Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Going Dark

This whole blog thing started with me wanting to leave comments on other people's blogs, post some silly links, and tell a story about a mouse. Almost three years later, it's evolved into something else entirely -- a diary of sorts. And I'm often thinking that keeping that diary and making it public is something that might not be the best thing for me, personally and professionally.

Besides, isn't blogging just narcissism meeting the 21st century?

But I need a creative outlet. I need to write, to express myself through the written word. It is who I am, who I always have been. To me, it seems that I am not nearly as eloquent in person -- my witticisms are less witty, my earnesty less earnest, my hopefulness less hopeful, my sadness less sad. I feel the most when I am writing. I find myself crying rivers when I am writing, but am dry-eyed and logical when I am not.

I like the me that feels much better than the me that thinks.

Still, I need to figure some stuff out, and am too vulnerable here right now. Maybe eventually I'll write here again, maybe I won't. Maybe I'll work on that book I keep talking about instead or I'll start keeping a paper journal. Who knows? But, at least for the time being, this space will be dark.

Not Meant To Be

This is about the sum of it today:

Not Meant to Be - Theory of A Deadman

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I am trying so hard to be positive, to think positive thoughts.

The hardest part, though, is that I am no good at sitting on my hands waiting for things to happen. I like to make things happen, to get concrete answers. I need to know what is going on. And, as I've said countless times to countless people, patience may be a virtue but it isn't one of mine.

I am driving myself crazy. I am making myself sick. I need to get out of my head.

Monday, December 22, 2008


I love to write, but it's a challenge. When I am content, I often can't find things to write about. When I am upset, I often can't find the words to express my feelings. And I am always so concerned about what other people are going to think about what I write that it causes me to over-edit and over-generalize and over-simplify in an attempt to over-sanitize.

It is no different in my life. When I am happy, I focus on that -- but when I'm not, it's hard for me to express it -- to find the words, to articulate what I feel, what I think. And I am so conscious of other people's feelings that I keep finding myself burying my own. I am paralyzed by fear.

I have to work on that, because, for someone who makes a living as a communicator, I am not always effective at it in my personal life. I need to say things, to get them out into the open -- to make myself heard.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Baby steps

I worked on my novel again today, for the first time in months. It was just a chapter, but it felt like something major.

I applied for a promotion at work last week. It seemed like exactly what I needed to do to get back on the right track.

I spent time with my friends, some that I haven't seen in months, over the past several days. I went to happy hours and parties, had some drinks, ate holiday foods, laughed, and told stories. And the schedule of events on the horizon looks promising.

And yeah, I flirted. I had almost forgotten how good it can feel.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Observation #2

A positive side effect of having experienced actual tragedy is that it makes you better able to distinguish between the real thing and what is, for lack of a better term, just a bummer.

Seeing comedy in tragedy

I very rarely write about former relationships because I was taught that it's not nice to speak ill of the dead. (Just kidding! Or am I . . . .) No really, what I was taught is that if you can't say anything nice, you shouldn't say it at all. And while that rule doesn't apply to when I am sitting around with friends and family trading what seem to be witty barbs, it certainly applies to a written medium, and even more so to one that's as permanent as the internet.

But I keep thinking that there's something inherently comedic in this last breakup. Mostly because (1) I really didn't see it coming at all and (2) the location. And as someone who self-identifies as a writer, I can't get it out of my head without getting it down on paper. It plays out like a screenplay:

Enter scene. Urban IHOP, rainy evening. Girl walks into restaurant, in long coat, umbrella and shopping bags in hand. Sees boyfriend sitting at table, and goes over to him, grabs his hand.

You all can figure out how it goes from there.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The end is the beginning is the end . . . .

One minute, everything is going along swimmingly, and the next it's over. That pretty much sums up the year for me.

I walk into the room, thinking everything is normal, and then the floor disappears and once again, I am in free-fall mode.

I should know better than to invest in anything by now, but for some pathological reason, I keep on doing it. I need to stop setting myself up for disappointment. I need to stop expecting that things will work out. Clearly, they don't and the only thing I'm ever left with is a gigantic pile of defeat and heartbreak.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Getting close

I haven't bought a Juliana Hatfield CD since sometime around 1994, but for some reason, I've been reading her blog lately. A couple of days ago, I came across something she wrote back in June that really spoke to me:

The idea in this song was the push/pull of ambivalence — my simultaneous attraction and repulsion toward potential love objects. Feeling a longing for a connection to someone but pulling away before getting too close. Or not being able to get close. Being more than just afraid.


I’ve only ever been truly at ease when I am all by myself. For the longest time I thought this meant there was something really seriously fundamentally wrong with me, but now I have begun to accept this truth about myself: I am most comfortable (most myself) when I am alone. And I am fine being alone. Happy, even. When I tell people this, they usually think I’m fronting or being defensive, and they say, “Oh, you just haven’t found the right guy yet.”

Maybe that’s true. Maybe. But if I am willing to concede that, okay, maybe I have never met anyone with whom I am compatible, then you who say I haven’t met the right guy yet must be willing to entertain the thought that maybe what I claim to be true is true, and that maybe I really want to be alone. And maybe I like being alone more than I’ve ever liked being with anybody.

On some level, I understand this. But I'm starting to feel otherwise.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


The other night, someone said to me that they wondered what I was like before my mother died.

I didn't know how to answer the question.

Have I changed in the past 10 months? Certainly. Would I have changed over the last 10 months, regardless of the loss? I think so. Maybe not the same way, but people have a way of evolving, like it or not.

Maybe it's a question best posed to my friends -- at least those who have known me for some time -- seeing as it's hard for me to really see the difference from the inside. But sometimes I feel the difference -- it's as if I stopped being one version of myself in the early morning hours of February 7. Sometimes I feel older and more serious -- but not all the time. Sometimes I feel more inclined to stand up for myself, since my mom's not around to (1) do it for me or (2) push me to do things. And on a more noticeable level, I'm sure I'm a little more quiet, a little more closed-off, a little more cautious, a little more introspective -- and a whole lot more sad.

Still, the two changes that I am most certain of are that I've become less inclined to believe that things always work out in the end -- they don't -- and that, no matter what, I am capable of picking up the pieces and moving forward. Still, those are lessons that I'd rather not have learned, given the cost.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Christmas Spirit

I am, at heart, a non-confrontational person. Yeah, I'm guilty of offhand sarcastic remarks and quips when things annoy me, but most of it is meant in jest. For me to really get aggravated -- and speak out about it -- things really really have to bother me.

Today, I was bothered.

On my way to pilates, I stopped at the UPS store to drop off a package. I was returning one of many, many catalog purchases of late. Apparently, one of the ways I dealt with not getting a birthday present from my mother was to buy new clothing and shoes. But I digress.

The package was prepaid. So, I just wanted to run in and run out of the store so I could get to my class, but there was no parking, so I wound up driving around for a couple of minutes looking for a spot. When I finally parked and ran up to the store, large box in front of most of my body (The box was 2 feet long -- no joke), I noticed that there was a very long line of parents and kids, most of whom were holding red and green balloons.

I quickly gathered that none of the people in line were actually there to conduct business in the store. You see, as luck would have it, the UPS store is in a neighborhood that was having its annual Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, and the store itself hosted Santa. So after exchanging brief words with some of the parents, I decided to bypass the line and go straight to the door.

Of course some blond woman yelled at me, "How rude! Don't you see that this woman with a stroller and a baby is trying to get out? You should have let her out first."

In my defense, I didn't see the woman with the stroller and the baby. The box was obstructing my view, especially while trying to hold it while keeping the door open. And in all honesty, all of the people and all of their kids seemed like they were moving into the store, not out of it. But on some level, I was not being very observant. I mean, I was surrounded by all of the kids and the noise, and all I wanted to do was drop off the stupid giant box.

I said, "Oh. I'm just trying to drop off this box and I didn't see her." I continued walking into the store, handed the clerk my box, and proceeded to exit. The transaction itself took 5 seconds.

On my way out the door, the woman started with me again. She said "You are so rude."

I was halfway out of the store, but I got annoyed. I spun back around and said, "Excuse me?"

She didn't say anything, so I started walking again.

Of course, then she said, "I guess some people don't understand Christmas."

I stopped again. "You really want to do this in front of your children?"

