Monday, December 13, 2010

a total loss

This will be important later.

The Spruce Goose came into our lives during the long winter of 1998. My mother made the questionable decision to spend her birthday weekend chaperoning our yearly Forensics team trip to Gatlinburg, TN, and when we returned home, Mama’s beloved green 1995 Mazda 626 “Cindy” (so named for our favorite supermodel) had been replaced with a big silver-blue-grey luxury sedan. Our new 1998 Toyota Avalon was big, wide, smooth, and fast—so abrupt in accelerating that we came to call the car “Goosey.” Over the years, I formalized her name to “The Spruce Goose,” after Howard Hughes’ massive flying boat. My massive flying boat.

just look at that badonkadonk

Mama drove Goosey for seven easy years. She cruised to the grocery store or Cool Springs a few times a week, but never much more than that. By 2005, Goosey still looked brand new. That summer, I bought Goosey from my parents for a few grand and brought her out to Texas to start my new life in Austin.

Goosey no longer lived the life of luxury to which she was accustomed. I drove Goosey hard over the pockmarked Austin roads. I scraped against brick walls and scuffed the bumper on other cars. Goosey was the victim of her first hit-and-run in a coffee shop parking lot. She had her front windshield smashed by an errant rock thrown up by a lawn mower at my apartment complex. She took flight as I tried to turn off a Texas highway into a parking lot on my way to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, flattening a stop sign en route and coming to rest perfectly within the lines of an empty parking spot. As her front driver’s side hubcap rolled away in silence, half the town flooded out of stores and homes to see if I was okay. I was. And so was Goosey. I took her straight on to New Orleans and back again.

Goosey’s been totaled at least twice before. In 2006, I got distracted while careening down a one-lane road near the house I grew up in and drove off the road and straight into a historical landmark. I shouldn’t go into too much detail, since it’s probably very much against the law to destroy historical landmarks, even accidentally, but suffice it to say that I did my part in breaking down 10 to 12 feet of the Walls of Oppression. The entire passenger side of my car was unspeakably mangled. The insurance elected to fix my beloved car, for reasons I still don’t understand.

In 2007, Nick and I were driving a packed-full Goosey to our storage unit in Austin when a teenage girl crossed three lanes of traffic to turn right and slammed into us, dragging us with her through the turn. We were deep into our first listen of the new T. I. album, and we did not miss a single beat of our enthusiastic car-dancing as we were dragged 20 or so yards down the street. I hollered at the girl when we got out of the car. Nick went across the street and bought her a Gatorade. My insurance fixed my car again and we rejoiced. However, I can never hear "You Know What It Is" without remembering the fateful first time we heard it.

Goosey’s had all kinds of adventures my insurance company doesn’t even know about. Goosey was our tour guide for our massive Southern road trip this summer, carrying us 4000+ miles in a little over a month.

She rode on two boats in North Carolina. She climbed the Smokey Mountains, got sand between her treads at the Outer Banks, and endured the soggy days and nights in Jefferson National Forest.

At Transformus, she was parked in a meadow on a hill for the long weekend. It rained and rained and rained and the cars on the hill slid down the muddy slope like toys. It took half a dozen attempts to get her unstuck—two of the tow trucks brave enough to try ended up getting towed themselves. Finally a man who can only be described as an angry mountain ginger in a kilt got behind the wheel and sledded Goosey General Lee–style down the muddy hillside. Nick and I screamed out in victory until our throats were raw. Goosey emerged unscathed and fondued in mud.

