Monthly Archives: December 2005

The things I do because I love my family…

The week before Thanksgiving, I got a call from my cousin Winnie. In her business-like manner and slight european accent, she channeled “Fiddler on the Roof” and said, “Marisa, do I have a man for you!”

Before I go any further, I have to explain just how much Winnie loves to act as a matchmaker. Every family has to have one, and when she married my cousin David (first cousin, once removed actually), she saw the position was vacant and took it on. I’ve gone out with someone on her recommendation before, and while it wasn’t a total failure, it wasn’t the match of the century.

Winnie continued to tell me that he was 29, Israeli, and staying with some friends of theirs around the corner (in the suburbs, half an hour away from Center City). He was new to this country and didn’t know anyone, would I be interested in meeting him? My head was screaming, “no, don’t do it” but somehow the words that came out of my mouth were, “I’d be happy to.” I told her to email me his phone number, and I would give him a call. I admit that I was hoping that I’d be able to wiggle out of it by saying yes and then taking no action, a favorite old trick of mine I used to employ when my mom would ask me to take the trash out or clean the cat box.

She sent me the number and I spent three days putting it off. I was planning on calling on Thanksgiving, because I knew I would be seeing Winnie that day, and I wanted to be able to tell her that yes, I had called this guy. But she beat me to the punch. She called me about an hour before I had been planning on calling, to ask me if I wouldn’t come over to her house before our family dinner and walk over to her neighbor’s house to meet him. Being a girl who can’t say no, especially to people I love, I said yes.

And so I pulled up in front of the cousins’ house a couple hours before the family dinner in Plymouth Meeting, feeling awkward, nervous and uncomfortable. We walked over to the house and it was just as bad as I thought it would be. We all stood around in the kitchen, my cousins, their friends, the guy and me. Everyone around us talked, and while I tried to engage this guy in conversation, he was shy and uncomfortable too. Someone suggested we all go sit down in the living room, but after I was sitting, I looked up and I realized that my cousin Winnie was still in the kitchen with the guy. I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to stay in there or go into the living room. It turns out that I was supposed to go into the living room so that Winnie could ask the guy if he was interested in getting together with me sometime. Uh-huh.

After a deeply uncomfortable phone call from the guy the next day, I realized I’ve learned my lesson. I think I’m going to stop saying yes because at the moment it’s easier than saying no. The momentary discomfort of the no would have saved me greater discomfort in the long run. Ah yes, dating (especially when family tries to help you do it) sucks.

Ready for home

I leave for home in less than 48 hours, and I am more than ready to make the switch, from independent young woman living on her own in the big city, to daughter, living with parents and sister.

I am looking forward to the moment when the dog cries with excitement upon seeing me.
To flopping down on the big, brown leather couch in the living room with the pillows I bought at the Plymouth Meeting Ikea and shipped home.
To being wrapped up in a family hug, and being the recipient of a kiss attack.
To having my mom crawl into bed with me at night, as the cat makes grouchy noises upon being disturbed.
To drinking coffee and solving the Oregonian’s Sudoku puzzle in my pajamas while sitting around my grandfather’s dining table.
To foot massages, 1950’s tree ornaments, pizza on Christmas eve and turkey bacon the next morning.
To cooking a turkey with my dad in the morning and cleaning up the mess with my mom that night.
To chrismas wishes, trees with slowing flashing lights and a loving home.

I can’t get there fast enough.

Zeynep–a girl or an alien race, you be the judge

A friend of a friend lives in Turkey. He is dating a young woman named Zeynep. When our friend first told us this, we all had puzzled looks flash across our faces. Ingrid said, “It sounds like a kind of tea.” I commented that I thought it sounded like an alien species or language, kind of like, “I come from the planet Zeynep, take me to your leader.” Cindy finished us off with, “I think you use it to remove stains. I spilled some red wine on the sweater, and a little squirt of Zeynep got it right out!” We hope they are happy together and have many little Zeyneps.

