February 2005 Archives

Some people are threatening to withhold precious votes if I don't finish this damn story already!

That smacks of pure blogmail, if you ask me, but fine... I'll try and finish the saga.

In the event that you are here for the first time (you poor thing! Take it from me: get out while you can!), or you are just really forgetful, please read this and this.

And no, I don't normally drag out the torture by forcing people to read older posts. You know, I'm trying my best to ATTRACT readers here, not repel them! Even though the masochists who hang out here on a regular basis will probably try and tell you otherwise.

Anyway, here goes. Will this third installment finally lead us all to a blissful ending..?

Gig Part Deux

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Wow! Where did all of you COME from all of a sudden? Had I known that people were actually reading this and just not commenting, I would've left you with a cliffhanger a long time ago!

After all the witty comments I received, I'm actually a bit scared to continue the story, because your guesses are much funnier than the truth.

So brace yerselves for an anticlimax. You only have yourselves to blame! Readers have no business being so much funnier than the author! (And yes, I DO know that being funnier than someone who isn't funny at all isn't really all that difficult. No need to rub it in.)

In the rare event that there is a reader among you who is visiting for the first time, and you happen to be a tad confused: YOU HAVE REACHED THE END OF THE INTERNET... WELCOME TO THE TWILIGHT... just kidding!

Check your wit(s) at the door and read this ("previously on redsaid") before proceeding. Trust me, there is little else you need to know.


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Believe it or not, but eons ago I was actually EMPLOYED.

I received a real paycheck, really (REALLY) paid taxes, had real health insurance. But most importantly, I really worked my arse off. (Although I'm sad to report that it has since grown back.)

And I really don't know how I got that job in the first place.

Sure, I went for a job interview. I remember that part of it very well.

It was early autumn - which in Johannesburg basically means that it's 75 degrees Fahrenheit instead of 80.

I had finished full-time classes at Journalism School about five months before with no prospects of an internship. Fortunately I felt I needed... no, DESERVED... a vacation of undetermined length.

Unfortunately my parents, under whose roof I was living it up and acquiring a taste for daytime television whilst reclining on the couch - an art I've since perfected! - passionately disagreed with me. Besides, I would have to endure a journalism internship of at least nine months in order to graduate from college. So after a few months of leisure, I allowed myself to be sufficiently threatened by my parents and I had to seriously start looking for work.

Coincidentally it was right around that time that a good friend of mine called me up. He was a fellow journalism student. And he was WORKING.

"Hey Red! Are you working yet?" And then, before I could answer, he said: "Well, I guess not, since you're home right now." (He's quick on the uptake like that.)

I asked him about his job.

"Oh, it's a drag! I get paid to see at least three movies a week and I have to dine out a lot and then write about all of it."

"Sounds dreadful," I said.

"Well, I'm glad to hear you say that, because that's actually why I'm calling. A position has just opened up at our sister paper, and they're rather desperate to fill it..."

"Yes, I'm interested." (Sometimes I can be surprisingly quick as well. I was already having visions of leisurely "working" lunches followed by matinee performances. In my fantasy, I was demanding overtime for seeing a three hour-long movie.)

"Great!" he said. "Since it's our sister publication, we'll be working in the same building, so I'll be seeing you a lot!"

I remarked that he sounded awfully sure of himself that I would indeed be working there soon.

"Well... and you can thank me for this later... I happen to know the editor really well and I've already put in a good word for you, so unless you REALLY screw it up - and I doubt that even YOU have it in you to screw something like that up* - I really think you'll get the job."

(*Luckily I didn't consider that comment to be a dare or even an insult. I was too busy writing my first professional restaurant review in my head.)

"Okay, thanks. So what else do I need to know before I come in for the interview?" I asked absently while dreaming up puns for my review. It was love at first bite. The crowd was positively cookin', even though the chef clearly wasn't.

And here he paused for the first time.

"Er, well... here's the thing. The position? It's for..."

"What? Reviewer, right?"

"Yes. Well, no. Kind of, but not in the way I'm doing it."

"No problem! I already have loads of ideas of my own - even though I'm sure your ideas are excellent, as usual, but..."

"Red! No. You will be writing revie... reports about..."

"Yes?" I suddenly had a really bad feeling.

He mumbled something. It was barely audible.

My heart sank. "Oh, no... please... PLEASE don't tell me you've just said what I thought I heard you say?" I pleaded.

But my ears had not deceived me after all, because he said:

Nessun Dorma

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Just after dark last night I noticed some lights flashing outside the kitchen window.

We live in a fairly quiet neighbourhood. Sure, there's the occasional neighbourly shoot-out (although the boy swears that those shots are just the guy around the corner's truck backfiring and therefore not really shots at all, but I like my story better because it brings back sweet memories of the year that I lived in Johannesburg), but other than that, it's really quiet.

Because after all, one doesn't actually HEAR stabbings. (Unless the victims live long enough to scream a bit.)

Anyway, I digress.

So since our neighbourhood is so peaceful and we don't often see any ambulances or fire trucks around these parts, I promptly grabbed the boy by the hand and dragged him to the kitchen window to see which vessel was the bearer of the bright and flashing lights.

Much to our surprise and - I admit - my slight disappointment, there was no shiny red fire engine in the alley behind the house. Also no ambulance. Or even a police car.

The source of the strobe lights piercing the darkness then?

The Towers.

You see, we live at the foot of a hill in Baltimore. The hill is home to the majority of the television stations in the city - it even has the very imaginative name of "Television Hill."

One of those television stations is famous for once employing a very young Oprah Winfrey as a cub reporter/anchor woman. She had some glamorous assignments back then. Nowadays, whenever the esteemed Ms. Winfrey is in the news for some reason, the station loves to repeatedly play a segment from their archives showing a flustered 20-something Oprah fending off a vicious parrot at the Baltimore Zoo.

