You may notice that I have chosen a profile picture for the month of December featuring an iceskater, a frozen lake, snow-covered evergreens. As you know - because you know everything - this sort of scene is common for this time of year. And I know - because I've lived here all my life - that we don't get that kind of weather in the south. However, that does not mean that we should be melting.
Don't get me wrong. The weather the last couple of days has been lovely. It's just not seasonally-appropriate, if you know what I mean. I should not be considering open-toed shoes and a tank top and my Christmas wish list all at the same time. So if you could send some chills, cold winds, you know, generally cool it down enough that the thought of roasting by an open fire is appealing. I'd just like to crave some hot chocolate and a warm blanket. I won't go so far as to ask for snow, because that would be greedy. A little nip in the air is all I'm asking for. And peace on earth. Thanks ever so much.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
I recognize that the blog has been lagging of late. This is due to a combination of factors really. First there is the unfortunate disappearance of my slightly-borrowed speedy wireless internet connection. And then, there is the out-of-town factor, which, despite my having a laptop, always seems produce a lapse in blogging.
In order to remedy the first factor, I broke down and signed up for dial-up again. I know, I know. Only grandmothers use dial-up. But really. I am a single lady, and the bills pile up. I think I could downgrade my cable, but then I would lose my *ahem* inexplicably free HBO. And the return of Big Love is just around the corner.
It may be more arduous posting without the speedy wireless internet connection - *sniff*. But I'll muddle through somehow for the sake of the blog. All this to say that I now plan to reestablish my feverish blogging pace in order to tell you everything you never wanted to know about me.
If the 58 second teaser trailer got you quivering in your robes, check out this video clip from the HBO Sneak Peek at Order of the Phoenix. At 3:50, it gives a little more behind-the-scenes footage and additional scenes not included in the teaser. Clearly, the plot of Phoenix is more complex than the ones before it, and the older actors are enjoying the darker material. The sets look amazing. Bellatrix looks wicked scary. And I think Luna is perfect. It's all very promising. Makes me want to go home and start reading the book for the...well, let's not mention how many times I've read the book.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Read this post with caution - you can never turn back after you know. My brother introduced me to Pandora Internet Radio. Now this is not just your run-of-the-mill internet radio. This is customized internet radio connected to the Music Genome Project. You input a song or artist and it creates a radio station based on other music with a similar sound and style. You can rate each song with a like/don't like. And then voila - it's like Radio Ashley. So far, I've got my John Mayer, David Gray and Coldplay stations set up. It'll host 100 stations for free. You have to look at a little advertising while the music's playing, but all in all, totally worth it. I think I'm in love.
Monday, November 27, 2006
I've been tapped by Kim to reveal some of my innate weirdness to the world. Narrowing down to six was the tough part:
1. I have an overwhelming fear that the world will run out of electricity. Sometimes when I drive at night and see all the lights on in an office building or think about all the electric signs, I feel panicked. When I had a washer/dryer and dishwasher in my first apartment, I couldn't run them at the same time without needing to leave the apartment. I can't sleep if I can hear the air or heat clicking on and off, so I'll turn the air up and the heat down to the point that it only comes on periodically.
2. I've noticed lately a few habits about numbers. I have to pump gas on the fives. It has to be $16.65 instead of $16.62. And the volume on the TV or radio has to be an even number.
3. When my sister got married five years ago, I had my first and only manicure. Before that, I wore my fingernails very, very long. The manicurist cut them pretty short, and since then, I've been unable to stand long fingernails. I had to cut my nails before I left for Salt Lake City, because I knew if they got too long on the trip, I would chew them off just to keep them short.
4. I have an undergraduate and graduate degree. Neither the college nor the university I went to had a football team. Conversely, I grew up a stone's throw from Athens, Georgia, a town obsessed with its UGA dawgs. But I have never been to a UGA football game.
5. I am obsessed with my handwriting. Perhaps it's something to do with being lefthanded, which typically makes for terrible penmanship. But I practiced and practiced and practiced until I had neat handwriting. If I start to write a note to myself on a post-it, and it looks messy, I'll throw it away and start over again.
