Monday, July 25, 2005

All movies, all the time

In a surprising turnabout of my normal priorities, I've been working at work in order to avoid blogging. That's funny. Not in order to avoid blog-reading catch-up and catch-up commenting, though. I'm out there spreading joy! Or not.

This is a long one, so be warned.

The kickball happy hour on Friday was a bust. I didn't even make it inside. I met Pele at the door, on her way out. "There's no one there."

"No one?"

"No one. And if we're just going to hang out at a bar, I'd rather go somewhere else." "Indeed." Because the kickball bar is, well, a little stinky. We ambled a couple of blocks to the Union Pub where Pele inadvertently purchased the most expensive glass of Hefewiesen ever. The atmosphere was ok. Pele called a bar foul on a fellow to our right who made a point of examining a couple of expensive bottles of scotch and then throwing back of shot of scotch. "No, no, no. You didn't just slam a shot of scotch. That is not right" she said quietly to me. What's that about? If you need a shot, make it cheap scotch or tequila or vodka. She thought he was showing off but failing and making a fool of himself instead.

We drank our beers and engaged in pleasant conversation for about an hour. It wasn't the plan, but I had a good time. While it may seem that we are in constant communication, Pele and I don't sit and talk very often. So when it happens, I'm appreciative.

[Movie review below. Skip if you don't care about Wedding Crashers.]

Then we went to see Wedding Crashers. It had some third act problems but I laughed out loud many, many times during the picture. The main reason to see it is Vince Vaughn. Owen Wilson was good, and he was the "hero" in a classic boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-(I won't give away the end) plot, but this was Vaughn's show all the way. He is the sexiest least handsome actor working in Hollywood. Maybe that's why it's so easy to love him--he's actually approachable looking, not superstar handsome. Of course Wilson's looks are amazingly flawed by his wacky nose, but he still looks more polished than Vaughn. As Pele pointed out, in one scene, Vaughn is supposed to look like shit--he's been beaten up, gotten no sleep and should be hung-over--and he looks like shit. Not every actor is willing to show himself like that. Wilson is nothing less than shiny-clean and sparkly, even in his sad mood scenes. [Note: I'm thinking of starting another blog with just reviews--of movies, books and blogs. Would anyone read such a thing? Would I actually make time to write such a thing? Any thoughts?] We thoroughly enjoyed the film and figured out how to make the ending work better. Hollywood, if you need a script doctor, I am here.

[End of movie review.]

Saturday was busy, as expected, but I didn't go crazy. It started out with an airport run, which left me with a car for the rest of the week (yes!). I took the little sister (not my actual sister) and her (actual) brother to see the Bad News Bears and we all liked it. Faithful to the original, but still entertaining. We also had dim sum lunch. Yum.

I fetched Mom at the airport around 4:30 and we went straight to the revitalized "Barracks Row" (also known as 8th Street SE) and walked around. I'd recommended the new Belgian Restaurant, Belga Café, to Mom (I ate there once with Pele and Dad) and that's where we went. The service was not the best, but not terrible. The food was very good. Despite the heat we sat outside and a breeze kept us comfortable. There was a quietly howling then loudly barking basset-type hound tied up near us and Mom was worried about the dog. Did he need water? Eventually, the party that included the dog owner moved outside and the dog and Mom were happy.

Mom and I were getting along fine but I was starting to feel on edge, like I often do when we're together. She's great and she wasn't doing anything wrong but she was just bugging me. Poor Mom. I'm impossible.

The first "mom" moment was when the check came. She didn't make a move for it. In the past, she's complained about how she has to pay for everything. It's a well-known fact that parents pay. I buy her plenty of stuff (expensive gifts) but our trade-deficit will never be balanced. She doesn't even want it to be. But she doesn't like the assumption that she will pay for everything when we go out. However, I wasn't quite prepared, mentally (I had the money), to pay the bill. Yet I paid. She didn't even make a gesture towards paying. She could have offered to split (that's what I was expecting) and then given me a chance to be magnanimous--as a child who pays for a parent ought to be granted. But no. I just swallowed hard and paid. No fighting.

