Archive for the ‘what’s so funny?’ Category

I had a rough day yesterday, ending with the scuttling of a project I’ve been pouring hours and hours of my day, night, and weekend time into. Felt a little shell shocked when I first realized we were going to call everything to a halt. This morning was a little better. This afternoon, having to make the announcement to all the partners loomed large and unpleasant over my head, but it was my job to do, and so.

As much as I am a snarky somebody some of the time, I hate being the bearer of bad news. Hate it. Which is silly to say. It’s only the rare person who enjoys bringing other people down.

In the end, the announcing wasn’t a complete misery. I pointed to some of the good things that have come out of this process and to the good-sounding plan we have for moving forward. So, you know, silver linings.

But really why I started writing this is word choice. Every time I talk about the end of this project, I use the word “scuttled.” This isn’t a word I use. I may, in fact, never have said it ever prior to now. Where did it come from to suddenly appear on my tongue? Let’s be clear: I use a lot of words that a lot of other people don’t. I am regularly mocked for this behavior by family, friends, coworkers. But scuttle? No.

And then I wondered if I was even using it correctly. Yes, because even though it seemed correct when it tumbled out of my mouth, the moment I paused over it, all I could think of was a “coal scuttle” (another super-commonly-used term!), and I knew that was wrong.

Happily, my dictionary had more going on than my brain in that moment. I learned that “scuttle” can also mean to scurry, which I’m not sure I care for unless we’re describing the sideways nature of crabs. And then I found my scuttle, which turns out to be an old nautical term for intentionally sinking a ship, meaning to wreck or destroy.

There is some relief in knowing I’ve been using it correctly. There is still, however, the puzzlement over using it at all. When did that word sink into some dark, quiet pocket in the back of my brain? How did it know to rouse itself just now? And what will it do with itself now that it’s here? Is it going to keep turning up in my casual speech? It certainly isn’t a word I’ve felt any need to introduce into wider circulation, so I hope not.

If I’m going to be given the chance to introduce a fallen word back into the day-to-day, I would prefer “swink.” Or, if you prefer, “swinken.” It means to work hard, work to the point of exhaustion. I learned this beauty from Chaucer. I love the sound of it, but I love this next even more:

Swink – third-person singular simple present swinks, present participle swinking, simple past swank or swonk or swinkt or swinked, past participle swunk or swunken or swonken or swinkt or swinked

I’m saying. Go ahead and try it. Say “swunk” a few times and see if it doesn’t make you giggle. That’s handy when you’re working to the point of exhaustion.

Or when your work gets scuttled.


It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, hosted by the wonderful people over at <a href="https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/sol15-day3/! Every day this month, hundreds of writers will be posting their stories. Head on over and check out the other slices!

SOL image 2014


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A fellow slicer posted on Monday about the busy-ness of her day, and one of the entries in her post mentioned walking to the corner health food store … and I was reminded of a health food store near an old job of mine.

In the early 90s I taught at an adult education program in the South Bronx.  I was already living in Brooklyn, so my commute was a long one.  Sometimes I had to rush for the train before having time to throw together something to pack for lunch, and there weren’t a ton of good options for quick and inexpensive lunches near the school.

On one of those rush-out-without-lunch days, I noticed an option I hadn’t seen before.  On my walk from the train to work I saw a small health food store, and decided to head back there at lunch time.

I walked in and immediately started to doubt my choice. There were hardly any products on the shelves, and the few items in view were old and sun bleached and none of them made sense for a health food store: cans of condensed milk, a box or two of corn flakes, chips, soda.

But I was undeterred.  I walked toward the window at the back of the shop.  There were a couple of men ahead of me, but they stepped aside and let me take their places at the window.  Okay, weird, but maybe also just absurdly courteous, right?  I ordered the veggie sandwich.  The man behind the counter looked at me a long time, looked at the men who were waiting off to the side, looked back at me and nodded, told me it would be a minute.

The men and I stood around waiting.  None of us spoke, I studied the shelves a little more — a dusty box of saltines, some canned chicken noodle soup — and wondered how serious my sandwich must be to take so much time.

Finally the man came back to the window, took my money and handed me a brown paper bag.

When I started in on my perfectly yummy sandwich, everyone wanted to know where I’d gotten it.  I told them, and they all looked at me as if I’d said something outrageous.

“Stacie, that’s a drug store.” This from my co-teacher.

“No it’s a health food place.  Middle of the block.”

“Stacie,” — my supervisor, ” it’s a drug store.”

“No really, it’s not.”

“Stacie,” — still my supervisor.  “Did you notice that they don’t have much to sell?”

I laughed.  “Sure, their stock is pretty pathetic, but this sandwich is great.  It did take him an awfully long time to make it, though.”

“Because he probably went out the back to another shop and bought it for you.” This from the writing tutor.

“And I’ll bet they were surprised to see you.”  My supervisor again.

