Friday, December 16, 2005

The A-List at Sardi's

Tonight, Sardi's was packed. I mean, I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Somehow, I had about 40 people at one time, opening bottle after bottle of wine, carrying up trays of heavy food like a burro coming back up the Grand Canyon, trying to remember to smile. One of the waiters working downstairs kept coming upstairs and asking me to go down to talk to his table. He said they were begging him. They'd seen me on Ellen and just "had to meet me". And usually, I don't mind this at all - anyone who really knows me knows how much I love attention - but at that very point, I WAS BUSY! Super busy!

So finally, I raced down the stairs, nearly knocking over a man by the coat check, and appeared tableside in the downstairs dining room. I crawled over one man to squeeze into the corner of the booth, took lots of pictures with them, told them our story quickly, and excused myself to take care of my hungry tables upstairs. But when I turned to leave, my jaw dropped. Sitting at the table next to them was the ever so stunning George Clooney.

Makes me kinda wonder... You think George squooshed into the booth with them for a photo op? Think he autographed their menus? In fact, I wonder if they even asked him? I mean, I'm not so sure that HE'S been on the Ellen show...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Dress Time!

I am finally really pumped up about the wedding.

I mean, I was excited when we got engaged. The entire world saw that happiness. Ellen doggone DeGereneres was right there for the whole thing! It was so like a dream; but then he went back to Kentucky and I went back to New York and the only difference in my life was the beautiful diamond on my finger.

Months passed and no wedding planning. Then Ellen offered to throw our entire wedding! Again, a dream.
Finally, we were asked to scout out locations in Lexington, Kentucky and we took lots of pictures. My dad drove us all over the city that day (Mom, Whitney, Jerrod, and I all crammed into his extended cab pick-up truck). I got excited - thought we were going to chip away at planning this thing. Alas, we sent the show the pictures and still don't know where that aisle will be.

More passing of time. I stress: wonder when we're gonna do this, wonder who's gonna plan that. Jerrod tells me I'm crazy on a daily basis. Strangers approach me at Sardi's Restaurant during every shift. I sign autographs, field questions, have no answers. April 29 draws closer.

But now - VERA WANG! That's right. This Friday, my mom and my best friend Whitney are going with me to try on wedding dresses with special assistance from the world famous designer herself! I can't believe it. I just can't believe it. I can't wait to step into the perfect gown. Can't wait to take that deep "this is it" breath. Can't wait to turn to these loving women and see them dab away at the love squeezing out of the corners of their eyes. Can't wait to twirl and twirl - to just stare into the mirror wondering if that princess is actually me - to make another memory.

I still can't believe I'm getting married, but I sure am glad I am.

Monday, October 17, 2005

One Degree from Kevin Bacon

It's such a weird thing to meet celebrities. On the one hand, you already know a lot about them. You've read the rag mags, you've seen their movies or bought their music, you've searched about them on the internet maybe. You know these people. So meeting them can be awkward cause they don't know you at all.

So suddenly, you're face to face with someone you feel like you already know and basically, the feeling that washes over you is something like, "Oh my gosh, I'm a stalker."

I felt that way when face to face with Kevin Bacon. My whole life we'd played the game "6 Degrees from Kevin Bacon", where you name a celeb and then a movie they were in. Then, you name someone else who was in a movie with that celeb and then name a different movie that this celeb was in. Basically, you should do this no more than 6 times before you've hit a movie with Kevin Bacon. Everybody's linked to him.

So I'm on the Ellen DeGeneres Show and Kevin Bacon is on the same episode. As I stand across from him, I realize that as soon as we speak to each other on the set, I will be officially 1 Degree away.

He starts to walk off with the microphone when a stage hand stops him. I cleverly say, "This guy'll steal the microphone, he'll steal anything. I'm not laying my purse down."

He laughs and looks up at me. "How you doin'?" (very New York)

This prompts me to lose all self-control, touch his suede jacket, and say, "Oooo, that feels good."

He walks off chuckling, I turn three shades of red, and realize that celebrities should be kept from the public for the sake of all involved.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Love Letters

All I really need is a love letter. Jerrod says that love letters carry old news, but I long for a card or note (hey, I'm not even talking about flowers here!) that says, "I'm thinking about you" or "I miss you" or his classic "Come back to me... Come back to Cold Mountain". ANYTHING!

In his defense, when I first moved to New York he sent me 24 pieces of mail in October. Granted, they were just pictures of animals from National Geographic, but I'm sure that he thought with the right sun-shiney mascot (such as the bo-wevil) would brighten my early gloomy days. He seemed to have carefully clipped the pictures from the magazine and then scratched "I love you" in silver sharpie at the top of each one. I'm being generous by calling those love letters.

But it's been a year now and maybe I'm asking too much. Living 1500 miles from each other doesn't necessarily mandate written correspondence; but there is something magical in the art. Just the envelope makes my heart skip. Just flipping through bills and magazines to see his handwriting scrawling our addresses on the front of a plain old bright white envelope and my day immediately takes a turn for the better. And there is something so heart-skippingly wonderful about peeling open the creased notebook paper (college ruled) and holding in my hands something that was created for me. Something that took more time than zapping an email across the networks.

I can't explain it, but when I do receive a love letter, I read it over and over and over again. I tuck it into a book or my journal. I fold it and unfold it. I memorize my favorite parts. He loves me. His words are there, bold and vulnerable, all at the same time.

There is nothing like an old-fashioned love letter.

Friday, September 16, 2005

CLASS with Cathy Ayersman

I used to live with a girl from West Virginia. She was your classic all-American looking girl. Pretty brunette, her hair was always neat looking - even after the gym! She always wore cute outfits from Gap or Old Navy or Abercrombie and she walked with a bounce in her step. Shorter than me, but with just as much spirit, she and I made many memories together during our stay at the dorm and in our party packed apartment on Woodland Avenue (which is, for UK campus life, like living in Times Square).

Now don't be fooled. You cannot judge a book by its cover. Cathy may look like a sweet lil' Southern Bell, but careful of her claws. Cathy is a very clever girl. Bright and quick.

We had Philosophy together one semester. This led to note passing, eye-rolling, and endless yawning. We both viewed Philosophy as time wasted; and girls like us should never be allowed to fall into a state of boredom... because for girls like us, boredom leads straight to mischief.

