Monday, August 29, 2005

Little Women, Little Children, Little Sisters

After months of badgering from one of my friends, for the first time in my life I read Little Women. After Little Women, I read Little Children, at the request of Dean. Currently, I am reading Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities. I never imagined that the three books could each say so much about the sociology of women's relationships with other women.
As almost everybody knows, Louisa Mae Alcott's epic Little Women tracks the adolescence of the four March sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. Each of the girls has a very different personality to the extreme that I think any woman can see pieces of herself in all of the sisters. Meg, the gentle, domestic one, Jo, the firy tomboy, Beth, the fragile, sensitive one and Amy, the baby with a lot of learning to do. I know I saw myself in all these characters, especially Beth. The story tracks the girls over ten years while they find love, friendship, and themselves. While the story takes place during the Civil War the book remains a classic today because of its timeless themes. The girls learn hard lessons about money, society, marriage and grief. What I liked most about Alcott's writing was that just when I thought things seemed too simplified or sugar-coated she revealed a character flaw or a mistake one of the characters made. The girls fought like sisters but most of all supported each other. I have never read a biography of Ms. Alcott, but if I did I suspect it would read like Jo's life. She was by far the most multi-dimensional of the sisters. Even today this book provides little women everywhere with characters they relate to and situations they can brace themselves for all the while thinking, "what would the March sisters do?"
Little Children will be seen as Tom Perrotta's breakthrough novel, a satirical commentary on raising kids in suburban America. I loved this book. The main character is Sarah, a feminist, ex-lesbian turned stay at home mom. She goes from being a "tolerated" member of the neighborhood, conservative mom clique to being ostracized for spontaneously kissing a stay at home dad all the moms had a crush on. This kiss turns into an affair with the steroetypical high school jock, her first "good-looking boyfriend." Her affair reflects the changing face of feminism, acknowledging that we feminists refuse to be the high school cheerleaders, but that doesn't mean we don't want their boyfriends! Independent women are willing to be more honest about what they really want. It also accurately portrayed the "group mentality" of cliques. The way a woman can be outcast from a group for doing something everyone else is too scared to do. And the failure of those who disagree with the group to speak up. But overall, this book was hilarious. There were parts of relationships that Perotta hit right on the head, such as the point where the woman goes from wearing sexy lingerie to wearing odd-colored sweatpants. Most amazing was the moment the stay at home dad's wife figures out the truth. It wasn't through dialogue, or even intuition. It was by noticing that Sarah had her toenails painted a metallic blue, "the kind of color a trashy twelve-year-old would have loved, nothing you'd ever expect to find on the feet of a grown woman, the mother of a young child. You would have to be crazy to wear nail polish like that, or so deeply in love that you were beyond caring." Brilliant.
Pledged is my guilty pleasure of the month. Not passed down through generations or praised by the New York Times Book Review, but a page turner and a fascinating account of Greek life. I tried my damnedest at the Univeristy of Minnesota to avoid Greek life and all it entailed. I sensed the inherirent cattiness in the girls and the insincerity of the fratboys. Alexandra Robbins goes undercover to expose exactly what goes on in sororities. Basically, she asserts, everything you hear about sororities is true. The drinking, drugs, promiscuity, eating disorders, and date rape. The Greek system is a univeristy-endorsed system to openly discriminate against people solely on the basis of income, looks, style and even race. In this manner, socailizing becomes easy because people have a way of meeting other people who are "pre-screened" for these qualities. These really are the "trust-fund babies" as it is literally impossible for girls to pay their dues, and work part time to do so while still fulfilling their sorority obligations. This book really shows the group mentality that I mentioned earlier. Sororities hate other sororities, but even within their sorority there are cliques. Girls who can make other girls' lives a living hell. If the sorority doesn't approve of your new boyfriend (i.e. he is from the wrong frat) that relationship has no hope. The girls are emotionally and physically abused by their "sisters" and worst of all, they pay money to be treated like this. It is amazing the way women succomb to this behavior and find it easier to join in it rather than stand up against it.
This brings me to my paramount question. Why can't we all just get along? My profession is on average about 15% women. I have a couple of close women friends in the department, but by far some of the worst competition and judgement I have felt has been from females. The gossip, the jealousy the desire not to see another woman succeed can be overwhelming. And heartbreaking. Are we women really so territorial by nature? Or are we somehow taught to try our hardest to push others away? Sorry this is so long, but I think these are questions that are interesting to ask and definitely worth trying to answer.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


I am currently watching a newscaster broadcast from New Orleans as people behind him are evacuating into the Super Dome. Highway 10 is clogged with cars leaving one of the most beautiful cities on Earth. They say the city is going to be destroyed tonight. People are expected to come back to find no power, contaminated water and no homes. They say that if the levees break, water will flood up to the fourth stories of buildings.

