Monthly Archives: January 2010

Sometimes There’s Nothing Like 711

It’s 10PM on a Saturday night, and Mike and I are walking the streets of Vancouver, BC.  We’ve been in the city just over 24 hours and have explored Stanley Park, Granville Island, and Gastown.  We’re ready to cut loose — and cut a rug.

I know what you’re thinking.  “Seriously!?  Dancing?   For the love of all that’s good, you’re MARRIED.  Act your age.”

We had those thoughts too.  But we dismissed them quickly.  Dancing is fun.

Getting to dance?  Not as fun.  No one told us that Vancouver does an incredibly good job masquerading as New York City;  when the sun goes down she puts on a little lipstick and suddenly she’s running down the street in a mini-skirt hailing a cab.  Really, V?  Just who do you think you are?

Things begin optimistically as we have dinner at a chic and lively restaurant called the Cactus Club.  It attracts singles in their late twenties and early thirties, our dream demographic (we are 25, but being married adds five years).  We have a great dinner and decide to ask the wait staff for some recommendations for a local club or lounge that wasn’t disgusting but wasn’t sterile either.  Please, we beg, don’t send us somewhere that has STDs on the walls, but we don’t want to go to a bar at the Hyatt either.  Tell us there’s middle ground!

“Head six blocks south on Granville and you’ll see Sip,” she explained.  “Totally hip but completely relaxed.  And no cover.”

So we start walking down Granville.  We intentionally dressed to impress in case of strict codes at any of the venues we visited, but we managed to wear weather-appropriate attire; not so for many of the other revelers of the night.  Apparently 35 degree weather doesn’t deter hundreds of Vancouver women from wearing mini-dresses with bare backs.  I am in a small dress too…but with leggings and a long, cream-colored wool trench — toasty warm and laughing with relief at not being naked on a winter’s night.

We are stunned as we go further and further down Granville; every single club we pass has velvet rope outside the door with fifty people waiting to get inside.  I look at Mike.  He looks at me.  We keep walking.

At last we spot Sip and approach the door.  Naturally, there is a black velvet rope preventing the passing public from mistakenly thinking they are welcome in this lounge.  I make the split-second decision not to act cool.

“Hello,” I say to the bouncer.  In my mind I can see my 22-year-old self running down the block to get away from the embarrassment of my 25-year-old self who couldn’t care less.

“Do you have a reservation?” the large man asks us.  I almost laugh.

“No, we don’t,” I say as Mike steps forward.

“Table for two,” Mike says, and the bouncer looks at his clipboard.

“Let me just check inside and see if I can get you in,” he replies, surprisingly politely.  It occurs to me that even though this whole charade is ridiculous, it still has the power to make me feel weak, like I’m at risk of being rejected from my own high school prom.

“I don’t have a table right now, but you’re welcome to wait upstairs until something opens up,” he offers.  We bite.  Upstairs we go.

Except that there’s not one vacant seat upstairs, even at the bar.  I turn to Mike and say “This is so not worth it.  Do you realize the heels I’m wearing?  I’m not spending $10 a drink to stand in five-inch heels.”

He visits the bouncer once again, and it works.  We scoot inside as Mike hands him some cash, but he politely declines it.  Maybe this isn’t New York after all; I forgot Canadians can be so nice.

We take a seat on the bench just inside the door, not caring in the least that we are technically still in the entry — we are just grateful to be inside while others continue to wait in the Line of Shame outside.

Just then a waitress looks over at us, horrified, and says “Why are you sitting there?”  We’re instantly ashamed.  What?  We don’t belong?  We’re not fabulous enough?  Is it that I’m not half-naked?

“You don’t need to sit there!” she cries.  “There’s a table for two right here!”  I thought I would melt onto the floor with relief.

Like I said, Canadians can be so nice.

After a couple of drinks and many more laughs, we’ve sipped Sip and we’re full.

We start walking down Granville toward our hotel, in search of our next spot, this time with dancing, we hope.  We stare agape at the lines that have grown from one hundred people to several hundred, lines that snake down the sidewalk covering half-blocks.

