Sunday, December 20, 2009

The AR 10... 20... the sky's the limit

I have discovered a few new local specialties in the last week.

The most pleasant discovery was James at the Mill, a real restaurant just 15 minutes away. By real I mean that the interior was clearly decorated by someone with a design background (aka no ancient picnic tables and plastic squeeze bottles for condiments) and the menu was not completely fried. For example, I started with Blue lump crab cake on Tomatillo salsa verde and ancho-chile aioli with frisse, spicy pecan, and 6-month Manchego salad dressed with a white truffle vinaigrette. The chef is apparently well-known beyond the region, and the food certainly tasted like it. The bizarre thing is that the restaurant is a member of "Small Luxury Hotels of the World." What would a small luxury hotel be doing in a nowhere town like Johnson, AR? And who would be paying to stay there?

The most surprisingly happy discovery was Chili Frito Pie. Not sure who invented this, but drowning Fritos in hot chili and covering the whole mixture with shredded cheddar is pure genius. We had a work charity event (one of the hundreds we've had in the last 2 months) where one area donated this for lunch like a spicy bake sale. The best part was that the chili had no beans - in the South apparently even beans are considered too healthy, and for once I'm not arguing.

The last discovery was Mary Maestri's, an "authentic" Italian restaurant in Tontitown AR, where Italian immigrants randomly settled over a hundred years ago. Mary has been there for over 90 years and although I wouldn't call fried chicken (one of her specialties) authentic Italian fare, the food was incredibly tasty. The pasta is freshly made and they heaped freshly-baked yummy rolls on our table throughout the meal; two types - one for the salad, one for the main dishes. (I've learned to stop trying to understand these bizarre-ities and just enjoy them when they're tasty.)

Anyway, during recruiting these past few months, whenever I was asked what the worst part of this place was I always said the food (no time needed to think about it either). But I'm starting to like some of the stuff around here. Here I am enjoying my Frito pie - best news is they're having another chili charity tomorrow.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Wedding Bells

I can't believe it's already getting cold and I have yet to post pictures of this summer's wedding camp extravaganza upstate. This is the event my high school friends and I have been waiting for for years - and it was everything we had hoped for (including Theo officiating bu excluding sharing bathrooms).

The weekend upstate was the first time since high school that I have had that much continuous hanging out time with that many HS peeps, and will probably be the last. Not strangely, it was as if nothing had changed. Conversation was still easy, people were still much like they had been, and we still liked each other. Since HS I've almost exclusively met people who either hated their high school or at least easily forgot about it - and I've always been sad for them.

Looking at these photos again is making me even more excited to go home for Thanksgiving on Wednesday. I miss everyone so much out here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Playing catch up

I'm about to embark on a tour of the South - or at least a tour of "notable" cities within driving distance. This weekend I hop off to Tulsa for Satnight and Sunday, next weekend I break for Thanksgiving at home, the next weekend I go to St Louis - and so on. But before I do that I felt I had to update my blog with some of the bizarreness I have seen right here in NW Arkansas since I last updated regularly (many, many moons ago).

There was Bikes Blues & BBQ in Fayetteville, which - if I hadn't been so painfully hungover - would have been the best Saturday of my time here so far. Unfortunately, the night before I spent patronizing an open bar with free cigars; the following was the last thing I remember.

But since B,B&BBQ is a once-a-year event, I dragged myself out of bed the next day at noon and got in my friend's car (and by friend I mean someone I met the night before - but we are actually friends now). Like I said, it was amazing. Dickson Street was lined with people dressed in leather chaps and leather...
...whatever that is. And the craziest array of bikes passed - there were so many bikes in this procession we finally stopped watching and went inside for Bloody Mary lunch - and when we came out 3 hours later they were still coming.

(That last picture was taken outside a church.) The Bloody Marys gave me the energy I needed to get through the rest of the afternoon, evening and night, which is a good thing because otherwise I would have missed eating fair food for dinner and catching this amazing sign:
Just a few weeks later Teresa came to visit from the big city and as if by magic the most redneck event ever happened to be taking place just 20 minutes away - mule jumping. This activity consists of mules taking standing leaps over limbo sticks until only one can clear the height. Since they are half donkey they can jump from a standstill, as opposed to horses who need a running start. I believe the winner cleared over 5.5 feet, which was apparently a big disappointment to those who had attended the previous year.

