Monday, December 19, 2005

A Brief Conversation with a Promotional Marketing Agent:

Agent: Is this Carrie?

Carrie: Yes.

Agent: (fast-talking) Hi, this is Agent, calling from Promotion Marketing Model and Talent Agency. We received your headshot and would like to know if you are available for some promotional work.

Carrie: Yes, I have a day job, but I am available depending on the specifics.

Agent: Great, can you be available tomorrow night from 7pm-10pm to sign ladies up for the Trashy Men's Magazine Home-Town-Hottie contest?

Carrie: Um, I dont---

Agent: You just need to show up and dress sexy. You have sort of a Pam Anderson look, don't you?

Carrie: (Amused) Um, no. Not at all, actually.

Agent: Well, your headshot looks like Pam Anderson.

Carrie: Really? You think so? That's the first time I've ever heard that.

Agent: (angrily) ARE YOU NOT A SEXY GIRL!??

Carrie: (akwardly) Um...uh...I like to think I am.

Agent: (impatiently) Well, can you do it or not?

Carrie: Actually, I'm not available tomorrow night. I have another commitment.

Agent: Fine, we'll put you in the folder for Bridal Shows and call you if we need you.

Carrie: Thanks for calli---

Agent: click

Friday, December 16, 2005

Eight Great Gift Ideas Handpicked By Me From the Sky Mall Catalog

A Good mother thinks of everything and leaves no stone unturned when it comes to the health and wellbeing of her family. But it seems that the perfect gift for a good mother is hard to come by these days. That's why I've found the perfect gift for the mother who really cares about her family:

The Disaster Preparedness Kit

Will you and your family survive a disaster or terrorist attack? How will you contact your family when communication services collapse? Do you know how to "shelter-in-place" during a disaster or chemical attack? Can you survive without the aid of police, fire or medical services? Prepare Your Family To Survive Disasters--Natural or Man-Made--with this 2 Disc CD/DVD Disaster Supply Kit. Includes over 1,000 pages of printable guides, checklists and info packets. Disaster and FEMA instructor John Kane provides in-depth information previously available only to emergency responders. DVD running time is 35 minutes. Windows and Macintosh-compatible. $24.99

But no Disaster Preparedness Kit would be complete without this as a stocking stuffer:

EVAC-U8 Smoke Hood

This emergency escape hood gives you 15 life-saving minutes to exit the fire area, eyes protected from smoke and soot, and lungs blessedly free from toxic carbon monoxide, and other deadly by-products of fire. That's why smoke hoods have been recommended by such travel safety experts as Ralph Nader. $75.00

Men love ball caps. Am I right? I think I am. But, com'on, Guys! How warm can that old ball cap be when there's a windchill of -15*F outside? Your forehead must be freezing!!! Well, listen up, Wives of America. I have found a terrific gift for you to give you husbands and sons!

Ball Cap Warmer

Split in the middle, this ear warmer fits around your hat's bill, keeping head, ears and forehead warm. Four-way polyester stretch fabric has a soft, microfleece lining and a jersey knit outer to repel wind and snow. One size fits most. USA/Imported. $19.99

Just because your mother didn’t make you soak your hands in bleach when you came home from school, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make your kids do the same. Times have changed! All good moms protect their homes from invading microbes, right? So why should you expect your mom’s way of storing her toothbrush to really work? After all, most toothbrushes are oozing with millions of invisible terrorists, just waiting to kill your kids. Don’t let them win. Give your family this gift:

The Million-Germ Eliminating Travel Toothbrush Sanitizer

This compact device from VIOlight uses proven germicidal UV technology (the same kind trusted to sanitize hospital instruments) to eliminate up to 99% of the millions of germs that can accumulate on your toothbrush, including streptococcus and listeria. The battery-powered device sanitizes a single toothbrush in less than 10 minutes, and packs easily in a suitcase or toiletry bag. With automatic shut-off. UV bulb is rated for 2,000 hours of use. Runs on two AA batteries. 2" W x 8 1/2" L x 1" D. (4 oz.) $29.95

I don’t know about you, but the thought of having to breathe the same air as that gross smelly man laying on the sidewalk makes me think I’d rather turn blue. It seems that everywhere I go, there’s tons of unsavory characters with I wouldn’t be caught dead talking to, much less breathing in their gross sub-par air. Well, here’s the perfect gift for the distinguished human, who deserves a higher quality of life:

Ultra-Mini Personal Air Supply

The world's first wearable air purifier, Air Supply substantially reduces pollutants, dust, smoke, pollens, germs, perfumes, odors and allergen particles floating in the air, so clean, fresh air is released to your mouth, nose and eyes. This unique, laboratory tested ionic wind technology projects trillions of air cleansing ions from its grill that electronically charge pollutants, resulting in cleaner, fresher air while traveling. Incredibly tiny and lightweight, Ultra-Miniature Air Supply the most powerful output of any wearable air purifier. Takes one CR123A lithium battery, (included). (Before flying, please check with your airline regarding inflight usage.) Available in Black or Clear. PLEASE SPECIFY COLOR. Measures 2 1/2" x 1 1/2" x 3/4"; 1 1/2" oz. Made in the USA. Includes handy travel pouch! $129.99

Speaking of things that men love, I'd give anything if my husbo loved me as much as he loves golf. How 'bout it, ladies!? I don't mind the fact that he's never home - that's a blessing! But I'm sick and tired of hearing him gripe about how un-ergonomic his golf shirts feel. Grrr! My blood pressure is rising just thinking about all that money I wasted on buying him un-ergonomic Christmas gifts . Good thing they make these:

Ergonomic Golf Shirt

Features magnetic faux button closure, drawstring hem, narrow-cut shoulders, and ventilated underarm gussets for maximum golfing movement, comfort and flexibility! 100% cotton knit in White or Navy, sizes Medium (46" chest), Large (48" chest), Extra Large (51" chest). Please indicate color and size when ordering. $69.95

What do you give the girl who doesn’t think she’s worth the trouble? If you give her a sweater, she’s just hate the way she looks in it. If you give her a gift-certificate, she’ll just use it to buy a lame CD that she’ll listen to while crying over a bowl of icecream. If you buy her a car, she’ll probably just crash it into a tree while drunk driving home from a one-night-stand. Well, look no father! You can cure her self-hatred with this great gift:


“Believe if Yourself” That's the inscription on the charm of this stylish anklet. It's the perfect way to boost the confidence of any self-doubting gal. Made of sterling silver, it's fully adjustable and features a heart-shaped lobster-claw closure. 10" long. Handcrafted in the USA. $42.00

To be a successful executive these days, you have to know everything. But how do you find the time to learn when you’re busy merging companies, trading stocks, laying off employees over 40 and denying women of their maternity leave? What’s that other important executive going to think when you can’t talk about the “Moby Dick” at the business luncheon. Imagine the great look on your prospective clients’ faces when you quote a line from “As I Lay Dying” in your attempts to woo them into using your companies services. As fast as you can say “It’s a Deal” or “We’re taking your 401K away” you can be caught up on thousands of classic books with this great gift:

Book Summaries

It's every executive's dilemma: Too much to read! But successful business people don't let the books pile up, now that there's a smart way to stay on top of what you need to know: Soundview Executive Book Summaries
While you attend to running your business, our skilled editors monitor the thousands of new business books published each year. Then we select the 2% that can make a measurable difference to the work you do. Next, we prepare a fast-reading, 8-page print summary and 20-minute specially-scripted audio summary that present the key ideas and important insights of the books you want to read. You get the substance of each book, expertly extracted in a way that preserves the author's spirit and intent. That way, you will find practical techniques you can use immediately, and a wealth of ideas that will put you far out in front. 20 minutes is all it takes.
Your subscription includes summaries of the top 30 books of the year, sent in monthly installments. And you also receive free access to the Soundview website, where your summaries are available in your own Online Library, along with additional information on key books and authors. $159.00

Thursday, December 15, 2005


She walked up to the Passport Office window, wearing sturdy denim carpenter pants and muddy work boots, tired after 2 days of not sleeping.

"I'm tired but I got a great surprise. I'm going to Jamaica," she told the attendant behind the counter who was busy processing her request.

"I like those paper clips." She pointed to the oversized paperclip she was using to attach one stack of important papers to a computer print-off she had just retrieved from the computer.

"Yeah? Here have one," the attendant.

"Thanks!” It made her day. “Can I have a few more? I really like them a lot."

"Merry Christmas!" the attendant sang as she handed her a box.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Thank you, DIY Network!

The DIY network will surely go down in history as Man's Best Invention of All Time. Should it ever crumble, so will civilization as we know it. There is not a more noble cause that I can think of, except maybe vagina weights. To further illustrate this point, I've selected five of my favorite features, taken word-for-word from the DIY Network's handy-dandy website. I hope you find this information as important, positive and as useful as I do! Enjoy!

(In no particular order.)

1. "Vintage" Marriage License Pocket Page (From "Scrapbooking" episode SCB-501)

Most marriage licenses are large or legal-size documents that won’t fit on a scrapbook page--and forget looking pretty! Give your own marriage license a vintage look and develop a pocket page perfect for a wedding album. Store a true-to-size version of the license, your invitation, a note from your bridesmaid(s), and the handkerchief your father gave you so wouldn’t run your makeup before you walked down the isle--or any other special memento you want to remember.

2. Germ Exposure (From "Talking Dirty With the Queen of Clean" episode DQOC-147)

It doesn't matter where you go or what you do: germs are an everyday part of our lives. If your house is spotless, you still have germs. Just by venturing outside, you come in contact with all kinds of these minuscule creatures; it doesn't matter where you go: the gym, the mall, the grocery store, even the door knob you use -- all are loaded with germs. Depending on the organism, germs and viruses can live on objects anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours. Viruses need a living cell to stay alive, so they die more quickly than bacteria or fungi. So, with the help of microbiologist Janice Jones, we're looking at all the places germs lurk and learning how we can limit our exposure to these tiny terrors.

Shopping carts To prevent coming in contact with germs left behind from children's diapers, hands and shoes, wipe off the seat portion of the cart with alcohol-based wipes. To protect them from shopping-cart germs, put babies and young children in "floppy" cloth seat covers designed to fit over the seat and handle portion of the cart.
Remote controls, cell phones Wipe them down with alcohol wipes on a regular basis. If they're used by multiple users, and during the cold and flu season, consider doing this daily.
Money Always wash your hands after handling money.
Airline blankets and pillows Try never to use airline comfort items. If the previous user had any type of skin infection, the organisms could be transferred to your skin.
Razors Never lay them down on a bathroom counter without capping them when traveling. Germs from the counter can transfer to cuts and nicks on your skin.
Hotel bedding When traveling, keep in mind that three million people a night stay in U. S. hotels, and you can't guarantee that all the bedding is washed after each guest leaves. If possible, remove bedspreads and comforters or request additional sheets to place over the top layers of bedding. You can also purchase portable black lights that illuminate the protein stains in body fluids. Turn out the room lights and turn on the black light to check for stains on bedding and carpets.
Hotel floors Never go barefoot.

