2008 Theme: The Rejects

I’ve mentioned before that I tend to prefer establishing a theme for the new year as opposed to specific resolutions. An overarching theme gives me enough guidance to accomplish certain goals throughout the year, but enough flexibility to redefine those goals as the year progresses, ensuring maximum success, which is really what resolutions are all about anyway.
Over the past month or so, I’ve come up with a few of different options for my 2008 theme, and have amassed a list of the rejected ones. Feel free to co-opt any of these for your own theme:
1. The glamorous life – This actually might have been my theme for 2007, but since I can’t remember, and I do not yet own a feather boa or an ascot, I suspect that it was left unfulfilled.
2. Less blogging, more snogging – I rejected this one after realizing that these two activities need not be mutually exclusive. In fact, considering the unprecedented number of times I’ve hung out with bloggers this year, I should potentially consider a theme of “More snogging bloggers.” I’m keeping that one in my back pocket for the TequilaCon ’08 theme.
3. Finish what you start – This was a close contender for the 2008 theme, but it lost out due to its unfortunate quantifiability. I am very prone to fads, and start a lot of new activities throughout any given year. If I had to finish everything I started, I would either have to start a lot fewer things or need to find a bigger apartment to accommodate all the completed craft projects. Plus, this seems too much like the “clean plate club” of new year’s resolutions, and that’s just not my style.
4. 2008: Electric Boogaloo – Yet another solid possibility, but since I already failed at hip-hop/breakdance class, it seemed like I blew my chance for this to be an overriding life theme. It might still make a comeback as a mid-season replacement if I don’t like my final choice.
5. ‘08 is the new ‘98 – I’m not really sure where I was going with this one.
And the winner is:
6. Feelin’ great in ’08 – It’s catchy, easy to remember, has a folksy contraction that makes it both hip and approachable, and it rhymes. I’m considering this to be the ad campaign for my life next year. Hey! Did you see that billboard for the new Jenny they just came out with? It says she’s feelin’ great in ’08! I want to buy some of that! Sign me up! I may even try working on a jingle.
Besides, it really leaves a lot of room for interpretation, which is very important when selecting a theme. I could mean feeling great physically, emotionally, financially, romantically, intellectually, politically… any or all of the above.
So each choice I make throughout the year will be prefaced by this question: “Will this make me feel great, or if it doesn’t, will it eventually lead to something that may make me feel great?”
And the answer right now, as I look at this bottle of Macallan 10-year my brother bought me for xmas is, yes. Yes, this will indeed make me feel great. Happy new year, everyone!


“Aunt Jenny! Hey, Aunt Jenny – you know what? My friend Kevin is only one level below giant demon mage.”
“Oh yeah? Well, I think you’re one level below giant demon mage.”
“Umm, Aunt Jenny? What you just said to Andrew was actually a compliment. Giant demon mage is like the strongest warrior in Runescape.”
“Oh. So what should I say?”
“You should say he’s like one level below rat.”
“Andrew, you’re like one level below rat.”
“Aunt Jenny, rat is level one in Runescape. There is no level zero, so that doesn’t even make sense!”
“Whatever. Go get Aunt Jenny some more wine.”


“I’m so mad right now I could spit. Stop calling my name. I’m not going to look at you.”
“Make those kissing sounds all you want. I will not give you the satisfaction of seeing my face in this ridiculous getup.”
“Damn you woman! How did you make that bird noise with your mouth? Trickster! Well, I won’t fall for that again.”
“Why do I put up with this?”


“And here we go again. Every frickin’ Christmas she has to go to Target and buy some asinine costume. This probably isn’t even a cat costume. Probably for some deformed little pug. Pugs have no self respect.”
“Look closely at this face. I want you to remember this face, because it’s the last thing you’ll see when I come at you like a Tasmanian devil later tonight.”
“Now where the heck are her Uggs? I’ll start by vomiting in them.”

