Contradiction in Terms
You say to-may-toe; I say toh-mah-tah. Deal with it.
Monday, November 28, 2005

Sage Words

We are so proud of our little girl.

If you want to know why, check it out here.
Nikki bit in at 3:25 PM :: ::

How to Keep Friends & Influence Nikki

If this entry sounds snotty and disagreeable, that’s only because it is. Hey, I never promised y’all a rose garden. And it’s just peculiar how people persist in thinking of me as some kind of sweet person when I’m really, you know, not. I am prickly and particular, so if, for some unfathomable reason, you still want to be my friend, you would be best served by observing the following:

1. Unless you are writing to confirm or inform me of some group event (a project, sale, party, like that), do not email or text me anything that you are also sending to more than three other people. I will not read it and I will most likely resent it. If it’s a joke, save it for when you can tell me in person. If it’s a religious or inspirational quote, just don’t send it. If I’m not already devout and/or inspired, your little message will really not serve to make me so. If it’s a chain letter, I will curse you and your descendants unto the fourth generation for wasting my time. You have been warned.

2. Do not write to me in text-speak unless you are actually texting. You don’t realize this, but sending me text-speak puts me in danger of actual bodily harm because I have to bite my tongue to restrain myself from saying something scathing; and I have to bang my head against the wall to remind myself that I really do like you despite your little linguistic peccadilloes. So please, for my health and sanity, if you have something to say, spell it out. Look down right now: see your fingers and the keyboard? You can make them work together if you really try.

3. Do not call or text me from 2 to 7 a.m. unless (a) you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I’m awake; or (b) you absolutely have to. I once heard the worst news possible (the death of a very-loved one) via phone at 3 a.m., so any time I hear the phone go off in the wee hours of the morning, I tend to assume the worst. If, therefore, you choose to drag me out of bed via telecommunication during these hours, you had better be bleeding in a ditch somewhere, or I will make you. Again, you have been warned.

4. Do not expect me to have a brain before 10 a.m. or at any time when deprived of nicotine. It will not happen.

5. Avoid making blanket statements without verifiable backup in my presence, because I will question them. If you say, “Everybody says that…” I will inquire as to the identity of “everybody”; and if you say, “It’s well-established that…” I will demand proof of said establishment. In particular, do not make generalizations based on race or gender, unless you enjoy having your wrist slapped, verbally or physically or both.

I am absolutely positive that there are a great many more pitfalls to be avoided in interaction with me, but these are the ones that have occurred off the top of my head. The fact that I have come up with five right off the top of my head probably goes to show that I am really challenging to be friends with, but yet again, you have been warned. Repeatedly.
Nikki bit in at 3:01 PM :: ::
Friday, November 25, 2005

Where the Boys Are

Figaro, 2nd floor, the Podium
If you’re a smokin’ type of woman* (and I mean that both literally and figuratively) in need of an ego boost, try hanging out at the Podium’s Figaro from early to mid-afternoon on a weekday. They have great coffee and a smoking section, which at that time of day is packed practically exclusively with men doing business (or pretending to do business, or doing other sorts of business). Which makes it both amusing and enormously flattering to walk in, sit down for a puff, and feel the furtive attention of every male eye in the place suddenly riveted on you.

Call me an attention whore, but there’s a certain power in knowing that if there’s a man in the place who is not looking at you, it’s only because he’s gay. (Hi, Two Guys in the Corner Not Quite Holding Hands!)

And speaking of whoring…

Hugo’s, basement level, the Podium
My husband calls me a salon whore, which is to say that I have no loyalty to any one salon, whereas he has been going to the same “barber folk” for longer than our daughter has been alive. (Though when we lived in Hong Kong, we went to the same hair place, called—I’m not kidding—Lucifer. We used to joke that the price was reasonable—HK$60—because the sales tax includes your soul! Cue ominous occult music.)

Me, I’m always in search of a salon that can do a decent pedicure at a decent price. “Decent”, to me, means I don’t have to end up spending more than P700 total for a shampoo, haircut, pedicure, and relevant tips. (Have you ever noticed how they try to sneak in as many people as possible to work on you? One to wash your hair, one to dry your hair, one to take your nail polish off, one to put nail polish on…) Now 700 bucks may seem like a lot to you (especially if you’re a guy), but I know people who have just their hair cut for P3000 (Again, I’m not kidding) and more importantly, I’ve experienced too many bad pedicures to be too frugal about it. We’re talking bleeding cuticles, scarred nails, the works.

Now at Hugo’s—which labels itself a “complete grooming station for men”—they do a wonderful, absolutely pain-free pedicure. What’s interesting is the explanation I got for why it has to be painless. According to my pedicurist Marlyn, women are resigned to suffering for beauty’s sake—if you hurt us, we’ll get pissed, but we’ll be back—whereas if you hurt a man, you will simply never see him again. So people who do nails at men’s grooming places have to be very, very meticulous if they want to keep their customers.

