July 2005 Archives

My sordid past

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A few years before I had this blog, I had a taste of online publishing when a fellow South African employed me to write a weekly column for an online newsletter.

Don't be too impressed! (Oh, right. You weren't.) Anyway, he only picked me because nobody with actual writing talent and ability was willing to do the work for free.

Our intended audience was other expat South Africans living in various locales around the globe, but since we didn't have a comments feature on the site, I didn't know if anyone ever actually read it!

But readers or not, I found that I really enjoyed writing columns and miraculously, I managed to come up with a new one almost every week for two years.

Sadly, the newsletter (and my little column) eventually became part of the world wide cobweb when our editor/webmaster ran out of the energy and enthusiasm to keep the site going.

And so my career as an amateur columnist came to a rather abrupt halt. I briefly mourned it, missed it a surprising amount for a while, and then, eventually, moved it to the most hidden corners of my memory, only dusting it off and recalling it whenever I needed to milk my past for anything remotely resembling productivity to put on a resumé.

Until recently, when my column-writing past caught up with me rather unexpectedly and in a most surprising way.

In addition to his full-time career as a creative type, the boy also sings in a local a cappella group. They are very good, and this isn't just my biased opinion. People actually pay them rather good money to perform all across the United States!

At one such gig, an audience member approached the group during their break to talk about their music, buy a CD, etc. He told them that he had driven especially to see their show from quite far out of state. They were very flattered and asked him how he had learned about them.

"Oh, a South African columnist wrote an online article about you some time ago, and ever since reading it, I've always wanted to attend one of your shows."

Imagine that! I had an actual READER!! And never mind that my lone reader wasn't even a South African. You see, we had rather hoped that our readers would be fellow expat South Africans, but really, with my horrible hand-eye coordination, it shouldn't have come as a surprise that I didn't hit the intended target audience!

Target or not, since finding out that I had AN ACTUAL READER (forgive the ALL-CAPS, it's just that I still can't believe it), I've been overcome by curiosity to see what exactly it might've been that inspired him to read my words. Who knows? Maybe I can apply whatever it was that he had found so compelling - or, then, compelling enough - and apply it to my blog composition?

You see, I couldn't even remember writing about the boy's a cappella group! So who knows what else I'd written? For all I know, I could've been so desperate for material that I may have simply written down our address and phone number!

So last night, I opened up the binder containing print-outs of all my old columns. In many ways, it was like reading an old, almost forgotten journal. All these memories came rushing back, and in many instances, I remembered exactly where I was when I wrote a particular column.

I'm afraid I still don't know why I even managed to have one reader, though. Some of the writing really made me cringe! I think this must be what actors feel like whenever a talk show host plays unearthed clips of their earliest work!

But I've decided to let you be the judge. Here's something I wrote for my column a few summers ago. (Read it, quick! Before I change my mind!)

Engravements

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Today's cheerful subject is tombstones, and it is brought to us courtesy of him who has brought to my attention this website where you too can create an epitaph (or two, or... if you're like me, a few) of your very own!

Apart from my collection of how-to books (and my itty-bitty booklight), I really have no earthly possessions of worth to leave behind, so I've decided to leave some ideas for my epitaph instead. After all, that's the least I can do! And yes, that way I'd still be able to have the final word!

One day, when Red is dead
Bury her on her head
Write a witty epitaph
To make the mourners laugh

Or, if you lack inspiration and find yourself suffering from tomb-writer's block, I'd like you to use one of these instead:

... To let you know that yes, indeed, I'm still alive.

I haven't moved from this chair in about a week and a half, so my behind is sore and my eyes are bleary and my hand is all cramped up from gripping and obsessively clicking the mouse to watch yet another South African television show, but I'm alive.

(Please don't look so openly disappointed.)

And I AM still working on my travelogue. That is, if you can define adding approximately one word a day to it as "working on it."

Okay, but at least I'm feeling guilty about still not having it completed. And besides, I'm being put to even further shame by her. She went on her trip about a month after I returned from mine, and she's already shared most of her travel tales with us. (Go read it. It's irresistible: Filled with sheep and castles and rabbit doo.)

Luckily you've come to expect nothing more of me! I'm sooo glad that my bad blogging habits and my terrible writing skills have come to be so useful!

So all ye younge bloggers oute there, here is some free, unsolicited advice (but be grateful, young brats. I could emulate my immigration lawyer and charge you a few thousand dollars for it anyway, unsolicited or not! What? I sound bitter you say? Me? NEVER!)... Anyway, where were we?