She glared at me and said, "I can't believe you are so rude."

I got a little defensive. "First of all, I didn't see the woman with the stroller because I was carrying a very big, very heavy box. And second, if anyone has the right to be mad at me, it's her -- not you. Mind your own business."

She said something else, but I don't even remember what it was. All I know is that by this point, I was fuming. So as I turned and walked back to my car, I said, "Well, I guess your kids are learning that the true spirit of Christmas is to be judgmental and rude."

The woman with the baby and the stroller? She was long gone by that point. But if she had said something to me, I probably would have apologized.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Tomorrow is my birthday; tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I've spent a lot of this past year grieving and trying to figure out how to move forward, which undoubtedly, is of more interest to me than to anyone out there in cyberland. But there are a lot of things that I am grateful for, even though I probably don't say it often enough or loud enough to compete with all the other noise.

Here are some of the major things that come to mind:

  • My friends and family, old and new, near and far. It's been a tough year, and I cherish the love and support. I don't know how I could possibly have made it through the past year -- or at least the past 10 months -- without you. You are, collectively and individually, the best.

  • My job. I really like what I do and where I do it.

  • Nana. The past year-and-a-half has been really tough for you -- probably more so than anyone else -- but you teach by example that, no matter what, it's important to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep moving forward.

  • My sister. Even though we disagree about things -- a lot of things -- I am so grateful for having spent the last 30-some-odd years trying to make each other giggle. I can't wait to be an aunt and tell your kid (or kids) about how wonderful it was to grow up having a best friend/partner-in-crime who lived in the same house.

  • My brother. Thanks for making me laugh harder than anyone has a right to, for crying with me when we both needed it, and, in general, for being a good, good man. I am so proud of you.

  • My dad. You are a rock. A crazy, weird rock, but a rock nonetheless.

Clearly, there's a lot more -- good food and wine, vodka, baseball, Entourage, cashmere, high threadcount sheets, homeownership, my Kitchen-aid stand mixer, naps, hugs, Robert Downey Jr. -- but the list keeps getting longer, and I keep thinking of more and more things. So I'll stop for now, count my blessings, and hope that this next year is better than the last.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Holiday musings

I miss my mother. I don't say it aloud very often, but it's there, all the time -- a constant subtext lingering just below the surface of everything I say and everything I do. Even when I am completely happy, it's not without a sense of profound loss.

Don't get me wrong -- I am happy. Things are good. In those minutes, the sense of loss strikes when I wish I could pick up the phone and tell my mother.

But I think that next few weeks will be a challenge of another sort. It'll start with my birthday and Thanksgiving, the first of both without my mother, and on the same day, no less. And then the rest of the holidays, which seem like they're off in the distance now, but will soon be rolling in like the tide. And even though I'm trying not to be sad or to dwell -- to keep things light and in perspective -- there's a part of me that wants to crawl into bed -- preferably with pie -- and not come out until after New Year's.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Interrogation, Dad style

My father called this afternoon. He's not a great conversationalist, to say the least, which is one of the main reasons we're down to talking about once a week. Generally, his conversations are pretty much, "Hi, how are you? Just wanted to check in. Have anything important to report? Heard anything interesting from anyone else? Okay, love you. Bye."

Today, though, he was trying to get information out of me. I was talking to him while wandering around the grocery store, and he said something that made me stop walking and ask, sequentially, "Why?" What have you heard?" and the kicker, "Are you trying to pry?"

He quickly backed off, saying, "I don't pry. Your mother would pry, if she was here. But I don't do that -- I just ask questions."

I laughed, because ordinarily, he doesn't even do that. And clearly, if he's going to get information out of me, he's going to need to refine his interrogation technique.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dog Days

So this dog fostering thing? Let's just say that it hasn't gone swimmingly. Or, to be more precise, it has.

On Tuesday (gotta love federal holidays!) I took the dog to the dog park. Actually two dog parks. At the first one, there were three giant dogs that wanted to chase him, and he did not really like that. After seeing if the little guy could hold his own for a couple minutes -- he did surprisingly well -- my friend and I packed him back up into the car and drove to a different park. And PJ was really really good with the other dogs for a few minutes, until one little brown puppy (about half his size) drove PJ to run away -- into the creek.

So yeah, I spent my Veterans' Day fishing the dog out of the creek. And then giving him a bath. (He liked the bath a lot, but did not like being dried off. He growled and snapped at me like you wouldn't believe!)

Of course there's the other thing. The thing where he tries to jump up into my bed over and over again and keeps missing. Eventually he succeeds, but it is really really annoying when I'm trying to sleep. Combine that with the having to get up before the crack of dawn to walk him and let's just say that I am the most tired I've been in months.

Still, I wanted to tough it out with him -- but my neighbors are not in agreement. The dog apparently barks at every single noise that he hears, which, in a mid-rise building in a quasi-downtown area, is a lot. When I'm there and I tell him to calm down, he gets quieter, but when I'm not . . . . And the neighbors have been complaining. So, as a result, as of tonight, the dog is going to another foster home.

Ultimately this dog experiment has been an abysmal failure -- but at least I've learned that maybe it's not the right time or place for me to have a dog and maybe that'll help abate the puppy envy for a while. In the meantime, I'm pretty sure that the agency will find PJ a suitable permanent home, and, as an extra added bonus, I will always have the memory of a tiny little dog humping a giant orange cat-shaped pillow.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Puppy pictures!

So, here's PJ. He's a Maltese.

Right now, he's alternating between standing at the door barking at my neighbors, and lying in front of the door gearing up for more barking.

As if he's big enough to protect either of us.

Monday, November 03, 2008


So after telling off the girl who cut in front of me in line Friday night, I spent the rest of my Halloween at the Coldplay concert -- which was very good -- and then eventually went home and went to sleep, gearing up for a big excursion to Ikea the next morning.

At about 3 am, I woke up when someone started pounding on my door.

Disoriented at first, I initially thought it was part of a particularly peculiar dream. But then they pounded again.

So I got up and went to the door -- without my glasses. I tried to look out the peephole, but I didn't see anyone, so I said, "Who is it?"


I didn't want to open the door, especially since I couldn't see anything. So I said "What do you want?"

They asked for some girl named Emily Carroll. I told them that they must have the wrong apartment. They then said the right apartment number, and I told him that no one by that name lived there. So they left. I never even had to open the door.

I went back to sleep, annoyed and confused. Why would the police be knocking on my door at 3 am unless it was an emergency, and if so, why would they go away that easily? The whole thing makes no sense.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Out of Character

I'm not sure whether it's because of my profession or in spite of it, but for some reason, I have evolved into a particularly non-confrontational person. Unless it's of dire importance, I generally let things go -- or, at worst, passive-aggressively complain after the fact.

So, if, for example, someone cuts in front of me in a line, my general reaction is to let them do it. Sometimes I'll turn to the person behind me and say something loud enough for others to hear like "I don't understand why people think they're too important to wait in line," but more often than not, I'll just let it happen and quietly stew.

On Friday, however, I stood up for myself. I was on line to put my name on the list for a table at a busy (and somewhat overrated) restaurant about 90 minutes before the Coldplay concert. Some girl pushed in front of me to get to the hostess stand. Initially I thought that they had called her name for a table, but when she got up to the front, she was putting her name on the list -- the same thing I had been waiting to do, the same thing the girl in front of me had been waiting to do.

It only took me a second to decide to put an end to it. I took a step over to the side and said "Did you actually just push me out of the way to put your name on the list?"

She said, "Oh, I didn't know I did that."

I said "How did you not realize it when you physically pushed me out of the way?"

The hostess had no choice. She took the name of the girl that was really in line in front of me, and then my name. The girl who cut in front? Well, she didn't get her name on the list, and left in a huff, clearly embarrassed.

And I felt vindicated. Maybe I should stand up for myself more often.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Baseball v. Hockey

I went to my first hockey game of the season tonight -- my first game since last season's playoffs -- the debacle that was Game 7. But that's besides the point. Fresh off a horrible baseball season, and in the middle of a football season that I'm not too excited about, I started thinking about why it took me so long to really appreciate hockey.

So I started making a list comparing my favorite sport, baseball, against hockey.

