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Sorry – I ate your gift.

21 Mar

Last Friday I received a package* that wasn’t intended for me. (*Given the subject of my last post, I feel I need to clarify: this is NOT a euphemism for “penis.” I’m talking about a box from FedEx.)

I assumed it was something I had ordered for my house, so I didn’t even check the label before tearing into it. Once it was open, I found myself looking at a very pretty”Happy Birthday” box, which clearly wasn’t for me. I looked at the label and realized that while the address was correct, the name was not. I thought it was the name of the previous owner, whose contact information the listing agent went to great lengths to conceal. (Serves them right for wanting to be un-contactable, I thought, perhaps a bit spitefully.)

But then I felt guilty and decided I should at least TRY to find her. After all, it was a nice gift box with two deluxe caramel apples, fancy toffee and a bag of caramels from her boss. (Oh yeah – once I opened that box and realized my mistake, I committed to it, figuring, “In for a buck, in for a quarter! Might as well see what it is and who it’s from!”)

I searched NextDoor to see if someone with her name had an account here in the area: No luck.

I did a WhitePages search and again, couldn’t find a listing for this name.

I then went on LinkedIn and searched for her name + her company + Richmond – and I found her! Yay? (I really wanted to eat those apples, but I also wanted to do the right thing.) I attempted a connection request with a note explaining who I was, that I had her package, and that I didn’t know how else to reach her. When I clicked send, I got an error message that I’ve never seen on LinkedIn before: ERROR: This request cannot be processed at this time. Reason unknown.

Well, well, well. It seems the Universe was rooting for me to eat those apples! And not just the Universe, but also the Twitterverse – in tandem with searching for her, I ran a poll asking people on Twitter what I should do with these treats and the response was overwhelming: EAT THEM.

Alas, still semi-plagued with guilt (or lacking deniability), I decided that the responsible thing to do was refrigerate the apples (per the instructions in the box) so they wouldn’t spoil, and at least give it the weekend to see if I heard from the woman. (Maybe her employer would tell her they shipped a box to this address? I didn’t know!)

All weekend, those apples taunted me. Did I touch them? NO.

Until Monday, when I decided the appropriate waiting period had passed and it was like claiming something from a Lost & Found box. I ate that apple and it was delicious. I rearranged the box, thinking, “If she randomly reaches out, I can always put the remaining apple back in here and she’ll be none the wiser.”

But when Wednesday rolled around and I still hadn’t heard from her, I decided to hell with it and ate the second apple, which was also delicious. I was starting to decide when I might allow myself to open the bag of fancy toffee when all of a sudden I received a text. “Alison? It’s X. I used to live in your house. Any chance you’ve received a package for me?”

SHIT. How do I respond? Wish her a happy birthday and tell her I ate her gift? Pretend I have no idea what package she’s talking about? I was on the phone with Alan when the text came through so we brainstormed together. “Tell her you opened it and there were maggots all over the apples!” he riffed. “Or – tell her I ate them and got really sick so I probably did her a favor!”

If I’ve learned anything in my almost-50 years of life, it’s that honesty is the best policy, so I texted her back right away: “So glad to hear from you! I wasn’t sure how to reach you! We DO have your package and I accidentally opened it. 1) Bad news: There were two caramel apples in there. I put them in the fridge because they were perishable, and my partner – not realizing they were part of a gift – ate them. 2) Good news: the rest of the gift – toffee + caramels – is still intact and unopened. 3) You also received a card today – happy birthday!”

Yes, Dear Reader, I did that. I completely threw Alan under the bus, and I lied. I guess if I ever have to take a polygraph and they ask if I’ve stolen something and lied about it, I’m going to have to say YES now. But how could I cop to eating her birthday present? Seriously.

Fortunately, she was gracious. She quickly responded, “GOOD! I’m so glad someone enjoyed them! The last thing I need is more sweets!”

Whew. But also? That provoked two simultaneous responses. 1) Her use of “someone” suggested that she saw right through my ruse and knew that it was, in fact, I who had eaten her apples. 2) Was this permission to go ahead and tear into the toffee? Or –

“Can I come by tonight to pick it up?” Well, that answered the second question. Dammit.

So yeah. I met the woman whose birthday present I ate and lied about. Did I feel good about myself? No. But I also didn’t feel terrible – because those apples were actually pretty delicious.

UPDATE: When I told Alan how I’d handled it, he laughed. “It’s not like I’m ever going to meet her, so that sounds like the perfect explanation.”

