30 January 2011

Signs of the Times

As I mentioned in a previous post, I enjoy finding random and/or weird signs, whether around town or by the side of the road. So I thought I would introduce everyone to my new home with a few instances of its more questionable signage. We won't discuss, however, how much I looked like a dork driving around town trying to get some of these pictures, or how some people in one parking lot might have thought I was an undercover reporter doing some big exposé or something on one of the strip mall churches, causing them to follow me suspiciously as I left Our Lady of the Local Strip Mall. It just goes to show you how seriously I take this blogging thing--I am willing to take my life in my hands, people, just for a lame joke! I hope you appreciate this. I will accept any and all chocolate donations as compensation. And speaking of Strip Mall Churches:

So if a congregant ever experiences doubt like Peter did, does the whole church start sinking into the asphalt?

When they say something "comes in charcoal," they mean it literally.

For when the whole world is hurting, right? So do they heal wounds all over the globe, or is the wound just really, really big? And I know those are supposed to be little globes on the sign, but all I can see is a pair of tires, with "Global Wound Care" forming a "car" over them, or maybe one of those cheesy finger puppets where you stick your first two fingers through the holes and make them walk around like legs. They could do the Diabetic Foot Care dance, like little finger Rockettes.

Like someone is ever going to ask for something other than a "crystal clear pool and spa." "I'm sorry, but what I really wanted was a green scum-encrusted pool and spa..." Duh.

So is this a listing of goods for sale or a command like in Simon Says? "Southern Waterbeds Says 'Georgia--Stuff Bean Bags! Right now!!'" I guess it's the only Fairway of doing things.

Liquor is welcome at Sam's. You aren't, but your booze is.
(It probably makes wearing those little blue apron/jumpers much more tolerable...)

I love this sign over the Atlanta Highway. It doesn’t say “Wrong Way” or “Do Not
Instead, it provides a very succinct instruction--NO.
It’s only on one side of the road, and is the only such sign anywhere in town.
This is easily one of the most random and inexplicable signs that I have ever seen.

"I said NO!!!"

Bus Stop. (Disenfranchised bus driver sold separately.)

I adore this sign. "There was a Wuxtry had a shop; Bizarro was its name-o..."

Sorry, they're open.

Do the Chinese calendar makers know about this?

While I've perhaps seen more amusing signs, these entertain me nonetheless. If nothing else, playing what amounted to parking lot Chinese Fire Drill to obtain some of these pictures was entertaining. Feel free to share some of your own favorite signs in the comments section.

Bubbles LaRue, signing off...

24 January 2011

Sports Bra Aerobics

Like most of us past a "certain age," my body is no longer as fit and hale as it was when I was 21, but that's okay; it's seen a lot of life. And by "life," I mean "doughnuts." At 21, I was active: I walked a lot, I biked a lot, I did other stuff--a lot. Burning calories was not an issue, because with the metabolism of youth, calories melted off as quickly as I could pack them on. Then came marriage. I went from being constantly on the go to having no place to go, eschewing full-time jobs or school because my new husband planned to go back to school full-time in just a few short months, so starting something new seemed a bit pointless. And because I was living in a new place and didn't yet know anyone, I did all those things you tell yourself you'll never do: I stayed up late, slept till 10, and stayed in my bathrobe till 2. Then I watched TV and ate popcorn until it was time to make dinner for my husband, which allowed me to escape from the accusing glare of Richard Simmons on Oprah. I didn't want to Sweat to the Oldies. Being around sweaty oldies at age 22 was the last thing I wanted to do. Besides, watching Richard Simmons was not unlike watching a little afro-ed hamster jacked up on speed. No one needs to see that. I figured I was still young. I still had time.

We moved to West Lafayette, IN the first summer after we got married so my husband could start work on his doctorate at Purdue. After working for a year, I discovered that secretaries don't make very much money (shocking, I know), so I also entered the slave labor force sometimes referred to as "graduate assistants" to pursue my own MA, partially because the difference in the two salaries was so negligible, making it a win-win for me. The one thing they don't tell you up front about being a graduate assistant, though, is that the term "grad ass" is very literal, meaning "this work will make your ass grad(ually) spread." First, you sit on your backside in class. Then you sit on it for hours in the library doing research. Then you sit on it for hours at home reading assignments, writing assignments and grading papers until your bum is numb. It's not surprising that so many English grad students emit a faintly fluorescent glow from their pasty-white, sun-starved skin given how much time they have to spend working indoors.