We finally come across a bar that seems super cool and doesn’t have a line, but is busy inside.  We step in and look around to confirm there’s dancing.  There’s definitely dancing, but it’s only coming from the girls on staff in top-hats, fishnets, and silky bras shaking from the balcony for everyone’s enjoyment.  Mike abruptly turns around and walks outside.  This is beginning to feel hopeless.

He turns to me when we’re in the cold air.  “There’s an insane party happening in room 711 at the Hotel Le Soleil.  There’s wine and champagne, there’s room service, and there’s an incredibly attractive redhead…want to go?”

Do I ever.

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Filed under AwkWORD (Humor)

Better than Apple Jacks

Not all men can be Shakespeare, and it’s probably best that most don’t try to be.

One of Mike’s most fantastic qualities is that he is utterly accepting of this fact.  Case in point:  he once promised me that he would never attempt to write me a poem; he thinks they are ridiculous, especially when written by the average adult male.

Since I am a woman who loves to write (though not poems), I don’t need my spouse to try to please me through my own medium — I’m happy to accept affection in other forms (unexpected gifts and vacations, natch).

Given all of this, one can imagine my shock last week when we got together with our friends Stephen and Jessica, and they said they had found a poem by Mike in their storage of high school mementos.

A WHAT?

Yes, a poem.  Mike’s face turned pink as soon as they mentioned it.  Then he burst out laughing.

“It’s horrible!” he said between laughs.  “It’s so bad you won’t even believe it was published.”

PUBLISHED?

He clarified quickly.  “We had an assignment to write a love poem, so of course I thought it was the stupidest assignment and I decided to be so over-the-top that they wouldn’t publish mine in the class book.  But they did anyway, and so it reads like I’m being completely serious.”

I considered for a moment whether he was just saying that to cover up whatever horrors lie in those stanzas.  The next day they emailed it to us, and I didn’t have to wonder — he was most definitely being ridiculous for the asinine assignment.

But judge for yourself.  And ladies, try not to swoon; this guy’s already taken:

How do you describe it?
Does it make you overjoyed?
Can you feel your heartbeat?
Does it make you do crazy things?

How do you describe it?
How do you describe love?
I think it’s a completely selfless expression
To put another first in everything.

It’s finding someone tastier than Red Vines.
And Hot Tamales.
Someone better than Apple Jacks.
Or peanut butter M&M’s.

It’s finding someone worth spending even just a
moment with, yet after you’ve searched
a lifetime to find.

Someone who when you look into their eyes
You find yourself closest to heaven.
Someone who if they died,
You would continue to love until the rest of YOUR life.
That is true love.

– Michael Reph

Believe me, there was some serious negotiating before I was allowed to share this with anyone outside of our home.  But I pointed out that I have shared my own humiliating moments (here, here and here) so what’s a poem between friends?

What’s funniest about this isn’t that he’s joking, or that it’s cheesy, or that it uses such silly references to candy.  What’s funniest is that it inspired the use of humor in his vows to me.  A sample:

“If there were no more chips and salsa or Mirror Pond in the world, I’d still be happy if I was with you.”

People laughed out loud at our wedding when he read that to me.  It was a total departure from what was otherwise a very serious vow statement.  Little did people know it was Michael Reph quoting Michael Reph.  He really should give himself more credit.

So honey, since Sunday is the two year anniversary of you saying those vows, I can say without a doubt that the poem you wrote at 16 turned out to be spot on.  You have proven to be tastier than Hot Tamales and you’ve made me feel my heartbeat.   You’ve shown me love as a completely selfless expression, and you’ve put me first in so many things.  Fortunately for me, you didn’t take a lifetime to find.

I know that I’ve made you do crazy things, but I hope, for your sake, that I turned out to be better than Apple Jacks.

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Filed under AwkWORD (Humor)

Paralyzed Chicken Feet

I am disturbed.

Disgusted.

Annoyed.

I just watched Food, Inc.

