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the hangover

School auctions are dangerous. Right up there with shark attacks and thong bodysuits. Auctions for pet causes are bad enough. But an auction for your kids? Game over. Because your kids—they need things. To refrain from buying stuff at a school auction would be tantamount to stunting your kids’ emotional growth, something you’re already doing plenty of by leaving them at school to earn a living. Combine all that with an open bar, and you’re looking at a wicked hangover the morning after.

The morning after this year’s auction, I woke up feeling panicked. I remembered the night before, but only the aura of it. None of the details. And I knew there were details. How much had I spent? I knew there had been alcohol. I recalled that. But how much alcohol? I had gulped down a fortifying cocktail on the way in, to try to forget that I was dressed, ridiculously, as an aging hipster. After that, I couldn’t recall any drink in particular.

I looked through the photos on my phone. I was either holding a drink and/or looked drunk in all of them. Oh my God. How much had I spent???

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I laid in bed under my covers and concentrated on remembering details. I knew I’d raised my paddle for new science equipment. But that’s ok. I mean, who can’t get behind science equipment? My boys would need to learn science if they were to become billionaire oligarchs. I knew I’d bought a berry picking trip with my kids’ teachers. Best money I’d spent all night, if I was to judge from years prior. But there was something else, wasn’t there?

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I kept scrolling through pics. My friend Caroline (in top hat) is always the cool girl in the room who seems up for anything. And that’s a really bad trait to have around when it comes to auctions. As for Mollyanne (neck tats), she’s got so much joie de vivre that you can get a contact high if you stand too close to her. Sitting between these two had clearly been my first mistake. Especially since Caroline’s husband Aaron, a relatively calm and mitigating influence, was in Asia on business. As for Tom, photos confirmed that he’d not been in a state to stop me from doing anything.

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I remembered Caroline, at some point, pointing to an item in the catalog. That’s right. A tango party! For seven couples! How sophisticated! How droll. I remembered telling her we’d go in on it, together. I remembered a lot of my arm, up in the air, waving my bidder number around, high from the wine and the energy in the room and Mollyanne’s woohoo’ing. I remembered Tom, fake moustache dangling, lunging across the table to take my bidder card away from me. I remembered being annoyed that Tom was harshing my buzz.

Alas. If only he’d harshed my buzz a little harder, I might have thought through the tango party a bit. Questions might have popped up. Legitimate questions. Like, would I have to wear tango shoes? I look really bad in mid-heels. Or: how would I blackmail Tom into attending a party at which he was required to dance in front of other people? And my God—what about the other couples? Even assuming Caroline could manage to drug Aaron and then lead his unconscious body around on the dance floor, that meant we’d need to find five other couples willing to humiliate themselves. Why hadn’t I thought of all this the night before??

Over the next few days, I pieced together the rest of that fateful night. A couple days later at pickup, I found a ceramic platter laying out on a table at the school with my name on it. I didn’t remember bidding on it. Hell I didn’t even remember seeing it. But the platter was beautiful, and I was gratified to realize that my drunk self had excellent taste in serveware. I wondered how much I’d paid. I wanted to know, but apparently I didn’t really want to know, because when I saw the auction receipt peeking out of my kids’ file folder, I left it there for three whole days.

In the end, it could have been worse. I could have been Caroline. She texted me this photo, with a message: “Is there anything that I DIDN’T buy?”

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Caroline has a busy summer ahead of her. Learning how to tango, making salad rolls and Almond Roca. Canning jam, and attending a garden dinner in NW Portland. Enjoying a romantic idyll in Bali with Aaron…and her three sons. But it’s alright, both her spending and mine. Because it was for a good cause. The best cause.

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potato of love

Ah, romance. We all want more of it. Even if you’re married, like me. ESPECIALLY if you’re married, like me. Sometimes I tell Tom that he could be more romantic. Flowers. A handwritten note. A surprise gift. After twelve years of marriage, the surprises can feel few and far between.

I’m equally to blame. Last Friday, Tom grabbed me in an impromptu embrace and tried to wrestle me onto the bed. In full daylight, with the kids only a floor away! What could be hotter? But the housekeepers had just visited. And our bed had just been made, to perfection. “TOM!! NOOOOOO!!,” I screamed, as he pushed me backwards onto the mattress. Tom sighed, his mood deflated, and then walked off to check scores. I smoothed out the duvet, assuring myself that all was pristine.

