Monday, August 23, 2010

They Don't Care Where They Kick

This month marks the close of my eleventh year as a Memphian. To celebrate, someone kicked in my door and stole thousands of dollars worth of property from my home.

I thought it would be fun if that actually turned out to be my 11th criminal victimization since moving here, but turns out, it’s only about the 7th or 8th. But good effort, jackholes!

As you may have surmised, I’m in the anger phase right now. I know it seems superficial, but the stages of grief do seem somewhat appropriate here, for although it was only material possessions that were lost, they carried with them a lot of emotional value. Among the stolen items were my high school class ring, the earrings my parents gave me on my 16th birthday, and most of the jewelry I inherited from my grandmother. I know memories can exist without physical tokens (yes, I’ve watched my share of Hoarders), but those small pieces of my past served as happy reminders whenever I wore or even came across them. And now they’re gone.

Also stolen was my laptop, and I have to tell you, the idea of someone having that piece of hardware is more unsettling to me than the fact that they dug through every hiding place in the house looking for drugs and guns. It’s like having someone take your entire family’s birth certificates, Social Security cards, bank statements, and checkbook, plus all your home movies and photo albums. It’s an intensely personal chunk of plastic, and the unease of having it in the wrong hands is far more upsetting than the loss of the machine itself.

I also lost a lot of writing, and, in bad news, possibly my entire iTunes library.

But if there’s anything I’m known for, it’s making the best of a bad situation. Oh wait, no, that’s TV’s Kelly Ripa. Anyway, I’d still like to take this opportunity to help y’all (i.e. other Memphians) avoid this type of scenario by taking a few preventive steps:

  •  Back up your computer. Right now. NOW. And then keep doing it regularly, ideally through an off-site service like (which allowed the more disaster-prepared resident of my house to share his data rather than lose it all outright).
  • If you’re not a home-owner, invest in renter’s insurance. You’re gonna need it. Seriously.
  • Write down the serial numbers of all your electronics and keep them in a safe place. The police actually do send this info to pawn shops and I know of at least one iPod recovered this way.
  • Password-protect everything.
  • Consider laptop recovery software (laptop lo-jack) that can trace a stolen machine through GPS.
Oh, and:
  • Don’t like or attach sentimental value to anything you own, because sooner or later, some crackhead is going to take it away from you.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Brutal Youth

Somewhere along a path strewn with New Yorkers, Netflix envelopes, and gin, the husband of a dear friend became a dear friend of mine. In honor of his big birthday, and because it’s really hard to find a card that isn’t dumb, I present:

Forty Things About RJA
  1. Does the Sunday New York Times crossword in Sharpie
  2. Likes spice cake the best
  3. Deeply enjoys jazz without being one of those jazz people
  4. Makes a mean chicken curry
  5. Would rather be on the beach right now, ideally on the Amalfi coast
  6. Or in New York
  7. Doesn’t care to fly
  8. Can’t get used to contact lenses
  9. Disposes of all intellectualism when a Jason Statham movie is on
  10. Doesn’t refer to his years in Catholic school as an insurmountable emotional handicap
  11. Hates Project Runway, but pays stealthy attention to Design Star
  12. Would love to sit in with The More Brothers
  13. Overpronates
  14. Prefers to write longhand, in pencil, on legal pads
  15. Is quite fond of reptiles
  16. Can’t clean a bathroom. Just constitutionally can’t
  17. Feels a little pained that Elvis Costello, Nick Hornby, and Richard Russo never show up at cocktail hour
  18. Is not much on the Oxford comma
  19. Is an excellent interviewer and a terrible answerer
  20. Sees no need to state the obvious
  21. Doesn’t force his opinion
  22. Answers only to his full first name
  23. Takes his rum with lots of lime and his gin & tonic with hardly any
  24. Has no time for musicals
  25. Sings along with the radio
  26. Could go for a sandwich right now
  27. Still drives like a professional driver
  28. Does an unsettling Don Draper impression
  29. Is so patient
  30. Picked an interesting career for himself and then made it happen. Twice.
  31. Is more Rolling Stones than Beatles
  32. Has secret caches of athletic ability 
  33. Would defend his family to the death
  34. Giggles
  35. Doesn't like roller coasters
  36. Just wants to see what part of The Godfather this is.
  37. Loves the physical presence of books
  38. Keeps a bottle of Gulf Coast sand behind his desk
  39. Only watches fake sports that are over within a month
  40. Has shown no outward signs of being freaked about 40
It's been a pleasure getting to know how your four decades have shaped you. Happy, happy birthday, RJA!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Heart Of My Country

We’re in the buffer zone this week. Miss M has started back at school, but Mr. Baby (and every other student in Memphis) is still home until mid-month, so I’m easing into the fall routine with only one child to get ready and dropped-off in the morning. It’s so easy I can hardly take it. We’ve been ready and in the car so early, and so completely unencumbered by traffic, that one day I got her to school before the doors even opened. I know this will all come to a (literal) screeching halt when I have to drag her little brother out of bed to join us, and then crawl our way through the students and parents heading to the six other campuses along our route, but for now, I’m enjoying this gentle beginning.

We especially needed a smooth start after the fun but exhausting trek north for Corn Capital Days. Our flight to Minnesota was diverted due to severe storms that landed at the airport at the exact time we were supposed to, adding an extra two hours (and one-hour 10pm nap) to our trip. The next few days brought swimming, horseback riding, golf cart hijacking, playground roaming, sweet corn gobbling, parade watching, and candy chasing, with the kids and their cousins moving in a loud but generally peaceful pack while the adults enjoyed the time to catch up and relax. As it does each year, the reasons why my parents drove us 40 hours round-trip every summer growing up became even clearer to my sister and me. The small town safety and 2:1 ratio of grandparents to parents granted those of us in the middle generation otherwise impossible spans of child-freedom.

Perhaps the most exciting element of the trip, however, was Mr. Baby’s own freedom. Last year, he was terrified of everything: flying, dogs, horses, sirens. But this year, he sat in the window seat without a problem, pet every dog he saw, groomed and rode Cha Cha’s horse, and ran out into the street to grab candy from a blaring fire engine. My pride in him about split my heart. I hope he takes that same confidence and bravery into his new preschool classroom this year. And maybe our smooth mornings won’t have to come to an end after all.