Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Few Thoughts on 'Real World: San Francisco,' Age 37 ...

Last weekend MTV went retro and aired old-school seasons of 'The Real World,' footage I just assumed Puck had hidden forever, stuck with snot rockets between his couch cushions. As far as I could tell, and I've checked plenty, this hadn't been available anywhere at all until now. Not on Hulu, not on Netflix, certainly not on MTV.

Our TiVo, which both knows us so well and but wants us to please watch "Trading Places" every time it airs, captured most of New York and all of San Francisco and the original Las Vegas. This has made me incredibly pro-robot.

I haven't seen the San Francisco season since it originally aired in 1994 and all I remember is Puck taking two fingers swipes from Pedro's Peanut Butter jar, a fascination with Rachel's wild-child ways and, of course, Pedro as an AIDS educator. I also remember, from "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius," that Judd, the cartoonist, was selected for the show over Dave Eggers but that Eggers still managed to squeak into an episode.

I still watch 'The Real World.' I'm not sure anyone else my age does. It's kind of like being that middle-aged person who still tunes in to "Days of Our Lives," a fan who came of age when Marlena was Satan  and defines love as that thing that happened between Kayla and Steve and his eye patch. I get a little too interested in whether the couples that crop up can withstand the real real world. I might google "Are Heather and Dustin still together?" every once in a while. (A: Signs point to Yes).

1. I was a little embarrassed when I remembered the way that I idolized Rachel when the show originally aired. She's a loud and proud Republican -- still is -- and her husband is a U.S. rep from a small Wisconsin town near here (and RW: Boston alum). But, 20ish years later, I choose to still dig Rachel for nostalgia reasons: How her Catholic upbringing was the catalyst for digging biker dudes and tattoos. Her wild side at age 22 is pretty transparent, but exactly the sort of thing I would have watched wide-eyed, freshly sprung from my parents' home. Plus, she really enhanced the Puck situation with their weird kind of relationship.

2. These days I suspect that "The Real World" is not-so-secretly trying to kill off a cast member. The template breakdown now tends to include the usual mix of races and sexual identities ... and one sociopath. There is usually someone with an inner simmer who seems one drink from roommate-icide, or, at the very least, a mad episode of home destruction that ends with broken tables, vases, light fixtures. See: Brandon from St. Thomas, Adam from Las Vegas. Episodes seem to be designed around the weekly parties and hookups.

San Francisco maintains that feel of a documentary-style social experiment. There's a truthfulness and earnestness that just doesn't exist anymore. The cast is filled with very different people who seem interested in learning about each other. They also seemed to be living real lives under unusual circumstances. Cory, for instance, is looking for a job and Muhammed works at his dad's club. Judd tries to find places who will subscribe to his weekly cartoon. When they do drink, it's super understated. Sometimes they have to make an effort so their lives overlap -- like with real roommates. And sometimes it's not worth it.

Chuck said, and I agree, "This show was better when they had no idea what they were doing." I wonder which season this all changed.

3. There has to be more to that Puck story. In 2013, no one would get voted off the show for being burping, farting, bike messaging asshole. You actually have to punch someone or throw a fire hydrant out of a hotel room window to get evicted.

4. Pam wasn't the most memorable character to me during my original watch, but all these years later it's fun to see the subtle cues that she and Judd are quietly falling in love behind the scenes. He's an awkward Seinfeld-ian character bumbling his way through bad dates and she's got a long time, long distance boyfriend she seems enamored with, but who simply isn't around for the day to day. These days they're still married, have a couple of kids, and Judd live-Tweeted during a bunch of the episodes last weekend. They came together through their friendship with Pedro and both have gone on to become involved with AIDS education. Adorbs.

5. Man. Pedro was a dynamic public speaker. Also, good news: his boyfriend Sean is still alive. I checked.

6. I don't know when this became an hour-long show, but a half-hour per week seems like just enough time for the cast mates to learn a bit about life.

7. In 1994, it was possible to be on a reality show and then go on to live a life of anonymity. There's no tracking down Jo, who replaced Puck on the show. Cory seems to be a school teacher. Rachel, of course, had some TV talk show host fame and has published a book. Regardless, if anyone in the cast was shuttled off to rehab, it would probably happen quietly and without TMZ capturing it.

8. I mostly wonder what Rachel thought when she saw this was on last weekend.

Friday, March 29, 2013

It's Friday and I'm Pregnant: Week 24 ...

