Monday, July 30, 2012

Of Fires and Felonies: Adventures in Apartment Living

I have spent literally years speculating as to what kind of characters my neighbors might be, often to great paranoia. In D.C., I suspected I lived next door to a serial killer who turned out to be a cop, & I later thought I lived next door to mafiosos who turned out to be Russians working night shifts. In New Hampshire, I was confident that the dude down the hall was a drug dealer; he actually had multiple sclerosis (so he smoked a lot of pot) & was going through a bad divorce (so he yelled a lot). In other words, time has taught me that my imagination is often far more dramatic than my neighbors' lives.

Tonight, the fire alarm went off in my new apartment building. Nathan & I were just finishing up a game of Scrabble with my mom, who's visiting for the week, when it started blaring in the hallway. After a couple seconds of calm confusion, we swooped up some personal items, like cell phones & purses - & in my case, put on a shirt that was not a wifebeater - & headed outside with the rest of the residents. Someone commented, "Glad to see our floor represented out here!" & I thought to myself that even if my floor was represented, I'd have no idea, because I've not met or even heard a peep from any of my neighbors since moving in.

Except the dude down the hall. He was leaving his apartment yesterday as I was stepping into the elevator, so I asked if he wanted me to hold the door; he said no, & that was the extent of our interaction.

But. BUT!

Tonight, as the firefighters let us back into the building, explaining that the alarm stemmed from a broken sprinkler head & not from a fire, I noticed a policeman standing in our hallway. I figured he was there because of the alarm situation, but as we opened the door to our apartment, I heard him pound on the neighbor's door. "Are you Brandon?" he asked when the door opened. After some quiet murmurs, I heard him say, "You know why I'm here, right?" followed by Brandon's, "You got a warrant?" The policeman said he did, & Brandon asked if he could retrieve his cell phone before what I can only assume was his arrest. Unfortunately, all the eavesdropping in the world could not reveal Brandon's criminal missteps, but I do know that he left quietly with Red Bank's finest.

You guys. For five years, I've been conjuring up anxiety-fueled scenarios of my neighbors' criminal habits. And today? Vindication. "I am right / I swear I'm right / I swear I knew it all along." I can't say I'm super jazzed to have a criminal neighbor (OK, OK, his infraction could be anything, I know), but... I am kind of super jazzed to have a criminal neighbor after all. Touché, New Jersey.


P.S.: My lawyer (errr, my law student friend) wants me to point out that "arrested on a warrant ≠ are a criminal (!)," so this is me pointing that out. I know that, of course, but being arrested on a warrant is still quite a step up from me simply imagining that bumps in the night = Patrick Bateman next door.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

On Being the Absolute Sweatiest

There's a line from a song in "Kiss Me Kate" that goes, "According to the Kinsey Report, every average man you know much prefers to play his favorite sport when the temperature is low. But when the thermometer goes way up & the weather is sizzling hot, Mr. Adam for his madam is not." When I was in high school, the guys in my show choir choreographed a tap dance to it, complete with dancing canes, & when they got to the word "hot," the raised their canes like, um, a part of the male anatomy. When they reached the word "not," their canes fell like, um, that same part of the male anatomy.

In the summer, I think about this song a lot. And yes, this song is all about how no one likes having sex when it's a million degrees out. But for me, the point is also that I don't like doing anything when it's a million degrees out, including that. I don't like going outside. I hardly like being inside. I don't like walking, much less exercising. Hell, I don't like moving, period.

Much to my dismay, I am an abnormally sweaty individual. I know, that's a less-than-glamorous thing to say or whatever, but it is what it is: I'm a sweater. I'm almost 28 years old, & if it hasn't changed yet, it's probably never going to. Though I haven't yet quite accepted that fate, I have the sense to admit that it's probably true.

