Stunted Adults

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I Ran A Marathon, And I Liked It

After five months of training, a namaste-killing explosion, and a runaway gallbladder, the time had finally come.

It was marathon day.

I woke up at the inhumane hour of 4:15 am, laced up my running shoes, and headed out the door without truly comprehending what was happening.

About an hour later, I was standing with my friends at the start line when my stomach dropped to my feet.  The caffeine  finally kicked in, I woke up, and I realized that we were about to run a marathon.


I immediately recognized that this was a bad decision.  I was filled with terror.

But, I was trapped in a crowd with no clear way to flee.  And, you all know that there is nothing that I find more attractive than a bad decision.

So, this was totally happening.

The starting gun went off.

We were on the move in the midst of a pulsing crowd.

And, just like that, my terror was replaced with unbridled excitement.  I was running a marathon!! I WAS RUNNING A MARATHON!  I WAS REALLY DOING IT!


After a few minutes of that nonsense, I remembered that I had a long morning ahead of me and tamed my over-achieving adrenaline.  I took a couple of deep breaths, locked in my pace, and put my faith in my training.

It was all good.

But then at mile four it wasn’t all good.  The course was still very congested with 25,000 runners, I had zoned out, and I had lost my friends in the crowd.  I was alone!  Adrift in the sea of sweaty masses!   Never to be found again!

And I didn’t even have a volleyball to keep me company.

Things were not going according to plan.

But, my surprise solo time turned out to be just what I needed.  I reflected on how much I had changed for the better since I started training in September, I reveled in how proud of myself I was for not giving up on this insane idea to run a marathon, and I rocked out to my music.  With each passing mile, I felt stronger and more relaxed.

Watch out world — I am carefree and running a marathon!

It was magical.

But then at mile 10 everything fell apart.  I was bored and hungry.  My shoulders hunched as I despaired over the fact that I wasn’t even half way done.  The sun had risen and was beating down upon me with a tropical fury that had no place in the era of the Polar Vortex.

It was decidedly not magical.

Screw Gatorade and water, where is the pastry aid station?

My mind was invaded by all of the advice that the assorted marathon vets in my life had dropped on me.  Snippets of articles that I had read about proper pace, hydration, and nutrition bombarded my brain.  Was I doing it right?  Was I following the rules?  What if I was making mistakes?

But then I realized something.

Marathons are a lot like life.

The only way to get through them is to take a deep breath, believe in yourself, and just keep on keepin’ on the best way that you know how.

True that, Matthew, true that.

So, I did just that.

I relaxed.  I banished all pastry-related thoughts from my mind.  And, I went back to running how I damn well felt like running.  And, as usually happens, after I shut down the pity party and quieted my thoughts about what I “should” be doing, things got better.  By mile 12, I felt my inner-Phoebe creeping back in.

I easily cruised to the halfway point, which was where a few awesome friends were waiting to cheer me on and where Country Boy was waiting to join me for the back half of the race.

Country Boy was more than a smidge skeptical of my plan to run a marathon less than a month after I lost an organ via abdominal surgery, so he told me that, since he was pre-med for one entire year in college, he was basically a doctor and was going to run with me to keep an eye on all things medical.

Country Boy also, and I suspect primarily, ran with me because he is amazing and knows how to be supportive of his I-can-do-it-all-on-my-own wife in just the right way.

With Country Boy by my side, the miles ticked away.

We laughed, we talked about utter nonsense, we moved together in comfortable silence, and he knew exactly how to motivate me:

Hang on Leo! I’m coming!

A few miles later, my friends showed up, and they showed up hard.

As the crowd thinned out, I finally spotted my friends who I had started the marathon with and was able to catch up to them.  Together, we totally had this thing.

A marathon? Bitch, please, I’ve got this on lock.

At mile 16, two of my college friends were waiting for me with a sign to remind me that, at the end of the marathon, there would be all of the beer.  Just for me.  All of the beer!


Much as when we were in college, that is all the motivation that I need to do anything.

A few miles later, boredom and exhaustion were poised to make another assault on me.

But then, in the distance, I spied a very large panda clinging to a tree.  We’re talking 6’4″ large.  Next to Andre the Giant Panda was a giraffe and a banana.  They were also human-sized.

I assumed I was just experiencing some light hallucination.  That seemed like something that could happen.

But then my eyes popped open.  Those were people in costumes!  And you know what kind of people would do that?

People who I would be friends with.

I picked up the pace and, sure enough, that was my panda, my giraffe, and my banana!  Alongside a whole crew of other smiling familiar faces.  I couldn’t believe it!  I mean, I could because this is totally normal behavior for the type of people with whom I associate, but I couldn’t believe that it was actually happening so early in the morning!  And for me!

The Beatles were right, I do get by with a little help from my friends.

Who knew it was possible to laugh hysterically during miles 18 through 20 of a marathon?

By the time I got my case of the giggles under control, I realized that I had crossed the 20 mile mark.  I had never run further than 19 miles before in my entire life.

Every step I took was a new record!

It was incredible.

And then it started to rain.  And not in an “oh, isn’t this refreshing” kind of way.  Oh no.  It was raining in a soaking, horizontal, sunscreen running in your eyes kind of way.  I was soaking wet, cold, and blind.

Just when I was ready to call a rain delay, I heard some familiar voices.  My college friends were back!  They were standing under a tree in that crazy monsoon to cheer me on!  Again!

Upon hearing their voices, I wiped the sunscreen out of my eyes, regained the power of sight, and kicked it up a gear.  It was time to keep on livin.  If they could show up in the rain for me, then I sure as hell could show up at the finish line for them.

This rain ain’t no thing.

I was back on the upside of the roller coaster that was my marathon experience.

I had a huge smile on my face, I was chatting Country Boy’s ear off, and the miles were flying by once more.


23 miles down, the sun was back, and I was straight chillin’

But, what goes up must come down, especially in marathons.

Around mile 24, I hit another wall and I hit it hard.  I knew, logically, that I only had 2.2 miles to go.  I was totally there.  I was going to cross the line in 20 minutes or less.  No big thing.

But it was totally a big thing.

I managed to make it past mile 25, but I felt defeated.  My running friends had slowed down to drink water, and I regretted not joining them.  Every step felt like it was sure to be my last.