6. I am an inherently messy person. At my house, I throw clothes and shoes around without care, leave dishes in the sink, and let the bathroom go straight past EPA standards. In a hotel, I am meticulously neat. Fastidious even. I will fold my clothes, put items back in the suitcase after use and hang up the towels in the bathroom. Perhaps I need to pretend I live in a hotel.
I'm double-tapping, but I'd love to see weirdness from Pen & M, Tom, Andi, Niki, and The Growler.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
It's a blustery, blustery day. And it's take no prisoners. There will be casualties. Goodbye, dear black Tote umbrella. You served me well until your death outside The UPS Store. May there be sunny skies for you in the beyond.
The trailer for Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix was released yesterday. Yahoo seems to have the corner on the market, so unfortunately, I can't embed it, but you can watch it here. It looks deliciously dark and wonderful - love the shot of the prophecies shattering. At least, I think that's what it is. Thestrals! Bellatrix! The Department of Mysteries! And now we have to wait until July 13. Sigh.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Since it's Sunday, I thought I'd post some more of the photos I took in Salt Lake City. In case you don't know, Salt Lake City was founded by Mormon pioneers looking for a place to escape persecution. And right at the center of the city is Temple Square, a nice bit of real estate that houses the buildings of the Mormon church.
There is the temple, the center of the Mormon church, that you can only go in if you're Mormon. I actually saw a guy entering through a door in an alcove using a special key. All throughout the square, there are people stationed to presumably answer your questions about the buildings, but in actuality, want an opportunity to evangelize you.
And then there is the assembly hall built from the granite leftover from the building of the temple. This building, you can go in. And we did. Inside we were approached by no less than three people, including two young women who wanted to send us a video about joining the Mormon family. We declined.
I'm not really sure what is so eerie to me about this experience. I grew up in the Baptist church, so I'm no stranger to organized religion. But I think there is an inherent secrecy about the Mormon faith, a way in which it seems you can only know by getting involved what the faith truly means. At any rate, my travelling companion and I stood curiously outside the temple, and then later, outside the store in the mall called Dressed in White where you can buy garments. We did not purchase our souvenirs there.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Driving down Market Street tonight, I happened to be listening to one of those mixed CDs I made a few weeks back. Alana Davis' cover of Ani DiFranco's "32 Flavors" came on just as I pulled up to an intersection under the glow of the red light. It's funny how a song just takes you back to a moment - a moment you'd forgotten existed. But suddenly, it was my freshman year of college about this time of year on a Friday night. My roommate had gone out with friends, and I lay on my bed alone in the room with the Christmas lights strung around the room plugged in and no other light on. And I laid there and cried, thinking about being jilted by this guy who just stopped calling one day. It was one of those moments that I think you are required to have your freshman year of college - feeling the absolute depths of brokenhearted loneliness. I remember eventually getting my keys and driving around campus and I listened to this song - "32 Flavors" - and felt some revenge because this guy who jilted me loved Ani DiFranco, but I thought that the more cutting words of the song were from me to him.
Incidentally, I saw that guy in Athens one time when I was at home just after I started grad school. He was wearing an apron and smoking outside a Papa John's.
As I’ve already mentioned, Salt Lake City now marks the western boundary of my life’s travels. But the trip itself held more firsts – the strange and the funny.
It was my first time using the bathroom on an airplane. I was prepared for that sucking vortex toilet by my cruise ship experience, but just getting up and walking on the plane was a really new sensation. And then there was being closed into that little closet while the plane shimmied its way through the Rockies.
It was my first real business trip – aside from the Innerbanks excursion. My first professional conference, rife with nametags and keynote speakers and complicated A/V equipment.
In Park City, I ate duck. Never eaten duck before, which is surprising since I am fond of exotic meats. I’ve had bison and antelope and elk, but somehow, never duck.
Usually a bit of a nervous Nelly in unknown territory, I never once felt anxious navigating the streets of Salt Lake City. Of course, my traveling companion had a stellar laid back attitude about exploring the city, but still – first time at ease in a strange place.