As you can imagine, being sweaty is not exactly a desirable quality in a woman. In general, being sweaty means being disgusting. Being sweaty means that when I leave my house looking beautiful(ish) & well-coifed, I inevitably arrive at my destination looking schlumpy - & depending on the weather & my activity level, I get schlumpier as the day goes on. Being sweaty means that I lie & say I loathe dancing only because cannot do it without looking like I just fell into a swimming pool. Being sweaty means that any outdoor endeavor is a miserable one, from being at the beach to walking down the block. Being sweaty means doing double-time on laundry duty because I sometimes change multiple times in a single day.

Think I'm exaggerating? I wear Old Spice, y'all; I'm a 27-year-old woman who wears a deodorant designed for ripped male athletes & smelly dudes with beer bellies. Further contributing to my problem is that fact that I stupidly got bangs in May, of all times, which ups my facial sweatiness factor by at least 15%. I wear shorts under all my dresses to eliminate, or at least ameliorate, the dreaded chub rub. I buy oil blotting sheets & dry shampoo like they're going out of style. And so on.

It's safe to say that from May to September, I feel comfortable only when standing absolutely still in a highly air-conditioned room. But because the weather in New Jersey has hovered between sweltering & boiling all month & because the A/C in my new apartment hovers somewhere between minimally useful & wholly useless, I'm really struggling to make it through this summer without melting into a sad puddle of goo.

In summary: It's too darn hot. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go stick my head in the freezer.


Images: First image found here but can't locate original source; second image found here with no original source cited

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

"Get Busy Living"

A close friend once observed that he feels I have a "grass is greener" outlook on life - that is to say, wherever I go, I idealize where I've been or where else I could be. While I don't necessarily agree with him that this is, like, my primary worldview, I have since tried to become more cognizant of the times when I catch myself thinking this way so I can redirect my brain to stop - and to love my life as it is.

I've been thinking about this lately as I try to adjust to life in New Jersey. I'm only moderately embarrassed to admit that I miss New Hampshire so much that it hurts - & yet, I know full well that I didn't love my life there as I was living it. I spent days - weeks, months - feeling lonely & disconnected. I went days without speaking to anyone but baristas & grocery store employees. I dressed up for the sake of dressing up, knowing no one would see me that day. My only friends were through Skype & text, Twitter & phone calls. I made plans to live a bigger life - to get involved, to meet new people, to do - but I never followed through with them. Instead, I dreamed of a day when I'd get out of there & move onto something better.

"Something better" turned out to be New Jersey.

And? So far, I borderline hate New Jersey. It's dirty & congested & disjointed & people keep telling me I should like it, but I just don't. Maybe I will eventually. But for now, all I can think is that I don't want to live in New Jersey. I've never wanted to live in New Jersey. It's perfectly fine, I suppose, but it's not a place where I have any interest in living. Nathan, of course, has to stay here... but do I? We've been discussing the possibility of my moving to NYC, which fills me all at once with both relief & terror.

But I have to wonder: Will moving solve anything? I wasn't making the most of life in New Hampshire, & now I'm not making the most of life in New Jersey. What makes me think I would make the most of a life in Brooklyn? I seem to expend a lot of emotional energy waiting for things to fall into place - to be in a place I want to be in so that I can start living a life I want to live.

I recently Skyped with my friend Will, who up & moved from Boston to Asia to teach English. He's spent been there for a month now & has spent every weekend since he arrived traveling to different provinces, seeing the sights, living it up. Sometimes he goes alone, sometimes he brings friends - but the point is that he goes.

I have another friend, Juli, who makes new friends everywhere she goes. She met one of her best friends on an airplane when they were seated next to one another, total strangers. She seems to know someone in every city, have a life wherever she goes.

And then there's Micaela, who did humanitarian work in Uganda & Rwanda before heading to grad school in California. Micaela spends almost no time worrying about details or "what if" scenarios. She is always upbeat, always friendly, always happy.