Random Friday–The Ready for the Weekend Edition

Welcome Friday, I am so glad you are here. Because you are here, I know it is time again for me to send my iPod into shuffle and tell you what the first ten songs to show up are. Round and round we go…

1. Anthem, Gabriel Yared (Cold Mountain Soundtrack)
2. Take Me Down, Ellis Paul (Live)
3. Section 12 (Hold Me Now), The Polyphonic Spree (Together We’re Heavy)
4. My IQ, Ani DiFranco (Puddle Dive)
5. Masterplan, My Morning Jacket (It Still Moves)
6. Dirt Road Blues, Bob Dylan (Time Out of Mind)
7. Bigger Than My Body, John Mayer (Heavier Things)
8. Long Live the King, Skymonters (The Skymonters)
9. I Am Only Sleeping, The Vines (I Am Sam)
10. Shameless, Ani DiFranco (Dilate)

Seen Live: The Polyphonic Spree. Last year I saw the Spree on Valentine’s Day at the TLA with a bunch of my girlfriends. It was the best live show I’ve ever seen in my life. They were loud, enthusiastic, passionate, joyful, sweaty and amazing. After seeing them live, hearing them on CD is a poor substitute (although still good).

This doesn’t have anything to do with my Random Ten, but it’s about music so I’m throwing it in here. I saw the movie TransAmerica on Wednesday night (amazing movie). A song from one of my favorite bands, Old Crow Medicine Show, was in the soundtrack, about half way through. I got a little thrill out of the recognition.

Anyway, enough of my ramblings. Need more random fridays? Check out: Mac, Luna, Howard and Ben.


Keyboarding was the most valuable class I took in middle school. These days I consider that one semester I spent with Mrs. Hartzell among the most useful in my life. Not that I enjoyed it while I was in it. As a sixth grader in 1990, I didn’t understand why I needed to learn to type. It was just before computers were ubiquitous, and my righteous little 11 year old self found it archaic and mildly sexist (even though it was a co-ed class). I hated being graded on my ability to move my fingers accurately while a piece of paper was taped over my hands.

We had assigned seats and were taught to boot the computers using the very large, floppy disks that we inserted into external drives that had little levers that locked down. We were timed as we formatted letters from the hardbacked, standing books to the left of our keyboards. Mrs. Hartzell had created a large replica of a keyboard with take-out food containers that huge on the wall behind my head. She proudly showed it off during our first class, and often stood underneath it with a yard stick, pointing out places where potential typos could occur. I got a C at the midterm because I couldn’t break the habit of looking at my fingers, but only managed to pull it up to a B by the end of the grading period, despite my habit of going home and practicing typing, “The quick fox jumped over the lazy dog” over and over again on our PC.

I often think about that keyboarding class and Mrs. Hartzell these days, as my fingers fly over the keys. I don’t have to look at my fingers on a good day, although the habit to look down often reasserts itself. I think about all the moaning I did when I was first told I had to take that class, and how I never realized what a valuable and useful skill I would be learning. These days, I count on my ability to type. It allows me to communicate, to quickly and easily convey a thought or idea to my boss, my mother or my friend Cindy. Mrs. Hartzell, wherever you are, I thank you for your devotion to the art of keyboarding and your passion for passing it on to reluctant sixth graders.

Overheard at Reading Terminal

Yesterday I was standing in the back of Iovine’s Produce in Reading Terminal, chatting with a clerk while I waited for them to bring up a couple of cases of fruit for me from the basement (part of our APHA giveaway). We had been talking for about five minutes, when an elderly black man walked up to the clerk, to be checked out. He had remnants of the south in his voice, and started telling us about the many years he had known the market. He said that he had been coming there since he got out of the service in 1948, and then, the floors at Iovine were always wet. He recounted his memories of the times when the market almost closed and expressed his appreciation that it was still there.

He was buying two packages of Scotch Bonnet peppers (about 24 of those suckers) along with a large packet of habeneros. Neither the clerk nor I had commented on his selection, but he saw us looking, and said, “My grandson asked for hot pepper jelly and I’m gonna fix his shit.” He walked on, and the clerk and I exchanged a look and a giggle. My fruit showed up and I went on my way, but kept thinking about that encounter. His delivery was so honest, with a touch of glee at the impending shocker he was getting ready to present to his grandson, that it delighted me all day. I wonder if his grandson has any tastebuds left today.

