Saturday, July 31, 2010

Are You There God, It's Me Wide Lawns

Being that we are both having girls, my sister and I started reminiscing the other day about all the books we most loved as children. We went up through the years, starting with Frog and Toad, then advancing to Island of the Blue Dolphins and A Little Princess before making it to about age ten or eleven, when everyone read Are You There God, It's Me Margaret, by Judy Blume. Everyone remembers this book, as well as all of Judy Blume's other young adult masterpieces.

I loved Judy Blume books too. As a kid, reading Judy Blume felt utterly subversive, yet totally allowed. The books were in the school library for goodness sakes. Did adults not know what was in them? They couldn't possibly or they'd never let us read them, yet, we were encouraged to read Judy Blume books. It was like every pre-teen girl shared an intimate secret with Judy Blume herself and our parents and teachers had no idea what we were really reading. Periods? Masturbation? Teen Sex? Wet Dreams? There was no way our parents would have let us read about that. Or so we thought. So reading Judy Blume books felt wonderfully naughty, yet sanctioned. Those books were perfect.

Except they scared the living hell out of me.

I did not realize that the books weren't written in the exact year in which I read them. I had no clue that many of the books were written before I was even born and that even in the early 80s when I read them, a lot of the information in them was already outdated. I lived in mortal terror of getting my period because I feared having to wear a maxi pad attached to a complicated belt of strings and cardboard. I had nightmares about this contraption. Even worse, I imagined having to wear this along with a back brace because after reading Deenie, I became convinced that I was going to have scoliosis too. Reading Margaret and Deenie caused me to imagine an existence in which I lived practically in traction with nothing but playing with myself to ease my suffering as I bled and bent my spine in preparation of woman-hood. Worse still, I read Then Again Maybe I Won't and couldn't pass by a window without thinking of a teenage boy watching me undress while whacking off through it. I was very vigilant about keeping my blinds closed at all times after that book.

If only I had felt comfortable enough asking an adult about what really goes on. I couldn't do that though, because in my mind, I'd be letting a grown-up in on the secret to the Judy Blume novels and if I did that, I knew I'd be depriving myself and all of my friends of slumber party read-alouds of the good parts of Forever. I would be betraying middle schoolers everywhere.

If only Are You There God, It's Me Margaret weren't outdated I would have known about modern day marvels like tampons and pads with adhesive backings (with wings no less!). I wouldn't have had to live petrified of some belt nonsense that no longer even existed.

I truly hope there are no young girls in 2010 who read this book and think like I did. There probably aren't though. I think all the eleven year olds nowadays are probably too busy pole dancing to worry about a belt and a sanitary napkin.

But still, I think that while Are You There God, It's Me Margaret is a classic, that it needs some serious updating. I actually had a dream that I updated it for 2010.

My version would go something like this:

First off, Margaret needs a name change. No one has named their child Margaret since 1965. I've heard of some cute retro Maggies, but no Margarets. Our Margaret would have been born in 1998. Her name would probably be Madison.  Her parents would be divorced. She would have to deal with two families and the whole theme of Christian vs. Jewish, well I've got that covered in a much more realistic way than in the original. I could just borrow a page from my own life there and throw in some nice family feuds caused by religious differences. Madison would have step-siblings and both of her parents would have not only joint custody of her, but also have had new children with each other in addition to the kids they brought from their previous marriages.

Madison would not write in a secret diary. Today's kids are far less secretive and far more narcissistic than that. They all want to be reality TV stars and want everything in their lives public. Madison would have a blog. She would be the victim of cyber-bullying. She might even experiment with cutting and she sure as hell wouldn't be wearing sweaters her Grandma made or be doing exercises to "increase her bust." There'd be much deeper body image issues than worrying about her friend growing boobs sooner than she did and the whole going to get the first bra thing would likely happen far differently too. Today's kids probably order a push-up bra from Victoria's Secret and call it all a day.

And the sad thing is, is that I wouldn't be writing a spoof or a satire of modern life at all. I've just described life for most twelve year old girls in 2010, or at least close to it. Compared to that, poor Margaret, who'd now be 52 if anyone's counting, couldn't relate. Worse yet, I don't think most current fifth and sixth graders would be able to relate to her anymore. I think we need a new classic, an update, a new Judy Blume for a very different generation of kids.

