Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sell My Old Clothes, I'm Off to Vegas

This past week I took my first trip to Las Vegas.  I am terrified of flying, which makes me an intolerable travel buddy.  During take-off, I always grasp the armrests until my knuckles are white and keep my eyes closed and a grimace on my face until we reach cruising altitude.  It's not just the crashing and dying that I am afraid of, though that is always at the forefront of my mind.  I hate everything about flying.  I hate the lack of control and feeling trapped, that a small bag of M&Ms costs $3.00, and that my survival requires me to breathe constantly recycled air that is full of germs and sometimes smells like farts.  When I get off of a plane, I have a strong urge to shower so I can rinse the "airplane air" off of me.

The four hour flight from Chicago to Vegas played the movie "We Bought a Zoo."  I put my headphones on nonchalantly thinking "How cute.  A little kid's movie."  I cried twice.

It's exhausting being crazy.

The only real joy I take in flying is that it gives me the opportunity to peruse "Sky Mall Magazine."  Here are some of my favorite items from the most recent issue:

 Skymall calls this "The Neckpro Traction Device."
A noose by any other name...


This adult jack-in-the-box is supposed to be a "personal infrared sauna"
used to "boost your immune system in the comfort of your own home."
I feel plain silly for relying on good sleep and vitamins to help my immune
system when I could have been sitting in a wooden box like an asshole instead.

This is a self-cleaning litter box, which disappointed me
as I was hoping it was a kitty space capsule.

This party animal must have been out too late.
Luckily, he brought this discreet travel pillow with him for the flight.

As for Las Vegas itself, there is really only one word to describe it:  tasty.  I met the banana pudding milkshake of my dreams in a restaurant called BLT Burger.  It had everything I've ever wanted in a milkshake, and all of the things I never even knew I wanted.

 I'm pretty sure that when Etta James sang "At Last,"
she had this milkshake in mind.
On the third night in town we ate at Tom Colicchio's Craftsteak.  This was the best tasting and most expensive meal I have ever had.    Their Wagyu steaks cost over $200.  The menu stated that Wagyu beef is perfect for the "most discriminating of palettes."  My palette is equal opportunity and unrefined, so I stuck with the more modest Angus variety.  Delicious!

Filet, braised short rib, lemon asparagus, and potato gratin. 
Aside from eating, we spent a substantial amount of time playing slot machines.  My favorite machines were Batman, Ghostbusters, and Lord of the Rings.  We also played some roulette.  The first time I played roulette I put money on 8, even, 1-12, and black.  The little ball landed on black 8 and I freaked out.  I only won $50 because my bets were so small, but I was still pumped.  Then I played the Ghostbusters slot machine and won $300.  I was feeling pretty good about myself.

"The world is on my side," I thought.  "I've got this whole gambling thing figured out."

I really know better, but I'll admit it: I got cocky.  And I lost most of my winnings over the next few days trying to achieve that initial high.  Luckily, I didn't lose much over all, and had a really good time.

Here I am venturing into the Shire.
I was fascinated with all of the ways Vegas keeps people gambling.  There are no clocks, no windows, and any doors to the outside are tinted black.  It takes nearly 20 minutes to exit most of the casinos, and the signs that lead you toward the exits wind through more shops and casinos along the way.  Each hotel has a distinct pleasant smell that comes from a small metal box that releases oils into the hotel's ventilation system.  The casinos are cool and noisy, which prevents you from getting too tired.  Every few minutes something reminded me that I was merely a guinea pig in a brilliant, scientific, and extremely profitable social experiment.  And I thoroughly enjoyed it.

While walking outside across the Strip, we were constantly bombarded by people in "Girls, Girls, Girls" t-shirts handing out business cards.  They shove them against you, make noises to get your attention, and try to stand in your way as you cross the street.  Then there are the homeless people with their cardboard signs.  One lady just sat on the ground holding a cat wearing glasses.  The poor cat kept swatting the glasses off of its face and trying to escape, but the woman just chased it down.  My heart aches for that poor cat.  I have a sneaking suspicion that those glasses weren't even prescription.