But then, out of nowhere, two more of my friends popped out onto the course.  I was so excited to see them that I started jumping around in the middle of the street, much to the extreme displeasure of every other runner.

Not only did my friends surprise me with their appearance, but they also started running with me.  It was so unexpected, so kind, and so needed.  We smiled, we laughed, we took selfies.  The other runners continued to not be amused, but I was having a great time.

Yes, those are my friends photobombing your serious marathon experience. Sorry!

After we climbed the last bridge of the marathon, my friends and Country Boy peeled off the course.  It was time for me to finish what I started.

I turned the corner and, much to my surprise, there was the finish line.  It was right there.  RIGHT THERE.  A huge smile broke across my face, and I sprinted across it.


F*ck yeah I just crushed a marathon!

The feeling when I crossed that line was incredible.  I didn’t feel tired (even though I was) and I didn’t feel destroyed (even though my muscles were).  Instead, I felt energized, I felt strong, I felt proud, and I felt incredibly loved by my friends, my family, and, most importantly, myself.

I was unshakably happy.

I dedicated five months of my life to running.  A lot.  Even when it was inconvenient.  Even when it was hard.  Even when everyone in my life hinted that I should give up.

But I didn’t give up.

Instead, I became mentally and physically stronger than I ever thought was possible.  Not only did I run a marathon, I did it while smiling, laughing, and having the time of my life.  To me, that, and not my finish time, was the true victory.

I found my happy place in the simplicity of just putting one foot in front of the other and seeing where it took me.

You should try it.



12 People, 8 Lobsters, 1 Mission: A Holiday Travel Saga

As we stare down the busiest travel day of the year and a major storm in the Northeast, I am brought back to Christmas 2004.

This was the first holiday season that Country Boy and I were engaged, and we decided to split Christmas between our families.  We drove from our apartment in Boston to Connecticut to spend December 23rd and the first half of Christmas Eve with my family before heading back to Boston to catch a flight to Indiana to make it to Christmas Eve dinner with Country Boy’s family.

As our gift for Country Boy’s family, we were bringing them a traditional New England Christmas Eve dinner to go with their new New England family member.  So, after we cleared security at Logan International Airport, we headed to an in-airport seafood outpost to pick up our pre-ordered and pre-packed 8 live lobsters.

Everyone was tucked in tight on Christmas Eve night.

Twas the night before Christmas, and the lobsters were nestled all snug in their dry ice beds.

The lobsters, Country Boy and I arrived at the gate and  patiently waited.  We watched our plane pull up to the gate and we got ready to board.  We thought that we would be in the air and on our way in a matter of moments.

That did not happen.

Instead, over an hour later, US Airways cancelled our flight on account of “weather” and re-booked all of us on a 6 am flight the next morning.  While in the re-booking line, we met a band of 10 kids in their mid-20s who were also trying to make it home for the holidays.  They, strangers until that afternoon, had started out in New York City with tickets on a direct flight to Indianapolis, but, after having that flight cancelled, they flew to Boston in the hopes of catching our later flight to Indianapolis.

With our rebooked tickets in hand, Country Boy and I bid adieu to our new friends and hopped the subway back to our apartment.

We all reconvened at 5 am at Logan.  Country Boy and I had eaten absolutely horrific take out and stayed up all night keeping our lobsters alive.  Our NYC-based friends had stumbled upon a disco-themed Jewish singles mixer and were still covered in glitter.  We were all in kind of a weird place, but it was Christmas morning and we were going home.  Everything was going to be all right.

The gate for our flight was crawling with exhausted people.  The time for boarding passed, yet there was no US Airways agent at the gate.  We could see our plane.  Were we just supposed to seat ourselves?  The tension in the air was palpable.

It looked a lot like this.

It looked a lot like this.

Finally, a lone agent approached the gate.  She grabbed the microphone and said “Your flight has been cancelled.  There are no more available flights today.  No one will be rerouted.  Please go home.”  And then she dropped the mic, literally, and ran away, again literally.

The gate erupted into pandemonium.

Through the chaos Country Boy, the lobsters, and I pushed our way to our NYC-based compadres.  The 12 of us huddled together and instantly unionized.  The Indy Bound Crew was born.


One dude, who had no luggage, sprinted for the empty desk at a nearby gate and picked up the magical red telephone.  The rest of us spread around the periphery and kept watch while he worked the phone.  He quickly convinced someone at US Airways that he was a gate agent who needed to rebook passengers, and we then passed the phone around and rebooked ourselves on an American Airlines flight that was leaving for Chicago.  From there, we would hop on another American Airlines flight to Indianapolis.  As this was going down, an actual US Airways gate agent approached our stronghold.  We locked eyes.  I stared.  He turned and ran.


I was the Khaleesi of that gate.

We had 30 minutes to make our new flight.

All 12 of us ran across the airport towards the American Airlines terminal, with the lobsters and luggage in tow.  We set pick and rolls.  We hurdled luggage and small children. No one was left behind.

We had 25 minutes.

We came sliding up to the American Airlines ticket counter to retrieve our new boarding passes.  It was mobbed with angry and exhausted travelers.  The line was easily 350 people deep.


We stood at the side of the ticket counter, scouting for an open representative.  As soon as someone came available, the luggage-less dude sprinted to the counter.  Before she could point out the line, we swarmed her.  We told her what happened.  She told us that, before she could process us, we had to get a vouchers for boarding passes from US Airways.


But, we would not be stopped because WE WERE GETTING OUT.

We had 22 minutes.

We took off sprinting back across the entire airport, with the lobsters and luggage in tow.

We had 17 minutes.

We came skidding up to the US Airways ticket counter.  The line there was at least 475 angry and exhausted people deep.  We cut them all without looking back.  We swarmed, scared the hell out of the ticket agent, and managed to procure 12 vouchers for flights to Indianapolis on American Airlines.

We raced back across the airport for a third time in less than 15 minutes, with the lobsters and luggage in tow.

We had 13 minutes.

We yet again cut the entire line at the American Airlines ticket counter and procured our boarding passes.  We were on our way!

We had 11 minutes.

We hit the security line.  It was wall of people.


We made like the Mighty Ducks, got into a V, and pushed our way up the side lane for flight crews to the front of the security line.

quack, quack, Quack, QUACK!

quack, quack, quack, QUACK!

After sending the luggage-less dude first to hold the plane, we all scrambled through security before the mob behind us could find their pitchforks and torches.

