Transplanted Life
Saturday, August 14, 2004
No-tax day
I'm not certain exactly why the Commonwealth of Massachusetts declared that no sales taxes shall be collected on this day, but they did. I can't even claim to have known about it until Maureen interrupted my attempt to watch the episode of Stargate Atlantis I had taped last night, as excited as... Well, as excited as a girl who has just been told that every store in the state is, effectively, having a sale.

Obviously, she wasn't going to be denied, so I tagged along with her to the mall. Even if I wasn't as thoroughly jazzed about the whole thing as her, there were a couple of things I could pick up. I cringed a little as she made an immediate beeline for the shoe stores, but, really, what did I expect? She broke the heel on one of her favorite pairs a week and a half ago and I imagine that she's been just waiting for this day in order to replace them. And I did try on a few pairs, mostly so that I didn't look like I was boring her. Nothing leaped out and made me say wow, my feet look ten times sexier than normal!, so I didn't buy anything. Shopping for shoes as a girl is weird, though - when a guy goes to buy shoes, it doesn't matter what he's wearing, but if a I'm wearing shorts, like I was today, I can't try on boots or heels - they're only going to be worn with a skirt or dress, and even if I think they'd go perfect with black miniskirt X, I don't trust my instincts for such things. I'd wind up bringing them home and realizing I've just spent fifty dollars on a pair of shoes that don't go with anything I own.

After four stores, Maureen did eventually find a pair worthy of replacing her old favorites, so we started expanding our outlook. I bought a couple skirts and tops, she got a cardigan, little stuff. We wound up in Victoria's Secret just before hitting Borders and Best Buy. Only Maureen goes into that store looking for full-coverage flannel pajamas, but she found 'em. They are, in fact, pretty nice PJs.

Afterward, while I was looking through Borders, trying to remember just which Kinsey Millhone mystery novel was the last one I read a few years ago - they had P is for Peril and Q is for Quarry as remainders - Maureen looked around, and then said she'd caught me checking out the other customers in the lingeree shop.

"I was doing no such thing! Just because I remember being a guy..."

"It's okay, I'm not any kind of homophobe. But, like, that asian girl who was behind me in line? You were totally checking out her butt when she was going into the changing room."

"Hey, she was wearing a nice dress--"

"Please, give me a little credit. 'Christian' isn't a synonym for 'naïve'. I know the difference between 'I wonder how that would look on me' and 'I wonder how she'd look on me'. I--" She stopped, I guess a little embarrassed by what she'd said. "So, I mean, you know, I'm kind of wondering what your deal is. I mean, I know you've got a boyfriend and you really seem to like him, but is that it for you, or do you, you know, like girls too? That would be, like, totally understandable--"

"But still a sin?"

"NO! I mean, I've got to think that God's not going to send someone to Hell for falling in love with someone and then acting on that love, just because they both happen to be the same sex. That just wouldn't make any sense. I just, you know, saw you doing that and wondered."

I guessed she had a point. "I suppose you might be right. If I do do that, I don't realize I am. I guess I've sort of retained a heterosexual man's appreciation for the female form. I mean, as much as I like the sex, just looking at a guy doesn't do a whole lot for me, and a picture does even less. I suppose it works the other way around, too - I still enjoy looking at pretty girls, but on the occasions when I've had to share a bed with one, nothing."

She figured that made sense, and we moved into Best Buy. I first just wandered around the TV section for a while, bemoaning my lack of funds, occasionally pointing out that the no-tax thing could have saved me $100 on that one, or enough on that portable DVD player to buy one or two movies to watch on it. Maureen commented that if me checking out girls (which I was now incredibly paranoid about) hadn't convinced her I had a guy's mind, then this sad display of male hardware lust would do the trick.

What, like it takes a Y chromosome to see the beauty of a widescreen high-definition 720p image? That's just a sexist thing to say.

We were grabbing movies when she asked me if I ever gave her the once-over. I told her I remembered dating enough women to recognize a verbal trap when I saw one.

But, no, she was serious. I told her no, but that wasn't because she was unattractive - in fact as Martin I had always really liked redheads - but just that when we'd first met, she had, well, gotten on my nerves, so I'd sort of thought of her as "annoying" more than "pretty", and then later on as I'd gotten to know her and she became a friend... Well, you know how that is. I was sure she had attractive guy friends that she didn't think of sexually.

She laughed, I asked what was so funny, and she asked if I thought of her as a guy. I just threw up my hands and went to pay for Kill Bill Volume 2 and Predator: Collector's Edition. I swear, I've actually been a woman for over a year now and I still don't know how or why they do that.

Carter just rolled her eyes when we got back with a bunch of shopping bags, saying she was glad she'd had to work this morning and wasn't dragged along. Usual Carter stuff.

So, that's how Maureen and I spent my Saturday off. Now to take a shower to get rid of the sweat and maybe shave my legs before Doug gets here to take me to the Brattle's Orson Welles double-feature.