They also do a great boys’ haircut (which is not all that surprising; and which, probably, only my male readers, my friend Katrina, and I care about) and it’s all quite affordable at P100+ for hair and the same for nails. (Which is why I decided to try it out in the first place, because the other salons at the Podium are just ridiculously expensive.) Also, the whole place is done in elegant wood paneling, with nifty motorized chairs and staff people nattily dressed in stripy shirts and vests. Really like an old-fashioned barber shop, complete with one of those revolving poles at the door.

Best of all, since the staff is used to handling men, they don’t talk at you or screech at each other over you like the women or gay people at a femme salon. If you talk to them, then they’ll happily converse; otherwise, they’ll just mess with your hair and not your life.

And really, all the checking-out-in-the-mirror you get from all the other (male) customers is just a side benefit. Really.
*Did you catch the news item about that Frenchwoman who tried to open an airplane door in mid-flight because she wanted to have a smoke? As a former flight attendant, I am shocked and appalled; but as a smoker myself, tragically, I completely understand. Those international flights can just stretch on forever, man…
Nikki bit in at 1:32 PM :: ::
Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Christmas changed for me the year we kicked the U.S. bases out of the Philippines. That was the year the U.S. Navy stopped importing live Christmas trees, which my mother, being a Navy employee, would previously get for us every holiday season.

I suspect that Mom was really more relieved than disappointed, since live pine trees actually tend to be more trouble than the artificial ones—they need watering, like any other plant; they’re pricklier than a fake tree and thus more inconvenient to decorate; and they shed needles all over the floor. I remember one particular year when we experimented with getting a Blue Spruce instead of our usual Douglas Fir; it bled a pungent sap that attracted whole colonies of spiders to set up housekeeping in our tree—not a pretty sight.

But oh, the smell of a live tree! The crisp, clean, mountain-freshness of it… which would mingle with the scent of the vanilla candles my mother would light; and the apples she kept in bowls in the living room; and on Christmas Day itself, the aroma of stuffed turkey, glazed ham, mashed potatoes drowned in gravy, my mother’s incomparable lasagna, and the candied yams she insisted on making every year even though hardly anyone else ever ate them. (They looked festive, you had to say that much, at least.)

Trimming the tree was a big family occasion when I was young. It could not occur any earlier than December 16. (I no longer remember why it was that exact date.) Mom would crank up the air conditioner to arctic levels, and we would all gather around—furnished with marshmallow-laden cups of cocoa—to decorate the preferred Douglas Fir in my mother’s precisely decreed order: lights first, balls next to last (always glass or satin, because I suspect she would have died before plastic ornaments touched Her Tree), and tinsel last of all.

Our Christmas ornaments were not just a matter of pride, though, but of heritage. We had ornate filigreed balls passed down from my grandmother, over 40 Nativity scenes collected by my mother from all over the world, and even special unique ornaments that represented each of us kids. My two pilot brothers were characterized by miniature Santa Clauses flying a helicopter and a biplane, respectively; my musician brother got a little red-and-gold drum; and my symbol was a tiny teddy bear in a Santa hat and muffler, in honor of my then-vast stuffed bear collection.

When I was very, very little, Mom would let me fling the tinsel any which way I pleased, with a good deal more enthusiastic abandon than any semblance of aesthetic sensibility. I later found out that she would sneak out of bed at around three a.m. in order meticulously remove every last strand and rearrange the tinsel just so on the branches. I would simply be pleasantly surprised the next morning to see what a good job I’d done after all. I thought it was literally the magic of Christmas.

Around three years ago, I officially took possession of the artificial tree Mom bought after we stopped getting the live ones. I was able to dig it out of the storage room of our old house (Mom lives in the States now, so no one had used the tree in a while), but the ornaments were nowhere to be found. Every Nativity scene, every last filigreed ball, everything but a few forlorn strands of tinsel still clinging to a branch or two.

I could have cried.

Now Christmas décor—even the kind that is not quite glass and satin—costs money, so I just bought three sets of ornaments that year; and every year Dean and I buy one or two more sets to add to it. (Always red or green or gold, because my mother taught me that any other color combination is simply not Christmas.) This year, we replaced the Santa we used to use for the treetop with a star, because Sage wanted the job of putting the final touch on the tree, and nothing but a proper golden star would do for her.

It’s a gorgeous tree—full and fluffy, the kind you see in department store windows. But it’s still fake; and it doesn’t smell like much of anything (once you get the store room mustiness out of it); and the Christmas balls, I have to confess, are pure plastic. But it belonged to my family, and now it belongs to our family.

And little by little, year by year, we’re making it real.

Check out the rest of the posse!

Nikki bit in at 2:53 AM :: ::
Wednesday, November 09, 2005

One Day More...

And I will finally, finally, finally be done with the Engrish translation thing, just beating my self-imposed deadline by the hair of Dean's chinny-chin-chin. (My own is hairless, thank you very much.)

Therefore we will soon be returning to our regularly-scheduled smartassedness, I promise.
Nikki bit in at 2:46 PM :: ::
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