We had 6 minutes.

We took off in a full sprint towards the gate.  I yelled at the slower members of our team as if I was Bobby Knight pre-anger management treatment.  There was no option but to hustle.



We had 2 minutes.

We raced up to the gate to find luggage-less dude in a full-scale filibuster.  He was standing in the plane door, singing Christmas carols, and refusing to move until every last one of us was present and accounted for.

We took roll call, we high fived, and we boarded our plane.


We taxied out from the gate.  And then we sat.  And we sat.  AND WE SAT.

We watched the clock tick away our 40-minute layover in Chicago.  This couldn’t be.  THIS COULD NOT BE.

All of this to just end up stranded in Chicago on Christmas morning?

Finally, we took off.  As we approached Chicago, we realized that we would have less than 10 minutes to make our flight to Indianapolis.

We came up with a plan.  Luggage-less dude would hold the next plane.  To make sure he was the first person off of our current plane, the rest of us would use our luggage to block anyone else from getting into the aisle.  Once he cleared the gauntlet, then we would take off running behind him.

We landed and put the plan into action.

After the luggage-less dude cleared the jetway, we had 6 minutes to make our connecting flight.

We sprinted across Chicago O’Hare airport, with the lobsters and luggage in tow.

We had 2 minutes.

We raced up to the plane and, yet again, luggage-less dude was staging a filibuster for the ages.

We had 1 minute.

We took roll call, we high fived, and we boarded our plane to Indianapolis.  Upon take off, we erupted into cheers and tears while the flight attendant passed us free mimosas.

After 18 hours, the Indy Bound Crew was finally on its way home, 12 people and 8 live lobsters strong.



That Night I Got Drunk With The Pastor

This past weekend I was lucky enough to watch two of my absolutely dearest friends marry each other.  It was truly amazing.

But, before that perfect moment, I got drunk with their pastor.


That’s right.

I pretty much got hammered with God on Friday night.


It all started out innocently enough.  You see, the pastor didn’t look like a pastor.  He was my age.  He was wearing hipster glasses.  He had carefully mussed shaggy hair.  When I met him at the rehearsal and he told me that he was the pastor, I sarcastically said “nice to meet you father” and moved on to the next person.  I honestly thought that he was just one of the groom’s fraternity brothers messing with me.

It was totally something that this guy would do.

It was totally something that this guy would do.

But then he stood up in front of everyone and started telling us how the ceremony was going to go down.  He was totally the pastor.

I pretty much told God that he was a liar.


When I saw the pastor afterwards at the rehearsal dinner, I invited him to sit next to myself and a couple of the bride’s close friends.  I was going to make amends, because, you know, he was probably pretty tight with the big JC.

The pastor, most likely against his better judgment, pulled up a chair with us.  After I apologized for our rough introduction, he kindly explained to me that “pastors are just normal people who happen to be interested in God.”

That was a valuable life lesson, but one that I perhaps took a little too much to heart.

Since we were just a bunch of normal people hanging out, the pastor, my two friends, and I grabbed some drinks and started telling stories.  Turns out JC is down with celebrating the gloriousness that is beer.

in the words of my new pastor friend, "I'm drinking Merry Monk, so its all good."

In the words of my new pastor friend, “I’m drinking Merry Monk, so its all good.”

After about two minutes of warm-up material, my friends and I got right down to brass tacks.  We started interrogating the pastor about his love life and began figuring out which of our single friends that he should meet.  You can’t let a nice, single, well-educated man like that go to waste!

During that conversation, I might have invited him to come visit me because I knew lots of single girls and could “guarantee him a good time, if you know what I mean.”

I pretty much told God that I could get him laid.


Just call me the dirty Yenta.

Just call me the dirty Yenta.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, then we started making cracks about how the pastor didn’t have to worry about driving home after our many rounds of drinks because he could just ask Jesus to take the wheel.  Yes, we quoted Carrie Underwood as gospel to the pastor.

I pretty much told God that it was cool to drive drunk because Carrie Underwood said so.


Carrie Underwood

She might just be God.  At the very least they are homies, because the only way you get hair that good is if you have a direct line to the big guy.

Here’s the thing about a pastor, you just can’t not tell him stuff.

After I shared with him that I knew some easy women and that I get most of my spiritual guidance from a former-American-Idol-constestant-turned-country-music-superstar, I then, along with my friends, told him all about the bride’s bachelorette party last month.  You know, the one with the bidet.


That’s right.

We told the pastor about what happened to the bidet and explained to him that our motto for the weekend was to be classy lite because we recognized that we were not actually capable of being classy for any extended period of time.


Guess what he’ll be picturing when he sees our motley crew parade down the aisle.

So, for those of you keeping score at home, before dessert had hit the table, I had insinuated that the pastor was a liar and had told him that I lived a life full of debauchery, idolatry, and errant excrement.

Well done, PinotNinja, well done.

But, of course, I had to outdo myself.

My dignity really took this to heart on Friday night

My dignity really took this to heart on Friday night.

At the end of the night and multiple bottles of wine, my friends and I dared the pastor to include some key phrases from our conversations in his sermon.  That’s right, I decided to turn someone else’s sacred moment into an opportunity for my own personal entertainment.

The afternoon leading up to the ceremony was fairly hectic, which caused me to temporarily forget about the drunken dare we had made the night before to that nice man of the cloth.

The ceremony began and everything was full-on classy.  We all looked gorgeous.  The outdoor farm setting was stunning.  Tasteful orchestral music played.  We all made it down the aisle, even the two dogs and five small children, without a hitch.

It could not have been more perfect and elegant.

But then, as always, the wheels started coming off the train.

During his sermon, the pastor mentioned the rehearsal dinner.  Suddenly, I remembered everything that we had said the night before.  I was overcome with a sense of panic.

The pastor mentioned how lovely the couple’s friends and family were.  He mentioned how warm and open we all were.  I relaxed, thinking that maybe we were in the clear.

But then he said, “the thing about the couple is that they really now how to keep it classy or at least classy lite.”

The dude did it.

He took our dare head-on and he knocked it out of the park!

Before I could fully process what had occurred, everyone from the bachelorette party lost their damn minds.  There was actual hollering, ear-piercing laughter, and above-head clapping.  The bride fell into a fit of giggles.  One of the dogs started barking in response to all of the chaos.  The groom just looked at all of us with a mix of amusement and exasperation.

