Of Campfires and Cowgirls

I bent down to give him a hug and noticed the huge gap in the front of his mouth.
“Hey! What happened to your teeth?”
“That’s my surprise! I told Grandma not to tell you – my two incisors fell out. I got $3 each!”
I told him that now we looked alike, and I pulled out my braces, revealing my missing eyetooth. He had already seen this trick, so wasn’t overly impressed. He asked me to remind him why I needed plastic teeth, and I told him my adult teeth never grew in. But I assured him that his would.
“Aunt Jenny – when we go bowling, don’t forget to put your teeth in, or people will make fun of you.”
“Do I look hideous without my teeth?”
“No. But I just don’t want people to laugh at you.”
“You’re right. I should put them back in.”
I dropped my bag on the floor of my six-year old nephew’s bedroom. He was temporarily displaced for the weekend, but happy to be camped out in a sleeping bag in his older brother’s room.
“I got my room all ready for you. We put new sheets on the bed!”
Pale blue flannel that matched the dark blue bedspread. Tiny cowboys atop bucking horses, with lassoes twirling above their heads. I looked around the room and saw a red bandana hanging from one of the antlers of the deer skull in the corner. I wondered if I would dream of the wild West – of campfires and cowgirls, ranches and wranglers – but I didn’t. Instead, I dreamed of Gollum, his imaged locked firmly in my brain after sitting through several hours of the Lord of the Rings trilogy before realizing that I didn’t care what happened to the ring.
It was my older nephew’s 9th birthday, so his mother planned a bowling party for him and nine of his friends. I volunteered to chaperone and act as official photographer, accepting the intense pressure of being the designated photo-documentarian for a skilled scrapbooker such as my sister-in-law.
“I’m picturing the layout right now – there are ten boys and ten pins. I’ll have them all lined up like bowling pins, so you’ll need to get individual photos of each of them standing straight.”
Within moments of meeting all the boys, I had identified my favorites. There was Nick, the tall one with the soft voice wearing the grey shirt. He’s a nice one. He smiled sweetly and congratulated each of the boys as they stepped off the lane.
“Nice job! High five!”
And Scott. So tiny I could put him in my pocket.
“Should I smile?”
“Yes, you can smile. Just be sure to stand really straight.”
Evan reminded me of Harry Potter, with even finer features. He has perfect enunciation, according to my brother, which makes me like him all the more.
“Open my card first! I picked it out myself – it’s so funny!”
The card wasn’t all that funny – I think it was a pun about being one in a million – but he picked it out himself and his smile was infectious. I didn’t know boys bought each other cards, but they all did. Nick’s was handmade, of course.
That other boy – the one who drooled as he showed no one in particular how he could fit his entire mouth around a plastic cup, the one who hoarded the orange bowling ball even though it was the only one light enough for most of the boys to carry, the one who stole my younger nephew’s most powerful Yu-Gi-Oh! cards – he’s the one I would watch out for. He stands at my brother’s front door, sometimes for 20 minutes straight without ringing the bell. He just stands there, hoping someone will pass by and invite him in.
“Feel how heavy my present is! It only costed $20!”
The one who, like most of these boys, has not yet mastered tact.
My nephew calls him up, “I really hate you for stealing my cards, but I don’t have anyone else to play with, so do you want to come over?”
He says sure.
I watch in awe as the boys devour the birthday cupcakes, wiping orange and blue frosting on their pants and sleeves before continuing the game.
“Aunt Jenny, can you make sure you don’t eat any of the candy in my room?”
“None of it?”
“Well, you can have a Snickers. I have three of them.”
“I’ll try my best, but sometimes I eat candy in my sleep.”
“Even with your plastic teeth? Okay. I’ll put it in a drawer, then.”
As I fluff the cowboy pillow and pull up the cowboy sheets, bathed in the soft glow of the cowboy nightlight, I think how nice it is to have someone to remind me to put my teeth back in.

Northern Comfort

It comes down to this: Portlanders eat a lot of macaroni and cheese.

There are so many stories to share about TequilaCon, but for some reason, I just keep coming back to the macaroni and cheese. Why is that, I wonder? I mean, why is it that they eat so much macaroni and cheese, not why do I keep coming back to that? No matter where we went, we couldn’t escape it. Fancy restaurants, dives, street vendors – they all served macaroni and cheese. Puzzling.

Is there something about the grey climate that makes people yearn for comfort? Does the smell of evergreen and hemp trigger some innate need for carbohydrate induced happiness?
I don’t really have the explanation, but I do know that comfort was an important theme throughout the TequilaCon weekend.

It all began when Brandon met up with me on Friday night before the main event. We went to a bar not far from my hotel while we awaited the arrival of Jill, Jessica, and my friend Dee-Dee. I stuck with beer, while Brandon sipped his gin martini. Eventually, he opted for something he considered to be less potent, and ordered a shot of Southern Comfort. As soon as the bartender poured the drink, my mouth began to water, but not in a good way.