These friends - I want to be more like them. Instead of sleeping in on the weekends, eating cereal & moping about not knowing anybody in New Jersey, perhaps it's time I start doing things. Going places, talking to strangers, falling in love with my life. I may not fall in love with New Jersey - but then again, maybe I will. The point is, it's time to start loving my life as I live it.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

General Hospital: Of Zombies, Apple Juice, & Disney Fans

My boyfriend is in the hospital with an inflamed colon. What does that mean? Don't ask me; we still haven't gotten a decent explanation. All I know is that he can only consume clear liquids & has to stay in the hospital until at least Monday, when he'll undergo a colonoscopy. Of course, we've made a number of "Walking Dead" jokes, wondering whether he'll wake up tomorrow to a world full of walkers & me dating his best friend. No real-life dramatics so far, though there's quite a bit of boredom.

The "menu" for clear liquids patients is basically The Saddest Thing. The only difference between breakfast & the other two meals is that it doesn't comes with broth. You know, they keep breakfast light.
To mix things up a bit, I bought him a veritable smorgasbord of slightly more indulgent clear liquids from the Dunkin Donuts downstairs & also let him eat two fruit snacks. I run a tight ship, guys.

Also, he has a roommate. This roommate is a large, hairy man who, as a disclaimer, may be slightly mentally disabled; he came in with a case worker & was talking about a group home, so I initially thought he was a parolee. Please don't think I'm making fun of this man; we've been absolutely kind to him, & he to us; he's thanked Nate for his service no fewer than six times. It's just that when you're sharing a room with a total stranger, it's difficult not to be annoyed by things - especially by things that are, frankly, just very weird & unexpected, & also, let's face it, a little bit amusing.

Like: He brought with him a gaggle of plush Disney friends, including a well-loved Mickey Mouse & its less popular companions, Donald Duck & Pluto. (I overheard him telling his stepmother that Goofy "couldn't make the trip this time.") He mutters to his stuffed brigade regularly, though mostly to Mickey. My favorite decipherable line so far is, "I'm Mickey Mouse driving a truck. You probably heard."

Today he shaved his face no fewer than three times in about five hours with the world's loudest electric razor. When the nurse said he'd requested that a mirror be brought into their shared bathroom, the roommate also asked for an electrical outlet. Which is not something that can just be, like, brought in.

Other things I know about the roommate (because he talks very loudly) include: He belches a lot. Like Mickey, he is a truck driver. He enjoys being in the hospital because the food is better than what he can make for himself. He prefers chicken to stuffed peppers, & his favorite seasoning is Mrs. Dash. He came into the ER because his stomach hurt "like Montzeuma's Revenge" (not the correct usage); he has since had an ultrasound, a CAT scan, & a nuclear test (pronounced the George W. Bush way). He likely has gallsstones. Today, I was really rattled to hear him make a jarringly racist comment; we didn't request a room change because, on the whole, he keeps to himself & is harmless. But like I said: also really weird & unexpected & aside from that comment, mostly amusing.

I'm hoping Nathan can break free on Monday. He's already feeling so much better, & understandably, he's going nuts confined to a remote-controlled bed, slurping orange Jell-O & protein-laced apple juice three times a day. I've brought him magazines, my iPad, his Kindle Fire, his laptop, anything I can think of to keep him busy, but it's tough to feel like you're home when you've been wearing the same backless hospital gown for 48+ hours...

Friday, July 20, 2012

It Takes a Village (to Get Into the City)

I remember the first time I visited New York City. I was probably 11 years old, & I was visiting my penpal. As we walked down a busy city street with our mothers, my friend asked me, "Did you just smile at a stranger?" Her horrified expression immediately told me that I'd done something very wrong. How was a Midwestern kid to know?!

I think of that incident every time I smile at a stranger in the city - & yes, I still do it. I find that people are typically friendly to those who are friendly to them, as long as they're not in too much of a hurry. And when it comes to asking for directions, a friendly smile goes a long way.