Now Sean, our teacher, had quite a thing for Cathy. I tried to stir the pot as often as possible with, "Sean, Cathy just can't seem to understand this theory. Could you come over here and help her?" or "Sean, are you going to the game this weekend? Cathy works for the Fieldhouse and can maybe get you some better seats." (This is where she might say that I am exaggerating, but don't believe her.)

So, Cathy - a girl of great means for revenge - started a game... that I ALWAYS lost. It all started from a rap song by the late Big Punisher called "I'm not a Player, I just Crush a lot" (or at least, that's the clean version of the song and the one we played by). Here are the rules:

1) If you hear the word "Class", you have to say AUDIBLY "Punish Me".
2) If you are in the middle of a conversation WITH ANYONE, you must still say "Punish Me".
3) You may NOT break eye contact with whom you are conversing. You must say "Punish Me" right to them without breaking stride.
4) No eye-rolling, heavy sighing, giggling, or looking away.
5) No explaining yourself to anyone. This is a covert game.

So the problem was that Cathy was always on point. She waited until I was in the middle of a conversation with a boy and she knew my weakness: I WAS ALWAYS DESPERATELY TRYING TO PLACE MYSELF INTO CONVERSATION WITH BOYS!

For example, Cathy and I were walking to class one fine day when we spotted Tayshaun Prince - a friend of mine from my days at the dorm. He was playing a lot for UK's basketball team and was a very talented player. (He now plays in the NBA.) So imagine it: I am 5'8" and he is 6'11" and Cathy is 5'4". People are already staring at us, some patting Tayshaun on his ample back, some asking for autographs, some shouting out, "Great game last night, man!" Like the cat who licked the cream, my ponytail is bobbing a little more than usual because I am the center of attention just for walking next to him!

I forgot to mention something about Cathy: she is a vampire. It is not blood she seeks, but the humiliation of others. Cathy, being shorter than me, therefore, has no problem yelling up at the giant, "So Tayshaun! Where is your next CLASS?!"

The world stops momentarily.

The word CLASS is echoing in my head and spinning around us as I stand there in front of him, mouth hanging wide open, my head jerked back as far as it will go just to make eye contact. I can feel the blood rushing to my ears --- right to my big exposed ears! I take one long blink and then demand that Tayshaun, "Punish Me."

He didn't ask me to repeat myself. He didn't agree or disagree to my request. He just sort of blinked a little and headed into the Classroom Building while I stood outside and contemplated throwing myself into the path of an oncoming golf cart.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

80's music

The strangest thing has happened in my life lately. It's 80's music. And it's everywhere.

It all started when Jose, a quiet Domincan busboy at work, walked up behind me with the bread basket singing, "What's love got to do with it?" by Tina Turner. Now, I had barely heard this boy utter 2 words (in English or Spanish) so you can imagine my shock. He was not singing to me and did not care whether or not I heard his singing. It was as if an All 80's All The Time radio station was rocking on in his head and he was an unknowing transmitter. I began to quietly sing "who needs a heart when a heart can be broken" as I walked past him to take an order.

Well, you woulda thought it was Christmas morning! Jose's eyes shone! He had found a fellow child of the 80's. Now, in my defense, my parents forced my brother and sister and I to believe that there was no other genre of music other than Soft Rock until we were in high school and began falling socially behind our peers. Soft Rock had been like another sibling to us, so when Jose headed upstairs to clock out, I was about to dab a small tear as he serenaded me with "Lady in Red" (although I imagine that the lady in the song was wearing an evening gown instead of a tuxedo jacket).

April, who cannot understand one syllable of English if it is spoken with a foreign accent, has finally found a common ground with some of our employees now. When Jose and his brother Luis fill up the water pitchers and softly sing "That's what friends are for", April has a hint of smug understanding on her face, as if to say, "Ah-ha! I understand you now!" She no longer has to squint her eyes, crease her forehead, and lean in til her eyes are even with their lips, frantically trying to comprehend each word. When it's to the tune of an 80's ballad, she's all over it!

Our friend Pablo just let me borrow a cd, too. I thought maybe it would have some reggatone, meringue, or maybe salsa on it (as he is working with me on speaking better Spanish). When I put it in my new cd player tonight, April and I giggled. Phil Collins wailed, "Take a look at me now" followed by 18 other tracks of classic 80's tunes. Ahhhh, let the good times (soft rock 'n) roll.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The City Lights

Tonight, as I took out the trash and recyclables with my roommates, I looked over our gate and saw the brightest two lights shining up into the sky. I didn't even realize that that was the direction of the city. I always walk that way - take that very route to the subway - and yet never realized that over those grafitti stained buildings rose Manhattan. I couldn't see the skyline, but the spirits of all those lost four years ago today were shouting a defiant message to our enemies. These Twin Tower shadows - tall beams bursting up from Ground Zero - illuminated the sky reminding us all of our loss, but also of our grit.

I felt so proud to be an American as I headed back inside. Proud to know that in the face of adversity, I am surrounded by courage.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Pain lives...

Pain lives in my knees. Knocks at my hips. Shakes up my spine and does cirlces around my heart. Pounds under my skull so that my thoughts jumble up and that's when pain so obviously takes up its place at the corners of my mouth when I stretch it wide and laugh extra loud. Pain hides down under my skin, right below the surface, so that sometimes it bumps up and I cover it with jackets and band-aids and smiles. Pain lives in each hug and kiss and hello and especially good-bye. Sometimes it aches and sometimes it sleeps, but the pain is always there.

Real First Kiss

My first real kiss, (the kind where we locked lips because we had tingles down to our toes and not because of Truth or Dare), was slobbery. I had my tongue back deep against my throat, like playing goalie in front of my tonsils, as his searched like a snake light around the cavity of my mouth. His tongue, a thick swab, brushed the insides of my cheeks and licked across my teeth. My eyes stayed wide open the whole time. I wanted to relax, fall loose in his arms like Scarlett O'Hara; but my best friend was watching through the kitchen window and his best friend was spot-lighting us with his truck headlights. So I stood firm, planted, rigid, and afraid. My first kiss was miserable, and so romantic.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Facts of Life

"You take the good, you take the bad, you take it all and there you have the facts of life. . . the facts of life. . ."

Stone-washed jeans, side ponytails, trapper keepers, and retainers. All of these items went along with me through The Facts of Life. In my young years, I would race home after school to my grandparents house until my mom came to pick us up. We always got a good 2 hours or so of television a day if we got our "lessons" done and didn't fight. This was easy. Mamaw and Papaw had three TV's, so each of us got one to ourselves.

