fearlesstemp: (cary kate net)
I can't believe it's been eight days and I haven't tortured you all with tales from my father's Mensa Art Show. To put it simply: It was an experience. I spent an hour and forty-five minutes of my life I'll never get back sitting with an old man who told me we were like the Russian Empire, being brought down by wine, women, and song. Then he told me about how terrible lawyers are, and how you can get sued for a hangnail. He caught himself a second later and said, "Not your father, of course. Or your grandfather."

"Right," I said, and then my Hardass Tough Girl melted away in the face of feeling like I was being rude to an old man. "But some of the commercials for lawyers are terrible."

"Awful!" he said, and then went on about a bunch of other things I can't really remember because I spent the whole time thinking about how much my father owed me, and that this would most definitely cancel out any guilt I feel over moving home and living with them rent-free the last couple of years.

During the art show I wandered around eating lots of cheese and crackers and having awkward, occasionally overly-personal conversations with people I'd just met. One woman soothed me into a false sense of security by starting a typical conversation about our shared alma mater, and then somehow segued into stories about her childhood in a Catholic orphanage and how her father tried to kill her mother three times but it wasn't really his fault.

"He was insane," she said. "There was something wrong with his brain. He couldn't help it."

I probably said something in response but I can't think of it now, because it just doesn't seem like there's anything a person could say to that. But I must have said something, because I wouldn't have been so rude to just run back into the kitchen for more Werther's Originals without saying anything. Though maybe I did just that.

Most of the other people were charmingly eccentric, a bit like my father. He was in his element. I felt weird because people kept asking me which artwork was mine and all I could do was point at my father's family portrait of me, my brother, and my mother at dinner and say, "That's me on the right. It's my father's painting, I'm just here for moral support."

The most important thing I learned was never to choose shoes for a six-hour outing based on the idea that you'll "probably" get to sit down a lot. I got compliments on my new black heels, but my feet were killing me by the end.

That was the Saturday of last weekend. The Saturday of this weekend was spent baby-sitting Emma, who is now seven years old, which just does not seem possible. She's still high-energy and precocious, but it looks better on a seven-year-old than it did on a three-year-old, probably because I can better communicate my empty threats to her.

"Well, if you're going to do throw ice at the dog, then I guess we're just going to have to eat at the kitchen table!" What a threat. I let her eat in the living room when I babysit because I'm Just That Strict. She threw ice at the dog a couple times more and we still ended up sitting at the coffee table in the living room, eating chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese, watching a Scooby Doo episode with a vampire.

At one point I kind of jumped at something that happened on screen (this is why I can't go to horror movies; Scooby Doo episodes startle me), and Emma looked at me across the table very seriously and said, "It's okay, it's not a *real* vampire."

"Like you?" I asked. She had tried on her Halloween costume while I was boiling the water for the macaroni, and emerged from the bathroom in a black cape and plastic fangs. She had warned me from the bathroom a few times that it was going to be a little scary, but that it would be okay. I yelped and clutched the wooden spoon I was using for the macaroni to my chest, and she took the teeth out of her mouth and had me pick her up so that I could see it was just Emma.

"Like me," she said.

I gave her a bath and brushed her hair while she read from a book to me, and then we did math flashcards before I put her to bed. She still asked me to lie down next to her and sing Old MacDonald. Every time I go there I think she won't ask, but every time she still does. I'll probably cry the first time she doesn't.

She's a sweet kid. When I got to her house, she was playing out back with Andrew, the boy next door who my aunt doesn't really like. She thinks he's mean. They were pulling an oversized wagon full of toys around the yard and after I said I was going to go inside to see her mother, Emma pulled out this plastic laptop toy and said she was going to type my name to see what it means.

I was halfway across the lawn when I heard Andrew say, "Her name means fat and ugly!"

I kept walking like I hadn't heard, and then just as I was going to go into the house, I heard Emma yell, "Jessie, your name means beautiful!"

"Thanks, Em!" I yelled back, and then I went inside.
fearlesstemp: (lionel)
This morning, I came downstairs to eat breakfast (and by "came downstairs to eat breakfast" I mean "ran into the kitchen with my hair half-dried and shoved an english muffin in my face as quickly as possible while speed-reading the comics") and saw my father had put a piece of paper with an address on the table where I usually sit.

"Wuv dis?" I asked around the five bites of english muffin in my mouth.

"The address for the writing group meeting tonight," my father answered.

The writing group. Ah yes, the writing group, one of those many things that sounds great in theory, but once they come around, usually cause me to be annoyed about having to interrupt my nightly routine of doing nothing very important or meaningful. And this was not just any writing group -- no no no, it was a Mensan writing group. My father has decided he wants to get as much bang for his $36 a year license fee and has started going on this huge Mensa kick, attending as many events as possible with me in tow.

