Monday, April 26, 2010

Oh, the irony

Today I want to tell the story of how Byrd and I met, twelve years ago. This is the first question we find ourselves answering when meeting a new acquaintance, perhaps because we're such an odd couple.

The fact is, I hated him from the start.

There I was, the straight-laced, straight-A university freshman from a nice upper-middle class family, living in the "nerd" dorm, and working part-time at a pet store.

And there he was, eight years older than me, also working at the pet store--not as an employee, but as contract labor, doing something construction-y to the office door. He towered above me (6' 5"), had shoulder-length hair and plenty of piercings, and looked pretty rough. I didn't know his name, only that he and his companion (his brother, it turned out) had their tools and gear scattered in the hall, and he was personally blocking my path in the narrow hallway that led to the stockroom.

I cleared my throat. He turned and looked, but made no effort to move out of my way. I had to turn sideways and squeeze past him, and he gave me what I thought was a disgusting leer, though today I think maybe he was just surprised that I was tiny enough to slide through a six-inch gap without touching him.

Same interaction, same long look from him as I squeezed past on my return trip from the stockroom. At the counter, I asked my boss who that creepy guy was. "That's Byrd," said my boss. "Doing a little side job for store credit."

I'd heard the name Byrd plenty of times before. Everyone at the pet store said Byrd was the most honest, forthright person they knew. Byrd's word was his bond. And he went miles to help his friends. No one had anything bad to say about Byrd. So, naturally, I had constructed this very romantic vision of Byrd as a dashing, handsome, well-groomed young fellow.

The authentic, dirty, scruffy Byrd finished the job in the back room and made for the counter where I was standing. I pointedly ignored him, but he missed the hint and spewed out the most ridiculous pickup line on the planet: "Will you marry me?"

All these exclamation points and alarm bells exploded inside my head. What?? Who was this guy!? Finally, I managed to sputter, "NO!"

To my dismay, he didn't laugh and walk off--he persisted. "Why not?"

This was a situation I'd never been put in before in my life. I'd never seen such an absurd advance strategy and had no idea how to respond. I knew he was teasing me, but I didn't want to give him the pleasure of seeing me flustered. So I seriously thought about why not, and finally concluded, "We haven't even been on a date!" There, that was surely the end of it.

Or not. He nodded. "Okay, if I take you on a date, then would you marry me?"

So he'd played my game and won. Before I knew it, I had agreed to a date--ONE date, mind you!--with a grungy redneck pervert who just wanted to get into my... well, you get it.

But to my surprise, Byrd arrived dressed up for date night. He was clearly nervous. He was courteous, and respectful, and quiet. He followed all those rules of chivalry that seem old-fashioned nowadays, from opening the car door to paying for the meal. During conversation, he didn't flirt, but spoke earnestly.

But one thing about that first date stands out to this day. Quick flashback to when I was a kid--my mom used to relentlessly inform me that I would never, ever, ever find a boyfriend if I kept picking those freaky purple things (cabbage?) out of my salad. "Are you honestly going to pick at your food in front of a boy you like?" she'd ask.

So there I was, on a date (with an enigma who I thought was a freaky pervert but was turning out to be quite sweet), pawing over the salad, petrified about having to eat the purple things for the first time ever... I glanced over at Byrd, and there he was picking the purple things out of his salad! I couldn't help but laugh.

After that, the ice was broken, and we talked for a long time and discovered that we had a lot of similar likes and dislikes, and similar dreams for the future. One date turned into many dates; I eventually moved in with him, and we lived together for seven years before he repeated his very first words to me. This time, I said "yes."

To this day, I tease Byrd about that corny pickup line: "'Only an idiot would fall for a line like that!" He always teases back, "What does that make you?"

Friday, April 02, 2010

Quilting, and a mural

So it's been a while. Work's been crazy. Nuff said.

And I've been doing a bit of this, too (not me in the picture):

Our foster, Sweet Pea, is still with us. She's a darling, but she really needs a home of her own. Brindle dogs don't get adopted quickly, so I'm worried about the length of her stay. Plus, I can't take her to adoption sites now that I'm working, so the foster org is trying to advertise her strictly via their website. Oy.

You're gonna laugh at this, but I think I want to learn quilting.

Yeah, I know, with all the stuff I'm involved in already, why add another activity??

But the thing is, I think all my computer work is slowly killing me. I mean that literally. My migraines are worse, my hands are getting shakier and achier, and I constantly feel like I'm in a fog. I'm theorizing that my 14 hours a day on the computer (work and extracurricular activities combined) are probably at the root of it. Just a theory, mind you.

So I want to try out a hobby or something that will pull me away from the computer, yet still satisfy my creative needs without requiring a lot of outdoor time the way my only other hobby does. That other hobby being gardening, which I love, but which is impossible in Texas for eight months out of the year unless you are a fan of heatstroke and fireants.

This year our white wisteria is going all out, by the way.

So why quilting specifically, when there are other options?

I mean, I don't know the first thing about sewing. I signed up for a Sewing 101 class, and the confirmation email said I should bring my sewing machine and an empty bobbin. The sewing machine is no problem--I bought one years ago for some reason--but I had to email the instructor and ask what an empty bobbin was. That's how clueless I am.

But quilting seems like a neat thing to learn. I've always enjoyed geometric designs, and I've been drawing something like mandalas since I was little, since before I even knew what to call them (or that other people draw them too). Traditional quilts play off that geometry.

And from a practical perspective, we use blankets a lot around here, both for us and our bed, and for the dogs.

Anyway, I'll take a few quilting classes and see whether I like it. It means even less time on the computer, but I think for me, that's probably a good thing right now.

Bonus section: Jungle mural, 1997

When I was in high school, me and a group of three other students painted a mural on the art room wall. I was in charge of the birds and a big chunk of the greenery. Here's a Scarlet Macaw.

This is a Quetzal, and the bird below it is a hanging parrot of some type (maybe Blue-Crowned?).

I'll show you some of the rest of the mural, but don't laugh at my outfit, okay? You don't dress up for art class unless you want to ruin your clothes. :)

Me and my art teacher, Mr. Leija, in front of the mural, which covered the art room door and several walls at the entrance to the art room (which was L-shaped):

Zooming out... The mural actually keeps going to the left and up, up, up, but it's all mostly plants.

I wonder if it's still there? The last time I went by my high school, which was many years ago, they'd whitewashed all the other groups' murals, and ours was the only one remaining.