I had a line-up, of course. Over the years it varied a little, as some shows cancelled and some created, but here was the basic set-up:
3:30 - He-Man
4:00 - She-Ra
4:30 - 6:00 - Saved by the Bell, The Cosby Show, The Facts of Life

So you can imagine how excited I was Sunday night at Sardi's when my maitre'd asked me to go downstairs and bring up a small pelegrino for "a lady from The Facts of Life." You've never seen me scale stairs so fast. Racing down to the bar for her water, I'm humming the theme song and wondering, "Is it Tuti? Natalie? Jo? Blair?" I mean, who didn't want to live in that boarding house?! Those girls had a great time! I mean, Blair had fabulous hair and Tuti got to wear roller skates ALL OF THE TIME!

I come back upstairs, scanning the party room, when I see the smallest lady in the room smiling big and wide up at me. It was Charlotte Ray, the woman who played the part of Mrs. Garrett. She is so small, her hair bright white and full and curly around her head. I hand her the water and she is so sweet. I say to her, "You made my after school days so much fun. I know that you've done a lot more work that The Facts of Life, but that show meant a lot to me." Well, her eyes well up with tears and she dabs at the corners while saying her thank you. This makes me emotional, and as I'm squatting down to chat with her, she gives me a big hug and then kisses me on the cheek.

I floated back down to the kitchen filled with joy. After all of these years, I actually felt like one of Mrs. Garrett's girls.

Of course, I was still wearing a tuxedo, but hey, them's The Facts of Life.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Walking Home

I have nowhere to go. Have no meetings. Have no auditions. Have no friends in town. No family to visit. No lover with big hugs and soft kisses waiting at my doorstep. I have nowhere to go.

So I walk slow. Real slow. I dodge puddles and avoid passersby with big, wet umbrellas. I heave heavy shopping bags in each hand and a purse that grows fuller every day, yet I walk home real, real slow. Cause I have nowhere else to go.

I am on a new street now. It is still raining and there are droplets hanging off each earlobe and one slowly slides down my nose like a Six Flags ride. I like walking in the rain on humid summer evenings. I love the smell of rain. I suddenly ache for Kentucky hillsides, green as blue and yellow fingerpaint. Wish I could drop my bags and run barefoot across my farm back home, dodging cow patties and thistles instead of cigarette butts and dog crap. New York is getting to me. But I have nowhere else to go.

A firefly stops me still. He is hovering right in front of me and if I step to the left of him, I'll brush up against a very wet lion statue. Yet, to the right of this little bug is an overflowing trash can, water dousing its contents so that the leakage is forming a formidable puddle. I have nowhere to go, so I just stop; wait for it to flicker its light up, up, up and above me. I am taken back to summer nights and mason jars, running barefoot over dandelion kissed backyards, my papaw poking holes in the top of aluminum foil make-shift lids. Remember watching them flick on and off again, their lights hovering on the bookshelf in my bedroom, held captive in their jars. I would free them the next day and catch them all over again that night. I wonder if they were the same bugs. They could have caught on, could have moved to a new backyard, free of zealous blonde pig-tailed little girls. But maybe they just had nowhere else to go.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Birthday Joy... and Longing

The homecoming keeps getting harder; rather, the home-leaving.

I have just rolled my suitcase down 30th Ave, crossing above the loud highway and rounding the corners past Dunkin' Donuts and Morris Funeral Home, after a wonderful birthday weekend in Kentucky, to enter Fort Knox. (My landlord has us sealed in here with a black steel gate, a black steel gated security door, two doors with knob locks, and two deadbolts - each with a different key.) Up the two flights of stairs, and a heavy sigh as I lug the suitcase inside and head to the bathroom for some tissue. I get an allergy induced cold every time I go home.

The bathroom is super stuffy. "Central Air" is a luxury I took for granted most of my life. (It amazes me that New York is the "capital of the world", yet in all of her advancements, home thermostats and washer/drier hook-ups were skipped right over.) My roommate, April, has left me a note saying that she left our one a/c window unit on 'low' so that at least the living room would be a little cooler.

I flop on the couch and close my eyes. I can't believe that I already took two flights today and am sitting on my couch by 11:30am. Going on only four hours sleep, I am a tired girl. And emotional.

I think about this weekend. Jerrod threw me a surprise cookout and I got to see some good friends I miss so much. My family played croquet and bocce ball for hours outside and my sister made me the most moist yellow cake (sans icing - my favorite). Before I came home, my roommates and co-workers took me to dinner and Japanese karoake. And the day before I left, Maggie surprised me with a day of Barbeque in Madison Square Park.

It was a wonderful birthday. And yet...

It just keeps getting harder!

I keep wondering if I'm making the right decisions. I am happiest with Jerrod in the room, even when he's being obscenely annoying. I don't like being alone all of the time. I miss his touches, his kisses, his loud laugh, his stubborn streak, his paper-rock-scissors-decision-making-tactics, his love. And I miss my family. Miss my dad's corny jokes and just love watching him laugh so hard that he can't control himself from slapping his knee. Miss my mom's cookin' -- fried porkchops, brown beans and cornbread, corn on the cob, steamed broccoli, and strawberry pie. Miss my brother and sister, too. Miss making them laugh and making them mad. Love sitting across from them at the dinner table.

I just thought that after eight months in New York, this would get easier.

I am on the verge of tears on the couch, so I decide that I should prepare for my audition today. I head to my room to unpack and upon opening the door, I gasp audibly. A HAPPY BIRTHDAY sign is taped on the wall above my bed and colorful helium balloons are tied to my dresser, bed, mirror, lamp, everwhere! On my bed (thank God I made it this time) sit birthday presents from my roommates. A pink Victoria's Secret box shines up at me, but even more delightful are the peanut butter cookies on either side. I open the tupperware and taste a bite of cookie immediately. (I am a bit of a peanut butter cookie snob. I admit it! I am not easy to please in this department.)

But these cookies are delicious! They are so moist and small, perfectly criss-crossed on the tops, golden brown. I pour myself a big glass of milk and have a few more. Each bite just makes me smile wider. These girls, these beautiful women, spent time on me. Took the time to make my homecoming, and birthday, something to smile about.