And for the most part, I enjoyed these firsts and overlooked the awkwardness of being a greenhorn. At times, though, I felt tense about my inexperience. I spent ten minutes on the plane gauging the distance to the different bathrooms, not wanting to appear as though I didn’t have a sense of the closest one. And then other times, I felt like firsts were being foisted upon me for the sake of it – like being forced to buy a certain kind of candy that I had never had. And during the discussions of places we’d traveled, I became automatically discounted. Dismissed with, “Well I know Ashley hasn’t…”
The circle of my life, while comforting and familiar, does breed a certain degree of dissatisfaction over the things it excludes. All the Ashley Hasn’ts live outside its safe boundaries – risks and adventures and possibilities. I think that very circle is part of what kept me from being any good at creative nonfiction because it enclosed a life devoid of the kind of interest nonfiction essays are made of. After all, my simple suburban upbringing reflected the suburbs themselves, my experiences as mundane and predictable as strip malls and chain restaurants and cookie-cutter neighborhoods.
Not that I'm looking to trade - being green has its advantages, too. Like a real appreciation for the simple things I've never done before and a sense of awe and wonder that a more experienced life might have erased. Nonetheless, the grass is greener on the other side of being green, and whatever comfort there may be in sameness, the unknown looks better all the time.
Friday, November 17, 2006
It is entirely possible that for the last six to eight months that I've been...um...ahem...borrowing bandwith. It could be that my computer picked up a wireless signal, which I took to be a providential sign that I should not look a gift horse in the month. Happenstance may have it that I cancelled my paid-for service in light of this felicitous little signal. It might also be the case that I might have, you know, bragged about my free wireless internet access. Maybe I kind of smugly mentioned it from time to time many times over. So I guess it goes to say that I might have deserved the abrupt disappearance of said wireless network, leaving me destitute and disconnected. Maybe it's a clear cut case of got-what-you-deserved that I am sitting at an odd angle on the couch trying to hold the city's free wireless signal long enough to type this blog entry (sorry it's sans photos - I don't have the signal strength to search for them). And perhaps the moral of the story is there is no free e-lunch.
(However, despite all technical difficulties, more reflections on SLC and - yes! photos - coming soon.)
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
"We all come into this world between urine and feces. And we will all become the cuisine of terrestrial worms. E'erbody come in and go out all ugly like that. So the question is - the question is - how are you going to spend your dash?"
-- Tavis Smiley, host, The Tavis Smiley Show on PBS & Public Radio International
"I think about my fear of motion, which I never could explain. Some other fool across the ocean years ago must have crashed his little airplane." --Indigo Girls, "Galileo"
I never fell victim to true unrelenting motion sickness until I went on a cruise ship five years ago. Despite all promises to the contrary, I noticed the continual motion of the ship, felt disoriented by its movement in one direction while I walked the other. And I spent the whole voyage slightly green, slightly drugged and slightly miserable.
Unfortunately, the flight from Atlanta to Salt Lake City brought on the resurgence of my motion sickness in the most sudden and unexpected way. From the outset, I was determined to enjoy the flight, planning for enough solitude to make my way through a book, maybe a magazine. After takeoff, I spent awhile marveling at the way night literally fell down on the horizon, squeezing the sunset into a thin red line before diminishing it altogether. But traveling westward into the sunset meant that soon after the line disappeared, it reappeared on the irridescent underside of clouds and then as an eerie glow eclipsing on the horizon.
And then I started reading. I read through two beverage services. And through Rudy. Yes, they actually showed Rudy on the plane and wanted you to pay for the headphones to hear it. When I finished my book about 48 minutes outside of SLC, I realized within 6 minutes that I should not have been reading.
My stomach felt oily, and I kept swallowing to tamp down my gag reflex. I decided a trip to the bathroom was in order - just to get up and get my mind off the possibility of tossing my Delta Biscoff Cookies. Unfortunately for me, the women behind me was just beside the bathroom making full use of the airsickness bag.
I managed to hold it together on the flight, because I literally prayed to God to keep me from getting sick. I nearly lost it on the moving sidewalk in the airport and had to rush ahead to solid ground. After trying to fight it off in sleep for several hours, I gave up and let loose everything I ate on Friday.
I couldn't help but think that landing in Salt Lake City marked the edge of my westward travel. I'm 27, and I still haven't quite made it across the country. I've only been to a handful of the lower 48 and never out of the country except on the aforementioned cruise to Cozumel. I'm reticent about travel. I think about it but don't take the time for it. Or when I have time, I travel the same roads that I've always traveled. And it's like my wanting to travel is cancelled out by my fear of the unknown and it all culminates in the pit of my stomach where motion sickness takes root. But perhaps with a little Dramamine and courage, I'll keep going.