What I Got

I got a lot of things last week in Portland. First of all, I got an Old Fashioned.
Then inside that Old Fashioned, I got an ice cube. Frozen atop that ice cube, I got a cigarette butt.
That’s when I got the manager (or rather, our hostess with the mostess, Sibyl, got the manager).
Then I got an apology, a free tray of salted nuts and a round of drinks on the house.
old fashioned
Suddenly, I got a guilty conscience, because really, it was just a little cigarette filter, and I thought it was pretty funny, but the management at that swank establishment took the matter very seriously so later, we also got free cake that was delicious.
cake. free cake.
After I got a couple gin martinis with extra olives…
…Sibyl got us some games to play.
who you callin' an old maid?
I got tired of Brandon’s cheating, so I started coloring.
serious game of old maid
Asia got inspired to draw Crayola portraits of Vahid.
green vahid
At several points during the evening, I got to laughing so hard that a steady stream of tears flowed from my eyes, enough to fill a martini glass.
Later, I got propositioned by a 60 year old man who gave me a five-dollar bill with his room number written on it in red crayon. I got offended, because it would have taken at least a twenty and a ball point pen to get me in his room.
indecent proposal
I got up to leave, and I bid farewell to my friends until the next evening.
After I got off work the next day, I met everyone – now including Dustin, his scientist wife KJ, and their friend Gabby – for dinner later that night. We got macaroni and cheese, because that’s what you do in Portland.
As we headed to our next destination, I got really cold because we were walking for at least three miles in the rain past mountains of burning tires to a bar that served bitter beer, cider and chocolate chip cookies.
Later, we got to release our inner badasses with the knuckle tattoos Vahid brought.
looking for cougars
the right hand, friends, the hand of love
night of the hunter
Some of us got hungry again, so we left to get some dessert. I got a little nostalgic and a lot territorial over my banana and Nutella crêpe.
It got to be late, and I got really tired, so we ended another memorable evening together.
It wasn’t until the next morning at the airport when I opened up my backpack that I remembered that on top of everything else, I also got Chlamydia from Vahid. I can’t wait until my next visit.
chlamydia is cute!


Please put down your cheese sandwiches before reading this.
I’ve said it before – sometimes the best way to get rid of a disturbing image is to foist it upon others. Yesterday I was in the bathroom at the train station (can any story that begins this way end well?) when a woman and her from-the-sounds-of-it 3-year old daughter entered the stall next to me.
The woman started calling someone on her cell phone, which is disgusting enough from a toilet stall, while her daughter gleefully played with the receptacle intended for lady trash. I could tell from the way the wall was shaking that the girl was shoving her entire arm into the bin.
“What’s this, momma?”
“And then I told him that… hold on a sec… huh?”
“What’s this for?”
“That’s where the mice live.”
Because it’s good to teach children that furry little creatures live in the toxic garbage bins in public bathrooms. If I were that woman, I would probably have my daughter’s hands replaced with sterile robotic ones as a safety measure.
Please resume cheese sandwich consumption. And with that lovely holiday story, I leave you for the sunny coast of Oregon. Be good!

