Saturday, June 30, 2007

No Passport Required

My Middle East trip has been delayed for a few weeks. It's disappointing. While I'm not keen to roast under the scorching sun, I hate waiting. I'm living in Limbo. I didn't join the gym again because I was leaving a week ago (in theory). I used up all my groceries and didn't buy more. I didn't make any plans to meet friends for coffee or dinner. I even almost unpacked everything from moving back from the last trip to the Middle East.

The longer it takes for me to get to Egypt, the longer it takes for me to get back by autumn, and to get on with my life. Which in theory involves a West Africa trip. Though more than one person has pointed out that I'll already be on the African continent once I'm in Egypt, but it's almost harder to get to Morocco by surface transport from there than from here.

For now, the best I can do is attend the Egyptian Festival at Journal Square. JC is home to thousands of Egyptians, many of them Coptic. My Arabic teacher, for example, is an Egyptian Coptic Christian.

Usually street fairs are mostly designed to sell funnel cake, but maybe I can find some nice hummous up at Journal Square today.

Friday, June 29, 2007


It's a nice night for camping. Wish I'd thought of that sooner.

Anyone know any good campsites in New Jersey?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Hey Kids, More Comics!

They've posted the Frontline video about the comic I work on (and force old friends to work on with me).

They haven't interviewed me yet for the extended version of the documentary. Maybe they won't. But if they do, there are only two rules. They'll have to come to Egypt to do it (soon, soon), and I'm not wearing TV makeup again.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

No Pigs Were Harmed in the Makin' of this Bacon

I got a little something to take to the Middle East. Hours of amusement. Well, minutes.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Can You Keep A Secret?

I was video interviewed about Stalking the Wild Dik-Dik a while back. And now I have the rough cut. But I can't show it to you, because it is top-secret until it is released for its intended purpose. It's great, actually, but it's odd without the sound.

Some of us looked at it at my office, but we couldn't make the sound work on the computer we were using. So we sat there stunned. Without context, I looked like a freak making faces and wearing purple eyeshadow. My young intern couldn't stifle his giggle, but Jared--in the office to composite my comics after I begged him relentlessly until he gave in so I'd leave him alone--for once held back.

Which isn't normal. Jared never holds back, not in the 17 years I've known him. He must have been as shocked as I was at me in pancake and lip liner.

Really, it's much better when you can hear what I'm saying. I just can't prove it yet.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Race to the Finish

"What's that scratch on your neck?" asked Paula, the student at O2 who has colored my hair for a few years now (she's almost graduated).

I felt the scratch sting as she brushed the hair color on. How had I scratched my neck?

It must have come from sleeping on my bike messenger bag. The same one that John and Rai bought me in the late nineties, the same one that was slashed in Mongolia, ineptly sewn up by me on the Trans-Siberian, then repaired properly in Nairobi. I'd had my laptop and wallet in the bag last night, and I'd wanted to put it where I would notice if someone tried to steal it as I slept. So I'd put it under my head. It hadn't been the most comfortable pillow, but it was as comfortable as the floor I was sleeping on. As comfortable as sleeping in black mourning wear in the children's play area at Pittsburgh International Airport, sleeping to the lullaby of Mr. Rogers.

The JetBlue attendant had given me two blankets and two bottles of water. Without Mr. Rogers and two snorers, the night would have been more tolerable. Two women sleeping nearby also couldn't sleep. They started chatting loudly at 3:30 a.m. Not very neighborly of them. Surely Mr. Rogers would not be impressed.

The plane to Philly left on time, but my jog to the air train did me no good. I missed the train by only a few minutes. Would I reach the Acela Philly-New York train if I rushed downtown in a taxi? I had to try. At ten, I was supposed to be meeting with my accountant. At noon, Paula was fixing up my roots, my last chance before I leave the country. But only if I was actually there.

A taxi took me to 30th Street Station, where I missed the Acela by about 20 seconds. I'd take the SEPTA to NJ Transit then, but I wouldn't get in on time.