Until I have enough wits about me to write a real post, enjoy some tidbits from my trip...feel free to move them around on the fridge and make poems out of them. Missed y'all.
jet lag * brisk * sitting * macadamia nut bananas foster waffles * camera * motion sickness * nametag * beverage service * snowing * static electricity * hoofing it * Mormons * breathtaking * architecture * pioneers * alarm clock * keynote speaker * calling * jargon * navajo pottery * a/v equipment * red carpet * plaid lampshade * glacier mints * writing * greek omelette * bathroom phone * clean * reading * solitude * cabin pressure * rudy * revolving door * olympics * remini coffee
Thursday, November 09, 2006
For somebody who hasn't been much of anywhere, I've been on the road a lot lately. This weekend, I'm taking to the air again and heading west for Salt Lake City. I'm traveling to a conference for work with my boss and another coworker, and I'm a little nervous. I'm an anxious traveler at best when it's me traveling for pleasure. But when it's me traveling with people who don't usually see me brush my teeth, well, I get apprehensive. My boss knows me pretty well and knows this quirk of my personality and she's suggesting that I soothe myself with libations. And after the week I've had, I just might.
Somewhere over the midwest, I may not know my name any longer. And that's okay. I hope I forget everything I've left behind at work, undone in my apartment and unpaid among my bills. I hope this persistent icepick headache (see below) goes away and that my jaw can relax so that I don't feel a constant ache. And I hope I stay warm because it's not supposed to get above 40 while I'm there, and, y'all, I'm from Georgia - I'm not bred for that kind of weather.
Will miss you all and the blog. And to Pen & M, please don't relegate me to the luv but blog more column - I'll be back on Wednesday!
Happy Birthday, Jenny Ray! Birthday wishes go out to my college friend now in the Queen City! Have a delightful day and another year full of happiness and good things. Like Michael Stipe for president, right?
WORK*a*holism (noun): Showing a compulsive need to work hard and/or work long hours. Characterized by symptoms including, but not limited to:
* Appearance of severe blemishes on your face such as you haven't had since finals week in college
* Dark circles under your eyes akin to makeup preferred by Robert Smith of The Cure
* Unexplained nausea when not at work
* Fingernail biting - this may progress into chewing on your cuticles, causing minor bleeding
* Tightness in the chest
* Persistent nagging anxiety
* Constant sense that you are forgetting something
* Miserable headache pressure behind your left eye (see also: icepick)
* Recognition that you should never assume anything you aren't doing is getting done
* Perpetual panic and fear that, despite it all, you are teetering on the edge of termination
I just heard that Studio 60 has been saved by the NBC network execs and a full season has been ordered - 22 episodes. NBC prez Kevin Reilly is standing behind the show, keeping it in its Monday night time slot and declaring that he thinks the show will find its viewership. I think he must be watching and feels like he ought to be noble and live up to what the show is suggesting. Or maybe my letter had some effect. Whatever the reason, this is the best thing that's happened this week - I was worried that I might have to end my affair with Bradley Whitford. So Studio 60, in the words of Tim Gunn, carry on!
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Amidst the earnestness of election day, the rallying cry of democracy rising from the monumental political machine, I thought it important that someone post about Britney Spears filing for divorce from that charming, well-dressed model citizen Kevin Federline. You know she breathed a big ol' backwater Southern sigh of relief that her handlers hollered we want pre-nup. And let this be a lesson, ladies. Pink track suits on your bridesmaids is apparently bad luck. (Brilliant Fed Ex photo courtesy of Perez Hilton.)
When my parents started thinking about having kids, they picked up 3500 Names for Baby (brought to you by the fine folks at A & D Ointment) for 25 cents at the grocery store. I read through the book a lot as a kid, enjoying the different origins and meaning of names. I often used it to name dolls and Barbies, and occasionally myself, as I went through a phase during which I found my given name unacceptable and instructed others to call me Allison, Julie or Lori.
