Sunday, November 23, 2008

Faux Thanksgiving 2008

Last night, for the third year in a row, we celebrated Faux Thanksgiving, the annual event when we have our friends over to make a full Thanksgiving dinner and then play Taboo until the clues become overly offensive. As usual, it was a fantastic meal. We started out with a twelve-pound turkey:

I was very proud of myself for successfully detaching both turkey legs, which required only a minimal amount of sawing away at the bone. In another lifetime I would have been an excellent surgeon. The final spread looked like this:

All in all, it was great. Good friends, good food. Despite coming a week early, and despite the absence of our family members and other loved ones, I'm not sure you could find a better way to celebrate the Thanksgiving spirit. You look at the six of us and think of what the last year has brought (marriages, pregnancy, graduation, new jobs, new apartments, new opportunities) and there's a lot to be thankful for, in addition to homemade pumpkin pie and the nice bottle of champagne that was chilling outside on the fire escape.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Above the bar

A few quick things:

1. I passed the bar. After four months of worry and abject fear, it turned out I passed the damn thing. The morning the bar results came out, the website was immediately clogged with people -- it took two and a half hours to fight through the hordes of bar applicants to get the results. When the screen finally loaded, it was two solid paragraphs of text. "WHAT DOES IT SAY WHAT DOES IT SAY," I said to L. I couldn't find the word "pass," but I also couldn't find the word "fail." My heart was pounding. "You passed, you passed!" "ARE YOU SURE," I said. I tried to breathe deeply. "Yes!" she said. "IS THAT MY NAME? ARE YOU SURE THAT'S MY BIRTHDAY? DO YOU EVEN KNOW IT?" I said. I was in a scared and lonely place. "Yes, yes, you passed!" And lo, after months of tedious study, butt-clenching fear, and pathetic self-doubt, I passed the bar.

2. On Sunday we got iPhones! Now, instead of going to work juggling my ipod, cell phone, and blackberry, clipped to my belt like a sad white-collar Batman, I have one sleek bullet of a device. I am loving it.

3. Saturday night found me with my friend Freddy at a local gay bar, and due to a series of rapidly changing and confusing circumstances, I found myself being introduced by a friendly drag queen to sing karaoke in front of the crowd. "Ooh, he's kind of cute," she said as I stood there, lights shining on us, unable to see the crowd milling around. I introduced the song I was singing with a dedication: "This one's for you, Aubrey. We miss you, girl." "Whoo! Aubrey!" someone yelled. It was a promising start. After the song ended, approximately a year and a half later, the drag queen grabbed my hand to stop me from getting off the stage. "You know what he needs?" she said into the microphone, looking into the lights. "Blue tights! You know why?" I did not know why. I was ready to get off the stage. "Because he kind of looks like Superman! You Superman!" And although at that point I basically bolted back into the anonymity of the crowd, somehow it all actually made sense at the time.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Callie girl

Tonight my parents called me to say that they had to put down our dog, Callie. She's had a rough time for the last few years, and they recently found out she's been fighting cancer. Tonight, after a good day, she collapsed and couldn't move her hind legs -- she was paralyzed. She was nervous and vocal, struggling to pull herself along, and my parents went to the ER vet, and they put her down.

We've had Callie since before I started high school, I think, back when we lived on Chain Bridge Court. Although we thought she was a lab when we got her at the shelter, she was a mutt through and through. As she grew her body maintained its pinhead-like proportions, her head small like an arrowhead, her tail arched proudly over her back. She had a scar on the bridge of her nose from the night our other dog, Belle, first came home, when I was a junior in high school -- they got into a scuffle and Belle's bite drew a thick bead of blood along her snout. My dad and I got in the car and Callie sat in the middle seat in the back, perfectly still, stoic, as we drove in the dark to the same hospital where she passed away tonight.

Her most notable trait, without a doubt (excluding her lovely pinheadedness), was her vocal stylings. Any time one of us walked through the door, you would hear the clatter of paws on hardwood, and then, once you were in sight, you would be greeted with a long, heartfelt "AroooORRooOWOWWWOORRRRR" for several minutes. This was the sound of a happy dog, letting loose with an ugly old yowl to celebrate the return of her pack. Coming home from college, I couldn't wait to hear that sound. She wasn't very friendly with others -- she barked at other dogs and had little use for people; it was remarkable to me when she finally started accepting my grandparents -- so she would constantly bark at guests in our home, cars in the street, or neighbors walking by. The sound of the doorbell would make her go berserk. In the old house she had her perch in the office where she would sit and watch the world go by through the slats of the blinds. From outside you could see her little brown head, ever vigilant, darting from side to side to follow all the action.

We all loved her, for so many reasons. Late at night when I would be up watching SNL, she would meander over and just sit next to me on the floor, staring intently as I absently rubbed under her neck or stroked her back. Sometimes she would growl contentedly, a low pleasant purr. Several times over the years I had dreams where she could talk and we would converse about various topics; on the mornings that followed it always seemed as if she were giving me the eye. On Christmas mornings she would sit at the top of the stairs with my sister and me as we waited to hurry down to the family room.

I remember Gene Weingarten writing about how having a pet teaches children about love, and how the death of a pet is so affecting because it reflects our entire lives in one brief existence. Callie was such a good dog -- loyal, affectionate, beautiful, protective, quirky, prickly, and endearingly stupid. My parents have spent these last few months caring for her with all the love and attention they would lavish on my sister or me, cooking her eggs and chicken and steak (and of course giving some to Belle so she wouldn't feel left out). They treated Cal like a queen in these finals months. I was glad Callie had a good day today, glad she could move around and bounce up the stairs for one more day, enjoying her home and the people who loved her. She lost a lot of weight as the end came, and her face is covered in snowy gray, but you could still see glimmers of the puppy she was. She was such a good girl, our Callie.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

"Now put your hands up!"

And now for something completely different. For those who find politics tedious, or who don't share my joy in the Obama victory, or are somehow less than riveted by all the election post-mortems that I'm devouring by the paragraph, here's Beyonce, grinding away for three and a half minutes in her new video, "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)." The song is catchy, produced by my favorite The Dream and his partner in crime, Tricky Stewart, and the choreography is bananas. If this doesn't send a tingle up your leg, Chris Matthews-style, you should maybe check for a pulse.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


There was a moment last night, after they called it for Obama, President-Elect Barack Obama, when the news anchors wisely realized it was time to shut up and let the moment speak for itself. As the camera panned over thousands of people gathered in that park in Chicago, flags waving and people crying and cheering, as the crowds outside Rock Center jumped and clapped, as people wept, there was this sense of amazement -- disbelief that it really happened. In that moment I felt such a sense of happiness, relief, and pride. As a symbolic gesture, Obama's election, forged by a new coalition and encompassing an entirely new collection of states, is hard to top. He has entered the pantheon -- the Kennedys, the Kings, the modern American figures who transcend the ordinary to become heroes. That's big talk, I know, but last night it was hard to fight those sentiments.

His speech was characteristically beautiful. There was one part that I found especially compelling, that poignantly recalled Martin Luther King and reminded me of the long and exciting road ahead:
We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America -- I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you -- we as a people will get there.
He promised, and last night we believed him. Today is a great day to be an American; a great day to remember what America is and what it can be. Like the man said: we will get there.