late night with anna

Every morning when I wake up I think, "This, this is the day that I will go to bed early!" I hate getting up in the morning. I am so not a morning person that I am the anti-morning person. If you talk to me as I am waking, I will growl at you, even if you are being ever so sweet and tying to gently rouse me. I crave Saturdays when there are no waking up deadlines and sleep goes on and on and on. But, somehow, and micraculously, after about 15-20 minutes on the weekdays, I begin to perk up, start making the coffee (thank God for coffee) and think that maybe I can make it through the day without vertically snoring. I do end up making it through the day, but have to fight like hell not to take a nap in the afternoon. The hours between 4-6 have become my nemisis. The problem revolves around the fact that I stay up 'til about 12:30 or 1 everynight (I teach school so this is way late). There is no real reason why I do this. I am not writing a novel or developing photographs or even knitting an amazing sweater. No, you can usually catch me doing, well, nothing I guess. I can't acurately say what I do each night. Sometimes I'm reading, sometimes watching TV, sometimes reading blogs online, and sometimes talking to west coast friends. I used to actually stay up to watch Letterman, but TV bores me more and more lately.

I have always been a night owl. I can't remember when I didn't like staying up late. It must have started in late elmentary school or middle school when I can remember watching Saturday Night Live and Johnny Carson with my family (I know, quality bonding time). I remember in college wishing that exams were given at night because my brain was just so much more alert then and I was convinced this would improve my grades. I still "wake up" at about 8pm everynight. This is when I begin getting things done, the dishes, the laundry, the phone calls, the emails, the projects, the organizing. About 2 hours into my second wind, I remember that I wanted to go to bed early so I don't feel bad in the morning, but 10pm rolls around and I think I can give it one more hour and then I think if I go to bed at midnight I'll still get about 7 hours of sleep. Sounds good, but this never happens. So, everynight I stay up doing things that will sadly not bring to me to enlightenment anytime soon. I wish that I could say that I have an extraordinary social life filled with late night gallery openings and wild parties, but no. That's not me anyway. Instead, I'll be washing my hair, helping my friends pick the perfect bridesmaids dress online or shutting the world out with a book. Tonight I will be, um, let's see, um, well, how about reading my fabulous travel book on London (no, I'm not going anytime soon, I'm just obsessed) until midnight. And tomorrow morning when I wake up I will think "This, this is the day that I will go to bed early!"



war games

Who, pray tell, designed apartment buildings so that you can hear everything that is happening in the apartment below you with almost complete and utter accuracy? I mean, is it that hard to place some sound absorbing panels in between the floors as you build? Think, architects, think!

My neighbors downstairs are college students. Why they live in our beautiful, mostly populated by the elderly and some young professionals, far away from the college they attend apartment complex, I don't know. And, I actually, don't know them. I know that one is a boy and one is a girl. I know that the boy plays guitar and sometimes tries to sing along, mostly Dave Matthews songs. I know the girl will occasionally put on some Jason Mraz. (My connections to the above musicians would probably blow their minds, but I will never be friends with these college brats and so they will never know.) And, I know that I can hear the boy cough at times. What does that mean he can hear me do? I wonder about this one.

Tonight, they are listening to the radio and they have what I think is a subwoofer cranked up so as I sit here trying to watch TV or listen to my music, I just hear deep voices and bass. It BLOWS!!!!!!!!! So, being the oh so nice and always ready to lend you some sugar should you be baking something neighbor, I turned up my subwoofer to the MAXIMUM. Take that you slackers! I am usually quite kind with my subwoofer. When my brother installed it and put it at Maximum, I told him I had neighbors below and that it needed to go lower, a lot lower. So much for thinking of other people.

The reason for this retaliation is that I think that they like to bang their ceiling, my floor, when they think that I am being loud. I am not loud. OK, so I always have some kind of noise on, I hate quiet, but when I am watching TV and they bang, and I check the volume, it is on 2 bars. "OK people, I pay enough in rent to listen to my TV at 2 MEASILY BARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" I am not actually sure what the banging is about. I wonder sometimes if it is my imagination. What could 2-3 pounding-like sounds in rapid succession be? One day I came home and as I walked in the door I heard the 2 bangs. I threw my stuff down and yelled at the floor "I haven't even been here to make noise. What, you don't like it when I open my door?"