I'm sprawled on a table with my dress up to my bra and my jeggings are below a hemisphere of my belly that I haven't seen in weeks. The doctor's got this device that looks like the pride of Fisher Price and he's rolling an end of it along my bump. He's checking for her heartbeat and it's a garbled metronome with sudden bursts, like holding a microphone into the wind.

"She's moving around a lot," he tells me. "I don't know if I'm going to be able to get this. ... Did you feel that?"

I shake my head. Not this time.

I feel her often, though, and not at all predictably. She had, unfortunately, ants in her pants during a big country concert last week, but totally redeemed herself when she also boogied to the sounds of "The Hobbit." I take this to mean that, in utero, she's already more open-minded and well-rounded than most human beings.

He tells me he's going to have to get her heartbeat off the umbilical cord. She's just moving too much.

"She's wild," he says.

And I beam. She's wild. The Powerful Baby Girl is wild. I picture mud-caked hands, hair like weeds and a wicked grin as she constantly asks, fiercely, "But, why?"

Of course I assume this all means something. That her ear buds will leak the sounds of contemporary country. That she will like tales of fantasy with inhuman heros who travel by hairy feet. That she will boot the ball further than anyone on the soccer team, including the coach. I have to latch on to these somethings since I don't know anything beyond the a painting-like image that is a rough approximation, from an ultrasound, of her face. And, of course, what I've gleaned from Chuck's very confusing speech about dominant and recessive genes.

This beaming is dangerous. I mean, he's not complimented her, he's just stated a fact: Your baby moves around so much that I am inclined to use the word "wild" to describe her. If you want to get real specific about it, when I was a kid "wild" was a teen in dirty denim smoking cigarettes behind the Jiffy Mart. This beaming shows I'm already blind.

This beam, I'm afraid, is an "Our unborn baby is on the wild honor roll" bumper sticker on the back of our responsible car.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Adult Contemporary Series: The Warrior by Scandal ...

Our moms were best friends and our dads were best friends who had the same last name but weren't related. Then everyone got married and so here I was on a hot summer day in a cool dark basement covered in wall-to-wall carpeting. Even the support beams were wrapped in brown shag. Our moms were in the backyard, chin up toward the sun. His wore a one-piece romper and used straight up Baby Oil. Mine slathered in something more paste-like, less penetrable.

And there he was: Ugh, Brian. Seven months younger than me and a total shit sitting on the other end of the couch. His hair was a mat of dark coils, his brown eyes the color of a popsicle left to melt on a sidewalk. Even I, a sworn enemy, could tell he was cute. I could beat almost anyone in a foot race, except him. He'd tag the garage, sweat rolling down the sides of his face, and smirk. He was also skilled at Monopoly. And every time he pulled out that goddamn Starship Enterprise, I wanted to beat my head against the well-padded basement wall.

At his house we could drink Pepsi products from pink plastic cups and the ice came in uniform slivers. His dad worked for the company, so the supply was unlimited. We could also watch MTV. I first encountered Tears for Fears in that basement. "I don't want to rule the world," we thought we were hilarious. He continued to riff on the talent, but I was struck silent by the image of a woman dressed in all black, bare midriff, ankle boots, perm and oversized bow, dancing in a white room. "Wait," I said to him, having not blinked in three minutes. "She's cool!"*

I was also in his basement the first time I heard "The Warrior" by Scandal. The song's "Bang, Bang" constitutes the first time I remember having an inside joke. Brian and I would look at each other, make pistol fingers and say "Bang, Bang." It wasn't much; It was hilarious.

Brian and I went to the same school, our dads played on the same softball team and we regularly spent Friday nights in his basement playing games -- me always, always losing. We got into a fight on the playground in fifth grade, me swinging punches that barely connected, him kicking my shins while the rest of the kickball players made a circle around us. The volunteer playground monitor whistled us apart and I put my head on my friend Stephanie's shoulder when it was over and cried, exhausted.

Mr. K kept us in the hallway after recess.
"I understand you two have a long history," he said. "And a complicated relationship. You're probably a little sick of each other."
We avoided eye contact.
"I want you to stay out here until you've apologized to each other. Then you can go back to class," he said, and walked away.
We were silent for a second.
"Sorry I kicked your ass," I said, spun and headed back toward Mr. K's classroom.
"Blyeah," he mumbled. "Sorry I beat you up." And he walked back toward the other fifth-grade classroom.

Years later my best friend had it pretty bad for Brian. She took an entire cassette tape and filled it with the song "The Search is Over" over and over and over. He bought her a huge teddy bear and when they broke up she tortured it. In between, she used to ask me to the tell her everything I remembered about growing up with Brian.