And, with that, we had turned the event into a classy lite affair.


Our work at that wedding was done. PinotNinja and friends out.

At least we always keep it real?


The Bachelorette and the Bidet — A Modern Fable of Friendship

Once upon a time [last weekend], eleven women in their 30s and 40s, many of them mothers and all of them professionals [my friends], gathered in an idyllic beach house [my aunt’s] to celebrate the impending marriage of one of their own.

Because the beach house belongs to one of my relatives, I was the de facto organizer of the weekend.  Given our ages and stations in life, I figured that it would be a fun albeit relaxed weekend full of spa treatments, nice dinners, maybe some light dance partying, and perhaps a smidge too much champagne. It would be nothing like the raucous and out of control girls weekends that we shared while we were in our 20s.

There would be no strip beer pong after a night of fancy wine tasting.

We were classy adult ladies now.

Lady Grantham would approve.

Lady Grantham would approve.

I had no concerns whatsoever about hosting this crew at my aunt’s amazing and pristine vacation home or taking them out to my favorite spots.

And, for the first 36 hours, we kept everything classy or at least classy lite.  On Friday, we relaxed on the beach, we went for a dip in the pool, we drank fine wines and champagne, we cooked a nice dinner together, we had a dance party that favored Michael Jackson and Madonna, we told funny stories, and we all put ourselves to bed at a reasonable hour.  On Saturday, some of us went for a run, we had a little breakfast wine, and then we spent the day at a luxurious spa where we didn’t get kicked out or reprimanded, even when we mistook the fountain for a dipping pool and hopped in to cool off.  We were so smooth and elegant that the spa employees just assumed that they had been the mistaken ones and that their belief that the water feature was a fountain was wrong.

But then the lipstick started to come off the pig.

By the time we got into the cabs to go to dinner on Saturday night, everything got a little hazy.  I think that the restaurant appreciated our fun-loving and effervescent spirit since they sent over multiple rounds of complimentary shots, but we also sent several nearby diners fleeing the joint with horrified looks on their faces.  From there, we stumbled into more drinks, and dancing, and then more drinks, and then more dancing.

The good old days were starting to come back.

Long past all of our bedtimes, we stumbled back to the beach house with everyone miraculously accounted for.  After some late night binge eating, we crawled into our beds and passed out.  My last thought as I drifted off to sleep was that I was really proud of us for all making it home without anyone getting lost, losing her purse, getting into a fight,  crying, or vomiting.  That never would have happened in our 20s.  We had done good.

If we weren’t classy, we were at least classy-adjacent.

I woke up on Sunday morning to the smell of coffee and the happy chatter of my friends in the kitchen.

I swelled with pride thinking about what lovely and responsible people we had grown into.

I was a little bleary eyed, but managed to stumble out of bed and into the master bathroom to brush my teeth before joining the others.

When I went into the bathroom, it smelled a little rough.  I thought to myself “DAMN!  Someone dropped a bomb in here!”  I opened the window and grabbed my toothbrush.  As I was brushing my teeth, I woke up a little and then something caught my eye in the mirror.

I dropped my toothbrush in the sink.

My eyes grew wide.

I was afraid to turn around.

Oh Alan, I totally feel you brother.

Oh Alan, I totally feel you brother.

I took a deep breath.

I closed my eyes.

I counted to five.

I turned around.

I saw what I thought I had seen.



Who let Melissa McCarthy in last night?

I just couldn’t.

I walked out of the bathroom and out into the hallway in a daze.

I took back every thought I had about us being classy.  We were not even klassy.  We were feral animals.

I ran into some of my friends in the hallway.  I was speechless as they asked me if I was okay.

They assumed that I was hungover and started making offerings of Excedrin and water.

That was NOT my problem.

Finally, I managed to mutter: “Make it go away.”

They still thought I was talking about a headache and pressed the Excedrin.

I pulled my words together and said ” Just go in there and look in the bidet and MAKE. IT. GO. AWAY.”  And, with that, I just keep on walking down the hallway and right out of the house in my pajamas.

PinotNinja Out.

Although no one knew who committed the bidet blunder, my friends all pulled together in my time of need.  No one said “it wasn’t me” and walked away.  No one seriously accused anyone else of being the secret shitter.  No one feigned illness to get out of helping.  Instead, while I was outside having a mini-meltdown over the fact that someone had defiled the bidet of my aunt’s fancy home, they worked together to immediately remove the offending item and bleach and scrub the bathroom within an inch of its life.  That bidet had never been more sparkling.

If that’s not classy, then I don’t know what is.

You know what those little embroidered pillows should say?  A true friend is someone who will clean the shit out of your aunt’s bidet even if she doesn’t remember if it’s her shit.

That’s definitely what Dionne, Whitney, Stevie, and Luther were singing about.


Edible Curriculum Taught Me How to Rule the World

Witnessing the return of blindly careening school buses to my neighborhood this week has given me a case of acute nostalgia.

school bus

Based on their wanton disregard for things like curbs and oncoming traffic, this is what the buses that work my neighborhood must believe that they look like.

As I recounted some of my favorite moments from my own school career, I came to a startling realization.

My friends and I tortured all of our teachers.  We broke down their last vestiges of discipline and got away with utter shenanigans without a second thought.

There are many examples of this nonsense, including ending up unchaperoned as teenagers in Italy for 48 hours, but my favorite is a scam that 20 of us managed to run for two solid years.

It all started out innocently enough.

It was American History class at the beginning of our junior year of high school.  Our first assignment was to do a report on one of the events or political movements covered in the first chapter of our textbook, which ranged from the end of Reconstruction through the end of the First World War.  It was clear from the directions that this was supposed to be a written report.

But, who wants to write a report?

Not us.

no writing 3

Hell no, we won’t go (write a report).

At that critical moment, we discovered our collective powers of negotiation, coercion, and determination.

With nary a word between us, we came together as a united front.  By the time the class period had ended, we had managed to convince our exhausted teacher that, instead of writing reports, we should be allowed to be more creative in our assignment.  He gave up and agreed to let us do the assignment in pairs and to change the assignment to an oral presentation with a “creative” component.

At first, we figured that the “creative” component would involve some kind of arts and crafts.