“I guess they were a bit surprised.” … and the light bulb of my brain began to come on slowly, still very much on the bottom end of the dimmer switch … “Wait.  when you say it’s a drug store, you mean –”

“That it’s a drug store.” (At this point, surely my supervisor was wondering how she could have hired someone so dense.) ” A place to buy drugs. Not medicine, not prescriptions. Drugs.  You should never go there.”

I looked at my lunch.  “But this sandwich –”

“Is an interesting outcome.”

Yeah.  I kept my next thoughts to myself: how could it be a shop where you just walk in and buy drugs?  That wasn’t actually possible, was it?

But that sandwich … was delicious.  Pollyanna signing off now.


You can find more worldly and intelligent slices over at Two Writing Teachers.

SOL image 2014

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I went grocery shopping tonight (very exciting Saturday evening doings over here in GriotLand, let me tell you! And also, we’ve got another storm coming in tomorrow, so putting if off would just be annoying).  I spent a ridiculous amount of time wandering up and down the aisles after I’d gotten all but one of the items on my list: cheesecloth.  I asked a young woman employee if the store carried cheesecloth, and she sent me down aisle 1o, “Or maybe on the back wall above the meat department? Yeah, maybe that’s the best place to look.”  Off I went, though I had looked both in aisle 10 and along the back wall above the meat department twice already.  And on that 3rd pass, I still didn’t find what I was looking for.  So I gave up and got on line.

But then an older woman got on line behind me.  She looked like someone who would actually know what cheesecloth was — the young woman employee had done that sweet, head-cocked-to-the-side-in-confusion thing when I’d asked her, and I’d had to give her a more detailed explanation.  So I asked my line companion, and she suggested aisle 11.

I walked down aisle 11 saying “cheesecloth” in a little sing-song way over and over in my head …

You see, last week I made paneer for the first time.  It was a bit of a fail — too loose, too crumbly — and I decided that part of the reason for the fail was that I’d used one of my flour sack towels to strain it and not cheesecloth.  Because my cotton towel would be just fine, right?  And who has cheesecloth, anyway?  Right.

Tonight, as I walked down aisle 11 singing my little cheesecloth song, I had a fabulously comical, head-slap-worthy moment of clarity: Oh! It’s called “cheesecloth” because people use it for making cheese!

My stunningly un-clever epiphany aside, my check-out line friend saved the day.  In among the mops and handi-wipes was … CHEESECLOTH!! 

(Paneer, Round 2, coming soon to a kitchen near me.)


And we’re off! Today is the first day of the 7th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge! stop over at Ruth and Stacey’s to join the fun!

SOL image 2014

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Finally I understand. Finally someone has shed light on a biological question that has plagued me for years. Thanks to Missouri’s Todd Akin, I now know that I should never have worried about getting pregnant after Alain forced himself on me. The superpower of my vagina kicked into high gear to shut that thing down. Amazing. I wish doctors had been more forthcoming with that news earlier. Would have saved me a lot of stress, maybe delayed the onset of my hair going grey.

Oh, but wait. That wouldn’t have worked for me, would it? After all, by Akin’s definition, I wasn’t legitimately raped. Date rape doesn’t meet Akin’s “forcible” criteria. My trusty vajayjay would have been all confused, unsure about releasing the shut-down chemicals and blasting that rapist sperm to smithereens. Damn. Guess I was right to worry and just plain lucky that all I got was raped.

I’m betting the folks who came up with the ridiculous and offensive ad campaign for Summer’s Eve had no idea just how right they were when they exhorted us all to hail the V. I mean, that’s some awesome power. Okay, so it wouldn’t have worked for me, but that’s my fault for not having the sense to get myself legitimately raped. But for all the women who do, wow. Someone ought to harness the power of those shut-down chemicals. Surely a natural contraceptive would be welcomed by millions. No more migraines and weight gain caused by the pill. Oh yes. Hail to the ever-loving V.

Of course, now that I know about the shut-down system, I’m a little annoyed. The system seems flawed. It’s great, the whole not getting pregnant from legitimate rape thing. Really great. Absolutely. But it doesn’t go far enough, does it? Even Representative Akin realized that, saying that there should be some kind of punishment for the rapist. Some kind. I don’t know what kind he was thinking of, but I know the kind that seems best fitting to me. That fabled vaginal shut-down system should shut down more than pregnancy. I’m thinking a two-step approach. First, of course, is the instant penile vaporization — which would take care of the pregnancy danger most handily. Next would be the injection of a neutralizing agent that would make rapists turn themselves over to authorities as well as acknowledge and seek help for their power and control issues. Now that’s what I call a shut-down system.

Alas, that’s just crazy, unscientific, hysterical fantasy talking, nothing to do with the evidence-based pronouncements of Representative Akin. Hey a girl can dream, can’t she?

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On the R train:

I don’t have a lot to say. Gold with inlaid crystals, about 2½ to 3-inches wide.  Who makes this as an accessory?  What kind of person thinks of it as an acceptable accesory?  What message are you sending to the world when you walk around with a diamond gun hung around your neck?