Maybe, just maybe, there is some phantom mouse running around and driving them crazy while I am constantly monitoring my volume. I can't help but remember the Friends episode where the old neighbor below is always banging on his ceiling when the friends are not actually making noise. When he dies and they go to his apartment they hear what sounds like a party going on above them, but they are all in his apartment. Could this be what is happening in my building? I don't know, but I always turn down the noise if I hear the banging until, of course, tonight and the subwoofer wars. Game on!



things I saw yesterday

Richmond's annual chili cook-off held many feasts for my eyes:

1) William Hung. I know, you're jealous. He was one act among many at the festivities and his one song performance of "She Bangs" was almost worth the $20 admission fee.

2) People wearing clothes that should have been retired years ago (or never purchased)- a) Belly shirts- these should only be worn by people who do not actually have bellies and then only when they want other women to hate them. b) Clothing that is too tight- there was a woman who looked normal in everyway except that her tan linen pants were a bit snug above her thighs, and by snug I mean she had a perma-wedgie. c) Stripper shoes- The shoes which I am referring to had a 3 inch clear plastic heel, silver souls, and clear plastic straps. I know, you're jealous again. Note to self- don't go to the chili cook-off as can't handle the dress requirements.

3) People running after beer- the beer trucks ran out of beer about an hour before the cook-off ended. We were waiting in line and when they would announce that the beer was gone people would scatter quickly to another truck, and so on, and so on. Note to self- don't go to an event where grown people run after silly things, unless there is a sale on at Saks.

4) A woman's bare bum- as I walked to my car I saw that the passenger door of the car beside me was open, blocking my door. There was no one around and as I got closer and closer I looked for someone to tell that I needed to close the door. Then, as I approached my car I saw that there was in fact someone behind the door, a woman's bare bum was in plain view. Um, OK, um, um, look in the other direction, um, wait, um, don't look, hope that friend tells her I am here, um, um. When she is done and is pulling up her pants over her bare bum and says "I'm sorry, I just really had to pee," say "It's OK, do what you gotta do" and quickly get in your car and pull away. Note to self- never, never have to pee that bad.



3 times a bridesmaid...

When I checked the mail one day last week and saw the oversized, cream envelope with my name and address perfectly printed on it, I thought "Here's another one." I open it to find an invitation to a cousin's wedding in May. As I scan the card for the wedding, the reception, the directions, and the reply card I think, "And so the season begins." Every year there is a flow of weddings in my life. I have probably been to at least 50 weddings since I was small. Since college, they just keep on coming. Someone told me that there is usually a boom right after college and then again in your 30s. Um, there has been no let up in the bombing, apparently the troops refuse to surrender, give up and just go home. I do have to say that I sometimes, am on the firing squad, well in some capacity anyway. This year marks the seventh run as a bridesmaid for me (OK, so 2 of them were my brothers, but still 7, come on people). That's right, seventh (this does not include the ones in which I will merely be a spectator). I love my friends and family and am so honored to be included in these special days and this is no diss on them in anyway. This is all about me. I mean, it's always about me anyway, right?

This year are the weddings of 2 very special people, my cousin who is like a sister to me and my best friend who basically is a sister to me. These are probably the most special ones that I will be a part of and in my best friend's I am the maid of honor. When she asked me, I cried, and then reality set in, this is my 7th time walking down the aisle, alone. Oh, there are no pitty parties, Anna is an independent. One friend said, "Well, at least you're getting closer." I was like, um thanks, that's as close as I want to be, for now anyway. So, I do my duties of planning and attending showers, giving my measurements to strangers (probably the worst part of the whole process), and being there for the bride in any way she might need. I do all of this thinking, as Cinderella did, that someday my prince will come. But, oh no, don't think he needs to rescue me, no. I've already rescued myself. I want a prince for all the other reasons, plenty of cash, big house, private jet. No, really, I want a prince who is prince of humanity in that he treats me and everyone I love with kindness, who is so funny that I laugh out loud just thinking about things he has done or said, who wants to learn to do things that I love just because I love them, and who wants me to do the same for him. I think my friends (and cousin) have found these princes, I know they have. I'm just hoping that they haven't gotten the last ones.