I had the good fortune to visit the Big Easy twice. Once with my mom, step dad, and Angie when I was 16, and once with my high school friend Jessica when we were 19. Here are some of my memories:

Angie (who had never been further from home than northern Minnesota) being completely mesmerized by Bourbon Street, begging to walk up and down the strip and being held hostage by the lights, the music and the crowds. Every day she would call her mom to tell her about some of the things she had witnessed. Things that I’m sure my mom would have rather Angie’s mom never known about. Angie and I drank our first daiquiris on Bourbon Street and I swear to God ten years later I still haven’t had one half as strong. Tom was propositioned by a female impersonator that night. We also passed by a small nightclub and stopped in our tracks to hear an amazing guitar riff floating out of the door. We read the next day that Eric Clapton had made a surprise appearance at the nightclub.

The first time I tried grits was down there. They tasted like cardboard. After the first bite I made a face. A young, black woman sitting at a table near us had been reading a book. She looked over at me and said, “if you put lots of salt and pepper on them, you’ll eventually get to like them.” By the time we left, I was eating grits like a true Southern belle. I eat them here in Florida. Lots of salt and pepper.

We met a guy outside the Hard Rock Café who was wearing a rubber apron, a fishing hat and holding a guitar. His name was Windex Pete because on occasion his liquor habit had gotten so bad he acquired a reputation for drinking Windex. I got by picture taken with him.

We went to Jazz Fest while I was there with my family. There were up and coming jazz acts as well as some of the most established musicians. And food. It’s such a shame I don’t like seafood. I can still remember looking down upon the carcasses of countless crayfish strewn about the grass, people spitting out the shells as if they were eating sunflower seeds.

I remember sitting with Jessica drinking coffee and eating beignets at Café du Monde. We were in absolute deep-fired-pastry-powdered-sugar ecstasy. It was the first time I had vacationed without my parents. There was a perpetual feeling of excitement and adventure and we entertained fantasies of Hurricanes on Bourbon Street bought by twenty somethings we had bewitched. The plan would have worked if it weren't for bouncers.

We went on a Haunted History tour of the city and heard all sorts of creepy stories. That night in our hotel room just as we were both about the fall asleep, we felt a huge trembling in our hotel room that shook us in our beds. We were scared senseless.

One of our goals in visitng New Orleans was to spot Harry Connick Jr., one of the cities most famous natives. We looked up shows in clubs all over the city on the off chance he might be playing. We tried to imagine where he might eat, drink, shop. On one of the last days we were there, we went on a wonderful walking tour of the Garden District. Towards the end Jessica non-chalantly piped up saying, "I suppose Harry Connick Jr. has got to live in area like this..." to which the tour guide responded in a perfect Southern drawl, "Honey, Harry Connick Jr. lives in New York City." Thus our quest was over.

The last time my mom and Tom were down in Tampa visiting, I mentioned what a shame it was that they couldn't seem to vacation anywhere but Tampa anymore. We got to talking and decided it might be fun for them to fly back to New Orleans for the next vacation where Dean and I could drive up and meet them. We could spend time with them somewhere else, in a city we all would love to see again. Unfortunately, I don't think we will be able to go back there any time soon. And if we ever do, the city I remember so fondly will have been washed away.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Dream Job

I had a dream last night that I died and went to Heaven. While in Heaven I was directed to a woman's house that turned out to be a beautiful mansion. Everything was soft, fluffy and surrounded by a nebulous haze. The woman was stunning and vibrant. She took me to a room and opened the door. There snuggling peacefully on a big, white bed with gold trim were Emily and Chelsea, my childhood cats. They were waiting for me in Heaven. The woman said that her job was to take care of cats that had passed before their owners and when their owners passed, they could come get their cats. When I die, if there is a Heaven and I can go there, I want that to be my job.