We brought a cooler of orange juice, champagne and Chambord and sipped cocktails from red plastic cups. As close to tailgating as I ever hope to come.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Southern Peculiarities

Today I drove 3.5hrs each way to Kansas City to comp shop for work. Unfortunately I didn't see much of the city, but the Nordstrom in the mall was the size of a boutique, which didn't give me much hope. I hear the Plaza is the hot spot, so maybe when Valerie's Tour of the South returns to KC I'll be more impressed.

On my drive back to AR I did pass a town that pretty much summed up how I feel. Its sign said:
Peculiar City Limits.

Just past Peculiar I stopped at a rest stop where I
1) found the perfect Secret Santa gift - my victim is obsessed with cow figurines and they had cow hand puppets that say "moo" in a deadpan male human's voice when you move its mouth
2) saw a coin-operated perfume machine in the restroom dispensing Giorgio Armani and Obsession.

Just another day in the south.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


The LPGA tour was in Bentonville this weekend at the Pinnacle Hills Golf Club, so fittingly my first golf lesson was today after work. As expected, I am a natural.

My left arm refuses to stay straight, so while I think I look quite graceful while my club is in the air, it invariable ends up ramming into the top of the ball or the dirt with a less-than-graceful thud. And if I forget to keep my knees bent, slamming the club into the ground takes on an added dimension of pain that sears through my entire body. The teach told me to make sure to pick up my right heel as I go around so as to prevent soreness in my lower back - he has no idea how far down my list of concerns that is right now.

After a pleasantly raucous dinner with my golf girls, I am back at home with my kitty, who definitely felt the pain of loneliness more today since she's had a weekend of non-stop attention (from not just me but David's whole family). She just crawled around my neck twice as I sat here typing this.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Lazy Thursday

Or at least I wish it were lazy. There are two funny things about being sick when you're an adult. And by funny I mean HAHAHHA HaHa.. ha... huh... = not so funny really.

  1. Everything aches - my chest, my head, my back, my stomach. Everything just hurts so much more because I am OLDER.
  2. While you can stay home from work, that does not mean you cannot work. Tuesday I was starting to look bad and everyone in my aisle including my boss told me a thousand times to go home. So when I emailed my boss Wed morning to say I wasn't coming in until my afternoon meetings so I could try and sleep the illness off he said: "Do not come in, stay home and get better." When he saw me arrive at 11am he gave me an exasperated look - until I said: "I left my computer here!" At which point the jig was up and he said: "Oh, ok. Yeah, take that home with you."
So it is clear that although I get to stay home and act like a bum in my unkempt hair and slippers, I am not actually taking a day off of work to get better. All I am doing is taking a day off of showering and wearing heels. But enough blogging - I need to get to my NPV calc. (Just like in b-school! Except that tomorrow they will decide whether or not to invest millions because of my *I hope* correct calculation!)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sullen girl

In a matter of one month my kitten has gone from blissfully ignorant childhood to full blown teenager angst.

Everything I do now is "so unfAAAAAiiiiir." (That what I imagine her meows mean to say.) If I pull her off the stove top so she won't get burned while I cook: "meeeeAAAAAAAuuulw." If I make her come out of the closet after already having let her play with (aka ruin) my clothes while I get dressed: "meeeeAAAAAAAuuulw."

If I don't let her drink from my cup until after I'm finished: "meeeeAAAAAAAuuulw." Then she'll do something passive aggressive like hunch over the glass and pathetically lick the condensation on the outside of it while looking up at me pointedly.

Oh the memories... being a teenager really is: "meeeeAAAAAAAuuulw."

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Friday night in the...

Last night I had my first NW Arkansas clubbing experience.

The experience started with me being late to pick up my friend Stephanie - not quite sure why I signed up to be the designated driver since I most definitely planned on drinking heavily. After about 3 minutes in my car she said: "are you a new driver?" She said it was because I was v serious about 10-and-2 and wouldn't break eye contact with the road for even a second, but she was just too nice to rehash the ignored stop sign and unnecessary swerving (the gravel on her road was freaking me out).

Dinner at Bordino's involved a few glasses of wine and a delicious bubblegum shot to accompany my now-routine wild boar sausage fettucine (still as good as the first time).

Post-dinner drinks at Theo's was a farce. The place was filled with girls of various shades of pale skin and blond hair in shoes they couldn't walk in (lots of clomping and small staggers) and uber-formal mini dresses. Seriously? In a college town that has the football team's pig mascot everywhere? Even the expensive jewelry store has a horrible (yet slightly more subdued) bronze hog in its window.