The players:
Baseball -- Southerners, Latin Americans, and the Japanese.
Hockey -- Canadians, Eastern Europeans, and the occasional kid from New England or the upper Midwest.

The fans:
Baseball -- People with crewcuts and old Jewish men.
Hockey -- People with mullets.

The music:
Baseball -- A lot of country, with a little rap and salsa thrown in.
Hockey -- Rock N' Roll.

The weather:
Baseball -- Ideally, warm and sunny on a Sunday afternoon, but mostly hot and humid on a weekday night. And then there are rain delays . . . .
Hockey -- Cold. Earmuffs would have been nice.

The pace:

Baseball -- Leisurely.
Hockey -- Frenetic.

The resolution of a tie game:
Baseball -- Extra innings.
Hockey -- 4-on-4 overtime, and if that doesn't work, a dramatic shootout.

Somehow, I think hockey wins.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I promise I'm not ignoring you.

I'm just really really busy and tired this week.

And the World Series is on.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Dreams and Puppies

My subconscious is messing with my head. I had a dream last night -- technically this morning -- that somehow managed to make my already confusing life seem even more confusing.

And no -- it wasn't a sex dream. Or even the recurring dream that I keep having where I get in an argument with my sister and throw a glass of water at her. The main plot of the dream involved me eating a picnic lunch with several friends, coworkers, and random family members. Seems innocent enough, right? But suffice it to say that this dream has altered my perception.

Anyway, onto bigger -- and hopefully brighter things. I think I'm getting myself a puppy for my birthday. I don't know what kind yet, but here are my biggest considerations:

  • I have allergies. So a dog that does not shed too badly or is considered "hypoallergenic" would be good.
  • I am under 5'2", and the condo is under 1300 square feet. So a small-ish dog would be great. Bonus points for one that will fit into a pet-carrier that I can take onboard an airplane.
  • After having one dog that ate linoleum, crown molding, and a Soul Asylum CD, I would prefer a dog that is not likely to chew too much important stuff. And while we're on the subject of that dog, I would like one that does not have too much separation anxiety.
  • No excessive barking, and no biting. I guess that means friendly.
  • The dog should be relatively smart, or at a minimum, easily trainable.
  • Most important: the dog has to be cute. Supercute.

Some of my favorites are Beagles, Puggles, Malteses, Maltipoos, Cockapoos, and Yorkies. But I'd rather not buy a puppy from a breeder when there are perfectly good puppies in pounds. So, if anyone has any suggestions, let me know.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

In-Flight Entertainment

I rarely talk on airplanes. I usually sit down, pull out a book or my headphones, and try to relax until I get from point A to point B. Not today.

It all started with my bag. You see, I acquired stuff at my dad's house, and decided to take a bag of it back up with me to DC -- a little blue gym bag that may or may not have been the bag I used for summer camp one year, back in the mid-1980s. Despite the fact that the bag was tiny, it would not fit in the overhead bin, thanks to some oversized suitcases and a whole bunch of tennis rackets. (Note to self: Next time you're in Florida, remember to look for your old tennis racket in the garage.)

So the guy next to me volunteered to let me put it in front of his seat. He then commented that he could judge how stressful someone's job was by the size of their coffee cup -- I happened to be drinking a Starbucks Venti Green Tea at the time. This, of course, started a conversation.

We proceeded to spend the whole two-and-a-half hour flight talking. I quickly realized that he was quite intoxicated, which made it all the more fun for me. And it got better when he found out that the onboard beverage service was cash only.

I think the highlight for him was when we started going through the Sky Mall catalog, only to find that almost every page of his copy had been defaced with hand drawn pictures of male genitalia. He thought it was hysterically funny, so I told him to rent Superbad.

The flight seemed to go by very quickly. Clearly I need to allow myself to be entertained by random strangers more often.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Until today, I never really understood the saying "You can never go home again."

I was in my old hometown today, for the first time in years. Out of curiosity, I decided to drive by the old house. It has a new roof, and new front doors, and a fence around the backyard where there's now a swingset. It's the same house, but it's not my home -- and hasn't been my home for years. Heck, it hasn't even been my family's house for over six years.

It made me recall how, when I was in law school, I had this one particularly horrible semester. I'm not sure if it was classes or something else, but whatever it was, it was really draining. My last exam was Evidence, and after the test was over, I got right in the car and drove the four-and-a-half hours back to Coral Springs -- pretty much on the verge of tears the entire way. And I walked into the house, took one look at my mother, and started crying. Not just because I was stressed out and upset, but also because I was relieved to be home.

I got an A on that exam, just like my mother said I would.

It's different now. In conversation today, I referred to coming to Florida as "coming home," but it's not really true. My house is the condo in Arlington, and the place where my dad lives is just that -- no more, no less. My home, at least the way I remember it, does not really exist anymore.

My mother was home.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Question-and-Answer time

Here it is, the moment you've been waiting for: the answers to the Ask Dara Anything! 2008 Edition Questions.

  1. DSL asked -- well, sort-of asked -- "I would ask if you've ever had jeans hemmed, but you live in VA".

    I fail to see why living in Virginia would make me more or less likely to have had jeans hemmed. But this I do know: When getting jeans hemmed, you should have them take off the cuffs and then reattach them so they look right.

  2. DSL also asked, "Why did you never tell me what you thought of contra dancing?"

    Partly because you posted it as a comment on the other blog, the one I haven't updated in weeks. But mostly because you didn't really ask me. Not in person, anyway.

  3. Violindan asked, "Dara, what do you think DSL's random, forgotten question was?"

    Dan, I think it had something to do with the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow. Or contra dancing.

  4. Miss Scarlet asked three questions: (1) What would be your perfect vacation? (2) Do you like pickles? olives? onions? (3) Do you agree that fall is awesome?

    (1) I thought that driving up the California coast was a pretty amazing vacation, close to perfect. But I love to go to new places. Right now, I think I'd love to take a tour of Italy or Australia or go to Japan, Thailand/Cambodia, or China, or go to Argentina and drink a lot of Malbec.

    (2) I love pickles. Especially half-sours. I like some olives, especially in martinis. As for onions, I generally only like them when they're cooked, but I do love the pearl onions that they put into martinis.

    (3) Fall is awesome: Not only was I born in the fall, but I love fall colors. But, to be honest, I spent way too much of my life living in Florida to be that keenly excited about the colder weather. As long as the daytime temperature stays between 70-80, I'm fine.

  5. Sara asked, "What is you all time favorite comfort food and will you share the recipe?"

    In all honesty, my favorite comfort food is mac and cheese, and when I make it it's out of the blue box. I do love Noodles & Company's take on it, though -- and eat it way too much.

    As for things that I make, the closest thing that I have that is not a cookie is my Nana's recipe for Tuna Noodle Casserole -- and it's the easiest thing in the world. One bag of egg noodles, two cans of tuna in oil, two cans of cream of mushroom soup, one can of peas (drained) and some breadcrumbs and butter. Boil the noodles, and mix everything together in a casserole dish, then sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top and dot with the butter. Bake in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes or so, or until it is browned on top but not too crispy.

  6. TINGB asked "Which is the worst of the "Viva Viagra!" commercials I'm forced to endure during every commercial break of the baseball playoffs?"

    All of them, my dear, all of them. Any time they show any commercial about anything to do with erectile dysfunction, I cringe. For me and for society in general.

  7. Peter wrote to me via Facebook: "Dear Ask Dara: Tonight should I watch the Vice Presidential debate or my Forgetting Sarah Marshall DVD from Netflix? On the one hand, even though I've heard that the movie is hilarious, the debate might be funnier (I enjoy dark comedy). But, if I don't watch my Netflix DVD and return it immediately, I will not be getting the most value for my money out of Netflix."

    Peter, If you are really limited to one or the other, I'd flip a coin -- heads debate, tails movie. The debate is likely to be scary funny, and it is very important, but it lacks plot. The movie is very very funny, but it isn't THAT important to trade in your movies right away (this from someone who has had the same movie since August).

    Of course, the better answer is a compromise: stay up late and watch Forgetting Sarah Marshall after the debate.

    But whatever you do, just make sure the kids are asleep before you start the movie.

  8. Then Anna wrote: "Dear Dara, Should I give in to my husband's demands that I stay up late for the ten cents savings of watching all Netflix DVDs immediately? Besides I hate Sarah Marshall."