Friday, August 13, 2004
24 Hour Flu
I hate being sick.

Most people do, and I'm not saying I hate it more than most people, but when I get a bug like I had yesterday, I tend to go into panic mode. I almost wish I'd been puking or coughing or something like that, because the symptoms I was actually hit with - dizziness, headaches, fatigue, chills - are worse. I really don't see how those are useful to a disease. I mean, a virus that has evolved to make its host cough or sneeze or give it the runs, that's putting more of the little bastards into circulation. What's the point of making someone fall over?

Also, whenever I get those head-related symptons, I have to wonder if this isn't just the flu, but some new way for some mad scientist to screw with my mind. Most people don't have to worry about mad scientists in their everyday life, but my life is weird. A headache makes me worry that there's some sort of bizarre rejection scenario being acted out, that my physical brain is just now realizing that it's got the wrong personality and memories and wants them out. That turned out not be the case yesterday, and an aspirin or two was able to mostly hold the headache at bay, but how many other people worry about this?

It turned out to be nothing, just a 24-hour bug, but it's disconcerting. I tried to keep the paranoid ravings to a minimum. No need to put these ideas into Carter's or Maureen's heads.


ERRATUM: I made bad use of quotation marks on Wednesday; Maureen actually wrote "even Sam liked it", but I've pretty much trained myself to translate back and forth between "Sam" and "Carter" automatically, and was distracted by the ballgame.
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Not having regular weekends
It's a funny thing, working in a service/retail job. All of us in the apartment do right now, and it's a bit strange.

It's not necessarily a bad thing; you still work about five days a week, and if one of them falls in the middle of the week, it means you can go to afternoon movies, or do some shopping, without crowds. Heck, because of how high movie prices are in Boston, you can save some money - either by using the "weekday escape" tickets, or taking advantage of how matinée prices only last until about 2pm on weekends, but run until six during the week at some theaters.

Still, it takes some getting used to, especially if you're like Maureen and go to it straight from a five-days-a-week, nine-to-five job. Carter and I had unemployment beforehand, so we got used to odd hours, but Maureen was dead on her feet the past two weeks - first the craziness of the DNC, then getting used to working 3pm-10pm a lot of days.

The other weird thing is that it's rare we all have the same day off. Today, for instance, Maureen and Carter had the day off but I was working. I got home and saw a note from Maureen on the fridge saying "see Before Sunset before it leaves town; even Carter liked it". I guess they're seeing some band tonight. Getting to the movie could be tricky, since Fandango has it moving to second-run screens on Friday and I haven't yet seen Before Sunrise, which is apparently essential. So I'm going to hit the video store tonight.

Aw, who'm I kidding - I'm watching the game. I was planning to only watch a few innings, but then they got Denis Leary in the booth. Funny stuff.
Monday, August 09, 2004
What to keep... or is it what to take?
Even as I'm typing this, I'm getting instant messages from Nat, as she goes through all the boxes of stuff she recovered from Alexei's apartment. Her family had been paying the rent through June, hoping he'd return, and had actually already sent in the rent for July when she came to confront me. She'd had some movers empty the place out a few weeks ago, which filled a room in her condo, but now she says she's got a decorator coming in a few weeks to make that room into a nursery, so it's time to sort stuff out. She was going to bring the whole lot down to the Salvation Army, but figured I might want some of it.

Um, yeah.

So we're going down the list. It looks like my stuff is more or less still all there, so my thought that he might have been selling some on ebay looks to be false. I speculated that Alexei might have been planning on returning it to me at some point, but Nat thinks that would be giving him too much credit. The last month and a half has made her bitter toward him, methinks.

I'm keeping all the toys and videogames, but I find that this is an exceptional way to prune some of the other collections. Comics, for instance, we're breaking down by title. She starts at the end of one long box, tells me the first title she finds, and I try to say what I want to keep from memory. The tinking is that if I can't remember it well enough to specify it, it's not worth keeping. So the entire Steven Seagle run of "Alpha Flight", gone. Priest's "Quantum and Woody", kept. Keep Mark Waid's run on "Captain America" but toss much of the rest (ooh, did she hate opening the bags to find out who the writers were before Marvel started putting them on the cover)(*). Lose all of "Youngblood" except for the two issues Alan Moore wrote before Rob Liefeld did one of his patented self-destruct jobs (what the hell was I thinking?); keep Barbara Kessel's "Ultragirl" Marvel miniseries (hey, it was cute). Yes, I want to keep a book called "She-Hulk". "Just Imagine Stan Lee...", gone, despite the expense at the time. I'll let "Planetary" go and just pick up the paperback collections sometime.

So, in the end, she wound up with two piles - one which she'll send to me, one which she'll give to her brother to take to the local comic shop, splitting the take with me. I told her it wouldn't be that much, since (a) shops don't stock as many back issues and (b) what she had left was mostly a pile of shit.