At the very least, we need a new heroine who is familiar with a tampon.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Forgive My Absence

Forgive me for not writing, but I've had some stuff going on.

My new house has black mold and termites. I have to move out of my new house for two months. The baby is going to be born in about two or three months. If I have to bring a new baby home to my parents' house, I might go on a rampage. Please let's hope that the baby enjoys where she is and wants to stay there until Halloween when the house is done.

So the house is going to be thoroughly repaired. In the end, it will be much nicer than it is now. It's getting a new kitchen, which it desperately needs. It's just that it needs to get done NOW and that I had no desire whatsoever to re-move.

I have to pack up all of my crap again, most of which I had put away and organized already and put it all in temporary storage, only to get it all back out again when I am nine months pregnant and put it all away.  I had wanted to make the baby a nice room and it looks like that might not get to happen. I can deal with that. I'll just keep her in a dresser drawer or a cardboard box in our room. I have a cat bed that Canela doesn't use. Cat beds are great for infants. In fact, the cat and the baby can even share it. It's not like babies can remember anything anyway and I'll just put her room together after she's born.

Husband and I are moving into our friends' house for a couple weeks in the meantime. Remember Husband's friend The Gyno? He's at his summer home up north for the next two months so we can stay freely at his house which is gorgeous and on the water. In Mid-August, my parents are going back to LA, to shoot a movie of all things (another story), and then we can stay at their house where I'm most comfortable. It will all work out, I'm sure.

On top of this, my husband's uncle, whom we adore, is in the ICU with liver failure (damage?) and awaiting a liver transplant. This was all so sudden and unexpected. We thought he was in perfect health and apparently this was caused by taking Tylenol every day?? I knew that Tylenol could be dangerous. I actually remember hearing something on NPR about it recently, but wow. I also remember my rheumatologist telling me that for treating my joint pain with OTC medications that I should use Tylenol sparingly and that I should alternate between Ibuprofen and Alleve and never take the same thing every day. So listen people. Don't take Tylenol (Acetaminophen) every day and NEVER take it after drinking and if you need to take pain killers every day, switch them up. You don't want to end up like our uncle. It's really sad and scary.

As if I didn't get enough bad news, yesterday, as my dad was on my way to Israel to visit his little sister, she ended up in the hospital too. My aunt is only a couple years older than me. I can't even call her my aunt because we seem like the same age. I mean, we played together as children. She too is pregnant. Her baby was due exactly one month after mine - another girl, meaning we are having three girls in a row in our family, being that my sister who is due in December is also having a girl. Yay for girls! My aunt has had a hard pregnancy, after several miscarriages, and last night at 23 weeks, she started bleeding and is now in the hospital on bed rest and they said they want to at least try to keep the baby in until 25 weeks. Say a prayer. At least my dad is there now to help out with her house and her other two children.

This is a lot of stress. I'm still teaching my summer class too, but I have to say - it's going really well. I've enjoyed it immensely. At first I was wary of teaching a business class, but I realized that success in business is really dependent on creativity and I've been able to do many creative, practical and fun activities with my business students and I think I've been able to teach them a lot about communication and the real power of words while at the same time giving their imaginations a good workout, which they needed. A lot.  

I'm going to miss teaching while I'm off from work tending to my baby in her cat bed.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Reba's Gone!

I can not believe this. Yesterday, they came and took Reba away to an old folks home and today her house is up for sale!! The woman lived in this house for 55 years. I'm here for a week and she leaves for the nursing home. I wonder who will move in next to me now. At least in the meantime I won't have to worry about my trashcan creeping over onto her property line.

I haven't met the people on the other side of me, but they appear to be old Jewish people with a meticulous yard. As we were moving furniture last week they stood in the yard and watched but weren't friendly and never introduced themselves, which I just don't understand, but this is South Florida after all.