    Anna, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a very funny movie. It's worth it. But in general, I'm with you on the Netflix thing. One extra day ain't gonna break the budget.

    (Ed. Note: Then Anna wrote "Um, Actually I just learned Sarah Marshall and Sarah Silverman are different people." So I think it made her decision easier.)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Book Meme

Miss Scarlet posted a meme about books, and for fun, I'm going to do it.

The rules are:
  1. Link to the person who tagged you.
  2. Post the rules on the blog.
  3. Write six random bookish things about yourself.
  4. Tag sixish people at the end of your post.
  5. Let each person know he or she has been tagged.
  6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

So here goes . . .
  1. I have to finish books, even if I hate them. I can't start a new book until I've finished the current book.
  2. I have four bookcases filled with books in the new guestroom -- two short and two tall.
  3. As a kid, my favorite book was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. (If you haven't read it, you should.)
  4. When I was cleaning out my old apartment, I found a ton of the bookmarks that you get for free from the bookstores.
  5. I like to read the book before seeing the movie, but I am almost never one of those people who says that the book is so much better.
  6. In the second grade, I did a book report -- complete with diorama -- on The Thorn Birds. I read the book because my mom wouldn't let me stay up to watch the miniseries on tv. And let's just say that it was completely inappropriate material for an 8 year-old.

Tags: Eh, whatever. Do it if you want to do it.

Vice-Presidential Debate Drinking Game

In a surprising bit of awesomeness, TV Guide posted this Vice-Presidential debate drinking game:

The rules are simple. You take a drink....

If Biden:
• refers to John McCain as "a friend" or someone he respects just before trashing him.
• tries in any way to justify the complete failure that is Amtrak.
• has to explain what his son did for a living after law school.
• says any of the following: "climate change," "biofuels," "green," "ethanol," "drilling," "Big Oil," or "Bridge to Nowhere."
• refers to Palin's recent interview with Katie Couric.
• exceeds his time limit.
• mentions the number of years of experience he has.
• makes any allusions to the pregnancy of Palin's daughter Bristol.
• displays righteous anger.
• suggests a title for Larry Flynt's Sarah Palin-themed adult film.

If Palin:
• invokes McCain's POW history
• mentions her husband or any of her children by name (make it a double if she says "Track in Iraq").
• says any of the following: "pitbull," "lipstick," "hockey mom," "Joe Six-Pack," "maverick," "barracuda," "glass ceiling," or "plagiarism."
• says "gosh," "gee," "golly," "darn," "heck" or any other homespun curse euphemism.
• evades answering a question.
• cries poverty.
• is actually carrying a firearm.
• cites Russia's proximity to Alaska or talks about her great love for the state of Israel in response to a question about foreign policy (been there, done that!).
• mentions by name any animal species native to her home state.
• is wearing a suit that costs more than her plane.

If either candidate:
• says any of the following: "change," "God," "hope," "Beltway," "insider," "lobbyist," "energy," or "Bush."
• says "Delaware" or "Alaska" in a funny accent to sound folksy.
• invokes the specter of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.
• actually curses.
• says "Wall Street" and "Main Street" in the same sentence.
• uses hyperbole to talk about the current financial crisis.
• says, "Let me finish."
• mispronounces the name of a world leader.
• milks the crowd for applause.
• mentions Tina Fey.

I am sure that I will have one heck of a headache tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Ask Dara Anything! 2008 Edition -- reminder to submit questions

I know my readership is down significantly of late, but seriously folks, doesn't anyone have a question for me?

Ask me about your taxes or tax policy in general. Ask me about home decor. Ask me about what I ate for dinner or what I watched on tv. Ask me who I think is going to win this craptastic season of Project Runway. Just somebody ask me a question -- by next Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Après moi le déluge

This afternoon, when I went to go get my car out of the parking garage, it was in a pool of water about 3 inches deep. Apparently, a sprinkler had burst.

This happened once before, during the tropical storm at the beginning of September. Water flows down towards my parking spot and pools there -- and the drain is about fifteen feet away from where the puddle gets deepest. After the storm, it took about five days before the water had dissipated -- more from evaporation than drainage.

I went back upstairs to go tell the manager about the pool of water, but she immediately breezed right by me, pretending I wasn't there. When I looked back at her office door, she had put up a sign saying that she'd be back in 20 minutes.

I was pissed, and wanted to yell at her. Still, seeing as I had been trying to leave, I decided that I had better things to do than wait around for the woman. So I went back downstairs, rolled up the cuffs of my Rock and Republic jeans and waded through the puddle.

Did I mention I was wearing flip-flops? Ick. (I probably ought to be washing my feet. Again.)

Of course, when I got back an hour later, the puddle showed no signs of drainage, and the manager was gone for the day. And, in a cruel twist, she had put up a notice saying she was going to be out for the next two days.

I asked the concierge whether there was someone he could talk to, but he said he couldn't help with anything like that.

So now I guess the next step is to call the maintenance company directly, rather than going through the manager. And in the interim, I'll be backing into my parking spot, because the puddle is less deep on what is ordinarily the passenger side.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ask Dara Anything! 2008 Edition

I'm still suffering from writer's block.

The good news is that I'm going on vacation soon. Well, not really a "vacation," per se, but down to Florida to see my family and to have unveilings for my mom and grandfather. (Note to the non-Jews, an unveiling is a ceremony where the headstone is uncovered. Tons of fun.)

Hopefully all of that family togetherness will give me something to write about. But until then, I'll have to find other things to do. So, in that vein, here's a fun little game we haven't played in a while: Ask Dara Anything. It's your chance to ask me, well, anything. Just submit a question (or questions) by sundown next Wednesday, and I will answer it. To the best of my ability, anyway. Or maybe not. But you'll get some kind of answer.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Observation #1

I've decided that, on occasion, I'm going to post little observations containing the incontrovertible nuggets of wisdom that I've obtained over the years. Hopefully this will be the first of many. Consider them gifts.

This occurred to me on the way into work this morning. I'm sure you can figure out the context if you try.

The harder you try to be on time, the more likely it is that you will be late.

Corollary: When you're in a rush, the person who gets on the elevator after you is, inevitably, going to the next floor.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Baseball Jackassery

I went to my last baseball game of the season tonight. It was a crappy game -- the Nats lost to the Marlins big time, and almost none of the big name players, to the extent there are any, even took the field. And it was cold.

I left early.

This is unusual for me: I almost always stay until the end of the game -- regardless of score or weather or a dearth of stars. But tonight, in addition to the crappy game, I was annoyed by two things -- people actually -- and just wanted to get the heck out of Dodge.

First of all, our seats are right near this guy that I refer to as "Baseball Wesley Willis." For the uninformed, Wesley Willis was a 300 pound schizophrenic dude who wrote these crazy little songs performed on a Casio keyboard. He is probably most famous for "I Wupped Batman's Ass" -- which is quite possibly the best song of all time.

Okay, I kid. But it's pretty friggin' hilarious. And awesome.

Anyway, Baseball Wesley Willis does his own version of performance art. He stands up, holds either a beer bottle or a pen in front of his mouth as if it were a microphone, and shouts "Can I have your attention please?" and announces each and every pitching change or pinch hitter, and then either (1) makes a joke about their name; (2) comments on the weather or the stadium concessions; or (3) says something unintelligible that sounds like "Oulet creuset boulet boulet."

He apparently started doing this at the old stadium, where the loudspeakers weren't so good. But in the new stadium, where people can actually hear the announcer and read the scoreboard, he is just, well, annoying and loud.

This is even more so since he has taken to doing this while standing right in front of me.

I try to ignore him, thinking maybe he'll go away or stand somewhere else. But the asinine people around me seem to think it's a novelty act, and applaud him -- and he keeps doing it.


But it gets worse. Today, in addition to Baseball Wesley Willis, there was a girl sitting right behind us who shreiked, approximately once per inning, at the very top of her lungs.

This was not a particularly little girl -- I would guess that she was somewhere between 7 and 10, which means that she was old enough to know better. And her parents were sitting there right there next to her -- but NOT ONCE did either of them do anything to stop this.

In fact, they didn't seem to mind -- not even when people looked at her (and them) in sheer annoyance. If it were my kid, I'd have been mortified.