3. Recycling Jeans Into Dolls (From "DIY Crafts" episode DIC-145)

Professional artist Judy Mulford has come up with a great way to recycle old jeans that you've outgrown or that have gone out of style: turn them into life-size dolls that can serve as decorations around your house.

These soft "people" are great fun to make and place around your house. You can make one in less than a day.
If you're a woman and drive long distances alone, leave the legs off a male doll, and place him in your passenger seat.
To make the dolls look more real, purchase a lifelike head mask

4. Breezy Bottles (From "DIY Crafts" episode DIC-145)

Crafter Margaret C hapman shows a wild and whimsical way to make a "wind spinner" out of recycled plastic soda bottles. The directions come from the McCall's Creates series of booklets produced by the McCall Pattern Company. They're available in craft and fabric stores.

5. Glitter 101 (From "Carol Duvall Show" episode CDS-817)

Use Designer adhesives on any surface suitable for stamping or embossing. Dries Clear adhesive dries clear and is used under either transparent or opaque glitter. Designer Dries white adhesive dries white and is used under transparent glitter only.
Think of transparent glitter colors as the watercolors of glitter. Use Dries Clear adhesive to make sheer colors or Designer Dries white adhesive to make opaque colors.
Think of opaque glitter as house paint. The color of the background will not show through these glitter colors. Use with Dries Clear adhesive only.
The opaque glitter with Dries Clear adhesive may be used on any type of paper.
Use white or pale pastel-colored cardstock when using Dries Clear adhesive.
Use Designer Dries clear to make the glitter sheer or when you want the background to show through. For example, the clear glue will reveal rubber stamping, color of the paper, or marker colors.
Use Designer Dries white adhesive to make snow, Santa's beard, fur, marshmallows, popcorn, white writing, etc. The white will block out rubber-stamped lines and all background color. Use it to make transparent glitter act like an opaque or to block out the color of darker papers.
Work on folded cardstock.
Glitter will slide straight down into the glitter tray. To keep colors crisp and to avoid color pollution let each color return to the glitter tray by following the same path made when it was applied.
When glittering, let the glitter fall off the tip of the spoon, like a waterfall, in narrow strips. Twisting the tip of the spoon controls the width of the glitter strip.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

5 hilariously disgusting combinations of food and water activity:

(In no particular order)

1. Slurping down a plateful of hot spaghetti and meatballs while soaking in a steaming bathtub
2. Drinking a Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup to Go while swimming in the Atlantic ocean
3. Munching on Bar-b-que potato chips in the shower
4. Savoring a foot long Italian Hoagie with extra mayo while waiting for the bus in a NYC summer rain shower
5. Chowing down on an order of extra spicy Sag Paneer in a flooded basement

Monday, December 12, 2005

Brace Face Barrett

Growing up, I longed for the day that I would have braces. On my teeth, not on my legs. Although, come to think about it, I wouldn't have minded having leg braces either. I was pretty obsessed with crutches and dreamt of the day I would have a legitimate reason to use them. My friend and neighbor, Lisa, was always twisting her ankle, the lucky duck, and had a stock of ACE bandages and various crutches around her house. I'd go over to her house and spend hours swinging around on them.

But really what I longed for were orthodontic braces. Silvery, shining pieces of twisted metal pieces. Very adult braces. I just thought they seemed like they would feel so cool in your mouth. I liked the way that brace-faced teenagers on the Disney Programs would say their "S'es". And I relished the attention I'd get from talking about them with strangers.

"Would you like a stick of gum, young miss?" said the beautiful stranger lady in the office supply isle of the Roses Department Store.

"Oh, no, ma'am. You see, I have braces and cannot chew gum," I answered while perusing the assortment of various ball point pens.

"Did it hurt when you got them on?" the beautiful stranger lady further inquired.

"Why, yes, ma'am, they did, thank you for asking."

"Bless your heart. I'm going to buy you that pen you have in your hand, plus that pile of carbon paper I saw you eying. I know you must have many important forms to fill out in duplicate. You seem like you have very pretty handwriting," said the beautiful stranger lady with a mix of both sympathy and jealousy in her response.

And she was right, I did have many important forms to fill out and very pretty handwriting.

Up until I was 3 years old, I would suck on my first three right fingers. Of course, most young children suck on their thumb, but I wasn't like most young children. I had to do everything differently. So everywhere I went, in stores, in the car and in Christmas photos with Santa, I would have my first three fingers in my mouth.

One day, while we were visiting my aunt and uncle in North Carolina, my mom, warned me that if I kept sucking on my fingers, I'd need braces. I asked her what braces were. She told me they were pieces of metal put in my mouth to straighten my teeth. She said that they hurt. Not knowing that I would one day want braces, I stopped sucking my fingers from that moment on.

Really, it didn't matter how much I sucked on my fingers. I had inherited my father’s crowded mouth and at 10 years old, on the young side of your average braces-wearer, I was told that my dream would finally come true, that I would need to wear braces.

Finally! No more straightening out paper clips, bending them to the shape of my teeth and wearing them! No more flattening out chewing gum and keeping it on the roof like a retainer! No more holding silver earrings up to my teeth so I could see what I'd look like with those precious brackets. I'd finally know first hand, how cool braces were!