I ended up walking through my front door half an hour after I was supposed to be with Ernie, my accountant. I called his office. His wife called me back a minute later and said to get to his Manhattan office as fast as I could. I didn't even change out of the shirt I'd slept in the night before. The black shirt and I raced to see Ernie. And somehow, in spite of missing trains and stinky clothes, my taxes got done along with my hair.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

No, I Don't Want to be Your Neighbor

I have a newfound, intense dislike for Mr. Rogers.

For our friends overseas who may not be familiar with Mr. R, he hosted a children's program in which he would take kiddies into a world of make-believe. He was pleasant, kindly, and now, he has just insinuated himself into my dreams.

Along with a few extremely rude snorers.

It wasn't JetBlue's fault. Last night there were no flights to New York. I watched the sign as first they were all delayed, then later cancelled. Delta... USAir... Continental. JetBlue. Hey, that's me!

By the time I got to the gate, there was a massive line of people. What were they waiting for? Re-booking on the morning flight? Refunds? Will someone please give out information? There's a plan.

No information was forthcoming. I tried the phone. Huge wait there too. Tried the internet... there were lots of flights in the morning, all booked solid. If I returned my JetBlue ticket and connected through Boston, I could get home by noon. Except I've been trying to get a tax appointment for weeks, and this is my last chance before I leave town for three months. And the hair appointment at noon--my student colorist only has class on Wednesday.

There's always another way. But as I waited... and waited... all the other ways were evaporating.

By the time I got to the front of the line, a girl was tearing up. Her flight to London was leaving now. She'd been trying to get to New York all day. The man in front of me was emotional. "My wife is sick! Who will take care of her tonight?"

There were no flights going to New York. None.

While waiting in line, I checked Amtrak. Nothing until tomorrow morning. Greyhound? There was one leaving at 11:15. Eight hours home. Then commuting home. I'd be home by 8:30. How to get downtown to the bus station?

I got my money back from JetBlue and tried one more thing, as the masses collapsed around me. "What do you mean there are no flights to Puerto Rico for two days?"

The poor JetBlue rep lost it and called the police. The thugs in question looked puzzled. Were they upset? Sure! Had they expected their comment that there is no rain in Puerto Rico and that was an airline fabrication to go so wrong?

The police came as I used Mobissimo to find them a different flight. "You'll have to connect through Boston to get on tomorrow night's flight out of Newark. $500 each."

Meanwhile, I'd booked myself a 5:45 a.m. flight to Philadelphia. A train up would take an hour to Newark. Maybe I'm manage to show up showered and with a pile of tax documents, sheepishly shoving it at my accountant along with complicated international taxes.

Now, where shall I sleep? Did I see a children's play area? The one with the eternal loop of Mr. Rogers playing on the monitor?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Gonna Be A Late One

We're having some fun now.

Today's Lessons

Here are two lessons I have learned today.

1) You can plan to be greener and fly less all you want, but one family funeral throws that right out the window when you weigh options against each other. I'm in Pittsburgh for the day.

2) When you buy a one-way ticket a few days prior to travel, you get flagged and super-searched. It was so lame. There I was, my laptop, my toothpaste in a Zip-Loc bag, and a book, being searched like I was a threat to national security because I was flying out of LaGuardia on one airline and back to JFK on JetBlue. Silly.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Two Obits

My first Antioch co-op was reporting at the Staten Island Advance newspaper. One of my responsibilities was writing obituaries.

I wasn't very good at it then, and I'm worse at it now. The two I'm touching on today hurt as all do, as do any tragedies that happen to friends and family.

Today I am sad for my friends--the parents, brother, and sister of Luke--a small baby in the UK who this week did not make it to term. At eight months, something went amiss. Luke did not take his first breath.

And Alex, the not-quite-toddler son of my cousin and his wife. Alex had a number of conditions, but why he suddenly went into cardiac arrest is not yet known. His parents did not hesitate when he was born, but accepted the challenge of each medical condition as it arose. They are the strongest, most optimistic people I know.