“Well,” I said, hesitantly, “You MIGHT meet her.”

“Why’s that?” he asked.

“Because we kind of hit it off and I invited her and her husband over for a barbecue.”

“But you didn’t tell her YOU ate her apples?” He was incredulous.

“No – if we end up becoming friends, I figure I’ll confess in a year and it will become our friendship origin story.”

I’m not sure Alan’s on board with this turn of events based on his heavy sigh.

In which my house almost became a landmark…

15 Mar
Photo by Deon Black:

Banana hanging out of the fly of a pair of jeans as if it is a penis

One thing that attracted me to Richmond: its arts scene. VCU is just down the street from me and it’s ranked among the top 5 fine arts schools in the United States. One way this spills out into the community is through murals. I’m not sure what the official count is, but the downtown development district alone boasts at least 150.

So imagine my excitement when, after only a few weeks in my house, someone slid an envelope through my mail-slot, asking if I’d have any interest in letting an artist put a mural on the side of my row house. (I’m on the end of the block and have a good-sized two-story brick surface.) The artist organizing this project was actually not looking to do the work himself, but is trying to create something of an exchange program with foreign artists – bringing them here to diversify our arts scene, and in turn creating opportunities for Richmond artists to leave their mark abroad. Cool, right?

I was really impressed by the thought the organizer has given the project. In the initial letter he presented three different options for supporting the project: 1) Offering up your wall as a venue; 2) Offering your wall + $2k to cover the cost of materials and a lift; 3) Sponsoring the artist with $10k so they would be compensated for their efforts. I responded by letting him know that I’d be open to having a mural on the side of my house and I’d be willing to cover costs, but I was not at a full sponsorship level of patronage because I’m, uh, a bit broke after buying a house. He was cool with that and excited that I was up for a mural.

I’m a planner, so I asked, “What’s the process for reviewing/approving the design? Would I get to suggest themes or choose from artists, or how does this work?” He explained that you only get those privileges at the $10k sponsorship level (fair enough – he’s found a meaningful incentive for full sponsorship).

I followed up by asking if I would at least get to see/approve the image before it goes on my house. In my mind, I was imagining someone having free rein and painting an enormous penis on my house, but I didn’t tell him that because I didn’t want to seed any ideas. PERHAPS, he offered. It would depend on the artist. The artist might be someone who is inspired by the act of painting itself and changes designs on the fly, so I couldn’t necessarily count on it.

That prompted me to pause and consider: as a big-time control freak, might it be sort of a bucket-list item to cede control over something this big? To just give someone carte blanche to paint on the side of my house – as long as I generally liked their portfolio? When I shared this with Alan, his answer was immediate. “Absolutely not.” He looked at me like I was crazy. “It’s your HOUSE. You’re not going to let someone just paint whatever they want on your HOUSE. You won’t even let someone other than you caulk your bathtub. Are you serious?”

Fair point. But I was enjoying the idea of being Alison 2.0 who supported the arts and let someone indulge their muse… until the organizer emailed me with good news. “I’ve got an artist coming to town and we think your house would be perfect for him. He’s in NYC now, but will be here within a week. Are you still interested?”

Gulp. I was excited and nervous. Who was the artist? What did he want to paint? Any chance it would be something related to a cause I’m passionate about – like reproductive rights, BLM, the environment, banned books? The organizer wasn’t sure, but he provided me with a link to the artist’s previous work in Europe so I could get a sense of his style and prior projects. I checked him out and was intrigued. His style was interesting. The subject matter didn’t necessarily resonate for me (oversized people doing different things) but it was still cool. There were one or two abstract images that could possibly be interpreted as being a wee bit phallic, however, so I decided that I wouldn’t feel comfortable moving forward without seeing a sketch.

“I mean, it’s not as permanent as a tattoo, but it’s also a lot more expensive than a haircut, so if I don’t like it, I won’t have to live with it forever, but it will be up there long enough that my house could become a landmark known as ‘The Big Dick’ or something,” I explained to a friend.

“You’re being ridiculous,” she laughed.

I waited on pins and needles for a few days, hoping the artist would be able to provide a sketch. Finally, Sunday evening, he came through. I’d like to post a copy of the image, but I don’t want to violate his copyright, so I’ll do my best to describe it:

Imagine a cartoon man with his back to you, arms and legs out as if mid-jumping jack. He is up against what appears to be an open window. His face is turned to the side, mouth open as if – just speculating here – orgasmic. Oh, and he is completely naked, with a small but very obvious penis pointing down between his legs right in the middle of the frame. I mean, there was nothing ABSTRACT about it. The penis even had a SHADOW.