But, a day later, we realized that we didn’t want to make posters or dioramas.  We had remembered that important lesson of elementary school — arts and crafts projects involve a lot of work, especially when you are too old to convince your parents to “help” you finish the project.

We also realized that our class was in the early afternoon, and that we were always hungry then since our lunch period was at 10:50 am.

Out of that laziness and hunger arose a moment of sheer genius.

We came up with Edible Curriculum.

Instead of arts and crafts, we would each create a food item that represented our historical event.

And create we did.

My partner and I made a red velvet cake with the Soviet flag painted on it in frosting to represent the rise of Socialism. One group made a model of the Hull House out of Rice Krispie treats, while another group put the little boat pieces from the Battleship board game into a bowl of blue jello to represent the Battle of Midway.

It was awesome.  And delicious.  And totally hilarious.

Our underpaid and over-antagonized teacher just rolled with it.  How could he turn down a delightful homemade afternoon snack?  And, our dishes revealed that we had to at least vaguely think about our topics, so it was still a win for education.

We kept the curriculum piece of Edible Curriculum alive for another unit.  Then we decided it was time to kick things up a notch.

We threw the curriculum out the window.

peace out

Peace out textbook.

We decided to use our new-found collective power to unilaterally cancel history class and hold a historically irrelevant buffet instead.  And, this buffet wasn’t just a couple of cookies and a rice krispie treat building.

We went all out.

We elected a leader, made a list of who was bringing what, and then prepared a bounty of food.  There were stuffed mushrooms, general tso’s chicken, BBQ ribs, cakes, pies, homemade bread, pastas, and salads among all sorts of other items that I can no longer remember.  You name it and we probably had it.

Who did we think we were, Jeff Spicoli?

On the appointed buffet day, we all rushed to the classroom as soon as the passing period started and began setting up our spread (on top of tablecloths because we weren’t savages) before our teacher arrived.  By the time he made it to the classroom, crock pots were simmering, drinks were poured, and an orderly line had formed at the head of the buffet.

I’ll never forget the look on his face.  It was an epic mix of shock, bemusement, awe, anger, and resignation.

He didn’t say a word.

He just grabbed a plate, took his place in line, and let out a loud, defeated sigh.

He was a man who knew when it was time to fold ’em.

From that point forward, we held a blow-out buffet during what was supposed to be history class at least once a month for the rest of the school year.

Almost all of us came back for round two during our senior year.  We all enrolled in that same teacher’s American Government class, and we kept the buffet tradition alive and well.  By this point, it had become a legend around the school.  People had heard rumors about it and people could certainly smell it, but we would neither confirm nor deny what was happening in that room.  The first rule of buffet is that you don’t talk about buffet.

As senior year drew to a close, we knew we had to go out big.  We had to pull off the most elaborate, most outlandish buffet of the year.

How could we possibly kick this scam up yet another notch?

We needed to grill.


On our last day of class, a select special forces team broke out of school in the late morning, jumped into a pick-up truck, and “borrowed” their parents’ grills and folding tables.  Once the grills and tables were acquired, the rest of us met the pick-up truck in front of the school, unloaded the goods, and set up them up on the sidewalk directly in front of our high school’s main entrance and outside of the principal’s open window.

Go big or go home.

We fired up the grills.  We loaded the tables with a cornucopia of food.  We played music on the stereo of someone’s nearby car.

And then, in a moment of pure magic, the greatest buffet that we had ever dared to dream of opened.  It was glorious.  We piled our plates high with food and luxuriated in the early June sunshine while we chowed down.  Everyone who passed by greeted us with that now familiar look of shock, awe, and eventual resignation.

Somehow, we never got in trouble that day.  No one ever asked us any questions.   Not the other teachers, not the school security guard, not even the principal.  Indeed, the principal wandered out of his office and, upon seeing us, his only question was whether he could have a plate.

That’s right.

The principal of my high school didn’t say a word even though we were using an open flame to cook steaks on stolen grills on the front lawn of his school at a time when we should have been in class.  He clearly assumed that no one would be so brazen and we must have gotten the okay to do this from someone.

However, it’s still completely unclear whether any of us ever asked permission to do any of this over the two years.  I think its safe to assume that we did not.  But, who’s going to stop 20 kids who show up with a full spread of delicious food?

The answer, we learned, is no one.

The most impressive thing about this whole scam, however, is not the scam.  The most impressive thing is that every member of the buffet coalition has gone on to do great things despite our lack of learning American History and Government strictly by the book.

It’s been just over fifteen years since that final blow-out buffet and each and every one of us is gainfully employed doing something that we love. We grew up to be lawyers, scientists, architects, engineers, writers, a television news anchor, a movie director, military veterans, executives, financial analysts, and professors.  That is no small feat considering that we’re the product of a small town public school and that many of our parents did not go to college.  And, even more importantly, all of my comrades-in-buffet-arms turned out to be exemplary human beings.  We’ve all scattered across the country, but whenever I’m back home and happen to run into one of those sacred 20, it is an absolute pleasure.  I think fondly and highly of each and every one of them.

I truly believe that Edible Curriculum is largely responsible for our collective success.  During those two years, while we weren’t learning what was in our textbooks, we were learning how to find power in collective action, how to work as a group, how to persuade others, how to be organized, how to delegate tasks, and how to play to people’s strengths and weaknesses (there were cake bakers and there were soda buyers).  We learned that we should always give our crazy ideas a try because they just might work.  And, most importantly,  we learned that, if you exude confidence and act like you know what you are doing, no one will ask you any questions.

It was precisely that hopeful spirit and confidence that allowed all of us to figure out precisely what we wanted out of life and to get it.

Maybe our history teacher hadn’t given up on us.

Maybe he knew exactly what he was doing that entire time.


I’ll Be There For You (When the Bus Starts to Yell)*

When is that moment when you realize that someone has gone from being a friend to being the friend?

For me, it happened last week in a Prius in a bus lane.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m close with one of my neighbors.  She gave me her precious family heirlooms (no pressure…).  Country Boy and her husband have been mistaken for a couple by the local nuns. And, she and I have spent countless hours analyzing The Golden Girls.  In other words, she’s the best.

Jules & Ellie

She is the Ellie Torres to my Jules Cobb, and not just because she has the lethal combo of a biting tongue and an amazing rack and I’ve got a trashy streak and a tendency to get angry with people for things that they did to me in my dreams.