How am I smart?

I’ve been standing behind a booth for 8+ hours a day for the last three days, and still have tomorrow to contend with, so my creative juice machine is barely eeking out the trickle of inventive liquid necessary to get this sentence out of me. I’m out of breathe just writing that. So, instead of a post briming with insight or observations from my childhood, I offer this. It’s the results of a fun little quiz that Brooke over at Odious Woman tagged to all on her blog roll.

Social (4.29): You like to develop ideas and learn from other people. You like to talk (Oh shit, I’ve been found out). You have good social skills (that’s what some people say). Effective techniques of enhancing your learning using your social intelligence include taking part in group discussions or discussing a topic one-to-one with another person. Find ways to build reading and writing exercises into your group activities, such as:

Reading a dialogue or a play with other people (I’m sure my friends would love it if I made us read dialogue one night as we were hanging out).
Doing team learning/investigating projects.
Setting up interview questions and interviewing your family, and writing down the interview (I’ve been doing this informally as long as I’ve been able to talk and ask questions).
Writing notes to another instead of talking.

Language (4.14): You enjoy enjoy saying, hearing, and seeing words. You like telling stories. You are motivated by books, records, dramas, opportunities for writing (Yep, why else would I be doing this blog thing). Effective techniques of enhancing your learning using your language intelligence include reading aloud, especially plays and poetry. Another idea is to write down reflections on what you’ve read. You may also enjoy exploring and developing your love of words, i.e., meanings of words, origin of words and idioms, names. Use different kinds of dictionaries. Other ideas:

Keep a journal.
Use a tape recorder to tape stories and write them down.
Read together, i.e., choral reading.
Read a section, then explain what you’ve read.
Read a piece with different emotional tones or viewpoints — one angry, one happy, etc.
Trade tall tales, attend story-telling events and workshops.
Research your name. (Does Googling your name count)?

Self (3.43): You have a very good sense of self. You like to spend time by yourself and think things over. You will often take in information from another person, mull it over by yourself, and come back to that person later to discuss it. You like working on projects on your own. You often prefer to learn by trial and error. Effective techniques to enhance your learning include keeping a journal and giving yourself time to reflect on new ideas and information. More ideas:

Go on “guided imagery” tours (no thank you, I’d prefer real tours).
Set aside time to reflect on new ideas and information.
Encourage journal writing (how many times has this quiz told me to write already?).
Work on the computer (I spend more hours than I care to admit working on the computer).
Practice breathing for relaxation.
Use brainstorming methods before reading.
Listen to and read “how to” tapes and books (I don’t want to).
Read cookbooks (okay, I admit, I’ve been reading cookbooks like they were fiction for years).

Who am I tagging to do this? You, but only if you want to.

Hide and seek

Saturday afternoon I got home from setting up the booth at APHA to two emails. One from Luna and another from Mr. Blankbaby himself. They had both written to invite me to see The Chronicles of Narnia with them that evening. I love impromptu gatherings with blogging friends, and was luckily able to join them.

Sitting in that darkened theater, watching as Lucy, Edmond, Susan and Peter played Hide and Seek, my memories of playing that game came flooding into the featured section of my brain. When my family first moved to Portland from LA, we moved into a house that was twice the size as the one we had lived in before. My sister and I hadn’t made many friends yet and our large, empty house just begged to have games of Hide and Seek played in it. And so we played. With my parents.

My parents prided themselves on coming up with good hiding places, and often looked up to find adequate spots to conceal their adult frames. Most memorable are the instances when my mom hid on top of the refrigerator, and my dad perched atop the linen closet in the downstairs bathroom. They taught me to think creatively when it came to playing games, and made me think hard to best their secret spots.

We probably only did this a handful of times, but the memories of those few hours of play are vivid and special. My parents played games with my sister and me many times, but mostly of the card and board game variety. It was rare that they’d let loose, count to 100 hundred and run around the house trying to uncover exactly where Raina and I were concealed. But man, I’m grateful for the times that they did.