This included the "Bang, Bang."


The Adult Contemporary Series explores the hits of the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s and what they meant to me, inspired by a song heard while listening to Adult Contemporary radio in my Adult Contemporary Car.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Making, watching, reading ...

Here is what I've been making, watching and reading!

I'm now working from The Vegan Slow Cooker because I'm assuming that a crock pot can only make our lives easier. I've yet to find the knock-out recipe in this book, but I've tried two things.

Weekend Tofu and Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole: This mix of hash browns, fake cheese, coconut milk, bouillon, tofu, and spices is how I broke in my new crock pot. It was deese, better when I popped it in the microwave to further heat. I think it's supposed to taste like a cheesy eggs mix and it kind of did. Sprinkle with paprika.

Mashed Potato and Edamame Burrito Filling: A bunch of veggies simmer in a stew of hot salsa and water and then it gets wrapped in a tortilla shell and stuffed into a face. It's okay. So okay that I didn't even take a photo.


Norwegian Wood (Movie Tie-in Edition) (Vintage International) by Haruki Murakmi: A college aged boy reflects on a year of his life where he was captivated by two very different women. Now with more hilariously uncomfortable sex scenes. This is second-tier Murakami, which is where stuff that isn't "Windup Bird Chronicle" is ranked. Better than the average book; Not as good as Murakami at his best. Won't monkey with your dreams.

Full review here.

I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections (Vintage) by Nora Ephron: Cute, hokey. A collection of hit-or-miss essays by the queen of rom-coms.

Full review here.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cakeby Aimee Bender: Oh holy heck. This novel is so so so great. A young girl can taste emotions in the food she eats. That's cool when she's eating vending machine fare, but it's pretty unsettling when she bites into her mother's food and finds it overwhelmed with depression (or ecstatic with a new secret relationship).

Full review here.

Manhattan, when I Was Young by Mary Cantwell: Longtime fashion magazine writer turned New York Times columnist writes about her life in New York City in the 1950s and 1960s in a really gooey, underbelly of the scab kind of way.

Full review will be here.


Argo I liked it. Although it tested my suspense button. I almost lost my mind.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower If I saw this and it was 2003 I would immediately go out and buy the movie. It's exactly something I'd want to watch repeatedly on weekends while hungover. As is, I just really liked it and it made me cry really hard. I think I liked it more than the book. Gasp.

Romancing the Stone  Have you ever noticed that the more time Kathleen Turner spends squealing down mudslides and traipsing through outback Colombia, the better her hair begins to look? True story.

Friday, March 22, 2013

It's Friday and I'm Pregnant: Week 23 ...

Bump photos: Now with more cats.
I totally did that thing: I bored someone with my pregnancy. I've tried to be careful with this by only bringing it up when I want, no, need to tell an epic tale of constipation. Maybe I was drugged by the Powerful Baby Girl's dance line routine or the way I'm testing the seams of my winter coat or, hell, maybe I'm just really excited. For whatever reason, I started -- unsolicited -- talking about the baby in front of two acquaintances. Nothing specific, just chatter. Baby, baby, baby.

By the time one of the women responded with, "Well, when I was pregnant with ..." the other woman's eyes had gone glassy and she was fiddling with her phone. She waited the perfect amount of time and then fell off the conversation and was absorbed by the background. It was the subtle escape of a pro, I recognized it because I do it.

If my embarrassment level was fuel, I could have jet-packed myself to the moon right that second. My first inclination was to chase her down and apologize for the snooze fest. But would that be weirder? Yes, totally. It's been days but I'm still wincing with social shame. I don't want to be that person who turns people's pupils into cartoonish Zzs.

"Here comes Christa. I can't wait to hear where she fell on the Bristol Stool Chart this morning."
(Eye roll)
"Did you hear her kid only has one kidney?"
"Only like one-bajillion times."
"I heard she doesn't even want to know what a mucus plug is until she has to know."

I watched 'Juno' on Saturday. It was an anthropological study of whether actually being pregnant would change the way I saw the movie. And, actually, I watched it twice.

There is a scene where Juno has gone to St. Cloud to hang with Jason Bateman, who slow dances with her to 80s punk in his guitar room and reveals that he's planning on leaving Alias and moving into a loft apartment in the big city. Juno backs away from him like he's singed her and beats a hasty, awkward retreat from their home muttering something about being allergic to "fine home furnishings."

She hops into her minivan and cruises toward home, eventually stopping on the shoulder of the road to  rub her belly and weep.