On directions: I am a firm believer in asking for directions when necessary, & sometimes even when unnecessary, just to affirm that I'm on the right track. On Monday, when I commuted from Red Bank to NYC for the first time, I knew I'd never figure it out without a little help from my friends - in which "friends" are "total strangers," for the most part.

I'd like to thank the seven people - all strangers but one - who  made it possible for me to commute from my home to my office without having a mental breakdown or ending up under a bridge in the Bronx.
  • On Sunday, I emailed a few coworkers, all of whom are longtime N.J. residents, to ask how to get from Red Bank to our office. One of them, Victor, sent detailed instructions for getting from Penn Station (where the train pulls in) to Grand Central (where I needed to be), including such typically overlooked instructions as "go down two floors [to catch the next train]." Vital details! Armed with Victor's guidance saved as a note in my iPhone, I felt slightly more confident about braving the NYC subway, especially while carrying oversized luggage. Thanks, savvy coworker!

  • Upon arrival at the Red Bank Station, I 'fessed up: "This is my first time doing this," I told the woman behind the ticket counter. As there was no one in line behind me (clutch), she was more than happy to give me a rundown of how the transportation situation into the city was going to work. Thanks, friendly ticket gal!

  • As I waited on the platform, a middle-aged man asked me if the arriving train was going to [Name of Town I Forget]; when I couldn't answer, a young guy standing nearby stepped in to help. I seized the opportunity to ask him how to tell which trains would & wouldn't go to NYC, & he gave me a full rundown. Thanks, knowledgeable dude waiting on a train!

  • Once on the train, I got worried. How would I know when I got to Penn Station?! What if I missed my stop & rode the train forever? When the ticker-taker came around to, uh, take my ticket, I decided to ask. "It's the last stop," he assured me, "and everyone will be getting off. Can't miss it, honey." Thanks, kind NJ Transit worker! 

  • Somewhere around Secaucus, a woman sat down next to me & hung her monthly transit pass from the seat. I nervously engaged her in conversation about how that works - & learned that if it costs her $200+ for an unlimited pass for Secaucus, it'd likely cost me about a million for the same from the boonies of Red Bank. Thanks, amiable commuter!

  • At Penn Station, I navigated to the 3 train, which I'd been told would take me to Times Square, but standing on the platform, I began to question my directional capabilities. I honed in on a calm-looking dude sans headphones & double-checked that I was headed in the right direction; he confirmed that I was. Thanks, non-gruff New Yorker!

  • And finally, one last check as I boarded the 7 to Queens: "The next stop is Grand Central, right?" I said casually to a woman leaning on the door of the train. "Yep," she responded. Interaction complete, as I stepped off the train at my penultimate destination. Success. Thanks, moderately-more-gruff-but-still-helpful New Yorker! 
My iPhone did the rest of the work for me, directing me the two blocks from Grand Central to the office. Total door-to-door travel time was two hours. Total stress level? Surprisingly nonexistent. And for me, that's basically a miracle.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Priming the Pump: Getting Gas in New Jersey

Did you know that it's illegal to pump your own gas in New Jersey? You heard me. In 1949, the Garden State banned self-service gas pumps for safety reasons, though I am still unclear as to what those reasons are. I'm picturing Zoolander-esque scenarios here.

Apparently this is a thing most New Jerseyans like - 63% of them, to be absurdly exact. That article from NJ.com both amuses & infuriates me, as it seems that residents of NJ make a lot of excuses as to why they like the law - "It's cold outside," "Pumping my own gas holds up traffic" (?!) - but in the end, it seems obvious that these folks just can't be bothered to do it themselves. They have to learn how when they travel to other states!

I have a lot of questions about this system, like: Do I turn my car off? Do I roll my window down or open my door? Do I tip the person who fills up my tank? If I need to run into the gas station to buy something, do I move my car away from the pump before going inside? I eagerly grilled a New Jersey native about it, & though his responses were sound, my anxiety prevailed.