So I spend all day debating whether or not to cancel with him, ultimately decide not to and pick up dinner for him on the way to his office where we're meeting pre-group, only to get stuck in traffic on my way so that when I arrived, we had approx. 2.3 minutes to eat the soup and ended up playing that fun old game every perpetually late person plays: It's Your Fault. He blamed me for picking up soup ("We don't NEED soup, you shouldn't have stopped, you should have gotten here SOONER, blah blah"); I blamed him for the inaccurate meeting time ("The soup is irrelevant! I got her a FULL SEVEN MINUTES before you told me too! Your meeting time was wrong! Blah blah!"). It was fun.

Finally we hopped in our respective cars and took off for the writing group, which was being held at this random guy's house. Right before we left my father's office, he turned to me and said, "We should bring something."

"We could bring him soup," I said, holding up the Panera bag with two quarter-consumed cups of soup. "Or half a chunk of bread."

My father actually looked like he was considering it before shaking his head and saying, "Nah, we'll just stop at Cumberland Farms [aside: classy, I know]. Follow me."

Which sounds like simple instructions. "Follow me." Okay, easy enough. Except my father didn't drive so much like he was leading me somewhere as much as he did like he was making a getaway in a hot car. I had to cut across lanes of traffic, pass people, make unsafe darts out of parking lots -- it's so fitting, though, because as I've told my mother, one of the most vivid memories of my father from when I was really little is the sight of his retreating back in the supermarket parking lot. He's always been one of those parents who has faith in their children's ability to keep up or catch up, whether they're six or twenty-three.

At one point he did get so far ahead that he pulled over to wait for me, only I assumed he'd gone way further ahead and ended up passing him, so that he ended up following me through the unfamiliar city streets, beeping. I kind of worried it was a carjacking or something before I recognized the car.

Anyway, finally we got there! Almost twenty minutes late, nervous we would be interrupting some big critiquing session, we arrived, walked through the doors to discover -- no one else was there. No one. Just us, the host, and his freakishly large Mancoon (sp?) cat.

SO. AWKWARD.

Especially because I brought nothing for people to read/critique. But it was okay for a while, just chatting, and then my father brought out his story and read it, and I was appropriately complimentary and Host Dude was relatively silent. And then Host Dude read his story, and turned to us expectantly.

"I liked it a lot," I said, and meant it.

"Yeah," my father said. "Yeah...." Now, there's no way to fully capture my father's impressive way of holding the floor in a conversation without really saying anything, mainly because he talks so incredibly slow that it's hard to tell when he's done talking, and a lot of the time he just ends up going on and on because no one's sure when they're able to speak without interrupting him.

After a few seconds of awkward pause, my father cleared his throat, said, "I liked it," and then launched into this long, detailed, somewhat harsh but not inaccurate critique of the story.

At the end? Host Dude's face? Scarily non-responsive. Like, offended and pissed. And there we are, sitting in his kitchen, sitting across from his freakishly large cat who he's already introduced as a "Helper" kitty, striking fear into my heart that should Host Dude say "Kill, kitty" I'd be toast in seconds.

I jumped in and tried to salvage it but being all "I liked it! Really! It was good! Ignore my father's wacky statements about actually having conflict in your story! It's okay! Please don't hate us."

We sat around awkwardly for another twenty minutes or so, which was about as fun as it sounds.

It was funny, though! My father has written, like, multiple novellas! I had NO IDEA. The excerpt he read was kind of funny -- he'd lifted it from his real life and fictionalized it a bit. I only knew because it's an old family story about my mom and dad. It was kind of sweet to hear how he characterized their evening together, and his description of "Maize"/Peg.

I have a feeling there was something else that happened there tonight that was rather funny, but I can't think of it now, and it's way past my bedtime. So snooze time for me!
fearlesstemp: (Default)
I was going to write a potentially self-important entry consisting of my thoughts on the English language, grammar, and writing, but it looks like you're all going to be spared tonight. I've simply lost my "Be nice to people who split infinitives, for I am one of them and we are often not as stupid as you may think!" edge, but be warned! Said edge could come back, so the threat of such an entry still looms.

Mr. Boss was out of the office today, which was very exciting because, obviously, no Mr. Boss hurling dictation tapes at me! But it appears that without Mr. Boss there to spur me on, the motivation and drive I've been displaying at work (and been quite surprised by, frankly, as I feared I would be a slothful employee) is significantly reduced. But still, I got stuff done, filed most of the crap sitting in my bin and did all of my dictation and wow, am I the most boring person ever? I need to get a better job!! Sometimes I think the only reason I need to get a better/different job is so that I have things to talk about. I mean, I come home from the office and the only thing I have to discuss is my fear that I'm developing a repetitive-motion wrist injury from filing all of these bigass heavy files on the high shelves.

