Sunday, May 31, 2009


Yesterday, one of my friends hosted a Drunken Volleyball Party. The invitation said that we were going to drink heavily for an hour, then make our way down to the sand volleyball court at her apartment complex and play a few games. It sounded like a fun afternoon, so at the appointed time Penn and I showed up at her apartment with a dozen beers and a couple of shot glasses.
Once everyone else had arrived we kicked things off with a power hour. Do you want to know when I last attempted a power hour? I'm fairly certain it was sometime in 2003, and I'm positive I didn't complete it successfully. But yesterday I was successful! I think I owe my success at completing my first ever power hour to the magical invention that is iPowerHour. Yes, you can get your ipod to play a random minute of sixty songs so that nobody has to sit around with a watch. Brilliant! So, anyway, the power hour went well and other than having a sort of fizzy belly I didn't feel too bad. Not bad for having slammed down 4.5 beers in an hour, anyway.
Then we went down to the volleyball court and although I generally hate team sports and avoid them at all costs, hitting the sand was actually a lot of fun. We only had a handful of people in our group but there ended up being a few other groups at the court so we mixed and mingled with them. I can't say I was exactly an asset to my team, but I did manage to serve the ball over the net instead of into it a couple of times and there was a sort of impressive moment where I reached for the ball and ended up in a split. I wasn't aware I could do the splits anymore, but it appears that I still can (when I'm buzzed and in a pile of sand, anyway).
We finished off the night with pizza and more beer and a game of Taboo. And then Penn and I went home and immediately fell asleep on our couch at 11:30 and then woke up at 1:30 in the morning all confused and disoriented. In other words, it was the perfect kick off to summer. But I woke up this morning and I was sore. I'm sore in muscles I didn't know existed. It's the muscles that run along the side of my ribcage, below my arms. My lats, maybe? Anyway, they hurt. And now I feel completely lame because, seriously, who gets sore after the Drunken Volleyball Game?!?!

Next time I write I'm going to tell you about my family vacation. It was one of the best weeks of my life, I think. Penn and I got home on Thursday and I'm still moping about the fact that I'm not currently on the beach with a bottle of Orange Crush in one hand and a magazine in the other. But I'll be okay, if only because I'm going to go ahead and assume there will be other great vacations in my future.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

How We Met III

Penn didn’t call the next day, but I didn’t really expect him to call. So I was surprised when my phone rang on Sunday afternoon and the caller ID showed an area code I didn’t recognize. I figured it had to be Penn, but I didn’t answer. I don’t know why I didn’t answer. It wasn’t as if I was trying to play a game, trying to pretend that I was too busy to answer. I was nervous, I guess. I wanted to be more prepared than I could get in the thirty seconds of a ringing phone. That, and I thought that Penn might be wanting to do something before he headed back to his hometown, and I didn’t have time to hang out that afternoon but I didn’t want to say no. So I didn’t answer the phone. A few hours and many mental pep talks later, though, I thought, “Okay. He was a nice guy. He was cute. He didn’t seem creepy. He seemed interesting. Call him back. It can’t hurt, right?” So I called him back.

That was the best phone call I’ve ever made. I am so incredibly glad that I called him back. That’s another way in which I came so close to never having him in my life at all. Nine times out of ten, when I exchanged numbers with a guy I didn’t call him, even if I had thought he was nice or interesting or entertaining or attractive. And that same nine times out of ten I didn’t answer when the guy called me. I had this horrible habit of just ignoring phone calls until the guy eventually gave up and stopped calling, and then I would briefly wonder what I might have missed but mostly just be relieved that the guy had given up. I have no idea why I used to do this, why I was always so willing to give my phone number to guys I had no intention of ever actually pursuing. For some reason, though, I didn’t do that with Penn. And it’s not like it was love at first sight when I met Penn. I thought he was interesting, but I’d thought the same thing about other guys and I didn’t return their phone calls. Again, the fact that I called him back is one of those things, like the saved matchbook, that make me think that even though logically I wasn’t yet thinking of Penn as something special on the night we met (not because he wasn’t special, but because I don’t let myself do things like that, I’m too pragmatic to believe in love at first sight), something inside me knew he was going to be immensely important in my life and that I shouldn’t let him get away.

I talked to Penn for hours during that first phone conversation. He was already back home so he just wanted to talk, and talk we did, for almost three hours. And then the next day we didn’t talk on the phone, but the day after that we talked for an hour and a half, and then we were talking every day, and that’s how it all began.