Last Thursday, I realized that we had taken our friendship to a whole new level.

My neighbor, in a streak of brilliance, arranged for us and some friends to meet after work to sup on delicious french sandwiches and wine by a fancy hotel pool before retiring to the fancy hotel rooftop spa for 9 pm heavily discounted massages.

It was going to be perfect.

But, by 4 pm on Thursday, all of our friends had bailed on us, citing lame reasons such as a Mexico-related virus and acute pregnancy.  Have these ladies never heard of the boot and rally?

Despite that setback, we persevered.  When it comes to a spa discount, it is every woman left behind.

By 4:30 pm, our massages had been cancelled.  It had started to rain, which was problematic since, it turns out, fancy hotel rooftop spas are an outdoor operation.

Despite that second setback, we persevered.  We agreed to leave work at 5 pm to sit on a friend’s lovely waterfront balcony for a carb and booze fest.  We were going to relax, goddammit!

Give me bread or give me death!

Give me bread or give me death!

At 5 pm, our departure was pushed back to 6 pm because my neighbor’s boss was being difficult.

At 6 pm, I arrived at our meeting spot and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Over 30 minutes elapsed and she was nowhere to be found and completely unresponsive to her phone.

Despite that third setback, we persevered.

Just as I was about to give up and go home, my neighbor called me, she whisper-yelled something about her boss trapping her for 30 minutes while he read her a memo aloud, and, moments later, she came sprinting out of the building and hopped in the car.  We were almost two hours behind schedule and ready to make up for lost time, especially since my neighbor has two small children and rarely ever gets to enjoy the magical time of day that is happy hour.

Mediocre discounted drinks are needed stat!

Mediocre discounted drinks are needed stat!

We sped towards our friend’s apartment, talking about nothing but the wine that was about to hit our lips.  My neighbor called to let our friend know that we were finally en route and double checked that there would be enough wine, because it had been a day.

This friend had no wine in her apartment.

WHAT!?  What kind of self-respecting 30-something year old woman does not have wine in her house?  How is this even possible?

Despite that fourth setback, we still persevered.  Although that was the straw that nearly broke the PinotNinja’s back, my neighbor saved the day by reminding me that there are these magical places called liquor stores.

There was no parking in front of the liquor store, and, after circling the block for minutes, I gave up, pulled into the bus lane, and sent my neighbor in to grab the wine while I waited with the car.

At 6:58 pm, she returned with several brown paper bags.  She climbed into the passenger seat and told me that she had ordered us pasta from the Italian joint next door and that it would be ready in 15 minutes.

Carbs would be had!  Victory was imminent!

Then, my neighbor started pulling items out of her brown paper bags.  She had procured a screw-top bottle of wine and plastic wine glasses, which meant that we were not going to miss happy hour after all!

We tore open the wine, toasted each other, cranked up the Beyonce on the radio, and had a delightful time at Bar Prius while we waited for our pasta to be ready.


Victory was ours!  High fives all around!

Suddenly, our hysterical laughter was interrupted by a big ruckus outside of Bar Prius.

I was about to turn up the radio to drown out the noise when I caught sight of something in my rear view mirror.

It was the bus.

I turned down the radio.

The bus was yelling at us!

When buses attack...

When buses attack…


We were having such a good time that I completely forgot that we were drinking out of an open container in an illegally parked car in a bus lane in front of a sketchy liquor store.

Well done us.  Way to be pillars of the community.

We suppressed our laughter long enough to jettison the wine and move out of the bus lane while the bus driver continued to loudly and publicly shame us.

Despite that fifth setback, we persevered.  Shortly thereafter, our pasta was ready and we had a lovely evening gossiping and gorging on fettuccine while watching the end of the sunset over the bay.

Despite literally everything going wrong with our spa night and being publicly shamed by an irate bus driver for breaking approximately 8 laws, the evening was perfect.

That night, in the bus lane, was when I realized that it didn’t matter where I was or what I was doing so long as my neighbor was with me. When it comes to my adopted hometown, she is THE friend.

So, to my neighbor, I say:





Depeche Mode Was Singing About the Real World Road Rules Challenge

When it comes to the Real World Road Rules Challenge (“The Challenge“), I just can’t get enough.

I know that this is completely ridiculous.  The show is horrible.  The people on the show are horrible.  And, those horrible people do horrible things to each other while being on this horrible show.

Yet, I am completely compelled to watch them.  I have watched all 24 (?!) seasons.  Every single episode.  I have been a party to every last moment of idiocy, and I’ve loved it all.

Why are these people my TV friends for life?  WHY?!

Why are these people my TV friends for life? WHY?!

Last week, I saw the promos for The Challenge: Rivals II and I was beside myself with excitement.  My crazy friends were back!  I counted down the minutes until the show aired and watched it live.

I don’t know what is wrong with me.

I was able to leave the Real World and Road Rules (RIP) long behind.  Once I hit my late 20s, I suddenly couldn’t tolerate those shows anymore.  I found the cast members to be vapid and boring and the drama to be more irritating than entertaining.  It was a big moment for me.  I finally felt like I had really grown up.

But I just can’t quit The Challenge.

Maybe it’s because The Challenge is the perfect mix of drunken idiots and insane physical challenges.  Just when I cannot stand the vapid bickering any longer, they throw in a physical challenge to distract me.  And then there were the times when the drama and the physical challenge would mix.  Amazing!

Maybe its because I cannot figure out how no one has died on this show yet.

Maybe it’s because watching the cast, who are generally not known for the IQ scores, attempt to form alliances and implement strategies is completely hilarious.  The alliance always falls apart!  The “strategy” always backfires!  Watching this crew in action makes me feel like a genius on my most incompetent days.

You kids were not cast for your thinking skills.

Sorry kids, but you were not cast for your thinking skills.

Maybe it’s because, unlike the new casts on the Real World, many of The Challenge contestants are my age.  Some of them are even older than me.  I can’t be too old to watch a show when the cast is my age, right?  Thanks CT, Paula, Aneesa, and Trishelle for spending your 30s on an MTV game show.

That was my reaction when I realized that you're 32, too.

That was my reaction when I realized that you’re 32, too.