Tragedies can only be endured. There are no shortcuts and no way back. Sadness and loss become incorporated into the experiences of the survivors, become a part of them rather than being something experienced and forgotten. And for us bystanders, we feel helpless and inadequate. There is truly nothing to be done save telling the survivors that we are thinking of them.

And so I think of them. And how it must feel. And how loss has affected me in the past, and all I can hope is that one day it is all a memory to them instead of the raw sadness that it must be today.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

What I Want, I Gotta Buy

"I am a mummy," I thought. "Someone is going to cover my bandages in baking soda and preserve me for eternity."

I was lying under a collection of masks and towels. They call this "getting a facial." I'd just been poked a lot, as a woman "performed extractions." That means squishing out blackheads.

One of my interns had freaked me out earlier in the week.

"You're going to the Middle East? Will your family go with you?"

I looked at him blankly. Why would my mother and sister be going to the Middle East with me? Then it dawned on me. To this wee college student, I was crusty and ancient. I was a long-term careerist, surely, with a husband and a couple of ten-year-old kids.

Damn. It's that aging thing. That unavoidable, horrific thing where one day you're fighting them off with a stick--or at least a gentle "I'm busy"--and the next you're invisible and will never have another date unless you start hitting on men a few decades older than you.

The fantasies of youth are behind me. I was never really going to take up the guitar, or go back to radio, or lose the jelly belly. The future is now. Time to put up or shut up. Oops, I forgot to get married and have children.

"It doesn't matter to me. It's never mattered to me," I muttered as I scrutinized my Africa-damaged skin later. "I am strong. I am living my way. To hell with tradition."

But here's the thing. I'm not immune to societal expectations. Everything is a compromise. Do I care? Hell... no? Do I really not care? Shit. Okay, a little. I booked an appointment for a facial and consultation. I'm over the guitar thing, accepting that I chose lame men, but maybe it's not too late to halt the sun-damage.

"You have pre-menopausal skin. Do you wear makeup?" I was still in the spa.

"No." Pre-menopausal???

"You should. Get some with sunscreen. Did you ever smoke? No? Did you work somewhere that people smoked?"

Argh, is it that bad?

"Should I do something about this?" I asked the salon woman. "What is microdermabrasion? What are chemical peels?"

"Microdermabrasion slowly takes off the top layer of skin. You have to get it six times or more, so it becomes really expensive. Chemical peels are faster. They put the chemical on one day, and then next day it cracks like sunburn. You go back and they peel off sections with tweezers. The skin can be sensitive for up to three months afterwards."

This is a good thing?

Maybe I'll stick with the mummy and extraction option. Or start dating old guys.

Friday, June 15, 2007

I Went Back to Ohio, and My College Was Gone*

Horace Mann, the founder of Antioch College, famously said: "Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity."

It's bugged me to read that quote since I've become an adult. Why? Because I have guilt. What the hell have I done for humanity? I colored a lot of comic books. I got chased by a hippopotamus. In other words, squat.

Then I go and read blogs about Antioch, where alumni all have mixed feelings but recognize the value of an Antioch education--oh, and they've done all kinds of fabulous things. I look at the list of famous Antiochians. I read about one of my classmates defecating on the then-college president's desk. (Okay, maybe not the last one.) I feel small. So many fought the good fight. And I haven't so much as written my congressman. I'm not even sure who my congressman is.

My final project was a ridiculous video called "A Day In the Life of an Assistant Editor." I followed David Wohl around Marvel Comics for a few weeks in 1988. I tried editing it on Steve Buccellato's home editing deck, but it was a disaster and I ended up editing late into the night on broken equipment in Antioch's MacGregor Hall, just before presenting it.

My advisor knew my senior project was borderline. No victories for humanity were achieved. But we all howled with laughter watching it at Marvel, and Will Roberts (my advisor) let me graduate with no more punishment than a raised eyebrow.

As the news of the college closing has unfolded, it seems that there was a conflict between the university system and the college. Alumni, me included, were asked for money. I tossed the letter out. It was no different than any other year. Schools that teach social justice aren't usually rolling in money and high enrollment.