And I lost my mind. I cried so hard my toes vibrated. Loudly, too. Zoo-like yelps.

"She's crying because she just wanted the baby to have the perfect home she saw represented in the Penny Saver," I told Chuck during the re-watch, by now calmed considerably but not completely. "She just wants her to have a good li-i-i-ife."

I stopped yesterday at a candy kiosk to trade a quarter for a handful of Skittles. It was a weird whim. I've been avoiding sugar because I think it exacerbates The Migraines. But this rainbow-of-fruit-flavor-in-my-palm blew my mind. The taste was other-worldly and for the time it took to eat them, I was convinced that Skittles had started using actual fruit to make this taste. I positively gurgled with Vitamin C.

"Why don't I always eat Skittles?" I wondered. "Like constantly, non-stop, fruit flavor bursts. Pow! Breakfast lunch and dinner."

I think this is what it's probably like to be on drugs.

"The (Powerful Baby Girl) wants a mint shake from Arby's," Chrissie texted me.
"The (Powerful Baby Girl) knows that sugar exacerbates her migraines," I texted back. I love the word "exacerbates."
"Wait," I added. "My migraines."
So confused.
"Are we one person or two?" I asked Chuck, trying to explain my confusion. "Is she me, or is she she?"

Sometimes I wonder how long it's been since I felt the Powerful Baby Girl flap her little flippers in my lower abdomen. Was it at lunch? Was it in the car? Did it last a long time or was it just a subtle "Hey, still here"? And then I worry that I'm taking these little kick shows for granted. That, at some point, she'll be out here and I won't feel them anymore.

And then I already start mourning the loss of that feeling.

Chuck has confessed that he can't stand up without grunting, a behavior he has learned from me. Adorbs.

She's going to slide out with brown hair and a squishy face. That's what I'm picturing. I think she will look dazed. I think we will bring her home from the hospital, look at each other and say: "Now what do we do?"

This is all becoming very real to me.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

It's Saturday and I'm Boring: The Megaphone Edition ...

We're reluctant to get out of bed. We're being extra cuddly. Not exactly a rare thing, but a trickier thing these days with half-foot sac of liquid gush and person between us. We're both cold. Our phones, which are next to the bed, are cold. While we tend to overindulge in blankets, today it seems we've made a miscalculation. There aren't enough layers of quilt between us and the air. Chuck shivers. I shiver. We look for patches of skin to warm our feet.

It takes Chuck a few minutes to see that something isn't right. We usually wake hot, our skin wet and rubbery. You could could draw a star on our cheeks and it would be visible for a few seconds at least. So why are we freezing today?

"I'm concerned about this" he says.

He bolts out of bed, goes downstairs, says something I don't understand loudly, goes to the basement.

I worry that we're becoming too traditional in our roles. Me, woman: cook meals, carry baby. Him, man: check furnace, shovel sidewalk. I scroll through Facebook on my cold phone, then decide to Google "Broken Furnace." Me, woman: Google problem.

He's back in bed a few minutes later with a report (it's 54 degrees downstairs, the furnace is blowing and a light is blinking) and his laptop (for diagnostics).

Within an hour and a half a furnace guy has fixed the furnace and we're creeping up in the 60-something degrees and all is right with the world again.


Maybe a massage will push my migraine out of my pores or at least smother it in scented lotion. This is already a success because for the first time in months I am -- through the virtue of massage technology -- able to lay on my stomach. My, why they must be C cups by now, and my stomach a solid mass of PG cup, are positioned into specific divots in a massage cushion designed for those with monstrous, aching orbs.

She's playing instrumental versions of classic rock layered with sounds of rain and babbling brooks. Sometimes the water sounds like the applause in a live album. A polite crowd responding favorably to a sitar version of "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

I wonder if I spend too much of my massage thinking and not enough time being in the moment or whatever.

This is a small muted room designed to have a cave-like stinginess toward its admittance of The Outer World. You can, for instance, totally ignore the face that a few doors away someone's pubic area is getting the attention of a purebred at Westminster. Except on this day there is a beer festival being held in the courtyard of the building that hosts the salon. There is a bonfire, a polar plunge, people have brought their own mugs. I'm guessing it's lederhosen-optional.

Most of all, the fun is guided by a man with a megaphone. A MEGAPHONE.

This cave is cave-like enough to block out the actual words he is saying, but not quite cave-like enough to silence his excitement levels. This is distracting. And not. At times like this I like to think: Isn't everyone so lucky that I'm not the kind of person to be a total bitch about this? Which is, I guess, a form of being a bitch.