For the next 4 years, I had almost every orthodontic procedure done to my mouth: teeth pullings, spacers, lip bumpers, a strange and painful roof thing that twisted my back molars, a plethora of brackets, bands, wires and rubber bands twisted and woven in front of every single tooth. Most of it put me on a pain-induced no-chew/Advil diet for several days after each appointment. For what seemed like an eternity, I couldn’t eat most all of the candy that I once loved. My mouth was a battleground of lip cuts and canker sores.

But, let me tell you, besides the disappointment of finding out that I would never get to wear a headgear and the gag-inducing plaster impressions that they made of my teeth before and after the whole ordeal, those were the best 4 years of my life.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Ooooo, child...

The summer after my senior year of high school was a strange time. Somewhat because of all of the mixed emotions that come with graduating high school and the pending move away to college, but mostly because I worked as a telemarketer in the back room of a Popular Portrait Studio. I sold Portrait Packages.

Every weekday at 8am, I’d drive myself to the stripmall in which the studio was located. I’d unlock the front door and, to get to the backroom that served as a makeshift Call Center, I would walk through the creepy, darkened studio rooms messily filled with assorted portrait props. There were huge colorful blocks on which your toddler could lean, enormous Easter baskets in which your toddler could sit, and giant furry teddy bears on which your toddle could drool.

The backroom was more office like, with stained industrial carpeting, cubby desks and scuffed walls. Crookedly hung on one wall was a grid noting how many packages each employee sold. I didn’t know most of the names, because I only worked the morning shift, but since my friend, Jim, who got me the job, was in the afternoon shift, I’m pretty sure most of staff all smoked pot behind the dumpsters behind the store. I suppose marijuana had the effect of dulling the humiliation a telemarketer endured, thereby making it easier to be a salesman, because the afternoon staff’s numbers were much higher than my own.

Since this job, I've worked several call-center type jobs and have found that nothing about this job was in line with how most telemarketing jobs work.

First of all, this “Call Center” was very low-tech. Basically, we sat at a row of four cubbies with regular analog desk phones. I was really let-down to discover that I wouldn’t be able to live out my childhood dreams of speaking into a headset like that pretty lady on the Time Life Video commercials. To record our calls, we used a good old fashioned #2 pencil. We’d right, Decline, Accept, Return or Do Not Call on the short line to the right of the 1980’s computer print-offs of the call list. Also, no one was monitoring my calls, so if I wanted to (which I did), I skip the calling part and would write “Call Back” and leave the work to the afternoon shift. Now that I think of it, maybe this was why the afternoon shift had more sales.

Also, most call centers did not deal with having to solicit from your friends and family. I lived in a small town and the only people we called were in this small town. At least once a day, I would be forced to call someone I knew. If I was feeling particularly responsible, I would make up a name and speak in a british accent. But usually I’d just write, “Do Not Call” on the line next to their name.

And most phone jobs are in large call centers with at least 10 people making calls in one room. My only co-workers at this job consisted of my good friend, Margaret, the girl who could make me laugh harder than anyone I'd ever met and Ms. Edith, the 60-year-old who served as my boss.

Ms. Edith had the voice, laugh and mannerisms of Jackee, the actress who played "Saaaun-dra" on 227. But instead of making witty quips about food, men and her thighs, she'd say things like, “Oooo, child, the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near," and then place a crumpled Jehovah's Witness pamphlet on my desk.

Every day at 10am on the dot, Ms. Josephine would announce, “Ooooo, child, I’m gonna go get a doughnut.” and then waddle out the front door to the Krispy Kreme stand at the Food Lion grocery store next store. For the next two hours, until I left at noon, I’d listen to her slurp on her coffee and smack her lips on her chocolate cake doughnut saying things like, “Oooo, child, you’ve had a bad day? It’s probably because The End is close at hand.” to customers who were trying to politely decline her telephoned offer of a $39.99 portrait package.

Margaret was the only reason I kept this job. She and I would call each other’s personal answering machines and leave funny messages. Or we’d secretly draw Before and After pictures of people who had gone through the Barbizon School of Modeling on the scrap paper we were given to scratch out the math if we sold a package. We also kept a record of names and numbers of funny customers who told us things like, “There’s a naked man in my bushes” so the other person could call them back later for a laugh.

Oddly enough, people weren’t as rude as you’d think they would be. Considering I was making most of my calls between the hours of 8am and 11am, I would say they were downright gracious. The most common response to our Portrait Package Schtick wasn’t “Go Fuck yourself!” It was a simple “No, thank you” or the reply, “I’m not pretty enough to have my portrait taken.” I’m not sure if I would chalk that up to deprecating Southern Charm or low self-esteem.

I really expected that I’d spend most of the day being interrupted by a dial tone. But I was surprised that people actually buy things from telemarketers! Surely, in this day and age, people do not give their credit card information to strangers who solicit them at 8 am. But I was wrong.

I suppose the looming Apocalypse makes people do strange things.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I am Denise Richards...maybe.

I have always been phobic of vomit, vomiting and anything that vaguely resembles vomit and vomiting. The last time I vomited, in 4th grade, I cried and cried and cried. I mean, no one likes it (except that couple I once saw on an X-rated Talk Soup clip), but to say that I simply don’t like it would be the understatement of the decade. I have panic attacks when a) someone around me feels like they're going to throw up b) the stomach flu goes around or c) when I feel nauseous. I particularly would particularly be displeased to find myself in an a/b/c combo.