I’m obviously grossly behind the times, since the movie came out in 2008, but still.  It’s awakening.  It’s upsetting.  I’m itching to get to a grocery store just so I can buy organic even though my freezer is already full of food.

And I’m no naturalist.  I’ve always felt that the organic movement was just a ploy by grocers to make me spend $3.99 on spinach when I only wanted to spend $1.99.  Don’t act surprised; you already read this; is my behavior really a shock?

Anyway, it’s pretty hard to get excited about a sale on frozen chicken after seeing chemically-altered chicks hobble around on their enfeebled legs from the “enhancements” farmers give them.  How’s that for too long of a sentence?

I’m literally the last person on Earth to care about where my meat comes from.  But something clicked when my sister-in-law Rachel, who was watching this for the first time with me, turned to me and said, “Yes, God gave us dominion over the animals.  But this is not how He designed them, and we’re abusing them.”

How can I argue with that?

The hard part is when I’m standing in the poultry section of the grocery store, and I’m looking at one price versus another much higher price.  I’m thinking about my wallet, but I’m also thinking about that chicken: that chicken who can’t walk because his butt-head farmer feeds him hormones that make his muscles grow beyond what he can bear.

So I guess I’m going to start paying more for chicken.

Here’s the thing: I tend to find heated political documentaries (read: Michael Moore) to be nothing more than a slanted agenda.  But this seems to affect everyone.  Who among us doesn’t eat corn?  Oh, you don’t?  I bet you eat hundreds of things made with corn syrup, considering virtually everything is made with it.

Ugh, I sound like one of the documentary directors.

Mike and I have always been very on-the-fence about locally grown and organic food, because we weren’t sure that paying more for something meant that we were causing change in a corrupt system.

Now I know that’s because we didn’t realize just how corrupt that system is.

It would be wrong to say that this movie is the ultimate authority on meat and corn; it certainly isn’t.  But at least they’ve done more research than I have, and have spoken with some experts on the matter.

I don’t know if they’ve utterly convinced me never to buy regular meat again; what I do know is that they’ve sold me on doing my own research.  They’ve shown me that ignorance is anything but bliss.

My mom once asked me if I’d like to buy a portion of her cow.  Mike and I laughed.  What?  Your own cow?  What are you, a farmer?  She looked at us like she was speaking to 5-year-olds and explained that you can buy an entire cow from local farmers and the meat will last you a year.  I was grossed out at the thought of all that meat sitting in a freezer for months on end.

Now I’m shuffling my feet around as I sheepishly admit to my conservative mother that her liberal idea was actually…brilliant.

So our brother and sister-in-law may join us in buying a cow.  We think it’s the best approach for an enormous problem that seems beyond repair.

Well, maybe half a cow.  It’s not like we eat beef five nights a week.

But I do eat beef.  Here’s a secret I share with very few people: when no one is around, and I’m out to lunch by myself, I like to visit Taco del Mar.  Or Taco Time.  But never Taco Bell…I do have some dignity.

I love the Mexi-fries and the crispy beef tacos, the shredded lettuce and the diced tomatoes.  I especially love the anonymity of the drive-thru.

But then I had to go and watch Food, Inc., and ruin all of that.  They essentially convinced me that I’m eating dog food, beef fit only for dogs, and I’m sickened…but slightly sad.  Is that weird?  Is it OK to mourn the loss of food that is repulsive but delicious?

I’m not likely to tell people how to eat better or more organically.  I think everyone is entitled to their own choice — all I can do is inform people to watch Food, Inc., and see what they find.

When your conscience won’t let you order a burger after watching this film, I would not be the least bit offended if you wanted to punch me in the face.  In fact, I cry the same crocodile tears about my loss of Taco Time.  The pain is real.

But then, so is the cost.

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Filed under One WORD (Current Events)

Downward-Facing Dog?

I’m staring face-down at a yoga mat, willing my hamstrings to stretch to new lengths.  The hypnotizing chants of Eastern music have done nothing to ease my strain.  I’m trying.  I’m trying very hard.

And that is exactly the problem.  “Abby,” the instructor says in the middle of my pose. “Relax your neck.”