TMI Alert! By the end of the day the monthly visitor was announcing its presence in its usual annoyingly painful manner and I had NO ibuprofen or anything on me since I had a bout of temporary insanity the other day and decided to actually empty out my bag because I had so much crap in it. And when I put stuff back in I FORGOT the ibuprofen! So annoying! Isn't that a good story?

Anyway, by the time I got home I was all Woe Is Me For I Am Suffering The Pain Most Women Suffer On A Monthly Basis And No, I Won't Get Over It, and when I pulled up to the house my father was standing in the driveway with a bright blue Hawaiian shirt on, jeans, and a huge grin, waving at me with his emphatic "LET'S GO!!" hand gesture. And I remembered! I had promised the Dad Unit to go with him to a Mensa dinner and dude, I was so not feeling it. And so we had the following interaction after I screeched to a stop in front of the house and started trudging up the hill to the house.

Me: Dad, I'm really sorry but I feel AWFUL, I'm SO SICK and I just CAN'T GO.

Dad: What? You're going!

Me: I just, I feel terrible. I'm really sorry.

Dad: Take some Tums! You'll be as good as new!

Me: I really don't feel good! It's female problems.

Dad: Oh.

Me: I'm sorry, I just really can't go. I can't! I feel awful, I look awful -- do you see my skin? Do you see the pasty white complexion offset by unsightly undereye circles and, also, the sheen of sweat from the unexpectedly warm temperatures today? And my hair is a mess! And I don't feel good! I'm really sorry, but there's no way. I really can't go.

Dad: Please?

Me: Ok.

And so we went! And really, is there anything more pathetic than spending a Friday night out with one's father at a Mensa meeting? No, didn't think so. But, again, I blame my boring job. I just kept thinking, "It will be an experience. You will have something to talk about other than filing. You must go." And so we went! We arrived like twenty minutes late and got some dirty looks from our fellow Mensans. At whatever gatherings I have attended int he past (and they have been few), my father and I have been rather Renegade Mensans, for whatever reason. It could be because we only sporadically attend events and when we do show up, we're almost always late. That could do it. Our fellow Mensans were as follows:

Leo: The editor of the local newsletter who had, in the past, returned my father's submitted cartoons with a rather snippy note because they were too out there. Which, you know, they were. My father has a rather unique sense of humor, and by "unique" I mean "palatable only to those who have known him for twenty years" and so his audience is rather limited.

Charmie: I think that was her name. Grad student in biochemistry. I think she's a vegan. She kind of stared at my Turkey sandwich in disgust while saying things like, "That's how people solve all their problems nowadays, KILL KILL KILL!"

Charlene: Older lady with an insulin deficiency. Had the unsettling habit of staring at you and nodding for half a minute after you finished speaking in a manner that suggested that she wasn't digesting anything you said.

Lillith: "Lilith?" we all said. "No, it's L-i-l-l-i-t-h," she mumbled. "Oh," we all said, "so it's Lilith? Like on Cheers? Frasier's wife?" "No, Lie-lith. It's spelled differently than the wife on Cheers." And that was all she contributed for the evening.

Rob: Lillith's husband. Future treasurer of our merry band. Looked to be in his mid-forties, just started taking classes at the local community college because he wants to write a book. "What on?" I asked. "On how the world should be run, how to solve all the world's problems, stuff like that," he answered. He also said that he thought the reason the Enron scandal happened was because the executives had been brought up on television and I was all "Dude! I'm a TV addict and do you see me fleecing 401(k) plans? No! Flaw in your logic there, buddy!" Maybe those weren't my exact words, of course. If I recall correctly, I think I just nodded and smiled.

Bob: Former president of the chapter, I believe. Older gent, has some hearing problems from what I could gather. He was quiet most of the time and would interject rather random things every so often and whenever the waitress came and asked him something, they would have an exchange like this:

Waitress: Sir, could you hand me your plate?

[Bob hands her Rob's iced tea glass]

Waitress: No, sir, your plate?

[Bob hands her his own iced tea glass]

Waitress: Your plate?

[Bob hands her the basket of rolls]

It was a good time.

And then there was my Dad and me. The lady next to me referred to "gifted children" and asked if I was in school, leading me to believe that, like most people, she placed my age as somewhere in high school instead of, you know, early twenties. Whatev. Also, the Mensans didn't seem to appreciate my father's rather unique sense of humor, especially after he'd had a couple of Bud Lights and his already slow mannerisms became even more delayed, so that whenever he said anything it. took. for. ever. He also has this schtick where he acts rather dense and asks stupid questions but the Mensans didn't really get the whole "He's being funny!" thing and I could see their wheels turning, wondering how he got past their screening process.

It was, for the most part, an interesting night. The people were nice, if a bit self-important (but really, aren't we all sometimes?), and really, I should know more about things like water chestnuts in Florida and the ways in which proteins affect disease, so the conversation was informative.

And look! A LJ entry not composed solely of Jess's Filing Woes. Now that was reason enough to go in and of itself.

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fearlesstemp

February 2009

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