Sunday, September 28, 2008

One Big Saturday in Durham

The Occonnechee Speedway Car Show 

It was just a matter of time before I went to my first car show in North Carolina.  And even though I knew we were going to a car show yesterday morning, I somehow didn't realize until we got there...that this was Nascar.  But, it wasn't gaudy Nascar.  It was an old historic dirt track, now hidden in the woods, and lots of cool old cars on display.  The uniform of the crowd was jeans and t-shirts (mainly racing t-shirts), and there was an especially high concentration of men's denim shorts and cell phones on belts.  And thick accents galore.  

Here are some of the photos that Willie took:

(This truck is dedicated to JoJo.)

But, like any event, the real excitement was the food. I had a tasty $2 bbq sandwich (which was eaten before any photo could be snapped), some homemade ice cream (made right there from a John Deere ice cream maker) and some homemade fries.  I did not sample the fried bologna sandwich but was still impressed by the display.

(Food photos dedicated to Evan, food photographer extraordinaire)
There are those fries.  Mmmmmm.

This was the entertainment -- The Castaways -- who must be a great wedding band, as their second song was "At Last."  Although the crowd listening to the music could be counted on one hand, Ramsey, the Tarheels mascot, was there to make sure that someone was dancing.

From McCain to Obama

From the car show, we drove to the opposite end of the spectrum -- North Carolina Pride Day in Durham, which was held at the Duke Campus.  Men's denim shorts and cell phones on belts were replaced by all kinds of rainbows, skin, Converse, and teenagers.  

You can't have a Pride Day celebration without your drag queens.

Willie spotted this priceless t-shirt.

But wait, there's more....

As if our day wasn't full enough, we went out to our second Durham dinner -- this time to an expensive yuppy Thai place.  Very tasty, but since when does Pad Thai cost $12 in Durham?  (and portions so small that there were no leftovers -- WTF?)  At least I know that when I need Thai food, it does exist if I'm willing to cough up the cash.  

Humping Unicorns

By 10:00 PM, I thought the big day must be done.   However, we had run into two of Willie's mom's friends (a couple our age) at the Pride festival, and they had told us about a performance not to be missed that evening: the Cuntry Kings -- women who dress up as men.  Partly because their logo was one unicorn humping another, we dragged ourselves back out at 10:45 to a night club (there was parking right across the street -- it is Durham, after all), where we were just in time to catch the Kings' performance.  I thought it would be a band or something, but it was a group of women lip syncing to a variety of songs -- complete  with costumes and dance moves and all.  Some acts were better than others, and it kind of felt like an underground talent show.  The crowd of mostly women loved it.   Below is a picture from one of the acts, which was about what happens in the locker room after "fag football":

There was a dance party after the show, and we stuck around and danced for for a few songs.  

Yes, it was a crazy day in Dirty Durham.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

32-Year-Old Jealousy

Well, it's that time again.  When the weather turns cooler (even in North Carolina), football takes over many lives, talk turns to Halloween costumes...and the little rascals come asking for college letters of recommendation.  It's funny how during the fall of their senior year, students who had you for junior year English suddenly and finally realize just how amazing a teacher you were and how no one else had as much of an impact on them as you did.  Huh.  Interesting.

As the requests roll in from the land of Glenbrook North, I've considered charging $50 per letter.  I mean no skin off their backs, right?

I've written quite a few letters of recommendation in my short career as a teacher, since I taught juniors for three out of the four years of teaching.  When I'd write letters at Payton (translation: when I was still employed), I felt a slight longing and jealousy directed toward all of the amazing things these cream-of-the-crop students would accomplish, toward how much more money they would make than me, and I felt woe-as-me over the fact that I would remain this lowly English teacher while they took over the world.  How did all of that money and time spent on my education lead me to a career writing letters for young people to actually make money and a name for themselves?  Yeah, yeah, yeah, teaching is important work and all of that crap.

I would joke with these students at the end of the year that I hoped they would remember me...and hire me one day.  I was only partly joking.