We know lots of the other neighbors though and they have not hesitated to all, separately, delight in telling us that our landlord was a drug dealer and just got out of prison. Of course my landlord was a drug dealer. I mean, he really doesn't seem like it to me. I really like him a lot and he doesn't particularly fit into my drug dealer schema, but maybe my grandmother is right after all and everyone in South Florida is a criminal in some way.

Last night we found this mysterious, scary looking old safe in one of the closets we hadn't ventured into yet. It looks like Al Capone's vault or something and it's locked. We're going to call the landlord about it. I know I'm going to get my hopes all up, Geraldo style, that there's something exciting in there and then it will be empty.
Friday, July 16, 2010

Ya Movin' In (Times Seven)

Last Sunday, I finally got to meet my new neighbor. Then on Monday I got to meet her again. Same thing on Tuesday. I met her on Wednesday too and yesterday and I'll probably meet her again today.

Reba is like the "Memento" of neighbors. She has no short term memory. I know, of course I get a neighbor like this. She's also about 900 years old and has these two, infinitely patient black ladies LaTonya and Charlise who take care of her. At first I thought LaTonya and Charlise were my neighbors and that they did hair extensions and nails out of their garage (they advertise their service all over both of their cars). Then I met Reba and realized that they had some kind of "Driving Miss Daisy" thing going on over there (as Reba is a crotchety old white lady) and that it was Reba's house and LaTonya and Charlise just worked there. Apparently they do hair extensions and nails out of Reba's garage because she can't remember anything anyway.

Now, I've provided you an image of what Reba looks like. For the most part, she is the spitting image of the old lady from the Hallmark cards, but with one exception.

Reba's teeth prevent me from being able to look at her without wanting to simultaneously vomit and have hysterics.

Reba has dentures that seem to not fit properly and she constantly plays with them in what has become a tic. She takes her tongue and uses it to push the top dentures forward, throwing them out of her mouth. Then she tongues the dentures until they sit at a complete slant in her mouth and leaves them there for a few seconds (it's utterly horrifying to look at) and then she does some more elaborate tongue maneuvers to flip the dentures around so they are upside down and then continues the process until they are back in place. Once the dentures are back in place she repeats the whole thing and all the while she never shuts up. So imagine this 900 year old, crotchety old white lady trying to talk while performing complicated tongue exercises with a mouth full of false teeth. It's disturbing and I have never seen someone of any age demonstrate such agility with her tongue. She must have been popular with the boys back in her day (eww, did I just say that?). Someone needs to get Reba some Fixodent and then give her a jar of maraschino cherries to work on. She could win those contests they have in bars to see who can tie a knot in a cherry stem the fastest.

Last Sunday my sister came over to see my new house and we were out in the yard ogling the mango tree when Reba, flipping her dentures, wearing a housecoat and pushing a walker, flanked on each side by LaTonya and Charlise, starts hollering across the yard at me.


Now as an aside here, I become very upset when I hear language like this. The two words "My Property" uttered in any context are never a good sign. Stay away from people who pepper their conversations with talk of "My Property." I'm serious. I think those two words trigger some kind of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder response in me, both from my white trash childhood and from working at the country club. White trash people are always demanding people get off of and stay away from their property and if this is not done there are numerous threats about calls to police and these outbursts usually come during custody battles, at weddings, when it's really hot in August and everyone's window units at the trailer park stop working and of course, at Christmas. At the country club I heard people screaming about their property every time I answered the phone. So I think it's easy to see why I was very unnerved to have an old woman, whom I've never met in my life, start hollering about my trash can having crossed a hair over the invisible property line, the boundaries of which I am not yet familiar.

I apologized, but she just kept yelling (and flipping her teeth over), while Charlise, now behind Reba, made the twirly finger sign for "crazy" meaning for me to ignore the old woman. I went inside and told my husband to move the trash can and the first thing he asked was if I saw Reba's teeth.

An hour later, we went back outside and there was Reba again, having completely forgotten the trash can situation, still flipping her teeth and shuffling around in her driveway. This time she asked us if we were moving in and introduced herself to us.