But that hill isn't just home to the humble beginnings of Oprah's career. It's also the dwelling place of... The Towers.

Until now I've actually kind of liked these television towers. Never mind the fact that the images on our television screen gets all warped when we're watching a show and we dare to move even so much as an inch on the couch; or that I can't sit down to watch the one and only Ms. Winfrey chatting up various celebrities every afternoon at four, because Oprah coincides with rush hour and heavy traffic on one of the major routes just so happen to interfere with our television reception. Even though the major road in question is TEN MILES AWAY, and the towers are just one mile away.

So when I want to watch Oprah and not snow* (or blue. The screen sometimes go entirely and hypnotically blue), I have to stand on one leg while spinning a white saucer on the tip of my right index finger. If I want to have the luxury of standing on both legs while watching, I have to insert a coat hanger in... well, never mind.

Still, despite the fact that the television towers that are looming directly over our house does nothing to enhance our television viewing experience, I like the towers. Besides, I employ them for other things.

Like assessing the weather. On foggy winter days when I want to determine the thickness of the fog, I need only look out the window to see if the towers are visible.

Up until the night before last, I loved the nightly ritual of being lulled to sleep by the friendly, winking red lights at the top of the towers.

Those nights are over.

Right now it's just after three in the morning. But gone is the black velvet cloak of Night. Forever banished is the comforting darkness that had cradled me in sweet slumber a mere 24 hours ago!

In it's place, LIGHT.

Light brighter than the noonday sun in South Africa, penetrating the tightly drawn blinds and drapes and flooding the house EVERY TWO SECONDS and blinding my already bloodshot, bleary eyes.

A light that makes a powerful lighthouse beam seem like the innocent, weak glow of a children's night light.

A light. Probing. Flashing. Constantly flashing. NEVERENDINGFLASHINGFLASHINGFLASHING like a psychedelic disco light.

Robbing me of sleep.

Can't sleep. Can't. Sleep.



Another Red-rospective

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A while back, she requested yet another tale from my childhood.

I had to enter the dark, rusty recesses of my memory vaults to retrieve this one, so proceed at your own risk.

As you may recall, I’ve told you before that I grew up in a one-hoof town (to call it a "one-horse town" would be an exaggeration, because the entire town is much smaller than a horse) in a South African region known as the bushveld.

The fact that it had a postal code, a post office and three churches (one for each of the different Afrikaner denominations) definitely helped to enhance its status and to qualify the place as a town.

In this instance, the post office was the telecommunications headquarters for the entire district, because it also housed the telephone operators.

The telephone operators were the invisible forces in town. They were almost like radio announcers, because you never saw them, but you heard their voices whenever you placed a telephone call. They worked out of sight in a small room at the back of the post office.

I don’t remember ever going back there – it was off limits to mere mortals – but I must've been there at least once, because I remember the odd looking headsets the operators wore while sitting in front of an incredibly complicated looking switchboard with lots of knobs, coloured cables and such. One wrong move, it seemed, and they could electrocute not only themselves, but also blow up the entire town. It was quite an elaborate, dangerous looking contraption in the eyes of a child!

"Number, please?" they would bark in your ear (friendliness was often mistaken for insufficiency in the small town world of telephone operators) whenever you placed a call.

They knew everyone’s business (must have had something to do with those headsets they wore), but typical of a small town, discretion was non-existent, and everyone KNEW that they knew. So they were a little despised, but also secretly revered by most area residents. Whether you loved them or hated them, you knew they had Power, and for that alone they commanded fear and respect.

Everyone in town and on the surrounding farms shared different party lines (three or four, if memory serves me correctly). It probably makes me sound very ancient to many readers, but in truth, this happened less than twenty years ago. (Less than a decade, actually, because during my days in journalism school, I revisited the town with a childhood friend - my family moved away when I was in my early teens - and the operators and party lines were still very much alive, and well… in operation).

As you can probably imagine, sharing a single telephone line between several different families required some skill and special telephone protocol.

Whenever you wanted to use the telephone, you had to pick up the phone and ask: "Busy?"

If you heard nothing, it was a good sign that your particular line was clear and available for use, and you could then proceed by dialling the operator.

If, however, the line was occupied, you would get a curt "Yes, busy" in reply in which case you had to hang up the phone and wait patiently until people rang off. And believe me, whoever was on the phone would wait until they heard a distinct "click" before they continued their conversation.

Every household had a different amount of ringing sounds, because with a party line you obviously couldn’t pick up the phone every time it rang. For example, three long rings meant that the call was intended for our household, a short ring meant that someone had rang off, one medium ring meant that someone was calling the operator, two short and two long rings meant that it was a call for the neighbours, and so forth.

If you knew the ringing combination to others on your party line, you could ring them up yourself, without enlisting the help of the operator. Astoundingly high tech, 'eh?

Seeing that it was such a small community, everyone knew each other. Sometimes, while I was yakking on the phone with my best friend after school, the neighbours would interrupt and tell us – by name – to get off the line, often threatening to tell our parents that we had "played on the line" - which was forbidden, of course. Sometimes even the operator would butt in and order us to hang up.

Oh, you can imagine what fun we had on the party line! My friend and I would ring people up and pretend to be the operator.

"Please hold. You have a long distance call from Piet Retief", we would say in high-pitched voices, which we thought sounded awfully grown-up. (Piet Retief, by the way, is a South African town named after a historical Afrikaner.)

We would keep them on the line for a few minutes, then pick up the phone again and say (in those same high-pitched tones): "Operator! How may I help you?"