I’ve always attributed my car’s unlikely ability to emerge victorious over collisions to my baby doll head. Nick bought a number of dismembered vintage baby dolls at an estate sale in Austin just before we moved to Atlanta, for reasons that are still somewhat unclear to me. On the drive home, I impulsively stuck one of the baby doll heads between the dashboard and the windshield.

apotropaic baby head
apotropaic baby head

I immediately felt safer, like the baby doll head was helping me watch the road. She’s been there ever since, guiding the way on our road trips like a mermaid figurehead on a ship. Sometimes I think Nick and I are the only ones who like it. I’ve been pulled over by cops for no other reason than they wanted to tell me my doll was creepy. But my doll head keeps me safe, so I don’t care.

from our summer roadtrip

At least…until a few weeks ago. My dear friend Julia borrowed my car to do me a favor and ran over a tool that fell off a lawn care truck. The damage is entirely cosmetic—the car still runs fine—but my insurance just informed me this morning that the car has been deemed a total loss. After all the daring escapes and brushes with death, a small superficial wound has spelled the end of my Goosey Girl. I guess 1998 Toyota Avalons don’t go for much these days. I haven’t spoken to the adjustor yet, so I am still holding onto the hope that somehow Goosey will get fixed in the next ten days and will be able to carry us home for Christmas. But realistically, I might have to say goodbye to my girl soon. So let’s all raise a glass to my Goosey girl and the good times we’ve had.

Discussion Question:
Have you ever loved a car?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

An Open Letter to Shaq

Dear Shaq,

I have followed your career since I was a little girl. I was watching the draft with my dad that day in 1992 when you got first overall pick and became one of the Orlando Magic. I adored you--a giant handsome man with a big smile and a rhyming name.

Wikipedia tells me that you spent much of the summer of 92 learning some moves from Magic Johnson.

Magic was my love. I thought he was the most gorgeous man I had ever seen.

I liked to pretend that Magic Johnson was my boyfriend, but I liked to pretend that you were my friend. I thought it would be fun to hang out with you. I thought we could play some hoops and you'd lift me up to the rim so I could dunk like you.

Fast forward nearly twenty years. You're still delighting me. You're making me laugh on Twitter. You're performing straight-up brilliant freestyle raps dissing Kobe Bryant. And recently, you did the best thing yet.

That's it, Shaq. We need to be best friends.

We finally live in the same city. I just moved to Boston too. Do you like the cold weather? I do not like the cold weather.

We have a lot in common. I've lived in Louisiana and Texas too. I also like to get drunk and freestyle rap, but I'm not nearly as good as you. And when I was a kid I was one of the tallest kids in my class, so I totally know how it feels to be you.

I like to make silly videos too. I have an idea for your next one. It should feature me, you, and Snoop Dogg. I feel like he's really the perfect person to round out our friend group. You can dress up as the female vocalist of your choice, Snoop Dogg can dress as a Sesame Street Character,

and I'll dress as a cat.

I'm always a cat.

We can do a passionate lip synch to some old school Janet Jackson in the backseat of whatever enormous car you happen to be riding in that day. I'll even let you pick the song.

Or if you've had enough of dressing up, you can come to my house and I'll fix some New Orleans-style barbeque shrimp for you and me and my husband, Nick. He's pretty cool too--you'll like him. I have to warn you though, our apartment is pretty small.

So anyway, hit me up on Twitter if you want to hang out some time--I'm @quidquidkatie. I'm pretty busy with my new job, and as I understand it, you are too, but I'm sure we can find some time.

Go Celtics!


Discussion Question:
Who are your imaginary celebrity bffs?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

didn't roll off the cabbage truck yesterday

Photo from Awkward Family Photos

Like every good 1980s girl, I had a Cabbage Patch Kid or two. I loved them--yarn hair, creepily vacant eyes, tattooed asses and all. But I never stopped to wonder where they came from.

There is actually an unnecessarily complex mythology surrounding the origins of the franchise. I won't attempt to summarize but suffice it to say that it involves a ten-year-old boy starting an orphanage to save the Cabbage Patch Kids from slave labor in a gold mine. However, what I'm talking about here is an even more improbable creation story. And this creation story is true.

In northern Georgia, there is a small town called Cleveland. In this town, there is a magical place.

Babyland General Hospital,
birthplace of Cabbage Patch Kids

Sort of like Tara...okay not really.

Yes, Babyland General Hospital is the birthing, nursery, and adoption center for Cabbage Patch Kids. You can go for free and see a Cabbage Patch Kid being born.


How I went virtually my entire life without knowing this fact is beyond me.

