stuff in my apartment

(I think I’m stealing this idea from Sarah. I seem to remember her doing something like it a few years ago, though I can’t seem to find it on her site. Thanks, Sarah.)

Bass mirror, permanently dusty

My first waitressing job was at a doomed restaurant/bar in a suburb of Houston. It was run by a man who had never run a restaurant or bar before, and it was in a neighborhood where a children’s menu (which we didn’t have) was more important than an ample scotch selection (which we did). I only worked there three months before we had to shut down to make way for a Wings N Things. I blame this job for my dislike of chain restaurants.

I’d become quite attached to the restaurant in my brief time there—the classic-rock jukebox, the collection of old beer cans on a shelf along the ceiling, the caricatures of employees and regular customers hanging on the walls. Two weeks before we closed I was promoted to bartender, so I spent the last night we were open holding back tears while getting drunk on bizarre cocktails of my own invention. “I call this one The Thing That Devoured the Bronx Pub and Grill,” I said, downing a mixture of Chambord, Midori, and blue CuraÁao. “Does anyone else want a White Bread Ate Manhattan?”

Before closing the doors for the last time, the owner let us take whatever we wanted off the walls. I took two things: a framed martini-themed poster and this gigantic Bass mirror. I’m still upset I didn’t remember to take my own caricature.

tea set Andy's mom gave me

My ex-boyfriend Andy’s mom was a frequent shopper at weekend garage sales. Andy and I had only been dating for a few months when she started to buy things she thought I might like. I’m quite narrow and particular in my tastes, so I was surprised when she turned out to be pretty good at picking things out for me. I still have two shirts she bought, and this tea set marked the beginning of my small teapot collection.

Andy’s mom was very generous and thoughtful, so much so that it made me feel guilty sometimes. I’d do a few loads of laundry at their house one night, and the next morning I’d wake up to find it all perfectly folded in the basket. No matter how many times I told her not to do it, she always folded my laundry anyway.

Andy had one brother and no sisters, and I always suspected that his mom folded my laundry and bought me things at garage sales because she enjoyed having a girl around the house.

glass bowl that my grandmother gave me

In the last few years of my grandmother’s life, she began to give her things away. She had a lot of china and other glass knick-knacks, and every time my parents or I went for a visit, we’d come back with a few pieces from her collection. For most of the pieces, she’d write a little note in her spindly handwriting with the date and place she acquired it. This bowl is my favorite, but unfortunately I don’t have the note anymore.

glass fish, glass paperweight, Faulkner shotglass

In February of my senior year of high school, I dated a guy who worked in the courtesy booth at the grocery store where I was a cashier. He was a freshman in college and much cooler than me, and I was surprised he asked me out in the first place. We’d only been out a few times when Valentine’s Day came around, and I worried about it for days beforehand. I’d always thought that Valentine’s Day was kind of stupid, with its standard gifts of flowers and chocolate and jewelry, but I didn’t know how to tell him that. He was the first guy I’d ever dated on Valentine’s Day, and I didn’t want to mess things up by doing something wrong. By the time Valentine’s Day arrived and he was at the door to pick me up for dinner, I was terrified.

When I opened the door, he handed me a little box. Oh, shit! I thought. He got me jewelry! What am I supposed to do? “I didn’t figure you were too into the whole Valentine’s Day thing,” he said, “but I wanted to get you a little something, and I thought you might like this.” I opened the box, and there on a little bed of cotton was a small glass paperweight. It was beautiful and thoughtful and not too weird at all. I couldn’t believe he had managed to find something so perfect.

We broke up three weeks later, but not because of the paperweight.

wooden name carving

I’ve had this wooden carving of my name since I was a kid, but I have no idea where it came from. I asked my dad about it over Thanksgiving and he said that an old coworker of his might have made it, but he’s not too sure either.

wild turkey cologne from Avon

On the bottom of this turkey-shaped cologned bottle, there’s a little sticker that says “Avon Wild Turkey.” It sat on my dad’s side of the counter in my parents’ bathroom for years. When I was little I’d go into the bathroom, take off the turkey’s head, and unscrew the cap to smell the cologne inside. My dad never, ever wore cologne, so I always wondered why he had it. Did he live the cologne-splashing life before my sister and I came along?