"Yes, I’m waiting for a long-distance call from Piet Retief." Our victim would reply (a tad impatient by then for having been kept on the line for so long. But waited, they did, because long distance calls were a very big deal, usually signalling important family news like deaths, weddings, or births).

"But my dear, Piet Retief died AGES ago," one of us would screech before quickly hanging up. We rolled around giggling about our prank for hours afterwards.

Much of the gossip in town was acquired courtesy of these party lines, because apart from the operators (who considered it their duty to listen in whenever they could), some people were notorious for eavesdropping.

One old woman on the other side of town was legendary for listening in on everyone's conversations. Apparently she devised a way to tie the phone to her ear so that she wouldn’t have the need to get a stiff neck or to take her hands off her knitting needles.

Thus she spent her days, phone taped to the side of her head (actually, I’m not entirely sure how she managed to keep it to her ear, but I may not be far off the mark by saying she used tape or rope) and listening in to all incoming and outgoing calls while knitting enough baby booties to outfit all the new-borns in Africa.

She never took the background noises into account (provided courtesy of her yapping lapdogs and the geese in her yard), and didn’t even bother to try and discreetly hang up the phone whenever her menagerie of poultry and pets started making a hullabaloo.

Until the day two of the local farmers unfortunate enough to be on her party line managed to get her to hang up in a huff.

They were getting sick and tired of her eavesdropping and gossip (because she started making up her own elaborate stories when people stopped discussing anything remotely confidential over the phone), so one day they tried some reversed psychology.

"Have you heard the news?" the one farmer set up the scenario.

(They said they could almost hear her perk up in anticipation.)

"No, what is it?" the other man asked, right on cue.

"Mrs. So-and-so (the eavesdropper) has passed away."

Before the other farmer could respond, they heard an audible gasp and then: "But I’m NOT dead!"

Of course, as soon as she realised that she had blown her own cover, she hung up the phone.

It was the end of her eavesdropping days…

No, of course it wasn’t.

Within a day or two – or however long it took for her shock/anger/embarrassment to wear off – callers could hear poodle yelps in the background again, and the vigorous click-click-click of those knitting needles…

Moonlight Sonata


I thought that, because I type relatively fast, my fingers would be nimble enough to play the piano.

Forget the fact that I'm completely tone-deaf. (Besides, isn't that a bit of an oxymoron and an unfair term? How are you supposed to know you can't carry a tune if you are tone-DEAF?!?) I had no reason to doubt my (in)abilities. After all, I type very well to the beat of anything from Miles Davis' "Round About Midnight" (forever blaring while I'm writing), to U2, to Rachmaninov's third.

Blame my typing lecturer. I went to one of those practical-training-is-far-more-important-than-volumes-of-theory kinds of colleges. (That was a big incentive for choosing it.) So, in the journalism department during our first semester, we learned one of the most helpful and useful skills to have when venturing out into the headlines and deadlines world of journalism: how to type.

Said lecturer was a rather robust lady. I think her secret fantasy was always to be a Major General in the South African Army. Unfortunately she was born just two decades too early for her advanced ambitions. She matriculated during those days when it was expected of girls to get married and to:
a) have as many babies as they could as soon as possible;
b) become career typists;
or, if they were very forward and insisted on furthering their education: c) go to college and become either a nurse or a teacher.

She must've been VERY stubborn, because she combined two of the above by becoming a typing teacher - who behaved more like a frustrated drill sergeant, mind you. By the time we crossed her career path, she had her teaching method down to a no-nonsense art.

She believed that the only way to teach a bunch of lazy, bored first year students the sequence of the letters on the keyboard, was to combine death threats with a cloth over the hands and the keyboards, pop Rossini's William Tell Overture into the radio, order us to type ASDF JKL'N (according to Afrikaans keyboards) over and over and keep up with the beat of the music.

Thanks to her threatening yet effective methods and the Tell Overture, all fifty students passed Typing 101 with flying colours, a 60+ wpm average AND the ability to type in perfect sync to the rhythm of any kind of music.

Unfortunately, that rhythmic connection between brain and fingers reserved for banging out letters on a keyboard is the only remote rhythmic talent I've been blessed with (as those of you who have been following this blog religiously --don't dare laugh! We all have our fantasies -- would know from reading about my near disastrous encounter with an Arthur Murray Dance School instructor).

Sadly, inability and lack of talent has never stopped me from at least trying something.

One night, plagued with insomnia and haunted by the boy's dusty piano in the basement, I ventured downstairs.

Minutes later, my fingers were stumbling over the keys. Hardly lyrical sounds emerged, but I'm tone deaf remember? So I was blissfully unaware of the cacophonic dissonance. As the minutes ticked by, I got braver and started fumbling with the flats and sharps.

Safely disguised from prying eyes (and not considering neighbouring ears), I got lost in a world in which I became a virtuoso performer with talent matching the likes of Alicia Keys, Elton John, Billy Joel and Diana Krall.

With the help of Piano for Dummies (great book, by the way) and loads of imagination, I managed a few chords. I had a fabulous time confusing fortissimo with pianissimo (not on purpose, I'm afraid). Prematurely, I attempted an ambitious jazz riff, and the Dummies book came crashing down onto my hands.

With my ego nearly as crushed as my fingers, I decided to take a break for a midnight cappuccino - seemingly the only Italian word I understand without any difficulty.

It's now been a few months since my nightly rendezvous with the instrument began. Unfortunately for the neighbours, I still haven't given up on trying to master at least one sweet melody.

Believe it or not, but there is some method in my madness: I want to prove that it's never too late to teach an old aging dog a new trick, or at least a new tune.