Even the newspaper machines outside contained porn or prostitution ads.  Sometimes these ads would be cleverly disguised, like this one:

These restaurants CAME highly recommended.
The highlight of my Vegas trip was getting to see my hero, David Sedaris, read his work at the Las Vegas Smith Center.  He read essays that have not been published yet, and his writing skills, sense of humor, and timing are perfect.  After the reading, we stood in line for several hours so I could meet David and get my copy of "Me Talk Pretty One Day" signed.  My nerves got the better of me and I pretty much froze while David was talking to me, but I managed to tell him about my writing endeavors and he was unbelievably nice.

He always knows just what to say.
All-in-all it was a great trip.  This is despite the fact that right before our plane took off from Houston to Charleston the girl beside me phoned a friend and said, "My God, this is seriously the smallest and scariest plane I have ever been on.  Pray for me.  No I'm serious, I need your prayers right now."

Way to keep up morale, bozo.  Your drama really calmed the rest of us down.  I spent the rest of the flight gripping my armrests and watching a passenger dip goldfish crackers in off-brand Cheez Whiz.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

You Down Wit' PLLC (Yeah You Know Me)

My apologies for being MIA.  I have been busy coming up with a master life plan.  I needed to figure out a way to work part-time (and, thus, make some money), while also having enough time and freedom to write.  After minimal brainstorming, I decided to start my own PLLC so that I can do guardian ad litem and public defense work part-time.

This past week I gave birth to The Law Firm of Jenna Walker.  But, as most of you know, kids ain't cheap.  I needed money to pay the filing and insurance fees for my fledgling company.  Luckily, I stumbled upon a great opportunity: a two-week temp job doing document review in Huntington.  The job entails wading through thousands of legal documents in search of privileged or confidential information for ten hours a day, but it is a quick way to get funding for my business.

There are a plethora of articles online that completely bash document review jobs.  For example, "Healthy Tips for Document Review Attorneys" links document reviewing to premature death and cardiovascular disease, stating that "document review jobs have the potential to wreak havoc on your mental and physical health, while derailing your attempts to find "a real job.'"   "The Deal with the Document Review Devil" discusses why this job will obliterate my resume and send me into a deep depression.  The author states that "it’s no secret that document review projects are soul-crushing affairs."

After reading these articles, I half-expected to be chained up in a basement by a boss reminiscent of Buffalo Bill from "Silence of the Lambs."

"It searches the files for confidential documents.  
It does this whenever it is told."  picture source
Thankfully, my experience has been quite pleasant.  My only complaint is that the firm rented us an office space that looks a lot like this:

It has the ambiance of an abandoned warehouse, or possibly a sweatshop.
A potted plant would do wonders.  picture source
The employers have been really nice.  They give us positive feedback, plenty of autonomy, and the occasional free pizza.  I have found plenty of social interaction at my review table.  One of my BDRF (Best Document Review Friends) is Richard from Pittsburgh.  He looks and sounds like Doc from "Back to the Future," and is really funny and interesting (even though he wouldn't stand up in the middle of work and yell "Great Scott!" when I asked him to).  My other BDRF is Matt from Cincinnati.  He is a fellow writer and handles my incessant chatter with grace and patience.  He gave me the nickname "Thorn," which I think is cool because new friendships thrive on nicknames.  Hi Richard!  Hi Matt!  Thanks for making a potentially dull job quite enjoyable!

The rest of my week has consisted of running (I'm using a free couch to 5K app to motivate me), continuing to learn EspaƱol, and hanging out with my family and friends.  Last night I went out with several friends and found leftover birthday gear on a table.  We used this to our advantage.

Someone anonymously sent us a tray of free drinks. I like to think it was because
of this "hat."  Sarah (pictured left) hated that I called my new accessory a hat.

Okay, bye!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Wizarding World of My Dreams

I woke up this morning to a stark realization.  I have not yet been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Is this what the gate to Heaven looks like?  
I started my period the same year I read the newly released "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."  Which was the bigger milestone?  I can't be sure.  Those magical coming of age books changed my life.  And you can roll your eyes and make fun of me all you want.  Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never decrease my affinity for Harry Potter.

So what if I want to drink a butterbeer with Hagrid in the Three Broomsticks?  It's a free country.  What does a cauldron cake actually taste like?  I don't know, but I want to find out.  Fly on a Hippogriff?  Don't mind if I do!  The theme park of my dreams exists, and I haven't even had the common decency to take myself yet.  I'm a dick.