A Jen by Any Other Name

Natasha and I were at our favorite neighborhood bar, crammed up against a wall, cautiously sipping our drinks while trying to avoid all the people shoving their way to the bathroom. Nat saw a couple guys paying their tab, so we hovered behind their stools until they left.
“Now that’s more like it,” Nat said, as she hung up her coat on the hook under the bar.
We saw one of the regular bartenders, and he stopped over to say hello. “So where’s Peter tonight?”
After a pause that bordered on uncomfortable, Nat said, “Oh, he’s out with co-workers.”
“Ah, so it’s girls’ night out, huh? Well, welcome!”
He refilled our waters and then moved down to the end of the bar to mix up some chocolate martinis for a group of four men.
I turned to Nat and asked, “Who the hell is Peter?”
“He means Farnsworth.”
“But he calls him Peter?”
“Yeah. And I’m Melissa.”
“And you don’t tell him your real names? How did that happen?”
“I don’t know… they got it wrong one time and it just kind of stuck. I tried to gently correct him a couple times, but I guess he didn’t hear me.”
I shook my head and laughed, because the reality was that I knew exactly how it happened. It happened the same way that I came to be known as Faith by a well-intentioned co-worker.
Unlike Peter and Melissa, Faith actually exists. She’s a co-worker of mine who vaguely resembles me with her brown curly-esque hair. The first time he called me Faith, I thought I just heard him wrong. Faith was in the conference room with me, so I assumed he must have just been talking to her. While looking directly at me.
But then I would pass him in the halls and say hello, and he’d respond in a mumbly voice, “Hello… Faith.” I would already be on my way to the next meeting, so it never seemed the right time to correct him.
A few months ago, I was on the street corner outside our building waiting for the light to change when I heard someone say, “Hi Faith!” I recognized his voice, but forced myself to remain motionless. “My name is not Faith, and I will not respond to it,” I thought. “That will only encourage him.” Through my keen peripheral vision, I could feel his smile fade as he waited for a reciprocal hello that would never materialize.
So now he thinks I’m an impolite boor. Or rather, he thinks Faith is an impolite boor, which I suppose is a little better. Unfortunately, this has gone on for two years now, so I think the statute of limitations for correcting him has long since expired. If it continues for another two years, I may begin answering to the name Faith and instead pretend that I am partially deaf.
As I think about it, I worry a bit that I may have a forgettable face, because I also had a friend who continually got my name wrong. She thought I was Natasha and Natasha was me.
“How’s Jenny doing? I haven’t seen her in a while,” she would ask me. At first I thought she was being ironic, but then I realized that she thought I was Natasha.
“Do you mean Nat? She’s doing fine,” I would respond. But maybe she thought I was being ironic.
It wasn’t until Nat starting dating Farnsworth that the situation righted itself. It all came down to a simple logic puzzle: if a) Natasha dates Farnsworth and b) Jenny is terminally single and c) Natasha and Farnsworth do not have an open relationship, then d) that woman kissing Farnsworth must be Natasha.
Maybe the only solution is for me to start openly dating someone at work so that I become a work-couple. I’ll make sure everyone refers to us as a unit:
“Jenny and Alex are going to the holiday party, so I’m definitely going.”
“Did you see Jenny and Alex volunteering at the blood drive? They’re really a caring couple.”
“Hey, I heard Jenny and Alex came up with a great new product idea last week while they were making dinner together. Because they’re dating each other.”
Once everyone in the company thinks of us as a single life force, I’ll make a point of making out with Alex in front of my co-worker who calls me Faith. Then he’ll have to put two and two together and figure out that I am Jenny, and not, in fact, that insensitive lout Faith.
I suppose to some, it would seem that a plan that spans multiple years and requires the support of hundreds of co-workers may not represent the most direct approach, but I’m confident that this will spare my colleague the humiliation of having me call to his attention this faux-pas. Plus with my plan, there’s kissing. Now I just need to wait until we hire someone named Alex.