I really don’t have anything to say.  I’m still trying to decide whether and how to write about Florida, to write about France, to write about any of the other things that are making my heart heavy.  And then I look up from my book on my way home last night and see this.  It rendered me speechless.


Go see what the other slicers have on tap today.  They’re over at Two Writing Teachers.

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Hopped in a cab this morning to hear Prince on the radio giving me a little “1999,” making me feel right at home since he’s been in steady rotation on my iPod for about a week now.

That’s all good.  I’m smiling, I’m happy, I’m barely managing to keep myself from singing along (especially on my favorite bit: “If you didn’t come to party, don’t bother knockin’ on my door …”).  Then the song ends. The song ends and the DJ comes on and tells me that I’m listening to Lite FM.

Lite FM? Srsly?! Since when is Prince in the “easy listening” bin? On behalf of His Purpleness and his many fans, I have to take offense. I mean “1999,” for dance-ability alone, doesn’t belong on this station. What will they play next, “Erotic City” perhaps?

Lite FM. What’s next, Purple Rain as elevator music?

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Tara’s SOL yesterday was about losing an earring and how upsetting that can be.  It made me think of the earrings I’ve lost that I am still sad about losing all these years later.  Like the earrings I’m wearing in my just-recently-expired passport photo.  They are big pink-orange faceted lucite drops I bought from Cara Croninger years and years ago.  They are huge and unreasonable, and I loved them like crazy.  How I could lose one without noticing is still beyond me.

And then there was the pair of rough-cut rubies in a sterling setting that I bought in Park Slope one afternoon as I was on my way home to prepare for a date I wasn’t sure I wanted to go on.  We went into Manhattan for dinner and a movie and then wound up back in Brooklyn for drinks at The Gate … which was when I noticed that my right earring was gone.  I made that poor man drive me to every place we’d been so I could search for that earring.  And he did.  Small wonder that our “relationship” didn’t last too long after that.  (Better to let people discover your wacky obsessions after they’ve married you rather than before?!)

It’s safe to say that I love my earrings.  Love them to distraction.  Love them to my own detriment. Case in point: (Warning! Warning! Travel memory coming on!) 

When I was hitching around Europe years ago, I wasn’t very good at following any of the rules.  One I ignored fairly often was the one that said you shouldn’t let yourself be separated from your bag.  That way, if a ride turned sour, you could grab your stuff and fling yourself from the vehicle.  Yes. As if.

Then I hitched from Bordeau to Madrid.  Entering the mountains I had a fun and funny ride with a French trucker who tried to use his radio to find my next ride.  In the end, he had to leave me ride-less on the side of the highway.  It was early still, so I wasn’t worried.  In a few minutes, another truck stopped for me.  The cab was small so the driver put my bag in the back.¹  We started our ride and it became clear pretty quickly that I was in trouble.  Not because I was psychic, but because the driver told me he’d be taking me to Burgos instead of Madrid … and then maybe to Valladolid and if he was done with me after that, he’d decide where to leave me.  I pretended not to understand him, said that no, I really wasn’t interested in seeing Burgos and would much rather get out wherever the road to Madrid split off from the road to Burgos.  He just laughed.

We were further into the mountains, moving more quickly than not. I had no idea where I was, and there was nothing but painful-looking terrain out the window.  Jumping would surely have left me pretty broken, and still not safe from the driver, but I decided to jump.  Yes, it would mean leaving my bag, yes I’d get cut up and maybe break a hand or foot or something, but that had to be better, right?  I had my journal, my toothbrush, my passport and my money in the purse on my lap.  I could figure out clothes after I found my way away from the driver.

So I started looking for a good place to make my move.  I thought a curve in the road would work well, that he wouldn’t be able to see which way I went after I landed. (Because of course I’d actually have been able to move, wouldn’t have just been lying there, stunned and bleeding from the jump.)

Before I found my spot, I realized I couldn’t jump, realized that leaving my bag behind would mean leaving my jewelry, and I just couldn’t do it.

I’m completely serious.  I had a little plastic soap dish full of earrings in that bag.  The whole container probably worth about $20, the soap dish probably more valuable than half the earrings it held.  But they were my earrings.  My big white plastic discs, the ones my best friend said looked like drops of Nivea, were in there.  My fake onyx and marcasite chandeliers, the ones I’d bought at the flea market in Paris, my first “fancy” earrings, were in there.  And all my other cherished pieces of plastic and cheap metal were in there.  I could leave my clothes and shoes behind, but how could I leave my earrings?

I didn’t jump. I decided to trust that I’d find another way out … and, obviously, I did. Here I am, half a lifetime later writing about it.

So, do I understand Tara’s strong feelings about the loss of her earring? Uh … yeah, I think it’s safe to say I do.


You can find the rest of today’s slices at Two Writing Teachers.


¹ That bag was another rule breaker: I was hitching with a suitcase! A guy later told me I looked like someone’s runaway wife standing there in a dress with a suitcase.

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