The next day she did the same thing. And every day since. I don't know how she manages it, but every time I pull into my own driveway, Reba magically appears in hers. I've tried to pretend like I'm on the phone so I don't have to talk to her. I've actually backed out and left to avoid it. I can't handle the teeth. Those teeth really freak me out and worse is that my husband and I have analyzed and cracked ourselves up over whatever Reba is doing in her mouth that now we can't talk to Reba when we are together or we burst out into uncontrollable, pants-peeing fits of laughter and revulsion. I know, we are very immature. But seriously, you have to see it.

Worse yet is that my mother got to meet Reba too.

"Ya movin' in?" Reba asked, I guess to both of us.

Then she flipped her teeth and the look on my mother's face was priceless.

"What the F is that woman doing with her dentures?" she asked once we were inside, "Because I couldn't look at it."

A few minutes later we went back outside to get more stuff out of the car.

"Ya All Movin' in?" Reba yelled.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Still Moving

This has been a tough week. I'm still moving and it's a long, exhausting process. I have to work and so does my husband, so we can only really do the moving, cleaning, packing and unpacking at night. My parents are busy too, but they have helped a lot. We can't afford and don't really need to hire movers. 

I'm hot and out of breath all the time. My husband is sleep deprived and irritable. It is one hundred degrees outside. This does not make for a good time, let me tell you. There have been tears. There will probably be more. In fact, as I'm writing this, I feel like crying. Part of that is because I need to get my lesson plans for tomorrow in order and I just don't have the energy or inclination to do that at all, nor do I wish to grade papers. At this moment the last thing I care about is trying to fill a 3 1/2 hour class with enough activities to entertain a bunch of 19 year olds who are all texting under their desks anyway. They think I can't see them, but I can.

In a moment of extreme procrastination, I decided to glance at some blogs. This was a grave error on my part. I had rage.

This week, the Armstrongs of Dooce fame are also moving. They are moving into a literal mansion. They are rich and can hire movers and organizers and have personal assistants. They work for HGTV for God's sakes. This made me mad because I got jealous. Normally I'm not a Dooce hater at all. I'm more Dooce-Indifferent, because what do I care about a bunch of people I don't know out in Salt Lake City? I don't really and I shouldn't. But reading about their move infuriated me and I was just over my own move by then and reading some woman complaining about not being able to find the salt or whatever it was, in her gigantic mansion that she affords by writing about poop and babies and dogs, well I confess that it made me jealous. I mean, I've written about poop. I would like to avoid writing about babies as much as possible, although I probably won't be entirely successful there, and I'm really a cat person, but still. I wish it got me a mansion and a personal assistant and some people to move all this shit and put it away and organize it and make it look nice for me. You know, MAYBE I NEED TO WRITE IN ALL CAPS MORE. Maybe that's the real problem. I DON'T WRITE IN ALL CAPS ENOUGH.

There have been a lot of things this week that I could have written in all caps about. We can start with the mosquitoes. I don't know where these things are coming from, but out of the corner of your eye, you could easily mistake one for a mocking bird. My theory is that there are so many this year because they are breeding in all the stagant, abandoned pools sitting green and scummy in the yards of all the foreclosed houses. I recently read an article in our local paper about a resurgence of Dengue Fever, which is carried by mosquitoes. This has caused me to swear that I have Dengue Fever at least 15 times since reading the article and once I even kind of hoped I did have it because then I could stay in the hospital for several weeks. By then, I assumed that the move would be complete and I could come home to a clean, organized house. It would be kind of like magic. Except, I don't really wish I get Dengue Fever. Whenever I say stuff like that, even when I'm just joking, I always swear God is going to punish me and make it really happen just to show me. I'm also always really careful to be extremely specific with making wishes because "The Monkey's Paw" had a profound effect on the way I view the Universe. You don't want to mess around with stuff like that, you know?

I am stressed out. I would like a personal assistant. I would like to live in a cooler place with fewer bugs. There are good things though. I now have a king sized bed. I also have curtains. Do you know that my whole life of living on my own, that I have never had curtains? Can you imagine? I never even thought about them and I don't know the first thing about hanging them or anything, but I have them and that's a good start.  I also have a window behind my kitchen sink. I've always wanted one of those too. I can look out of it and see the mocking-bird-sized mosquitoes in my backyard, which resembles The Philippines at the moment. It's a bit jungly back there, but it's mine.