This is about to change.  I will go to Universal Studios this summer.  I will see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  And if you are nice, I might even send you a letter via Owl Post.

Oh, and you have you seen this?  2012 Olympics... with Quidditch?  What dorks!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Thursday, April 5, 2012

All Smiles Aboard (Explicit)

Every day I check all of the local listings to see what jobs are available.  I am being picky, but if there is something that really catches my eye, I apply.  I check the local newspapers, the state and federal job listings, and the WV Bar website.  I was told that education would open doors for me, give me choices.  The doors it opens, however, are not always the ones I want to enter.  Having a law degree usually overqualifies me or underqualifies me for the jobs I am most interested in.  Recently, however, I saw a "now hiring" sign at the mall for a job I think I would be well-suited for.

The "all smiles aboard" logo demonstrates how important the happiness
of the employees and customers is to the employer.
This job would be perfect for me.  You see, I took a class in college called "Tracking across America."  We learned everything there is to know about trains and even took the luxurious Amtrak to visit the B&O Railroad Museum.  All of my knowledge about trains can finally be put to use.  If you are from the Huntington, West Virginia area, you have probably seen this train, full of children and cruising around the mall.
I can't imagine that this job would have a high turnover rate.
For only $3.00 per person, you and your children can ride around the central concourse of the mall in a train that blares an Alvin and the Chipmunks rendition of "Moves like Jagger."  The conductor's job, from what I can gather, is to drive the train around without crashing into anything or anyone.  If someone gets in the train's path, the conductor rings a bell.

If I apply for this job, I'm going to suggest they kill two birds with one stone by repeatedly playing a Chipmunks version of the Ludacris song "Move Bitch."  That way people will already know to "get out the way" without being offended by a loud bell.

I would also ask if we could increase the train's speed.  This would make things more exciting for both the passengers and the shoppers.  Any money lost through personal injury lawsuits would be made up for in increased ticket sales.

Anyway, those are just some ideas.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Day in the Life Turns Into a Toilet Paper Rant

I figured it was time to walk everyone through a typical day in the life of a neurotic stay-at-home writer.

8:48 a.m. -- My alarm goes off.  I only set my alarm in multiples of 2, but never with a time ending in 0.  8:48 is ideal because I love the number 8, and 8 is divisible by 4.  At this point I hit snooze at least once, but usually twice.

9:08 a.m. -- I actually get up.  Whether or not I shower at this point depends on whether I plan on doing yard work or house work after I write.  I let the dog outside, fill up her food and water bowls, and tell her how beautiful she is and how much she is loved.

9:28 a.m. -- By this point I have usually thrown on some clothes and brushed my teeth.  I take my Flintstones Gummy Vitamins, pack up my computer and writing books, and head out the door (I get distracted if I try to write at home, so I generally head to a bookstore, restaurant, or coffee shop to work).

Around 10:00 a.m. -- I arrive at my writing location.  My favorite spot is Panera Bread.  I am obsessed with their Hazelnut coffee and cheese danishes.  (I've had an affinity for cheese danishes ever since I was little and saw Frank Sinatra talk about them in the movie Guys and Dolls).

Cheese danish + coffee = writing fuel.
9:50 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. or so -- This is generally when I get most of my work done.  I write, I blog, I edit my book.  This past week I have also sent several pieces into magazines or journals.  Patience is a virtue when it comes to magazine submissions.  Most of their guidelines say they will respond in around 6 months, if at all.  I also entered several poems and short stories in the West Virginia Writer's Conference Contest.  The winners for the contest will be announced at the Conference in June.  Finally, I've applied to several short-term writing programs that are set for late summer.  I won't hear if I've been accepted for at least a month.

1:00 p.m. - dinnertime -- I clean and do laundry, do yard work, visit my niece, walk the dog, run errands, etc.  Yesterday I stopped by Kroger to buy a giant package of toilet paper.  I've weighed the options in my head.  You can buy smaller packages of toilet paper and be less conspicuous, but that means you have to buy it more often.  The large packages last longer, but they are enormous and awkward to carry out to the car.  I opt for the giant package and just hope that I don't run into too many people I know.