I lie back on my bed and feel happy. Then, I can't help but giggle out loud. My roommates call me the "Tall One" when they can't reach something in the cubbard. I notice, as I stare at the ceiling, that the lime green and baby pink streamers taped to it are twirled and criss-crossed quite festively, but only extend as wide and long as my bed. What a hoot! I can see them now, tip-toeing on my bed and reaching their little arms as far as they will go.

As I gulp down the rest of my milk, I still miss home. . . but I don't think I'll cry now.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Love and Routine

It is nearing my birthday and I miss home. Miss reminding my family every day for a month in advance of June 12 - a day I've always felt should be a nationally recognized holiday. My birthday is always a fun time. I have a family that bakes a cake without icing, and wraps my presents in whatever paper and/or plastic items they find around the house. We play outside, or maybe play a game indoors if the summer's humidity is too great.

I will be home in a few days for the celebration. I have asked my mother to make me roast beef and gravy and her one-of-a-kind homemade mac 'n cheese. My sister usually bakes the yellow cake. My dad will have the yard mowed down tight for an afternoon of croquet. We will laugh all day and will sigh big deep happy sighs as the sun finally sets over the back woods. We will eat strawberry pie and my brother will be so full that he will drag himself over to the couch to lie on his belly until his eyes pop back into their sockets. My fiance will be there, envious of all of my birthday presents. Knowing our time together is short, he will stay within earshot of my big bold laugh; the laugh that used to get me in trouble at church.

Today I received a card from my mother. I figured it to be a Happy Birthday card. I couldn't wait til I got to the train, so I weaved down the sidewalk as I concentrated on tearing open the yellow envelope. It wasn't a birthday card at all. Just another I love you card. A We can't wait to see you card. An I'm so proud that you're my daughter card. She didn't seal all of the edges tight as Fort Knox with American Flag stickers like my dad always does, but she sealed it with kisses, I'm sure.

I was given the best birthday gift ever in my first minute of life. The gift of being a Whitaker.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Price of Friendship

I realize that I need to go to the gym. I know that I always feel better after I work out. I have more energy and then feel justified later when I eat a Snickers.

I also realize that the sink is full of dirty dishes. I see a stack of bills that I should open and pay. I definitely need to pluck my eyebrows and I think the weekly leg shaving is due.

I promised to send a guy my schedule for a meeting next week. I really need to learn the rest of my lines for the show. I should prepare for the meeting that I have this afternoon. This would be a perfect time to send out my headshots and resumes.

But I gotta tell ya, when I'm lounging on the couch, breeze blowing through the open windows on this overcast day, watching The Price is Right with my roommate April (who is addicted), I can't make myself move. It's roommate bonding time. We are glued to the set: formulating a plan to be on the gameshow and deciding what kind of tee-shirts we would make and wear. What with Plink-o and Hi-Lo and Cover-Up, not to mention the fast-approaching ShowCase ShowDown, how can a girl get anything done?

Besides, when I left the room to brush my teeth, April jumped down my throat, "Where are you going?! You can't just leave me here!"

I don't know what she's gonna do when I get married and move out next year. For any of you New York City apartment hunters out there, this lifestyle can be yours, if the price is right!

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

How to Be a Real Man.

Over the weekend, my fiance (Jerrod) and I attended the wedding of two close college friends of mine, Seth Hanson and Emily Koehler. The wedding was in Fort Collins, Colorado, about an hour from Denver. During this 72 hour vacation, Jerrod actually opened up and displayed a lot of vulnerability... that I now plan to share with the entire world wide web.

There are, apparently, a lot of things that men think twice about when placed in social situations. It's almost as if they seem to weigh every move, not necessarily based on formal ettiquette; rather, based on Man Ettiquette or "Man Code".

A good example of this is when the preacher asked us to file down the aisle one row at a time because Seth and Emily wanted to greet every guest. Jerrod immediately leaned into my ear with a feverish whisper, "Do I hug Emily or shake her hand?"

I was stunned, at first, by his nervous query and turned to look at him to see if he was joking. He wasn't. Trying to be sensitive, I answered, "Hug," then turned back toward the newlyweds approaching us.

"What about Seth?"


(Did he really just ask that?)

"Shake," I reply. It would be a little awkward to see Jerrod bear-hug a guy he's only met once before.

"No, I know that. I mean," he paused, vulnerable now, wondering if I was questioning his masculinity, (I was), "do I give a one pump or two?"

I looked at him incredulously. "Just shake the guy's hand!" I whispered. I mean, is it a science?

"Here," he grabbed my arm to make me look at him, "let's practice." Before I knew it, my right hand was full with his and he was vigorously pumping. "That's the two pump."

"Too much!" I said. "I mean, did he give you a million dollars or did you just see him get married?"

"You're right," he agreed. "One pump. But firm." And he about broke my fingers.

All the while, people were quietly filing from their rows, caught up in the beauty of the Colorado landscape and the sacred vows we'd just witnessed, and I was stuck playing patty-cake with Mr. Machismo.

Granted, I'm generalizing by judging the entire male gender by the one I chose to share life with, but it gets me thinking that there are probably all kinds of unspoken "man codes". For instance, my dad refuses to carry my mother's purse, or even hold it! My brother didn't want to buy my car at first because he questioned if the color was "feminine". It's green! Neutral!

Now, I'm not saying that all men follow the same "man codes". Obviously, it's a per community type of thing. Once a guy has his community, they feel out their boundaries and flex only within those unspoken limits.

And as annoying as this can be, (my mother rolling her eyes when she has to set her purse on the ground to tie her shoe because my father won't hold it, me dancing with my girlfriends to "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" because something about that song keeps Jerrod from joining in, my sister returning The Little Mermaid to the video store alone while my brother waits in the car, etc.) there are times when they let their guard down and we women see their sensitive side.

For example: My dad ate the last piece of strawberry pie last week while my mom was at work. Knowing she was saving it for later, he sent a bouqet of flowers to her classroom with a romantic card, "Sweetie, I ate the pie."

At the wedding this weekend, Jerrod was sitting between my friend Heather and me. I looked over at her as the flower girl came down the aisle and was shocked to see Jerrod very tenderly tucking her hair behind her ear. I pecked him on the shoulder and said, "Um, excuse me, but I am your girlfriend." He looked very embarrassed and sheepishly said, "I know, sweetie, but her hair was getting in her eyes." I thought it was such a sweet gesture and I just smiled so big and Heather was giggling and then Jerrod started laughing too. It's just that he's usually so shy at first, and awkward in formal settings, so to see him step way out of his comfort zone like that just solidified why I love him so much.