Well, now it's worse.  Way worse.  I am writing letters of recommendation for students from Glenbrook North -- students who will mostly go on to big state universities and who will join sororities and fraternities and land high-paying jobs based on all of the connections that they had before they were born.  Not that these aren't nice kids or that I don't wish them the best.  The real difference in writing the letters this time around  is that I am no longer a lowly English teacher who decided to take all of that education and turn it into a job that political candidates often put in the same category as nurses and truck drivers (not that there's anything wrong with those professions, but you know what I mean).  No, this time around, I am 100% unemployed.  Looking into jobs that I am as qualified for as a 23-year-old, or, worse, an 18-year-old.  I know, I know -- it's all part of this move and figuring out how I want my life to be and trying new things and getting out of teaching.  But, holy crap, right now, it sucks.  Right now, I hate that I am jealous of these almost college kids who have their whole lives ahead of them.  I know I sound like a bitter old crotchedy person who should have a cigarette hanging out of my mouth.  (BTW, I just googled the word "crotchedy" to make sure I was spelling it correctly, and wouldn't you know it, here is the definition and sample usage according to the online urban dictionary: "Crotchedy: A grumpy person who has no life.  That teacher is a crotchedy old lady."  Well, fuck me.  

Maybe I should start stripping like Diablo Cody.  Maybe I should change my name like Diablo Cody did.  Oh, wait, does that mean I'm now jealous of Diablo Cody?  At least she's out of college.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dress for Success: A Sartorial Conundrum

When I was a sucker and teaching teenagers every day, I was very careful about what I wore.  Sure, there was the need to look professional, to appear older, to not have the administration grimace at my "artsy-ness."  But, the real reason to carefully craft what I wore were the 120 teenagers who would be staring at me all day -- 240 adolescent eyeballs on me within a six hour time period.  Here were some of my rules:

  • Anything that was too revealing of my personality was out.  That meant that some colorful rings were acceptable and some were not.  Big translucent yellow bubble ring?  Out, as Heidi would say.  Carved plastic green flower ring?  That was fine.  These two rings might sound comparable, except for the fact that the green flower ring didn't really represent who I was.  The oversized yellow one, on the other hand?  That's who I would be if I was reincarnated as a ring.  Therefore, it was like naked me as a ring.  This went for belts, too.  The slightly funky white ones were okay, but definitely no color allowed.
  • Things that made it look like you were trying too hard (and therefore possibly failing) were out.  For example, the couple of times that I wore nail polish were mistakes.  (Perhaps if I had actually had my nails done, that might have been okay -- but this was my shoddy don't-look-too-close polish job, and it wasn't pretty.  Just waiting for some girl in the front row to raise one side of her upper lip.)
  • Forget anything that could even possibly for one second be considered sexy.  Now, I know plenty of teachers wear plenty of this stuff -- ranging from totally appropriate to totally not, but I wore no skirts, no v-necks or scoop-necks, and nothing too tight.  Feeling in any way attractive around teenage boys?  No thanks.  I preferred to feel like a librarian (the non-sexy kind from the movies, because I know plenty of sexy librarians in real life.)
  • All bets were off when it came to my watches.  There was no way around this one.  My "conservative" watch -- my red calculator watch -- would receive comments when students noticed it was a calculator.  But I made the mistake one day of wearing my weird yellow one with dots and ticks as the time markers.  That took about a half hour of class time to explain.
  • Pray that you never  had on the same outfit as the students.  This was more of  a problem at Walter Payton, where many students shopped at Urban Outfitters (as I found out the first time I shopped at the one three blocks from school).  Luckily, in the suburbs, the uniform for the girls were leggings, Uggs, a North Face fleece, and a t-shirt (usually a men's white v-neck undershirt tee -- emphasis on the "v").  I let them have this outfit.
Of course, I recognize the paradox in this: although, in theory, you should want the students to look at you and pay attention to you (your words, of course, not the floral pattern on your shirt), most of the time, most students were not paying any attention to anything that wasn't themselves.  What ring I was wearing?  Please, if I was naked with my hair on fire, half of them wouldn't notice.  

I also recognize that it was both a challenge and a blessing to have a different wardrobe for school.  In some ways, marking the difference between work and non-work (ala Mr. Rogers) is a good thing.  But, there is definitely a fine line between dressing professionally and dressing in a way that conceals your personality.

Fast forward to being unemployed in a city where I know no one / see no one:

These days,  I have the opposite problem.  I have rid myself of the teenagers staring at me or ignoring me.   I could wear my brightest belts with my biggest rings and not even my cat would notice.  But that's also the problem: not even my cat would notice, and she is one of two living beings I see every day.  What's the point of wearing anything besides a potato sack? 