TLDR: It would like two-story naked cartoon man humping my house.

I imagined my neighbors’ reactions as they watched it going up. I haven’t even had a chance to meet all of them yet, and I’m pretty sure this would NOT be a friend-maker. More like a slow-motion smile turning to horror as they realized I’ve conscripted our entire block to a terrible nickname. “What’s next?” I imagined them asking, “Is she going to add a ‘Tiny Dick Alley’ street sign to the side of her carport?”

I forwarded the image to Alan, whose response was, “Seriously? Are they roasting you? This can’t be real, right?” (To his credit, he didn’t use this as an “I told you so moment.”)

I responded to the project coordinator and said, “Thanks, but I’m going to pass. Hope you find a home for this guy in the Fan because I think it would be fun to have a ‘humping man’ somewhere in Richmond.”

To which he corrected me. “He’s not humping. More like skydiving on an empty picture frame.”

TomAto, ToMahto. There would still be a very visible, embarrassingly small cartoon penis on my house. I’m excited to be part of this neighborhood, but I don’t need my house to become an unfortunate landmark.

“Well look on the bright side,” my friend offered, still trying to get me to make a very bad decision, “It would be easy to give people directions to your house – they wouldn’t even need to know your house number!”

This (Scary?) Old House

21 Feb

Last Halloween I bought a new (old) house in Richmond, VA. By row house standards, it’s small (3 BR, 2BA, around 2000sf) but since I’m coming from 20+ years of condo-living in DC, it feels huge for one person. It might technically only be one bedroom larger than what I left, but it’s more than twice the square footage. It’s also a bit intimidating to move from a low maintenance condo to a 110 year old house that still has the original coal-burning fireplaces and a dirt crawlspace in the basement. But I’m adjusting.

Because it’s so old, what should be small projects end up turning into Projects with a capital P that take twice as long as they should, due to unforeseen complications. We had a string of unseasonably warm days (we’re talking 70s in February!) so I decided it was time to get the screens out of the basement and pop them into the windows so I could get some fresh air in here. Simple, right?


First, the screens needed to be washed because they had cobwebs and old leaves stuck to them (presumably from when they were taken down last fall). I dragged them into my backyard (yes! I have outdoor space now, which was one of my big reasons for wanting to move!) to hose them down. I lined them up against the fence, stretched out the hose, and turned on the spigot – and NOTHING. Nary a drop of water.

I checked the valve in the basement where I had turned off the water during a cold snap to keep my pipes from freezing: it was open, and yet, there was no water flowing. Head scratcher. (I’ve since googled it and it sounds like maybe I need the aerator replaced inside the faucet?) Who knows? I guess my plumber will be able to afford his vacation after all!

I didn’t feel like wasting time, so I grabbed the screens and dragged them into my downstairs shower. (A side note: in this house, all the bedrooms are upstairs, along with a full bath. On the main level, I have a kitchen, living room, dining room and a bathroom with a shower. I couldn’t think of any situation in which a main level shower made sense – except as a back-up – until I needed to hose down these screens.)

Once the screens were cleaned, the next task was matching them to the correct windows. No two windows in this house are the same size, although most of them look like they would be. It felt like one of those toddler games where you have to push a specific shape through the matching hole. Except I was running around my house with 16 rectangular screens.

By this point, I hope you’re starting to understand the “complications” I mentioned earlier. Nothing is straight-forward.

Now for the actual POINT of this story. (I know, sorry it took so long to get here…)

For some reason, there was a ton of dirt caked on the sill just outside each window. It would’ve technically been inside the screen/my house if I didn’t clean it, so each time I installed a screen, I would first open the window (from inside) and wash out the frame.

When I was installing one of the screens in my upstairs office window, in addition to the regular dirt, there were also leaves stuck to the top edge of the frame, connected by a few cobwebs. I took my rag and went to wipe them out – and ended up in a horror film.

Apparently a spider and her very fruitful egg sac were lurking underneath one of those leaves, because as soon as I dislodged it, there was an explosion of spider babies every where – blowing in through the window, scurrying across the windowsill, dropping to the sidewalk below. Reader, I screamed. Spiders freak me out. I’ve gotten to a place where I usually try to relocate them rather than kill them – but that’s when I’m faced with ONE spider, and that’s assuming he’s not a fast-moving spider.