Regardless, the massage turned out to be only a satisfactory experience. It needed more thumbs. She did something that I called, in my mind, The Ski Slope Maneuver, that really got the goods on my neck. And she busted out her forearm to ward off a knot, which was also exceptional.


It snowed on Friday night, large quantities of the stuff that is so light and fluffy it seems like it was left over from a movie set. Couple falling in love at Christmastime in Central Park. A place where mittens match scarves match hats.

This has caused havoc in the mall parking lot where everyone is having a contest to park worse than the people they are parked between. On top of that there are new snow hills meaning it is impossible to drive through some of the aisles. One must drive in, find aisle full, find snow hill blocking exit, back out of aisle.

I will later repeatedly refer to this as Parking Like a Shit Fuck.

"Why am I here anyway?" I wonder. "Was this just a reflex or do I actually need something from the mall?"

I decide that even if there was something I needed, I no longer need it back enough to be a part of this idiocy, so I drive home.


The Migraines have turned my life into 1. Wake; 2. 8-Hour Commitment; 3. Lie in bed with a washcloth on my forehead. I'm not reading, I'm not writing, I'm not watching tube. On Friday I figured out that if I lie on my right side with a comfortable pillow under my noggin I can watch TV pain free for at least a while.

I ended up watching my backlog of "The Carrie Diaries."

This, friends, is terrible. I'm not a "Sex and the City" person anymore and feel a little shame that I ever was. A few years ago I re-watched some of the DVDs I'd collected and found Carrie so self-centered and loathsome that I couldn't handle it. This show revisits her high school years and it's blerg.

Our hero is a self-satisfied teen in love with Manhattan and getting an introduction to the club-cosmos-fashion scene while she continues to attend high school in Connecticut. In one scene she sips her first pink drink and coos and decides, at Age 16, that This Will Be Her Signature Drink. Lather, rinse, repeat. Her first pair of shoe-shoes, etc.

Still, I'm a sucker for shows about teens with good hair -- and I sort of hoped to snooze on and off -- and I ended up watching six episodes.


Then I watched "Juno." Twice. Well, 1.5 times.


The "It's (Insert Day of Week) and I'm Boring" is a series that Jodi and I do to pay homage to the beauty of old-school blogging.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

It's Friday and I'm Pregnant: Week 22 ...

I guess one of the first things I'd like our Powerful Baby Girl to know about is: The Migraines. The way the right side of my skull feels like it is being wrung out with two hands. How it infects my face and makes my jaw feel bruised. That first it lasted months, then when I started researching Signs You Should Consider a Brain Transplant, it lessened and then went away. And then came back. And then came back again. Now here it is again.

Q. How powerful is our Powerful Baby Girl?
A. More powerful than a dose of Tylenol taken on a daily schedule.

I've had hangovers more pleasant. Heck, I've had hangovers on top of hangovers that felt like a tickle fight in comparison.

It took time and an ultrasound image to get me to forget my first brutal bout with The Migraines. Now I try to imagine the pain as power surges from my body to hers. With every thud in my noggin she is turbo charging her little limbs. A reenactment would include science fiction sizzles of neon green.

Still, it hurts and I wish it would all settle down a little so I could live my life instead of experimenting with Ways to Lay So My Head Skull Doesn't Cave In on Itself. I have a lot of stuff I need to be doing right now: 1. Learning how to make Cake Pops; 2. Investigating Bumbo Seats.

All of this Migraine business explains why it is so easy for my own mom to trigger my guilt reflex. Must. Remember.

This week has been exceptionally full of Victorian era weeping. I no longer need a reason to have my face collapse into flood. Good things, bad things. They're all equal when it comes to my snot ducts. I received a phone call with some reassuring news earlier this week and lost my mind shaking and wheezing and drenching everything around me. Still, I assure you, these 15 minute thunder storms feel fantastic.

Chuck is now finally able to feel the Powerful Baby Girl. In fact, she knocked him good this morning. I've now moved on to a phase of intense curiosity about this little person's interests. "What if she wants to play piano?" I asked Chuck. Then today I imagined her running down a soccer field with a thin little braid. I spend a lot of time when I first wake up writing fan fiction about how she will respond to that guy who looks like a statue in Venice Beach.