While at summer camp in New York last week, I decided I'd be best served to fill up my tank - by myself - while out of state. Upon leaving camp, I drove a few miles out of my way to the nearest Citgo to capitalize upon the Empire State's DIY gas laws. As I pulled up, a middle-aged bald guy walked out of the station & up to my car, ready to pump - to my horror & dismay.

"Am... am I in New Jersey?" I stuttered, confused about my geography skills. "Is this New Jersey?"

He laughed. "Nope, this is New York. But because we're so close to Jersey, a lot of people prefer not to pump their own gas. So I do it for 'em! We're one of the only ones in New York that do it this way, I think."

I fumbled around nervously as I turned off my car. And then turned it back on to roll down the driver's side window. And then fumbled around some more as I hit the locks instead of the windows. He kept laughing.

"How much you want?" he asked.

"Umm... fill it up?" All of my responses sounded like questions.

"You're not from around here, huh?" he asked. Oh, you can tell? I explained that I'd just moved to New Jersey from New England & had hoped to avoid having someone else pump my gas because I didn't really understand how it worked.

He couldn't stop laughing.

Leave it to me to go out of state to evade New Jersey's weird gas laws... only to find the only gas station in New York state that has a company policy of pumping customers' gas as a courtesy.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Stashing my Cache

Nathan & me on cache-stashing day
Before leaving New Hampshire, Nate & I pledged that we'd create our own geocache someplace in Portsmouth as a way of leaving a bit of ourselves behind. We spent half a day looking for the perfect place & ultimately settled on an old tree trunk on the outskirts of the old cemetery across from our apartment, overlooking a body of water called Curriers Cove. It was just difficult enough to find that we were proud of ourselves; you had to hack through some brush & brave some rocks to reach the cache in its hiding spot, which we aptly named "Junk in the Trunk."

A few days after I submitted the cache to the official geocaching folks, we got bad news: Our cache had been denied. Apparently there's a 500 feet rule, & ours didn't fall within the parameters. It was too close to another cache near the same graveyard, despite the fact that the two were a good half an hour apart in terms of brush & overgrowth. Disappointed but undeterred, we headed back to the original spot to retrieve our cache so that we could re-hide it. We found that it was a good thing our cache had been rejected... because it had floated away with the tide!

After scouring the area for a new, within-the-rules hiding spot, we settled upon one we were still able to name Junk in the Trunk. Last week, I got an email from the good folks at Groundspeak, who confirmed that our new cache placement had been approved - quickly followed by an email saying that someone had already found it!

All this to say that if you're in Portsmouth, I urge you to register with Geocaching.com & download the app so that you can track down our cache.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summertime & the Livin' Is Easy

Perhaps you haven't noticed that I've been quiet across the blogosphere over the last week, but I have been. My radio silence in the blogging world has been with good reason, though: I'm at summer camp!

You heard me. The organization I work for runs 13 summer camps across the U.S. & Canada, & I have had the honor of working at one of them for the last few days. Suffice it to say that the Internet is not super-reliable in the hills of New York state, but I've still gotten a few tweets in. I'm here to teach, of course, but I still feel very new-kid-on-the-block about being at camp in general. I went to summer camp as a kid, but never to anyplace that felt particularly meaningful; I did day camp with the YMCA & Kent State University, & I did a week of Girl Scout camp, too, which I hated because we actually had to sleep in little tents (too much camping for me!). Here, though, things feel different. It's a leadership camp for teenagers, so all the campers are really enthusiastic & friendly. I suspect that 16-year-old me would've fit in here quite nicely.

Of course, as a camp first-timer, 27-year-old me is having some significant more struggles, but nothing insurmountable. For example, I spent a night imitating Kenny from South Park, sleeping with my hoodie on & my hood up, pulled tight around my face to keep me warm when I couldn't figure out how to turn off my A/C. I was horrified to find a stinkbug inhabiting my fruit bowl. Meals are a gamble, & I've gone hungry a few times because I'm still a picky enough eater that I won't consume about 25% of camp food. But there have been some great moments of clarity, too, & that's why I'm here.

