For those of you who may be wondering, who may be literally on the edge of your seats with wonder wonder wonder: No, my high school prom date did not win election to the Florida State House.

(For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about I’ll refer you to this blog’s entry for July 16 titled Indecision 2012.  Take a look, it’s a real chuckle-fest.)

I know, the election was ages ago and I should have filled you in sooner on these developments, but it quite honestly slipped my mind until earlier this week when I was happily strolling through the aisles of Trader Joe’s and I (almost!) bumped into someone from my high school.  No, not the prom date (phew).  It was a girl (woman? Girl?) I went to school with for countless sessions – elementary to middle to high – but didn’t really know all that well.  She popped up again years later because, in an interesting twist, she married the Bestie’s best friend from childhood.  Apparently, she and the hubby are very active in the La Leche League (that’s people who are super into breastfeeding, by the by), a small fact that, in my mind, reconciled nicely with the long braid that hung down her back as she perused frozen ethnic fare on Aisle 5.  God, I knew this Trader Joe’s was going to be a problem.  (So long, most delicious English muffins ever.)

This is all to say that returning to your hometown after being away for the better part of twenty years can be a bit like navigating a field of landmines.  At any minute, you could run into someone you knew when.  Which would be fine, I’m guessing, if you were into that sort of thing.  My problem?  I don’t seem to have a clear recollection of most of the below the title actors from my distant past.  Seriously.  Which is a bit disconcerting because, as anyone who knows me well can attest, I pride myself on my laser sharp memory – the ability to recall important and not so important dates and conversations and occasions big and small with ease.  My laser sharp memory and my perfect skin.  But, for some reason, one of these sources of pride seems to fail me when it comes to Years 0-18 (and it’s not the perfect skin folks, it’s not).  Which means, on those occasions when I don’t manage to duck into Aisle 6 quickly enough (the wine aisle, as luck and 2 Buck Chuck would have it), I find myself in the awkward position of having a conversation with someone who seems to know me pretty well even if I don’t know them much at all.  Uncomfortable, for sure.

So far, this has happened to me in the parking lot at Target, at the place where MJR takes her stuff on wheels for repairs, and in the front yard of my childhood home.  Yes, my own front yard.  Landmines, people.  This town is silly with landmines.

What to do, what to do, what to do.  I’ve thought about my options, which range from becoming a complete shut in (don’t think I’m not seriously considering it) to explaining that my lack of recognition when people say things like “We sat next to each other from Grades 1-5 at Stephen Foster Elementary” or “I used to babysit you and your brother” stems from selective memory loss associated with a plane crash in the Andes I survived when I was nineteen (plausible, right?) to, well, just faking it.

I’ve settled on the last one for the time being and it seems to be working.  Want to know a little secret about people – and yes, I’m generalizing all people here?  Whether you’ve seen them on and off every day for most of your life or you’re just running into them now after being away for the better part of twenty years, all you need to do to get through any awkward social situation is keep them talking about themselves.  Smile, ask questions, nod your head a lot.  They’ll never suspect a thing.

And no, Trader Joe’s doesn’t deliver.  I’ve already checked.

Dear Linda.

Dear Linda,

Remember when I was visiting you in Chicago in September and we had that lovely dinner with Pete at Girl & the Goat and, after our first glass of wine but before we ate the pig face, you gave me that valuable advice about not talking about Law & Order: SVU (the show in general, my obsession specifically) with too many other people, especially people I don’t know very well, because I might give them the wrong impression (read: creep them out)?  I believe your (close to) exact words were:

“Sweetie, I’m your good friend.  Pete’s your good friend.  You can talk to us about Law & Order: SVU like this, but you really really can’t talk this way to most everyone else. Seriously. You sound like a crazy person.”

Or something like that.  Well, I want you to know that I took your words to heart and I’ve been refraining, my friend.  It hasn’t been easy, for sure, but – since that eye-opening chat we had in Chicago, before we ate the pig face — I’ve pretty much put the brakes on with regards to all talk of Olivia and Elliot and the gang.  Until now.

