west of clemmons, nc. it was about a 2-hour drive, and it was beautiful. rolling green hills. lovely.

we left at 9am and i think i got home a little before 3pm (we stopped for lunch at steak & shake on the way home). it was a nice trip; i haven't driven such a long distance in a while, and i told lisa i considered it a warm-up for my trip to annapolis in a couple of weeks.

when i got home i almost immediately started tiling. it's almost done! all that's left is the one vertical strip that needs to be cut down to size, and the top, that will also need to be cut down to size:

as i mentioned before, the hardest part was cutting around the plumbing:

it required cutting the tile in half, then measuring where the hole will need to be (as well as its diameter), then taking the tile snips and cutting the semi-circle. very hard. i'm glad that part is over.

lisa is coming over tomorrow to help me finish. it's much easier to have one person do the cutting and one person do the measuring & sticking.

Posted by xta at 6:28 PM | TrackBack