After a lot of yawning and some crew attrition Stephanie and I and a couple we had met (a v dorky guy and girl with Texas hair) finally swallowed our pride and paid the $5 cover to the only dance club on the main strip - Fix. It calls itself an "ultralounge." All snide-ness aside, though, it was kind of fun. The DJ was doing that annoying thing they all seem to do now which is play every song just long enough for you to recognize it and just short enough for you to be PISSED that it's over. But the songs were good for the most part, and once the couple left Stephanie and I had a pretty good time dancing.

Thankfully, the drive home was on mostly deserted roads, because I was up to a good 10 drinks by then and utterly exhausted because 2am is WAY past my usual 9pm bedtime. This morning has been a sorry story of ramen and Family Ties episodes, and now I have to buckle down and finish this presentation I promised my boss by this evening. SATURDAY evening - ugh.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The great outdoors

There is a drive-through safari 20 minutes from my house (there's drive-through everything around here). So when the kids came to visit we took my shiny new car there to get crumbs and animal saliva all over it.

Turns out ostrich are surprisingly greedy over-eaters despite their slender legs. Once they saw we were handing out bread they wouldn't stop following us and sticking their nasty beaked heads into our windows or tapping against them if they were closed.

It's amazing how friendly and forward these wild animals become once they learn that there's dried hot dog buns in it for them. My boss made sure to remind me to bring bread because the first time he went he could only find Cheetos in his car for his son to give the animals and the camel's nose turned orange from eating out of the bag.

Fried Brown Oreos

It's taken me a while, but I am finally getting around to posting pics from the Tonitown Grape Festival - I don't know how you've all been able to wait this long.

According to its historians, Tontitown has a long and distinguished Italian heritage since a group of Italians moved to that particular corner of NW AR a long time ago and never left (not sure if any additional waves came to join them, but considering the location, it's unlikely).

So once a year they hold a grape festival (I don't get the correlation either, but everyone else takes it as obvious) where they serve tens of people plates of over-cooked pasta bolognese and fried chicken (actually a delicious combo) and grape-colored soft-serve ice cream. There was not, as hoped, any wine to be seen anywhere at the festival. But there were fried oreos, which were AMAZING.

There was also an arts and crafts festival which was more like the cheapo trail end of a NYC street fair, except that they sold Confederate bikinis. For reals.

That says "Try Taking This Down," in case its hard to read. Apparently accepted public opinion of the legacy of the South is still up for negotiation down here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


This weekend, in addition to some work and some drinking with new acquaintances, I volunteered Sat and Sun with a food drive organized by co-workers. They had organized for bins to be set up outside of the area supercenters, and tags to be put up inside the store pointing out non-perishable items you could buy to donate to the drive. My job was to stand outside and let people know on their way in that they could buy to donate on their way out.

The horrible thing was, since we were standing outside stores with the cheapest goods in America, lots of the people we were asking to donate were the same people the food would end up being given to. And they were the ones who pointed it out. On multiple occasions people said things like "we can't even afford food for our whole family" or "he's been in the hospital for so long without a paycheck that I'm sorry but we don't have nothing to give."

I've never seen American poverty like this. I'm used to seeing people dressed raggedly and clearly crack addicts, or clearly lower-income but still dressed in clean/trendy clothes, or just straight homeless trying to find things in the garbage.

But people in rural American look like photographs from the Steinbeck/Oakies era. Their clothing had dirt permanently washed into them, they were missing teeth (granted, in this part of America that could be due to poverty/no dental care, but it could also be the result of meth), but they own cars and probably live in the rickety houses with lawns filled with car parts that I drive by sometimes.

None of this should really be surprising (although when my co-worker told me some people eat cat food because it's cheaper than meat I couldn't believe her), and it's not the level of poverty that shocked me, it's how it was manifested. Even people with nothing prioritize, and what they prioritize here (or what they have to, e.g. a car) is so different from what the same people prioritize in New York. I wonder how long it'll take me to get used to this place.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Man's best friend

Now that I have a cat I need a cat carrier - I can't continue using that Raisin Bran box with the jagged holes. So I went on-line to find something and what I found was that people are insane about their pets.

They need to stroll them around in prams - when I saw this I thought had directed me to the wrong category.

They can't leave them alone for even a second, even bringing them along on bike rides.