But wait, you are no doubt saying to yourself. How exactly is a Cabbage Patch Kid born?

I'm glad you asked. I'm going to turn it over to the poorly written Wikipedia article for a moment.

Dolls are "birthed" every hour during business hours in a procedure during which one of the "LPN's" (Licensed Patch Nurse) assists the Magic Crystal Tree in producing each doll. When the intercom announces that a Mother Cabbage is in labor, a nurse hurries to get ready for delivery of a new Cabbage Patch baby. With the nurse are the pink and blue bunnybees that pollinate the kids with crystals, determining if the newborn is a boy [blue crystal] or girl [pink crystal]. The nurse comments on how much the Tree is dilated and injects with "Imagicillin," an "experimental but highly recommended" drug. If the need arises, a "C-section" or "Cabbage section" may be administered....A full-featured Intensive Care Unit is in place to handle premature births and otherwise unhealthy newborns.

The Magic Crystal Tree and Mother Cabbage, from whom all Cabbage Patch Kids flow

So some rabbit-bee creatures fertilize some cabbages and then a magic crystal tree gives birth to some human children with the help of a nurse? And the cabbages get shot up with an experimental drug? I can't believe I'm saying this but this is better than Teen Mom.

Let's see the blessed event unfold for ourselves:

I...can't even

As far as I'm concerned, the greatest horror in all of this is the names. Cabbage Patch Kids have the least euphonious names ever. If you go to you can see an ever-refreshing slideshow of birth announcements.

Wait...she was born with pigtails?

Austin Jerri
Doreen Jillaine
Zena Jordyn
Tammy Betsy
Jaylee Derek
Grady Damien
Buck Clay
Gwynyth Kimber
Glendonn Ragan (A FEMALE NAME)
Garrison Dusty
Jaidyn Celia

And finally, bleak vision of the future:

What if this is what happens to bad people when they die?

This post is missing a huge shoutout to Mary Nell, who is responsible for alerting me to the existence of Babyland General Hospital. Once my disbelief gave way, we discovered via a quick Google search that someone out there had gone and done the most brilliant thing ever:


Discussion Question:
Can you cobble together even one respectable name out of the names listed above?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tips for Living in a Tiny Apartment

This song came on the radio last night and I nearly knocked over my chair in my eagerness to turn the volume up. Hey, want to know how I got that awesome embedded Big Pun YouTube to start at a specific point in the video? Super-easy HTML tutorial here.

Nick and I have lived in our fair share of tiny apartments. There was our little shoebox on San Gabriel in Austin--our first apartment together. It was really only big enough for one person, so Nick put most of his stuff in storage and moved in with little more than a suitcase. And then there was our itty bitty place in Midtown Atlanta a couple of years ago. The oven and fridge were sort of whimsically shrunken, and there was no door on the bedroom. Oh, the joys of renting.

We're now getting comfortably settled into what is probably the smallest of the three tiny shoeboxes we have inhabited. I figure our 2+ years experience with surviving in close quarters with two grown adults, a hyper dog, and a demanding cat has got to count for something. So I thought I'd try to impart a little wisdom about surviving in less than 500 square feet.

*You can keep your bed.

So long, ugly green chair.

The Goodwill did not accept ugly green chair. I was really quite offended.

So long, giant red vinyl couch. So long, coffee table, bedside table, dresser, desks, end tables, and book cases! Up to my parents' garage you go, heirloom dining table!


IKEA Ingo dining table ($69.99) and 4 IKEA Ivar chairs ($19.99 each)

IKEA Laiva TV Stand, $20

IKEA Laiva Desk, $20


Like...above the kitchen cabinets!

Or...below the ottoman!

Or...that tiny section of wall! Looks big enough for a broom to me.


A drinking glass becomes a dainty container for your makeup brushes.

Your knickknack rack becomes an out-of-the way place to stash your makeup.

And who needs a coffee table with a centerpiece when you have a beat-up army trunk and a salad bowl from your wedding registry?


If it was good enough for the Shakers, it's good enough for you.


It's all about being modular, man. Think you don't have room for a guest room, a dining room, and a living room? Sure you do.