Of course, when I was telling my sorority sisters about it at the reception, it only took him once to hear them go, "Oh, Jerrod! That's so sweet!" before he later changed the story to, "There was a bug on her head and I was killing it! I got bug guts all over my hand!!!!"

Ahhh, well. Men.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Accidental Boxing

The day begins. It is a beautiful Friday morning and I have a meeting with an agent. I am pumped. I take the long kind of shower, where I shave and wash and scrub, and I don make-up. My hair is blow-dried straight and I brush my teeth for a full 2 minutes. In car terms, I detailed myself.

I decide that I will go to the gym after my meeting since his office and said gym are only a block apart. I pack a bag with all of my gym essentials and head off. The sun is shining brightly, the air is a little crisp, and I am feeling invigorated.

The meeting goes okay. He is old school New York. Probably mid-60s, white mustache, white and balding hair, short, and completely uninterested in me. We never make eye-contact, and I am staring at him, smiling at him, doing everything but the perfect cheer to get his attention. Nothin'. He tells me he'd like to work with me and sends me off. A good meeting I guess, but I felt lousy. (Those who know me best know that I need a little more attention than that.)

Off to the gym.

Now, I only have 15 minutes to get to the gym, change, and find a good spot in the Total Body Conditioning class that starts at 1pm. I haven't eaten lunch and it takes everything in me not to duck in one of the pizza shops and ditch the gym; but, I need to get in shape and I press on.

At the gym, I fly down the steps and find a locker. I have dressed cutely today, so it takes a minute to fiddle with all of my buttons and peel the jeans off. I am in a race against time. I put my sports bra on and dig through my bag for my clothes. I hate this part of the gym experience. (I try to bare my body for as little time as possible, even though everybody else in there is flaunting their 'here and there's as if it's a naked pageant! Well, Miss Kentucky is not interested!)

It doesn't take long for me to realize that I have forgotten my t-shirt and shorts. I am now standing half-naked over my backpack in a frantic state of "what-do-I-do-now?". Should I just leave and get something to eat? I mean at least you tried to work-out. Should I try to find a shop and buy some clothes? Maybe someone in here brought extra and will let me borrow them. Ahh! There's no time! Total Body Conditioning is about to start!

I don't know what to do, when suddenly, a voice comes from behind me. "Forgot your clothes, huh?" I turn to see a bare-breasted woman in her 40's bent over and taking off her underwear. Why, on God's fabulous green Earth, did she choose that particular moment to address me? "I forgot my tennis shoes once. Can't work-out without those."

I turn back to my locker and say, "Yeah, can't work-out in my undies either."

"I think they sell tees and shorts upstairs at the desk."

"Really?" A glimmer of hope. I pull my jeans back on, throw a towel around my upper part, and jet bare-foot upstairs. At the desk, they are taking their sweet time, showing me all the guy's shirts and shorts that they have, none of which would come anywhere close to fitting me. They tell me that they are out of all female attire. I am considering just giving up. I mean, I didn't exactly wanna drop 30 bucks on mens' gym clothes, but I didn't wanna leave without working-out either. I'd come this far!

When suddenly Keisha, the Sports Club checker-inner, found a gray NYSC t-shirt in Men's Small. "That'll work!" I say. I am starting to see the light. I still have 2 minutes before class starts.

Keisha slowly stands up and turns around with a quite stoic facial expression. "I also found a pair of shorts," she says, as if someone has died.

"Great! I'll take 'em!"

Then, she unfolds the tiniest pair of black biker shorts I have ever laid eyes on.

"You're kidding," followed by a slow Keisha shake. "I don't really do biker shorts."

Keisha assures me that they will (somehow) fit and tells me that they really do wonders for "making the booty pop". Interesting.

So I skip back down to the locker room and think that maybe the men's t-shirt will be long enough to help cover the tightly enclosed backside. I change at lightning speed and head off toward the studio. My bright white legs are bulging out of the black biker shorts near the top of my thigh and my butt has never felt so restricted. The shirt is a little long, so at least the panty-lines are a bit hidden. Due to the fact that my thighs are chubbier than the shorts allow, the spandex heathens keep rolling up toward my crotch. I begin the long process of constantly pulling them back down.

When I enter the studio, I am pleasantly surprised that not too many people are in attendance and that they seem to be starting late. Before I go to grab my mat, I notice that the other 2 ladies in the class are both wrapping their wrists with tape. I found it unusual that they both had weak wrists. Then I see a guy in the far corner making quick and loud breathing sounds as he punches a large red bag hanging from the ceiling. What's he doing here? As I take a closer look at the class, I notice that it is primarily made of men, which is odd for Total Body Conditioning. When I see that everyone seems to be sporting flat footed high-top lace-up shoes, I realize that something is definitely wrong here.

I hustle to the door to check out the club schedule and see that Total Body Conditioning is actually at 1pm on Thursdays. This was a Friday, so, "Welcome to Boxing!" I hear the instructor say. He is right behind me and I am trapped. "Get in line with the others and start your laps."

Everyone is running around the studio in a circle and I hate to run; but by now, everyone is staring at me (due to the fact that the instructor said something along the lines of, "Hey everyone, look at the new girl!"), so I have to not only run, but look as though I'm good at it.

We run and run and run, and then we run in the other direction. We gallop, we skip, we do tons of push-ups and sit-ups, and we do squats. We lunge for our lives and we run a little more. We do everything but take a break. He leads us around the room, around all of the huge red bags that are now dangling from the ceiling, and I see his evil face on every one of them. As I loudly gasp for breath, I suddenly feel ready to fight.

The unfortunate thing about boxing is that my head came close to exploding off of my neck. I looked at the clock during our sprints and realized that I had only been in the room for 20 minutes. My face was not it's normal exercise induced flushed and pink color, but it was bright red. It did not matter that I looked abnormally cute today, nor did it matter that I was wearing make-up and had beautiful eat-your-heart-out hair. What mattered was that when I looked into the mirror, I saw that my face was actually bright red. Not pink, but red. I have not eaten and I have not run in years. I am already sweating through my new shirt, pools of condensation under my arms, the shirt no longer covering my bottom, but clinging to my lower back and abdomen. The shorts will not stay put, and I continue pulling them down as I trot around the room.