We went to the movies after dinner. I love the movies. Can you tell? I did not love the movie we saw (obscure Burt Lancaster), but it was fun.

Sunday, I went to play softball in the morning. I discouraged Mom from joining me. "There's no point. It's too early and I hate everyone on the team so there's no one for you to meet. And it will be boring and we will lose." She stayed home.

It would have been fine if she'd come, but I wanted some time away from her. Did I mention that she was bugging me? "Did you remember to bring the tomatoes in?" "Which towel should I use?" "Did you set the alarm?" "Do you have a fan?" "How do I get the dvd to play?" "Is it ok to open the window in the bathroom?" She's horrible! (No, not really.) She is an odd combination of helpless and overbearing--checking to make sure I did everything right and needing help figuring out little things that should be obvious. There was absolutely no need to be annoyed, but I was. Very annoyed. Please (don't) hate me.

[Skip the following paragraph if you don't care about my softball game.]

Softball was ridiculous. We had eight players--enough to play if the other side loans you a non-fielding catcher, which they did. Actually, it was the most fun I'd had all season and we played well. We came within three runs of winning, which was huge considering the other team had a more than full roster. I played second base most of the game with one inning in right field. My glory moment was catching an infield fly--something I've never done. It wasn't hard, but I was scared. I had to call it. My call was almost a whisper. I was afraid to yell "I got it" because I wasn't sure I had it. But I did have it. In another play, I stopped a grounder and made a throw to first for an out. Unfortunately, my inglorious moments were more numerous: not stopping a fast moving grounder, missing a catch at second for an out (it touched my glove, but got away from me), letting a fly to right drop in front of me (but making a good relay throw that resulted in an out), and getting hit in the head with a line drive--no, it wasn't that bad--I put up my glove to catch the line drive--it hit my glove, then bounced out and on my head. I grabbed the ball and threw it to first, but too late. It was a very hard-hit ball! The runner on first said, "I'm sorry--are you ok?"

"I'm fine. Only my pride was hurt."

I worked the count twice for walks and got on once on a fielder's choice. Two other times I was out at first. I never scored. Altogether, a good game for me. More practice in the field and I think I could be decent at second base. It's a lot more fun than catcher, that's for sure. We all commented that it was a fun game. Our captain said, "It's really more about who is playing than how we are playing." So true. The absence of the sour girl and the crazy guy really added to my enjoyment. My former softball crush was not there either…but that was neither good nor bad. If we could just add two people we liked to the roster, I would start looking forward to softball again.

[End of softball game description.]

I got home and gave Mom a lively description of the game. I was still excited. Mom had been watching movies and playing with Tabitha (the cat). I got ready and we trucked off to Crate and Barrel where the plan was to buy me this flatware, this espresso maker or some of these towels. (The "buy me" plan was Mom's idea.)

At Crate and Barrel, we had our first near-meltdown. They had the towels I wanted but Mom started saying that the towels wouldn't serve my purpose. "What is my purpose?" Her objection was that the towels were brown and white, not black and white. The appeal of the towels is that my shower curtain has the same Marimekko pattern, but it is black on clear plastic. Ideally, the towels would be black on white (my bathroom tile is black and white), but the brown is so dark it is close to black and I thought it might work. My tone was shrill. She walked away. I decided against the towels. I didn't like the flatware, so I got the espresso maker.

After that excitement it was time for lunch. And we faced a crisis of indecision. I had a place in mind, but if Mom wanted to eat somewhere else, that was fine with me. Yet, I failed to tell her that I had a place in mind. She failed to express any preferences at all. I said, "Fine. There is a place up here. Let's go there." She was happy with it. She said, "This is perfect. You pay for lunch. But I'm taking you to dinner tonight." Yay for me. I paid. (Not complaining.)