Even though I'm stressed out to the limits of stress that I can handle, I am still really grateful that after all this time, I can live in a house again. It may not be a mansion with acres of landscaped property. It may not be tastefully chic in that understated Pottery Barn kind of a way. I may not have assistants and consultants from HGTV decorating it for me and I may not be getting paid for my rant about how much I hate this move, but dammit, I have my own, regular, normal sized and in only slight disrepair house and I love it.
Thursday, July 08, 2010


First I'm going to give you a little update so you know where I've been and then I'll write some more of the story for you, because I know many of you have been waiting.

Here's where I've been - MOVING!!! And I should have Internet at my new house by tomorrow with any luck! What I mean by that is that I have to sit and wait for the Comcast man to come between 8am and 1pm when I have no TV, no couch, no computer and nothing to entertain myself except my phone and some cleaning supplies.

Yeah, we have a lot of cleaning supplies. You see, we got a tremendous deal, I'm talking an unheard of deal, on the rent for a three bedroom cottage which is a quick walk to the beach and which also has a mango tree (and ZERO peacocks). The house, were we to buy it, would need a lot of fixing up, but since we're renting it, it's staying the same and will be quite livable as is. It's not a big fancy house by any means, but we love it and it has so much charm and so much room. It kind of reminds me of a tropical version of my house in Atlanta and that makes me very happy.

Here's the issue though. The house has been a rental for a long time and has not been given the love it deserves. The previous tenants were filthy. I honestly don't know how they lived the way they did. They were three women, each with identical mullets, all of whom were mechanics, which I actually think is kind of cool, and they were incredibly nice people. They had adopted all sorts of misfit, one eyed, three legged dogs and had a bunch of birds and I swear there was a ferret running around in there too and although these women were really nice, in a life or death situation, it would be more sanitary to perform surgery in a frat house on a Sunday morning than it would have been to do it in their house. I honestly think that these women never once ever cleaned anything. Ever.

We're talking moth cocoons hanging from the ceiling, a half inch of fur on the fan blades, clumps of dog hair, black baseboards, mildewed bathrooms and a pervasive odor of Fritos. They were, however, kind enough to leave us with a half bottle of Popov and a empty pizza box on the back porch and I sincerely wonder how they didn't manage to start a raging fire from all the lint in the dryer. My suspicion is that they never did laundry. I could have made my husband a sweater out of the lint I cleaned out of the dryer trap.

We agreed to clean and do some maintenance on the house for a drastically reduced rent and the owner was actually happy to have us as his tenants. He's really nice.

The next problem is that no one, partly including myself, wants me around cleaning chemicals and germs from all the dirt, so I haven't been able to get in there and scrub the place down until it gleams like a Tibetan monastery. We hired some cleaning ladies to do part of it and Husband single handedly has been doing the rest and I've been doing little things as I can and with much ventilation. We got all eco-friendly cleaning supplies and when I clean I use dish soap and lavender Dr. Bronners, which is how we cleaned at the Waldorf school. It smells good too and I have very pleasant associations with lavender. 

Luckily, my parents will be home tonight to help us out and once we unleash my mother, that place will be downright sterile. My mother can clean with a vengeance. When I was little she used to piss me off so badly because she'd stay up until 3 and 4 in the morning cleaning and make so much noise that it would wake me up. I've always been in awe of my mother's cleaning abilities. She can't organize for crap, but she can do a deep cleaning like nothing I've ever seen and no matter what the mess or stain, you can ask her and she's like the google of housekeeping. She knows how to get everything out of everything. Me, well, not so much. My strength is the organization that she lacks. Some people call it OCD, but I prefer the more PC term - very orderly.

My parents, for those who were wondering, went to Austin, didn't like it, went to Orange County,California, did like it, stayed for a while, visited my in-laws, went back to Austin, still didn't like it and are now on their way home to help us move. After this, they may leave again and go up North to see my grandmother, but we don't know. There's a lot going on for them this year, with two pregnant daughters and that's a once in a lifetime thing. Their first two grandchildren are going to arrive just two months apart and they're beside themselves over it.