JCrew: Ohhh. I can totally see her. She's a little brunette who wears Ralph Lauren!
Me: (Wearing an oversized sweatshirt cinched with string beneath my belly, yellow jeggings and ankle boots): Hm. I see her more as a ginger who dresses funny.
JCrew: (Laughs a little too hard)

Last week I experimented with being a Pregnant Woman in Public on a Friday Night. I'm guessing that women all over the world attempt this and succeed, but they've probably never spent any time in my pajama pants and don't know that life can be all about things like striped polar fleece and revisiting "Cheers."

We went to a handful of art openings, which is usually one of my favorite things to do. This month it seemed ... like a lot of standing.

Quick aside: A few months ago I performed a circus-level eye roll about a woman who was five months pregnant and predicting discomfort over the idea of standing for an extended period. I was an asshole that day. I looked at her mini bump and thought "Oh, please. Quit being so dramatic." I assumed she had already bought decals for her car to indicate the presence of a fetus.

Later that standing night, at a rock 'n' roll show, I shifted my weight a lot. Crossed my legs this way, then crossed them the other way. I didn't really understand how to explain my discomfort other than to gasp the word "Gravity."

Finally I called uncle on the night.
I said to Chuck. "My vagina hurts."
He nodded, poked The Great Archivist.
"Let's go," he said. "Her vagina hurts."

Later I would learn from my friend Hinz that I could have more delicately referred to the uncomfortable area as "My Basket." But really: how often do you get to say "My vagina hurts"?

Me: What if she wants to be a cheerleader? And what if I'm all 'Ugh, no, you don't want to be a cheerleader.' So she doesn't tell me she's trying out. Then she makes the team, but pretends like she's doing some tutoring after school. One day I walk into the high school gym and she's executing a perfect basket toss and I'm super proud and don't even care that she's a cheerleader anymore?

A few days ago I took an opportunity to look at myself from a unique angle: The behind. I wasn't necessarily surprised by my findings. I'm unable to sit for long periods, which I attribute to the additional mass teetering atop my tail bone.

I've widened considerably and vaguely recognized myself now as a woman who would stand naked in the locker room of the YMCA running a towel like a bowling ball buffer through my various crevices all while carrying on a conversation with you about my thoughts on aspartame in milk.

Monday, March 11, 2013

A trifecta of brain juice ...

An old enemy reared his weird, oblong head again to tell me that he planned to murder Chuck. He was going to skin a seal and affix that skin to Chuck's body. Or maybe it was the other way around. He said this all in the voice of the bad guy from a comic book, still, he scared me shitless. 

I found Chuck and warned him. He nodded stoically. He'd already heard the news and resigned himself to the idea that he was going to have to fend off a murderer with big plans for seal skin. In that brief, unsmiling nod, I saw that I could trust everything would be okay. 

I was at a parade and noticed that the woman standing in front of me had a peach fuzz mustache. And to her left, another woman with a thicker, more vaudeville villain style of mustache. All around me, women had mustaches. It was part of a feminist-hipster wave. 

Then they began to compare and critique. They were helpful to a woman with an obviously bare upper lip. 

"You've got to stop waxing," they told her. 
"Definitely stop waxing," they agreed. 

I was confused. I couldn't imagine how it was possible for so many women to grow a mustache. I knew I couldn't, no matter how hard I wished and grunted. By the end of the dream, I'd begun to find the look attractive and edgy. 

It was my dad's birthday and I'd stumbled on a great gift idea: This month's issue of Playgirl magazine. There was an article in there that I knew he would be interested in reading. I was in downtown Minneapolis and knew I had to find Barnes & Noble. But first, I had to find a bathroom. 

When I got to the bathroom I realized that the people in line would be able to see me sitting in my stall. 

"Will they think it's gross if I look at my phone while I'm on the toilet?" I wondered. "Or does everyone do that?" 

Little did I know that would be the least of my worries. Because the toilet overflowed when I flushed and I fell in the water and all sorts of muddy yuck stained my new white Keds. And then I realized that I hadn't bought Playgirl, I'd bought something called Duluth Digest which was full of ads for farming equipment. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

It's Friday and I'm Pregnant: Week 21

Aw, man. She's stretching out my new Cloud Cult T-shirt.
And she made the bathroom mirror have spots on it!
I used to imagine the sensation of being pregnant as similar to holding an amphibian cupped in one's hand. This, say, mini frog would wiggle and squirt, bark, and inflate its pinky-sized chin and I'd have to close an eye and stomp a foot to bear it. Eventually I'd visualize the sausage-link string of turd it was winding into a mound in the crevice between my palms and I'd end up flinging the poor sucker halfway across the nature center.