I was getting tired. We stopped at the grocery store for some coffee (for the new espresso maker) and tonic. ("Do you have gin? Can I drink some?" Yes and yes. Due to my very low tolerance for alcohol, I always have a pretty well stocked liquor cabinet. I buy a few bottles and they last for years.) Mom suggested going to the Renwick. I didn't want to go. I said, "I can drop you off if you want to go. But I want to go home."

She said, "I'll choose you over the Renwick." But, why, Mom, when I'm so damn unpleasant?

At home, I tried out the espresso maker. Before using its ingenious milk-steaming feature, I had to brew and discard three pots of coffee (according to the instructions). Then I put in the milk and tried to make a cappuccino.

Hmm, not quite right. Try again. No, still not terribly frothy. Oh, TR is calling from Michigan. His house alarm went off. Take a break and walk with Mom over to his house to make sure no windows are broken. House looks undisturbed. Try the front door to make sure it's locked. Laugh maniacally when Mom immediately tries the door after I do. "Is it so wrong that I have to satisfy myself? I have my own needs!" Sure, Mom. And is one of those the need to demonstrate your lack of faith in my competence at every possible opportunity? [I know very well this is completely irrational.]

Walk home, shaking head. Get back to important cappuccino making attempt. Watch instructional video (downloaded very patiently) and learn nothing. Ask for Mom's opinion and get lots of critique and no help. Clean machine of sticky milk debris. Then, turn on the garbage disposal to grind up some ice cubes and instead grind vital part of brand-new espresso maker. Feel 1) stupid, 2) impossibly committed to not as great as hoped for machine, and 3) super annoyed at Mom because she wants to comfort me. Sigh.

(Good news: I was able to order a replacement part for the espresso maker this morning for only $7.)

Completely exhausted, I made popcorn so Mom and I could watch Princess Mononoke (we are Japanese anime fans). The way I felt, I never wanted to leave the house again. But Mom wanted to go out to dinner. Not because she was starving to death, but because she felt that she owed me dinner. God, we are BOTH impossible. I drove us the few blocks to Sonoma, this new Italian wine, cheese and small plates place on Penn SE. It was pretty and the food was good, but I only ordered one small thing. Mom wanted me to get more but I said I wasn't hungry and she said she felt bad. I said I still wasn't hungry. She ordered chocolate cake to go. After we left, I expressed my hatred of the people in the restaurant. Mom agreed that they weren't so great. "All that talk about nannies and where to go on vacation…"

"And the people on the right were just as bad. And more boring. That place is bad for people watching."

We ate the chocolate cake at home with blueberries and watched the end of the movie. I went to sleep early.

This morning, we did not end well. For some reason, Mom asked if I take Tabitha to the vet for her shots and I answered, "No, never. She never goes to the vet." Mom didn't realize I was being sarcastic. "You don't take her?"

"Of course I take her."

"You just said you didn't."

"I was being sarcastic."

"Being sarcastic right then wasn't very helpful."

"Look, I take her once a year for a check up. Why? Why do you need to know?" "Never mind. I'm taking my shower now."

And that was how we said goodbye because I was ready to leave for work. I felt terrible. I called when I got to the office and I didn't apologize but I asked her to call me when her meeting was over (that's why she's here: she has an all-day meeting today). We talked for a while about the meeting, which she was not looking forward to. Later, I called to let her know I'd found the replacement part for the espresso maker and she was happy. Maybe I'll see her tonight, but she might have dinner with her colleagues.

I've certainly had worse visits with Mom. This trip, the main problem was me and my ridiculously thin skin. She was good and (mostly) did not escalate things. When I got annoyed at her she pointed out I was being unreasonable (true, but not helpful) and then backed away. I tried to stop. I tried and failed to let go of things that annoyed me. Maybe I can get better. I hope so.

Grateful for: not fighting too much with Mom.

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