None of us realized that this crises was any different than any other crises. I couldn't imagine that things were worse than when I attended, from 1984-88.

And if I had realized, would I have given money? Well, sure, fifty bucks or whatever. But Antioch is a school that puts out social activists and creative professionals. Not so many rich people. Would it have changed anything if we'd all kicked in a few bucks, while keeping an eye on our rent? Probably not much. I've recently come to the startling realization that after taxes, more than 50% of my monthly take-home pay goes to rent. Scary.

The school produced radicals and academics for 150 years. Stephen Jay Gould, Coretta Scott King, and Eleanor Holmes Norton are on the list of alumni. And creative people went there too. Rod Serling. Gits singer Mia Zapata. One of the They Might Be Giants Johns.

I haven't done too well on the victory front yet, but I'd say Antioch won its fair share of victories for humanity. Not that this means it's okay for Antioch to die, but as it goes down, it can be proud for having fulfilled its mission as defined by its first president.

*Title swiped from Lisa Whipple's email

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Educational Orphan

My alma mater, a once famous center for progressive learning, is closing down after more than 150 years of challenging tradition.

It kinda sucks. I feel somehow less educated and valid now than I did yesterday. My college couldn't hack it enough to stay open--surely that must reflect on the academics.

Well, maybe. Antioch wasn't known for forcing students to learn calculus. But so what. That wasn't the point. The point was to offer opportunities and challenge students in other ways. Antioch had the first female professor in the US whose rank and salary matched her male counterparts. Race and gender issues were tackled head-on. In the fifties, the school wouldn't play along with the Commie-hunters. In the sixties, Antioch was in its heyday as a center for war protests and black power.

Antioch's cooperative education program sent me on jobs around the country--the Staten Island Advance newspaper, Associated Press on Capitol Hill, the Austin Chronicle, WYSO community radio, American Friends Service Committee, and Marvel Comics in New York. The last determined the course of the next two decades of my life, though they seem to have forgotten me on the Wikipedia alumni list.

Antioch had its share of problems. Students without self-discipline didn't last long. Neither did people who experimented a bit too freely and too often. Some people drove me nuts with their inflated senses of drama. I didn't even bother going back for the second half of my senior year. Nor did I pay my library fines. I got an empty diploma case at graduation. Not totally empty. There was a bill inside.

I guess I wasn't the only one ignoring my bills. The school is closing due to lack of funding.

I guess I should get a copy of my transcript in case I ever want to go to graduate school.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Marie vs. the Shredder

I opened a dusty shoebox today and discovered that I own HUNDREDS of Marie Javins trading cards.

Here are my trading cards.

Here is my shredder.

Do I have what it takes to do what must be done?

Friday, June 08, 2007

Too Tired to Drive

I took Henry the Ford Taurus--or rather, he took me--to Virginia today for his annual physical. I keep meaning to switch his registration to New Jersey, but then I keep leaving the country and it doesn't seem to matter what his plates say when all he does is sit in the garage.

He passed with flying colors in spite of his advanced age. We then went to visit my family.

It's after 11 at night and en route to JC, I find myself sitting in the Maryland rest area that has wi-fi, along I-95. Which is great. But the vending machines are broken and I kind of need a cup of coffee, because I'm about ready to fall asleep behind the wheel.

Maybe I'll just crawl into the back seat and nap. Henry doubles as a camper van.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Pleasant Manners

Welcome to my blog! My name is (obviously) Marie. I like to live in other countries, write books, and make comic books. Sometimes I am able to do all of these things at once.

No, actually, this name tag is left over from when I was 16-18 years old and worked at Roy Rogers. It's a fast food restaurant, then owned by Marriott. This particular branch was in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia.

Maybe I'll try wearing this badge to my office.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

It Isn't Easy Being Green

At the end of the Lonely Planet presentation last night, a quiet woman in the audience posed a question about green travel.

The Wheelers said something along the lines of supporting responsible travel, took one more question, and then signed books.

