Since Turning 33

losing my headIt just so happens that I like the number 3 and all of its derivatives. Some of you might know that our house is number 6933… So when it looked like turning 33 was becoming a real possibility, I started to get quietly excited but had no idea about the wild ride it was going to be. Just for the past three days:

–          Spent an afternoon at the adult toy expo. Unless I come next year, will probably never see so many sizes and colors ever in my life, even if at some point I turn 99. Thrilled that things are moving away from imitations to sleek little devices with USB storage…

–          Spent several afternoons at a business analytics event trying to wrap my mind around the concept of big data. My mind has stretch marks now and even a few tears.

–          Got a parking ticket for not displaying my registration. Turns out I’ve been driving since Dec without the right sticker…

–          Met with my boss at a piano bar. We sang I feel so emotional, baby!

–          Got a beautiful bouquet from our family. Got emotional.

–          Bought a dress. Enough said.

As my friend a photographer says, #whatesleispossible?


A Pooping Horse

Flying back from Florida, I didn’t realize that my layover was in Cincinnati. I discovered it when registering for the flight and didn’t think too hard about it until we landed. Walking up the jet way, I realized I could see my breath.

“I can see my breath!” I exclaimed to a group of strangers pulling their suitcases next to me. They looked like me like, “Where do you think you are? Florida?”

The trouble was I didn’t know much about Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky. My only association with Kentucky was Jim Beam.

The layover was an hour, and ventured into the warmth of the airport in search of coffee and fried chicken, because nothing makes you feel better about just about anything than piping hot fried chicken.

Then in the window of a souvenir store I saw a women’s sleeping t-shirt with a pink horse and handcuffs on it and a tagline “Fifty Shades of Hay.”

This was when I was seriously sorry that my phone had died.

Inside, they had masterpieces like a pair of boxers with “horsepower” across the front. T-shirts with a slouching cowboy and a responsible-looking dog on a horse and a tagline “Designated Driver.”  In the food dept., there were mint jelly and bourbon-flavored pancake mix.

I brought a glass jar of blackberry syrup to the checkout and as the lady in what looked like a sari was checking me out, she asked,

“Do you need a pooping horse?”

What do you tell a person who obviously think you’re in need of a pooping horse? I was taken aback.

To help me make an educated decision, she took a keychain with a horse from a plastic jar and squeezed the horse. A piece of brown poop made its way out. The lady let go, and the poop got sucked back in. She did that a couple of times, just to make sure I got the idea, delighted with the horse’s stellar performance.

I passed.

But was fully awake now and not in need of fried chicken anymore.

At least I didn’t come across the chocolate version of Kentucky Horse Poop.

Day of Firsts

Today was my day of firsts.

It’s not like I haven’t been to a trade show before… but at the New Media Expo that I was covering, three things happened that reminded me to never take anything for granted (and pay extra attention on your first day back after vacation.)

1. I almost tripped over someone lying in the aisle. A man was apparently filming something with his handy GoPro camera and in search of a better angle sprawled himself in front of an exhibit. Maybe he was banking on the show not being very busy, and he wasn’t too far off.

2. Someone took a photo of me holding my business card so that they “could remember what I looked like.” That actually seems like a cool way to keep track of new connections. The rational part of my brain thought “learn it, live it and love it” but it still felt odd.

3. A sales rep for a massage company stopped me just as I was about to round the corner and asked if I wanted a free massage. I said no. At this, he proceeded to stick electrodes just under my collar. I was so taken aback that my brain frozen and my jaw dropped. The two electrodes were connected to an mp3 player-size gadget. The guy cranked up the volume and I felt my back muscle start to pulsate.

“So can this be applied to any body parts?” I asked the rep. He drew a blank, blushed and said,

“They are well sanitized.”

Halloween Treats and Deviant Tendencies

B. said let’s make Halloween dinner. I said, “Like severed fingers?”

That’s considering that you can get a Master’s degree in criminal science at our house just by being around all murder drama on TV. There used to be a time when I thought knowing where period came from was disgusting…

Coming up with recipes is not my strong suite, if you don’t count just tossing together whatever is in the fridge. So we turned to the web. Fifteen minutes of searching on the web yielded us “mummy meatloaf” and “swamp monsters.”

Then B. found chocolate mice. Cute little buggers. With tails. I instantly pictured them with a fork sticking from the back. Then I noticed that total prep time is 2 hours. B. made a sad face. Mice were a go.

Then it turned out that the prep time didn’t include baking chocolate cake that would later turn into mice flesh. In fact, it would have to be divided into two parts: bodies and fur. Bodies would be shaped by hand and be allowed to cool off. The fur would be dried in the oven and then attached to cold bodies with tempered chocolate. Toothpicks would be inserted to create anuses later to be replaced with a licorice tails. When twisted the tails in, you have to be forceful but gentle. Finally, red eyes would be piped, carefully, so that they don’t bleed out.

chocolate mice halloween

This was done by a cute gal with curled blond hair:

chocolate mouse  halloween

And the arthritic fingers… T. suggested that they should be bleeding:


Toilet Trouble

toiletBack when I was an interpreter, one of the most fun things about the job was that you never knew what was going to happen in the next few minutes. Your life in a constant state of flux because it’s really an extension of the lives of other people for whom you are interpreting. If they have a crisis, you have a crisis.