At this point, the Powerful Baby Girl's movements aren't like this at all. Mostly it feels like bubble wrap popped while underwater. Sometimes it feels like a tiny bare foot trying to take out the passenger window of a '72 Pontiac -- but in slow motion. Sometimes it feels like butterfly kisses. It seems like I get them a lot; It's still not enough. "How you doing, Baby Girl?" I'll ask her, trying to rustle up a response.

I'm trying to determine triggers through various scientific experiments: Does the madame like Cinnamon Life, the new House Cereal? How about the soothing sounds of Terry Gross? Does she want me to walk faster, slower? Does she want me to sing Journey, giving it all my karaoke power, while merging onto I35? As would be expected: Her moods remain unpredictable.

It's hard to know for sure, but somethings I think I can feel movement from the outside -- especially near the base of the bump. A few days ago I thought she socked my palm. I want Chuck to get in on this action, but it's mostly been like this:

"There. Did you feel that?"

Once in awhile he comes at me with his pinky and gives my belly a couple taps.
"It's not a fishbowl," I remind him.

Then we remind each other that we will not be the kind of parents who throw back the curtains in her bedroom and salute the new day in song. We know that life. It's why we both prefer dark places.

"I was craving movement, so I sang along to 'Don't Stop Believing' and hoped she would like it," I told Chuck on Wednesday.

Then he pointed out that "Don't Stop Believing," to a Powerful Baby Girl born in the summer of 2013, is the equivalent of "Swinging on a Star" sung by Bing Crosby would have been to a Powerful Baby Girl born in the summer of 1975.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Adult Contemporary Series: 'Devil Inside' Edition ...

One of the first things I did, after signing all the paperwork, was program the radio stations in the Space Shuttle. My theory has long been that FM1 goes to local stations, FM2 goes to the stuff that comes in when I pass Hinckley headed South. So I started with FM1: Classical MPR, MPR, KUMD ...

"KOOL 101.7," Chuck suggested.
"What's that?" I asked.

I've been here more than 13 years but have never developed any kind of brand loyalty toward the local commercial radio stations. It's not like the late 80s, early 90s when I thought KROC-FM in Rochester had to be one of the best radio stations in the world. That it's DJ and host of the Top Ten at Ten (and later Top Nine at Nine) was a major celebrity. He probably knew Casey Kasem even, right?

I don't know the numbers here. At some point I must have stumbled on pop songs and mindlessly programmed the stations into my last car, then never thought of the digits again. So here I was, stalled, finger poised.

"Oldies," he said.
"Oldies?" I said.

Oldies, to me, still means that tinny, corny crap from the 1950s and 60s. Where loves songs climax with hand holding. Bobby socks and ponytails. Milk shakes. My mom's head thrown back as she sings, a soft shoe with her slippers through the kitchen. She leads with her elbows when she dances.

But he meant the current definition of the Oldies.

"Hits from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s," he said.

Since shrugging, buying the Kool Aid and programming it in, I've almost completely stopped listening to public radio. This is Phil Collins, this is Peter Gabriel, this is Chicago. This is like digging into a duffle bag-shaped time capsule filled with The Music of My Life.

The best thing about this, though, is that on Sunday's it airs a Rick Dees' Weekly Top 40 episode from the 1980s. This. Is. Awesome. I must have listened to at least part of this the first time it aired. Maybe it played from a long skinny pink boom box while I read Christopher Pike books on my bed; Maybe I roller skated in the garage to it.

I can always, always place myself in the era of the song's popularity. What my hair looked like, what I was wearing in those days. This week I saw my old neighbor Mari and how I gave her the Europe tape for her birthday. I remembered that she loved Expose. I thought about how at one point I knew all of the words to "The Honey Thief" by HipSway but now the band means nothing to me (though I still seem to remember some of the words to the song).

Last week I correctly answered one of Dees' trivia questions about Whitney Houston.

I'm not sure how I can justify listening to Oldies when my parent's Oldies managed to ruin so many car rides. I blame the Space Shuttle and its four doors and decent rating in Consumer Reports.

This is all just a long introduction to: The Adult Contemporary Series. In fits and bursts, I will explore what the hits of the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s mean to me based on a song recently heard while in the car.

I'm 12 years old, I've got a longer leash than normal and a bit of money in my pocket so my friend Thwack-Thwack and I cruise into a record store so I can buy INXS "Kick."

Then we cross a two-lane highway to get to a pizza place. As we're running down the ditch of the median, I wipe out and roll. The cassette case busts but it still functional.