Anyway, I'd like to thank these people for letting their jackassery totally ruin my last baseball game of the season. But not all was lost: I came home tonight to an email from TINGB, forwarding this article:

Hot Dogs Force Evacuation At Citizens Bank Park

PHILADELPHIA (CBS 3) ― The discovery of several hot dogs in packages outside Citizens Bank Park brought the bomb squad out and forced the temporary evacuation of the stadium Wednesday evening.

According to police, Pattison Street between Darien and 11th Streets was shutdown as officials investigated the discovery of several suspicious packages near a ticket office.

Fans inside the stadium were evacuated, but players remained on the field during the incident.

Bomb squad members further investigated the packages and determined they were simply several hot dogs in foil wrappers. Sadly, the wieners were detonated as a precaution.

The stadium was reopened at about 5:20 p.m.

"It was clear from when we looked at it at first glance and when you looked at the debris afterwards, there was packaging and duct tape; I don't see many hot dogs sold here with duct tape," Phillies VP of Operations Michael Stiles said. "We just did what we felt was appropriate."

The Phillies take on the Atlanta Braves at 7:05 p.m. on Wednesday evening.

I guess my night could have been worse: No one had to detonate my hot dog.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Thoughts on superhero movies

I finally got to see The Dark Knight tonight. I really liked it -- I thought it was exactly what it was supposed to be -- Batman movies are supposed to be dark and serious. And the performances were quite good, especially considering the genre.

But I might have been in the minority: As soon as the credits started to roll, my friend said, "Thank God that's over." She then proceeded to tell me how it was not even close to as good as Iron Man.

Don't get me wrong -- I absolutely loved Iron Man -- but this analysis confounds me. Unless they're the same actors or part of a series, I have a hard time comparing two different movies in that way. I mean, I can say that I thought Brad Pitt was hilarious in Burn After Reading, but kind of lame in The Mexican (and omigod hot in Troy!), and there's a fair basis of comparison. I can also say that I loved the first Spiderman movie, but as the series goes on, I find them less and less compelling. (And don't get me started on Star Wars!) But that's comparing apples with apples and oranges with oranges.

I think Iron Man and Batman are the stereotypical apples and oranges. For a superhero genre movie, Iron Man was a light, fun and comedic character study. It didn't have the same gravitas as The Dark Knight -- nor was it supposed to. Batman, on the other hand, was a completely dark mood, tone, and texture -- which is fitting, considering it was a study of the nature of the criminal psyche. Iron Man was all about Robert Downey Jr.'s performance; Batman was all about the supporting cast -- and Christian Bale almost blended into the background in comparison.

The only thing the two movies have in common are that they're both based on comic book superheroes. Oh, and that I liked them both. A lot.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Diving headfirst into the abyss

When my mom first died, when people asked, I would tell them that I felt like my heart was held together with duct tape and glue. But it wasn't just my heart -- it was everything -- my entire family. And over the past few months, it's often seemed like my whole family has been slowly unraveling in about a thousand different ways.

The best example of this is the communication. In the past, my mother was the hub, and we were all just spokes. Sure, I would talk to my brother a couple of times a month, to my Nana when the mood struck, and to my dad and sister whenever they picked up the phone -- but I talked to my mom almost every day. All urgent messages to or from any of the others were passed through her. Now, I have to call my dad, my brother, my sister, and my Nana -- and occasionally, my aunts and uncles, too -- because if I don't, there's a total communication breakdown.

For me, personally, the worst part is that I've started to worry about my Nana, my dad, and my siblings in ways that I never did before -- because before, if there was a problem, my mom would take care of it. Now, if something happens, I have no idea who would fix it.

All of this is just the set-up, the backdrop. The real story is that my sister, whom I love dearly, is kind of a trainwreck. She doesn't think things through, she has no focus or plan, and she oscillates between being completely, carelessly impetuous, and impervously intractable. In other words, she does whatever she wants without fear of consequence, and is often frustrated by the results, but unwilling or unable to do anything to make it better. And when you call her on it, she either cries or stops talking to you.

In shorthand, I usually accuse her of being "immature and irresponsible," and she usually deflects it by genuinely believing that it's just me being type A. But whatever words you use to describe it, the behavior has gotten her into some pretty bad situations -- the most recent of which is pretty majorly horrible.

As a result, my dad is angry with her -- or maybe just frustrated. The problem is that she can't really tell, because he's not really talking to her. Instead, he just calls me and talks about his disappointment with her. And she complains about feeling alone and abandoned.

I keep referring to this as "the black hole." Because all light and matter gets sucked into the neverending abyss of us all sitting around worrying about how to fix my sister's problems. And the simple truth is that we can't do it -- it can't be done. The only one who can fix her is her.

So tonight, I broke the chain: I called her. And the first thing I did was ask her if she wanted me to be nice or if she wanted me to be honest, and I told her that, from that moment on, her choice was going to define our relationship.

Quite frankly, I was more than a little surprised when she chose honest.

And then, we had a really long conversation -- one that was a long time coming. I told her that I worry about her -- that I'm concerned. I told her that I question her maturity, her responsibility, and her decision-making -- and that I'm disappointed by her behavior. I told her that she needs to grow up and take responsibility for her own actions -- because no one can fix things for her anymore. Of course, I also said that I love her, and that I will be supportive of her.

On the plus side, I think this talk helped: She seemed to actually hear what I had to say, instead of just pretending to listen. And she promised to call me in a few days, which seems to indicate that she finally comprehends that there needs to be a give-and-take in our relationship. The downside is that this was precisely the conversation that she should have been having with my father. But I guess that she needs to work that one out for herself.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Crash and burned

Before I begin, here's a bit of a disclaimer: This is not really my story -- I was mostly an observer. But I'm going to tell it anyway because things like this generally don't happen to people like you and me. So here goes.

Last night, my plan was to finish up some bathroom painting, watch some football, and then watch Entourage and/or Mad Men, and maybe I'd build the bookcase while sitting in front of the tv. My friend volunteered to watch Entourage on my brand-new couch and maybe help with the bookcase. So we agreed to meet for dinner at a neighborhood sports bar after I finished painting.

So, after dinner, my friend was following me back to the condo, and he was stopped behind me at the light. I heard the sound of squealing tires and looked up in time to see a red two-door car going really fast hit the back of my friend's car. Hard. My friend turned his wheel and, luckily, did not hit me.

When the light changed, I went over to the right to park my car along the side street to see if everything was okay. My friend pulled his car over, with his bumper all dented and torn. He somehow hurt his hand, but was mostly okay.

The other driver just drove off, with his bumper almost off and glass from his headlights shattered everywhere. He probably got right on the highway. And neither of us got his license plate number. All we know is that he was driving a red two-door car, either a hatchback or a sports car, and it did not strike either of us as particularly new. And we were both pretty sure that the driver was male.

So, we stood by the side of the road, waiting for the police. Four police officers came by, and we wrote out police reports while they took pictures. One of the officers nonchalantly said, "We probably won't catch him. Unless he's drunk and hits someone else."

So, all night after that, we kept wondering who just drives off after an accident like that. Here's our theories:

  • Someone without insurance
  • Someone who was drunk

For the life of me, I really can't think of any other alternatives.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Politics and Gender

I've been avoiding politics like the plague this year, but everyone keeps talking about Sarah Palin. Of course, those in the know are now talking about Jon Stewart talking about Sarah Palin:

This made me laugh. But this made me think:

I don't care about how Sarah Palin or John McCain take care of their families. I care about how their policy choices affect my family and millions of other Americans.

McCain and Palin get their health insurance paid for by the government (hers in Alaska and his in Washington). Yet they oppose giving the nearly 46 million uninsured Americans the same access to affordable health care.

John McCain's kids don't have to worry about paying for college. Yet he has opposed every single education support program to help others.

McCain and Palin say they will stand up to oil companies. Yet the only energy policy they support gives millions of dollars in tax breaks to oil companies to do more drilling and he has opposed every piece of federal legislation to explore alternative fuel sources.

McCain and Palin say they will revamp how Washington does business. Yet his campaign is filled with lobbyists and she has cooperated with Sen. Ted Stevens in funneling federal money for useless projects in Alaska for years. And McCain and Palin have no solutions for Americans worrying about their jobs in a fragile economy.