Which is a shame, because I wanted to ask something big.

"How do you reconcile promoting recreational air travel with being green?"

There isn't an answer to this question, but I like to hear what people say, because I am still forming my own views.

Plane travel is regarded as the devil of CO2 offenders, but it isn't really an issue with much awareness yet in the US. So let's look at a few facts.

-How bad is flying for the environment? Undeniably bad. A round-trip flight to Australia burns up a half-year's carbon footprint for an average person. That's a lotta C02.

-What's the worst kind of flying? It depends. Long-haul flights go higher and longer than short-haul flights, which means they emit contrails, or vapors that contribute even more to global warming. Not good. Short-haul flights don't put out anywhere near the same amount of CO2, plus a lot of these are on budget airlines with new fleets. These planes are more energy-efficient than old planes. But most business travelers are more likely to take many short trips a year than many long trips. And lower prices, while great for the consumer, encourage people to fly short-haul rather than go by ground transport.

-How does flying stack up against other emitters? Flying is the worst form of transportation when it comes to CO2 emissions. But driving is only a little better. And many of the people up in arms about flying think nothing of driving to work every day, or of cranking up the air conditioning, and eating beef products (cows are a tremendous source of C02 emissions).

-The skies are getting crowded as the aviation industry grows. More flights=more CO2.

-Can you just pay your carbon tax to one of those groups that plants trees, and fly wherever you want? Paying a small fee to offset your guilt doesn't actually take away from what is happening--your ticket to ride is damaging the atmosphere. It is perhaps better than nothing.

Okay, fine. Flying is bad. And I prefer taking local buses anyway. I'd rather take a ship any day than a plane, but this isn't usually realistic. Transatlantic ships are only scheduled a few times a year, and are wildly expensive. One way on a ship is about three times the cost of a round-trip Transatlantic flight.

Let's look at my upcoming trip to Cairo. I'd have to spend about $1,200 to get from New York to Southampton, and then I'd still have to find my way to Egypt. There's no ferry. I could get to Tunisia, but could not cross Libya. I could go the long way around, but it would take weeks and cost a fortune in visas and hotels. But I have an office to get to promptly, and taking three weeks and $4,000 to travel there and back is unrealistic.

Supposing we all quit flying tomorrow and just used Skype to hold conferences, and took the train to the beach for our holidays.

Then what about all the countries that depend on tourist dollars? What about world peace being achieved through grassroots interactions? What about the teenager in Cambodia who has learned eight languages to speak to tourists?

What's the answer?

There is no single answer. It's a conundrum. My compromise is to drive infrequently, switch my energy supplier to wind and solar power, go by surface transport if at all feasible, and indulge in few cow products.

Maybe if I'm serious, I'll turn off my computer more often...

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Lonely Desert

Last night I went to a bookstore to see Tony and Maureen Wheeler (the founders of Lonely Planet) speak. There weren't many people there, but the audience raptly followed the slideshow and trade-off narration. He'd narrate a slide, then she'd pick up with the next. They were old hats at the presentation. I'm sure they'd done it dozens of times since the book they were supporting--newly published in the US--has been out in many other parts of the world since 2005.

"Should I get the Lonely Planet book or the Bill Clinton autobiography?" I'd asked the young woman working in the upscale mall bookstore in Gaborone, Botswana two years ago. She'd smiled sweetly and pointed to the Clinton one. "He is very interesting."

Nevertheless, the weight of the Clinton autobiography sent me to the LP book. I was already carrying a huge backpack and a laptop. And probably a Lonely Planet guidebook to Southern Africa.

When the Wheelers finished their slideshow last night, I squeezed in a question about their participation in the Plymouth-Banjul Challenge, as they'd mentioned that the Mitsubishi they'd driven had cost $600.

"I thought cars had to cost less than a hundred pounds and preparations could only cost fifteen pounds," I said.

"They're more suggestions than rules," said Tony Wheeler.