I was about to run right out the door when he called, "Last Lap!"

I moved over to my water bottle and downed half of it on the spot. He shouts for us to give him 20 push-ups and I give him the death stare and continue gulping, the only one standing up, defiant with hand on hip. He couldn't have gotten a push-up outta me if he had a million dollars. As far as I was concerned, we were both very lucky that I was still alive.

The rest of the class goes alright. They put heavy boxing gloves on me and teach me a few swings. When the teacher asked me to practice on him, I gladly gave him everything I had. I was jabbin', and punchin', and upper-cuttin' with the ferocity of a woman scorned. I didn't care that my shorts legs were rolled up like little intertubes or that my breathing was as shallow as a patient on oxygen. I didn't care that my face had finally cooled down to a nice hot pink shade or that my heart was still beating. All I cared about was giving this guy a black eye, something similar to the two I now had, due to the previously mentioned "cute make-up" smearing all over my face.

The worst part about boxing is the conditioning; but once you're past that, the worst part is being constricted by the gloves! I couldn't pull my shorts down! I couldn't fix my ponytail, so my hair was in my eyes, sticking to my neck, and shooting out at the oddest angles. I couldn't wipe the sweat off my face, so it streaked down in mascara brown, eye-shadow green, and blush pink. I swear, my face looked like a Salvador Dali masterpiece by quittin' time.

So, I survived. I made it through the fasion faux-pau and the running. I conquered the little voice in my head that kept screaming, "Kill the instructor and go get some pizza!" I have no words of encouragement for my readers, nor do I have a sentence to offer about staying the course. The moral of the story, however, is to know what you're getting into before you work so doggone hard to get into it.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Don't ever grow up: inspired by the story of Peter Pan.

I just watched Finding Neverland again. I gotta tell you: if you have not seen that movie, you need to put it on your list of 'things to do'. I'm serious. I know you might have other pressing matters on that list, such as mowing the lawn, brushing your teeth, or waxing your back. Listen, as important as those things may be, seeing this movie is a must.

I don't want to rave about the actors or the cinematography or the music. I just need to say that this movie moves me in such a way that when the credits roll, I find myself saying, "That's it. That's what I wanna do."

And I'm not talking about acting or writing or being famous. I'm just talking about moving people, giving them hope and encouragment, providing society with something worthwhile to invest in. Reminding everybody that there is so much more to life than we let ourselves realize when we get caught up in bills and work and 'things to do'.

Sometimes, it gets so lonely here that I wonder if I'm missing out; but when I was back home, I felt the same way. After seeing this movie, I realize that no matter where I am, happiness is still a state of mind.

At work, I am constantly getting in trouble for laughing too loud, talking too much, for skipping in the dining room, and singing aloud. A lot of times, the guys at work will ask me if I smoke crack or if I've ever under gone a mental health evaluation. They look at me like I'm crazy, they ask me why I'm always so happy, and they tell me to "be a professional".

But they also look at me in wonder.

Some people just grow up too fast; but we could all use a trip to Neverland every now and then. Escape the prison of every day routines, and lose ourselves in imagination. I challenge you to do something different today, something child-like, something freeing. I dunno. Sing loudly in the car to an old song, skip down the sidewalk, tag your boss and then say, "You're it!"

And please, don't ever grow up.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Anything to lose weight.

Going to the gym is an experience unlike any other. I am constantly amazed at my very own gym experiences. I mean, picture it: You've got 15 middle aged women in sports bras and work out clothes crowded into a room surrounded by mirrors. We have loaded up our bars, have our dumbbells ready, and are standing at the edge of our mats looking at our own loathesome bodies in the mirror. We want a transformation and we are delighted that we will get to see it all happen before our very eyes.

The music begins. It is hip. We all believe that hip music must make us skinny. The instructor is a classic stereotype of the Italian New York mob boss wife. She has long curly brown hair that she does not put in a ponytail, even though it is dripping with sweat. The headset microphone is tucked around the back of her head and ears, so that when looking at her from the front, her hair perfectly frames her face, but when looking from the back, her hair is poofed up like a helmet. She has the longest and pinkest fake fingernails I have ever beheld. I do not understand how she grips her weights, but she does. I soon realize that neither hair nor nails nor the force of a mighty storm could keep this woman from her exercise.

We begin warm-up, following her every move. She is twice my age and looks twice better. I am sickened, but continue to glance at myself in the mirror, in hopes that my stomach will begin its transformation into a carbon copy of hers. I am squatting, and lunging, and sweating, and curling, and breathing, and sweating, and miserable. I keep looking at my bright red cheeks and frizzing hair and wonder when I will look toned and beautiful.

"Oh, you're really sweating," she says in a voice so similar to Fran Drescher from the Nanny that I think I might be on her sitcom. Is the studio audience laughing at me from behind the mirrors?

Throughout the class, I begin to notice that "Fran" is not completing each set. She keeps telling us to "Add more weight! You really wanna push ya-self!" I think I have a soulmate in the class who gave her "and what are you doing" eyes, because she then said, "I would do 'em with you, but I have to teach class all day." (I wish I could write her accent - nasal and jersey maybe.)

We are almost finished and she is asking us to do more glute work (glutes... as in butt) and I am dying. She looks at us and says, "Oh, isn't it awful?! Ah, it just burns!" and then matter-of-factly with a head nod, "It's awful."

We never reply, mainly because we cannot breathe. I am beginning to sweat through my white tee shirt and my legs are blotchy, but there is a beautiful woman behind me and she keeps pushing through each exercise and I wanna at least look like her so I press on. I always find someone in the class to compete with, otherwise I would have no motivation to go through this pain. But she is really beautiful, tall, lean, and blonde, and I remember thinking that I'm glad Jerrod isn't here, but I wish my brother was. How does that girl not sweat???

"Oh, look at you with the legs!"

This screech snaps me back to life as I realize that my teacher is standing right beside me. She is bending over for a closer inspection of my legs and I am tempted to tilt the barbell to one side so that the weight will fall off and knock her out. But alas, the weight clips. "Are you an athlete?" She does not wait for my reply. "No, no, a runna. You are definitely a runna. Will you look at this girls legs?" I answer that I never run and would not unless a stranger was chasing me. She says, "Then it's genetics." I picture the legs of my entire family and give a head shake. "You're new! And you don't play sports?" "Not right now," I answer through my gritted teeth, each squat becoming more difficult. "Can you believe she's not a runna and it's her first time back to the gym and she's got legs like these?"