Monday, August 22, 2005


I learned about this exhibit from Mary Roach's book Stiff (an AMAZING book). So when I saw it was coming to Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), I was totally excited. The Florida Anatomical Board tried to have it shut down. MOSI responded with a big f- you and opened the exhibit two days early to record breaking crowds. Friday there was a front page article on the exhibit. I hungrily read the comments from the museam goers and tried to make out the grainy newspaper pictures. After I got home, I brought the paper to Dean.

I said, "Ummmm, you know how I go to all the baseball games you want to go to with you? Well, there's this one thing..."

"Sure," he said, "what is it?"

I held the article out to him. "I REALLY want to go see this."


"Do you know what it is?"

"Yeah, it's an exhibit at MOSI."

"Do you know what it's about?"

"It says 'Bodies.' That sounds cool."

"Don't you want to read the article about it?"

"No thanks. I'm sure I'll figure it out when we get there."

Yes. Yes he will.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Pants Fairy

If you are not up for an excrutiatingly long post about Ralph Lauren pants, I suggest you exit now.

It all started around Christmas time when Mom and Tom and I went shopping at Bloomingdales' after Christmas sale. If you have never witnessed my mom and I shopping, it is quite the sight. We shop as if it is the apocalypse and our eternal souls will be judged on the basis of the bargains we have found. I was in the dressing room trying on a vast multitude of designer clothes at ridiculously low prices when I spotted them. Tan Ralph Lauren pants, my size, already in the dressing room waiting for me. They were somewhere between jeans and khakis, a luxiously soft cotton that definitely passed for "business casual." They were originally $59.99, marked down to $27.99 and then 40% off of THAT. Plus, they made my butt look fantastic. From then on they were heavy in the rotation.

I was shopping for a dress for a wedding awhile back and I stopped in at Ross. Ross is a frightening store. Since most of my readers don't live in Florida, they have never had the misfortune of having to go in to a Ross. It is perpetually dimly lit and has an odor of sweat and synthetic fabric. There are never enough people working, the lines are out the door and the dressing rooms are reminiscent of a high school locker room. Nontheless, Ross does carry name brand clothes at significantly reduced prices- perfect for shopping for a dress for a wedding in Boondocks, Minnesota. While waiting in line to pay for my dress (I never said I didn't find stuff there on occasion...) I spotted my tan pants for $24.99. I briefly debated buying a backup pair and then decided aginst it. I paid $15 for them at Bloomingdales, I wasn't about to pay $25 for them at Ross.

After the wedding and the wonderful stay in Minnesota, I came home and realized that I couldn't find my tan pants. I remember ironing them in my dad's laundry room and then changing my mind and putting on a skirt for a concert. That was the last time I saw them. I called my dad a few days ago and mentioned that I thought I remember leaving a pair of pants at his house. I described them in detail.

"Tan, cotton but not khaki material. Really soft. Bootleg cut. Size [not telling the world what size I am]."

"Oh." My dad said.

"Oh, what?"

"Well, it's just that Anna's that size too."


"Your pants are probably in Canada with her [on a three week vacation]. If so, let me know how much they were, I'll write you a check"

Hmmm. How much they were originally, or how much I paid for them? The thrill is in how LITTLE I paid for them. Anyway, I related this story to Dean on the way to dinner last night and begged him to stop at Ross so I could see if they still had some there. He asked if I thought Anna would realize that she had my pants. I jokingly said, "Maybe she thought the pants fairy brought them to her." He agreed, never having been in Ross before. He was appalled.

"Frey, do you shop here a lot?"

"Not really. They have cheap Tommy stuff though."

"Are you really doing that bad financially? I am making more money now. You don't have to shop like this."

"Who cares? Yeah, it's kinda gross but it's better than paying full price all the time, especially while I'm still a grad student."

"From now on, I'm buying your clothes so that you never have to come here again."