Before my parents moved to St. Louis, my dad asked me if I would look through the stuff they were giving away to see if there was anything I wanted. I found this cologne bottle in the pile, and asked my dad why he ever had it in the first place. I don’t remember what he said.

the Horny Bull

Just before I moved out of my parents’ house, I found this poster folded inside an old bartending guide in the liquor cabinet. My dad told me he didn’t even know it was there, and of course I could keep it if I wanted. I’ve hung it up in every bathroom I’ve had since. The copyright date on it is 1972, and the instructions at the bottom are for how to make tequila and Tang with ice in a Mason jar. According to this poster, Montezuma is the brave, bold tequila.

Eddie Mathews bobblehead

When I went to Atlanta in 2004, Chris and Kelly and I took a tour of Turner Field. They gave us these Eddie Mathews bobbleheads for free as we were leaving. Chris said that he planned to hang his upside-down next to his television so that the Braves would lose and the Astros would win. He also spat in the Braves dugout during the tour for good measure. Eddie’s bat broke off a few years ago, and I’ve never been able to glue it back on. Sorry, Eddie.

bathroom Simpsons collection

During the month I spent in London in 2001, I ate Nutella and jelly sandwiches for lunch every day. I was going to eat Nutella anyway (hello?), and the jelly was easily stolen from the refectory, so I figured I may as well make a lunch out of it. At the time, Nutella was sold in Simpsons-themed collectible jars with free magnets in the lids. I loved Nutella and I loved the Simpsons and I loved London, so this made me very happy.

I got my nose pierced while I was in London. When I told the guy behind the counter at Metalmorphosis that I hadn’t had lunch yet, he made me go eat something before they would pierce my nose. I felt kind of stupid eating a Nutella sandwich on the sidewalk outside a piercing place, but it had to be done.

scary Bailey's mug

The first time I went to Europe, in the summer of 1996, my friends and I bought a big bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream from a liquor store in Madrid. When we walked in and asked for Bailey’s, the shopkeeper pretended to think we said “bailar,” the Spanish word for dance, and he pantomimed dancing behind the counter. I can’t remember why we thought Bailey’s was so great, but we were eighteen so we didn’t know much about alcohol. We drank the whole thing and were disappointed that we didn’t get drunk.

“Do you feel anything yet?”


“Me either. Dammit.”

My friend Lauren’s mother had a whole box of these Bailey’s mugs in her kitchen. She never used them or even looked at them, so Lauren stole one and gave it to me as a gift. I’d have felt guilty about it, but Lauren’s mother was not very nice.

orangutan painting and various knick-knacks

My friends Trina and Kelly used to work in the primate area at the Houston zoo. This was awesome for me because whenever I went to visit, they would take me back to the feeding area and other places that regular visitors weren’t allowed to go. I got to meet a bunch of orangutans and a baboon and a gibbon.

The zoo did this fundraising campaign where they would get the orangutans to make paintings, which they would then auction off to benefit various primate causes. For Christmas one year, Kelly gave the orangs some blue and orange paint and a canvas and had them make this painting for me.

Andy's paintings

Andy did these two paintings. He gave them to me unsigned, but I made him sign them so I could tell when they were right-side up.

pickle ornament

In my life so far, I’ve had no interest whatsoever in getting my own Christmas tree. I live by myself in a small apartment with a tiny, curious dog, so I’d rather enjoy other people’s Christmas trees, thank you. But I have exactly one Christmas ornament—a glass pickle that lives on this lamp switch all year round. I couldn’t resist buying it from Hendley market in Galveston a few years ago. It’s a pickle, for God’s sake.

really old refrigerator magnets

I can’t remember my life without these refrigerator magnets. My parents gave them to me when I got my first apartment, since I loved them so much when I was little. Usually I’m not a fan of such gratuitous branding, but apparently I make exceptions for jelly jar magnets, alcohol paraphernalia, and the Simpsons.

There’s very little in my house that I’m not attached to sentimentally. I keep trying to convince myself that I should start decorating with things that are more almost-30-years-old and less OMG-my-first-apartment-rules! but I can’t seem to bring myself to do it. Maybe the fact that my apartment is an ode to my childhood and twenties is a little bit sad, but I don’t care. I’m comfortable here.

(The set has more photos.)


I’ve never liked “I love you” as a telephone conversation-ender.  Several years ago, I read a post on someone’s weblog that said simply, “At some point I love you becomes talk to you later.” It wasn’t something I’d ever thought about before, but as soon as I read that post, I realized how true it was. “I love you” is like a curse word that way—if said often enough, it loses its impact.