The next week he took me to the aquarium on our first date. The weekend after that we saw Obama speak at a presidential rally outside the state capitol and eight months later we huddled together shivering on the National Mall as he was inaugurated. The year passed. One afternoon in July I sat on the floor and leaned against his legs as he sat on the couch and we talked about how soon we might be able to live in the same place, not realizing at the time that in October he would get a job offer that would allow him to move to be here with me. We had committed ourselves to making things work despite the hundred mile separation, and fortunately in our case that separation ended up lasting a blissfully short six months.

Everything moved so fast, but everything was so right. It’s as if some force wanted us to meet and be together, right from that first night. From before that first night, even. Remember my premonition? At the start of 2007 I was convinced it was 2008, and I kept having to tell myself, “No, not yet, 2008 will get here.” And I had no real reason to be excited about 2008, except that I had A Feeling. I had A Feeling that 2008 was going to be the year that something big would happen. I can’t explain it. I’ve never been able to explain it. I’m a rational person and I don’t really believe in premonitions, but I just knew. And then I moved here to the east coast and my premonition grew even stronger. As soon as I moved here I felt like I belonged here, and I felt this great sense of calm and ease and satisfaction with my life. I knew I was doing the right thing, I knew I was in the right place, and I constantly felt like Tony in West Side Story: “Something’s coming, something good, maybe tonight…maybe tonight…” So it was a big surprise to meet Penn, but it also wasn’t a surprise at all. I knew it was going to happen, I just didn’t know it was going to be him. I knew it was going to be good, but I didn’t know it was going to be this good, or this easy.

I’m so glad that my aunt came to visit that weekend. I’m glad we went to that particular bar. I’m glad Penn didn’t go to New York that weekend, came to City B instead, and convinced his friends to try that particular bar, too. I’m glad I decided to finish my vodka tonic. I’m glad I returned that phone call. I’m just so happy everything worked out right, for once, and no matter what happens in the future I am glad that I have had this year.
I don’t have the words to explain how I feel about Penn, except to tell you this: when I was in Russia recently, it was an amazing experience. Every day I learned a dozen new things and saw amazing things that I will never see again. It was exhilarating, and every day I was happy to be traveling. I felt fine. I felt great, in fact. And then I got back to the states and when I climbed into bed with Penn the first night I was home and pressed my body against his, I breathed. I really breathed, for the first time in ten days. And that is what being with him is like, always. He’s a breath of fresh air, the thing that makes me think, “Oh, yes, this. This is what I was missing all that time. This is what I needed all along.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