McCain and Palin want us to leave their families alone. Yet they want to make rules for our families by eliminating our right to make our own choices over abortion, eliminate our access to family planning education or domestic partner benefits, and our freedom from discrimination.

They want to control what our kids learn in school about sex and about science. In short, through the policies they promote and the judges they support, they want the government to have more control over our private lives than at any time in history.

McCain and Palin now say their campaign is about change, too. Yet the only real change they have proposed is a change from a suit to a skirt in the vice president's office and one man fighting a misplaced war for another in the Oval Office.

Ms. Rosen is absolutely right: Talking about Sarah Palin's family or debating about how much experience is enough is a waste of time. It's the policies that matter. And, for the record, there wasn't a lot of that in any of the speeches this week.

Monday, September 01, 2008


It's been a pretty crazy weekend, and there's a lot of stuff going on, stuff I can't bring myself to write about -- and probably shouldn't just yet. But what I can write about is how I've made tons of progress unpacking. In fact, other than books and decorative items -- and stuff for the bathroom that I have to finish painting -- I'm pretty much done. So next weekend, I should be able to buy a bookcase and finish the unpacking. Maybe I'll even be able to paint the bathroom before my Nana comes to visit next week, although I'm not betting on it.

And the couch is going to be delivered on Monday, so I'll be able to watch TV in comfort.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Letting Go

I turned in my keys to the apartment today. It was two days early, but the apartment was all cleaned out and ready to go, and I was down in the neighborhood.

This process has been harder than I've admitted to most people. For the last couple of days, I was going back and forth between feeling a little weird about the transition, and then feeling like the weirdness was me being crazy. The best explanation is that I kept feeling as if the apartment was one of my last remaining connections to my mother -- she picked it out, she came to visit there, she stayed there to take care of me when I had my wisdom teeth out -- and how by moving on to some place that she has never seen and never will see, I am losing yet another connection. It's hard even to explain to people who haven't been through something similar, and it's not a feeling that I would wish on anyone.

But, ultimately, it all comes down to the fact that I have to keep moving -- keep moving on, keep moving forward. And the only way to do that, I suppose, is by letting go of some things. The apartment is just one.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Blog in Action

For the first time, this blog has proved itself useful in a way other than providing me an opportunity to vent or otherwise amuse myself. As you all can read, on Sunday, I blogged about my problem getting cable and internet.

When I called to reschedule my appointment with Comcast, I had asked to have a manager call me back, but none did.

But apparently, there are those within the company who are concerned about their customers. Mark C. from Comcast's headquarters found my posting and left me a comment with a contact email. I emailed him my number, and within hours, a representative called me.

I wound up with an appointment for this morning.

By lunchtime, I had cable and internet. This evening, I set up the wireless router. Right now, I am typing this while watching Project Runway.

So thank you, Comcast -- and especially Mark C. After Saturday's experience, this level of customer service was refreshing.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Moving stinks

I am so tired and stressed out that I just got in the elevator to go down to the parking garage, forgot to get out, and pressed the button to go back up to the condo. At the time, I was carrying an empty suitcase to take back to the apartment to fill with the last of my clothing -- so when I got back into the condo, I stood around wondering how I wound up with an empty suitcase.

Nothing about moving ever goes as planned. I had written out a schedule for myself, and I am so far off schedule that there is no way that I will ever get back on track. And now, it looks like I'll have company the second week of September -- my Nana wants to come visit. I'm just hoping that there will be a pathway to the guest bedroom by then.

Last night, I rushed around to get back to the new condo in time for the cable guy to meet me to install the cable -- and thus the internet. He called me fifteen minutes before his appointment to let me know he was on his way, and to ask me if I could get "the key" from the management office. I had no idea what he was talking about. He told me that he would need access to a cable closet outside of my apartment, and that the management office had the key.

I went downstairs to ask the concierge, who is there every night until 9pm. Of course, the concierge said that he did not have access to that key, and that it would have to wait for the management office to reopen -- on Monday.

So, who's the asshole? (a) The condo, for not giving access to the key to the concierge? (b) Comcast, who clearly knew that they would need access to the closet, but did not tell me to make arrangements for access until WAY outside of regular business hours? (c) Me, for thinking that anything related to this move could get done without a problem? (d) All of the above?

Of course, I wound up having to call Comcast to reschedule. After explaining to me how "installation" appointments take much longer than regular appointments, they then told me that the first available appointment is on Sept. 3. So now, I will have no cable -- and no internet -- in the new condo until Sept. 3 -- which, coincidentally, is the same day that Macy's will be delivering my new couch.

If there was a way to fire Comcast, I would totally do it. But I can't and ultimately, I am left with nothing but respect for the woman who went into their office and started hitting computers with a hammer.

Friday, August 22, 2008


I spent my first night in the new condo last night, but only because that's where the bed is.

It was weird -- like sleeping in a stranger's room. Which is really weird, when you consider that I'm sleeping in the same bed -- different frame, different furniture, but still the same bed that I've been sleeping in for about 10 years now.

My new room is really dark. When I woke up, I thought it was really late, but it was 8am. Which is also weird, because without an alarm, I almost never wake up that early. Scratch that -- I NEVER wake up that early without an alarm.

It'll definitely take some getting used to.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Deleting the past

I've decided to become one of those people who just has a cell phone -- no landline. My father and aunt are very opposed to this turn of events, but then again, my aunt doesn't own a computer, and my father doesn't know how to work the VCR -- let alone the DVR or the DVD player. So I'm taking their complaints with a grain of salt.

Besides, if I need a landline, I have one at work.

What this means is that I'm donating a couple of phones to Goodwill, and in so doing, I've been sitting here cleaning out the memory of one of those phones.

Then I realized that I just deleted the record of the last time that my mother called me -- the last time that my mother will ever have called me. It made it real, I guess -- the death, the move, the moving forward. My eyes filled with tears and for a second, I could hardly breathe.

Move in progress

I ran out of boxes at about midnight, and my kitchen wasn't yet packed. (Not to mention the closet, but let's not even go there.) So, I set the alarm for 5:30, woke up, moved the wash into the dryer, and started throwing pillows, blankets, and other bedding into garbage bags. Then, at 8, I went to Staples and bought more boxes. You know how they advertise about it being "easy"? Well, buying boxes at Staples was probably the easiest thing I did all day. It took longer to drive there than to complete the transaction -- and, as a point of reference, the store is 2 miles away.

Anyway, then the movers came. The kitchen was still not packed. By the time they finished loading the stuff that was packed, I had managed to pack one box of dishes and glasses. Boy were they quick! After they left, I tried to take a nap, since my head was pounding due to a lack of sleep and the remnants of the cold from hell -- actually, I'm becoming suspicious that it's a full-blown sinus infection.

So I got up and came back to the old place for the evening, ostensibly to pack the rest of the kitchen, but really to check my email. (Alas, there will be no cable or internet in the new place until Saturday evening.) I'm hoping that I'll be able to get the rest of my stuff packed and brought over to the new place tomorrow, but I'm not holding my breath. And I have until the 31st -- well, really I have until the 29th, because that's when the cleaning lady is coming. Still. . . .

On the drive over, I saw something that made my day. There was a traffic sign that said "Short Weave Area." I laughed out loud, at least until I started sneezing again.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The consequences of not leaving well enough alone

This weekend, I had a ton of stuff that I wanted to do, and I had a ton of stuff that I should have done. But instead, I wound up repainting my bathroom -- badly.

Let's start at the beginning: Back when I first decided to paint the new condo, I inherited some emerald green paint from a friend, and thought, "Hey, that might be a neat color for a bathroom." Then I decided that painting my entire condo would be overwhelming, and wound up hiring painters. They painted the entire place, but when they got to the master bathroom, the light wasn't working. They attempted to paint in the dark, but it wound up looking like, well, they painted in the dark. And the defects were glaring once the electrician came and fixed the light fixture.

So, I needed to fix the paint job. I wanted to sponge paint a lighter shade of green over the darker green -- which could have waited until after I moved in (and unpacked). But no, despite having hundreds of other things that I could have or should have been doing, I started sponge-painting right after moving the bed into the guest room on Saturday afternoon.