And they can't just let them sit in the car of course, or in a regular carrier - instead they need this contraption.

City Kitty v City Mouse

Monday I brought home my new kitty cat in a family-sized Raisin Bran box and named her City.

It took her a few hours, but she soon became familiar enough with me to be doing sweet things like curling up in my lap and going to sleep. Her purring is as loud as a monster truck and she can be so cute and affectionate. She likes to drink water from my water glass, and sticks her whole head in the glass when I tip it over for her. At night she jumps around my bed, waking me up so I jiggle my toes under the duvet and send her into a frenzy of pouncing with her tail and back hair sticking straight up. She was also litter trained the moment she walked into the house, and already at only two and a half months is fully capable of taking care of herself.

But when she is not acting cute she is a hellion, and she does much more rabble-rousing than cuddling. She insists on hanging out on the dining table whenever I'm eating, sticking her poopy butt or tail into my plate when I push her nose out of it. If I am successful in actually getting her off the table she climbs over the dining chairs and onto the kitchen counter and still-hot stovetop, which forces me to stop eating AND COME FETCH HER. Argh. Her other favorite activity is walking over my computer keyboard while I am trying to check my email or get work done. This time she only walked over the caps lock key but she has turned it off before, closed windows and files, and turned the screen light down to darkness while I wasn't looking - until I figured it out I thought my computer was dead for good because all my pushing of the power button wasn't doing anything.

This picture is from her very first evening at home - apparently she likes the dirt in the treepot and refused to stay out of it. Instead she would jump in, paw around, then jump out to trail dirt crumbs all over my livingroom. I solved the dirt problem by tightly covering the inner pot with plastic bags, which makes it a pain to water every day and is I think slowly killing the tree (still a preferable outcome to dirt all over my floor).

Just looking around my apartment now there are signs of City destruction everywhere. Yesterday's mail is scattered on the floor around the dining table (where I had placed them originally), teeth marks on all the corners. My dishcloths are strewn on the floor of my kitchen even though I've put them back on the oven rail a million times already this morning. When I tried to explain to her that she shouldn't play with them because they would fall off the rail and onto the floor again, she responded by jumping on them and suspending herself a few inches from the floor by digging her nails into them. Of course she looked so funny I couldn't bear to let go and drop the towels and her onto the floor to teach her a lesson.

There is even a ghetto-looking cardboard box that my peaches came in that I personally covered in catnip and filled with an envelope, plastic bag and dishcloth. Of course, after all my effort, she hasn't even looked at it and instead continues to wreck everything else in the house except what I've tried to distract her with. And now she's managed to get into the kitchen sink and is licking my sponges.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Women be shopping

Today I went to the mall to amuse myself. First I went to the Pinnacle strip mall on the west of the highway to try out the fancy stores I heard were there. Unfortunately, the owners of said stores are apparently devout Christians and will not even employ other people to work their shops on Sundays. They (both of them) did look like they would be good places to shop in, though, on an unholy day.

So I went to the other side of the highway where the Promenade mall is. I was complaining (to myself of course, since I am always alone) about how terrible the choices were - Dillard's, Forever 21, Banana Republic, that's it - and yet somehow managed to do over $300 worth of damage.

The reason I woke up desperately needing to shop is because last night I started a new book from the library: The House of the Spirits by Isabelle Allende. This is what it says about Esteban Trueba, when he moves to the country:

"The first months, he kept his promise to himself of always bathing and changing his clothes for dinner, as he had heard the British colonizers did in the most distant hamlets of Africa and Asia, so as not to lose their dignity and authority. He would put on his best clothes, shave, and play his favorite opera arias on the gramophone. But little by little he let himself be conquered by rusticity, and came to accept the fact that he had no calling as a dandy, especially since there was no one to appreciate his efforts... He was slowly becoming a barbarian."

I was gripped with fear by this passage and probably had nightmares and definitely woke up desperately needing to buy new clothes. So I went to the gym (clothes need to fit, after all), spent an hour by the pool reading fashion magazines (no better accessory than a tan), and proceeded to buy all sorts of flowy and flowery things I don't need but that Vogue and Bazaar assure me are timeless. Except that it's Sunday so for the next 5 days all I can wear are black pencil skirts and pressed button-downs.