Most people don’t really understand it. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been told, “God, sometimes I make myself throw up so I feel better.” So I give them my time-rehearsed analogy:

“Throwing up, to me, is like getting a shot would be to someone who is phobic of needs. Needle-phobes know that needle won’t kill them. They know it’s mostly for their own good, but that doesn’t stop them from freaking out every time they see a needle or syringe.”

Fortunately, my fear of vomiting has somewhat calmed down in my twenties. I used to be truly crazy about it. I’d think about it all the time to the point that I changed certain behaviors, in what I thought was an attempt to avoid it. I used to have an insane fear of food poisoning and was very weird about what I’d eat and where I’d eat it from. And I was a germaphobe with regards to stomach flu.I am proud to say that I've downgraded my situation from true phobia (an irrational and debilitating, behavior-changing fear) to what I would call just “a really bad, albeit irrational, fear.

These days, I’ll drink the milk a few days after the Sell By date, I’ll eat sushi (but only at nice restaraunts) and I’ll not avoid particular movies because I know that someone in the plot throws up. Generally, I'm a little more in control of my anxiety in that I won’t run into the path of an oncoming bus to avoid being around someone who’s drunk and could possibly vomit.

I used to think no one would be able to relate to my phobia and I was all alone in my strange ways, so I kept it to myself. My friends and parents knew I was weird about it, and they’d tease me about it, but they didn't know to what extent it ran my life. Then a couple of Media Events happened that raised my awareness and lessened my vomit phobia shame. The first was a show on Oprah regarding phobias. The sad thing is, I cannot remember whether or not I actually saw this show, or whether or not I heard about it from my friend, but I have a distinct recollection that they listed American’s Top Ten Fears and vomit was #6. Naturally, I comforted by the fact that I was a freak with a lot of Freak Company but also not a totally Trendy Freak.

Shortly after that, I saw a talk show interview with Denise Richards wherein she was talking about her upcoming movie, Starship Troopers. In this movie, she did a scene in which she had to barf. She was talking about how that was one of the hardest things she had to do as an actor because she's actually very phobic of vomiting.

This is somewhat ironic because I have been told, on several occasions, that I look like Denise Richards. Just last night a sassy man with Flamin’ Hot Frito-Lay Munchies in his teeth told me I looked like Denise Richards. Or at least he told his friend that and then looked me in the eye. My friend who was with me told me that I was a lot taller than Denise: She is only 5’4”. I didn’t mention to him that she made me think of blowing chunks. Plus, I'm not that enthralled with her looks, but at least I don't get told I look like road kill.

But I suppose it took Denise Richards to realize it that being a freak wasn’t all that bad, so when it would come up (no pun intended), I’d tell people about my phobia.Believe it or not, I met tons of people who had the same phobia. A lot of them shared common behaviors with me (which will further illustrate how much thought I’d given to it): they never drank a lot in fear of getting the Twirling Whirlies and having to barf, they didn't like going to rowdy parties where other people might get the Twirling Whirlies and throw up on their heads, they were terrified of getting preggers anddealing with morning sickness or a sick child, they don’t like strep tests because they make you gag, they didn’t like to hear people coughing loudly because it reminded them of gagging, and they wouldn't eat street meats (which I think is just good old fashioned common sense).

I always wondered where my phobia came from. I've had it for as long as I can remember. I pretty much chalked it up to loss of control when, one day last year, i mentioned it to my grandmother. I turns out that she is the same as me. She said she despised throwing up and would leave the kids to my grandfather whenever they were sick. I thought that was really uncanny that we would have the same fear butnot know that about each other.

Then when I was visiting my family at home this past week, I was talkingwith my aunt, whom I hadn't seen in years. It turns out she is just as phobic as I am. Thankfully, my cousin has only thrown up once in her 10-year life and my aunt wasn't around when that happened, so she feels lucky to not have to deal with it. That’s my version of the perfect child. We were both talking about how crazy it was that she, my grandmother and myself were all phobic of the same thing without knowing that about the other.

So I have come to the conclusion that I am phobic for one of two reasons: 1) because of genes or 2) because I am actually Denise Richards.

The jury is still out on which it is.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Effective immediately, all persons within speaking distance, or 50 square feet, of Carrie Barrett hereby rescind the right to say “Taco Smell.” Warning given to all persons, following the satisfactory determination that said persons do not hold stock in being called “tool,” “fuck face,”“douche bag” or other analogous names which heretofore will be engaged in the reference of said persons who renounce this judgment.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Curse of the Original Southpark WalMart

It was a really big deal when the Southpark Mall opened in my hometown. The land on which the mall was being built was privately owned and barren, save for a lawnmower store (guised as a shack), a few swampy plants and maybe a farm animal or two. I have vague memories of my father telling me that the landowner also had a snake farm on this property, but that seems too exotic for Small Town, Virginia. Then again, a snake farm is just the type of feature my small town would boast.

It was highly rumored (amongst the kids at my elementary school) to be the biggest mall in Virginia and possibly even the country. I should say that this is a one story mall with only 4 "major" stores: Dillard's, Hechts, Sears and JC Penney’s. We even didn't get a Gap, a mall staple, until 2001 years ago, and it went out of business and in its place a store called Man Alive opened. (ManAlive sells spiky high heeled sneakers and oversized "Lets Get Crunk" t-shirts and is just down the way from the kiosk that sells confederate flag and NASCAR paraphernalia.)