Or a couple weeks before that, when Tom tried to corner me in my closet. That time it was the overhead lights. All I could think about was how much my face looks like Alice Cooper’s under those lights. I don’t feel sexy when I feel ugly. I shoved Tom off of me and ran to pat some retinol on my face.

The more I thought about the romance thing, the worse I felt. If I wanted more romance, I shouldn’t just sit around waiting for it to be visited upon me. I would try a spontaneous gesture on Tom, in hopes of receiving spontaneous and expensive gestures in return.

At the mall, I moseyed into a See’s Candies to eat some samples, and saw a potato made out of chocolate.

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It was boxed in green and dusted with cocoa powder and it had little things stuck in it that made the potato look like it had eyes. All in all, I was charmed by the verisimilitude of the thing. It was so funny. A chocolate potato. For St. Patrick’s Day! SO spontaneous. Tom would love it. I bought one and rushed home, eager to begin the romance.

At home, I changed into my pajamas and placed the box on his pillow. And then I waited for him to come to bed. But then, I fell asleep. The next morning, Tom didn’t say a thing about the potato. I tried to be gracious about it, but I was annoyed.

“Did you see the thing I left you on your pillow?” Tom looked up from brushing his teeth. He rinsed, and then smiled. “Oh yeah! The potato. Super funny. Thanks babe.”

Thanks babe? That was it? Couldn’t he see that I was trying to be romantic? Getting dressed, I saw that he had left the potato on a shelf in the closet. I moved it to the bathroom, and placed it between our sinks.

And there it sat, for two weeks. After the first few days, I was mystified. Tom can eat a pound of Sour Patch Kids in one sitting. I’ve seen him cram an entire chocolate bar into his mouth. I know my man. He likes candy. So why wasn’t he eating the potato? I opened the box and took a small nibble. It was totally delicious. I closed the box back up and pushed the potato closer to his sink, right next to his shaving cream.

Every day the potato sat there, I felt rejected. And then one day, the potato was gone. Where was the GD potato? I sent Tom an email, and waited impatiently for his response.

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A wholly inadequate response, I felt. I’d given Tom a bouquet of flowers and he’d hit me in the face with them. He made it ten times worse when I confronted him by phone. “Babe. I’m sorry,” he stammered. “I had no idea it was that important to you. It just looked…gross. I mean, why would anyone want to eat a chocolate potato?” I sat there, speechless. I mean, he ate bags full of gummy candies that looked like little children. But Tom wasn’t done. He had some salt he wanted to rub into my wounds. “I mean, a part of it was already eaten and that made it even more gross, like a…like a RAT ate part of it or something.”

Anyway. Even though he rejected me and my romantic gift, it felt good to think about Tom, and to think about doing something nice for him. I feel like I’m flexing a muscle that’s rusty from disuse.

I’m already plotting my next act of romance.

garnier left me for dead

My beauty products keep getting discontinued and it has to stop. I’ve been left most recently by my favorite Nars cream blush, my eyelash curler, and most traumatically, by my Shiseido mascara.

You get burned enough times and you start taking preventative measures. Makeup is one thing, but my hair is another. Given how serious I am about my hair, I have long stockpiled hair products. I buy cans of my hairspray whenever it goes on sale. I had a couple weeks of satisfying styling with a mousse about a year ago and I started stockpiling that, even though our history together was brief and untested.

But I never bothered stockpiling my Garnier Surf Hair. For starters, it was always available. They sold it everywhere, even at Safeway. You know your hair product has entered the pantheon when they offer it at Safeway. And it was cheap. It was $3.60 with my Rite Aid 20% discount. To my mind, something that cheap couldn’t be worth the effort of discontinuing. For $3.60, the stuff gave my hair texture and volume without stickiness or shine. It was perfect. And I took it for granted.

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I should have seen the signs. I couldn’t find it the last couple times I was at Walgreens, but I figured it was a stocking issue. But then it happened again, at QFC. When it happened at my Rite-Aid, I stood in the aisle with my heart racing and braced my arm against the shelf. Breathe, I told myself. Surely it was a fluke. I pushed the red button near the razor blades and waited, pacing the aisle, for someone to come to my rescue. When the salesperson appeared, I told myself to act normal.

“Excuse me. Do you have any Garnier Surf Hair in the back? I’d like to buy eight jars.” The salesperson went to look, and then came back empty-handed to tell me that actually, she hadn’t seen the product in a while. Holy Mother. How had I gotten HERE? I considered asking her to open the razor blade display so I could put myself out of my misery, then and there. I impatiently waited for her to finish talking and then I raced to my car. Then I drove to Target, which is like 20 minutes from my house. If they didn’t have my Garnier at Target for $3.88, I would know that the idyll was well and truly over.