It was a fun day, though, because in honor of the book passage I dolled myself up entirely inappropriately for this town (probably appropriately for anywhere in AR). I wore a VERY small white linen Alberta Ferretti dress that I bought at a consignment store in Paris (not sure whether it's supposed to only remain under things), a beige striped summer cardigan to hide the see-through-ness of the dress/slip, multiple gold necklaces to aid in the hiding, fabulous sunglasses, brown 40s-inspired heels, and my newly-bronzed legs. It was great, even though I've had to sit with my feet propped up for the last 2 hours at home to soothe the pain of those heels. Things are SO FAR from the parking lot here. Which is why the natives wear sneakers and athletic shorts.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Coming to America

I've found a new site called that is supposed to be a little like Yelp for the towns too small/insignificant to be included in a Yelp/Citysearch/Menupages/etc. What it offers in addition to (and more interesting than) restaurant and activity listings is statistics on each town.

So of course I looked up Rogers, AR, my new homebase, and this is what I found:

Rogers: 94% white, America: 79% white
Rogers: 1% Asian, America: 3% Asian (so much smaller than I though even for the whole nation!)
Rogers: 0% Black, America: 13% Black
On the bright side, 18% of Rogers inhabitants speak Spanish at home in addition to English, vs 10% across America.

No sure as to the accuracy of these stats, but their other listings seem pretty correct: Arby's, Chili's, more chain restaurants, Borders, Barnes & Nobles, more chain stores...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Julia Sugarbaker

I am kind of loving the South - full of southerners with the best one-liners ever.

Today I had dinner with a new friend I met at Starbuck's - her, the friendly southerner, introduced herself out of the blue to me, the shocked New Yorker. We were talking about past relationships (in general terms, of course, this is only our first friend-date) and she goes: "I'm always careful because, as my momma says, 'love is blind but the neighbors aren't.'"

Pure genius, and particularly entertaining when said in a proper drawl. I'm just waiting to pull together a group of real southern lady-friends and make my own Designing Women-style life.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Customer Service

I've just learned which retailer has the best customer service. Hands down, Saks Fifth Avenue. After I received my most recent order (I bought myself birthday gifts, naturally) they sent a survey link to ask for my feedback. Since they were offering to put my name into a drawing for a $100 Saks gift certificate, and times are tough, I responded.

I complained that the Tory Burch clutch I had ordered was not as it seemed in the site's photo. The photo made it look less horizontal than it really was, so I didn't check the dimensions and it arrived way too horizontally long for my height. I explained that in my survey response yesterday and this morning I received a PERSONALIZED apology email from a senior customer service agent. To top it off, she spelled my last name correctly with the proper capitalization and spacing.

Her apology was so amazing that now I feel bad for complaining. Except that the clutch really did make me look way too short. And it would have been better if she had also sent me the $100 gift card.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Food baby

I am living in weight problem heaven or weight problem hell, depending on how you look at it.
There is food everywhere.

My office has a donut club, so every Friday morning we have donuts for breakfast. My office also has daily tastings of products we're thinking of selling in the clubs. Friday it was
guacamole and churos. The day before it was frozen mac and cheese. The day before that was the brownie semi-finals. Which means we're all looking forward to the finals which I'm sure will be even harder to resist.

The office cafeteria, or as we employees call it: The Carnival, is no better. In the morning it sells biscuits and sausage or egg sandwiches, at lunch it serves pizza and burgers, and in the afternoon there's a rotating snack offering of items like hot pretzels or corn dogs. The real deal, though, are the drinks - $1 gets you an enormous Big Gulp-sized styrofoam cup that is refillable for free soda or sweet tea all day.

As if that wasn't enough, thanks to the dedication our company has to charities, there is always some kind of food sale going on - cakes, more donuts, more burgers... it never ends.

On top of it all there's the restaurant selection in the area - Chili's, Hardee's, Wendy's, Andy's Frozen Custard, Cracker Barrel, Outback, PF Chang's; then for fine dining there's a handful of heavy pasta places and a Ruth's Chris (does that qualify for "fine dining?"). There's a Japanese restaurant, thank goodness, but it's more habachi meat than sushi/sashimi.

Half disgusting, half intriguing...

