I’d Rather Move Bodies

Have you moved recently?

Good, then you’re going to feel me on this one. Settle in.

I’m a freakin’ James Bond when it comes to moving. I’ve moved from one residence to another (both across-the-street and across-the-country) nearly twenty times. I’m good at packing. I’m ruthless when it comes to keeping stuff or dumping it. I’m organized enough to know what I have to do when, experienced enough to anticipate what I’m going to break or what’s going to be broken (who needs an air conditioner in June in Alabama?) and  cynical enough to understand that this isn’t going to be cheap no matter what (I break leases like I break hearts).

And the funny thing is, this has been an incredibly smooth move-in. Nothing horrific has happened. Sure, there’s been minor drama, but nothing that isn’t par for the course when you’re moving 32 boxes, furniture, and clothes up two flights of stairs into a place previously inhabited by four (four!) galloping pitbulls and their owners (my downstairs neighbors just LOVE me and my two cats, let me tell you).  But moving to a new state takes time, money, and stress management skills that unless you’ve done it, you simply don’t understand. For example:

1. You must expect to get ripped off.

Generally, people aren’t even doing it out of malicious intent. They just have 7,342,394,300 fees to charge you because it’s what they’ve always done. Applying to live here?  $50. Running a credit check to live here?  $50.  Have pets?  $200 (and that was a deal! With two cats, I should be paying $400 but the manager was super-sweet and let me do it for $200). Need internet?  That’ll be the monthly fee plus installation plus parts plus labor.  And don’t get me started on Huntsville Utilities charging me $300 just to sign up for an account. I’ll see half that money again in 2 years. I’m not holding my breath.

2. You don’t need all that stuff.

When I was leaving Florida to move back here to Alabama, I had a pretty clear policy: if you want my furniture, you can have it for free.  The caveat to this policy was that I was not going to help you move it. Disassembling and getting the furniture down the three flights of stairs was entirely on the person who wanted the free furniture. You’d be surprised how many people went “oh yes, I want your Mistress of Pain dungeon set!” (hypothetical) only to back out once they realized that they were responsible for lugging it downstairs themselves while I drank gin and tonics on the couch. I gave away a TON of furniture. Most of my furniture, actually. I had a few kind people who asked me “are you sure you want to give this away?” and I said “YES, PLEASE, JUST GET RID OF IT SO I DON’T HAVE TO RENT A BIGGER U-HAUL” and they were worrying about my sentimentality getting the best of me. I assure you, once you start moving, you will realize what you want to keep and what you want to give away because you have to pack that shit in a box and then lug that box across the galaxy. You don’t realize the value of belongings until you’re forced to actively deal with them. I lost so much stuff I feel like a lighter person.  It’s fantastic.

3. Moving is never quick.

I’ve been in my apartment since May 15th. Here are the things that I still don’t have: a bed, cable, internet, towels, a bathroom trashcan, dishcloths, a bedside table, a desk. And all my art is on the floor, unhung. I’ve been working my ass off to get my apartment “done”, and I’m just beginning to remember that when moving into a new place, YOU ARE NEVER DONE. NOT FOR A YEAR.  You have to order stuff. It takes two weeks for them to ship it. You can’t just get cable; they have to come install it. Etc, etc. When I hear about my friends who have plans to move into a new house over a weekend I have myself a nice long laugh, because their definition of “moving” must include “using our boxes as a coffee table for the next six months because Jesus fucking Christ this shit is never through”. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I hate smug movers who assure you that their moving experience was done in a weekend. Yes, there are moving hipsters. No, I don’t get it.

4. Hire someone to help you move, or rely on easily guilt-tripped friends. You can’t do it yourself.

Moving from the rental house to Huntsville, I hired two guys who got all the horrible lifting done in an hour-and-half versus all day of me huffing and puffing.  It cost $200 including tip and it was the best investment I’ve made in the last year. Before that, I begged my friends to help me move with promises of Cracker Barrel and beer. That worked out nicely, too, and it costs almost the same amount (a little cheaper, but it made some fantastic memories).  Thank you, easily-guilt-tripped friends!

In short, moving is torture and I’m stress-eating. Don’t do it unless you love your apartment. I do.  But holy crap this mess THIS MESS.