Oh yes. Unsolicited advice to the young'uns: If you are planning to be the Second Laziest Blogger Ever (sorry, slot of the laziest is already, leisurely, filled by me), then by George! Do NOT write on your blog every day! If you do (and even if you do it badly with lots of overused parentheses (or even parentheses WITHIN parentheses!)), your three readers will come to expect having something new to read every day when they come to your blog, and with every new ping, they'll start salivating like Pavlov's dogs so famously did whenever they heard his bell ring, and then, when the pings stop coming one day, they will revolt and start spamming you with e-mails to see where you are and then they will eat each other and it will be ALL YOUR FAULT for setting such high standards (like blogging every day) in the first place!

But if you do it correctly by being a bad blogger from the beginning, then no one will notice if you don't blog for seven months, and no one will clog your inbox with concerned e-mails to check on your well-being. (Trust me, you don't want that. Really. It may SOUND pleasant, but think about it: Receiving and then having to open e-mails and... such horror... READING it is just SO strenuous! Especially if you could be doing something productive, like taking a nap.)

Instead, the people will see that you've updated your blog for the second time in a year and show only mild interest. "Oh, yeah. Whats-her/his-name has updated. I wonder what they sai... Oh, LOOK! A ping from one of the EAGER EVERY DAY BLOGGERS!"

And clickety-click, just like that they'll navigate away from your blog and leave you to fester away in a dark, unnoticed corner of the internet, the corner where all ignored, neglected, dying or dead sites end up... The World Wide Cobweb...

I've never belonged to any clubs in my life.

Well, unless you count this one time when I was around six or seven and I belonged to the Afrikaans version of the Girl Scouts (without the door-to-door cookie sales).

My membership to this particular club was rather brief, because it didn't take the club's leaders very long to figure out that I was never going to be able to hoist or squeeze or push my round body over or through or under the obstacle courses. And unfortunately for both me and the leaders, those very same obstacle courses made up a large part of the club's "team-building" activities. In fact, one could even say that the manoeuvring of one's not-at-all-aerodynamic body over or under or - most dreadfully - through those torturous obstacle courses, was at the very heart of the club's mission statement.

Now that I think about it, those obstacle courses may well have been the sole reason for the club's being!

Oh, and then there was the time when I belonged to a country club. But before you roll your eyes and mutter about what an insufferable snob I must be: I was only a member by association. And again, before you start to mutter about the snobs I associate with: They paid me to associate with them. (Wow, that makes me sound... well, I don't know quite how that makes me sound. Expensive?)

Before I talk myself deeper into the marshlands of misunderstanding (it's a gift I have, these miscommunication skills), let me explain: I was a nanny for a family who belonged to a suburban D.C. country club. I had to take the kids there during the humid summer months, to lounge by the pool (what a tough job!); and during the long, cold and dark months of winter, to ice skate and sip large cups of hot chocolate. (As I've said, it was a tough job!)

But silly me, instead of spending my country club days productively by snagging myself a strapping young member of the preppy set, I wasted my time by scribbling furiously in my notebook all the insights (if one can call it that) and observations I had of American life. Oooh, boy, and if you think I write drivel NOW..!

I felt most comfortable in the country club setting when I got to mingle with my own kind. So when I wasn't engrossed in the task of filling up my notebook, I struck up friendships with various country club employees and other nannies. We all shared the common bond of being "the help," a bond strengthened even further by the fact that we were all aliens in a strange land.

Oh, and apart from a few book clubs and a brief time in high school when I founded a foreign film club (it wasn't wildly successful, because I showed films so obscure that on the whole of planet earth, apparently only I wanted to see it), that then concludes my brief club member history.

Until last week, when I, thanks to the boy, joined another club.

You see, the boy and I have finally emerged from the Dark Ages of dial-up to a high speed modern day DSL modem. I haven't been offline since we installed it a few days ago. (A fact which hasn't been reflected in the activity on this blog, I know.) The SPEED of it all! It's amazing! It's making my head spin. (And the pages STILL download faster than the dizzying speed at which my head is rotating as it tries to wrap my mind around it!)

Oh, and let's not forget that I can now speak on the phone AND SURF THE INTERNET AT THE SAME TIME!!!!! What a fantastic concept!

This DSL connection has opened corners of the World Wide Web, which, as a dial-upper (wouldn't dial-downer be a more apt description though?) have been out of my reach until now. Like STREAMING VIDEO! And RADIO (without buffering every 2 seconds for 60 seconds at a time) and opening some of my favourite arty blogs in a snap AND then being able to see all the pictures!

So since I'm now able to stream video and radio, the boy did something exceptional for me. He subscribed me to this amazing service which allows me to watch SOUTH AFRICAN TELEVISION!!!

