23 April 2008

Sunday Sunday

Weekends are more like workends for me. Errands and chores come first; fun, second. I end up squeezing one around the other, and I can’t recall the last time I actually slept in. I admire anyone who can frolic freely over the week’s end, because I’ve lost that ability.

Saturdays begin with the gym. The alarm bleats to wake me so I can get there early enough to avoid what I lovingly refer to as “the porn crowd”. Saturday’s the one day of the week when I don’t have to rush through my workout, which, sadly, I rather enjoy. On Saturdays, I take my time, listen to something fabulous on the iPod and punish my body for craving sugar and carbs, and spank my willpower for relenting. My resolve is such a wimpy bitch.

After that sweaty task, I drop off or pick up my dry-cleaning, run to the bank and hit the shower. Then it is either an appointment with the hair goddess, waxer-extraordinaire or a lunchy-brunchy date with a mate. Back at the ranch, I postpone housecleaning in lieu of “writing” or a hurried Netflix viewing (so I can take it to the post office before four).

If I’m not actually working on the novel’s next revision (which seems never-ending, yet this one is for a true purpose), I fit in a night out someone adored. Food and beverages are involved and a fair amount of fun. Otherwise, it’s Mac and me in front of cable staring at my words on Word. And I can’t describe how tedious that is becoming.

And then comes Sunday morning. The alarm goes off at seven. It’s ignored until seven-thirty, or maybe eight, when I drag myself out of bed and scurry to the Laundromat. Yes, the Laundromat. Pourquoi? you ask. Well, the neighbors who share my laundry room at my duplex complex are kind of gross slobs. Besides, I’d rather get it all done in an hour than drag it out in our single washer and dryer facility.

After an extensive search, I finally found a clean, hygienic facility with a quaint café over a mile away from my place that has a reasonably sane clientele. Or so I thought.

I’ve been going there about a month, after the last straw was pulled at the facility I used to frequent. I like the early morning crowd at the new venue. We are quiet; loading, folding or reading while we wait for our clothes to come clean or get dry. However, every so often, a disrupter stumbles into the joint.

The other day, I had the fortune to grab the two “regular” sized washers in the back. I took a chair and situated myself at the wall, cracked open my book and sipped my green tea. The next thing I knew, I was faced with a man’s ass as he bent over and stuck his face to the windows of my machines. My first thought was, Great. I’ve got a laundry fetishist perusing my smalls. He was very thorough in his investigation. It wasn’t quick glance, but several serious inspections.

“Excuse me,” I said to super freak. “Can I help you?”

“Are these your machines?” he asked. I nodded. “I don’t think there’s enough water in mine. I don’t think there’s enough water in yours.” He seemed on the verge of a frustrated panic. While I still considered him a weirdo, I was happy that he seemed to have a semi-reasonable explanation for his behavior.

“I’m quite happy with my water level. Thank you, though.” And then I gave him my “you’re dismissed” eyebrow raise. He finally left, but appeared to remain perturbed.

The next week I stumbled up the man who needed six machines for what would easily fit in two of the large capacity washers. It was a full house, so I wasn’t thrilled to have to used the larger washers for my smaller loads in two different sections of the room. As I passed him going between my two loads, I noticed that he shook out and sprayed each article before putting them in one of the six machines. I respected his process, but it seem to me to be nothing more than a waste of time, energy, money, detergent and water. But, to each his own.

The one downside of this Laundromat (besides the few strange rangers) is that their dryers either burn clothes, or leave them slightly damp, no matter how long you let them dry. I can deal with that. It beats the joint nearest my house with the good dryers and off-putting clientele (who enjoy having full-on conversations from across the room at a volume level ten). But, fortunately, there is always a rolling basket to help me gather my clothes, and clean counter space for folding. It’s a relatively peaceful way to accomplish one of the more tedious chores of life. Though, each and every time, I drive home longing for the day I’ll have my own washer and dryer, and can do a load at midnight, naked if I wanted. Not that I would, but the option would be nice.

After I unload my fresh laundry, I honor the Sunday tradition of over-priced pancakes with friends. These are laid-back occasions. Relaxed attire and minimal makeup serve as the dress code. Sunglasses help hide the dark circles of the sleep deprived. Reactions are slower. Conversations more sedate. Everything is eased as we try to slow the passing of time and forget that Monday is fast approaching.

A few Sundays ago, however, a friend and I were served a jolt. As we enjoyed our breakfast fare, we caught a surprising sight out of the corner of our eyes — all of our eyes, as a matter of fact — when a statuesque woman stood up to exit the cafe. I don't know what she looked like, because all I (or anyone else at the restaurant) could fixate on was her chest. She wore a top that couldn't have been whiter or tighter than if it was a second skin...which is what it truly had become since she opted not to wear a bra. Her areolas stared back as the entire place came to a standstill. One by one, heads popped up and jaws dropped open as we all watched her leave the establishment and round the corner. I will say she had a decent surgeon. Still, I just didn't need to see her sunny-sides-up before I finished my pancakes.

The place was silent for a good thirty seconds as we sat there, stunned. I looked over to a woman sitting in the corner with friends, mouth still hanging open, mirroring my gape. She looked over to me and we burst into laughter. The entire place shared an OMG sigh as we wondered to each other if her ensemble was intentional or accidental. And what kind of friend was the chick she was with not to say, “Um, you might want to wear a sweater. I can tell you’re chilly.” Look, I’m all for putting it out there, just not first thing in the morning. Especially not a Sunday. They are delicate enough as it is.