I get a weird feeling in my stomach. This happened because there is a song on the album called "Devil Inside." This is HIS work. Whenever I pop "Kick" into my Walkman I feel a little sick, but also a little dangerous.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

It's Friday and I'm Pregnant: Week 20

I suppose the events of the past two days could be considered a Parenting Amuse Bouche.

On Thursday we went in for my 20 week ultrasound, a long gelatinous event during which a tech counts limbs and organs and leaves the genitalia reveal hanging until toward the end of the show. Every time a foot was paired with another foot, an arm with another arm, I squeezed Chuck's hand. But mostly it was a lot of staring at foggy shapes and swirls and wondering how the sum of these parts is a person who will someday paste a gummy crust of Goldfish crackers to my hair.

Meanwhile, the subject jumped and squirmed and refused to cooperate and I cheered inwardly about the makings of a wild-child. Would this be a story I would tell so often that it eventually became a family version of "A Christmas Carol"?

"We knew it would be like this," I saw myself confessing to an apathetic pack of 18 year olds. "Even in utero. Doctors and techs were always commenting on the constant movement."

(Eyes roll: "Yeah, yeah, yeah.")

Me: "They called her a Powerful Baby."
Now Teen Aged Powerful Baby: "Mom, god. Annoying. Everyone has heard this like a million times."

The tech told us she was looking for something that looked like a hamburger (girl) or turtle (boy). The verdict: Hamburger. A single tear rolled out of my eyeball and disappeared into my hair. A powerful baby girl. We had both -- not to mention friends and relatives -- always assumed it was a girl until the 12 week point when I, confusedly, tried to pin a new face to our person after a tech thought he saw a, well, turtle, I guess.

At one point the screen filled with what seemed to be a giant baby foot and we cackled.
At another point it looked like she was trying to kick into a headstand.

Then, beneath all the good cheer in the room, there was an undercurrent of a heightened something. Another tech came in, lubed my belly, cursed the PBG's unwillingness to sit still, and delivered the news: She only has one kidney. All of her other organs are fine and accounted for, but she's missing her left kidney.

Despite the shock of this news, everyone official seemed really nonplussed about it. Like "One kidney? Meh. No problem." Like "If you're going to have a missing organ, it's exactly the one you'd want to pick." The doctor didn't make sad eyes, though he did anticipate my need for a Kleenex. Later he checked her heartbeat and the metronome was interrupted by shuffled thunder bursts that sounded like a microphone being eaten. These, he explained, were kicks. After a particularly loud one, he gave me a look:

"Did you feel that?" he asked.
"No," I said.
He shook his head.
"Loud baby," he said.

Powerful (and loud) Baby Girl.

On Friday we met with a specialist who confirmed that, yes, there is only one kidney but that there are probably 100 people in Duluth right now who were born with one kidney. Then, for fun, they ultrasounded Chuck to count his kidneys. (2).

Between Thursday's appointment and Friday's appointment I learned that I have a cousin with just one kidney. He's in his mid-20s and just found out very recently. And since that appointment I've heard of dozens of stories of people who only have one kidney.

"Mostly this means she'll never be able to donate a kidney," the doctor said.

In conclusion: The past two days have been a pure, unfiltered concentration of emotions that have left me beaten and bruised. I seem to have emerged from the other side of it, though, and now I'm just giddy knowing that there is a Powerful Baby Girl in there.

"I don't know what to say," a friend said to me. "Like, do I still say congratulations?"
"Yes," I said.

Admittedly, until we met with that specialist I was having -- in regular intervals -- the most soul shattering, face ruining sob fests known to man. Wet pillows and mucous. Reaching out to grab on to the back of Chuck's shirt so I don't drown. But if the experts in such matters aren't sweating it, I'm not going to either. I don't know if you know doctors, but they really aren't the sort of people who blow sunshine up your ass. ("Purplish cyst? No big. It matches your eyes.") They tend to just tell you the truth the best they know it.

This post was going to be about how my mom plans to learn how to baptize babies and then she plans to do it to ours and how I was going to have to write out a script called "The Boundaries Episode." (Which is funny because I had told plenty of people that I had a vision of her stealing the baby and returning it in a white dress with a wet forehead. Turns out that vision is true).

This suddenly became super not important to me at all. And, in fact, a lot of stuff dropped several notches on the important scale. The only thing that feels super important right now is those little mini flutters in the lower-middle quadrant of my uterus. That and lying in bed while Chuck determines the probability that this PBG is going to be a ginger.

In other news, Chuck told me I look like the Venus of Willendorf.