Maybe it’s because I am completely baffled as to how some people appear to have made entire careers out of appearing on, and generally losing, The Challenge.  How does Paula Walnuts pay her bills?  What does Dunbar do when he’s not getting sent home immediately upon his arrival at one of these games?  How the hell does Camilla function in society without constant adult supervision?  I feel like if I just watch one more episode of The Challenge that I can solve these great mysteries of our generation.

You do know that you can't act like this outside of The Challenge, right?

You do know that you can’t act like this outside of The Challenge, right?

Maybe it’s because I am completely caught up in the love story of Diem and CT.  They are our generations Romeo and Juliet.  They are in love with each other, but they just can’t make it work, primarily because CT is a steroid-riddled asshole and Diem is just smart enough, having triumphed over cancer twice, to realize that being with him is a very bad idea. But, for whatever crazy reason, they love each other and the pain that they both feel over not being able to be together is visceral.  When CT convinced Diem to take off her wig because she is beautiful last episode, I flat-out cried.

Why is it so impossible for you to be good enough for Diem?  Just stop hooking up with other people in front of her.  Is it really that hard?

Why is it so impossible for you to be good enough for Diem? Just stop hooking up with other people in front of her. Is it really that hard?

Maybe it’s because I don’t understand how these kids, really adults, all repeatedly publicly humiliate themselves by getting drunk on national television.  Like REALLY ruin-your-life drunk.  But, they all apparently have some sort of weird mutant gene that keeps them from appreciating a cautionary tale, even when they are the cautionary tale, because they just keep on getting that obliterated again and again. I want to be there the moment someone finally says “No thanks.  I’ve seen how this ends before and I’m not going to drink an entire bottle of cheap vodka in 5 minutes on my first night.  I’ll just have a beer.”

Maybe it’s because I also do not understand how, despite this clearly and unquestionably being a VERY physical game, at least three people show up for every season in horrible shape.  We’re talking smoke-a-pack-an-hour-don’t-like-to-sweat horrible shape.  Preston, Knight and Jemmye appear as if they have never seen the inside of a gym.  NEVER EVER.  And remember that time when Shauvon allegedly ruptured her breast implant because she tried to exercise for the first time ever on The Challenge?  Why would you come on this show completely unprepared?  It’s been on for 24 seasons.  You all have been on the show before.  You know that if your ass is not in shape, you will end up falling stories into a cold body of water or having to be hospitalized because you cannot run up the side of a mountain.  What are you thinking?!

Have we learned nothing from Big Easy?

Have we learned nothing from Big Easy?

But, really, the truth is that I watch The Challenge because, after 15 years, I still can.  I first saw The Challenge just before I graduated from high school, and even though (some) of the cast has changed since then and the production value has greatly increased, the format and the cast have maintained enough continuity that I feel like I am still watching the same show.  There is no other show on television like that.

There is just something really comforting about hanging out with an old high school friend, even if its the friend who was always a bad influence and who still hasn’t grown up.  I know I shouldn’t let The Challenge be a part of my life any more and that its only going to lead to trouble.  I know the show is a train wreck and there is nothing I can do to change that.  I’m embarrassed for the show.  But, yet, it just feels like home when we’re together.

What can I say?  I just can’t get enough.


So That’s How Cheap I Am

I have always wondered just how cheap I am.

This past weekend I found out.

I penny-pinched my way through grad school, I spent summers where my permanent address changed every 3 days because I was crashing on a rotating cast of couches, and I survived for a year in New York City on what could barely be called a salary in the name of public service.  Let’s just say I know my way around a cup of ramen and how to turn free happy hour appetizers into a meal for two days.

These days I like to think that I’m just like Lorelai Gilmore, turning my tiny house into a bastion of shabby chic with my impeccable sense of kitsch and irony despite my lesser financial means.  Indeed, like Lorelai, I’ve even secured myself a connection for top-notch coffee every morning for way under market price (and by that I mean free).  Much as Lorelai had Luke, I have a co-worker who I’ve essentially forced into giving me some of his freshly Chemex brewed super premium coffee every morning by sitting in his office and monologuing about utter nonsense until he shoves a cup in my face to make me go away.  In case you hadn’t picked up on it already, my brain is a wild jungle full of scary gibberish.

Seriously, do this and someone will jam free fancy coffee at you before you can take a breath:

This weekend, my frugality hit an all-time high.

The time had come for my close friends and neighbors to move their youngest son out of his crib.  They had ordered a new bedroom set for the little dude, and they needed to figure out what to do with their very lovely and lightly used crib, changing table, and baby bookshelf.

Despite the fact that I am not pregnant, have not mentioned a desire to get pregnant, and was generally useless when it came to helping them with their infant sons, they decided that they wanted to give their baby furniture to me.  They wanted to send it to a nice home in my garage, where it could  just hang out until my hypothetical child is ready to use it. No pressure.

Do you hear that 30-something-year-old ovaries?  There may be a crib in your garage, but you are not to feel any pressure about needing to fill it.  No pressure at all.  Just ignore the crib that you have to walk by every day.  IGNORE IT.

My initial reaction upon receiving this extraordinarily generous and kind offer of free baby furniture looked a little bit like Ross did after Rachel told him that she was pregnant.  It was all blank stares, open mouths, and crazy eyes up in my world.  I’m fairly certain that I also said “I, ummm, I’m just, I don’t know, I don’t understand, um, how this happened.”

But, after pulling myself together, I did some frugalista math.  Baby furniture is really expensive.  And the stuff my friends had bought is WAY nicer than anything that I could ever put together for my hypothetical baby.  And, I mean, sure, one day I will probably have a baby and that baby will probably need a place to sleep.  And, again, this was an incredibly generous and kind offer on their part, knowing that Country Boy and I could use the help, and I needed to stop acting like such a complete arsehole.

So, despite my possession of a crib sending me into a state of frozen anxiety, panic, and utter confusion, I decided to move all of that baby-riffic furniture into my garage.  Because I needed my friends to understand how nice and generous I think they are.  And, mainly, because it was free.

I am willing to intentionally inflict severe emotional distress upon myself for years in order to save money.

So that’s how cheap I am.


Once It Hits Your Lips, Trivia Victory Is So Good

History was changed tonight.  Changed, I tell you.

In the words of Theon Greyjoy, the bards will sing songs of our sacrifice.