After completing my MA, I worked as a lecturer for another year while my husband finished his degree. During that year I did manage to lose much of the weight I'd previously put on. Then we moved to Memphis. Two months later, I was pregnant. I began indulging again, justifying it to myself because I was "eating for two." Two Sumo wrestlers maybe. Then began my life as a mom. Those of you who are parents will know how it goes: you spend half your life on your backside--in the driver's seat, on bleachers at sporting events, at the table helping with homework, and in the waiting rooms of doctors, dentists, orthodontists, principals, etc. It was grad school all over again. And because you are constantly on the go, you eat out frequently, usually at McHeartAttack's or someplace similar. Or else you eat those last few bites left behind on everyone's plates because you "don't want it to go to waste." That and you fear the inevitable PowerPoint presentations full of information gleaned on Google that the kids create to prove you wrong should you be so foolish as to suggest that they need to finish their dinners "because there are starving children in India/China/Wherever." You've gotta love modern kids.

Some 18 years of mommyhood and many pounds later, I now have a rear roughly the size of East and West Dakota. (Think of the crack as a state line.) Therefore, in keeping with this year's theme of "new" (as in new home, new life, new career, new adventures), I have decided at long-last to tackle my fitness issues (which implies that I have some fitness in the first place). Since I currently live in a house with three levels and thus two flights of stairs, I thought it would be nice to be able to traverse a flight without having my knees creak as much or more than the actual floorboards--which has yet to happen. Clearly, these cracks are a sign that I need to stop making excuses and just get on with it. Given that I have already avoided the clichéd "New Year's Resolution" by almost a month, I forced my husband yesterday to help me drag ye olde exercycle/clothes hanger from the basement and into the bedroom where I will be more likely to use it, or at least less likely to avoid it, with the added bonus that it will be within crawling distance of the shower for those handy, post-passoutworkout ablutions. Next, I downloaded Weight Watchers Mobile onto my phone, even though I have yet actually to sign up at Weight Watchers Online. Lastly, I had a Lean Cuisine for lunch. And I had breakfast. For those who know me well, this will come as nothing short of apocalyptic, considering I've been eating maybe 1-1 1/2 meals per day for most of the last 5-10 years. True, I did eat an ice cream sandwich while heating up my Lean Cuisine, but the goodness of the Lean Cuisine will cancel out the badness of the ice cream sandwich. Right? Right? C'mon, people--this is progress. Baby elephant steps. I even purchased some sports bras for the containment of my voluptuosity while I work out. I am getting serious here, people.

At least, I was getting serious until today, when my ample assets were kicked by said sports bra. Twice. For the past year or two, I've been making do with my trusty grey front-zip over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder, which should tell you exactly how frequently I actually workout. It has never given me a moment's trouble, other than that one time when it decided to start slowly unzipping, unbeknownst to me, eventually springing loose at a most inopportune moment. It's hard to be discreet when your arm is shoved halfway down your shirt in an effort to relocate both ends of the aforementioned zipper and reunite them in Holy Matrimony.

Because Old Grey was in the laundry today, I decided to break out one of my newer acquisitions. I figured it would inspire me to work longer and harder on my exercycle. It's new. It's pretty. It's possessed.

I first held up my new containment device in an effort to determine which holes were for my arms, a feat made more complicated than one might expect by the addition of an open racer back which created extra entry points. There I am, standing with my arms in the air trying to get this thing on. Being a reasonably intelligent woman (that's my story and I'm sticking to it), I was able to navigate the extra openings and get my arms into the correct locations. So far, so good. Next, I attempted to pull the thing down, which involved the unfurling of all the spandex that had rolled up as I pulled the contraption over my head. After much squirming, grunting and swearing, I managed to unpeel the spandex and adjust it into its rightful place. Mission accomplished. Or not. Once unfurled, I discovered that the handy-dandy protective foam pads lodged inside each cup had folded into two, making my boobs look like they had taco implants. Okay, not cool. Time to remove the bra and fix them. I grabbed at the bottom elastic and proceeded to pull my new acquisition up over my head, only to get my elbows stuck in the extra holes and temporarily pinioning myself inside the sports bra spiderweb. After a few Cirque de Soleil-level contortions (which did not involve my hands flapping uselessly out of the top of the bra like I was performing bad shadow puppets at all), I was finally able to remove my sports bra and and attempt to re-seat the foam inserts.