Both me and Anna have pants fairies now.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Why I love Random Baseball Stats

I was at a local sportsbar last night watching the Twins game. Okay, I know I said I've given up on them for this season, but Santana's last start resulted in him pitching a complete game shutout. Last night was not a disappointment. He took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and ending up giving up a solo home run in the 9th. As my mom said, at this point everyone should just work on their individual stats. This brings me to discussing my love of baseball statistics. On the surface it makes perfect sense, being a scientist and a sports fan, I should naturally gravitate to the numbers associated with baseball. However, I also love basketball and football but don't find the stats nearly as alluring. Baseball stats are awesome because they're so random. You get stats like "so and so is the only person to ever hit a grand slam on his birthday." Stuff like that is so cool. Last night on one of the many screens at the bar this stat was displayed (courtesy of ESPN):

"Approximately 7 million babies have been born worldwide since the last time the Kansas City Royals won a game (July 27th)."

Wow. Poor KC has been on an 18-game losing streak and things are not looking good for them. I can't help but wonder though, does this truly fantastic stat say more about how bad the Royals suck or how big the problem of over population is becoming?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Angelina Fettuccine

Days after I had moved into the house I was to grow up in, and six months after turning four years old, a mischeivious, white-haired little girl knocked on our front door and asked me to come out and play. She was four as well and I came to find out she lived just across the street. Her name was Angie and we were best friends all through our childhoods. One day my mother in a fit of silliness called her "Angelina Fettuccine" and the name stuck.
Those years we were inseparable. She was the closest to a sister I ever had and we could fight like sisters too! We would get in petty arguments and each of us would go to our respective front steps and stare across the street at the other until one of us relented.
As a pre-teen, she defiantly stopped going to church (I was never made to go) so Sunday mornings we'd sneak into her dad's record collection and play oldies. It was on one of those morning that we founded our own Church of Elvis. We'd blast that once-scandalous music and dance like we were possessed. This started a long tradition of collecting cheesy Elvis memorabilia (there's no lack of that around!) and every birthday or Christmas we could expect a wrapped imitation velvet painting or a sno-globe with the King's likeness on it.
Angie was my polar opposite and therefore my total complement as well. Blond-haired, blue-eyed and brazen. She was always the athletic one, and excelled at basketball. This suited her well as she grew to be six feet tall. I, on the other hand am brunette with brown eyes. Shy, awkward, and, well, not six feet tall.
After high school, Angie went to college in Wisconsin where 12 years of Catholic schooling completely backfired. She blew off school, started smoking, drinking, hanging out with scary people and ended up moving back home after her freshman year. In my usual style, I was intimitated about going away to school, so I went to the University of Minnesota and lived at home my first year. I thrived at college (not really having anything to rebel against) and made good friends with whom I would share an apartment the next few years (an entirely different post...). When she moved back across the street, I moved into an apartment and things were never the same. I think she secretly resented my academic success and we had a hard time maintaining contact. We talked on and off after extended breaks. Since our parents were still neighbors I always knew what was going on with her.
When I moved to Florida, Angie made an appearance at my going away party. We cried and promised to do better about keeping in touch. All was forgiven and she was going to visit often. We exchanged a couple of letters, nothing though for two years now.
I heard from my grandparents (who also live in my old neighborhood) that Angie was going to get married to her long distance boyfriend and move with him to New Mexico. Up until that point, we seemed like opposites, leading different lives and wanting different things. I think the fact that she decided to move far away and explore the country with the man she loves proved that we are more alike than we ever thought possible.
I was upset not to have been invited to her wedding. To see my best friend get married I would have flown to the ends of the Earth. I heard after the fact that it was small, intimate and in Las Vegas. I like to think she did it in classic Angelina Fettuccine style with an Elvis impersonator and that while in one of our houses of worship, she thought of me.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Dew Breaker