The rest of the class is moaning in agony because she has gotten so caught up in my upper thighs and calves that she has forgotten to count us out of this exercise. The rest of the class does not care one bit about my legs, but would probably like to break them as their glory is causing all of us a lot of pain.

"Oh, oh, oh! I'm so sorry! Okay, break. Now add weight and let's do biceps."

The rest of the class goes fine. She tells us that intestines are 25 feet long and that "doctas" have to really pay attention to "wrap 'em all back up in there" after surgery. "Imagine a kink," she says to us in all seriousness.

I find myself thinking that 25 feet of intestine must weigh a lot. If I got an intestine reduction, how much more of Club Strength Class would I really need?

Friday, April 15, 2005

one day whispers of another. . .

My room is dark. Not dark like night, but dark like mid-afternoon and the sun has already mosied over the roof to the other side of the house. A cool breeze will blow my thin curtains in toward my cheek every now and then as I steal the days rays to see while I type. I wonder at the children. They keep squealing and shrieking. I imagine that they must be playing boys chase the girls or maybe freeze tag. A dog barks, too. He can probably see the little kids jumping from swing set to merry-go-round; probably wants to join in. My brother and sister and I played on a merry-go-round last Labor Day weekend when we went down south to visit Matt at college. My parents asked us to be careful, but Matt kept pushing us as we screamed "Faster! Faster!" I felt 3rd grade again, felt retainers and bad bangs again, felt top of the world again. Matt is a good merry-go-round pusher. I am holding on for dear life, legs wrapped tight around the cool rail and dizzying myself by looking up and swinging out my arms, chest up to the sun, smile up to the sky. When I hear Bobbie Jo start to mutter "Stop. Please stop." I look down near my ankles and see her rear end hanging off. She is gripping the bottom of the rail, where it meets the center of the platform, and her legs are trying to reach around mine. She is going to slide right off if Matt doesn't stop. She is so long that even though her feet and arms are holding tight to the center, her butt is almost brushing the ground. She can no longer scream, but just mutter, "Stop. Please stop." I half-heartedly reach for her, but know that if I get too close, she will pull me down with her, and as our eyes meet, we both know that she's a goner. When a twinkle appears in mine, horror appears in hers, and she knows what I will scream before I've even parted my grinning lips: "Faster!" And with one last heave, Matt gives it his all, and Bobbie Jo gives up, laughing as all 6 feet of her literally bites the dust. Matt and I giggle with glee and I ride out the last spin in a fit of uncontrollable laughter. Matt cannot stand straight; his tiredness and happiness has him bent over. Bobbie Jo lies in his well-worn path, looking up at Matt laughing over her and watching me finish the cycle. She can't stop laughing either and doesn't even try to shake the sand from her hair. I was going to write about the constant chirping outside and the cool wind and the children, but I guess today is so much like that perfect Labor Day afternoon that the memory crept up through my fingers before I could stop the tale.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

It's official. I am sick.

Well, folks. The results are in. I am officially ill.

Today was my first visit to a doctor in New York. After looking up the providers covered by my health insurance, I ventured out of the house today and headed toward Queens Long Island Medical Center, about 10 blocks away. The day is nice. The sun is beating down, but it's still a bit brisk; maybe 55 degrees.

I haven't been to the doctor in about 3 years, because I ran out of health insurance upon graduating college. I decide to go for the full shabang: general physical, question about neck mole, concern of new found cist on middle finger crease, reason behind the dark green and red muccus I've been coughing and spitting up since last Wednesday.

I didn't really know what to expect. When I made the appointment, I asked the receptionist to give me someone "who's not creepy". He suggested a nice man, Dr. Batra. My appointment was for 12:30, but after clearing my insurance and paying the copay, I still had to wait for 45 minutes. Dr. Batra kept apologizing, explaining that the man who was sitting behind me in the waiting room earlier was very poor and very sick. It was an emergency. This man was shivering and had a fever and kept shaking all over. I hadn't seen him, but I'd definitely heard his teeth chattering. I just figured he was just as nervous as I was for the girl on Ambush Make-Over, which was playing in the waiting room. (I was a little bummed when they finally called for me, as I was dying to see what Gerri looked like after the overhaul.)

Dr. Batra was very nice. I'm not sure exactly of his origin (maybe Indian or Bangladeshi?), but he had been to Owensboro, KY before, so I could tell upon hearing such information that we would get along fine. He asked me if I had any brothers or sisters and then if they were as pretty as me. A fine doctor indeed.

It turns out, however, that I have a cold. All my fears were validated. I knew I was sick! (It was like, as soon as he confirmed my illness, a since of pride washed over me for my own keen medical self-evaluation.) He gave me some sample antibiotics so I didn't have to pay a pharmacy fee and I'm on my first day of 5 to feeling better. He said the mole looked like a beauty mark to him -- completely harmless -- but that if I wanted, he could recommend a doctor to freeze it off. And the bump on my finger is apparently a cancerless bone cist that only surgery could remove, but that he feels is an unnecessary option.

So, all said, a pretty good trip to the doc. (Don't worry, I'll spare you the details when I visit the OB/GYN.)

Thursday, April 07, 2005

My Dad Smells Like. . .

Tonight, I got off on the wrong subway stop. I jumped the gun - one stop too early. It was 12:35 am... not a good time to be walking alone down a street in Queens, New York that I did not recognize. (At this point, I'd say my mom and dad are sufficiently freaking out.)

I was a little worried at first: stepping off of the last step into a quieter intersection than I am used to and knowing full well that the next train doesn't come til 1:10 am. It was a gorgeous day and subsequently a beautiful evening, so I started to hoof it. I decided that the most logical move would be to head north, following the subway line.

As I walked, I passed the cutest little houses/apartments. This area, only a few blocks down from my stop, is much nicer residentially speaking. I also passed a couple of huge churches and some commercial buildings. But the thing that made me stop in my tracks was my dad.

I guess there is some developing going on in one of the lots. I had my chin tucked a little and was walking at a pretty brisk pace, but the smell of freshly cut two-by-fours hit my nostrils and filled me with Home. I stopped, just a second, to take a deeper breath.

"Yep, that's Glen Whitaker all right."