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Baking and I Break Up

While some of my friends struggle with cooking, and some think cooking involves heathen magic and they want no part of it, I’ve always prided myself on my ability to bake.  My cookies, cupcakes, and cakes are always fluffy, lightweight, and delicious.  I’m not a fussy cook or a decorative cook; if it involves making layers and piping frosting I’m not interested.  But the actual act of baking – not the presentation – that is so zen to me.  And I’m versed enough in baking by now that I’ve tackled more-complex items. Box cake mix is like doing push-ups the girl way and only for n00bs (incidentally, I should note here that I always do push-ups the girl way, and anyone who says that they don’t count can kiss my cake-box).

So when my mother requested that I make a particular strawberry cake today made with cake mix as a base, I sighed internally before setting to it.  Cake mix is filled with so many additives and questionable ingredients, but it’s Mother’s Day, and whatever Mom wanted, Mom would get.  I’d made this particular strawberry cake many times before. It’s brainless and delicious, a light pink sponge cake topped with cool, fluffy frosting. A perfect antidote to the heavy humidity lurking outside.  I put together the ingredients and cooked it a few minutes over, because our oven in our new house isn’t quite familiar to us.  Better to be safe than sorry, right?

But the cake came out beautifully. I let it cool, frosted it, and then when it came time to eat it, Mom got the first slice.

That was a mistake. I should’ve sneaked a bite before she got near it.  Because my cake tasted like Strawberry Shortcake had mated with a gummy bear and then laid out in the sun for a few days to dry out.

What happened? What happened? I survived cooking the entirety of the freaking Milk Bar cookbook but a recipe based off a cake mix threw me down? This cake was so terrible even my autistic brother wouldn’t eat it, and he literally eats his own shit if we don’t watch him closely enough. It was so violently, densely, nastily pink in the middle, it looked like the worst-case-scenario result of a prostrate exam.

The nearest thing I can figure is that maybe the box mix was old. Maybe I didn’t cook it long enough, even with the extra 4 minutes I threw in.  Because somehow it was both too moist and… hard. How do cakes get hard?  (Pervs, don’t answer that.)

I just don’t know what happened, but I’m never going to hear the end of my colossal failure.  My first major baking fuck-up just had to happen as my entire family watched.  Isn’t that the way of it? At least I was able to keep secret the time I managed to set the blender on fire with hamburger meat. But my parents have been crowing about my dazzling disaster all day, my Dad miming grotesque stomach pains (he had a few bites before giving up consuming the disgusting mush).

Baking, we’re through.  We had a nice ride, and I really thought I got you. But clearly, I didn’t know you at all.  If you ever want to see about getting back together again, I’m going to be at Nothing But Bundts, drowning my sorrows in a vat of cream cheese frosting.

How I Work Out

I work out sporadically. I’m told that my lack of routine is a hindrance toward progress, but since working out is strictly based on the factors of guilt, boredom, and whether or not I can fit into my “average day” pants, workouts simply aren’t something that happens with any regularity. For those of you wondering what I mean by “average day” pants, here is a brief caveat: I have about three times too many pants in my closet. One-third of them are too little, ranging from “could lose 5 pounds” to “sausage casing tight”. One-third of them are too big for those days of lounging around or for days I feel huge. And one-third of them are just right. This Goldilocksian approach to fashion has made for a bursting closet, but there’s something optimistic about staring at a size 6 and going “I could probably… feasibly… get into that… if I took out my ribcage and ate nothing but leeks…” Continue reading

Leash Laws: Into the Wild in Alabama

One of the most obvious differences between life in Orlando and Northern Alabama is the wildlife. It’s not that Orlando was an asphalt wasteland devoid of life that wasn’t in a Mickey costume. I saw lots of wildlife. I saw it dead on the highway all the time, a menagerie of squished armadillos, various cranes that had taken a wrong turn at Tampa, and assorted flattened groundhogs. It was somewhat troubling that I’d never seen any of these creatures alive, but if you’ve ever driven in Florida for any length of time, you know that the odds of survival are against you as soon as you put a toe on the interstate.

My neighborhood in Alabama is brimming with creatures – and few of them are dead! We have the typical kamikaze squirrels, but we also have possums, raccoons, coyotes, deer, rabbits, and foxes. Our house is pressed tight against the woods, and the contents of the wild often spill out onto our property. The tall, green trees look nothing like the stunted palms of Central Florida. When I close my eyes and breathe, I smell sap, honeysuckle, and undergrowth – not the exhaust, dust, and waffle cones of the Magic Kingdom parking lot.

One other note about animals in Alabama? There are no leash laws.