This is remarkable, because there is no way to beam South African television this far into the Northern Hemisphere. Believe me, I've pleaded with Direct TV to at least TRY, but alas, I've been assured that it's impossible. "And no, missy," the Direct TV guy said when I asked him if it's because their dishes are too small, "It really has NOTHING to do with the size of the dish!"

So with a membership to this Kudu Club, for a mere $9.95/month (I'm not sure how much it costs in other parts of the world), one gets unlimited access to HOURS of content in the form of movies, various television shows, variety shows, news programmes, etc.

And it's worth every penny, because the service also includes access to several South African radio stations and newspapers. Also, new content is added almost daily. It's obviously not live (call me crazy, but the main reason why this bothers me is because after so many years of being away, I'd really like to see some South African commercials again. Our ads are REALLY good!), but as far as I can tell, some shows are made available on the same day they air in South Africa.

So I've been glued to this computer screen every second since the boy has signed me up for this club, and although I'm starting to develop aches in unusual body parts, it's been a marvelous experience. Never mind that the garden has shriveled up and died (but not to worry, because several new things are growing in the refrigerator), I just can't bring myself to... well... do anything else!

Thus I've spent the past few days weeping at the drama, laughing at a very silly tabloid show called Voorblad (Front Page) and I've winced at some of the revelations made on an investigative journalism show called Carte Blanche.

I've managed to spread the joy by getting the boy hooked on this riveting South African drama series called Snitch (yes, it's in Eengleeesh, so he understands) and I'm all warm and fuzzy with pride to see how impressed he is with the high quality of the plot and the acting. (Or perhaps he is more impressed with the fact that I went to school with one of the lead actresses? She is utterly gorgeous and she plays a stripper, so the boy has plenty of opportunity to sample her gorgeousness. All I can say is: When I went to school with her, I had NO IDEA that she was so flexible!)

The epitome of my joy, however, is seeing Afrikaans television again. I've just spent a marathon session watching a thirteen-episode (of one hour each) Afrikaans drama. (And here you've been thinking all along that I'm not sporty!)

The boy thinks I should pace myself and occasionally take a break to do something constructive like say... writing? But I argued with him that, if I should take a break to work, then that wouldn't really be "taking a break" at all, now would it?

But despite his grumblings about my lack of productivity, I think he is grateful. Because apart from the soft hum of the computer and the Afrikaans voices coming from the speakers, this house has been as quiet as a monastery where the monks have taken a vow of silence.

No one has been chatting his ear off when he gets home. No one has been telling him in great detail about who or what was on Oprah today, because no one has even glanced at Oprah (or at any American television apart from Jeopardy!) since last week. As I've said, this house has been the picture of peace and (almost) quiet.

That's right. I have not said anything more than "You're home already?", "Watch this!", "Coffee please!" and "You're going to work already?"

But surely that wouldn't have been the reason why he signed me up for this club, right?

RIGHT?!?

P.S. In case you haven't yet, and you feel so inclined, please sign my Green Card Petition! To all of you who have already signed it, THANK YOU!

July 4th, 2005

Dear United States of America,

Hello again. It's me, Red. The last time I wrote to you was exactly one year ago, when I wished you a Happy Independence Day and asked you very nicely for a Green Card (which is actually pink).

Well, now another year has gone by (so again, I wish you a Happy Independence Day) and I still haven't received the Green Card, which brings the total amount of time I've been waiting to four years now.

FOUR YEARS.

That translates into 28 dog years.

That's from one leap year to the next.

That's one presidential term.

That's longer than some people stay married.

That's enough time for newborns to grow into toddlers with motor skills and language skills and in some cases, even enough attitude to drive their parents crazy.

Enough time for young adults to go from high school grads to college grads.

In the four years I've been waiting, skyscrapers have been built, wars have been fought, governments have been overthrown.

Now I'm finally starting to believe that maybe you don't want me here.

But before I give up, I've decided to take a poll amongst your people (but since I need all the encouragement I can get, from non-American people as well. Since yours is a nation of immigrants, that'll be okay with you, won't it?).

I want them to decide whether they think I'm ready to receive a Green Card.

If they think I am, I'm asking them to please just say yes in the comments. You know, like a real petition. They're welcome to add any additional thoughts they might have, but a plain and simple and yet very profound 'yes' will do.

I shall leave this petition up in a "sticky entry" on my blog until the end of this month, and then I'll send it to your government.

Thank you.

Respectfully Yours,

Red

P.S. Updated postings continue below this entry.

Mr. Mice has decided that, instead of just giving me a Green Card vote for free, he was going to make me work for it. So he put me to the test to see how much I know about these United States.

Boy, and did he ever put me through the wringer! Immigration should recruit him to design their quizzes, because I can safely say that his is far more difficult than theirs!