it's news to me

I love NPR. Music stations can make you feel like you are stuck on repeat of a mixed CD. The same songs over and over. People, please. But then, there in the distance, on the hour, every hour, and during rush hour and some good hours on Friday night and Sunday, there is NPR to rescue me. I like a pop song just as much as the next person, but I don't think that I ever actually will "find [you] in a club with a bottle full of bub," but I do know people who have taken prozac which now appears to be causing suicidal tendencies. (I heard this tidbit before eyeing it on any other news source that day.)

I love the idea of multitasking, driving and getting abreast of what is, or is not, going on in the world. I can't watch news on TV anymore, unless it's BBC and then only when I'm actually in England, because the inane (trying to be) analytic dribble drabble that procludes from these people's mouths is too much for me to stand. I tell my father everytime that I am home that FoxNews is one of those broadcasts that actually does write its copy for people with an 8th grade education because that is there audience (if you didn't know, that's suppose to be the industry standard for level of writing, 8th grade, yeah I know). He just ignores me and continues to be "dumbed down." Newspapers are fine, but I don't have the dough to subscribe to them and reading a newspaper online just doesn't seem right to me. And so, when I get in my car and I'm just sick of hearing the same 4 songs, I check the clock and thank God that it is after 4 in the afternoon and there is information to be learned as I drive home. Some days, I even leave early in the morning so that I can hear the more in-depth news as I drive in (the closer you get to 9am the more "entertaining" the pieces get). I mean, all things considered I just need a little fresh air to handle this American life.



martha stewart ain't got nothin' on me

Today I heard a school secretary say to a little girl, "Now, you're not going to get suspended anymore, are you?" As I passed by the conversation I wanted to say, "No, you're wrong. This little GIRL wouldn't do something to get suspended. I mean look at her, she's cute, well-dressed, calm, and polite." And then metacognition set in and I realized that I had just committed a mental act of sexism.

Our mothers might not understand why this scene might make us step back and take note of our place on the "balance of the sexes." My mother didn't even begin college until I, her third child, was in elementary school. And she is the only one of her sisters to have a college degree. A few years ago, she got her Masters in Administration (approximately 1 year before I go my Masters), hoping to become a school principal. It seems that her age has hindered those hopes, sexism replaced by ageism. (My mom is older than my friends' parents. She has a 39 year-old son after all.) I'm not sure if this is really true, but she continued teaching and thanks to Bush's unfunded No Child Left Behind, she has, in fact, been left behind. It now appears that she must have in hand a different type of Masters to do the same job she's been doing for 3 years. But, I'm sure that 40 years ago she never would have thought she'd be worrying about what type of Masters Degree she had.

Former generations of women only hoped that women would have as many choices and possibilities that we do now, but with the entire world laid out before us, what do we really have but more questions? What if we just want to be married and have children? And that's it. What if we want it that simple? Is it sacrilege to not take advantage of the choices, or is that the whole point anyway? I personally would feel no shame in dropping the 50,000 dollars and 20 plus years spent on my education to be a happy homemaker. But, alas, baby making and the perfect spinach quiche are not the path I stumbled onto, nor will it be anytime in the near future. After all, I have a research project due for my "might turn into a PhD" class.