Since the office baby was born yesterday, and we finally learned the mysterious secret name, and I spent the weekend trying to trick my brother and his wife into telling me Sprout's name, I started thinking about my own name. Ashley means "dweller in the ash tree meadow." I used to think I was gypped when I was a kid, since Anna's name means "full of grace, mercy and prayer" and Justin means "the just one." Such noble names, while I'm out frolicking in the trees. But as I got older, it seemed to fit.
I'm prone to spacing out - which my family has dubbed "going to Ashleyland." But maybe that's an ash tree meadow. The truth is, I'm the most scattered of the three of us - the most creative and left-brained. And there's some element of my loner quality in the ash tree meadow - me, out there by myself, totally happy among the trees.
Just for kicks last night, I put my name into Wikipedia. I'd heard a lot of the lore about my name, but I'd never heard the following on its origin:
The origins of the name come from an ancient Anglo-Saxon legend wherein a lovely young woman was kidnapped by an ogre and imprisoned in an ash tree. Over the years, the tree took on the form of the woman. Her name long since forgotten, she is now only remembered as "Ashley". The fabled tree is located in Devonshire, UK.
I may not be full of grace or justice, but at least I was once kidnapped by an ogre. That's pretty awesome.
Monday, November 06, 2006
* 1 large, v. important client
* 1 project, ripe beyond deadline
* 3-5 people in supporting roles, vamoosed
* 17 dropped balls
* 2 tired eyes
* 0 people to take the blame
First, take the large important client and whip into a frenzy over the importance of getting this job done ASAP. You now have your project - it's in a delicate state. It requires incomparable precision and balance - one false move and you're finito. Best to let it sit for awhile without touching it. After two days, you will have a project well-past ripe, just on the cusp of rotting. At this crucial point, it is important that all support for the project vanish completely. Now begins the real work. The project is unwieldy, in danger of utter disaster.
Begin adding dropped balls. Apply pressure and gently knead all parties in order to get them to cooperate. Be patient if the project doesn't respond to your liking. Try to ignore the temperature rising well above the comfort level. You may be inclined to ask for assistance, but there will be none. You have almost reached the end - in fact, your project is in to bake. Add the tired eyes - it is important that the eyes simply be too tired to focus on the project.
When the project is finished, take note of the complete screw up right in the centerfold. It will most likely be called to your attention by the 1 large, v. important client. Now it is time to add the final ingredient. 0 people to blame.
Garnish with sole responsibility, a burning sense of incompetence or heavy guilt.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
As I drove home on Friday, I discovered that I-95 isn't where it used to be. Or at least the on-ramp from Highway 74 is no longer in the same place. I had a moment of panic when I realized that I had my blinker on to turn onto a road barricaded by "Road Closed" signs. And then I saw that just ahead was a detour route.
Detouring still brought some level of discomfort. My penchant for getting lost and the inevitable bout of hysteria caused by winding up somewhere unknown steals all my courage in moments like this. I followed the detour signs and drove slowly along this winding road that took me through the countryside, worried that I would miss the signs directing me back to 95. There was a charming little church and a storied looking corner gas station along the detour route, and I started to relax, thinking about how these things were there all the time, just a mile from the interstate. I found my way back to the interstate easily without much time lost.
And then I started thinking about getting off the beaten path. When I moved to North Carolina, Jenn gave me a book on the state's hidden treasures called Off the Beaten Path. I am sorry to say that even five years later, I haven't taken in much that's out of the way of my regular travels. Even within town, I rarely drive on roads that I'm not familiar with, leaving certain parts of Wilmywood totally untraveled by yours truly.
Sometimes I worry that my whole life is like that - lived straight along the interstate without many forays off the main drag. Looking back, I feel like I've taken the proverbial road well-traveled and left the lesser known places to be explored by others.
Jenn sent me photos from her honeymoon trip to Oregon, and in the bunch was a picture of the pioneer road, which looked like little more than a path through the firs. (Photo courtesy of Jenn & Dan!) A steep path, not very wide, not very clear. And I thought about how much spirit and daring it took to be a pioneer then and how much less it takes now. The world is so thoroughly exposed, and yet, I continue to walk the paths I know well.