Against my instincts, I drop my head down to within an inch of the mat.  Suddenly my back is stretching instead of my head, and I’m feeling better.

I hate when yoga instructors are right.

In fact, I thought I hated yoga instructors and the yoga they teach.  I have only done yoga one other time, and it was because I wanted to see what all the women from work were getting so excited about as the clock neared 5PM every day.  Unfortunately, it was hot yoga.  So what?  I thought.   I’ll sweat a little.

Not only did I sweat more than Niagara Falls in springtime, I also received the yoga blessing of watching others’ sweat fling over onto my mat.  I smelled acidic perspiration that no human should ever have to inhale.  And when I committed the yoga-sin of reaching for my water bottle after enduring a horrific pose, the instructor actually yelled at me.  A scary, tiny, female, Asian instructor with the fiercest six-pack I have ever seen in my life yelled at me in the middle of class.  I found it ironic that I was paying money to relax while being harassed.

I vowed never to return.

And yet, here I am in the middle of a non-hot yoga class, feeling the stretch.  How did I get here?

In case you haven’t noticed (like here, here, and here), I am an intense individual.  I am a control-freak, and I tend to carry all of my problems between my shoulder blades — right at the base of my neck.  I take nearly everything seriously, usually to my own detriment.

For example, during one of our pre-marriage counseling sessions in 2007, we took a personality test and I rated off the charts in self-discipline.  Guess what I felt when the therapist told me this?  Blushing pride.  I felt like the valedictorian of pre-marriage counseling.  You can imagine my surprise when she looked at Mike with total sincerity and said, “This is going to cause many problems for you.”

What?  Don’t you mean, This is going to solve many problems for him as I take over his life?…oh.  I get it.

It’s been two years since that counseling session and I haven’t made much progress in the way of stress.  And since I never want to be the lady who can only relax after two martinis, I decided to take control.  Wait, there it is again.  Do you see my language?  Amendment:  I decided to release control.

“Abby,” the instructor said quietly again. “Let your head hang.”

Shoot — I’m in a completely different position and yet I’m tense again.  I start to laugh this time, because it is exactly my personality that I would be focusing so hard on doing the yoga correctly that I tense up from the effort and miss the point entirely.

I’m here with my sister-in-law, Rachel, who agreed to give this new excerise a try with me.  We are both long-distance runners, and neither of us has the ability to calm ourselves and sit in peace for five minutes.  So, as skeptical as we were that this had anything to offer athletes like us, we went.

I tend to be of the opinion that yoga is pseudo-excercise, that it’s for people who refuse to admit that they’re not really working out.  All of the breathing and moving of the arms can’t possibly be doing anything except tricking people into believing that they’re burning calories and achieving inner peace.  Plus, as someone who loves the Lord, I’m not into the “emptying of the mind” that so often accompanies this practice.  I’ve learned to fill up with the Spirit, not empty everything out.

It’s about an hour into the class when I realize some of the motions are making my muscles burn like warm embers, the kind of burn where I know I’m building strength.  Then we move into a stretch that I don’t have to think very hard about, and I realize I can make this my own and just pray.  Who needs to empty their mind when there is so much of God to fill it?

Thirty minutes later the instructor tells us to lay on our mats for “everyone’s favorite position.”  She walks around to all five of us and places a bolster under our knees for back support.  As soon as my back hits the mat, I feel the most intense vibrations moving through my body.  It’s the most drug-like state I can imagine, and I cannot explain why I’m feeling this way.

In my mind I am suddenly transferred back to being four years old, and it’s nap time at my preschool.  The only reason any of us kids looked forward to nap time was because all of the nannies would come around and lightly rub our backs to help us fall asleep.  That was the exact feeling I felt as I lay on the mat in yoga, like someone was sitting with me, giving me a tiny massage or playing with my hair.  If you’ve ever let someone play with your hair, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  It’s sublime.

In that moment I had to face the humiliating truth, the admission I never thought I’d make as long as I live: I’m doing yoga — and I like it.

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Filed under UpWORD (Beauty)