I, along with a slightly rotating cast of friends that tonight included our very own Snarkoleptic, have been attempting to win the Wednesday night trivia at our local dive bar for years. We had been wholly unsuccessful throughout that long tenure, yet we continued to persevere.  That extreme dedication was due largely to the fact that we refused to admit that we had been bested by the rag-tag crew that frequents the bar, which usually looked like it had neither bathed nor seen the outside world in approximately three to five days.  We all arrived at the bar straight from work in our business casual finest, we quickly appointed a team secretary, we came up with a politically focused team name, and we fancied ourselves on the smart side of the intelligence scale.

In short, we thought we were these guys:

In our minds, we all save the world by having fast paced hyper-intellectual conversations while power walking down long corridors.

In our minds, we’re all constantly saving the world from ruin by having fast paced hyper-intellectual conversations while power walking down long corridors.

But, yet, somehow we continuously performed like these guys:

And we're all Kelso.

And, we’re all Kelso.

It was really getting embarrassing.  We concocted stories about how everyone else in the bar HAD to be cheating by using their phones to look up the answers to the questions.  There was simply no other way we could be losing so spectacularly every single time we played.  We did not exactly have proof of this theory, but we clung to it as if it was our otter sleeping buddy.

This is how closely our poor performance and the imaginary cheating were intertwined.

Our poor performance and alleged cheating by others go hand in hand.  Really!  We swear!  That is the only possible explanation!

And, out of derision for the cheaters, we invoked a strict moral code on our team.  There was a zero tolerance policy for dishonesty.  All phones were stored far, far away.  All eavesdropping was forbidden.  Wandering eyes were ferreted out and chastised.  If we were going to do this, we were going to do it right.

Such moral sanctity never led us down the path to victory.  You would have thought that eventually someone would have pointed out that there is a saying that “the good guy always finishes last.”  But, much like every piece of knowledge that we had ever acquired, it was promptly forgotten the second we entered a trivia competition.

But, tonight everything changed.

After repeating our Arya Stark-like list of the competitors that we had to take down (Trivia Newton John, DOMAnatrix, the cheaters in the corner) and downing performance-enhancing beer, it was showtime.

And a show it was.

In 4 rounds, we got every question correct except for two.  For example, we knew that Nadia Comaneci got the first perfect 10 in woman’s gymnastics, that 50 Cent’s song Wanksta dissed Ja-Rule, that Mario Lemieux was the first NHL player to buy his team, that Pablo Escobar was the 7th richest man in the world when he was killed in 1993, that Jenny McCarthy and Carmen Electra hosted Singled Out, that James Earl Ray assassinated Martin Luther King, Jr., that “Is this real life?” is the first line of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, that Victor Hugo wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame, that Project Runway uses the phrase “Auf Wiedersehen” to dismiss contestants, and that Woodrow Wilson’s face was on the now-defunct $100,000 bill.  We even named 10 countries that begin with the letter C like it was no big deal, and we used neither China nor Congo because technically both of those countries start with a P(eople’s Republic of).  That’s how deep our moral code ran after three years of justifying defeat.

The range of random knowledge that we collectively displayed tonight was nothing if not astounding.

Even more astounding was that sweet, sweet moment when they called our team name as the evening’s victors.  We cheered!  We excessively high-fived!  We victory danced!  We insisted on taking an absolutely obnoxious number of team photos!  We were totally out of control, and it was glorious.

As winners, we received a prize “mystery box,” which contained two big bottles of craft beer.  Yes, the hundreds of hours and dollars that we devoted towards our chase of the dive bar trivia crown resulted in our receipt of approximately $24 worth of beer.

And it was totally worth it.

Because, much like the beer that accompanies it, once it hits your lips, trivia victory is so good.


Nun of Your Business

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, you really never know what is going to happen when you step outside your door.

A few weeks after our close friends and neighbors had their first child, my husband and I went to their house to marvel at the precious wonder.  Upon our arrival, it was clear that what the new mom needed most was a few minutes to quietly relax with her friend, so her husband and my husband volunteered to take the baby out for a walk.

It sounded like a great idea to everyone involved.  What could possibly go wrong?

The husbands loaded the little guy into his tiny infant stroller, poured their beers into solo cups to stay discretely hydrated, and headed out for a walk around the neighborhood golf course.

Everything started out just lovely.  The baby was happily sleeping, and they were deep in a discussion about landscaping.

Then they heard someone approaching them on the narrow sidewalk.

They looked up.

It was two nuns dressed in full habit moving directly towards them at a fast clip.



In over five years, not one of us had ever seen a nun in the ‘hood before.  There is neither a convent nor a parochial school nearby.  Where did they come from?  Where were they going?  Weren’t they awfully hot in all of those heavy clothes?

Before the guys could ask any questions, or even politely bow their heads in greeting while moving out of the way, the nuns were up in their personal space.  As the nuns squeezed themselves past the stroller, the sisters glanced down at the cups, wrinkled up their noses when they caught a whiff of beer, and gave the guys a hard stare.  A stare that struck fear into both of their hearts.  A stare that will always be referenced along with an involuntary shudder of horror.  A stare that rendered two champion monologuers speechless, a feat which has happened neither before nor since.

Of course the one time that they take the baby out for a walk together alone, they run into a set of disapproving nuns while prattling away about flowers and drinking.  Of course.

You would have thought, based on the nun reaction, that they had just seen this:

It's not like they were these guys.

I promise I am not married to any of these dudes.

Really, what the nuns were dealing with was a lot more like this:

Minus Ted Dansen's weird O-face, because that is something that should NEVER happen in a picture with a little girl.

Minus Ted Dansen’s weird O-face, because that is something that should NEVER happen in a picture with a little girl.  Not even in the 1980s.

But, still, the nuns dialed their disappointment up to 11.

Really sisters?  You gave the hard stare down to those guys after you took in Sister Mary Clarence?  She was a Reno lounge singer who was doing a chauffeur-executing mobster out-of-wedlock, yet you all were willing to overlook that in exchange for a little song and dance.  Even the Dowager Countess smiled at her!

But, two men and a baby going for a walk together and talking about flowers while discreetly enjoying beers (a drink invented by their pious brethren monks no less) is enough to engender immediate and complete disdain?  I repeat, really sisters?

You could have at least given them a chance to win you over with a rousing Motown-inspired number.  They totally would have nailed it.

One burning question remains from the nun-cident.  As our friend asked my husband when he finally regained his power of speech, “So, which do you think they disapproved of more, our beers or our lifestyle?”