Next weekend, I'm flying to Salt Lake City for a professional conference. It will be the furthest afield I've ever been. And while it's not so much off the beaten path, it's a step out of the well-worn footpaths of my life - and perhaps a bit of inspiration.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
In addition to my autumn compilation, I thought I'd put together another CD just for the drive. All songs are meant to be singable at the top of my lungs and inspire me to tap my inner diva.
1. Clocks (Coldplay)
2. Mr. Brightside (The Killers)
3. Me & Bobby McGee (Janis Joplin)
4. Babylon (David Gray)
5. Shadowboxer (Fiona Apple)
6. Plush (Stone Temple Pilots)
7. 32 Flavors (Alana Davis)
8. Ticket to Ride (The Beatles)
9. Not Ready to Make Nice (Dixie Chicks)
10. Have You Seen Me Lately (Counting Crows - Live @ Hammerstein Ballroom)
11. White Flag (Dido)
12. Body Parts (Jump, Little Children)
13. Gravity (Jennifer Nettles Band)
14. Closer to Fine (Indigo Girls)
15. Power of Goodbye (Madonna)
16. Elsewhere (Sarah McLachlan)
17. Sabotage (Beastie Boys)
Also coming along for the ride: Sam's Town (The Killers), Trouble (Ray LaMontagne), What's Golden Above Ground (Trent Dabbs), Choirgirl Hotel (Tori Amos), and O (Damien Rice). It promises to be a musical adventure.
A rolling stone gathers no moss, so in an effort to keep my person as free from green fuzzy things as my fridge now is, I'm rolling out of town once again tomorrow. For once, I'm looking forward to a long, solitary drive. Maybe somewhere down that long stretch of highway, I'll get back in touch with my mental hum. Tomorrow afternoon, I'll be driving down the main street of my hometown and thinking about having dinner at the place of my choice in Athens. If I'm lucky, we can conclude the evening with a milkshake from The Grill - ain't nothing better.
And while Saturday's shower for Sprout means I have to get up at an ungodly early hour in order to make the drive into Atlanta, I'm so delighted to be bestowing my frog on Eva & Justin, that I'm not complaining. Not to mention I've been promised a trip to DSW and Off Broadway. I can't help the happy flutters I get from anticipating going somewhere whose name stands for Discount Shoe Warehouse. If I don't feel myself after the drive, I'm pretty sure I'll recover my senses by slipping on some Stuart Weitzmans and BCBGs.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
I am pretty sure I am inches away from getting fired. Okay, not really. But in truth, I cannot concentrate this week. I've lost my ability focus. Like a fog has settled over my brain. Through the haze, I have some sense of what it is I'm supposed to be doing, but then it can't quite remember how to do it. Or I can't muster up the energy to get it done. My to-do list is spiraling out of control, and, as if that weren't enough, a nasty side-effect of this malaise is that it has sapped my patience. I am utterly snappish with everyone.
I've taken to closing the door to my office this week - something I almost never do. The bustle of the office usually entertains me, as I am a victim of what my boss terms FOMS Disease - Fear of Missing Something. But the past few days, I'm missing so much more than what's going on in the office. I'm missing what's going on in my head - the vibrant hum of thoughts running through my mind has come to an abrupt stop. Instead it's filmy and quiet in an unnerving kind of way. And when the quiet is interrupted by a tap on my door or a phone call, I feel irrationally annoyed, like everyone is just too demanding, when really, they're just doing their jobs.
I'm relieved to be taking Friday off for travel. Maybe endless hours of open road will clear out the cobwebs. It's a simple case of lost and found really. I've lost my head. Now I've just got to figure out where to look for it.
November is my least favorite month of the year, save that it brings Thanksgiving. Somehow it seems to be more of the end of the year than December, perhaps because December is so filled with holiday celebration that it distracts from the ending of another year. November always seems bleak...and tearing off the page on the calendar today that brought me to November 1 made me shudder. And so, a poem for today.
Every year, November
rain comes in thin
metal sheets tearing
last leaves from trees
pins them to sidewalks
mapping a path to winter
grey comes to shade
clouds like slim boats
hung on steeples
needling the skies
to hold autumn in place
night comes quickly
after noon to hurry day
away, slow blooming frost
covers the ground, windows
with the dying breath of gods