Wednesday, July 30, 2008

In which I visit the Laundromat

Laundromat in Toronto, CanadaImage via WikipediaAt first, the room looks blue.
The walls aren't blue.  They're white, with green tile trim.  The sporadically cracked tile on the floor isn't blue, either, but rather the pink-brown of fake sandstone.  A bright bank of gumball machines stands guard at the front door, and deep green potted plants and bright framed posters of flowers and line the walls.  But the heavy curtains blocking out the bright mid-afternoon sun are the same dirty-robin's-egg as the veneer of the washing machines, and the bluish shadows color the whole room.
The wall of blue is crenelated with alternating washing machines: double loader, triple loader.  The detergent wells do not all snap shut completely, so detergent bottles and watering cans sit on top of them, keeping sudsy water from escaping.  A tall potted plant sits on top of a washer.  Its upper branches splay against the mostly-white ceiling, which is marred by water stains, and bulges worryingly behind the ceiling fan.  A big-screen TV perched above the the machines, silent and dark, surveys the room.  Nearby, a scale stands under a yellow sign announcing, "Drop off service 1/2 LB to 10 LB Minimum $5."  a pile of neatly folded white blankets waits nearby on a wooden table, next to bulging duffel, laundry, and garbage bags.
 A matching table stands between banks of dryers.  It is surrounded by chairs: green and white metal folding chairs, and a white molded-plastic chair.  The tables are made of a yellow-brown wood that clashes with the dingy dryers and the pinkish floor tiles.
Near this table, laundry carts sit.  Black-brown rust peeks through their dingy, flaking paint.
Is dingy a color?  The dryers and carts might have been white once, or perhaps cream or pale yellow.  It's impossible to tell, though.  Now, they're just dingy, faded, aged.
A yellow sign reads:
We Are Not Responsible
Of Your Property
Watch Your Own
In the back, fenced-off area, a sign warns, "No Admittance."  Behind the fence, garment bags hang from hangers on a rack, and laundry detergent -- $.50 a load -- lines a shelf.
At 3:00 the Laundromat is nearly empty, and the air is filled with the mixed scents of mildew and fabric softener.  By 4:00, a handful of customers sit, stare at their spinning clothes, and chat.  Sweet scents leak out of nearby bakeries and into the Laundromat.  Neighbors wander in an out, calling through the open door in English, Spanish, Yiddish.

The good

This was another assignment that I've never done anything with.  Not only am I pleased with the result, so was my professor.  This isn't quite the kind of thing you can pitch, though, is it? 
I hope you enjoyed it.
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Monday, July 21, 2008

In which we feed the geese

Canada Goose (Gosling), Burnaby Lake Regional ...Image via Wikipedia
Way back in 1995, my family took a day trip to Wheaton Village.  We visited the glass museum, watched the artists at work, window-shopped in the stores, and took the train ride. 

We also had a nice picnic lunch.  Sandwiches, juice boxes, cookies, standard stuff.

As we were eating, a fluffy little gosling, all alone, waddled over to us.  He looked up at us with big, sad eyes, and let out a little, forlorn, "Peep?"

We've fed the ducks -- and geese -- when we've gone back the creek, and they've always been greedy but relatively sedate.

So we threw a little crust of bread the gosling's way.  He gobbled it up cutely, then raised his head and screamed, "HONK!"

All his friends and family came swooping in.  An entire flock of geese swarmed us, demanding tribute.  Vicious things.  One started gnawing on my shoe.  Another actually bit my father on the rear end.  It was as if we had stepped into a Hitchcock film.

Eventually, we started throwing bits of sandwich as hard as we could in one direction, then took our belongings and ran in the opposite direction.  It worked.

By the way, the reason I remember it was 1995?  For dinner that night, we got Happy Meals at McDonald's, and my prize was Ferdinand the Duck from the movie Babe.  Despite Ferdinand being a duck, I deemed the toy a souvenir goose.  (Yes, I was 12.  They were cute and I was a collector. Shut up.)

The good

Lesson learned: Don't feed the geese!

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Monday, July 14, 2008

In which I hyphenate

I've been Laura Grow for 25 years.

Chris has been Christopher Nyberg for almost exactly one month less.

I respect personal choice, and while I have a problem with unexamined tradition, I do like tradition that's been evaluated.

That's sort of the problem. I've evaluated the traditions behind a woman taking her husband's name.

Now, let me say this up front -- if you've chosen to take your spouse's name, that's great. It's your decision and I have to assume you've thought it through and made the best choice for you. What follows only addresses what's right for me.

Name is identity, especially when you're a writer. So please, explain to me why Chris's identity is worth more than mine?

Why should I stop being a Grow and start being a Nyberg? I mean, yes, I am becoming a Nyberg, but no less than Chris is becoming a Grow. And while our children will someday be Nybergs, they will no less be Grows (and S[-----]s, and H[--------]s, and P[----]s, and O[-----]es, and... any of the other names I don't even know, that have been forgotten purely because their bearers were female).

I decided a long time ago, and stand by my decision, to either hyphenate or keep my name, depending on how it sounds. My last name is a verb, after all; there are certain combinations that just wouldn't work.

My name works nicely with Chris's, though. I like the sound of Grow-Nyberg.

Makes monograms difficult, though. See, any monogram using N as a centerpiece is just inaccurate. You could do my monogram as LNC, but that wouldn't be my name. You could go the maiden-name monogram route and have LNG, but that eliminates my middle name and proves that my last name is worth less than his. And our joint monogram would either be a giant N -- inaccurate -- or our initials together. LNC or CNL.

Either way, inaccurate again, because it's not my name.