How We Met Part Dos

Looking back, this is possibly the worst pick-up line ever in the history of time. First of all, to this day I’m not entirely sure that there are five oceans. It’s possible that there are only four (apparently there is now a Southern Ocean, but I think that’s a new thing). Second, what? Could any question possibly be more random? In other words, I have no idea why this question made me want to respond to him, but I did. I laughed and named the four oceans I know and then he introduced himself and we started talking. The main thing I remember from our first conversation is that when I told him what I study he said, “Oh, I’m finishing my Masters in X!” X was a subject very similar to mine, so I thought for sure he was just pretending that he studied the subject so that he could get into my pants. But when I tried to call his bluff by asking him some questions about his subject he was able to talk about it enough that I knew he was actually telling the truth. Sadly enough, that alone impressed me. I had gotten so used to being hit on by lame guys who would quite obviously just pretend to be interested in what I do in the hopes that eventually I’d get tired of talking so we could hop into bed together. Penn wasn’t like that, though. Sure, he may have been trying to get into my pants for all I know…wait; actually, I DO know now that he was trying to get into my pants because he admitted it to me. But the point is, he wasn’t being as blatant about it as most of the other guys who I’d met in bars prior to that point. He was friendly and handsome and we were talking easily. For the first time all night I was actually happy that I had decided to go out. But then fifteen minutes into our conversation he said, “Well, I’d better go see what my friends are doing. Maybe I’ll talk to you later,” and he walked away. I thought, “Well, that sucks. I thought that was going well.” But what could I do? I let him go. Somewhere in the middle of our conversation I’d ordered another drink, and my aunt and cousin had come back into the bar but seemed to be getting tired as well, so, having struck out with the best-looking guy in the room, I started my departure countdown again: “When I finish this drink I’m leaving, for real this time.”
And then Penn came back! He came up to the bar to order another drink and we started talking again. This time we talked even longer. I found out he was from a city about an hour away from City B and that he was down for the weekend visiting one of his friends who was going to be getting married in a few months. I thought to myself, “Oh, too bad he lives so far away. I guess this won’t be anything, then.” But when he said, “Well, I’d really better go back to my friends because we’re getting ready to leave. Can I get your number?” I gave it to him. True, I always used to give men my number when they asked because I found it too hard to say no to guys’ faces. But when I gave Penn my number it wasn’t just to avoid an awkward moment. I was happy that he asked and excited about the possibility that he might actually call me.
Then he went back to his friends and I turned back to Rae and my aunt, who grilled me about the guy and said, “Oh, he was cute!” I said, “Yeah, well, we’ll see. He probably won’t even call me.” And that's when I noticed a woman about my age standing a few feet away, staring at me. She wasn’t even trying to pretend that she wasn’t staring, she was just standing there with her eyes fixed on me. So I did the only thing I could think to do, which was stare right back at her and raise my eyebrows in a way that I hoped said, “Chick, what’s your problem?” That’s when she walked up to me and said, “Were you just talking to Penn?” And my stomach jumped into my throat. I knew this was not going to be a good turn of events. In the second it took to say, “Yes…,” I convinced myself that she was about to say that Penn was a total psychopath and I shouldn’t answer his phone calls or, worse, that she was going to tell me she was Penn’s girlfriend. Instead, she practically shrieked, “Oh, good! I’m so glad! He was telling us that he just met a really cool girl at the bar so I had to come in here and see you for myself. And you look so nice! And normal!” I started laughing, then, relieved that she wasn’t his girlfriend and that he wasn’t a psycho. I asked her, “So, was I smart to give him my number?” and she enthused, “Oh, yes. He’s a great guy! You should DEFINITELY answer when he calls you.” Penn walked in then, along with the other guy he was hanging out with (the fiancĂ©e of the girl who had just accidentally freaked me out; three months later I was Penn’s date to their wedding). Unfortunately, at that point the balding guy with nerdy glasses who I had noticed earlier walked up to me and said, “You’ve been sitting down all night! Dance with me!” I didn’t know what to do. Here was Penn, obviously just a few minutes away from leaving. But here was this other guy who was clearly just trying to be friendly. He’d been making the rounds all night, talking to everyone in the bar and attempting to get everyone dancing. And I really, really can’t say no to people when they’re just trying to be nice. So I danced with the balding guy, well aware that Penn was watching the whole time. The older guy spun me around for a minute, and then as soon as the music stopped I told the guy thanks for the dance and then went right back to Penn and his friends to say goodnight. The last thing I remember talking about was poker. The girl asked me if I played poker and I said, “No, not really,” and she said, “Oh, that’s perfect! Penn doesn’t play either! We can all get together and we’ll teach both of you!” and then Penn and I exchanged, “Good to meet you”s and “Talk to you later”s and that was that. As soon as they had left the bar Rae said, “Hey, the guy you gave your number to looked pretty jealous that you were dancing with that other guy,” and I said, “Oh, really? Well, I was just trying to be nice to that other guy,” and Rae said, “I know, it was funny.” But I was convinced that I’d probably just blown it. Now Penn thought I’d rejected him and he’d really never call me. Greaaaaat. Oh well, though. I’d met an attractive guy who had asked for my phone number and had not tried to stick his tongue down my throat at any time during the night. All in all it was the most successful night out I’d had in months, even though I was convinced nothing would come of it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

How We Met

I've been working on this on and off for several weeks now. It's the story of the night I met Penn. I meant to have it posted by our "official" one-year anniversary (May 3rd), but obviously that didn't happen. And now it has turned into this monster document that I can't possibly post in one entry because it just wouldn't be readable. As it is, it's probably interesting only to me, but it's also something I didn't really document anywhere at the time. I didn't even write about it in great detail in my personal, not-for-the-internet journal, mainly because I didn't realize at the time that Penn was going to become such a huge part of my life. But now I know that it's a night I would like to remember, and it's about time I finally wrote about it somewhere. So here is Part I:

At this time a year ago I was first getting to know Penn. I was looking through my blog the other day and I realized that as far as this record is concerned I just sort of skimmed over the whole first six weeks or so that we were dating. After years of being single or more-or-less single and in relationships that were fun for the moment but without a future, I knew within the first few days of talking to Penn that things had the potential to be different. Things had the potential to be really, really good, and I was afraid if I talked too much about it or expressed how excited I actually was I would jinx it.