“Oh god, the smell! It just brings back so many bad memories,” I winced.

“Me too,” said the bartender, as she shoved the drink in front of Brandon. He moved over a stool and quietly sipped his drink.

bar reflection

Once everyone arrived, we headed out to dinner at a restaurant called Mother’s Bistro. Before any of us had picked out our entrees, Dee decided to order an appetizer.


“Can we get the macaroni and cheese as an appetizer?”

“Of course,” the waitress replied, as though it were a common request. And perhaps it was. Either way, it was the most amazing macaroni and cheese we had ever eaten. We used the bread to wipe up the last remnants of cheese from the plate.

Our entrees consisted of the ultimate comfort food: chicken and dumplings, meatloaf and gravy, pierogi, and crab cakes, topped off with a plate of cream puffs for dessert. As I reached down to unbutton the top button of my pants, I was sorely disappointed to realize that I had already unbuttoned them after the macaroni and cheese.

After finishing the last of our wine, we then moved on to the site of TequilaCon – the Kennedy School. There, we met up with more bloggers and got our first look at Dave’s amazing handiwork – the lanyards and buttons. Although he pretends to be hard core on his site, Dave is really a softie, and wanted to make sure everyone would be comfortable walking up to bloggers they’d never met before, hence the lanyards:


Brandon, on the other hand, pretends to be a softie on his site, but is really hard core, and wanted to make sure everyone would be comfortable walking up to bloggers they’d never met before, hence his closet:

brandon's liquor closet

I was certain that Brandon had purchased enough alcohol to supply not only this year’s TequilaCon, but well into next year’s. However, after about one hour, both the entire bottle of Jameson’s and half the bottle of tequila were gone, so clearly he had researched the TequilaConner demographic more thoroughly than I had.

The next morning, I joined the pilgrimage to Powell’s Books, where about a dozen of us got lost among floor upon floor of glorious used and new books. My friend Dee has been clocked as one of the fastest readers in North America, and therefore had already read 90% of the books in the entire store, but she was still able to find a vampire story written from the perspective of Renfield that caught her fancy.

Once we’d reached the limit of books that would fit in our luggage, Jess, Dee-Dee and I decided to make a pilgrimage of another sort – shoe shopping. Jill’s eyes lit up when we mentioned our plans, so she happily joined us on our quest. There was much squabbling over who would get to purchase the last remaining pair of red tapestry Converse low top Chucks, and after both Dee and I each walked around with one shoe on and tried to convince ourselves that it fit, it was ultimately Jessica who ended up as the true Cinderella. I, on the other hand, came home with the most comfortable pair of boots I’ve ever owned.

All of this, of course, was simply the prelude to the main event later that night. I promised Brandon I would help him assemble the gift bags he brought for everyone, but I got an urgent call as I was eating an early dinner with Dee, Jill and Jessica.

“Hey, Jenny –it’s Brandon. It’s an emergency! I’m out of bread!”

“Out of bread?”

“For the sandwiches! The peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that I’m putting into all the gift bags. I miscalculated and now I’m out of bread!”

“Half sandwiches.”


“Just cut them in half.”

“But what if people want a whole sandwich?”

“I just won’t eat mine then.”

And it turned out to be a good thing that I didn’t eat mine, because Dustin ate approximately nine half sandwiches. But he’s a growing boy with naturally curly hair, and having curly hair makes you hungry. I should know.

pb&j #4

[The ridiculously adorable Vahid and Dustin]

Once at the Kennedy School, our fellow bloggers began arriving in droves to pick up their lanyards and begin the festivities. There was a steady stream of activity all night long, and more stories than I could begin to share.

There were gift bags:
king of the gift bags

[Brandon surveys his handiwork]

and tattoos:
sibyl is a badass

[Sibyl unleashes her inner badass]

and toasts:

[Robert and Jill break into their gift bags]

and feats of strength:
he's not heavy, he's my brother

[I prove I can carry Vahid]

and the airing of grievances:
heated debate

[Dave2 and I almost come to blows]

But most of all, there were so many smiles and laughs:

[Jill, me, Brandon, Dustin]

I didn’t think we would be able to compete with TequilaCon ’06 in New York, but between the gift bags and the lanyards and the uber-cool city of Portland, TequilaCon ’07 was an amazing event and an absolute blast. Thanks so much to everyone who came out and made it a total success, and a special thanks to Brandon and Dave2 for all their amazing efforts that raised the bar to a whole new level.

I can’t wait to see everyone at the next one! Next year it will be held wherever we can find the best macaroni and cheese.