Boy howdy. I'd dismissed the idea of driving in the rally after Anne-Marie had suggested it, because the last thing I want to do is be in a car that overheats once an hour in the Sahara Desert. Even my trusty Henry the 1990 Ford Taurus is a thousand-dollar-car, not a hundred-pound-car. And he gets cranky once in a while.

I'm not saying I'm driving in any rally. It's infinitely cheaper to take the bus to Banjul from the UK. But $600 seems less crazy that 100 pounds.

"We had one puncture in this $600 Mitsubishi," said Tony Wheeler. "That was it. Not one mechanical problem." And they'd sold it for more than twice what they'd bought it for, with all the money going to charity.

Maybe I should give this expedition a little more thought before ruling it out completely.

Spelling Lesson

Let's talk about search words.

Not a thorough discussion. I mean, just a quick note. I don't want to bore you with details of how everyone searching for "shark vs hippo" seems to find me.

No, let's talk about spelling search words properly.

I know there are a lot of people in the world who can't spell, but what amazes me is the simple words they struggle with.

So for all those people finding my blog while searching for "big dik" or "long dik" or "hot dik," I have only this to say, you dummies.

Your friendly neighborhood dik-dik resents you misspelling his name. It has a hyphen and repeat. Let's get it right, folks. DIK-DIK. And he is not long or big or hot (except maybe in summer). He is timid, small, and polite.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Owl-Eagle-Mouth-Two Strokes-Reed

Egypt. Seems like I was just there.

Wait... I was.

And here I am almost definitely heading back in a few weeks.

The office helper, a Nubian man from the Upper Nile region, kept offering to get me a necklace of my name in hieroglyphics.

"I have one of those from when I came to Egypt as a tourist," I explained. I didn't want anyone buying me gifts.

"But you don't have one from Aswan." His disappointment showed. But he didn't buy me a necklace.

I opened a box packed in 2000 today. At the bottom was a dusty box of jewelry. Most of it went right in the trash, except for things I'd had since I was a kid. I kept this, though I don't think I'd ever wear it in public.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Out of the House

I wasn't there, but the conversation probably went something like this.

Roberta: "I'm worried about Marie. She's working all the time. Can you help me get her out of the house on weekends?"

Michael Kraiger: "You're right. She's even worse than usual. She's a freelancer at heart. This full-time employment thing has broken her completely. I'll do what I can if you do."

The next day, Roberta showed up on my front steps with a bagel. A few days later, Kraiger emailed about some upcoming events. I agreed to go to two of the three. The third is ferrying kayaks across the Hudson on June 24th. I expect to be in Cairo by then.

So last night, I found myself across the street at a wacky performance art talent show. The last performers reminded me of why Yancey doesn't like performance art, but the first several were awesome. A heavy woman did the "can" as opposed to the can-can, because she purportedly could not lift her legs enough to can-can. A bright-eyed innocent Midwesternish girl played the concertina while rapping "I Got It Made" and standing on her head. A woman in a sparkly wig sang "I need a man, I need a man... because I'm afraid of bears." And a man in a tight "wife-beater" T-shirt and suspenders played the ukelele while singing "Material Girl" and sitting in a wheelchair.

Then today, Kraiger dragged me up to the Five Corners Library, where author Steven Hart spoke about his new book, The Last Three Miles: Politics, Murder, and the Construction of America's First Superhighway.

I haven't read the book yet, but the lecture was a fascinating account of the events surrounding the construction of what became then known as "Death Avenue," the Pulaski Skyway. It's a decaying three-mile bridge that rises a hundred feet above JC, ferrying commuters from the world-at-large over our wetlands and chaotic melting pot of a fair city--but to call it a bridge doesn't do it justice. The Pulaski Skyway is simply this: A skyway. That of "This Land Is Your Land" fame. There is no other.

With good reason. The Pulaski Skyway was a colossal mistake. Hart explained how it was built on a railroad model. The center lane was for cars going in either direction to pull over. There were no shoulders. On and off ramps had no merge lanes. There wasn't even such thing as a merge lane yet--remember, this was the first of the big highways. Today, locals drive in the left lane, leaving the right lane open for those poor souls who rev up the ramps only to encounter a stop sign and a long line of cars driven by panicked drivers hoping to go from zero to 60 mph the next time they see a break. Local drivers stuck on the ramp honk impatiently as if to say, "See that three-car-length space between those two SUVs doing 70? You're a wimp! You coulda made that."