Unfortunately, in addition to having extra holes in the back, the front bra cups overlap wrap-style, making the construction somewhat more confounding. I ended up turning
the thing inside out and back several times in an effort to straighten out the highly uncooperative foam. Each insert was essentially a molded triangle which required that you get the correct point in the correct corner. Easy, right? Except that the foam on one side kept folding up and turning around in circles inside the lining so that it took me a good five minutes to get it straightened out. The other side went a little more smoothly and I was ready to attempt containment once again. Up went my arms, down squeezed the bra, up rolled the spandex and I was once again girded by a giant elastic doughnut with various bits of flesh sticking out in incorrect locations. A few more contortions adjustments later and the bra was once more correctly placed, again with foam tacos over my boobs. Sigh.

Rather than attempt removal again, I merely shoved my hands inside the bra (is that classy or what?) to make the appropriate adjustments. If I had known that exercise involved enthusiastic groping, I might have considered pursuing it sooner. Frankly, my new sports bra and I now have a more intimate relationship than I do with my doctor. After finally getting the freaking bra on and correctly in place, I went to check out the results in the bathroom mirror. Hmmm. Okaaaay.

What I saw was a sharply creased line/peak running north to south on the right side, and a similar one running diagonally across my left side, such that my chest now looked like it had twin compasses pointing in opposite directions. While I am more than familiar with how much gravity sucks as one ages, I have never yet had one of my breasts pointing northwest, nor indeed in a different direction from its partner. This was a new development, so to speak. On the plus side, my bosom was duly flattened and contained in the sports trap bra as it was meant to be. It was so flattened, in fact, that my boobs were migrating towards my sides and up under my armpits where they would no doubt play havoc with any upper body workouts I chose to pursue. Perhaps they were merely in search of due north.

All this effort clearly called for a break, so I had a snack, did some laundry, read my email, let the dog out, took out the recycling, let the dog in, started another load of laundry and eventually realized I hadn't actually worked out. Story of my life--I am an inveterate procrastinator (I believe that anything worth doing, is worth doing right). Of course, this also means that I must once again attempt removal of my spandex cage. My previous experience proved helpful in that no shadow puppets were harmed in the removal of my sports bra; instead, I got one arm stuck behind my back and one imprisoned overhead as I jumped around trying to wriggle out of the thing, looking like nothing so much as a highly indignant Foghorn Leghorn: "Ah say--Ah say--get this flamin' thing offa me!" Can you imagine that 911 call? "Um, yeah, so I need help--I'm stuck in my bra and I can't get out!" Can't you just see the EMTs and firetrucks pulling up outside of my house with the Jaws of Life to remove me from my own personal spandex hell? That's assuming they could even work the machine, doubled over with laughter as they'd undoubtedly be.

In the end, I decided that "new" can wait for one more day. Besides, I got a good 20-30 minutes in while doing the Sports Bra Hokey Pokey, so I figure that's workout enough for today. And thankfully, the dryer has finally beeped. Old Grey is ready again to provide me with faithful (and hopefully less comedic) support. I'm sure the Fire Department will be grateful.

20 January 2011

Travel and Our Lady of the Strip Mall

I love to travel. What I don't necessarily love is getting from point A to point B. Now don't get me wrong; some of the best discoveries happen when you aren't looking for them, but that doesn't mean that, more often than not, you aren't still sitting in a car for endless hours wishing fervently that Scotty would just get on with it and beam you up already. Maybe I'm being cynical, but I doubt my life would have been significantly altered by viewing such epic tourist attractions as The World's Biggest Ball of Twine or the Second Oldest Continuously Burning Light Bulb on the interminable cross-country vacation drives my family made when I was a kid. I'm sure we saw many similarly "epic" tourist attractions, just as I am equally sure I immediately blocked them permanently from my memory. Those really aren't the sorts of discoveries I would like to find on my travels.

Like most people, I'd like to hit the classics at some point: The Grand Canyon, the Taj Mahal, the Sydney Opera House, etc. I've already made to Loch Ness, Westminster Abbey, Fisherman's Wharf, Pasadena (the setting for Big Bang Theory, woot!), the Schönbrunn Palace, Times Square, Edinburgh Castle, London's West End, Mirabell Gardens (where the "Do Re Mi" scenes from Sound of Music were shot), the White House (which is shockingly smaller in person than you'd expect), Prague Castle, Buckingham Palace, and Churchill Downs, among others. There are so many amazing things in the world to see and do that one could spend a lifetime trying to visit even half of them. I mean sure, the First Church of the Elvis Impersonator and the Cigar Box Guitar Museum are cool and all, but do they really have the unparalleled grandeur of, say, the Rocky Mountains or the stunning artistry of the inlaid mosaics in the Taj or the pristine beauty of the Great Barrier Reef?