But now we’ve just passed the one-year anniversary of the day he officially asked me to be his girlfriend, and we’ve been living together for almost six months and we haven’t even come close to killing each other yet, so I feel like I can safely tell the story of how we met.

It was Friday night, the last weekend of March. My aunt from California was in town for a business trip, so I had driven up to City B to hang out with my aunt and my cousin Rae since this particular aunt is also Rae’s aunt. My aunt had also invited her “friend and business associate” Dan to hang out with us that night. Dan ended up being a fifty-something NASA scientist who was clearly married and also very clearly into my aunt (incidentally, my aunt—who has been divorced from my cousins’ father for as long as I can remember—is known in our family for her ongoing string of bizarre and/or inappropriate boyfriends, so Rae and I were having a lot of fun cracking jokes about Dan the Supposed Friend and Business Associate whenever they were both out of earshot).

The week prior to this I had been to my college roommate’s wedding in my home state and then out to Las Vegas for my brother’s 21st birthday party, so I was still in recovery mode from the trip and not really in the going out or flirting mood. I was tired and, to be honest, if my aunt hadn’t been in town and we hadn’t already had the plans in place for several weeks, I wouldn’t have gone out at all that night. I mention this only because a) it proves the old adage that you always meet someone great when you’re least expecting it and b) it explains why I was not really dressed for a night on the town at all. I was wearing a cardigan, people. A GREY cardigan. How much more dull and non-descript can you get? Oh, and I was wearing the pearl necklace that my roommate had just given me as a bridesmaid’s gift at her wedding because it was brand new and I had been wearing it pretty much nonstop that week. Penn says I looked like a librarian. (And yet for some reason he approached me and wanted to talk to me anyway! But we’re getting there…)

Anyway, my aunt, her Friend and Business Associate Dan, Rae and I went out for crabcakes and then decided to head to a bar where a semi-well-known local band was playing. I don’t remember the name of the band, but I do remember the name of the bar. In fact, for some reason I kept a matchbook from the bar and took it home. I found it when I moved into my current apartment seven months later. I don’t normally collect matchbooks and I have no conscious memory of deciding to take the matches home. Now I wonder if I subconsciously knew at the time that I would want to remember the night. Rae and I picked that particular bar solely because we thought my aunt would like the band. And when we got to the bar I knew we’d made the right choice. The bar was a dark hole-in-the-wall place. I haven’t been back since that night so my memory may be faulty, but in my head everything is dark wood and the lighting is dim and sort of greenish from neon signs and the walls are absolutely covered with signs and stickers and license plates and police patches and the usual hole-in-the-wall bar nonsense. You’ve been to a bar exactly like this one, I guarantee it. Every drinker in America has been to some version of this bar at least once. Practically everyone in the bar was over the age of 40. The band was made up of a bunch of middle aged jazz guys. My aunt was satisfied and, since Friend and Business Associate Dan had headed home, she immediately befriended an ancient-looking hippie and spent the rest of the night talking to him. Rae and I grabbed seats at the bar. I ordered a vodka tonic. I drank it slowly. I listened to the music. The music was decent, but I was bored. It wasn’t even 11:00 yet, though, so it felt too early on a Friday night to call it quits.

I don’t remember when I first saw Penn. Thinking back on it, I recall noticing him up against the wall across the room from where I was sitting, but I didn’t really notice him, you know? I noted his presence, but in the same way I was noting everyone in the bar: old dancing couple, guy who looks like he has been a smoker for sixty years, kid who is way too young to legally be in this bar, balding guy with nerdy glasses, attractive guy by the back wall. I have no idea how long he was in the bar before he decided to talk to me.

It gives me the chills now when I think how close I came to never meeting Penn at all. I was getting more and more bored by the minute and I was getting tired AND everyone I was with had left me to save our seats at the bar while they went out to the patio to smoke. I was on my second vodka tonic at that point so I made a deal with myself: as soon as I finished the drink, I would say my goodbyes and head home. I was two sips from finishing the drink when Penn walked up beside me and said, “Hey, I have a random question. Can you name the five oceans? My friends and I are trying to figure it out and we can’t name all of them.”

To be continued...

Friday, May 8, 2009

Civilization is Doomed

Edited to add that I just did some googling and it appears the whole minus whale thing is intentional internet speak. I am pretty sure this just makes me hate it even more.