And although the dexterity my fingers so deftly display as I'm typing this hasn't yet emerged during my piano playing attempts, I genuinely enjoy myself when I'm down in that basement, tickling the keys in my own awkward way.

Strangely enough, but whenever I'm hunched over that piano - behaving like a very badly cloned Liberace (sans sequence and glitter) and hardly able to repeat two notes in a row - it makes me feel a little bit more in tune with myself. Isn't that what matters the most?

So perhaps then I've succeeded after all.

Holy Batman, Moses!

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I nearly sent the UPS guy back, telling him that surely, he must have the wrong address.

But there it was. A box with MY name and the logo of this amazing place on it. Oh, this logo which always causes me to salivate (attractive, 'eh?) with longing and lust whenever my eyes glide over it.

Still, I couldn't quite grasp that it was for me. (Yes, I'm quick on the uptake like that.) But it was my name indeed, right there, on the label, yet the eternal optimist in me still believed that it must've been an error.

The UPS guy must still think that I'm a bit daft or something, because I never even saw him leave. I just stood there in the doorway, clutching the precious cargo, mouth agape and yes... salivating.

I'm sure Pavlov's dogs displayed more grace whenever they heard that bell ring.

About four hours later, a state of complete dehydration caused me to finally snap out of my drooling trance.

And then I couldn't open that box quickly enough.

I ripped it open as fast as I could, only to find yet another box...

JUST kidding! (Ha! And a few entries ago I had you believing that I couldn't possibly drag any story out more than I did this one!)

Inside I found "The Hip Girl's Handbook for Home, Car & Money Stuff" by Jennifer Musselman & Patty DeGregori, a delightful how-to book (and you know what a sucker I am for a how-to book) I've been coveting for a long time!

But it's not just any old, run-of-the-mill how-to book! For one, I've always wanted to be hip, but I was starting to think that I'd have to wait a few years - like until I have a hip replacement - for any hipness to occur in my life.

Also, this how-to book actually teaches you many, many useful things (as opposed to the less practical subjects, such as a primer on writing a modern novel... in Hieroglyphics): from grilling like a girl (but a HIP girl, of course), to changing a tyre and unclogging a loo. All of those things that I've always been a real helpless female about while secretly wishing I knew how to do it.

Besides, you KNOW the book is going to be irresistible and highly entertaining when it's dedicated to "the two consistent men in our lives: Ben and Jerry's."

After skimming through it a bit (and finally having the whole matter of 401(K) plans demystified), it finally occurred to me to look at the receipt.

I saw a pretty and non-internet name (meaning a real person name as opposed to a blog name) which left me a bit bewildered and also, ironically, none the wiser as to the identity of my benefactress.

Until my eye caught this message: "Happy February!" Sent with love from HER!

And then I knew who she was!

Thank you, sweetest Mac, for this out-of-the-pale-blue-winter-sky, "just because" gift! I'm utterly undeserving and spoiled, but also VERY giddy, totally floored... and completely dehydrated!

And yes, you are correct, an unexpected Pesky'Apostrophe is indeed always better than an unexpected period and WAY more pleasant too!

P.S. Suddenly I LOVE February. I suppose it's safe to say that you've made my month! Even though it's YOUR birthday month. Is this some sort of an American tradition that I'm not aware of yet? This giving gifts to other people when it's your own birthday?

I've recently come to realize that rhythm isn't necessarily part of a person's birthright. Not even for those of us who hail from Africa.

Although I've had my suspicions about being rhythmically challenged for a long time (ever since high school when I was the only one to be barred from attending the open school dances, to be exact. Okay, so that was probably a BIG hint, right there, but never mind! ), I stubbornly clung to the belief that humans, like dogs, can be taught to do virtually anything.

So on the day that GQ - a stage name meaning Good Quality and NOT the fashion glossy unread by straight men the world over unless they really are metrosexual and/or a little desperate - danced his swaggering way from the Arthur Murray dance studio into my motionless life, it didn't take him too long to convince me that he could very well transform me into the next Ginger Rogers.

"I can teach anyone!" he smoothly covered my weak protests.

"Besides, doll! You already have the red hair!" he gushed.

I should have known better then, but somehow, after all these years of being in the United States, an unhealthy amount of the American self-belief that you can do ANYTHING if you're willing to try and/or pay for a really good teacher, had already rubbed off on me too.

After spending a sleepless night fantasizing about how I was going to strut my stuff in the starring role of a passionate tango opposite a Latino hunk, I showed up at the studio for my complimentary first lesson.

As I watched the twirling couples on the dance floor, I shook the recurring images of the hilarious Australian film "Ballroom" from my head and assured myself that the exercise would be good for me.

Upon seeing me, GQ performed a lavish pirouette.

"I have more left feet than the number of tentacles on an octopus!" I forewarned as he grabbed me by the hand.

The music must have been too loud, because he merely took one disapproving glance at my trusty Nikes and ordered his assistant to go and get me a pair of ... he literally recoiled when I whispered "Size 11. Wide"... stilettos.

Yeah, so I have gigantic feet. Bite me. Besides, you know what they say: Large feet means large... brains?

Once I finally squished my feet into a pair of 9 and a halfs (it's the best the assistant could do, she assured me as she tried to refrain from openly gawking at my freakishly large, flat feet), I shuffled over to the dance floor.

"But I can hardly WALK in them!" I lamented at five inches above floor level while desperately flailing my arms about in a shaky attempt to keep my balance.

"It doesn't matter, honey, 'cause you ain't gonna walk!" GQ said with relish as he flashed me his mile-wide grin.

It is possibly due to the trauma that followed, but I can hardly remember what happened next. One moment my body parts were being contorted into surreal shapes and I was displaying about the same amount of grace as an ox on speed.