Well, they didn’t have it. I raided my drawers at home and at the gym and took inventory of my rations. The situation was dire, as I’d not bought any Garnier in months. I was down to one container, empty but for the paste stuck in the lid. Soon, I found myself thinking about Garnier Surf Hair around the clock. I’d use ever-smaller quantities of the stuff in an attempt to make it last, which resulted in bad styling that seemed an omen of the hair struggles to come. At dinners and cocktail parties, I’d find my attention drifting from conversation, as I wondered if I could concoct my own paste out of other, inferior styling products. At home, I hid the Garnier underneath the sink, so Tom couldn’t use any. I tamped down the twinges of guilt by telling myself that his hair looked essentially the same with product as it did without. But I was lying to myself. Because Garnier Surf Hair improves everyone’s hair.

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I hate everyone and everything associated with the demise of Garnier Surf Paste. I hate Garnier, who is offering a new formulation (“Power Putty”—how original) that is twice as expensive. I hate the friends who tell me I’ll find another hair product, and then recommend the product they’ve been using, which costs $22 per tiny jar. I hate the soulless pigdogs on eBay who see these things coming and stockpile discontinued product to sell it at obscene markups. I support the idea of a capitalist society, but not as it applies to me in this particular instance. Finally, I am annoyed at Tom, who, as a fellow user, is partially responsible for the global depletion of a most valuable resource.

But the most bitter of recriminations, I reserve for myself. Because I knew this could happen, and failed to act with either purpose or conviction. When I see my cans of stockpiled hairspray and stupid mousse I want to go back and do it all again. The mousse makes me particularly angry, because I haven’t used mousse (mousse!) in almost a year.

It’s sad to have hoarded hair products. But it’s even sadder to discover you’ve hoarded the wrong ones.

all aboard

I bought Finn a train table when he was a baby. With your first kid, you buy ridiculously stupid things like wipe warmers and penis tee-pees and single-purpose train tables that take up huge amounts of floor space. I gave my second kid a few months with the train table but by that time I’d been eyeing the real estate that sat under the table for a couple years. And Tate seemed generally disinterested in the table, and trains. So I gave it to the kids’ school.

He didn’t even notice at first. But then, two weeks after I gave the table away, Tate looked up from his Cheerios one morning with his lip curled into a snarl. “Where my train table?” I pretended not to hear, and slowly slid the cereal box between us. “WHERE MY TRAIN TABLE?” I looked up to find him standing on his chair, peering over the cereal box with his hands on his hips. Shit! “What train table?,” I ventured. Wrong answer. Tate really hates it when I play dumb. He grabbed his milk glass and held it high in the air over the sisal rug. Checkmate. “Oh, THAT train table! Right,” I said. “Dunno. Maybe Handy Manny needed it for his shop? You should ask Daddy.”

Soon thereafter, Tate became completely obsessed with trains. He builds the tracks and puts the trains on them, all day long. He builds the tracks on my kitchen floor, right under the boiling pots. And in the entryway, right in front of the door. And in the hallway to the bathroom. I have slipped on innumerable trains in the dark. Some of them play songs when you step on them. Songs that you can’t turn off. So you have to throw them out the window to stop them from waking your kids.

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how i hate you, train

I have trains on the brain. There is a road (Naito Parkway) that runs almost directly from my office to my kids’ school. It’s a great road. It has almost no lights on it, and it traverses the entire downtown grid, so it allows you to get from one end of downtown to another in speedy fashion. In theory. In reality, everyone I know avoids the North end of Naito because it’s bisected by train tracks. On a good day with no trains I can get from my parking garage to the school in two minutes. But that never happens. Sometimes I feel like the trains lie in wait under the bridge until they see me coming. Because I always catch a train. Sometimes, I get stopped twice by the same train, as demonstrated in these photos.

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you again

Sitting in front of a train for 20 minutes while your kids are waiting on the other side will get you thinking. Why build a thoroughfare and then cross railroad tracks over it? Why are we still transporting things by train? We don’t use stagecoaches or burros anymore. How efficient can trains be when they move so goddamn slow? Could I run faster than this train? How much faster could I run than this train? Is this train even MOVING? Can the person in the car next to me hear me screaming? Why aren’t they screaming?

My friend Kathryn works for the Port of Portland and she really loves it when I text her pics of the trains from my car, asking “Why can’t you make this stop?” Anyway, first world problem. God I hate that phrase. It really diminishes the significance of my grievances.