Also: Today a teenage girl asked me, with a great deal of seriousness, "How did you get to a point in your life where you feel comfortable wearing hats?" It is quite possibly my favorite question anyone has ever asked me, particularly because I only recently became comfortable enough to start wearing hats. Even now, I sometimes question my fashion choices, so being vindicated by a 15-year-old felt especially gratifying, somehow - though now that I think about it, she wasn't saying that my hat looked good so much as she was indicating that it was ballsy of me to sport it. Huh...

Anyway. As a self-professed indoor kid, I typically loathe summer. But give me an air-conditioned cabin overlooking a lake & I'm all set. I'm feeling pretty lucky right about now. If this were your view every morning, wouldn't you?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Saying Goodbye to the Granite State

For our spent our last weekend in the 603 (that's, uh, the entire state of New Hampshire's area code, by the way), Nate & I traveled up to the White Mountains with our friends Mike & Jill. First, I'd like to note that these two are friends I made all by myself, as adults, on the Internet, & successfully transitioned with them into real-life friendship, both individually & as couples. I spent all this time whining about having no friends in the Granite State, but when it came time to move, I was crazy disappointed to leave Mike & Jill behind. Luckily, Mike is from the Hamptons & they travel back regularly, so we're bound to see them again soon!

Back to the roadtrip: Neither Nate nor I had ever been up north, but Jill is a lifelong New Hampshirite, so they knew the ropes. We first stopped along the Kancamagus Highway to wade in the Swift River on a morning when the water was particularly low. The big, smooth rocks were covered in butterflies!

We also spent some time Googling a criminal we dubbed "Kanc Man," a dude who stationed himself in the women's latrines along the highway so he could watch ladies doing their, um, business. Twice. He was arrested for this two times. We also realized that the only two movies we can think of that involve children standing waist-high in feces have both won Oscars for Best Picture. Two points to you if you can name them.

We got stuck in a monster hailstorm driving up Mount Washington, so bad that lesser drivers than Mike pulled off the road to wait it out. I wished we could take every vulnerable motorcyclist into our car for shelter!
We visited Attitash Mountain Resort, where we were among the last to ride the Mountain Coaster before it closed for an incoming storm. This rickety, roller coastery thing carries you up into the woods, then you control your speed on the way down; I, of course, wobbled my way down, never hitting max speed, & accidentally took the last turn so quickly that I thought I'd fly off the tracks & die in the woods of New Hampshire.
We also got stopped by a state trooper but didn't get a ticket, got thisclose to a chipmunk, witnessed one hundred & seven Mini Coopers caravaning down the mountain together, ate cake balls from the Vintage Baking Co., shopped at a general store, & geocached at a covered bridge. The only downside was that I sat in gum. While wearing black pants. And still can't get it out.

All in all, a good day. The perfect way to see off the Granite State!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Zippity-Doo-Da: On Learning to Love Adventures

Earlier this year, I did something I once promised my father, may he rest in peace, that I would never do: I rode a motorcycle. I wish I had video footage available of the way I couldn't stop laughing, perhaps as a mechanism to keep myself from crying with fear, as this kid I'd just met whipped me around the block on his bike. (He was a friend of a friend, don't worry; I don't take vehicular risks with total strangers!)

High on adventure from that one little motorcycle ride, I was pumped when my mom asked if I'd like to go ziplining with her and Ani, the exchange student from Venezuela who lived with us my sophomore year of high school. Ani lives in Texas now & was visiting over my mom's birthday, at the same time that I happened to be home for a wedding. How could I say no to family adventure time in honor of my mother's __th birthday?! (You're welcome, Mom.)