The next minute I was truly airborne.

I just remember GQ's voice throughout the blur of sight, sound and pain going: "FEEL the music, Baby! Just FEEL it! And ONE, and TWO, and THREEEEE and LIFT and AraBESque..!"

I don't think I will ever forget the one rule of Physics that more or less states that a body in motion is bound to keep on moving. (Only until it collides with a dancehall mirror, of course. Then it can stop very abruptly indeed.)

Following its crash landing, said body remained miraculously unscathed.

But the emotional scars... Oh, those still run infinitely deep.

Whenever I hear an upbeat song on the radio and I am tempted to start tapping my foot, I can still hear GQ's voice as he told the assistant: "Man, that white girl wasn't kidding. She REALLY can't dance. I've never seen anything like it."

"And not to mention those FEET..."

(The following is a Blogging for Books entry, a monthly contest hosted by the Zero Boss. Yes, indeed, I've entered yet another contest. This is what you get when it's cold outside and I have to type furiously in order to stay warm! He has a very cool "Blogging for Books" button, but unfortunately I'm not savvy enough to post it here. Anyway, the task was to "write a blog entry about a time when you took a risk in your life on someone or something - a new romance, a new career, a new home, etc. Were you successful beyond your wildest dreams - or did you crash and burn?")

I’ve never been much of a risk taker. Most of the time, in fact, I’m overly cautious to the point of paralysis.

Because let’s face it, taking risks are, well, risky. And according to My First English-as-a-Second-Language Dictionary, the synonym for risk is DANGER! Yes, in all-caps like that, and in red, and with an exclamation point! And whether it's written in all-caps or not, DANGER! is just plain scary, isn’t it? Especially if you’re of a rather nervous disposition like I am.

But even if I hadn’t been frightened of DANGER!, risk-taking still wouldn’t appeal to me very much, because frankly it just sounds like way too much hard work. And if there is ONE thing in life that frightens the living daylights out of me far more than DANGER!, it is hard work.

And yet…

We all have to get out of bed (some of us a bit more reluctantly than others) and leave the house once in a while. And when you accumulate enough days like that, you are bound to encounter risk.

Sometimes it is well-disguised in a cloak of colourful, foolish, youthful fun; like lying to your parents so that you can have a week-long, unsupervised vacation on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius with your best friend when you are 18 years old.

But beware, for just because it’s dressed in a frivolous costume, it is no less DANGER!ous.

But you needn’t only take my word for it. Remember what Shakespeare said? “A rose is still a rose, even when dressedeth in another cloaketh.”

Oh, wait. That wasn’t quite it. But you get the drifteth.

At other times risk is a bit more obvious; like a fork in the road marked by billboard-sized signs with flashing lights around the edges, clearly showing which side of the road will lead you to DANGER! UNKNOWN PATH TO RISK! NO U-TURN AHEAD!; or SAFETY! ONE-WAY SHORTCUT STRAIGHT TO YOUR OWN FAMILIAR, WARM, COMFORTABLE, WELL-BROKEN IN BED! (In the same font and red, all-caps, and bold print as the other sign, in case you feel like getting argumentative some time in the future - like, say, after you’d fallen flat on your face – and claiming that the words on the sign weren’t legible enough.)

But then, I’ve never been any good with directions, even if the roads are marked with large, clear signs.

Knowing me, I probably thought the split in the road was nothing but a very sharp corner. I’ve never been all that good at math either, so I probably didn’t even realize that I suddenly had more than one winding road to choose from.

Yes, that must’ve been it, because at the age of twenty-two I certainly wasn’t brave or ambitious enough to leave my friends and family in South Africa and immigrate to the United States all by myself.

But I did.

Before you allow yourself to become really impressed with me and award me a Purple Heart* for tremendous displays of risk-taking, there are a few things you should know:

I’m truly the poster child** for how NOT to immigrate.

You see, when I came to the U.S. eight years ago, I discovered that I suddenly had an accent for the first time in my life (because in South Africa I sound like everyone else. Well, mostly. South Africa has eleven official languages, so there are some differences in the way people speak… but that’s a story for another time), and when said accent proved to be quite useful on the dating scene, I promptly decided that I wanted to stay here forever and ever.

So I did. And for a while I became an outlawed alien (“illegal immigrant” is SUCH a harsh term, no?). However, I have since redeemed myself by paying large fines and now I’m in the thrilling but time-consuming (four years and counting), soul-sucking process of filing for a Green Card, which, incidentally, is pink.

And well, here I still am! A bit older and a lot worse for wear, but I’m alive and most days, I’m hopeful that this path I’m on is the correct one, even though it sometimes meanders through long stretches of darkness. The toll on this road is incredibly high, and I often wonder if the price I’m paying (and others are paying on my behalf) is worth it.

The distance between here and South Africa is vast, to say the least, and so I don’t get to see my family all that often. (In fact, I haven’t gone home once since arriving here eight years and three months ago, but they visit me whenever they’re able to.) Needless to say, I miss them more than words can say. And even if there WERE words adequate enough to describe the longing, the heartbreak, and the guilt one feels when missing out on huge chunks of a loved one’s life, I’m pretty sure that I do not have it in my vocabulary.

I’ve certainly stumbled a lot along the way. Sometimes I’m optimistic enough to believe that I’ve fallen just far enough to have grazed the tip of my nose.

Other times I think: “Who are you kidding? You’ve fallen flat on your face. Just admit it, then get up, dust yourself off and try to move on.”

So in reality, this story doesn’t have an outcome yet.

For now, I’m staying on this road, because I’ve come too far to simply turn back now.

Besides, I’m very curious to see where I’ll end up if I keep on going.