Last night I finished reading the Dew Breaker. I read it for my book club, which met on Tuesday (I know, I didn't have it finished in time. To my credit, I was only behind by 30 pages). I had mixed feelings about the book. I think I really liked the idea of the book better than the book itself. It focuses on a man who was a Dew Breaker (a member of the Tontons Macoute, a violent Haitian law enforcement group during the reign of Francois Duvalier). His story is told indirectly through the voices of people whose lives were drastically altered by his actions. His daughter, who in th course of the book learns the truth about him, has to change her views of the father she's known her whole life. Each chapter is not really connected to the rest which makes sense because the book contains a few short stories previously published elsewhere by the author, Edwidge Danticat. I think Ms. Danticat comprimised too much by making the stories loosely tied instead of letting the stories stand on their own. When I was reading the book, I spent entirely too much time trying to make connections between the characters. The connections exist, but making them becomes a distraction. Our book club mediator said she liked having to work to put the pieces together, that the story wasn't spoonfed to her. I felt that Ms. Danticat was trying too hard to force the pieces to fit.
I also thought that while the voices were lyrical and the writing was beautiful, there are so many questions that were barely touched upon that in depth would have made an amazing book. For instance, the Dew Breaker's experience with his "last victim" made him give up his position and move to New York to start over. Is anyone ever truly redeemed from these actions? Do people deserve second chances? He didn't tell his wife the true nature of his work until after they were married. Is it possible to love someone despite such a past? And the daughter. What would you think if you discovered your father was guilty of unspeakable crimes? He named her Ka, meaning his good soul and he seemed completely removed of his past. But does that mean he's not accountable for it? I don't know. There's no doubt the Dew Breaker was a good read and a glimpse into Haiti's tumultuous past. It could have been a little longer to deal with some of these questions, however, Ms. Danticat is still a relatively new writer with a lot of growing to do. I think as a author she is someone to keep an eye on in the future.

Friday, August 12, 2005

This Complex isn't Big Enough for the Both of Us...

I went to go feed the Dumpster Kitties tonight and when I got behind the dumpster I saw an odd thing. There was an open 1-pound package of raw hamburger and two of the kittens were going nuts over it. Three thoughts immediately occurred to me.
The first one (and I'm not proud of it) was, "Who the hell just out-did me by feeding the stray cats hamburger?" The second one (and again, not by finest moment) was, "I hope they don't like her better than me!" (Before you jump on me about the stereotype, try to recall meeting a Crazy Cat Man. I never have.) The third was, "Wow. I guess I'm not the only person in Tampa who actually cares about what happens to homeless animals." I have long been disgusted by the habit of Floridians of abandoning their animals when they find an apartment they like better but it doesn't allow pets. Or when they don't get them fixed but don't want to deal with babies. To know that I'm not the only one who thinks we shouldn't turn our backs on the bad decisions of our neighbors makes me think there's still hope.

You Know you're a Physicist When...

After a FEW HOURS at work, you notice your clothes really don't match at all. AND no one else seems to notice.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Back to Back to Back to Toilet

The "back to back to back American league central division champion Minnesota Twins" as they are always referred to on their website have been all but pronouced dead for the season by my personal baseball god, Peter Gammons. They are 16.5 games out of first place in the division behind both the hated White Sox and the less-hated-but-still-not-liked Indians. They are fifth place (7.5 games out of first) for the wild card race, where they are a half game behind TORONTO. A popular trend among Twins fans at the moment is to turn against our beloved Torii Hunter, where some (who shall remain nameless) have even referred to him as a cancer to the team. I never once believed this, however Torii's injury and the team's subsequent 3 game losing streak is doing little to vindicate me. Even Joe Mauer, one of the few men I would leave Dean for (who is also my aunt's neighbor, so behave, Deano!) has had a .179 August so far, compared to a .326 July. And last year's AL Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana is 3-4 in his last 10 starts. The prognosis is not good. And while this year would have been a PERFECT year to make a play for the World Series, with the Yankess stinking it up in the East and the Red Sox finally relieved of the curse (what a miracle! A curse broken by a $130 million team!) it will most likely be the White Sox who are this year's Cinderella team. A bigger person would objectively say that they deserve that honor as they have done everything right this season. I am not that person. The division is way out of reach. And the way Oakland is playing the West may once again take two teams to the playoffs, even though Oakland will choke once again in the first or second round (I am being generous by including the second round in that statement). So what do I do? I don't want to be a fairweather fan and abandon my boys when they need support the most. At the same time, the only time I can watch games is at the sports bar, where I'm also paying to drink beer and eat greasy food. At the end of the night, I'll walk away buzzed with a bloated tummy and a bad attitude after watching them lose. Not fun. It's times like this I wish I could just turn on Dick and Bert and watch the game in between loads of laundry and not end the night wanting three hours of my life and $30 of my money back. I guess what I'm trying to say is that even though it's August 10th, I have essentially agreed with Peter on this. If on the off chance the Twins do make it to October I will hide in shame for having my doubts. Until then, I revel at the thought that down here in Florida, we will get the first look at the (no title, starting again from scratch) Minnesota Twins in February.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Someone Please Take the Can Opener Away from Her