Like the first time I was taking a group on a bus tour and a grandma in flowery pants came up to me looking like she was going to ask me for a best place to purchase nuclear weapons.

“Excuse me, dear,” she said. “But do you happen to know where I can find a rest room?”

A rest room? Did she need to take a break? There were 55 chairs on that bus and even though they were not exactly borrowed from a Lamborghini, they were comfortable enough, at least for resting. Rest all you want, enjoy yourself. Take a nap if you wish. You’re on vacation.

“What do you mean?” I decided to clarify because the woman’s request was obviously urgent.

“Well, a powder room,” she said.

That was helpful. Now she wanted a room with powder in it. So resting by itself wasn’t enough. Did she need drugs? What drugs came in a form of powder? Cocaine? And she looked like such a nice old lady in flowery pants.

“I am sorry, but I don’t understand,” I said.

“I need a bathroom,” the woman announced. This was too much. Our tour was getting held up by a woman who kept changing her mind about her pressing needs, and I seemed to be incapable of helping her. Now she needed to take a bath in the middle of the day, take a nap and polish everything off with a little snort. Some grandma.

How was I supposed to know that the word “toilet” was offensive to her and impolite to use in good company? That’s how in Russia people refer to that sacred place of contemplation and it sounded like it should be universal. Except for it wasn’t.

In fact, it is often marked with a Russian letter ZH – ж –  which some of my American friends refer to as barb wire because it looks like it. The last thing it inspires is to think that your salvation is behind it.

Had it not been for her friend how had spotted a sign with an upside down triangular apparently symbolizing a woman in a dress – which also took some imagination to decipher – the grandma might have had to suffer even longer, and I would have gone on to become a doctor or a librarian.

Don’t read the news at night

anthropology_bed72Last night I had a dream that I was tried by a military tribunal. In Syria.  That’s considering that I know very little about military tribunals and even less about Syria. In my dream, I came there for something else, like someone else’s trial, and I had a stash of candy in my drawer. I remember reminding myself to make sure to pack them back home. It was almost time to go.

We were standing in the middle of this square when they announce that it was my turn. For some reason, we already had a whole bunch of American lawyers on our team, and they all started to hustle around me, commiserating, as if I’d contracted malaria and they didn’t, even though they had a perfect chance.

One of them did volunteer to represent me. We both wore color-coordinated red sweaters.

Throughout the dream, there was this horrible noise that would come and go. While other people’s trials were going on, it was annoying but didn’t matter much. Now with me on the stand, it was a different story. The prosecutor started asking me questions, and I just plain couldn’t hear what she was saying. I know. It was a woman in uniform. In Syria. Don’t ask.

Then she started pointing at pictures and asking me more questions, growing agitated and practically yelling in my ear. And I still couldn’t hear enough to understand her. I knew my life depended on my responses and I didn’t even know what the questions were.

That’s when I felt this overwhelming sense of despair wash over me. I realized that with this horrible noise, there was no way I was going to get out of this and would be convicted by military tribunal and will perish in one of the scariest places on Earth. In my dream, I thought I was having a nightmare. That’s when I woke up and realized that I was.

The room was filled with a horrible noise. A neighbor using a leaf blower in his back yard.

Mashed potatoes Taiwan style

I got an email today from a 19-year-old guy from Taiwan who had lived with us last year as part of an exchange program. Mostly we exchanged Snickers bars for packs of dried sea weed, and an occasional situational analysis through the prism of his Buddhism perspective. We learned that “it will work out” and “war is not the answer.”  It was a good year.

D. wrote me to find out how to make mashed potatoes. He wanted to impress his family with an American Thanksgiving, and mashed potatoes turned out the deal breaker – from the turkey to the cranberry sauce nothing else seemed to give him pause. Or maybe he wasn’t planning on making them. But mashing must have left a serious dent in his subconscious after we had enslaved him to produce enough for 40. With an industrial ricer.

How do you explain to someone in Taiwan the concept of “go to your neighborhood Target and buy a masher?” It should look like a branding iron? Or even better – placing everything into a Kitchenaid and “fluffing it up?” A fork can always be the last resort – but do they have any handy? Anyone ever mashed potatoes with a pair of chop sticks?

It’s amazing how such a simple concept can become so complex when transcending cultures. How would they know if it comes out lumpy? Would they care?

I couldn’t find a good way to gauge his expectations, to provide him with a mashed potatoes swatch other than hope his taste buds remembered what he’d tasted here. But I had to do something. He relied on my host-motherly expertise in the matter. So I concluded my page-long email with,

“If in doubt, just add butter.”