In this photo, it's configured like a living room. Push the trunk aside, fold out the futon, and you've got a guest room! Or push the trunk aside, pull the dining table and chairs out into the center of the room, and you've got a freakin banquet hall! It's like HOGGWARTS, dude.

...okay, almost like Hoggwarts.

The last rule is the most important.


Discussion question: Have you ever lived in a tiny place? Do you have any tips to share?

check out more pics of our tiny apartment on my Flickr

Monday, October 4, 2010

An Editor's First E-book*

* I think e-book is the nerdiest spelling since e-mail but I do whatever Merriam Webster tells me. ...generally.

Olsen Twins, chopped and screwed.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I read my first e-book this weekend.

My interest in e-books is well-documented. I love to talk peoples' ears off about the endless possibilities of digital publishing, but I was starting to feel like I was all talk. What if reading an e-book was just totally lame? How could I make such sweeping statements about the future of the publishing industry without actually experiencing an e-book firsthand?

My homegirl Serenity Gerbman recommended a book called Room (hardback here and Kindle version here) on her Facebook wall a few weeks ago. She called it her fiction pick of the year so far, which is very high praise from a well-read lady like Serenity.

I stopped by a bookstore to check it out. It's pretty new, so it's not out in paperback yet. Having approximately .5 inches of available space left in one's tiny shoebox apartment does not make a person want to stock up on hardcover novels. And anyway, it cost $25, which is just more than I can spend on a book right now. I put the book back on its stand and walked away with a sigh.

Nick got a sweet iPad for his studies at MIT, and we're both in love with it. On Saturday morning, curled up in bed in my pjs, I had a brilliant idea. I grabbed Nick's iPad, opened the Kindle app, and moments later, I was reading Room.

The premise is simple and intriguing: Jack and his mother have been locked in a room for all of Jack's life. Just like any good episode of Law and Order: SVU, the story is RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES, very clearly inspired by the abduction and rescue of Jaycee Lee Dugard. I have a little obsession with stories about feral children and children in captivity. Have you read this incredible article about Dani, a little girl in Florida who was neglected and confined to a room for most of her life?

I could not put this book down. I read it in two days in just a few sittings. It's narrated from Jack's perspective, and his gaze is unflinching. I cannot recommend it enough.

I hardly noticed that I wasn't reading a regular book. Nick has an iPad case with a cover that flips open just like a book, so it felt like a book in my hands. So much so that I kept reaching with my thumb and forefinger to turn the page. No eyestrain. Delightful.

The iPad Kindle app allows you to touch any word in the text and get a dictionary definition. Can you imagine what a learning tool that must be for younger readers? This feature helps me understand how interactive e-books could be. Classicists, imagine a dynamic Perseus-style text for reading. Social networkers, imagine discussing an interesting book with people from all over the world from inside the text itself. Kids, imagine reading texts above your reading level with effortless aplomb.

This is all well and good, but there's one test every reading platform must pass: can I read it in the bathtub?

The answer is a resounding YES. Nick, I'm sorry I took your fancy new toy in the bathtub.

...actually, I'm not.

Discussion Question [two-parter]:
A: Have you embraced e-books? Do you think the experience is comparable to reading a traditional book?
B: What is the funniest part of the "Gimme Pizza" video above? Please cite specific moments.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Days of our Loyns

“To be ranked in the top 10 among southern universities for 20 years in a row is quite an accomplishment and reflective of the hard work and commitment of our students, faculty and staff."
-Kevin Wm. Wildes, S.J., Ph.D., President of Loyola University New Orleans

When it came time to pick a university, I had the best. idea. ever. Why not go to college in New Orleans?

My fellow Honors students, largely out-of-staters like myself, spent much of our first weeks of school marveling at our brilliant idea. How did no one else think of this??? we'd exclaim, our mouths full of crusty Po Boys and bellies full of beer.

we are GENIUSES (thanks losanjealous)

I loved Loyola. I loved the people, the classes, the music, the food, the culture, and most of all, the city that provided the setting for my golden undergrad years. I left my heart in New Orleans that muggy May day in 2005 when I moved away for good.