It looked like crap from minute one. So I gave up on the sponge painting, and decided to repaint the entire bathroom in the lighter green color -- which, coincidentally, is the same color as my living room.

I made a complete mess of it. Dribbled paint everywhere, got green paint on the ceiling, on the mirror, on the fixtures, on the tile, on the cabinets, all over myself . . . . Well, you get the picture. It was decidedly NOT GOOD.

Yesterday, I went back to finish, and, after painting for about an hour, noticed that in one section, layers and layers of paint were peeling off -- not just my paint, but at least the last two layers of paint. So, I took the utility knife and tried to trim the hole as best I could. Of course, this left a hole in the paint -- approximately the size of a paperback novel -- making yet another issue that I now need to fix.

So tonight, instead of packing, I went over to the new place and spackled the hole in the paint and tried to clean up the gobs of messy paint all over the place.

All of this, and I am still so not packed. And I don't remember when I last did laundry. But this speaks to a bigger issue, a character flaw: My inability to let things be. I always think I can fix things, and I always make things more complicated. I am very keenly aware of this tendency, but until now, I didn't know how it applied to home improvement.

Note to self: Next time you think you want to paint, don't. Just leave well enough alone.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

In the trenches

I think I am about 30% packed, and the movers come in six days. In other words, there's much work left to be done.

I am trying to figure out how I managed to keep so much stuff in this apartment. Because I keep bringing things over to the new place -- which is just about twice as big -- and I am starting to be concerned that it's not all going to fit.

Don't get me wrong: I've been able to get rid of some things, and not just the boxes. I already gave my old rollerblades to Goodwill, and I've got a bag of electronics to take over there this weekend. I have a pile of old suits to give to charity. I have a dress and a sock monkey to send to my sister.

In the meantime, I've learned one very important thing: I never ever want to move again.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


On the surface, I am very neat and organized, but underneath the facade, I am, at heart, a pack rat. A collector.

I come by it honestly -- most of my family is the same way. But unlike most of my family, my collections are organized, to say the least. My clothes are in order. My CDs and movies are alphabetized. My tchotckes are all in their assigned spots.

When I was helping my dad out after my mom's funeral, we were looking for some paperwork about the house -- specifically the addition that they had built onto the back. Over the previous Thanksgiving, I had bought my mom a filing cabinet so that she could start putting her stuff in order, but apparently, her version of organization and mine were polar opposites. I eventually found the papers in three different files -- one marked "house," one marked "addition," and the last with no label at all. Other things that I found in those three files included my brother and sister's birth announcements, my bat mitzvah invitation, and a newspaper photograph showing my nursery school graduation.

My files are not like that at all, although I will admit that I have a tote of old pictures and clippings that I have intended to put into scrapbooks for years and just haven't managed to get to yet. But unlike my mom, they are all in one place.

Anyway, when I was packing and cleaning up some stuff, I found that I had a sizable collection of which I was unaware -- a box collection. Alas, they were not the useful packing kind; they were decorative gift boxes. Some were small, some were large, many had interesting closures -- one, from Sephora, was fastened with an elastic band with a feather -- and all of them were stuffed into a dark little corner of my closet -- along with yards and yards of wrapping paper and ribbon.

I don't know why I save boxes -- I almost never use them. And I know I never use them. But I keep doing it. Until tonight, when I stacked as many as I could inside one another and made the trek down the hall to the garbage.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Moving + Cold = No Fun

I have been working like crazy trying to get things in order for the big move -- the movers come in 10 days. But as they say, the best laid plans often go awry. In the midst of a to-do list that seems never-ending -- a feverish pace of packing, trying to get the developer to finish up the last few things on the punch list, painting, trying to schedule movers and painters, and trips to Ikea -- I got sick. So sick that I sat down in the middle of the floor in Ikea while trying to decide between two different wine racks to put in my pantry -- and then sat in the middle of what will soon be my living room trying to build those same wine racks with a fever. So sick that coughing hurts my abs way worse than pilates ever did. So sick that I've already missed two days of work -- and am seriously considering missing a third -- and yet, have only managed to pack six boxes. (But I have caught up on Mad Men.)

I am, officially, so far off my moving schedule that I might never find my way back.

So that's what's going on around here. And if the blog doesn't get updated frequently for the next couple of weeks, you'll know why.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Six months

The worst minute of my life was precisely six months, fifteen hours, and fifty minutes ago. It was also the start of what would be the worst day, worst week, and worst month of my life.

I am fairly confident that 2008 will go down as the worst year, too. I mean, I can't comprehend how anything could top losing both my grandmother and mother in the span of three weeks.

While I'm not sure that I have entirely processed everything, I am relatively certain that I am making progress -- I am moving forward. I tell myself that every single day. Or, as my dad said when he was discussing the fact that he now has a girlfriend, "I am trying very hard not to be unhappy." I have moments like that -- where I just sit back and say, "This is just the way things are, and I have to deal."

According to this article, my dad's behavior makes him a "coper." I think I'm more of a "muller" -- I am trying very hard to find meaning or extract some kind of personal growth from the experience.

I'm not quite there yet. Getting used to living without my mom is hard. It'll take a lot of practice.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Sleeping through it all

My dad came to visit over the weekend. On Monday, he insisted that I drop him off a the airport what I consider to be very early -- 90 minutes before his flight. I then went to go run errands, and late that evening, realized that he hadn't called me to let me know he had made it back home. But it was too late to call, so I waited until yesterday.

As it turns out, he didn't make his flight -- not because he got to the airport too late, but because he got there so early. He fell asleep while waiting for his flight to board, and missed the announcement. Lucky for him, Southwest put him on another flight -- through Tampa -- and he got home really late.

Of course I made fun of him. It's what I do.

Cut to this morning. As usual, I was exhausted and running late. I got on the subway heading to my office and -- you guessed it -- fell asleep. I woke up after having missed my transfer station by several stops, and wound up being about an hour late to work.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Dara vs. GPS

Today's Washington Post had a long feature on navigation devices. This is now a subject on which I am quite familiar.

It all started when Inbal took her brand new GPS device on the California trip. Before then, despite all my traveling, I had pretty much managed to avoid GPS. In fact, I can only remember having GPS in a rental car once: It was back when it was first starting out, and as it turned out, I didn't really need it -- it was in South Florida, where I kind of know where I'm going.

At first, my inner Luddite was a little turned-off by the GPS. I like having written directions and maps -- which is probably why I was an early adopter of Mapquest and then Google Maps. And the GPS said all the words funny, which, on occasion, made the directions difficult to understand. (It also made me snicker and mimic.)

And to be frank, the voice got annoying after a while. A surprisingly short while.

More importantly, the GPS doesn't really help with the confusion of figuring out which street to turn on when there are a whole bunch -- I mean, it's hard to judge exactly how far is 350 feet, and sometimes, you can't see the street sign until you're already in the turn lane. But in those cases, a map wouldn't really help either.

So, despite my initial reluctance, I embraced the gadget, and ultimately found it to be useful for navigating around new, unfamiliar places. Plus, I loved how it could pinpoint what time we were going to arrive at our destination. That way, when someone calls, you can tell them "I will be there at 8:43." If you try, you can make it seem like you're predicting the future.

When we got back from California, Inbal let me buy her old GPS from her. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles of her new one -- for example, it has a smaller screen and it doesn't say the name of the streets (you have to look at the screen to figure that out). Still, I find it really useful whenever I'm not exactly sure where I'm going -- which is more often than I'd like to admit, as I like to think I have an excellent sense of direction.

On the flip side, I hate how I'm starting to let it think for me. I might have needed it to find Wegmans when I was at the closing down in Fairfax, but I certainly do not need it find my way from my apartment to the new condo. But I feel compelled to see what route it recommends.

Increasingly, I find myself talking to it. "Duh. It's a one-way street." "Alright, alright. I'll get over to the left as soon as I can." "How come you're telling me to stay on the highway when the sign for the airport says to take this ramp?"

I am, however, somewhat fearful that one of these days, she's going to say, "Just what do you think you're doing, Dave Dara?"

Yesterday, I was dropping my aunt off at her friend's house downtown, and I decided to ignore the directions, and go the way my aunt suggested. The GPS originally said that we would reach our destination at 2:23. Each time I ignored it, it would recalculate the route, adding another minute or two onto the ETA -- like she was punishing me. My aunt's directions -- the way that her friend recommended we go -- ultimately wound up costing me 15 minutes. At the law firm, that would have been around $100 of time.