“But what if that’s our last phone conversation ever?” an old boyfriend said to me once. “What if something happens to one of us? I would want ‘I love you’ to be the last thing we said.”

“Well,” I said, “if something bad happened, it’d certainly be ideal if ‘I love you’ was the last thing we ever said to one another. But it never sounds right on the phone.”

So we made a deal where we would only say it on the phone if we weren’t in the same town, and I thought it a fair compromise. But it still never sounded right.

A few weeks ago I was sitting at my desk, talking on the phone with a coworker. As we ended our conversation, I thought, “God, wouldn’t it be embarrassing if I accidentally said ‘I love you’ right before I hung up?” It certainly would be embarrassing, and I’d have to explain that sometimes I’m really weird in my head and I didn’t mean it, of course, I just was thinking about what if I said it and then it came out and I’m really sorry, sir.

After I hung up the phone I had a good laugh and didn’t think about it again, at least not until my next phone conversation. See, now I’ve psyched myself out. Ever since I first had that thought, every single time I’m nearing the end of a phone conversation something in my head says, “Okay, talk to you soon, I love you, bye!” and I panic just a little bit. Don’t say it! Then I hang up and sigh with relief at not having said it this time. But who knows how long it will be until my brain finally tricks me into saying it?

Jessica and I talked recently about when we had to read the textbook out loud during seventh-grade science class. The teacher would tell us that we each had to read three sentences from the book, going up and down the desk rows taking turns until we finished reading chapter seven. “I would always count the sentences in advance and figure out which ones I would have to read so I could practice beforehand,” Jessica said.

“So did I!” I said. “I was always terrified that I’d mess up. And I was really afraid that one of my sentences would have organism in it.”

“I was afraid of condominium.”

“Why would you talk about condominiums in science class?”

“I guess we wouldn’t, but I still liked to be prepared.”

Until Jessica and I talked about this, I’d forgotten how much I hated the reading out loud. I never even listened to what everyone else was reading; I was too busy counting how many kids were going to read before me and counting the sentences until it was my turn and oh now that one kid is finished so I’ve got to recount and I think these are my sentences and oh my god I have to say organism and I just know that this is going to be the day when I slip up and say orgasm in front of the whole class. Everyone will laugh and laugh and I’ll be known as The Girl Who Said Orgasm in Fifth Period Science until I get to college, and even then I bet someone in my dorm will have heard about it.

Don’t say orgasm don’t say orgasm don’t say orgasm

I never said orgasm in science class, but in seventh grade I farted in reading, which was even worse, because then I was The Girl Who Farted in Reading. I tried to convince everyone that it wasn’t me, it was these damn creaky chairs (hoping that the added “damn” would make me seem like the kind of badass who wouldn’t ever fart in reading), but they didn’t believe me. So everyone laughed and laughed while I sat there red-faced in the damn creaky chair pretending to read Tuck Everlasting, which of course I’d already read at home, but there was no point bragging about that because it would probably make things worse and anyway it wouldn’t erase my status as The Girl Who Farted in Reading.

Not that I’m any better about these things. I still remember Amy Vance as The Girl Who Barfed in Ninth-Grade English.

And apparently I’m still convinced that my brain is going to try and humiliate me. I just know that the next time I’m at my desk on the phone with someone from finance or purchasing, I’m going to end the conversation with “I love you! Orgasm!” and there’ll be no proper way to explain it. Only this time, instead of laughing at me, they’re going to file a grievance.

double entendre

Most of the time I take my own lunch to work—a reusable plastic container full of salad or crock-pot veggie chili to eat while surfing the web at my desk. It saves me a lot of money and a LOT of calories, and lately whenever I drive by a McDonald’s I think to myself, “The road to hell is paved with disposable fast-food containers,” so I feel pretty good in that department, too.

(Boy, it’s a good thing I’m a single-occupant vehicle most of the time; I’d hate for someone to see me frowning at fast-food restaurants and flipping off Hummers on my commute to work and think I’m some kind of hypocrite.)

Except once a week I get my lunch at Freebird’s, a burrito place near my office. The burritos are good and fresh and not too expensive, and they come packaged in foil and a little paper bag, so I don’t feel too bad about the packaging (or at least not as bad as I would if it were plastic).