Earlier in the week Dean and I remarked that we've lived in Florida for three years this week, and therefore have had Nellie for three years. Today is actually Nellie's third anniversary with us. Remembering this after I fed the five Dumpster Kitties (and one Dumpster Possum), I came back into the apartment, blared the Beatles' "Birthday" and split a can of Bumblebee tuna between the three cats. Afterward, when the song was done and the cats were diligently feasting, Dean peered out from behind the couch to say "I think I'm scared of you." I honestly don't blame him.

Thursday, August 04, 2005


This week marks three years since Dean and I moved out of Minnesota and decided to try it ON OUR OWN. We knew it would be an adventure, as between us we had one job, one car, an empty apartment and not much else. But we're still here. We knew that seeing our families a couple times a year would mean that good byes would always be teary, that we couldn't depend on our parents for wash machines, home cooking or sewing on extra buttons. We knew there were risks involved in moving to a new place: we didn't yet have our own mechanic, hairdresser, favorite Chinese restaurant. Hell, we even got a cat before we knew anyone who would catsit for us! There were a couple of times I think we both had second thoughts like when Dean's dad had a heart attack. Or when my grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimers. These things make you want to spend as much time with your family as possible. But even more so than us, our parents and grandparents know that little birds have to fly away from the nest. And these little birds headed south. Sure, living in a red state was hard to swallow at first, but now I know when and around whom to keep my mouth shut. We can count on Temple Terrace Automotive to service the Green Machine (and now the Red Machine!). I don't know how I survived without Allie from Look Salon as my hairdresser. And I think the owner of China Star can send her kids to college thanks to us. Sure, I have suffered through some bad haircuts, bad Chinese food and bad swindling by the Honda dealerships, but I am stronger for the experience. I even have multiple friends asking to catsit our multiple cats while we're on vacation. Granted, visiting Minnesota for Christmas is extra hard due to the thinning of my blood and good byes are still teary. But when I wake up in the morning during the winter months down here I get slightly giddy at the thought of not having to scrape the ice off my windshield. We can go to the beach, sit on the white, powdery sand, look out onto the green water and not see builings on the other side. And at the Twins Spring Training, the abundance of pasty legs and exclaimations of "Oooooh! Yeaaaaaah!Suuuuuure!" never fails to remind us that we LIVE where other people VACATION.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Why I Think I Gained 5 Pounds in Minnesota (But I'm too scared to actually check)

1. White Castle (5 cheeseburgers, didn't waste time with fries)
2. Famous Dave's (regular rib platter, corn on the cob, fries, corn bread, drunken apples)
3. Sydney's (spicy sausage and red pepper fettuccine)
4. Michelob Golden Draft Light (surprisingly not available in Tampa)
5. Lake Harriet Peppermint Bon Bon ice cream cone
6. Rotisseria Take-Out Chicken*
7. Chipolte (pork burrito with beans, rice, salsa and guacamole)
8. OddFellows* (roasted chicken with risotto and pan sauce, later regurgitated into a laundry tub along with 2 bottles of wine)
9. Evergreen Taiwanese (potstickers, steamed buns, seaweed salad, beef with broccoli, rice)
10. Big Bowl (potstickers, Chicken Pad Thai)
11. Green Mill (classic spaghetti and meat sauce)
12. Figlio (ziti with sausage and tomato sauce)
13. La Perla de la Pacifico (see 7 plus a pina colada).
14. Legacy Chocolate truffles* (classic, almond, espresso, mint)

Why I probably didn't gain ten pounds instead of five?
Frequent lovely walks around Lake Harriet and the Mall of America with wonderful company.

*If you live in the Twin Cities area and have not tried these things, you absolutely must! Details upon request.