I finished, Linda.  All 272 episodes.  Season 1 through Season 12.  I know, I know what you’re thinking.  That’s a lot of f’in episodes of Law & Order: SVU.  (When I told my pal Stacia in August that I was already on episode 200 she replied, “Wow.  I know what you did last summer.” )  What can I say?  I started at the most logical place – the beginning – and I didn’t really see any need to stop before reaching the end.  (Of course, for the good men and women of the New York City Special Victims Unit – like Olivia and Elliot and the gang – it never really ends, right?  Sigh.)

The end, Linda.  I reached the end.*

Just thought you’d want to know.


*Someone just reminded me that this show is still on the air.  There’s a Season 13.  And a Season 14.  Fuck.

Florida. Take Two.

This week, I more than once woke to the lovely sound of a hard driving Florida rain dropping waves and waves of water and acorns onto the roof here at 3613 NW 46 Place.  That’s right, dedicated readers, I’m back.  Did you miss me, Florida?

I’ve actually been back for a smidge over a week.  Before I was “back,” I was wild boar hunting in Arkansas on the Mississippi Delta, as one does this time of year.  Before the wild boar hunting, I was in New York City and before that DC and Atlanta.  Before that and that and that, I was on a road trip with the big sis that took us from Salinas, California to Knoxville, Tennessee — but mostly Utah, Arizona, and Colorado – that can only be described as “the most goddamn fun I’ve had in a long time.”  I’ve been told there aren’t enough pics on this blog, so here’s one from one of my new favorite places, Monument Valley:

And before that… Well, that’s where we (you and I, dedicated readers) left off in October – me in California with the family.  You remember the California relatives, yes?  I left them on October 28 and have been pretty much living out of my car, relying on its contents, ever since with the occasional couch, air mattress, kid’s room, and mother-in-law suite thrown in.

I’m hoping to blog well and often now that I’m staying put for a spell.  For starters, a few observations regarding the hometown this second time around:

Same old, same old, Hampton is approaching my return with equal doses of suspicion and optimism.  A week in and he’ll still occasionally turn his back on me when I enter a room, the sting of my betrayal not soon forgotten.  But mostly he follows me up and down the hall and back again and seems to be ready for his next walk before he’s even shaken off the dew of his last.  What can I say?  He’s Hampton.

Also unchanged?  Everyone in Florida still drives while talking on the phone.  At this point, I’m more shocked when I don’t see the telltale crooked elbow — hand to phone to ear — then when I do.  The fact that this still annoys the hell out of me confirms that I am also unchanged, still a curmudgeon in bloom.

One thing that’s sure to temper my curmudgeonly impulses?  The YMCA is open!  The YMCA is open!  And, kindly, they waived my re-initiation fee after I reminded them that I’ve been going to this pool since my brother and I were tall enough to reach over the front counter and steal dollar bills from the till.  The YMCA has yoga, dedicated readers (more on that shortly).  And Zumba.  And lap lanes, don’t forget the lap lanes.  In short, heaven.  A slice of heaven.

Know what’s also a slice of heaven?  Trader Joe’s.  Sweet Jesus, Gainesville just opened a Trader Joe’s!  And by “just opened,” I mean yesterday.  The niece and I were there – along with every other person in town judging by the crowd (or, just like the Brooklyn Trader Joe’s on a Sunday).  Hello, most delicious English muffins ever!  Hello, 2 Buck Chuck!  Hello, Trader Joe’s!

The one change that might take some getting used to?  Starbucks has a new barista.  Her name is Kathryn, “with a K and a RYN.”  No one ever spells her name correctly.  She was named after her grandmother.  On her mother’s side.  She’s her grandmother’s favorite, which is great because she gets the best presents from her.  But it’s not so great because she feels a lot of pressure to live up to the name and her grandmother’s high expectations… You guys see where I’m going with this, yes?  Chatty baristas are decidedly not my thing.  Stay out of my way, KathRYN.  For reals.

Which reminds me.  Time for my second coffee.  It’s good to be back, dedicated readers, in more ways than one.  More from me soon.

Florida.  Take two!