Freebird’s is one of those choice-type places, where you walk in and ask one of the fifteen people behind the counter for a burrito, and they say what size? what kind of tortilla? do you want rice? meat? what kind of cheese? what kind of beans? pico? guacamole? onions? sauce? a cookie? a drink? and so on and so forth until you’re tired of all the interrogation, but you end up with a really good burrito, so you get over it.

Since I’ve ordered the same thing several times now, the interrogation process has become quick and easy for me, except when I’m faced with one counter guy in particular. A few weeks ago it was my turn in line and I was ready to give the same answers I usually do to the same burrito questions I usually hear, except I couldn’t hear this guy. When he asked what kind of cheese I wanted, I had to say, “Sorry, what?” and when he asked about beans I said, “Huh?” He asked me about onions and I said, “Eh?” and we both laughed. By the time we got to the pico (“What?”), it occurred to me that despite his tendency to mumble, this burrito guy was ridiculously adorable.

Which is to say he was ridiculously adorable in the way one is if one works behind the counter at a burrito place that pretends to be anti-establishment but is actually a chain with twenty locations statewide. But he had arm tattoos and a red goatee and I’m a sucker for such things. And there was something about his eyes.

When I got to the end of the line, he had forgotten to put my cookie in the bag, and the cashier said, “Dude, you forgot the cookie.”

“Oh, sorry,” he said, handing a cookie to the cashier. “But it’s not just me! She’s all spaced out too.” He smiled at me.

“It’s true,” I said, and smiled back. It’s possible I giggled. For the rest of the day I felt kind of giddy, like I was thirteen instead of twenty-nine.

So now when I go to Freebird’s I try not to look at him. It makes me wish I had a girlfriend there with me, someone with whom I could commiserate, someone to whom I could say, “Okay, he’s the one over there with the red goatee; see him? NO DON’T LOOK! He’s gonna see us if you look! Did you see him? DON’T LOOK!”


But I’m always there by myself, so while I wait in the burrito line I play this stupid scene in my head where I’m walking out to the parking lot with my burrito in a bag, and he comes running after me and asks me out, and I say “Sorry, what?” so he has to repeat himself, and then I say, Look, I think you’re ridiculously adorable, but I’m too old for you, and that’s when he tells me that he’s 27-35 and an aspiring writer/artist/musician who works at Freebird’s during the day so he can write/make art/gig at night.

So I sculpt my phone number for him in burrito foil and we go on one of those legendary dates where you walk out of the coffeehouse/bar together and then you just keep walking and walking all over downtown until it’s 4am and neither of you remembers where you parked but it doesn’t seem to matter. And there are more dates, and then one of four things happens:

1) He becomes a wildly successful writer/artist/musician and dumps me because I’m still just a web chick. His fantastic new album is full of songs that I suspect may be about me, but I’m probably projecting.

2) He becomes a wildly successful writer/artist/musician and this bothers me so I dump him for a web dude. The web dude is better for me, but I still miss him sometimes.

2) I become a wildly successful writer and dump him because he’s still just a burrito dude. Even when I’m back in town I can’t buy burritos at his Freebird’s location because it’d be too awkward, so I go to the one on South Congress instead.

3) I become a wildly successful writer and this bothers him so he dumps me for a burrito chick. I’m happy as a writer, but I never eat burritos again.

I’m sure I could think of more potential scenarios, but by this time I’m at the front of the line and oh my God he’s asking me what I want and I’m all flustered so I say, “I’ll have a veggie Freebird on a mixed cheese,” which makes no sense at all.

“What?” he says. Oh, good, maybe he didn’t hear me. Veggie Freebird on a spinach tortilla, I say. But I can kind of tell he remembers me from last time, which means he’s branded me for life as a partially-deaf flake.

And that’s okay, because I’m already at the part where I make up horrible things about him so that I can be glad we’ll never date. His favorite band is Slipknot. He believes that all Chihuahuas should be put to sleep. He thinks Disneyland really is the happiest place on earth. He’s going to vote for Mitt Romney. When he gets home from work all he does is smoke weed and watch CSI. His back is hairy. He has no teeth. He drives a Ford Excursion with automatic windows, the better to throw his McDonald’s wrappers on the side of the road.

By the time I get to my car I’ve turned him into the worst person I’ve ever met, and when I get back to my office and sit down to my veggie Freebird on a mixed cheese, it’s like he never existed.

Except for the part where, when I go back to Freebird’s next week, I’m going to make sure it’s on a day when my hair looks nice.