In this case (and I’m not proud of myself), I just started smacking as fast as I could, playing whack-a-mole to kill as many spiders as possible so they wouldn’t run straight into my house. Fortunately, I was wearing gardening gloves, which gave me a bit more bravery than I would’ve had bare-handed.

My assault on those poor spiders was probably the equivalent of an Air Arachnid flight going down in terms of body count. But even more disturbing (at least to me) were those that I missed. How many spiders were there? For the rest of the night I kept scratching at my head, convinced that stray baby spiders had found their way into my hair.

I’m beginning to think that buying a house on Halloween might have been an omen. Oops.

Observations from the Road

6 Nov

disgust bobcat funny - 7815591424

Editor’s Note: I recently “quit” Facebook, so I expect I’ll be writing here more frequently since those thoughts need to go somewhere. As a result, you can expect my posts here to be shorter, less structured, and even more narcissistic than they may have been in the past. You’re welcome?!

Since leaving full-time employment three years ago, I’ve tried to really dial-back my travel and reduce my carbon footprint. I’ve gone from flying monthly – or more – to only 1-2 times per year for work. It’s not perfect, but it’s progress. I consider it a badge of honor that I’ve lost my “elite” status with airlines’ rewards programs.

That said, this week is one of those times: I’m in LA to facilitate a client’s annual offsite meeting for a team of 25 people. I’m staying at the Loews Hotel in Hollywood, which literally backs up to the terribly tourist block that has Mann’s Chinese Theatre (home of the Oscars), the star-lined sidewalk, and dozens of guys in superhero costumes, trying to persuade you to take a photo with them for cash.

Last night, eager to get my steps in after spending six hours on a plane, I set out for a walk in the neighborhood behind the Magic Castle. The homes there are nice, and many of them have large privacy hedges lining the front walk. I sometimes bring shame to my naturalist father because I get a bit skittish about critters in nature. Had he been with me, last night would’ve been one of those times.

I kept hearing crazy rustling noises in the bushes as I walked. In DC, I would’ve dismissed them as rats. But because I’m in California? The obvious conclusion: a bobcat. Never mind that I’m in the heart of LA. And because I don’t have it in me to be like that guy who killed an attacking bobcat with his bare hands, my solution was to walk in the middle of the street where I could see it coming.

Of course, it didn’t come to that, and it probably WAS a rat. Or a lizard or something. But it definitely got my heartrate up – which is, you might note, the purpose of exercise anyway. Mission accomplished.



Not quite how I imagined it.

3 Aug

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 7.04.51 PM

What I thought I’d look like. (Clearly NOT me.)

I tried aerial yoga for the first time this week. I’ve been practicing regular yoga for almost 15 years, so I didn’t spare a thought for how challenging aerial yoga might be. It’s especially easy to under-estimate because the prop basically looks like a hammock. I envisioned myself doing a few Cirque du Soleil tricks, then basically taking a 45 minute nap, swaddled in the folds of silk.

Alas. I couldn’t have had it more wrong.

For starters, it’s PAINFUL. With the exception of when you’re in corpse pose (when you actually ARE all cocooned in it), your silk is almost always gathered up so it functions more like a rope than a hammock. And since you’re hanging from it, climbing up it, or twisted in it, that rope feels like a boa constrictor, hungry for its next meal. In fact, the day after my first class, I woke to find a series of purple bruises across my hips and around my shoulders.

Also? If you’re not precise in following instructions, there is a good chance you will end up toppling to the floor, breaking your nose or knocking out your teeth – or at least that’s what I kept imagining. The instructor would take us through these complex maneuvers to ensure we had the silk wrapped around our arms and legs in a way that would lock us in, then tell us to basically let go and topple face-first toward the floor. It felt like bungee jumping with a rig that had been prepped by a carnival worker.

I never quite trusted that I’d gotten the wraps correct, so I’d cautiously lower myself into position, despite the instructor’s admonishments to, “Let go and fly like Peter Pan” or “hang like a bumblebee!” But then, even if I did it correctly, the scarves would be cutting into my legs/arms/hips to such an extent that I’d try to walk myself back up to a place where I wasn’t in pain – but exiting the pose was often more complicated than entering, so you could probably characterize that portion of my effort as “general flailing.”

In fact, that’s probably the best way to summarize my foray into aerial yoga: general flailing. Had it been a Cirque du Soleil performance, they might not have had to issue refunds to the audience, but they may have had to offer counseling after.

So of course I’m going again.