I'm having a hard time determining whether I really want to try this or am about to vomit - baking cookies on your dashboard:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Poem of the Day

This is thanks to Nicole, who sent it out this morning. Now I am in love with it.

by ruth l schwartz:

Important Thing

I've always loved the way pelicans dive,
as if each silver fish they see
were the goddamned most important
thing they've ever wanted on this earth --
and just tonight I learned sometimes
they go blind doing it,
that straight-down dive like someone jumping
from a rooftop, only happier,
plummeting like Icarus, but more triumphant --
there is the undulating fish,
the gleaming sea,
there is the chance to taste again
the kind of joy which can be eaten whole,
and this is how they know to reach it,
head-first, high-speed, risking everything,

and some of the time they come back up
as if it were nothing, they bob on the water,
silver fish like stogies angled
rakishly in their wide beaks,
-- then the enormous
stretching of the throat,
then the slow unfolding
of the great wings,
as if it were nothing, sometimes they do this
a hundred times or more a day,
as long as they can see, they rise
back into the sky
to begin again --

and when they can't?

We know, of course, what happens,
they starve to death, not a metaphor, not a poem in it;
this goes on every day of our lives,
and the man whose melting wings
spatter like a hundred dripping candles
over everything,

and the suicide who glimpses, in the final
seconds of her fall,
all the other lives she might have lived.

The ending doesn't have to be happy.
The hunger itself is the thing.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Gourmet gas station

So since I moved here fellow immigrants have been telling me about this "gourmet gas station" where they apparently have specialty items. Needless to say I ignored them and privately mocked them.

But with an hour to kill today not far from the GGS I decided to give it a try. It turns out they were all right and I am, going forward, doing ALL my grocery shopping there. It looks like a gas station from the outside but on the inside it's like a miniature Dean & Deluca (I chose the comparison carefully - it's not as fab as a Fairway or as over-assorted as Whole Foods).

They don't carry anything organic (no surprise), but I did find and buy these essential staples:
  • blood sausage (imported from France, bien sur)
  • illy coffee
  • Fage yogurt
  • assorted spices/sauces by the likes of Barefoot Contessa, D&D, etc
  • my fave Rao's vodka tomato sauce
  • thai peppers
  • stinky goat cheese (unfortunately, no stinky camembert - too much to ask)
  • saucisson sec
They have many many more things which I wasn't able to buy because they would go bad, and it was hard to part with them. (Even knowing that I'll be back in only a few days.)

Out of the 9 people on line with me to pay only one other woman was taking advantage of the selection - the rest were there to buy cigarettes and looking a little confused.

A thousand words

I love this photo. How amazing that they work and think in all that color.
(Photo from the white house blog.)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Fast Forward

I just got catapulted into the 22nd century. My AT&T installation date finally arrived after 3 weeks of desperate waiting, and now I am totally plugged in.

I have all channels except for the sports and movie channels coming through HD on my huge fabu flat screen television. I can preview and order videos on demand from AT&T including some NEW movies that have yet to be released in theaters (still at theater prices). I can record up to 300 hours of television through my DVR. My amazing, Korean Samsung blu-ray DVD player connects to the internet and directly to my Netflix account, allowing me to browse my instant queue and watch movies directly from it! It doesn't even need to buffer, the movie just turns on!

AND I finally have my own secured wireless network so I can blog without connection interruptions and get on to my work email! With my AT&T internet account I can also log in to all AT&T wifi networks for free - goodbye Starbuck's card!

It's only 11:30am and this my best day here so far.

Opposites attract

This place is a weird combination of backward and forward. They like country music and blue grass, which (to my potentially unsubtle ear) has not changed in decades, and yet they offer free wi-fi throughout the town square (yes, there is a "town square," no actual address necessary) and their little public library is more advanced than anything I've experienced before.

I joined last weekend and just registered on their website. Besides being light and breezy (instead of dim and dank), they also have a cafe and a station of sensors and computer screens where you can check yourself out. On their website you can not only search for books but also renew things you have checked out, download audio books for limited periods of time, read newspapers, and more.

And according to the automatically-generated email they sent this morning, I already owe them $0.10 for being a day late to return the Before Sunrise DVD.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


I'm starting to feel a little trapped here.

It's costing me $410 to get home for a weekend wedding in August (I'm booking over a month in advance - this is the CHEAPEST it gets). I want to go home next weekend for my birthday but last-minute tickets start at $700 and when I tried to use points I was told it would take 106,000 points to get to NYC from here. I could go to Australia for that many points.

This is going to be harder than I thought. I can give up rest and relaxation to travel to see my family and friends, but I cannot give up $700 for a 3-hour flight as often as I'd like to leave.