“You hef wire heng-er, Jenny?”
“I’m sorry?”
“Heng-er. Wire heng-er, from closet so I can take apart?”
And thus began my 48-hour adventure in plumbing.
It was New Year’s Day 2006 and I had been waiting two weeks for my landlord to send over a plumber to fix my clogged bathtub and leaky toilet. I was less than thrilled when he finally sent someone over on the day I was planning to get to work on my New Year’s resolutions, which involved spending more quality time focused on lounging around my apartment in pajamas while eating clementines and drinking scotch.
It didn’t instill me with a great sense of confidence that the building handyman, Anton, and his helper Stash began their repairs by jamming a straightened wire hanger down my bathtub drain, but I was relieved that someone was tending to it, as I had grown weary of standing in four inches of water after each shower.
Anton – Tony – is the handsome fifty-something Polish man who takes care of my building. From the moment he walked through the door, my house smelled of a heady mix of aftershave, tobacco and onion.
His assistant speaks very little English and has a walrusy mustache that covers most of his mouth. The aptly named Stash has two fingers missing on his left hand, which doesn’t surprise me since last summer I saw him on a ladder outside my window, wielding a running chainsaw in one hand and steadying himself on the branch of a mulberry tree with the other. With each crack of a fallen branch, I readied the phone, wishing I knew how to say tourniquet in Polish.
Tony seemed to be there primarily to oversee Stash’s work, so while Stash was pulling hair from my drain, Tony and I chatted a bit. He said my name often as we spoke.
“How long you lived here, Jenny?”
“About three years.”
“Three years? And who was here before?”
“Uh… it was a young couple. The husband was-“
“The architect, yeah right. I remember. With wife who was teacher.”
“I think so – I never met them.”
He looked around my apartment, at the ceiling and the walls, and then noticed the photographs in the dining room.
“These your parents, Jenny?”
“Grandparents. They’re my mother’s parents.”
“Where are they coming from?”
I oversimplify: “He’s Italian, she’s German.”
“I think she look like Ingrid Bergman, with the hair like that and that face.”
My mother’s parents look like movie stars, both of them. Her mother was in a milk ad, I remember my mom once telling me.
“So Jenny, what do you say you are?”
“I say I’m Italian and German, although I mostly like to tell people I’m Italian. Sounds more exotic.”
I smiled, and he laughed.
“I know this girl who father Polish and mother Italian, and she say she hef and hef. I say, ‘Which hef Polish?’”
Tony moved his square, open hand around his face and said, “She say, ‘This part.’ I say, ‘Which hef Italian?’ and she say, ‘The rest.’ Is funny, what she said.”
He smiled, and I laughed.
Stash yelled something in Polish, and Tony excused himself and went into the bathroom. As I listened to them speak, I was reminded of a friend of mine whose grandparents were from Poland. She said that whenever she would hear her grandparents talk, it sounded like, “Shleeba shlaaba” to her. This stuck with me, apparently, because while I sat patiently in the living room watching Ellen, I could overhear their conversations from the bathroom, and it sounded like:
“Shleeba shlaaba shleeba shlaaba gasket?”
“Shleeba shlaaba shleeba shlaaba Home Depot.”
“Shleeba shlaaba shleeba shlaaba New Years?”
It was at this point that I saw a blur of denim overalls rush into my kitchen and back to the bathroom. I got up to see what was going on and found Stash on his knees holding a bucket under the pipe coming out of the toilet to catch all the water that was gushing out. Tony was pushing a tiny rag around the floor with his foot to mop up the lagoon that had collected on the tiles. I gave him an old towel to use instead and asked if everything was all right.
“I am calling other friend – Marius – to come help. He will bring new part for toilet. This first time I tried to fix problem like this.”
I found that to be an unnecessary clarification.
About half an hour later, Marius arrived. He was a youngish, somewhat shy Polish man carrying a large red toolbox.
“You were expecting me, right?”
“Yes – they’re in the bathroom.”
After another hour of clinking and clanking, flushing and snaking, and what sounded possibly like swearing, I thought about offering them a drink. At this point, I couldn’t imagine I could impair their abilities, and I was craving a beer. It was also the only word I knew in Polish – piwa – although I don’t remember why I knew that. I decided against it and opened up a Diet Coke instead.
Another hour passed and I heard the trio packing up. Finally, my house would be returned to me.
Tony got a serious look on his face and told me that they still needed one more part for the toilet, so Marius would need to return tomorrow morning.
Marius asked for my phone number and said, “Until tomorrow, you should use bucket.”
“Excuse me?”
“Bucket. Toilet still leaking when flushed, so you should use buck-“
Tony cut him off at this point, “Don’t listen to him, Jenny. You can use toilet. It still leaks, but for two, three times you gonna flush it by tomorrow, should be fine.”
I wasn’t comfortable with the fact that Tony was calculating my bathroom needs on an hourly basis, but appreciated that he wasn’t suggesting I relieve myself in a bucket for the next 24 hours.
After they all left, I had to know – what would happen when I flushed the toilet? I grabbed a towel just in case, then carefully pushed down the handle on my Victorian era toilet. At the base where pipe meets porcelain, a virtual typhoon of water came rushing out, most of which fortunately shot back down into the bowl. A less than ideal setup, to be sure, but many steps above the makeshift outhouse that Marius had suggested.
By the time I got home from work the next day, Marius had come and gone, leaving black fingerprints all over my sink and a ring of dark amber caulk around the pipe on my toilet. A crude solution, but a solution all the same.
So today, after standing in two inches of still water during my morning shower, I thought about Tony and Stash and Marius. I pulled out my cell phone and scrolled down to Tony’s number. My thumb hovered over the “talk” button for a few seconds before I came to my senses, snapped the phone shut and went to look for a wire hanger.