The mall opening was a huge event. There was a search light, balloons, free Chick-Fil-A samples and human mannequins. Human Mannequins! They posed, perfectly still, wearing parachute pants, ruffled skirts and 1988’s finest double breasted suits, for hours on end. The next day in class, no one was talking about the actual mall or the many stores contained within. We were all arguing about whether or not the human mannequins ever blinked. I don’t think they did.

Shortly after the mall opened, they built the World's Busiest Wal-Mart adjacent to the mall (At least it was rumored to be The World's Busiest Wal-Mart amongst the kids at my middle school). This meant we didn’t have to travel to the Bradlees in a next town over to get our B-B guns and Fisherprice record players.

Unfortunately, this Wal-Mart was cursed.

In either 1989 or 1990, a man walked into the Wal-Mart and shot and killed his ex-wife, a Wal-Mart Employee, in the Garden Section. This was a really big deal because a) a man walked into the Wal-Mart and shot his ex-wife to death in the Garden Section and b) this was only the second or third murder that my home town had ever experienced. The third or fourth happened on Mall property as well. Everyone (my classmates) was talking about the Wal-Mart Garden Center ghost. I shuddered every time I drove by Wal-Mart or drank a Sam’s Choice Cola.

But time passed and the Wal-Mart became busier than ever.

Shortly after that fatal shooting, in May 1990, a terrible storm brewed over the Wal-Mart, damaging the very Garden Section where that poor ex-wife was murdered. There was a continuing debate at CHHS as to whether or not it was a tornado or just a very bad storm, but it was confirmed to be an F2 tornado. Thankfully only minor injuries were sustained. Wal-Mart employees worked overtime to cover the gaping roof with a tarp and clean up all the stray kiddy pools and terra cotta shards. Within days, the Wal-Mart was back in business.

But that wasn’t the end of it. Bad things come in threes.

On a Saturday afternoon, in August 1993, a huge F4 tornado, (Virginia's worst tornado, according to the 1994 High School yearbook), plowed through that Wal-Mart and put it on the national news for its casualties (three) and injuries (198). I derived a lot of pleasure from the attention I got when my friends found out my brother was in the mall when it happened and helped people out of the rubble. Plus, just moments before the twister touch-down, my father and I had just driven past the mall on I-95 on our way to Raleigh, North Carolina to visit my aunt. And my mother was on the turnpike bridge and was gusted into another lane, just missing the path of a Mack truck. The tornado nearly leveled the Wal-Mart– along with a MJDesigns craft store, a mattress warehouse and the tree where Pocahontas saved John Smith, to name a few.

And although the second and final tornado didn’t actually happen in the Garden Section, it did blow contents of the Garden Section all over the store and into some people’s heads.

Cue Twilight music.

Officials finally accepted that the Wal-Mart was cursed, because they razed the original Wal-Mart and built a new, improved and blood-free Super Wal-Mart about a quarter of a mile away in the new Southpark Commons development area.

The new Wal-Mart is just down the street from the World’s Largest Arby’s.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Show

Tipsy Tilda struts the streets,
falling down for those she meets.
First to her knees and then she flays
with hat and scarves of macramé.

Her saucy sidekick Selma Sup
yells, “Save the Whales!” and holds out cup
with fingerless glove and outstretched arm,
a toothless grin and charlatan charm.

A façade for all their fans to see
offered with fawning facsimile.
Drop a dime in Cadger’s Cup
so Tilda and Selma can bow and drink up.

Friday, December 02, 2005

ATTN: Encl

To Whom It May Concern:

To the best of my recollection and in the event that I apologize for any inconvenience that this error might have caused, I would like to take this opportunity to notify you that as of today we would like to help you with all of your customer service needs. Looking forward, I would be happy to connect you with your eligibility, made available to you via phone, fax or as a final reminder. Your contribution is very valuable to us; however, we regret to inform you that your timely assistance with this matter is greatly appreciated. Should you require additional assistance with this matter, please note that all information was current at the time of publishing, subject to availability and difficult to ascertain.

Based on my experience, it is unclear as to whether this may or may not be combined with any other offer of equal or lesser value; for this reason I have a lovely and talented panel of distinguished persons to please write legibly. With respect to the fiscal year end, I'm honored to welcome you and to appreciate the effort you have put forth to indicate that I would first like to take the time thank those of you who have made this possible. According to my sources, I’m pleased to announce that this concludes the manner in which it is essential that I am unable to determine that your call may be recorded for quality insurance purposes.

This message has been designed to indicate the various changes to your sirs and madams that would normally be considered to comply with local, state and federal preferred users. At this time, I'm sorry you are having trouble, please press 1 to look forward to answering any questions that you may have for me, unless otherwise indicated.

Best Regards,

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Now that's Felicity.

Thank you, Felicity, for being a shopkeeper’s daughter, a tomboy, an American Girl.

Thank you for teaching me that it’s okay to not want to take tea. What if I don't want tea? What if I'm not in the mood for a biscuit or cake? It was hard when we both learned that a lady must never refuse the hospitality of another lady. Its hard being 10, isn't it. I want to learn more than how to pour and drink tea. I appreciate that you helped me learn more.

Thank you for not wanting to wear a petticoat. I especially appreciate this because I often find that a petticoat is so bothersome. You can't run and play in a petticoat. It gets twisted up in your legs and you fall down and get caught from trespassing on Jiggy Nye's land. You were just trying to give that dear horse, Penny, an apple, weren't you? You were just trying to gain her trust. Dear Grandfather caught you, but you were brave. Even though he thinks your father is committing treason against the king by not selling tea, he's a pretty cool guy and you helped me see this.