the dancer

When riding my bike and a slight hill appears I must use all my leg power to tackle the mere incline (I'm not talking real hills). As I'm peddaling with more and more emphasis I can't help but be aware of my powerhouse legs. My calves are huge and this is not actually related to me being overweight. There are two reasons for my treetrunk legs. First, there is genetics (I know, blame your mother). But seriously, I've never seen the women in my family ever really break a sweat, sure there is the occasional walking of the dog, but no intense exercise going on, and yet these women do not have dainty legs. We have legs built for... well I don't know what for. The second reason is Linda Watkins School of Dance. I was a dancer from age 4 to 18 and dancers have powerhouse legs, how else could they leap like that? I tapped, balleted, toed, and jazzed my way through 14 years of jetes, plies, and time steps. I usually hated dance class, but the recitals I lived for. There is nothing like being on stage and performing. My favorite was the kick line. And still, years later, when I hear Elvis Costellos' "Hot Hot Hot" (which is not that often) I want to throw some eye high kicks and do a split, oh there were splits. Sadly, I couldn't do a split now if you paid me. I miss the way a dancer knows her body, how every move is fluid and somehow perfectly calculated, even walking can be a dance. Our dance instructor used to tell us a story about a dancer's grace. The story goes that she was coming home from the grocery store holding a bag of groceries in each hand. When she stepped up her back stairs to her house, she slipped on a thin layer of ice. And this is where the grace comes in- she would emphasize that because she was dancer, she knew how to fall and thus landed safely on the ground, legs folded perfectly to soften the full body blow. The strange thing is that I don't remember ever practicing or in fact ever falling in dance class, but I understood what she was saying. A dancer's right hand always knows and reacts to what the left hand is doing. I've never broken a bone, pulled a muscle, or torn a ligament, could this be due to the dancing? I don't know but, thanks to Linda Watkins, when I'm 85 and fall down my front stairs, I may not in fact break my hip.



off the Appalachian trail

I was cruising on my bike through Windsor Farms today. It's a posh neighborhood in Richmond's westend where the houses are big and beautiful, the yards are kept up by hired hands I'm sure, and all children go to St. Catherine's, or St. Christopher's (cause being educated along middle or lower class kids is to much of a reality for these folks). OK, so I would like to own a house here, but my kids would go to public school. On my bike tour past the beautiful AgeCroft (yes, some aristocratic cook had the house torn apart and shipped over here from England). The house is amazing and has a prescious spot in Richmond, it rests on a small hill and looks out to a small mountain which has not been tainted with developments. It's serene, and reminds me of my hometown and of my last home, C-ville. Growing up among moutains, I hated them. My hometown is in a valley and therefore surrounded on all sides as if the hills protect and keep the people below. And, in many ways they did, my hometown is a sheltered place. Though quaint at times, it could possibly be the redneck version of "A City Upon (surrounded by) A Hill (hills)." But, we all know what happens to Utopia, oh yeah, it doesn't exist. So, for most of my life I have cursed the moutains and hills, especially when trying to learn how to drive a stick shift (I actaully gave up trying for a good year). I didn't start to accept and reclaim them until this past summer in Montana. I traveled to Montana for a friends wedding and when I stepped off the plane and found myself surrounded by mountains I thought I was back in my hometown except there are no semi-tall buildings and I don't think they know what urban sprawl is. Throughout the weekend I kept thinking, "What is so great about these moutains?" OK, so they are huge and the ranges are much bigger than Virginia's and they are bit more pristine, but really, no Virginian would be that amazed as I wasn't. Then when drving back to C-ville from the airport in DC and going up and down the rolling hills, I thought "These are my hills, Montana has nothing on these." I think I began to love my state then. I'm proud to be a Virginian which is saying something, considering I have always wished to be an North Carolinian. Richmond has no hills or mountains to look at, we're too far east. I actually miss them. Some days as I'm driving to work I feel like I don't have everything that I need for the day, I check everything, my watch, my purse, my coffee and I and can't find the missing piece, but maybe it's the moutains, the Blue Ridge, that I'm missing, without really knowing it.



I live on a tree-lined street

My sister-in-law had an embroidered pillow which rested on her white loveseat which sat in an area off to the side of her kitchen in her former house. The pillow said, in green thread, "Bloom Where You're Planted" and of course had simple, colorful flowers sprouting underneath the words. The first time I saw this pillow, I thought "What a great saying." After 3 eye-opening, ego-blasting years in a teaching position that drove me to see a therapist, a move to a new city, a new job, and lots of downtime, I can now see the sunlight. The cloud which followed me around all my life, much like the dust cloud that follows PigPen from Charlie Brown, has lifted. The weather is not always clear, it rains and storms still, but mostly there are sunny days. I've moved to Richmond to start over and when I first moved here I was so excited and thrilled to begin again and to do it right this time. Well, 6 months into living here, I was not happy. The cloud was back, my apartment was a shambles, and I hated waking up to go to work every morning. I was obsessed with New York City and sad that I could not afford to move there or to London, or anywhere. Then I began to repeat and reflect on that pillow in my sister-in-laws kitchen. And while I'm not ready for blooming, at least for now, I think I'll germenate. And I'm sure, with all this sunlight, a stem will form.