* If you do want to give me a prize, could you please give me the Pulitzer instead of a Purple Heart? (No offense to the Purple Heart, of course.) No? Well, how about letting me win a book from Jay then?

** I'd certainly like to be a poster child - I'm definitely childish enough to qualify - but my mug really shouldn't be photographed, let alone enlarged, printed and stuck against the walls at the subway station!

(The following ditty is brought to you by this contest, which I don't stand a chance of winning.)

Before I begin, I have to confess that I'm by NO means an expert on romance.

Sure, I'm a girl. (So to all of you who until now have been led to believe that I'm a fat, bald guy in Ohio: I'm sorry for the let down!) And like most girls, I'll admit to stealing an occasional glance at one of those sappy, made-for-Sunday-night-T.V. Hallmark movies.

If no one else is in the room, I might even allow myself to get sucked into the predictable plot of girl meets boy, they both fall for each other, but of course one thinks the other is not interested; or the conflict comes in the form of an ex-lover, or class difference, or mean parents; and then, just when you think things can't get ANY worse for the poor souls, one of them falls victim to cancer or a near fatal car accident, which in turn leads to tearful deathbed confessions about their feelings before there is a miraculous recovery and a wedding while the final credits roll.

Bah to Hollywood and their into-the-sunset-and-happily-ever-after endings! I say keep the cameras rolling for that first quarrel, or for the expression on the heroine's face when she walks into the bathroom a few months after the wedding and sees the toilet seat up and the dirty socks on the floor directly NEXT to the laundry basket. Zoom in when the gleaming light in her eye (you know the one. All new lovers have them) is slowly snuffed out as she realises that this is what she's let herself in for: dirty drawers 'til death does him in!

I'm just kidding! Let's face it: we love our partners, flaws and all. And honestly, ladies, if an upturned toilet seat is your guy's worst offence, then you are an incredibly lucky girl. Besides, people who lose their loved ones often say it's those same annoyances that used to drive them up the wall that are sorely missed once their partner is gone.

If that is true, and my sweetie outlives me, then he is going to miss me a LOT, because I certainly have my share of ... eh... shall we say, quirky habits.

Okay, so people getting fired over their blogs are SO last night's ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings already.

What I'm far more interested in knowing is this: has starting a blog ever helped someone to actually land a gig? I know someone who started a blog for the sole purpose of getting a job. I think it worked for him, because right now he is dragging his pretentious book cover a few miles across Australia to start a new job. But he doesn't really count (sorry, Timmy T.) because he is really not human at all (as will be evident soon enough if you start reading his blog), but a chocolate cake of quite loathsome proportions.

Speaking of chocolate cakes... if you know of someone who did indeed manage to acquire gainful employment via their blogs, how much blogging did it take before the prospective employers came running, five tiered chocolate cake in one hand... oh, sorry. Wrong fantasy.

Let's try again.

So how long did it take for the prospective employers to come running, multi-million dollar, ink-still-wet-on-it contract in one hand and key to the luxury company car dangling from the fingers of the other hand, begging you to please enhance their humble little gazillion dollar company with your suspected glorious wit and wisdom ("suspected" because it's never actually been seen on your blog), your excellent typing skills of three words per five minutes (because they realise that it's your quirky but PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE, even ENCOURAGED affection for parentheses and asterisks and inappropriate insertion of exclamation points that could be slowing you down just a tiny bit) and your "disleksick" Kr8tiViteeeeEeeeeEe shining through in your perfect spellling and bad grammar (but they understand because Eengleesh is your second langweeeege) and constant procrastination.

What? What do you mean? NO OF COURSE THAT DID NOT DESCRIBE ME. What on earth in that above paragraph could possibly have incriminated me!?!?

Besides, I have an alibi. I was with a dog. (And he is willing to testify to that effect.)

Anyway, where were we?

Oh yeah. A job. Yes, that is something I would like very much. Well, truthfully, I prefer lying on the couch, but I have urgent life sustaining needs (like my need for three gallons of coffee per day) and my how-to book collection is seriously lacking.

Also, you can't get fired for your blog if you don't have a job to be fired from first. (See my logic? How can any employer resist such reasoning?)

So employers, here I am! And here's a copy of my resumé. It's a little bit outdated, but I've heard that it's against the law to discriminate just because you think something might be a bit old. (And I know a LOT about American law, especially since I'm a bit of an outlaw myself and all.)

Not that she needs any MORE plugging (but hey, since I only have three readers, no risk of that happening).

Dooce the DORK. Nice ring to it!

CONGRATULATIONS, Dork! So THAT’s what a girl needs to do around here to be famous! Start a website, talk about your boss molesting the air around your head, get squealed on about said website, get fired, and ABC, NPR, NYT and all the other letters of the alphabet will come running and filming you typing DORK.

Are you ready for your close-up, Mrs. Armstrong?

(Update: The segment just aired over here. Okay, not JUST, but I had to watch the former Jeopardy! champions return straight from the vaults of genius, where they've been stored all of these years. Anyway, Leta made it on as well (that kid is going to use up her 15 minutes long before her second birthday rolls around if she keeps this up) and Heather is as articulate an orator as she is a writer. Now, the only question that remains is: Just how skinny IS that woman?!? I mean, isn't the camera supposed to make you gain like a 100 pounds?!?)

Five in Oh-Five

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First I thought it meant gain five pounds in 2005.

And I thought, well, I don't really think I ought to gain even MORE weight, but who am I to argue, especially if the numbers check out so perfectly? Besides, I have always fantasized about random strangers (usually handsome restaurateurs) running up to me, bearing offerings like towering cakes and other sweet delights, begging me to PLEASE feed my starving skeletal self and to put some meat on my ever-increasing, protruding bones.