Your mother told you it was not proper for a lady to ride astride a horse. But that didn't stop you from taming that wild horse. You looked into her eyes and saw passion. There was passion under the wildness in her eyes, wasn't there, Felicity? Most wild eyes are not passionate. But Penny's eyes were different, weren't they? You saw it, and no one else saw that. Except Jiggy Nye, the meanest, most cruel horse tamer in Pre-Revolutionary Virginia.

Thank your for teaching the world that America can minuet. America may be undeveloped. America may not have as many paved roads as London. But it’s not provincial at heart. And in America, a shopkeeper's daughter may be queen for any day. And she can minuet like the best of them.

But most importantly thank you for teaching me that it’s okay to be a girl. It’s really hard being a girl—everyone knows it. Girls don’t' get to play or keep shop. All girls get to do is wear petticoats and drink tea and that's boring.

Although it is pretty cool to be the Belle of the Ball, it’s definitely more fun to sneak out at night and ride astride a horse.

Felicity, I owe you big time.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Daily Grace

The dining room of the Subway sandwich shop is crowded. The regular lunch hour din is constantly pierced by the synthetic bell of the opening and closing door. Ring! Squeak, footsteps. A warm fall draft follows behind every patron.

He sits, crammed amidst a mess of tables and chairs with his head bowed in prayer gracefully like a swan. He is perfectly still. His sandwich is unopened in front of him. He sits like this for several minutes. Vulnerable, unaware of the disorder around him, spilling his guts in the lunchroom.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A Warning for You

You are slowly going crazy as you read this.

You can almost smell the neurotic in here. And its drifting toward you.

Breathe it in, go crazy. Hold your breath, you die.

Just like your mom. Just like your aunt. Just like that lady next door whose doorway always smells like frank and beans. When encountered on the elevator she never fails to mention she was laid off from her administrative job. She worked there for 23 years, you know.

Yeah, those are slippers she's wearing. She was wearing slippers while she shopped for groceries. Its 20 degrees outside.

You don't own a pair of slippers, but you one day will. And you don't really need to own a pair to wear them. Get my drift?

You're practically wearing slippers now, you crazy bitch.

Monday, November 28, 2005


He has no time for people. People get on his nerves. He'd rather sort the mail in peace. He doesn't like the silly girls who always come into the mail room to rifle through the undeliverable mail bins for free celebrity gossip magazines. He doesn't like their shrill voices. Voices like theirs grate on his nerves. He wishes they'd stay out of his way and keep the bins stacked up and out of the aisles. Someone could get hurt if the bins are left in the aisles.

He works all day, bent over his work space, sorting mail, making boxes with the paper tape machine, lifting bins. He doesn't mind the work when he's left alone. He likes starting the day with a big mess all over the place and ending it with several perfect stacks of mail. For the most part, he's never left alone. People are always asking him questions. It gives him a headache to hear a question being asked. He takes a lot of aspirin. It irritates his stomach. He doesn't know which is worse, a stomach ache or a headache.

He wishes he were one of the crystal figurines in the jewelry store in the concourse of his building. He walks by the figurines every day at 6 o'clock and always stops to look at them. He always spends a few minutes looking at a different one. He especially likes the squirrel and the penguin. He also really likes the dolphin. Its very hard for him to choose a favorite. It wouldn't be fair, really. They are all very pretty. He likes that they are there to be admired. He likes the colored lights that reflect off their tiny bodies. The figurines are so precise and perfect. They never have any fingerprints on them. He likes that they never have any fingerprints on them. He likes that people leave them alone.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

I am smart.

We are on a very crowded bus. I am sitting, because I got on first and was lucky enough to get one of the last remaining seats. She is standing over me, holding onto the bar, because she got on the last stop and was not as lucky as I. Poor thing.

I am doing a crossword puzzle. She is standing over me watching me do the crossword puzzle. I can tell she's watching me, but she doesn't know that I know this. But I have keen senses.

I have an advantage in that I actually started the crossword puzzle last night. But she does not know this. All she sees is that I am sharp. And swift. To her, I am a very smart person who can do a crossword puzzle in one bus ride.

56 Down: The emperor before Trajen.

I had an ex-boyfriend who loved the Classics and said he wanted to name his kid Trajen, but call him Tray. He was intellectually smart, but emotionally dumb as bricks. Very immature. I like to judge him as such. Lucky for me, I am both intellectually and emotionally smart and I am very mature. I can deduce, without really knowing, that the answer is Negra. Well, its either Negra or Netra. But I've never heard of Netra, so I'll go with Negra. I put my finger over this answer in case I am wrong. I don't think she notices. I'm pretty sure she's still pretty impressed with me because I've nearly completed this crossword puzzle in one bus ride. One short bus ride, at that.

She looks very smart. She looks much smarter than I look and she knows it. She's probably a lawyer. Or a professor. She's wearing jeans because its really her day off, but she's going into the office to do important things because she's very smart and they need her in order to stay afloat. But all of that doesn't matter because I'm prettier than she is and I'm also very smart.

40 Across: Speaker's Stand.

Lectern. Or is it Lecturn? I think its Lectern. I'm not a very good speller. Honestly, being a good speller doesn't make you smart. It just makes you good at memorization. Kids are very good at memorizing, and I'm a lot smarter than a kid.

It’s a Thursday puzzle. Hard, but not as hard as a Saturday or a Sunday puzzle. Lucky for me, it’s going really smoothly. Thursday puzzles are almost too easy for me, really. She can see this, because she's watching me, very impressed that I've done so well.