Sometimes I even wonder if people will judge me based on my toilet paper selection.  If I buy the cheap, rough kind, someone might assume I am a Sadomasochist.  Picture source
If I buy Charmin Ultra-Soft, people might label me a snob (is buying 3ply toilet paper the equivalent of only sleeping on 600 thread count Egyptian Cotton sheets?). Picture source
I don't know why buying toilet paper is so embarrassing to me.  Everyone uses it; it would look weird to pretend you don't.  (This was demonstrated recently on the show New Girl:  New Girl toilet paper clip).  There are a million things that are more embarrassing to buy.  And I've bought them.

For my friend Krystal’s 21st birthday, I wrote the following message in her birthday card:  "To prove how much you mean to me, I bought you the things you may need one day but would be too embarrassed to buy."  I filled a birthday bag with tampons, pads, adult diapers, condoms, douche kits, enema bags, and an economy-size tube of hemorrhoid cream.   And I did not self-check out.  I picked the youngest and most attractive male cashier in the store to check me out.  That is the only way to make it a legitimate and touching gift.  The best part was watching Krystal open her presents in front of everyone.  “Oh, hold it up so everyone can see,” I exclaimed from the back of the party.
Wait, what was this blog post about again?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Good Neighbors and Broadway Across America

How was my day, you ask?  It was great, thanks!  I met my dad for coffee this morning, and then spent the majority of the afternoon with my brother, sister-in-law, and niece.  My brother and I wore matching blue plaid flannel shirts, which I thought was great because, you know, we didn't even plan to coordinate.  I also got to catch up with James, an old friend from high school who I hadn't seen in years.

Me and James.  I look 12.
My first memory of James goes all the way back to ninth grade math class.  It was 1999, several months after the Columbine shooting.  At the beginning of class, James announced that he had forgotten his math book, and needed to go to his locker to get it.  The teacher, whom we had affectionately dubbed "Smokey the Bear" due to her ashtray aroma, let him leave to get his book.  

When James had not returned within 15 minutes (mind you our school had 3 hallways and under 200 students), our teacher became concerned.  Before she could send anyone out to check on him, though, James opened up the classroom door with a strange grin on his face, holding not a math book, but his backpack.  He walked to the front of the class, set his bag on the floor, and unzipped it as he looked around the classroom.  

I remember my heart racing, and my teacher crouching awkwardly behind her desk.  James reached into his bag, but instead of pulling out a weapon, he pulled out a can of Pepsi.  "I got free pop for everyone!" James exclaimed, as he started passing out Pepsis to the class.  He had actually stood out in the hallway for 15 minutes, feeding money into the vending machine until he had bought enough drinks for the entire class.  He still claims that it didn't cross his mind that we might think he was about to do something bad.

Anyway, most of my funniest memories from high school involve James.  He has one of the strangest, yet most brilliant, senses of humor I have ever come across.  I am glad to see he is doing so well.

When I got home, I decided to do some yard work.  I was outside cutting back the shrubs and the monkey grass around our walkway when my neighbor, Alex, came over to help.  Alex is 5, and has the biggest personality of anyone I know.  She often stops by to help me with the yard, and I love the company.  Today she brought a bright pink pair of zig-zag scrapbooking scissors to trim with.

 "They make the bushes shapey!" she said.
She would also laugh while we were working and say pleasant things like "these plants are rascals!"  When we were done she fawned over my yard and told me how amazing it looks.  Everyone needs an Alex.

Next, I had to meet my friend Emily to give her Broadway Across America tickets for The Addams Family.  Three of my friends and I purchased season tickets to Broadway Across America in Cincinnati, and I can't go to the show tomorrow because my family is having their Easter celebration.  Emily and I decided to meet in the local hospital parking lot (because it is a central location) to make the exchange.  We also thought it would be more exciting if we pretended it was a drug deal.

Warning:  Good times ahead. 

When Emily got to the hospital she sent me the following text: "In place whenever you are ready."  I pulled up to the rendezvous spot, right outside the front entrance of the hospital, blaring Dr. Dre with my windows down.  I was afraid I was being too much, until Emily leaned into my passenger side window, hood up and ready to deal.  

"Hey man, can I catch a ride?"
I attribute this behavior to our recent attendance of West Side Story which, by the way, is a lot less hardcore than I remembered from my childhood.

All-in-all, it was a good day.