I complied by promptly gaining five pounds in the first month of 2005 before realizing that the whole 05 in '05 campaign being waged all across the internet is about LOSING weight and getting more exercise.

Damnation. I should've known!

So now that the reality of what 05 in '05 REALLY means has sunk in, I am pleased to declare, on this Fat* Tuesday, that I should be counted in.

Therefore: Laissez les terribles D*R*E*A*D*M*I*L*L*S rouler!

'Cause yeah, even I can walk five steps per month! (And here you were almost thinking that I didn't really know what 05 in '05 meant!)

* Isn't "Fat" a bit of a harsh description in this day and age, even for Mardi Gras? I think we should campaign to call it Super Size Tuesday (can you imagine the marketing possibilities at fast food joints?) or Rubenesque Tuesday or curvaceous Tuesday or voluptuous Tuesday or...

Seaworthy Maiden

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Now I can finally say that I knew her way back when.

Okay, so I never actually MET her, but I DID touch her boat, leaving my very own South African fingerprints on it, and chatted to some members of her crew. So surely that counts for SOMETHING, yes?

Maybe in a Six Nautical Miles of Ellen MacArthur kind of way..?

And a skylight in the bathroom?


P.S. Before you get too jealous, the skylight is the vintage tower kind commonly found in older rowhomes. It was built for the practical matter of ventilation rather than for any esthetic reasons. (The pattern on the safety glass reminds me a lot of chicken wire.) The natural light it provides while I'm "being human" (My mom always said that if people intimidated me I should just remember that they also have to go to the bathroom because they are just human like the rest of us) IS very nice, though.

However, last week, when I went to the bathroom during the snow storm, I felt prickly, fiery sensations shooting up my bare legs. (Don't worry, the story isn't getting any kinkier than this.) Since I'm so quick on the uptake, it took me a while to realise that my pain wasn't being caused by a seizure or a heart attack (think about it... when you're sitting down your legs aren't as far away from your chest as they normally are, so you have to admit that my fear wasn't that outrageous), but by tiny bits of ice. Yes, it was actually SNOWING IN THE BATHROOM courtesy of that very same chickenwired skylight.

Needless to say, THAT loo experience was also a fast one.

Eye Squared

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Prepare to stick me in the freak archives right now because of what I'm about to tell you:

In this early 21st Century year of 2005 AD the boy and I do not possess cable television. Or satellite. Or even TiVo.

But sit down and clutch your trembling heart, for it gets worse: We do not own any of those things BY CHOICE.

Do you wanna be shocked senseless some more? Well, then take THIS: We still use a dial-up modem (remember those, kids?) but that is NOT by choice.

Yes, indeed, I'm coming at ya from this side of the internet at the tremendous speed of about 00.01 kbps (if it's a good connection, I should add), but that is only because we haven't decided which high speed cable we want to zip through the world wide web with. (Actually, I think the boy is afraid that if he gets us high speed internet, he'll NEVER be able to pry this mouse and keyboard from my hands ever again! 'Cause as it is, I have to log off every once in a while in order to call him and tell him that I'm still alive. Yeah, remember the archaic concept of ONE PHONE LINE?)

Anyway, this is about how and why we're stuck (voluntarily, but still stuck!) with... shudder... network television. The boy wanted to get satellite, bless his aching heart, but I put my flat foot (yeah, it's really flat. I'm a medical freak marvel) down and said the one word despised by men the world over: NO.

But I cited wonderful reasons of course. I said: "There are books to be read, music to be listened to, dining room tables to be dined at, words to be spoken, dogs to be petted (albeit OTHER PEOPLE'S dogs... hint, HINT HIIIIIIIIIIINT!)..." and so forth.

So no cable, satellite or even TiVo. Only a Netflix subscription and N*E*T*W*O*R*K television.

Earlier this week, the boy was ailing, so he stayed home.

When he woke up, I was on the couch, glued to the Today Show. (But it's strictly for research. I want to determine once and for all whether Katie Couric is a robot, because I've never met a real person who is so bloody chirpy that early in the morning!)

He went back to sleep. When he woke up again, I was watching Regis & Kelly. (Don't judge. You would be too if you didn't have any other choices.)

He nodded off again. When he came to again, we had breakfast while Ellen was on.

Noon. Good Day Live on UPN. By now the boy is slowly catching on that I change the channel way too punctually for this to be a random occurrence.

Lunch. Click remote over to Brit Wit on PBS.

1:30 Bold & Beautiful (DON'T JUDGE!).

2pm More Brit Wit.

3pm Our resident shrink, the good Dr. Phil.

4pm Oprah, of course.

5pm News.

5:30pm BBC World News on PBS.

6pm Syndicated sitcom reruns. Several choices, for a change! There's a bit of vintage Will & Grace. Or King of Queens, if the mood should strike you.

At about 6:30pm, when I switched over to watch The Simpsons, boy said - nary a HINT of sarcasm in his tone - "You're right. We can't POSSIBLY get cable or satellite, because then you might just start watching television all the time and never read, or write, or blog, or ..."

You can attend his funeral at... just kidding.

I don't know if it's the accents (yes, plural, because as he has pointed out before, thanks to 11 official languages in South Africa, there are many ways to skin a cat and even more ways to pronounce it), but we "Sefrikans" make the most marvellous meanies.

You see, the newest villain to mastermind attrocities against the United States on this season's "24" is played by a South African-born actor named Arnold Vosloo.

And I couldn't be any prouder!

... then start a blog of your own!

Seriously, few people seem to be as generous as other bloggers. Of course, unlike yesterday, I have no confusing mathematical formula to back me up in this claim.