She is thinking to herself: "She doesn't look very smart. She's too fashionable and pretty to be as smart as she is. I guess I was wrong. I guess one can be pretty and smart. I wish I was also pretty. But I am just smart."

I almost feel guilty that I'm making her feel so badly.

1 Down: Composer Franz

Oooo. Toughie. I'm really bad with this sort of clue. I don't know music and I can never remember names. The top left corner is giving me trouble. Isn't that supposed to be the easiest section? Someone once told me that the bottom right corner is the easiest, but that was the area that included the Negra clue. Hardly anyone knows that Roman stuff. I mean, I did, but I'm hardly Anyone.

She can see that I'm faltering. Shit, the gig is up. Oh wait! She's getting off. Phew. Image saved.

She left the bus feeling defeated and wishing she were me.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

All those moments...

As soon as I walked in the warm, sticky diner from the snowy outside, my glasses fogged, obscuring my sight. With a few blinks of the eye, I was able to distinguish the blurry shapes of a bar and the man sitting at it. I couldn’t make out a face, although I knew the man had turned around upon my entry and was staring at me. Not knowing if he was someone I knew, I smiled and said hi. His fuzzy outline nodded at me and the man held his stare for long enough that I was able to wipe off my glasses with my scarf and return them to my face to see the face that was smiling back.

In an instant, my smile froze and I purposefully glanced away. I shrunk into my City Self. One thing in the world was quite certain--I was not going to let this man ask me for money.

"Hey." I said to Jessica, the waitress. Looking over at the man as he resumed slurping at his coffee, "I'm just going to get something to go."

As she handed me a menu the man pushed away his plate.

"I can't finish the fries. But it was real good,” he quietly told the waitress.

"Yeah? You ate a lot though. You're probably going to float away," Jessica laughed, whisking his plate away and replacing his coffee with another steaming cup.

I skimmed the diner-fare menu, even though I already knew what I was going to order - a grilled cheese on rye and a side salad with vinaigrette. I had been spending too much money on eating out, so I decided on it because was one of the more inexpensive items on the menu yet it was still fairly sensible.

I put in my order and stepped toward the cash register to take care of my bill. As I was paying, I saw the man look down at the duffle bag that was sitting on the stool beside him. Its seams were bulging with what looked like the contents of his everyday life. He kicked his bag further under the seat

"My wife isn't home to cook me dinner, so I ate here," he said loudly, looking up, but to no one in particular. He scanned the room to see if anyone was listening. I darted my eyes down to the floor and fixed my sight on my snow boots, damp with melting snow.

It was the most touching lie I had ever heard. In that moment, the enormous ice fortress that I had constructed around me over my five years in the city instantly melted, leaving me in a hot puddle of guilt. Why did I earlier withdraw my smile?

I trust my instincts, those tiny warning signals that seem to pop up out of nowhere. I don't even care to reduce those moments to “vibes”. I’ll leave that word to the hippies. I think there's something else there that is more concrete. A true fact, wafting in the air. A tiny trace of fact. A distinct signal, clouded by emotion and experience, telling us something very specific is amiss.

But in this case, my instinct wasn't to protect myself from being fleeced. Strangely enough, my instinct was to fleece myself. Once I cleared the fog from my glasses, I saw that the man in front of me was dressed in a hodgepodge of flannel and denim. He had long hair with a long graying beard and a semi-toothless smile. I didn't see details, but I was sure he had dirt under his nails and holes in his shoes. And the duffle bag beside him was graying and dirty, as if he had been dragging it behind him in the alleyway on the way to abandoned house where he sleeps.

I really didn't want to uncover some clue that might tell me from where he scrounged up his clothes or how he lost his tooth. I didn't want to be able to see the dirt under his nails or the holes in his shoes. And even though I knew at the bottom of my being that this man was homeless, I didn't want to consider how cold he might be or where he might sleep or what variety of mental disease he might have. I didn't want to think of all the single moments of bum luck or bad choices that amounted to, in that exact moment, a belly full of a $4.00 plate of ham sandwich and French fries, some warmth and comfort on that padded stool, and the company of a waitress who had enough heart to treat him like a human being on a bitterly cold Thursday, the final day of the worst snow storm Chicago had seen in years.

As a distorted offertory response, I was compelled to stay and wait for my sandwich, rather than come back for it like I'd earlier planned. I wanted to sit down by the man and buy him coffee and talk with him. I wanted to take back my fake smile from earlier. I wanted to tell the man I was sorry.

But instead, I tipped the waitress $2 and left the diner.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

"He's taken so many ice cold showers he felt like he was a damned penguin."

In one graceful move she places herself in the train seat and produces a small paperback book. Except for a few pages, dog-eared to a perfect 45 degrees, her book looks as though it has never been read. Her bookmark tells otherwise—she can’t be more than 15 pages away from the ending.

"He's taken so many ice cold showers he felt like he was a damned penguin."

This one must be a page turner. She’s clocking in at about 2 pages per minute, each carefully turned with a clean, dry index finger. Has she read this book before? Or, are its contents much less steamy than hoped--needed? Perhaps all that is left is expositional wrap-up. Or, maybe her Romeo is a two pump chump.

She pauses on the last page for a brief moment and shuts the book with finality. With a look of diappointment, she glances at the painting on the cover and the book goes back in her bag as swiftly as it emerged. Replacing it is a worn and tattered promotional coupon book. For the rest of the ride she sits motionless, staring at a recipe for Ore-Ida home fries.