One of my college buddies told me today I should check out an article in The Maroon, Loyola's school paper. While reading the story of ADG's mysterious removal from campus and Sig Ep's suspension for the fall semester, I typed my own name into the Archives search box to see what came up.

Oh, the treasures. OHHHHH the treasures! Four uniquely hilarious remnants of my undergrad days.


This article is a dual-pronged shoutout to me and my girl Abby Roberts. We were ballin pretty hard in 2005. Abby was a finalist for the Truman Fellowship, and I had just scored the big Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship in Humanities. I was, as we liked to say, a mellow felon.

oh yes. that was a good look.

What on earth could be funny about a straight-ahead news story about scholarships?

"If I was a movie star, Davina would be my manager. She guided me through literally dozens of applications for fellowships."

What a f#$%in soundbite, huh?? Davina was the greatest mentor of all time, and if I found myself in need of someone to manage a nascent acting career I would be calling Davina first, but WHAT MADE ME SAY THIS TO A REPORTER? Out of the mouths of babes...


Why, yes! That IS my hideous hairdo in the photo that accompanies this article! Thank you for noticing!

Isn't it super meta of me to be using my blog to link to an article where I comment about the New and Mysterious Phenomenon of Weblogging? Katie-generated gems of wisdom include:

"[Blogs are] kind of contagious. You read one of your friend's blogs that have cute pictures and mood icons, and you can't help but want one."


"It's a lot easier to be passive-aggressive and say inappropriate things on the Internet than to actually face reality. That goes along with the territory of blogging."


Having already demonstrated my considerable expertise with social media, it is no surprise that the Maroon clamored to get my sage opinion when a new phenomenon called The Facebook swept campus by storm in 2004.

Katie Jones, classical studies senior, said she checks once a day to see if she has any new friends.

On the plus side, I did make a pretty spot-on prediction:

"Once Loyola picks up on ( more, it will be huge," Jones said."

9/4/03: GET YOUR MONEY'S WORTH: GO TO CLASS by Katie Jones

My darling college roommate Joe worked for the Maroon, which somehow yielded my being asked to write an editorial.

The 2nd anniversary of 9/11 was a week away. Bush had just called the war in Iraq a "catastrophic success." I was living in the most vibrant, wonderful city basically on earth ever.

So what did I write my editorial about? Going to class.

You really just need to read the editorial. Look, here's the link again. I have wanted to reread this article for a long time, and I have to say it aged pretty well. I really enjoyed reading it lo these many years later. My dear friends will know that all of the hypothetical situations mentioned are taken basically verbatim from our freshman year.

Reading this editorial really took me back to those warm, spicy days. My wonderful friends and all the things I learned. The crawfish boils and the shotgun houses. The streetcar rides and sunrise nights. The shenanigans and the debauchery. I miss those days.

And that side ponytail I'm rockin in the photo? A catastrophic success.

Discussion Question:
What are your favorite remnants from your college days?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Chicago and Kansas concert in Boston has been changed to the Kansas and Boston concert in Chicago

I've been here in Boston (well, Cambridge) for two weeks now. I have learned a lot in that time.

-Locals who find Southern accents charming outnumber those who find them off-putting. When I referred to the cashier and bagger at the grocery store as y'all, the bagger cried out Y'all should come back here, okay? and beamed like she'd greeted a native speaker in Spanish.

-You can take the train to Wonderland.

From herrafeliks' Picasa gallery

-Actually, you can take the train almost anywhere. In fact, we've only taken the car out 3 times since we moved here.

-People don't really smile or say hi on the street, but most will smile back if you initiate.

-Everything is more expensive.

-Making new friends is the best part of moving.

stayin sassy

-Autumn is a season that actually happens in some parts of the world. I am wearing long sleeved shirts that I have never worn before.

Look at all those clothes! BONUS: my replacement glasses came!

-Living in the city is complicated. You have to move your car once a month so they can clean the streets. The apartments are tiny. Sometimes the trains close down at weird times or break. In exchange, I get to live within walking distance of virtually anything my heart desires. So far, the tradeoff is working.