Conceivably, at least until I get a job, I could wear my pajamas every day.  I could adopt the who-cares attitude and put no effort into what I wear.  But, where's the fun in that?  Instead, and partly out of boredom, I've started to dress a little weirder than I did in Chicago -- such as wearing my socks pulled up to my knees, a look I contemplated but never executed before now.  And I'm starting to realize the possibilities here.  Since I am essentially an outsider and a weirdo in Durham ("a loner, Dottie, a rebel"), I might as well do it up.  Why not start wearing crazy hats or jump suits or dye my hair a different color every week?   In fact, right now, I'm realizing that the outfit I have on is too boring.  Gotta go find my pimp hat to go with it....

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Overnight Camp

Last night, we had our first out-of-town visitor.  Naka, Willie's friend from his Africa trip with the New York Times, was in town (specifically Cary) visiting his wife's family.  So, we took him out.  Meaning, we took him on our 5 minute driving tour of Durham (the Duke Lacrosse house is included on the tour), and made too many snarky comments about the "booming" downtown. 

Anyway, we had a good time with Naka.  We went to a restaurant in the American Tobacco Historical District complex (that will definitely be on your tour, too), and got burgers and played pool.  (As if I know how to play pool --  I was in the corner playing Ms. Pac-Man.)  The burgers were no Jury's burgers (see, that is the very thing I need to not do), but the fries did have ample garlic on them.

After our first real night out kind of, we drove back to our house where Naka's car was parked.  As we said our goodbyes, I got that feeling in my stomach -- that distinct sleepover/summer camp/how will I make it through the night feeling.  The feeling that cries, "Don't leave me here!"  See, growing up, I couldn't do sleepovers (so sleep away camps were definitely out).  I'd occasionally attempt one, but then I would ultimately call home at about 10:00 PM and feign illness.  I'm not quite sure what my problem was, but it was real, and everyone knew.  In 5th grade, I spent months dreading the one night I was to spend at Camp Timberlee, a sleepaway retreat for all 5th graders.  To my big astonishment, I went and actually survived.  And I made one of those leather cuff bracelets that you stamp your name into.  I may have conquered Camp Timberlee, but I was sure college would be out of the question.  

Well, last night, Naka did leave us here, and my stomach did hurt for a little while.  And then it dawned on me that, in a sense, I am facing a really long sleepover here in Durham.  Granted, I have Willie.  And without a job, I have lots of time to make leather cuff bracelets with my name stamped into them.  With any luck, I'll muster up that Camp Timberlee courage and make it at least through orientation.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

C & T

I rarely leave the house these days.  And it's amazing to find just how quickly time passes without really doing anything.  As a full time shut-in, what I have to show for my time are my emotional states, which have been primarily crabbiness or tiredness or some combination of tired crabby or crabby tired.  In fact, I think I'm partly tired from being crabby, and crabby from being tired.  

Why crabby?

Well, for one thing, it was hotter than tar this weekend (phrase courtesy of Willie).  The actual temperature was somewhere in the 90's, but when you factor in the humidity, oy vey.  Our A/C was broken, and with our open windows limited to one (the rest were painted shut or screen-less), there was absolutely no air movement.  I'd like to pretend that I put on a brave sweaty face and worked through it.  But, no, I was crabby.

(Pause: I do need to give lots of credit to the management company we're renting from because they had a guy out here Monday morning fixing the air conditioning.  And fix it he did.  In fact, he was here on and off for the past two days -- kind of like a roommate -- working on our list of non-functioning things.  He and I had a bit of a language barrier when he tried to explain what he needed or the status of something -- I would guess wrong or nod or smile and feel like a super dumb non-Spanish speaking white unemployed yuppie.  For example, on several occasions he seemed to be referring to another guy doing work at the house.  "He" had allegedly fixed our toilet and "he" had unclogged our drain.  And yet, there had been no sighting of he unless he was a small elf who worked in the wee hours of the morning.

Why tired?

Well, it's a funny thing how having nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one to call, and receiving emails mostly from former students requesting letters of recommendation (file that under crabby, too) is just plain exhausting.  Makes me want to take a nap.

If I could push through the C & T, I could list the good things (like that the management company is fixing lots of things in the house, like that the weather is cooler, like that I know how to get to two more places even if they're right next to each other, like that yesterday I saw about 15 school buses come bounding out of a nearby high school at 4:00 and almost threw up and instead said all of my prayers that I am not teaching right now). However, at the moment, there is an open invitation to my pity party, where I will be serving C & T's. 