This seems a minor point at first. If you’ve never lived in a place without leash laws, you just assume that everyone keeps their dogs and cats or whatever in a fenced yard. This is optimistic, but it’s not the least bit truthful. Dogs roam in packs over my neighborhood, and while they’re (currently) all friendly, it can be a little overwhelming if you’re not expecting to have five other canine joggers with you as you do your evening run. When I was little, a less-kind dog pack roamed, and selling raffle tickets to the neighbors became something of a life-or-death situation as I torpedoed from the safe zone of a front porch to another, hoping to avoid the snap of canine jaws. It’s something to think about before you let Chester the Cat outside. And don’t get me started on the exotic birds.

Exotic birds? you ask. In Alabama? Well, yes. One of my neighbors collected them. Peacocks, emus, and guinea fowl. When he died, they roamed around the neighborhood for years; it wasn’t unusual to look out the window and see a peacock staring back at you, willing you to throw a piece of bread outside. When I learned to drive, emus chased the Volkswagen, pecking at the tires and flapping their useless wings. And guinea fowl? Are the stupidest creatures alive. They run straight into the car every time (I may or may not be lingering under the guilt of having hit a few in my earlier days).

There was also a beautiful parrot who was sometimes allowed to fly around the neighborhood. His owners assured us that he was totally fine and always flew home. He had the uncomfortable habit of looking in and squawking “touchdown!” whenever an actress on television took off her top.

So no, I didn’t have any of that in Orlando. I kind of missed it.

My First Kiss and the Circumstances Therein

I don’t tend to believe in omens, but my first kiss was so bizarre that I’m inclined to consider it the preview to a love life so weird that Tim Burton would make a movie of it. First kisses come in two flavors: Hollywood and Reality. First kisses in Hollywood are usually sweet, strange little learning totems in which bittersweet lessons are imparted. There’s usually very little clacking of teeth. No one has terrible breath or strangely cavernous pores up close (seriously, there’s a reason why people keep their damn eyes shut for kissing). Hollywood first kisses are innocent and exploratory and everyone respects each other afterward. Continue reading

How to Put on Makeup without a Mirror: A Conversation with Myself at 5:30am Today

“Stupid contractors… “HAR HAR WE DON’T KNOW HOW TO MEASURE THINGS LOL”. So here we are, all moved in to the new house, and we don’t have a single goddamn mirror. For how long? Ohhhhhhh I dunno. A month? NO BIG. Okay, this can’t be that hard, right? I put on makeup every day; I don’t need a mirror. I’m like BRUCE WILLIS. Does HE need a mirror to put on his mascara? Hell, no! He can do that shit with his hands tied behind his back and Russians shooting at him. So this ain’t no thang. I can do this.

All right, we’ll start easy and work our way up to the big leagues. Foundation. I’ll just put on a little, I guess, because I don’t want to look all cakey. All right. See, this is easy! I think. I’d better check my progress in the tiny useless mirror on my powder compact… see… all good here… nothing awry, all’s we— JESUS FUCKING CHRIST! What IS that? WHAT IS THAT? Is that a… is that a zit? Aw, crap, I need concealer for this. Ughhhhh undereye circles, WHY. Okay, focus. Concealer. Man, this shit’s thick. I’ll have to blend it to make this work out. Is that blended properly? I can’t tell with this crappy hand mirror.  Sir Zits-A-Lot you’d better sit DOOOWWWWN.  I tired of zits on my motherfuckin’ plane. God, I guess that’s blended.

Blush, now, so I don’t look like a plague victim.  Jeez. I guess I’ll go light pink? If I don’t blend that it won’t be so bad. This brush should be okay.  I’ll just dab a little on— there. That’s okay.

Eyeliner?  Do I dare…?  I DARE.  One-two-three-Cleopatra.  Bam!  I’M THE MAKEUP QUEEN!  BRING IT ON, MASCARA. COME TO ME, LIPSTICK.  Bring me your NARS, bring me your Urban Decay, bring me your huddled Smashbox yearning to be on my face!  NOTHING CAN STOP ME!

Oh man, running late… time to go to work!”

[ Sees self in mirror at work ]

“OH MY GOD.”

I'm so pretty.

I’m so pretty.

Bangst

I have a dead animal on my head. Or maybe, depending upon the velocity of the wind, a bird nest.  I’m trying to grow out my bangs, you see, and it’s possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever done, with the exception of not eating an entire bundt cake last night.

Bang bang, baby.

There’s a simple reason I’m growing them out: Zooey Deschanel. That chirpy little woodland creature has ruined bangs for me. Oh sure, they look great on her, and she’s gorgeous.  Continue reading