Here's what he asked me (Please note all the sports-related questions! I nearly died.):

This is for Red. Please try not to look up any of these answers. Answer from memory as much as possible.

1. Name the faces on Mount Rushmore

2. How many innings in a Baseball game.

3. Six flags have flown over Texas. Name them.

4. Who was the President during the Civil War?

5. What animal emblazons the Gadsden flag? What is the motto on the same?

6. Two baseball teams have moved from New York to California. Which Califonia baseball team did not move from New York?

7. What is the US National Anthem and what is its major drawback as an anthem?

8. What are the 5 US Armed Forces?

9. What Italian explorer is North America named for? Why?

10. What month is the Superbowl played in?

(If you wish to play, then answer in the comments before opening the extended entry to read my answers and his comments (in bold) on my answers.)

Why is it that our flight connection always seem to depart on the OTHER side of the airport from where we had landed?

We only had an hour layover at the airport in Phoenix, so we walked at a brisk pace. There was dire need for a caffeine fix, but a window display of beautiful wares created by local artists drew us into a store. We resisted the temptation of buying anything and quickly resumed our trek through the rest of the airport.

When we finally got to the gate, I fell into a chair while the boy ran to find the nearest coffee shop. I kept one eye on our carry-on luggage and another on a television tuned to CNN Headline News. Their story du jour was about Natalee Holloway, the high school grad who's been missing in Aruba for over a month now. At the time, the story was still new, and most of the people around me were watching the screen as well.

A beautiful redheaded girl (I always consider them to be freaks of nature, even though every single redhead in my life - including my mom - is beautiful. It's difficult for me, though, to see them in person, because it reminds me of all I should've been, if only my parents hadn't run out of the good genes to hand out. They spent it all on my three older sisters, you see) sat down near me and started talking soothingly to her carry-on luggage. But before I could silently gloat over the fact that she was clearly a bit insane and therefore not all THAT perfect after all, I noticed that the piece of luggage was actually a pet cage. The prisoner of the cage was a beautiful black and white kitty who regarded me with mild curiousity through the bars of the cage.

Damn, so the redhead wasn't crazy! I decided to talk to her about her cat to see if there were any shortcomings.

No such luck. Not only is she gorgeous, but she is funny, charming, clever and generous (she offered me some of her chocolate!). During the course of the conversation, I found out that she and her incarcerated cat, Molly, had been in the process of moving from Chicago to Los Angeles to be with her fiance. The boy returned with my coffee and joined in the conversation. He later casually mentioned my blog to her and the other day she actually left me a comment!!! (Hi, Lauri and Molly! See? I've finally continued the story and I've mentioned you! (Therefore you are now famous... NOT!) And just so you know, part of this had already been written by the time you left a comment! (Yeah, even the parts of you being beautiful and clever and all that. Really.) Please stay in touch, okay? And please send my fondest regards to one of the best-travelled cats that I've ever met.)

The universe must've sensed that I've been feeling rather pet deprived lately, because on the plane, the woman who shared our row had a small cage by her feet which, I was later to find out, carried the cutest little dog. What is it with woman who live in California? It must be the agreeable climate or something, because they are all beautiful! She was friendly to boot and for the duration of the flight, she gave us helpful advice on things to see and do at our destination.

We talked so much that the time literally flew by. Before I knew it, we were descending. I glanced out the window, not expecting to see anything since night had already fallen a few hours before.

However, the view that I was met with beyond the small window almost took my breath away.

I know, I know, I KNOW that I haven't continued the travelogue yet (but come on, have you come to expect anything less from me than this stellar standard of procrastination I've been maintaining since starting this blog?!).

You may have noticed that posting has been a tad lighter than usual (Really? you ask, looking so utterly perplexed that I simply have to believe that you haven't noticed anything different than usual).

This is because the computer has been unplugged so that its private quarters can be painted. Yes, in this house the computer is one of two appliances with its own private quarters. The other is the coffee maker. Its room is one which most other people refer to as "the kitchen." Here, it is simply known as The Coffee Maker's Private Quarters.

So where was I? (I must be the only person in the Universe who loses track of her train of thought while writing.)

Oh, yeah... blogging light due to the paint. (Head also a bit light due to the paint, but that's another story, and a not altogether unpleasant one at that.)

The painter must've known what kind of emotional upheaval the lack of a computer (and therefore, internet connection) would cause the likes of me, a self-diagnosed (even though it isn't even in the Time/Life A-Z Medical Encyclopedia!) CD (Computer Dependent), because he brought me something to try and compensate for the bleak, empty computerless hours that I had to face this past week.

Here's what he brought me.



















about
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!)

online


comments
  • 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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