Friday, September 12, 2008

My Pet Roach

So, if I've ever wondered if I would have a different scream for a mouse and a giant roach, and I mean GIANT (I swear it had wings), the answer is no, they are very much the same scream.  This roach was so big and grossed me out so much, that I couldn't even look at it.  It went down something like this: Last night I'm sitting on the toilet with the door open (sorry, TMI), spot GIANT roach (3 inches?  Is that possible?  2.5?) just outside the bathroom, scream, call Willie's name, and shut the bathroom door.  That's right, I hide from the roach.  That way, the roach can't get me.  See no roach, no roach exist.  Well, surprise, surprise, when Willie comes back to look for it, it's gone.  I don't know how something that large moves that fast, but I was SO jumpy and freaked out that all I could do was go to bed. The brand new off-the-ground bed I just got seemed to be much safer than my old on-the-ground futon, so that was some comfort.   However, I couldn't go pee (what's with the TMI?) last night because I was so afraid of running into my new friend.  As I lay in bed thinking about how in the hell I'm going to deal with all of these new pets, I wondered if, like my migraines, naming them might help.  Ted, the roach?  Would that make it less scary?  But, that's the thing -- in the moment, there is no Ted.  There is only the scariest biggest grossest thing I've seen since the last scariest biggest grossest thing I've seen.

Everything is sunnier in the morning.  Today there was no sign of Ted, and I carelessly unpacked as if there wasn't a roach in the world.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

On my first day in Durham, my true love gave to me....

So, after the first 48 hours in Durham, here are the stats so far:  (mostly in 3's and 4's)

3 awesome family/friend movers who helped us move in in about 2.5 hours.

3 guys who turned on, delivered, and installed our power, bed, and cable on the day we moved in.

3 visitors later that afternoon, each bearing gifts:
  • Willie's mom and 10-year old mentee brought us pizza.
  • A friend of Wille's aunt and fellow Durham resident brought us fried chicken and beer.  She also gave us the advice to find a safe space in our house in case of danger.  At first, I thought she was talking about a place to hide in the house when an intruder enters, and I near about lost my mind.  Then, I realized she was talking about a safe space for our stuff -- not us.  "Lock up that camera equipment," she said, "because it's fine for a junkie to steal your tv, but not your camera."  Um, right, so a junkie will be visiting my house?  And that's fine as long as my valuables are locked up?
  • Willie's aunt, who also lives in Durham, brought us flowers.  And she tried to dispel the safe space / junkie myth and said that there was probably just a crack house down the street.  This unsettled me a little until I realized, "Wait a second, I grew up with a crack house down the street!  I know how to do crack house down the street!"  That's right, the cold hard streets of Evanston toughened me up in ways that are still just now making themselves known.  (True story: the summer before I left for college, as I was backing out of my parents' driveway, I saw a car turning the corner onto my street, and so I waited for it to pass.  This car was followed by -- and I counted -- 1o undercover cop cars.  A whole bunch of SWAT guys got out to storm the house across the street.  Later that week, when I looked in the Evanston paper under the police blotter, sure enough, included in the listing was the raid of the house on Ashland Ave. -- "a reputed drug house."  
4 meals that have involved cold fried chicken and/or cold pizza.

3 sightings of a mouse.  Did I scream?  Hells, yeah, I screamed.

1 major 24-hour-plus migraine.  And as I lay awake last night, my head pounding like crazy, I started to think about how helpful it would be to name and measure my migraines like they do hurricanes.  I'm always trying to compare and contrast them anyway, thinking, "Well, this is better than the one on the 4th of July, but longer and more intense than the one in Vermont."  How much easier would it be if I could say, "Migraine Mimi was more severe than Migraine Lorraine -- since it was a category 4."

Since I still have no idea what I'm doing here in Durham (and probably won't for a while), I suppose I'll just keep finding things to count, starting with all of those boxes waiting to be unpacked....

Monday, September 8, 2008

So, this is blogging....

One of my goals in life, or so I've said, is to never send out a mass email. I've unachieved this goal a couple of times (hard to get around the change of email address email), and when I've had to send something out to my entire grad school program or to all of the teachers at school, I've panicked and deliberated and rewritten and proofread to no end.

Somehow, even though I'm not even sure who will read this, blogging feels like a mass email, like a "LOOK AT ME/I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY" thing to do. Like, who cares what I have to say? Well, there's a good chance my mom does, or at least pretends to, so that's something.

But, in the week that I've been in North Carolina, I have a) started a list in my head of WTF things (sorry for swearing, Ma), b) come to find nothing more depressing than searching for jobs and therefore want to avoid that activity at all costs, and c) found myself completely unsure of how to get myself to write on a regular basis. Voila, le blog.