On the bus right now reading blogs on my BlackBerry (I love you, BlackBerry)and I came across the phrase "minus whale"written in a comment. Minus whale. Used like this: "Well, you minus whale tell her that he's just not interested." This is the second time I've come across minus whale this year, and both times the writer clearly meant "might as well." Might as well! NOT minus whale! What on earth?! Does it not cross these people's minds that the phrase minus whale is utter nonsense?! And what sort of godforsaken accent do they have that "might as well" comes out sounding identical to "minus whale?"
For some reason, this has me completely enraged, so enraged that I had to get it out here because texting half the people I know about the stupidity of other people didn't make me feel better about it.
What is with all the idiot encounters I'm having this week? Or maybe they are always around and usually I'm just better at tuning it out?
I need this semester to be over, pronto.I'm getting grumpy. I'm on my way to take my language exam. I have no chance in hell of passing and so this is a really pointless way to be spending my Friday, which is not helping matters.
Someone please cheer me up by telling me the whole minus whale thing is a pop culture joke that I've just missed out on prior to now. Please. I'm desperate to believe that people can't really be this stupid.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


Penn is making fun of me right now because I am listening to "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!" on NPR. I find it entertaining and when I combine listening to this show on Saturday mornings with watching The Daily Show a few times a week, I figure I pretty much know what's going on in the world. (I'm kidding. Sort of.) Anyway, just now I was sitting here at the dining table wasting time on the internet when I noticed it was 11:00, so I told Penn, "Oh, my radio show is on! Can we listen to it?" And he died laughing. He told me that I'm the only person our age in the entire country who has a radio program I must listen to. He said it's like we're living in the 1930s and I'm excited because The Lone Ranger is about to come on. Think he's right about that? (Answer: Yes, probably.)

Yesterday I was on the bus riding to campus. By the way, I ride the bus now because I did some calculations when it came time to renew my annual campus parking permit and I realized that I could spend at least $1,000 a year commuting to campus in my car or I could spend $350 doing the same commute by bus (or $600 doing the same commute by train). Needless to say, I will not be renewing my parking permit and I'm now even more committed to using public transportation. But anyway, yesterday I was on the bus riding to campus and the bus pulled up to a stop about a mile away from school. It stopped to pick up this blonde, over-accesorized girl who was obviously a college undergrad. When the bus doors opened the girl stepped up into the bus but was still sort of hanging halfway out of it so the doors couldn't close. She asked the driver, "Does this bus go to the University Town subway station?" Already I was rolling my eyes because this particular bus route terminates at the University Town subway station so do you know what it says in bright flashing lights along the front of the bus? University Town Subway Station. And then the rest of the conversation went like this:
Bus Driver: Yes, it goes to the subway station.
Girl: The University Town subway station?
Bus Driver: Yes.
Girl: Are you sure?
Bus Driver: YES.
Girl: [as her cell phone beeps] Oh, that's my brother, he told me to take the bus. Can I call him real quick to make sure this is the right one?
Bus Driver: You want to call him? You need to either get on the bus or get off.
Girl: I just want to make sure this is the right bus.
Bus Driver: This goes to the subway station.
Girl: But are you sure?
Random guy on the bus: Yes.
Girl: Can you wait just one second so I can--actually, someone might be coming to pick me up--
Me: [finally fed up, piping up from the back of the bus] YES, this goes to the subway station, I PROMISE.
Girl: Oh...okay.
And then she proceeded to spend the rest of the time I was on the bus chattering away on her cell phone about how she was taking the bus, oh my gawd.
What an idiot. And I have a sneaking suspicion that the only reason she finally got on the bus was because I, the only other white person on the bus at the time, said that yes, it was fine and it would take her to her destination. And that's really depressing, that there are people so racist (probably subconsciously, but STILL) that they can't even be bothered to trust the person who actually drives the bus for a living just because that person is black. I don't know if that's actually the case or not, but that's what it felt like and it ticked me off. Also, how self-absorbed do you have to be to think a bus that serves a major metropolitan area and has a schedule to stick to will just stop and wait for you while you make a quick phone call? Usually I like people. Sometimes, I really, really wonder what is wrong with them.

Penn and I are celebrating our official one-year anniversary tonight! I have a longer post in the works about that (I've been writing it on and off since March 28th, which is the night we first met) and I'll post it soon. In the meantime, he's taking me on a surprise date tonight. I honestly have no clue where we're going, but I'm excited!