Books were a little trickier; we could mostly play yes/no by author, but that wound up being "Nat says a title, I say yes or no, move on". There were one or two where she said I wasn't getting it back until after she read it, though. There were some I didn't recognize; I guess Alexei is a reader. Nat could keep those except for the technical ones; those might be useful

Clothes... Well, I don't have a lot of use for those, now, do I? I did say I wanted to keep some of the T-shirts; I can still wear a large (the boobs make up for the height) and a shirt from Barenaked Ladies's "Stunt Show" tour is a keepsake as well as clothing, so I think I'd like to keep some of them.

"Does that include this Red Sox Nomar Garciaparra shirt?"

Nat can be mean.

I had frighteningly few CDs for a thirty-year-old; Carter was in the room for that and wanted to know how I could stand only having a couple hundred. That is, she could understand it if she didn't know I was a pack-rat, but over the last few years it's been rare for me to buy a CD more often than every couple of months.

Of course, she'd roll her eyes if she saw how many movies Nat and I have to go through.


(*) I don't regularly bag and board; I just did for the move.
Sunday, August 08, 2004
"It feels odd to do this while it's still light out."
Doug may or may not have still felt under the weater when I got out of work a bit before seven PM today; it doesn't really much matter. He said he'd try and meet up with Wei, Jim and me at the theater for the 7:30 showing of Shaolin Soccer, but I know that goofy Hong Kong movies aren't really his thing. He certainly looked rather healthier at breakfast this morning, but guys tend to grab onto excuses not to go on dates that they think would bore them to tears. I sure remember doing it - after all, it's not lying to say you're working late on the night your girlfriend has opera tickets if you really do work late, even if it's not strictly necessary and you leave the office about five minutes after curtain. Of course, he knows that I know the tricks - I have a completely unfair advantage in the battle of the sexes which I am not above exploiting.

It made me the third wheel while hanging out with Wei and Jim, but that was okay - until they get used to me being around and being who and what I am, I'm going to be the focal point any time we get together. If Doug were with me, he'd probably feel like the one tagging along even though he was part of a couple.

Wei and Jim are trying, which is cool. I think it's easier for Jim; he'd only been dating Wei for about a month before I started dating Kurt, so he didn't get to know Martin very well. In fact, he said tonight that he'd actually noticed a few similarities a year ago, that in some ways he thought it was funny that after Kurt's best friend moved away, he started dating a hot female version of Martin. Didn't say anything because, well, he was trying to make nice with Wei's friends and suggesting that one of those male friends was dating his current girlfriend because she reminds him of a guy would not make things go smoothly.

Jim called me Michelle a lot, and doesn't even notice he's doing it unless Wei corrects him. Wei herself has fallen into calling me Marti. It comes out kind of funny, mar-TI, because she's trying to differentiate it from "Marty". And I don't make it any easier; I fall into the trap of reminiscing. When we were walking past some of the chess hustlers in Harvard Square, I smiled, and asked if she remembered the time one of our classmates got crushed, ten years ago, by the guy sitting in front of the same Au Bon Pain today. We get into telling this funny story to Jim, and it dawns on us that I, technically, wasn't there.

So I change the subject from the past to the future, asking how the wedding plans are going. They groan, saying that they want something very non-denominational, and they've booked a Unitarian church, but travel plans are crazy - Wei's immediate family is in the northern suburbs, but Jim's is on Long Island, he's got a ton of cousins who have dispersed all over the country, and then there are Wei's grandparents. Grandmother Chang is in Hong Kong, while Grandmother and Grandfather Wu are from Taiwan, and all of them are running up massive phone bills trying to convince her and her parents to do something closer to a traditional Chinese wedding. The only time I remember meeting them was at graduation, but I remember Wei dreading it, because they were always disappointed that she doesn't speak Cantonese like a native and only absorbs the Westernized, pop-culture stuff from China. And, of course, retirees from China don't just come to the US for a weekend... Oh, no, they would all be arriving two full weeks before the wedding and staying a week after.

It was something of a relief when the movie started, since Wei and I had veered into reminiscing again. And it was a good movie, although I'd like to see the whole thing sometime (Miramax cut fifteen minutes out. I don't get why they do that, I really don't). We had a coffee afterward, and I asked if they'd told Kurt I was going to be at the wedding. They said no, but they were working up to it - just last week Wei mentioned she'd run into me at the movies and I wasn't some kind of Frankenstein's monster, and that most of the stuff he'd liked about both Marty and Michelle was still there. He's not up to talking about it. To be expected - if I don't hear back from Jen or Kate, who didn't know Martin and never slept with me, how can I expect Kurt to be cool?

I'd like to find a way, though.


(Oh, and the title refers to going to see a goofy Hong Kong movie in the early evening rather than at a midnight show)

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