And so zipline we did! We headed to The Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio, a non-profit conservation center built on 10,000 acres of mined land reclaimed for conservation purposes. With our two guides, Cody & Landon (most country names ever), our group of nine zipped across 10 lines built on a series of observation platforms that overlook the Wilds' grounds filled with endangered animal species. We saw Przewalski’s wild horses, three kinds of giraffes, Grevy’s zebras, and Pe`re David’s deer, which cover themselves in mud & feces before belching at their beloved. Charming!

To get off the final platform, we had to faux-rapel, but let me tell you, it didn't feel particularly faux. There's something about stepping off a very high ledge that gets your heart pounding, even if you know you're safely harnessed in and that a good-looking, outdoorsy guide is there at the bottom to catch you. I guess rock-climbing won't be my next adventurous endeavor, eh?

When we reached the bottom, we laid down our helmets & took off our gloves & remarked at how disgustingly sweaty we were. Or... oh, wait, maybe the last part was just me? Because did I mention that it was one-hundred-plus degrees? Still, we posed for a family photo before we shed our harnesses:

Plus a group photo...

And finally, because it was my mom's birthday, our guides insisted upon a special photo just for her. Happy birthday, Mama!

I know what you're thinking: HOW DOES ANI'S HAIR LOOK SO GOOD??? I have no answers, only envy.

At my mom's birthday brunch a couple of days later (on her actual birthday), I presented her with a gift from Nathan & me. I had my camera at the ready because I knew it was bound to garner a reaction - but I couldn't have asked for a better facial expression than this:

What was it? Why... it's our next adventure!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

New City, New Kitty

When my "soulmate cat" Stringer Bell died of a stroke last month, it sent me into a bit of an emotional tailspin. As I dealt with diving into my still-newish job, preparing to move to a new state, & traveling to both New York & Ohio in the weeks before the big move, I was wildly unprepared to deal with the unexpected death of my furry best friend on top of it all. I'm not kidding when I say that even now, a month later, I occasionally break into spontaneous tears at the thought of my little man, whose ashes now sit in the living room window of our new apartment overlooking the Navesink River (more on our new place later).

Yesterday, just one day after I moved into our new place (remember, Nathan was here for a few days before me), we decided we'd head over the Monmouth County SPCA to adopt a new friend as a gift to one another on our two-year anniversary. Based on our experiences with Stringer, we had only a few requirements: friendly, adorable, not elderly. We spent a couple of hours with Sylvia, our adoption counselor, who was likely rolling her eyes at us internally after awhile because oh my gosh, we were so indecisive. Lots of cuties, but no one really struck our fancy... until she took us to see her last prospect, Pharoh.

That's right, Pharoh - like Pharaoh, but spelled incorrectly. My trained grammarian's eye was not pleased with this name, nor were my Jewish roots, which dictate that "Thou shalt not name thy cat after oppressive historical dictators." Three-year-old, short-haired, tuxedo-wearing Pharoh jumped right off his faux-tree perch to be petted, & Nathan & I agreed almost immediately: He was ours! After taking him home, we bandied about a number of new names, including:

  • Moses, the Biblical foil to Phar(a)oh
  • Matzah, a relatedly Passover-themed moniker
  • Beeker, the Muppet with the squeaky voice because our little dude is a squeaker
  • Toast, in honor of our favorite Portsmouth restaurant, The Friendly Toast
  • Riggins, after "Friday Night Lights'" main man of our hearts
  • Taco, an homage to our favorite meal to cook together
  • Pepper, a nod to Nate's favorite band, The Beatles

We slept on it... & woke up with nothing... until, with today's holiday in mind, Nathan suggested we check out the IMDB cast list of "Independence Day." From there, the choice was easy. Ladies & gentlemen, meet President Thomas J. Whitmore, or just Whitmore for short - Bill Pullman's fictional leader of the free world in the face of the worst alien attack in the history of Earth.

From pharaoh to president, it's safe to say that we're setting this cat up for a lifetime of ego & success.

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