You win this one TomTom. But I am confident that I will, one day, emerge victorious.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wow. Just wow.

I fancy myself to be something of a writer -- a hobbyist, for sure, but still a writer.

I wish I had enough talent -- and cajones -- to have written this poem.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

During the closing

I was nervous before heading into the closing on my condo. But my coworker said something that helped put it all into perspective. He compared the house buying process to the student loan process -- also a lot of money that I never actually saw, and which I've paid back over time since graduation. That was kind of like a mortgage on my education.

Realizing the similarity to something I'd already done helped. But the thing that helped the most was a bit more sentimental.

Many years ago, my mother bought these small teardrop-shaped blue topaz earrings, and from time to time, before I double-pierced my ears, she would loan them to me to wear with formal wear. Sometime, either when I was in college or law school, one of the earrings went missing. By that time, my mother rarely wore them, so she automatically thought that I had misplaced one of the earrings. I hadn't. But I kept the remaining earring, thinking that one day, either she or I would find the mate.

We never did.

So, before the closing, I took the earring down to the neighborhood jeweler, and turned it into a pendant. I thought that wearing something of hers would make me feel like she was there with me.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Celebratory Champagne

I've been planning on drinking my bottle of 1985 Perrier-Jouët Fleur de Champagne for a long time. And what better reason to do it than to to toast to my new status as a homeowner? But then I had to drive through traffic to get home from the closing, and I walked into the apartment, and almost immediately had to evacuate because of a fire alarm.


When I finally got back upstairs, I changed out of my suit, read my email, and laid down to watch the news/take a nap.

About 90 minutes later, when the phone rang, I woke up. I was going to celebrate after all.

On first taste, the champagne was a little yeasty and strong. The color was very dark, more like honey than straw. It probably should have been aged somewhere other than my refrigerator for the last six years. But after the bottle was opened and started to air out, it got better. The second glass went down smoothly -- especially with a black-and-white cookie.

The rest of the bottle was equally good. Of course, it probably would have been better had I eaten something more substantial first. Because when I went to go eat later, my stomach did not want to cooperate.

I could have done without the being sick, the lying down in the middle of my living room before 10 pm -- I refused to get up and evacuate during the second fire alarm of the evening, even after my partner in drinking put flip-flops on my feet -- and the massive headache when I woke up at 5 am. But drinking a very expensive and rare bottle of champagne? Awesome.

And it's not over yet: There will be more drinking at tonight's shindig, in which we will be saying goodbye to the old apartment. I can hardly wait.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Circumstantial evidence

Dear Bob Novak,

I know most people want to give you the benefit of the doubt about running over that 86 year-old homeless pedestrian yesterday. I mean, the cops only gave you a ticket for failing to yield, even though you had driven off from the scene of the accident. Still, isn't it peculiar that you wound up doing the very thing you talked about years ago? As a journalist, wouldn't you find that suspicious?

Just sayin'.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bad hair day

Last night, after I got home from the gym, I took a shower and washed my hair. As soon as I stepped out of the shower, my phone was ringing, and it was my aunt -- calling to try to make plans for something-or-other for a week from now, when my dad's in town. I talked to her for a long time -- couldn't get her off the phone -- and then I made dinner. By the time I finished eating, it was well after 10 pm -- and I never got a chance to dry -- or even brush -- my hair. I decided to let it be, and went straight to sleep.

This morning I woke up with the world's biggest Jew-fro. I mean, even during my 12 years in New Jersey, my hair had never managed to get that big before today. Not even my typical librarian-chic hair clip could contain it.

I'm hoping there's a little room in my budget for a real haircut soon.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My mother and moving

Last night, my mother was in my dream again. I don't really remember what the dream was about, but part of it was that she was helping me move. Which, had things turned out differently, she might have been doing next month.

Actually, that's not true -- I never would have let my mother help me move. I would have let her help me pick out the condo, but I would never in a million years have let her pack or unpack my stuff. She'd complain the entire time about how much work it was and how much useless stuff I have. Which is why the last time I let her help me move was when I moved into my first dorm room.

And like she would have been one to talk. She has boxes in the house -- which she and my dad moved into six years ago, a few weeks after I moved into this apartment -- that haven't been unpacked since they left New Jersey in 1988. I may have 100 pairs of shoes, but she has at least that many. I learned from a pro.

Eventually I'm going to have to go down to Florida and help my dad go through those boxes. And I am looking forward to that even less than moving the contents of my closet to the new place.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Needing motivation

I tried to go to sleep early last night -- I was exhausted -- but still managed to lie awake tossing and turning for what seemed like hours, and then the alarm went off way too early. And then I got into work -- where my big project for the week is to clean out and organize old case files from one of the file rooms that they're planning on turning into more office space. Of course, I felt singularly unmotivated all day -- and got next to nothing done.

If I really think about it, it's probably the perfect project for me right now, considering that my head's all consumed with the condo-purchasing slated for the end of the week. Still, I'm not rushing to go dig through all of those boxes. So what I need is some kind of motivation -- something to coax myself into getting through all of the crappy work by the end of the day on Thursday. But I'm out of ideas. I mean, usually my motivation would include some kind of shopping, but I am on a budget. (And I mean it this time!) Clearly I need help. So if anyone can give me pointers on how they convince themselves to get through boring, monotonous, and menial work projects, I'd appreciate it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

21st Century Communication

When I left for college -- back in the stone ages -- email was just beginning to be a common tool of communication, and there was no Facebook, no MySpace, not even Friendster. There were some people with whom I kept in touch with by letters and the occasional phone call, and maybe would occasionally see if we were all in the same place at the same time -- but over the years, even with the best of intentions, I've lost touch with most people.

So, as I've noted, I signed up for Facebook this spring, and now I have an obsessive love-hate relationship with it. I love how all of a sudden, through this electronic medium, I am able to keep up with the goings-on of so many of my friends from high school and college. I love being able to see the pictures of my friends' kids, and to hear about their engagements and the like. It really makes the world seem a whole lot smaller.

But there's a cost: I hate how I spend so much of my day paying attention to the goings-on of people who, until now, I only thought about when I got an email or looked through an old photo album. The past really is a great distraction from the present.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A fond farewell

I've lived in my apartment for roughly five years longer than I was planning on staying when I first moved in. It was supposed to be a stop-gap -- and now, six years later, I am finally leaving.

I remember going to look at the apartment with my mom, and how blown away we were at the floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room. Of course, it was mid-May, so we had no clue about how cold it would be to sit near those same windows in the winter, or how stifling the apartment would get from the western exposure during the summer.

We also loved the giant walk-in closet in between the bedroom to the bathroom. At the time, my mother had no idea how bad my shopping habit was becoming -- and that it would eventually end in a closet calamity.

I moved into the apartment on July 27, 2002. I was pretty much completely moved-in within a week -- once the desk and bookcases got delivered -- because I got tired of tripping over boxes -- and let's be honest, apart from clothing, shoes, books, and CDs, I really don't have all that much stuff. And then I bought a little bit of furniture -- a coffee table, a kitchen table, and eventually, a new frame for the futon that serves as my sofa -- which were the first pieces of "grown-up" furniture that I owned. Somehow it all managed to fit in the neat little 750 square feet, although more often than not, I wished for more room -- a guest room, more closet space, a pantry.

In just over one week, I will be closing on the new condo -- which will have all of the things that I wanted, and then some -- HELLO, second bathroom, linen closet, and sunroom! And, in some weird synchronicity, it will be almost six years to the day since I moved into the apartment.

I will miss this apartment.

  • I will miss the fun times that I've spent here. (I will not miss the Midori stains in the carpet.)

  • I will miss my very short commute and easy access to the airport. (I will not miss walking through the mall every day, especially during the Christmas and Cherry Blossom seasons.)

  • I will miss having the Harris Teeter and Noodles & Company downstairs, and the DSW next door. (I will not miss how I could not possibly fit ONE MORE ITEM of clothing in the closet.)

  • I will miss the baseball players living down the hallway. (Too bad they play for the Nationals, but that's a whole other post. . . .)