09 April 2008

Birthday Presence

Another year older. A tad more wise. A few more grays and a couple more lines. Still, no matter how many I have, I love birthdays. It’s not the cards or presents or phone calls or best wishes; it’s the party I love.

While I remain a wild child at heart, my friends have grown a bit more sedate as time goes on. Boo. I can no longer drag the full gang out for a night of drinking, dancing and going beyond last call. For the past three years, I have celebrated with large restaurant dinner parties instead...though some have been known to go to last call. While that seems to be an easy out, a soft compromise, let me tell you, it’s not.

First, forget about doing it on a Friday night. It’s the worst day of the week to try to toss a big get together. Traffic, deadlines, and simple exhaustion from the workweek causes even the most reliable to be late, or flake. If you opt for a Saturday night, you’ll need to book it well in advance and play ball with the restaurant (don’t expect to get the exact time you want, or stay as long as you’d like). This year, my birthday falls on a Wednesday (today, as a matter of fact). Since that was the weekday I was born, I decided to have a dinner that night. Surprisingly, there was no bitching. Mid-week seemed to be a crowd pleaser.

Next, you have to breakdown the guest list. I wanted to do something simple this year because it was on hump day. I didn’t make it a big deal and invite the world, not wanting to put pressure on those a long day or a long drive away. I thought eight was enough. A nice, round number. But, that somehow went to twelve. Then twelve became fourteen. Okay. Once you get double-digit, you need to pick a venue that can/will take your lot.

I’m a strong believer in the power of group dynamics. Luckily, I have a dynamic group, so it’s never an issue of someone not gelling with another. I’ve never had friends get pissy with each other. Shocker. Still, a good host always considers conversation flow. So I do a seating chart. I know, I know. It sounds über controlling, but it’s not. Would you call a maestro conducting an orchestra controlling? Of course not. Because, done well, beautiful music is made. Shy people or those new to the group need to be placed next to one more established and gabby. Commonalities need to be considered, though placed across from, not next to, each other so others will be able to more easily participate in conversation. Name cards are either envelopes holding thank-you-for-attending cards, or gift bags...because who doesn’t love a bit of swag, even if it’s homemade? It doesn’t stop there, though. The true winner and night saver is the playbill.

When you have such a large group in a setting where sitting is required (and mingling near impossible), there’s no guarantee everyone will be able to properly meet and get a chance to chat with each other. So, I create a playbill. Give the night a name, present it as a play and add in the “cast of characters”. I provide mini-bios on each guest, humorous in nature, with how we know each other or our latest misadventure. Before they even meet, guests feel like they know each other. This reduces the chances of awkward silences and need for formal introductions.

If the venue in question doesn’t have a stellar dessert lineup, ask about BYOD. Most don’t mind, or they charge a small plating fee. While cupcakes are trendy, overpriced and annoying, they are small, easy to dole out, and everyone feels obligated to eat one, so that’s my birthday “cake” of choice. I used to do a tower of Ding Dongs. That was fun. I’d stack them in a tall, silver pyramid, unwrap a few on the top for candles, blow them out, then throw the wrapped Ding Dongs to guests. Seriously. Beats cutting and passing plates. Here, catch! And, everyone looked forward to their annual taste of that chemical confection, a sweet reminder of childhood. Now, Hostess ruined that plan by taking the Dongs out of tinfoil and into ugly plastic packaging. Bastards. So, cupcakes it is. And, my feeling is that my friends are buying me dinner and picking up my bar tab; the least I can do is comp the dessert.

No matter what, people will be late. Hopefully, the restaurant won’t hold you bar hostage until the full party arrives. I only had that happen once at another friend’s dinner (and I don’t go to that venue anymore). I also don’t go to her birthdays anymore because she lied to everyone, saying that the party was fifteen minutes earlier so “everyone would be on time” — then had the effing nerve to be fifteen minutes late herself, which meant I wasted a half hour of my time waiting on her birthday girl ass. Just because it’s your GD B-day does not mean you get to lose your manners. A good host is early, or at least on time. Unless you’ve got a co-host to handle things, it’s not the night to be fashionably late.

Math skills can also be an issue. I try to resolve that by paying my own dinner (though there are always stubborn friends who refuse that demand of mine). I don’t believe in equally dividing the check, either. I’ve got friends who are rich and friends who are broke. And I’ve been the broke ass friend who has gone out with the richies, only eating a cucumber roll and drinking tap water and then asked to cough up $100. And, you know it was one drunk ass from Princeton (nothing against the school; the fact was he graduated from there and spent the whole night reminding us), who kept ordering more rounds of sushi and sake. That used to happen at happy hour with the agent boys back in the day. It was only J who would order the rounds of Patron, then he’d want us to all chip in when he saw the $100+ tab. “Dude,” we’d tell him, “we said we didn’t want them. You insisted.” So, my rule is: He/She who orders it, pays for it. That keeps things simple. And I will whip out the BlackBerry calculator and come up with to-the-penny amounts, tax and tip included.

All the hard work and over-planning ends up being worth it, though. Good food, strong drinks and lots of love. My true enjoyment comes from watching my friends engaged in conversations with each other and hearing their laughter. The greatest compliment to me is how they all end up adoring each other and, for days later, I hear, “I totally loved Soandso. He/She was great. And Whatshishername was fantastic,” then they run down the list of everyone they talked to, gushing about each one, finishing with, “Can’t wait to go out all together again.” That is the best gift. “That says a lot about you,” one friend said to me. Nope. It says a lot about the people who put up with me. I love them all. They are the best.