But herein lies my problem--if I lack interest in visiting the cheesier of the world's many lame tourist attractions, how am I to keep my interest up (and indeed stay awake) while spending hours and hours in a car en route from one location to the next? When my daughter is with me, we spend a fair amount of time jamming to show tunes on CDs. We rock the duets in Wicked. When she is not with me or is snoozing peacefully, I often entertain myself with random road games. One of my favorites is spotting weird road signs and/or bizzare town names. Some favorite town names include Intercourse, PA, Braggadocio, MO and the ever-popular Bucksnort, TN. And every time I drive from my new home in GA to my old home in Memphis, I get to see a sign advertising the exit for two towns: Brilliant and Guin, which never fails to remind me of my friend Gwen, who is indeed brilliant.

I also like the sign for the FLICKERS Restaurant in Mississippi, which uses possibly the world's most unfortunate font, in italics no less, such that from a distance the L and the I form a U. I sometimes wonder exactly how many auto accidents have taken place within view of that sign because of all the motorists doing doubletakes and trying to determine what kind of restaurant offers such racy fare. Sadly, I have been unable to get a picture of that particular sign.

You can never tell what you'll drive by when you travel. Last fall I visited the aforementioned Brilliant Guin (who insists on spelling it "Gwen") in Michigan. On the drive up from Indianapolis I passed this windmill farm, with literally hundreds of these windmills. I'd never seen anything like it. I immediately pictured Don Quixote tilting at them from horseback. Of course, I also considered that they could be the illegitimate children of giant stick figures and transformers, but that's probably more than you needed to know about my warped mind.

Over New Year's my daughter and I made the 8-hour drive back to Memphis to visit her high school friends while everyone was home from college, which is slightly more difficult for her to do since we moved to GA two months after graduation. Have you ever noticed how we get into a sort of driving trance on long or familiar drives? It's as if your brain goes on autopilot, and you lose track of time and place, kind of like if you had TADD (Travel Attention Deficit Disorder). As a result, it becomes even more important to find ways of keeping oneself engaged and entertained, for fear of ending up in a ditch somewhere. When there are no amusing signs to mock, we frequently turn to remarking on the random and weird things we drive by, such as the three--count them--THREE Bingo parlors in Forestdale, AL. With a population of only 10,500 or so people, I find it fascinating that there is such a pervasive need for bingo there. What, they couldn't afford crack houses or pool halls? Did Professor Harold Hill suddenly decide to start hawking bingo instead of bands there? Not even Memphis has that many dedicated bingo parlors. Instead, we have Tunica, Land of the Riverside Casinos, where people play slots and craps and eat at giant buffets instead of slamming back Big Macs while stamping little red dots on a dense landscape of bingo grids.

Turning over 100,000 miles on the way home.

Bizarre as this bastion of bingo "baseness" was, nothing could top the inordinate number of strip mall churches that we passed. How's that for irony? Bingo Profiteering vs. Our Lady of the Strip Mall. We even saw a church in what clearly used to be a supermarket, complete with sliding doors. So how does that work, exactly? When you go in to worship, do you get to hear random announcements over the loudspeaker? "Holy Trinity on Aisle 3!" "Commandments on Aisle 10!" "Days of Christmas, Aisle 12!" "CLEAN UP on the Red Sea aisle!!" Presumably, it's cheaper to rent space in a dying strip mall than to sustain a free-standing church, but as irreverent as I tend to be, I would have a great deal of difficulty taking seriously any worship service which takes place in what used to be a supermarket. I would want to ask the pastor rude things like "Do you keep Hell in the freezer section so you can say that 'Hell Froze over?'" and "Do they sell the Bread of Life in the Bakery department?" or "Does Myrrh count as a fruit or a vegetable?" and "Do you have 2 for 1 specials on Noah's Ark Animal Crackers?" No doubt I would be charged heavily at the checkout for my deadly sins of Pride and Sloth. Hopefully there would be a rebate somewhere for them.