Speaking of that, Baby Lawns is doing well. I haven't been feeling so great lately and I learned that I was dehydrated and not eating often enough, so I'm working on that. I also learned that I needed to double my thyroid medication, so maybe that was part of what was making me so sluggish and miserable. I think the oppressive heat and humidity is also contributing. But I'll be fine. Baby Lawns is very active and well. She's a little small, but nothing to worry about. We had an ultrasound two days ago, but she was not so cooperative. She flipped around and faced my back and then rolled around so much that we couldn't get any non-blurry shots of her. My greatest fear was unfounded, of course, like all of my greatest fears. I worried that they had made a mistake on her gender and that I had gone and had a shower and people had gone and gotten her girlie things already and that she'd turn out to be a boy when I couldn't come up with a single boy's name. I've heard stories like this. Baby Lawns is still a girl. Her name still sticks. Her initials are MJ.

So that's where I've been. Oh, and did I mention work too? I'm teaching summer school, which is going nicely so far, but it's a class I've never taught so it requires a lot of preparation and creating of new lesson plans. Not a big deal, but I have a lot going on. 
Sunday, July 04, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

Happy Fourth of July everyone! It's pouring rain down here in South Florida, which is to be expected. Doesn't it always rain on Independence Day? I can't remember many Fourths when we didn't have a deluge for at least part of the day. I'm starting to wonder if it isn't a requirement of the holiday.

The good news is that it usually stop drizzling enough for us to walk over to the beach for fireworks. The bad news is that it stops drizzling long enough for the mosquitoes, no-see-ums and evil biting flies to get excited by the humidity and come out in full force just in time for the fireworks.

I've often thought that the Fourth of July was a special holiday in the blood-sucking insect world - kind of like their version of Thanksgiving. It's hot and humid and thousands of people crowd the beach at night during their favorite feeding time. Think about it. When else does that happen? It's like the best day of the year for mosquitoes.

It's just an OK day of the year for me. We're aren't doing a lot. We have friends here from out of town and my sister and her husband are coming over. We had wanted to play in the pool, but we're inside watching movies and snacking on chips and dip.

Hope everyone has a good holiday and stays dry. Don't forget your "Off."
Friday, July 02, 2010

The Chiropractor - Part 3

Part of the reason that the Hot Sun Gallery had no business was because it was on a side street which got little traffic. It also didn't have very much to sell, but at least we would have gotten more people browsing if we had been more visible. 

The Hot Sun was located in the middle of the side street, in the bottom of a long, two story building. The first floor of the building was a row of shops, except none of them were particularly good or interesting (also part of the problem). There was a German travel agent, a cleaners, a junk shop owned by a mean Indian lady who never organized any of her merchandise so that her shop looked like a yard sale threw up all over it, and a seamstress. The Seamstress was right next door to me and she was a real pain in the ass - another one of those people who acts like things are a much bigger deal and of greater importance than they actually are. She was a gossip and a busybody who really had nothing to gossip about. Her main topic of conversation was the guy at one end of the street who owned a furniture consignment and was a drunk, and the bodega at the other end of the street where a bunch of non-English speaking vagrants hung out on the sidewalk and scratched lottery tickets and drank out of paper bags. Both of these things enraged the Seamstress. I think it was because she was bored.

Of course I was bored too, but not bored enough that I wanted to listen to this woman prattle on about people I neither knew nor cared about.  I had other means of relieving my boredom.

First, before work each morning, I'd stop at the bodega and buy a paper. I'd spent a few hours working on the crossword puzzle.  Then I'd Windex the windows and front door and dust in case Harlan came in. Sometimes I would write terrible poetry on scraps of notebook paper. The rest of the time, I would just read. This is when I got into Harry Potter. I had heard so much about the series and I had so much free time that I decided to read the books and see what the fuss was about.

Mainly though, what I really craved was meaningful conversation with another human being.