-People here are very educated and well-spoken. I have a feeling my competition for jobs is VERY stiff.

-Did I mention that our apartment is tiny?

-Silly art projects do wonders for the job-search grumpies.

-So does chocolate cake. And wine.

big ups to Nico for hosting that wonderful dinner

So what does Cambridge have in store for the DePalmas? Only time will tell. Hopefully gainful employment and eventually a functioning oven. In the mean time, I'm gonna be getting to know this big, weird, cold city.

Discussion Question:
What is the hardest move you've ever made?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

When through the woods and forest glades I wander

Yesterday, while I was waiting for the T to take me back to Cambridge after my excursion to Arnold Arboretum with Molly, a busker horrified me by playing "O Holy Night." There may be a nip in the air up here, but that's ridiculous.

And then he played "How Great Thou Art."

Elvis' rendition feels appropriate, somehow.

The last time I heard that song was at Grandmother Shirley's funeral two weeks ago today. The hometown vocalist warbled it sweetly over my grandmother's closed casket.

Hearing it felt like tripping and falling.

I guess you could say that I haven't really dealt with my grandmother's death yet. She passed on peacefully with my father by her side on August 29th. I was somewhere in Virginia or Pennsylvania or somewhere when I got the news. I felt so far away from everything.

The entire three-day trip up to Massachusetts was a blur, spent mostly in silence in a blank, determined state. The animals seemed to understand the intensity of the situation and behaved amazingly--Boudreaux in Nick's lap in the UHaul and Moppy catatonic in his carrier in the Spruce Goose.

We weren't scheduled to move in until the 1st, but the stars lined up and we ended up completing the final six-hour leg of our trip AND getting the keys and moving our stuff in on the afternoon 31st. We managed to clear enough space to lay the mattress on the bedroom floor and collapse when we were done, both of us trembling with exhaustion and Nick nursing a busted big toenail.

The next morning, I went to Logan Airport and flew to St. Louis, and then made the three-hour drive to Bevier in record time in my zippy rental car. When my mom asked me later how the brakes were on the car, I told her that I was pretty sure I didn't get a chance to use them at all on the trip up. I flew towards my family as fast as I could travel.

I pulled up to my grandmother's house just like I had done a hundred times. But when I walked in, she wasn't in her chair in her nightgown. Then I remembered. She's gone. I didn't cry until I saw a copy of the program for her funeral propped up in the kitchen, her birth and death dates in script below a photo we took of her at Thanksgiving a few years back. It just did not compute--standing in her kitchen, breathing in her smell, looking at this unmistakable evidence that she really was gone. That night, my mother and I slept in her bed.

I picked out my outfit for the funeral before I left for Boston at my mother's suggestion. While picking through the racks at TJ Maxx, I could just see the disgust registering on my grandmother's face as she surveyed our options. Zipper detail? Tacky. Ruffles? Uggy. I settled on a conservative black knit cardigan, a black pencil skirt, and grandmother's pearls. I could not disrespect my grandmother's memory by showing up to her funeral in an outfit with a lace cutout or other such nonsense.

And the next morning, we performed the most sacred of human rituals: burying our dead. My extended family sat across the front row, each of us holding on to the person next to them. I hardly let go of my father the whole morning. Grandmother didn't want an open casket, because she didn't like people staring at her, but they let me see her before the funeral started. Her lipstick was perfect. Her hands felt cool, like wax.

We buried her beside her husband and my sister. According to an old family tradition, a spray of 50 fat red roses adorned her casket. A few of us grabbed single blooms before they lowered her into the ground.

An autumn drizzle began to fall. I pulled my cardigan tighter around my shoulders. The pastor read the poem Grandmother Shirley had transcribed in her own shaking handwriting to be read at her burial.

When he got to I am the gentle autumn rain, we looked into the falling droplets and I think we all looked for her there. I think I'll always look for her there.

We miss you.

Discussion Question:
What do you think happens to us after we die? Be honest.