But when you consider the fact that I received this blog, the domain, the gorgeous design and the hosting for free (GRATIS, people!), plus a whole host of other fun goodies thanks to Emily and Joelle and Christine and Joz x 3 and Eve and Lomara and Deltus... then really, you have to agree that I don't need much more proof than that to be able to make the sweeping statement that BLOGGERS ARE GENEROUS.

But alas, I have even MORE evidence to back me up: A few months ago, after making a passing but probably very lame comment on Mice's blog about his incredible knowledge of vintage horror flicks, and pretending to be an expert myself just because I used to stay up late on Friday nights a million years ago when I was six to watch Dracula and Hitchcock Presents (yes, my parents allowed it, because they were fascinated with their youngest daughter's hypnotic fascination with blood, guts and gore. I think they were hoping that my unchildlike taste for thrillers were some sort of a belated sign of intelligence. By the time they finally realised their mistake - probably around the time I flunked first grade math - and that all the gratuitous exposure to violence in my formative years could possibly turn me into a serial killer, I was hooked), so Mice sent me a whole bunch of vintage horror movies! Just like that! For no reason whatsoever other than the fact that he is a generous blogger!

And you know, he could've just thanked me for commenting on his blog like a normal person would've done (and yes, that is something I don't even do myself, but then, I'm not normal am I? So for all of you who have bothered to comment on this blog and who rarely if ever get a reply on your witty comments: THANK YOU FOR COMMENTING ON MY BLOG and for continuing to do so even though I rarely write back. That in itself is enough proof that bloggers are generous! I'm afraid I'm not going to send any of you a horror movie, although I really wish I could scare the living daylights out of you in order to show my gratitude. My horrific writing will have to suffice).

By the way, Mice, I've managed to watch one of the movies so far and I WAS PETRIFIED! Review to follow soon. I'm working up my nerve to watch the rest, because I'm not as brave anymore as I was when I was six.

Anyway, so one would think that now I REALLY have enough evidence to back up my claim that bloggers are generous, right?

Wrong! Because I have yet another example.

During my recent dabble in depression, I actually went away for a few days to visit a friend* (because yes, believe it or not but even the likes of me have real life, non-imaginary friends. Although I've nothing against imaginary friends and believe that every person above the age of 21 should have at LEAST one of their own). When I returned home, a package was awaiting me. All the way from sunny Australia! From her! And it wasn't ticking, but even if it HAD been ticking I still would've opened it because that's how excited I was. Inside the box was a beautiful card and my FAVOURITE chocolates of all time. And not just one bag, but TWO bags of the golden, Crunchie goodness!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And I was surprised at that, of course, but I was even more surprised because up until that moment I had never imagined that my favourite chocolate isn't just a South African treat, because according to the wrappers (mostly empty wrappers now, I should sheepishly add) they are manufactured in Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand too!

Thank you, thank you thank you sooo much sweetest Dee! These choccies are sweet, but you are sweeter!

So there. I've received all of these gifts from perfect strangers (well, I read their blogs and they read mine, so I suppose we know each other better than some people who we deal with face to face and on a daily basis know us) and I didn't even DO anything to deserve it.


* Saying that I went away "to visit a friend" during my depression really wasn't a euphemism for being institutionalised, even though many people would probably argue that my friend does indeed live in a mad house.

is a South African girl living in South Africa. That doesn't sound very original, we know, but you might find it remotely interesting when you learn that she has only recently returned to South Africa for the first time after a nine year, one month and two week (non-stop!) stint in the United States where she accidentally became an outlawed alien (also known, especially in immigration circles, as an 'illegal immigrant.' We prefer the term 'outlawed alien' ourselves). During her reversed exile from her homeland, she kept herself occupied by winning this website (but only after shamelessly bribing the judges) and thus being unleashed on the web where she slowly, leisurely became the World's Laziest Blogger; by being a nanny and by attending sci-fi conventions in search of other aliens. In the US, she also made her sailing debut, her international acting debut, tried and failed to learn the piano, and never learned to cook. She is hopelessly addicted to coffee, dogs (especially Labrador Retrievers), how-to books (with a particular fondness for her copy of the Time/Life A - Z Medical Encyclopedia), and she tends to grossly overuse parentheses (we're not kidding) during her attempts at writing, which you may - if you really have masochistic tendencies - subject yourself to by reading the words to the right of this column. If you REALLY and truly STILL want to know more, you can read her C.V. here.
Or you can stalk her send her some love via e-mail at: redsaid[AT]gmail[DOT]com

The Wish List (Because yes, she really does need more how-to books. Honestly!)


  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: Terra: YES! Wait... you didn't think that I would be this possessed to post for NO REASON, did ya???... [go]
  • Terra.Shield : OH! ... [go]
  • Marco Author Profile Page: Be a bit like serving drinks at AA?... [go]
  • Marco Author Profile Page: I personally think it is a mindset that has been cultivated over the years, and one, if not stemmed,... [go]
  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: Ms. Crazy Cat Lady Pants!!! Squeeeee! Sooo good to see you! (I thought NO ONE was bothering to read ... [go]
  • Ms. Pants : Kitties don't get enough credit sometimes. (All times, if you ask me, but I'm a Crazy Cat Lady.)... [go]
  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: Hey Tamara! I know, right?? That is a tough act to follow indeed. I adored that dentist. He used to ... [go]
  • Tamara Tipton : Well, I am not sure how any dentist could live up to that standard! LOL! I hope your appointment was... [go]
  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: I'm really really glad that I'm not the only one, Po! Sometimes I drive myself mad with all the what... [go]
  • Po : Those questions run through my heads for various times in my life too, that is for sure!... [go]
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