Break up pain, all over again

Last night I went to a party and met my ex-boyfriend Ted’s new girlfriend. I was totally thrown by this experience. Ted and I have been broken up for a year and a half, and have recently become friends. We have a lot of history together and we enjoy each other’s company, so it was natural that we would fall into friendship after a some heart-healing time had elapsed. Going into the party last night, I knew he was going to be there and that he had a new girlfriend. But I didn’t know that she was going to be there. And I was completely unprepared for how much it would hurt to see them together.

No one came over to tell me that she was there. He had come alone, we had talked, and then a little later, I glanced across the room and realized that someone was standing next to him, exuding a proprietary air. In that click of time I knew who she was and I felt light-headed (okay, that might have also had something to do with the amount of vodka I consumed within the first hour of the party). I had no idea that I would feel that way, that I would be so totally awash in emotion. I understand now that this is in part due to the fact that seeing her, meeting her, was a completely new experience for me. Ted was my first and only long term boyfriend, and so I’ve never been in the situation of meeting my former love’s new interest.

I managed to avoid them for awhile, carefully timing my movements around the apartment to times when I knew they were caught up in conversations with others. The moment of face to face meeting came when I was in the kitchen, pouring a glass of water. I turned around and they were both standing there in the doorway. People stood, blocking my other route of escape, and so I stuck my hand out and said, “Hi, I’m Marisa.” We chatted for a bit, talking about nothing. Our words carried unsaid messages back and forth, and in lower moments, I found myself saying things that would establish my history of intimacy and shared experience with Ted, and would somehow exclude her. I knew I was doing it, and I was ashamed of my actions, even as I continued to take them. It was with shaky relief that I ended that conversation and walked away from them.

I’ve done some thinking today about this experience, and have come to realize that by the age of 26, when it comes to emotional experiences, new ones don’t come along everyday. I’m trying to appreciate the newness of this particular one, trying to view it with some manufactured distance, so that it doesn’t swamp my tenuous grasp on my own worth. I’ve also been working from the inside out on making sure that I archive an image, a two-dimensional representation of these feelings, so that I can find away to make them work to my advantage someday. But there are also the moments when it feels fresh and hurtful, a muted version of the breakup pain from a year and a half ago. I am grateful that I am not with Ted anymore, there were things in our relationship that were deeply not right, and yet, it hurts.


This afternoon I had to drive down to the Pennsylvania Convention Center to pick up my office’s passes for the APHA meeting. Trying to find parking in that area, especially the day after several inches of snow is not my favorite activity. I had circled the area twice and was starting to feeling really frustrated, when, heading east on Filbert, I saw a well dressed man getting into a car. I pulled up behind him, as his brakelights came on, and turned on my blinker. A New Jersey Transit bus pulled up behind me and sat on his horn, while I stopped traffic for 35 seconds to let the spot free up. He flashed his lights at me and did his very best to intimidate me into moving and letting him past, which I was not about to do. That was my parking space, and no big old bus was going to scare me off of it.

The car exited the spot and I pulled in quickly. A little too quickly, because as I was backing up, I gently tapped the early model GM sedan behind me. A car in which someone was sitting. It was the kind of tap that you experience while parking all the time, but one that could set someone off, if they were looking to release some frustration out onto someone. I finished my parking job as fast as I could, grabbed my keys and my bag and headed over to the car behind me. The driver’s window was half open and I leaned down and said, “I tapped you didn’t I? I am so sorry. It’s just that that bus was honking at me and I was trying to get out of his way.” The elderly black man sitting in the driver’s seat turned his head towards me and offered a slow smile. In a gentle voice, he said, “I’m not killed, am I?” With a carefree flap of his hand, he told me not to worry about and sent me on my way.

As I walked towards the convention center, I felt light, as if during that simple interaction, I had been wiped clean, my tension and hurry erased. I wish I could thank him again, for accepting my human foible and not piling any extra frustration or anger on me just for coming into contact with him. I wish more exchanges in life were like that.