And the author mentioned that JC was a city exploited by the railroads. This is true--my old condo was surely meant to be transient housing for railroad workers, the waterfront was owned by competing railroad lines, and today's PATH train was New York's first underground train, even older than the New York City subway lines.

Even today, the long-dormant railroads are still causing us problems. We fight over their right-of-ways. Developers covet the granite walls that held the tracks, planning condos. Residents dream of elevated greenways, bike paths that would connect the Hudson River bike path to the NJ Greenway in the state's interior.

The Pulaski Skyway is dear to my heart. It's so ugly that it's gorgeous. So decrepit that it's perfect. So dangerous that a flutter goes through my chest when I have to choose--the slower truck route, the safe but pricey NJ Turnpike, or the free Pulaski Skyway? How is Henry the Ford feeling? Is he warm? Is there any chance he might overheat if there's a traffic jam up top? Once you're up there in the sky, there's almost no way out.

But it is also means this. It is between Newark Airport and JC. The sight of the Pulaski Skyway means I am home.

DIY Addict

I'm a renter, and yet I cannot resist the call of DIY.

It wasn't such a big deal, the water leaking out of the spout while I was using the shower. But it seemed like a waste, and how hard could it be to fix?

Easy. One twist and the spout was off. I've just scrubbed the whole area and in the morning, I hope to prove that changing a spout is a cinch.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Local Advice

I went to the plumbing store to show them the old spout from Yancey's tub. The diverter has apparently been broken for a decade, so I took the whole contraption off and stuck it in front of the helpful guys at the plumbing store.

"What is this and may I please have a new one?"

Fourteen dollars and a few chuckles later, I found myself out by the cheap gas stations. It's all relative, of course, as $2.93 a gallon doesn't seem the least bit cheap to me, but Jersey has some of the cheapest gas in the country, and the stations between 440 and the highways over Newark Bay are some of the cheapest in JC.

I stopped at the station behind the Jiffy Lube, next to the truck stop. An Indian shopkeeper approached my car. I handed him my keys and asked if I should follow him back to the booth to pay. (NJ has full-serve only and these were not pay at the pump.)

"No, please, stay in your car with your doors locked. Many strange things happen here."

I looked around. Urban decay, deserted cars, trucks, and stacks of palettes, and in the distance, the tip of the Pulaski Skyway. It did look kind of dangerous. I just don't think about it that way since I've been driving through it for 19 years.

"That's why I don't wear a watch. It's dangerous," he explained further.

Point taken. I stayed in the car and locked the doors.

Friday Update

I've been slack on the blog postings and I apologize. Not just to the readers, but to myself. No matter how overwhelmed I become with work, I need to take time out to do my own thing. This own thing in particular. So I am trying to reform.

An update:

-I fixed the grasshopper to where it at least works. Not perfectly yet. Jon Babc0ck is going to help me with his mastery of music software. He doesn't know it yet. I assigned him the file and he'll find out next time he checks his email.

-I've agreed to go to Cairo if that is what is needed. It will be a long, hot summer. Maybe I can stay inside and work on Curse of the Hippo.

-I have not only fallen behind on the blog. I have to do laundry, buy a Delta slip-on spout with diverter, get my car inspected in Virginia or move his residence to NJ, do my very late taxes, and rejoin the gym. And no, I haven't finished unpacking yet. And this week the clothing issue reached a crisis point when I realized that I don't actually own anything suitable to wear to an office. Or to the park. Or the mall. Or the coffee shop.

As blog penance and to demonstrate my blog remorse, I will post three times today. Here is the first post.

While desperately searching my laptop for a page I lost during last week's crash, I came across this shot that Turbo took of me and Rob in China. It made me laugh. The clueless leading the lost.