Chris and I discussed this, and we decided that, where possible, we would use the three-letter monogram, but have the center letter be a hyphen. That's right. Our preferred monogram is G-N. Or G-N, if you like (if you can't tell, it's an oversized hyphen). I was worried about accuracy, but Chris pointed out that yes, he will be as much a Grow as a Nyberg (even if he's not hyphenating), and ours will be the Grow-Nyberg household.

I'm not going to be an N, you see. I'm going to be a G-N.

The good

In addition to having Chris on my side as I gently flout tradition, I really like the look of this. Now we just have to figure out a way to get it on the registry information.

Please note that all but two of the surnames have been censored. Chris has given his express permission for his full name to be used.

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Monday, July 7, 2008

In which I profit from ill-gotten goods

Official seal of Edison Township, New JerseyImage via Wikipedia
When I was very small, there was nothing I wanted for Christmas more than a Cabbage Patch Doll. It was the early-to-mid-80s. Everyone wanted a Cabbage Patch Doll. It was my generation's Tickle Me Elmo. Better -- no two are alike, you know, and you can register your doll's name with the Adoption Agency.

Of course, there were none to be found. Anywhere.

My mom got her hands on a pattern and made me a fake; I honestly don't know if the head she used was official or a knock-off, but the doll looks good except she has no Xavier Roberts tattoo on the ass, and the shoes from official outfits don't fit her feet.

My dad had a friend who knew a guy who worked near a guy who sold the dolls in a parking lot. They "fell off a truck," if you will. They were insanely overpriced. My dad used this tenuous connection and got one.

When I found out about this, years later, I felt incredibly guilty.

My third birthday was very exciting. Not only was I a big girl, but the new baby would be coming soon. From what I can piece together from vague memories and stories, one of my uncles gave me, as a birthday present, a tiny pink bear that squeaks when you squeeze it. I asked someone to read the tag; he was "Made in Edison, NJ" so I named him Edison. I also proclaimed that I was going to give it to the baby. I saved it 'til my brother was born, took it to the hospital, and gave it to my mom for him.

When he came home, I took it back.

When I was a little bit older, my parents told me this. I felt so guilty, I didn't know what to do. I loved Edison; he was part of my bedtime lineup. Still, he technically belonged to my brother and I technically stole him. Several times I gave him to my brother, missed him, asked for him back.

My brother never really cared, of course.

To this day, I don't know if that bear is rightfully mine or his. I'm 25, he's 22. That's right, it's over 20 years since I gave the bear to him. Hell if it matters at this point.

I still feel bad.

My junior year of high school, I took AP Biology. It was a tough class, but fun, too. Mr. D. was a great teacher. Excited, a little crazy, maybe the tiniest bit perverted -- just as an AP bio teacher ought to be. His favorite time of year was when he got to teach about genetic deformities in humans. He was the guy who coordinated the SAT. I'm sure you had some version of him at your school.

Anyway, after the AP exam was done, all we really had to do was finish dissecting our cats. Since everyone was pretty much under control cat-wise, we decided to have a big celebration. We called it "D-week" in honor of Mr. D. There was snack food and a cake with an edible photo on top like they do now -- of Mr. D.'s head on a swimsuit model's body. He was all flustered and pleased and embarrassed and excited like an AP Bio teacher would be.

It was widely suspected but not confirmed that much of the snack food was stolen. A few kids in the class worked at supermarkets or drugstores and "liberated" items from time to time. I didn't know for sure. I was naive. I gave people the benefit of the doubt and enjoyed the candy.

There was a raffle. I won a camera -- one of the new drop-and-load ones. I was so excited. I took a few pictures of the class, and of Mr. D.

Then someone confirmed that much of the party stuff -- including the raffle prizes -- was hot.

I was horrified. Also, pissed. There was nothing I could do. I couldn't return it to the store anonymously, since I had opened and used it. I couldn't pay for it; I didn't know where exactly it had come from. One of my classmates was pissed off, said if I didn't want it, I should let them re-raffle it so someone who didn't mind could have it.

I still have that thing sitting around somewhere. I probably won't see it again until my parents die and I have to clean out their house. I don't think I'll ever use it. I would feel so wrong. Just remembering I own it feels dirty.

If I ever accomplish anything with my life, maybe someday history will look back and deem me worthy of two dolls, a tiny pink bear, and a drop-and-load camera.

The good

Well, it looks like the Catholic education worked after all. Kidding.

Honestly, if the above is the worst that can be said about me (which I'm neither confirming nor denying), I'm in good shape. I need to remember that.
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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

In which I celebrate Independence (and Capitalism)

Fireworks show 2008Image by John_Wright via FlickrAll through college and grad school, I worked at Target during the summers and some Christmases. And every year, I worked closing on the 4th of July.

This wasn't a huge deal. Most of the traditional holiday stuff I enjoy takes place in the morning anyway, and once the the last-minute barbecue crowd cleared out, the store was quiet enough that we usually were able to leave not long after the store closed at 10:00. I don't drive, but my parents were often kind enough to pick me up.

You couldn't ask for better timing. The shopping center is located on top of a hill, and at 10:00 all the surrounding townships start their fireworks displays. If you just stand there for about half an hour, you're rewarded with a 360-degree light show. It's almost impossible to know which way to look -- which shows are professional, and which are done by a drunken crowd of neighbors? Are they just warming up, or kicking off the finale? And just when you're about ready to get in the car and go home, Pop! And you spin around and gaze in wonder for another five, ten minutes.

The good

If you have to work on a holiday, this is the way to go. Watch the parade, eat your church picnic lunch, enjoy a quiet day in and empty store, and then stand back and watch the panoramic fireworks display.

Also? Holiday pay.
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