I'd like to avoid the cheesy "midwestern girl in the south" thing, although I suppose that's what I am. And I know the Triangle area in NC is not quite Jeff Foxworthy "you know you're a redneck when..." territory. But, here are my observations, questions, concerns of being some kind of a resident of North Carolina so far -- be they cliche or stereotypical or generalized or stupid or even untrue:
  • Southern Hospitality vs. Minnesota Nice. In my very first trip to Target on my very first day here, two groups of people in the parking lot asked/offered help. Granted, stools were toppling out of my cart, and I lost a mattress pad somewhere in between two of those large red Target balls that I really wish were for sale. "Wow, they really are nice in the South!" my mom and I exclaimed, although we probably would have said this in response to a "you dropped something." Of course, I'm trying to assess after a minute, but I want to know if people at registers will call me "honey" and what Southern hospitality's translation of Minnesota's "you betcha" is and if it's possible that the people at the DMV here might not make me cry.
  • No, for real, there really are no sidewalks here. In the interest of full disclosure, a) I made this realization several trips to North Carolina ago, and b) I know there are some sidewalks. But seriously, the streets on which Willie's parents live in Carrboro, and the street on which we'll live in Durham have NO sidewalks. None. Zero. Just the street. And those country mailboxes on the street. Put this in the category of not being in Kansas anymore.
  • Deers are like squirrels. At least in Carrboro, and, well, I'm sure billions of other places in the country. But not in Chicago near the Popeye's Chicken at California and Diversey! But, the deer are still way cuter than squirrels -- especially those babies with their Bambi spots -- and there have been at least two times in the past week when I have considered going to live with the deer. They never have to look for jobs.
  • There are so many friggin' bugs, jesus christ. Okay, I know I haven't even scratched the surface of this one (um, pun intended?), but at any give time of day, at any given location, I just get a bite. Just like that. My legs are now polka-dotted, and I don't leave the house without my After Bite. It's the new Chapstick. Willie has been watching this black and yellow spider who has been residing in a large web right outside his dad's living room window. "So cool," he says. And I'm only not freaking out because it's on the outside.
  • People pee outside. Well, at least Willie does, and I'm sure he's thrilled that I revealed that. But, hey, when it's only you and the deer....
  • There is a conspiracy going on in North Carolina. Unless you live in Fayetteville or Carrboro, you cannot get the channel Bravo with any cable package. If I had known this before we moved, I might not have agreed to this whole life change thing. And since we are not allowed to install a dish in the house that we're renting in Durham (this after spending an hour on the phone with my new BFF Cynthia at ProntoDish), I seriously don't know what I will do. It's like Time Warner Cable found out the one thing I watch on tv, and laughed evilly as they did away with it. Hate Time Warner Cable.
  • There's a flea problem here. And now my poor white cat has these little black bugs crawling all over and under her hairless hair. Poor Scouty. Damn fleas.
  • It's too hot. And everyone else calls this humid sunny 90's-ish weather beautiful. Oh dear and deer.
  • Some things are a little cheaper. So far, gas is a little cheaper, movies are $8, insurance premiums are a little less, and staying at your boyfriend's dad's place while you wait to move into your house with the weird Sept. 9 lease date is a huge savings (especially when meals are included).
  • Everything is housed in a house. Such as all businesses. Such as the Statefarm agency in Durham. It seems sooooo Southern.
  • Does slower pace of life really just translate into old computer equipment? This topic, like the how-are-things-cheaper question and the Southern hospitality inquiry, is one of the big ones for me. So far, my only evidence is Barry at the Statefarm agency. I was told I needed to come in to sign some forms about transferring my insurance from Chicago to here. Signing forms turned into an hour with super nice Barry, and then phone calls from him later that day, the next day, and the day after that. I learned about Barry's best friends who live in LaPorte Indiana, and especially about Peggy, who couldn't get used to those cold winters. Barry was definitely super nice and definitely not in any hurry. But, then there was the issue that the Statefarm agency in the house in Durham had no evidence of my renters insurance in Chicago (and that would take another chunk of time to figure out) and that the computer Barry was using had a screen that reminded me of my dad's Kaypro (is that what it was called?) computer from the 80's. Huh.
So, this is probably way too long for a blog entry -- me and my blogging naivete. But, if you've read this far, thanks so much for reading. And please send me bootlegged copies of "Project Runway."

Now time to go apply more After Bite....