Travel broadens one's horizons just as surely as it broadens one's backside after hours and hours spent in planes, trains, buses, boats, and cars. It allows us to see the inestimable beauty in our world (which we often forget exists) while at the same time inspiring us creatively, even if it's only in making up stories for random strip malls. Besides, if I didn't travel, how would I ever get to see cool things like this:

(Because every tank needs twinkle lights.)

19 January 2011

New Year, New Blog

Well, it's finally here. After months of good intentions (I hear the Road to Hell is paved with them, so at least I have a promising career in intentional asphalt), I have finally created my own blog. I'd planned to do so before my much more technologicially-gifted daughter left for college in the wilds of upstate New York last August and then again before she returned after Thanksgiving and Christmas Breaks, but that never happened so I've been forced to navigate the inner workings of blogs without her assistance. After looking at the various types of blog hosts, I ultimately defaulted to Blogger, if for no other reason than to be able to use the background that I wanted on the entire page. Once an idea is in my head, I have difficulty letting it go, it seems.

Originally I just wanted to write a book (and I may still get there someday) but I suffer from a plethora of characters swirling around in my head and no plots in which to place them, which is terribly inconvenient when one is trying to create a novel. Everyone knows that characters should just present themselves in your brain fully developed and replete with flaws and motivations. It could happen--heck, it worked for JK Rowling, right? ("Hello, Delusions, my old friends / I've come to talk with you again...") Anyway, it occurred to me one day that perhaps regular blogging would provide a much-needed exercise in the self-discipline which I so desperately lack. Besides, my secret Facebook stalkers seem to find me amusing, so I guess it's worth a shot. At least it will provide a means of entertaining myself, if nothing else.

So why "Ginger Doodles?" In searching for titles, I wanted something which would incorporate my personality and inherent snarkiness. I have lots of interests, many of which I'm sure you'll all read about over the course of this blog, but I didn't want to be limited by a title which implied only one aspect of my personality. While I am interested in many things, I am not defined any one of those individually, but rather all of them together. While those things may eventually become blogs of their own, I had to decide how to tie all my quirkiness together to start with, and what title would adequately reflect that quirkiness. Initially I thought of "Ginger Snaps," but that only made me think of yummy, gingery cookies, and then I got hungry. Also, I couldn't erase the image of Sally Fields in "Legally Blonde 2" standing in front of Congress with her shiny goblet, saying "Congresswoman Hauser just sent her son off to college, so snaps for Congresswoman Hauser!!" I don't want to be affiliated with a Snap Cup. I would mock a Snap Cup mercilessly. And what's the deal with Libby Hauser in that movie? She starts off as an iron-drawered, cranky old Kerry Vincent of a politician, but after 30 seconds of the Delta Nu Boogaloo with some blonde bimbo in a hair salon she suddenly gets a more gooey center than a melting caramel cream? And she doesn't just become all mushy to Capitol Barbie, but to EVERYONE. Yeah, right...like that's plausible. Because all politicians (whether of the iron-drawered variety or not) suddenly find religion in the bottom of a Snap Cup. Please.

Needless to say, that was a significant strike against "Ginger Snaps." Plus, "Snaps" could imply that all I do is snap at people, which while true probably more often than I like is still not exclusively true. So no. Instead, I decided to keep the "ginger" as an homage to my russet-hued hair (and because one of my dearest friends insists on calling me "Ginger" all the time because of it, much to my amusement). I then changed from "snap" to "snapped" because of my red-headed temperament and dysfunctional lifestyle. Sadly, however, my grand title epiphany proved to be considerably less original than I first imagined, being already taken, as were the many different riffs I could dream up on the idea of sarcasm or "snarkiness." So where to go from there?

"Doodles" derives from both the concept of doodling various sketches or ideas on one's papers, as well as from my (would-be) World-Famous Snickerdoodles, which are full of cinnamony, fluffy cookie goodness, if I do say so myself. They are the one signature item which I cook or bake that sends almost everyone into cookiegasms at first taste, even lifelong chocoholics. Do not snicker at my Doodles. They are doodle-licious--ask anyone fortunate enough to have had one melt in his or her mouth.

Thus my blog has become "Ginger Doodles." In the immortal words of Emperor Joseph in the movie Amadeus, "Well. There it 'tis." Now please buckle your seatbelts and return your trays to their upright and locked position as you join me on the bumpy ride through my quirky and often inexplicable mind and its musings. There will be no refunds on your tickets. (That will teach you to book your flights through Frivolocity.)