Now for a different perspective, check out the other attendees’ sites:

brandon, jill, dave2, adena, asia, chad, chantel, colleen, dan, dustin, hilly, jessica, karl, kimberly, lewis, michelle, neil, robert, sass, shari, sherri, sibyl, sizzle, vahid, william

And for a visual tour of TequilaCon, check out the flickr group.

Punching Out

So I’m officially off-the-clock, people. The business portion of my business/pleasure trip to Portland is all over, which means that I am now all about pleasure. In fact, at this very moment, I am eating the $3.00 mini can of Pringles and the $4.00 giant Snickers from my hotel mini bar. And I just threw the wrappers on the floor. ON THE FLOOR! I’ll pick them up in a minute, but for right now – they’re ON THE FLOOR!

As soon as I’m done with this entry, I’m going to jump on both the beds, play the LodgeNet branded Nintendo gaming system until I have a grand mal seizure, rub complimentary ginger orange lotion all over my body even though I am quite adequately moisturized, and see if I can fit this ottoman into my luggage.

No, this isn’t my first time in a hotel, but it is almost TEQUILACON EVE people, and I’m so freaking excited that I can barely contain myself! Soon enough, I will be hanging out with 40 bloggers, friends of bloggers, and significant others of bloggers who tolerate this ridiculous blogging hobby because it’s either that or crystal meth.

For the folks who aren’t able to make it on Saturday, you will be sorely missed, and at various points during the evening, I will take a swig of whatever I’m drinking, then pour some on the floor for my homies. And when I say “homies,” I’ll be thinking of you.

When we began planning this event, I always thought that my Excel spreadsheets would forever earn me the title of organizational dork, until Brandon posted the Google earth map of the bar we’ll be at, and then laid out the floor plan in notes so that everyone would know where to go. I cried tears of joy when he sent me this photo:

Rumor has it there may be some live blogging from the event, so let me preemptively apologize for anything I might post between now and Monday. I’m not a bad person, but sometimes I make bad choices.

Safe travels to any of you making your way to Portland this weekend, and I look forward to sharing many tales (and photos) once I get back!

Embraceable You

When I decided that my theme for 2007 would be “Revival,” I had a lot of things in mind – reviving neglected passions, lost arts, old friendships – but I didn’t think it was going to take a physical turn. But for years now, something’s been bothering me about my appearance – a lot, actually. I thought about getting some work done, researched alternatives, weighed the financial options, put it off some more, but then finally just went for it.
So a couple months ago, at 35 years old, I got braces. Again.
I had braces as a teen, wore my retainers religiously, and then went off to college with a bright, straight smile. A few years later, my wisdom teeth came in and didn’t cause me any problems, so my dentists never recommended having them removed. This was clearly a mistake, because 15 years later, my teeth returned to exactly the same crooked state they were in when I first got braces.
But now in the high-tech 21st century, modern science has changed the world of orthodontics forever, so no longer do I need to suffer with brackets and rubber bands and headgear and wax. Now, there is this amazing invention called “Invisalign” – space-age clear aligners that fit over your teeth, gradually straightening them over time. I love my new aligners so much that I’ve given them an affectionate pet name: down payment on that condo I’ll never be able to afford thanks to my jacked up grill.
Fun Fact #1: I never developed adult eye teeth, which is why my teeth got so messed up as a kid.
Fun Fact #2: I apparently have a great uncle who had two sets of eye teeth. Lucky bastard.
Fun Fact #3: If I were a fighter and not a lover, I would take a crowbar to my childhood orthodontist and dentist for clearly colluding to ensure that they could destroy as many of my good teeth as possible with unnecessary bridgework, when they should have done what my current orthodontist is doing, which is closing the f*ing gaps in the first place.
So while I’m pleased with my decision to get braces again, and happy that I will be able to get rid of some of my bridgework in the process, what it means right now is that whenever I remove the space age aligners to eat, there is a gaping hole where my eyetooth should be.
This has done wonders for my social life, because without the aligners and depending on how much makeup I’m wearing, on any given day I look like:
a) an 8 year old
b) a hockey player
c) a crazy toothless cat lady
Fun Fact #4: Ironically, when I was 8 years old, my first boyfriend was a hockey player, and I lived down the block from a crazy toothless cat lady. I guess this would be what we call the circle of life.
A bit frustrated by the lack of progress, I recently asked my orthodontist how long it would take before the gap would be closed. She told me that the aligners move the teeth ¼ of a millimeter every two weeks. I had to go back to work and consult with our European accounting division to help me figure out what that actually meant in American units of stones and tooth-inches, and they basically told me not to plan on dating for the next 8 to 10 months. I said that wouldn’t be a problem.
So while I’m still enthused about my Revival theme for 2007, and thrilled to finally be taking care of something that’s bothered me for so long, I can only hope that I don’t revive any of my other teenage physical traits, because a flat-chested, acne-faced, crazy toothless cat lady is really more than even I can deal with.