On a related point, this morning while walking back from my complex gym to my apt I passed a rodent. I DID NOT MOVE TO ARMPIT USA TO DEAL WITH RATS. That is what prompted me to LEAVE NYC.

In the news

My first reaction to this was: how ridiculous! selling Christmas goods in the summertime just looks bad - it's like strappy sandals below 50 degrees.

But then I thought - how sad that people need to save for over 5 months to buy Christmas decorations for their kids, and that they need layaway to help them save.

Then I laughed when I saw the Walmart banner ad embedded in the article.

(In other news, MC Hammer apparently still performs in public - he's appearing in Chicago this weekend!)

Sears puts out Christmas gear

Stores, Web sites feature holiday decor

By Sandra M. Jones

Tribune reporter

July 9, 2009

It's Christmas in July at Sears Holdings Corp.

On Sunday, while most of America was recovering from Fourth of July fireworks and cookouts, the Hoffman Estates-based retailer launched an online boutique called Christmas Lane at and It also set up Christmas decor shops at 372 Sears stores, including one at Woodfield mall in Schaumburg.

Sears typically waits until Nov. 1 to unveil its holiday merchandise, said Sears spokeswoman Natalie Norris-Howser. But with the recession putting a crimp in spending, the retailer is hoping to attract holiday shoppers early.

"This is the first year we've done the Christmas Lane event," said Norris-Howser. "We're allowing customers to put these items on layaway and pay over time."

Kmart got a boost in sales during the holiday season last year when it promoted a long-forgotten layaway program as an alternative to credit cards. Sears followed suit in November. Under a layaway program, shoppers pay for merchandise in installments and take the goods home after they are paid in full.

The Web page features a drawing of a main shopping street covered in snow and Christmas wreaths and an airplane flying a banner that says, "Free shipping for purchases over $75." The site also showcases cold-weather gear such as snow blowers and electric blankets.

Last year, worried about a slowdown in consumer spending, many merchants, including Home Depot, Kohl's and Walgreens, began stocking their shelves with holiday wrapping paper, trim and trees in September.

The phenomenon, known as Christmas creep, is expected to kick into overdrive this year as retailers fight for their share of shoppers' shrinking pocketbooks.

Most retailers generate 20 percent to 30 percent of their annual sales during the holiday season. Sears took in 28 percent of its annual revenue in its fiscal fourth quarter last year. USA, LLC

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Rodeo of the Ozarks

Of course, since my mother packed everything I left in New York EXCEPT my fabulous peach-colored Frye cowboy boots, my first weekend event in Arkansas was one where I could have KILLED IT in those boots.

Nonetheless, my first rodeo was pretty damn fun - and it was on the 4th of July, which made me the most American I've ever been in my life (as an American). And the most Arkansian I've ever been - that's the state flag flying over the stadium (I don't think I've ever known what my state flag looks like).

The rodeo kicked off with "mutton bustin'," which, as the MC explained, is where "we strap our children to farm animals and call it entertainment." Children in faux chaps and bike helmets get on lambs and try and hold on as two other children dressed like clowns jump around to try and scare the lamb into moving fast enough to excite the kids and hopefully throw them off gently. The good pic is from the local newspaper - I think that's the champion in it.

Then David and I took a break from the spectacle to get something to eat (those are smoked turkey legs those guys are chomping down on) and see what was for sale in the stadium (besides fried and cheap cowboy hats, the cutest puppies EVER).

Back in the stadium I saw bronco bucking, bull riding, and lassoing/roping. The roping is pretty ridiculous. A cowboy gallops out at the same time as a little cow and has a few seconds to jump off his horse ONTO the running cow, heave it over on its side so it can't get back up, and tie its front and back legs together.

I couldn't get it on photo, but the lassoing is incredible. For the lassoing two cowboys come out together with a little bull and one has to rope it around the horns and immediately after the other has to rope it by the BACK LEGS. So while the little bull is kicking around because it's been lassoed around the horns the second cowboy needs to somehow lasso it's back feet in a moment that they are off the ground. And they both only have about 6 seconds to do all of it.

Because it was the 4th there was lots of exhibition stuff with overt American symbolism... only to be expected, I guess, and culminating in fireworks set to Neil Diamond's "Proud to be an American" (obvi).

Clearly Walmart was a rodeo sponsor - they literally sponsor pretty much everything (and everyone) in a 50-mile radius.

Of course the best part of the rodeo was the sense of style (kind of the best part of the south in general).

And even in the most southern of places, New York represented.