Next Time

Ginko trees live 1,000 years.
Eating the leaves will clear you brain.
When I heard about them, I thought of my mother,
how much I would like to sit under one with her
in the ancient shade, nibbling
the flesh, the stem, the central vein.

~Naomi Shihab Nye



not the bridges of madison county

I love the bridges of Richmond. They are no architectural triumphs by any means. They are simple and quiet, sometimes elegant, and to me, quite satisfying.

My favorite is the Nickel bridge. It is a small two lane bridge that is made of intricate iron workings on either side and is lighted by short lamps which are part of the iron work. It is a quaint bridge and one of the quite one I think. As cars pass each other in close proximity, it's as if they are quitely saying hello to each other.

The one I take to work everyday, the Powhite Pkwy, is a toll bridge and although I pay everyday and hope that my $.50 will soon make enough of a difference that the tolls will soon go away, I make sure to enjoy the view on either side of me. On the left is a train bridge that was clearly built when we took time for grandeur and beauty in transportation. The train bridge is grey stone with slender arches that reach just under the flat top. Everytime I look at this bridge I imagine riding in a cafe car on a train in the 20s, sipping tea and headed south to somewhere fabulous. Just visible beyond the train bridge is the Nickel bridge, much shorter than the train bridge and sometimes I think it is a whisper of a bridge in the distance. Back to the right side of the Powhit bridge. On the right is only the James river and it's tree lined banks. The river is a bit rocky at this point and every morning I can gauge the level of percepitation west of Richmond. When the river is at a normal level, birds perch on some rocks that barely rest above the water level. The first time I saw I bird sitting on one of these tiny rocks, I wondered if he thought himself a daredevil.

The Hugenot bridge is at the end (or beginning) of Cary St. It extends into the posh westend of Richmond. This bridge is two lanes with rails on either side that mimic a picket fince in metalic piping. But, it's length is what is so fascinating. It goes for at least a quarter mile and part of is not over water at all. When you start the bridge from the Cary St. side you enter and curve around into a grove of trees. Because it's a bridge a this point, you feel as if you are suspended through a small forest. As you curve around, train tracks appear quickly and then the banks of the of the river. It's a bit like a fairytale bridge, no exactly magical, but unnexpected.

The Willey Memorial Bridge mimics the Hugenot bridge in length and setting, but is far different in description. The bridge is all concrete and lit by standard street lights.

The Lee Memorial bridge is my least favorite. This bridge is open to pedestrians on either side so that the blank concrete feel is even more guarded by chain link fencing. Although the bridge is wide with four lanes, you feel boxed in and can't see the water underneath. The idea and realization of being suspended over rushing water does elevate the drab feel of this bridge for the brief trip over the James.

The 2ndSst. bridge is another non-descript bridge, but on the downtown bank there is a memorial to Vietnam veterans of Virginia. It's a beautiful memorial, a large stone wall in the background, a grand shape of a women inside, behind a glass wall. I've haven't seen it up close, it's on my list of things to do. Just the other day I discovered an walking suspension bridge under the 2nd st. bridge. The walking bridge literally hangs below the towering car bridge above. It reminds me of the Millineum Bridge in London, another beautiful walking suspension bridge.



I don't know what to tell you

My name is Anna love my nieces and nephew. I love to read pop fiction (yes, Bridget Jones is a friend of mine). I have TiVo. I used to write poetry (fairly seriously in college and worked with some big names). I have a very well decorated apartment, it's beautiful if I do say so myself. I love to cook and don't do it enough. I need to learn to exercise frequently. I wish that I could: take amazing photographs, publish some poems/ book/ picture/ dna, travel to any city anytime, live in NYC, live in London, etc.

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