Though Harlan stopped by, I couldn't engage with him. He wasn't friendly or interested in talking to me. When he visited it was just to see if I had kept the gallery clean and to drop off cool cds for me to play. This I enjoyed. Harlan, being a Hipster, had a lot of cool cds, but this was pre-iPod era and we had no computers anyway, so Harlan would purchase actual cds (haven't seen one of those in years now) and I would play them on an actual cd player. Being that this was 2001, Harlan was big into the Buddha Bar and Cafe del Mar collections, which I enjoyed listening to. It was a hell of an improvement from the "Back That Ass Up" soundtrack of the Bubblegum Kittikat.

Harlan's artsy chill-out cd collection made me feel better about myself in an incredibly superficial and ridiculous way. Although I worked in a shop the size of my bedroom and made minimum wage doing so, the job sounded really good on paper and I didn't particularly care about the reality of it. Whereas one cannot exactly put a positive spin on working in a strip club, I was easily able to cast this job in a good light and make it sound better than it was.

Sample Conversation BEFORE:

Date: So, uhh, what do you do?

Me: Umm, I'm a hostess at a strip club. But wait, it's a "Klassy" strip club! You know, with a K.

Date: Check please.

Sample Conversation AFTER:

Date: So, uhh, what do you do?

Me:  Well, I work in a high end gallery and am in charge of all art sales. Also, I listen to Thievery Corporation and Kruder and Dorfmeister ALL DAY and I often wear pencil skirts and pointy toed heels to work.

Date: Really? How fascinating. You must be very sophisticated and intelligent. Let's go have sex immediately.

In my mind, I was practically Charlotte.

I think Harlan suffered the same delusions of grandeur about owning the Hot Sun as I did about working there. One day he drove up in his enormous SUV and unloaded a small wooden table, which he set up in the middle of the shop facing the front door. Then he brought in two large cases of the most enormous bars of soap I had ever seen. They were almost the size of bricks and they were from Portugal. Luxo Banho. I spent at least an hour trying to figure out how to pronounce that before I gave up. But they did make the place smell nice.

"I'm introducing our new specialty gift division," Harlan explained, "Maxine saw these on a recent trip overseas and just HAD to market them in the US, so the idea was born. The Hot Sun Gift Division. Spectacular isn't it?"

And what could I do but nod? I worked for a man who called a table of huge bars of soap the introduction of a gift division.

The good news was that before, we sold absolutely nothing for weeks. Once we implemented our new gift division, we sold about five bars of soap, effectively ringing up a total of $60.00 in sales for the entire week. It was a sales record. With the money rolling in now, Harlan could buy at least three or four more cds of remixes from Ibizan djs.

The next week we expanded our gift division. In fact, it pretty much doubled in size. Maxine had discovered rooibos tea and had bought a case, which we stacked up next to the enormous bars of soap, so now we actually sold two items that I couldn't pronounce. Rooibos was even more of a mystery than banho.  Roy-bus? Roo-ee-boss? Ro-oy-bose?  Nine years later, I now know that "banho" is pronounced "bahn-yo" but I still haven't figured out "rooibos." Someone help me out here.

Unfortunately I was still dead bored. One could only stack and restack soap bars and tea boxes so often. I even played Jenga with them a few times.

But then I met The Chiropractor.

The second floor of the building which housed the Hot Sun was a mystery to me. I knew there were some offices. There appeared to be a very shady telemarketing, boiler room operation going on in one of the second floor spaces. This was evidenced by the large number of shady, unprofessional looking individuals who gathered on the sidewalk wearing shiny, pleated slacks and silky dress shirts, who chained smoked and gesticulated wildly while exclaiming about "Spiffs."

Directly above the Hot Sun there was a mysterious looking Chiropractic office. It didn't say the doctor's name or anything else other than "Chiropractor" and the upstairs window, which I'd sometimes glance at as I Windexed our front door, was hazy. From what I could see there was a wilted stick of Bamboo struggling in a glass, something resembling a small gong, some I Ching coins and several ancient looking medicine jars in various colors from cola to cobalt. It always reminded me of a place one might go to get a Mogwai. I imagined a small, Yoda-like Chinese man hobbling around up there cracking necks.

But I was wrong.

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