I thought about home the rest of the way, how Dad and Matt just built a new dog house for Dingo. How I made my dad a red toolbox one year for Father's Day and it won a ribbon at the 4-H County Fair; how he still uses it today. Thought about the shelves in my closet at home and the many times he lugged his drill up to college to put up homemade bookshelves for me. Can still remember the smell of tar black paint mixed with the fresh lumber the first year Dad had us paint the plank fence around our property.

My dad also smells of some sort of cologne. Things like that always have weird names like Musty Rose or Expression or Brute Strength. Well, I don't know what brand he wears, but my dad smells like Freshly Cut Two-by-Fours. . .

and I've just always loved that smell.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

New York Fashions Observation

It seems to me that in New York, and only in New York, one can don any item of clothing and be considered "stylish". People layer all sorts of colors with all different types of material and it's "the style". I see yellow cardigans over rainbow brite tees with spikey belts and converse tennies. I see brown courdoroy pants sagging low to expose heart speckled boxers with a polka dot tie and john deere cap. Today I saw a young man sporting fake diamonds earrings (in both ears), a black blazer, a bright orange tie tucked into a beige vest, bright white slacks, and white-on-white air force ones (dude, it is sooo not memorial day).

I don't see how they pull it off! There is a woman right across from me on the train wearing BLUE JEAN PARACHUTE PANTS! Why do those even exist?! She has a sparkly sequined type blouse with it and struts the ensemble in her old keds - tossing her frizzy black hair around and slinging her DENIM BACKPACK over her shoulder (that thing is stuffed full... probably of more denim fabric).

I am wearing a light blue long sleeve tee-shirt with blue jeans and grayish blue nike tennis shoes. My hair is straight today and I have on very litte make-up. I am overheating in a black pea coat and a sky blue scarf. Boy, do I stick out like a sore thumb.

If it wasn't for the scarf, they'd think I was a tourist!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Today marks Six

Couldn't tell you how many movies I have seen alone, laughing and crying along with strangers in the theatre. The amount of "mamacitas" and "beautiful, mami" catcalls escapes me. There are no X's on the calendar marked "Days Away from Jerrod". I haven't counted the tears. I don't remember the nightmares.

But the number of months that I have survived in this concrete jungle is clear: SIX.

Today is my New York City Anniversary. I celebrated it by watching a DVD with my two wonderful roommates. We sat in silence, each doing our own thing, for most of the evening; that good, whole, comfortable type of silence. I thank these two women for supplying me with so much love. I don't see how it's taken me 25 years to meet them. I don't see how we've grown into a small family so quickly. I am blessed.

My roommates are jealous of the amount of mail I receive. Cards and letters from my mom and dad and grandparents; engagement congrats from old high school friends; bills and credit card statements. Maggie does seem to get a few bills here and there, as the utilities are all in her name, but April grudgingly points to the stack of mail for Alecia K. Whitaker with disgust. My mother hears of this and sends a card to the girls; they were so thrilled that they hung it on the fridge like a second-grade finger paint drawing. I am blessed.

I pray and pray and seem to be just as far away from realizing my purpose here as I was on October 4. I don't doubt that God is watching over me. He showed me His church; led me to quickly find a group of non-judgmental artists with a hunger for His will. I have thrown two major temper tantrums, banging the bed and heaving my pillows against the walls, sobbing loud and wickedly, demanding answers and questioning His presence. I have yelled at Him out loud and heard my cries echo in my empty room. He still loves me. I am blessed, indeed.

And although I am surviving, with each morning comes the challenge to stay.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Real men don't wear pink.

It's a Wednesday afternoon - maybe 2 o'clock - and my friend Will (who I've decided not to leave nameless in this piece) has skipped down the stairs of a New York brownstone. We have left our small group and are making our way to the train. It is gorgeous out; still too cold to go without a jacket, but apparently nice enough to skip down the stairs.

I am waiting for Chris at the top of the stairs and I watch Will looking around for the garbage bin. I see the bin, but am enjoying my lofty position and Will's determined pursuit. He is peeking over someone's stone wall, looking around the gate, slinging the white plastic bag full of Chris' bathroom undesirables all over the place. (Luckily it was a Hefty Hefty Cinch Sack.)

He looks up at me and notices my smirk. "Do you know where the trash bin is?" he asks accusingly.

I divert the question and ask him if he has a sister. He then admitted to the fact that not only did he have an older sister, but she enjoyed making his youth miserable, especially by forcing him to play "dress-up", (a game I've always loved). I couldn't help but smile. Here is a grown, married man, frolicking around the sidewalk and shouting his cross-dressing experiences up to me... Not his strongest hetero-moment.


I can't help but think back to putting my little brother through the same torture. Barbies were great, but Matt?! Now that's a doll for you! I would take Mom's old dresses and find the perfect look for him: business wear, casual, stripes, heels, etc. I would don something too, - a dress, some blue eye shadow, (okay LOTS of blue eyeshadow) - but nothing was more exciting than seeing my brother's bowl cut accentuated with a sash tied around the head, or his pout marked with bright red lipstick.

He would oppose to the entire game, of course. I can still hear his quiet little whimper, "Sissy, do we have to play this again? I don't like wearing dresses. What if somebody sees me?"

However, he was dealing with the Propoganda Queen and I would promise to play trucks or build a fort or play Atari later... anything to get us through the make-over. (Just as I had no sister, he had no brother, so these deals worked at the time.)

This got me in loads of trouble with my dad. "He's a boy!" our macho father would say. "Go outside and play, Matthew. Alecia, I've told you and told you that your brother is a boy. Matthew, get back in here and change clothes first! You can't climb a tree in your mother's dress! Agh! Alecia Kaye..."

Now, this man has assumed that I am ignorant of my brother's gender. (I am totally aware that he is a boy: No. 1. He definitely has cooties. No. 2. He hates My Little Pony - of course he's a boy.) I just needed someone to play dress-up with and he was the logical choice. I mean, Bobbie Jo was still a baby and Mom never looked miserable enough in her make-up. Nope. Little brothers are the just the best targets when it comes to this sort of thing.


Chris finally comes downstairs and the three of us head to the train. I've got to work a pretty long shift, but man, I'd give anything for another lazy afternoon at home with nothing to do but force my little brother into shoulder pads and pencil skirts. Ahhh, those were the good ol' days indeed.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Another Blog

Hello darling readers!

My friend Ellen Hagan and I have our own Blogspot called BECOMING WOMAN (yes, just like our show).

We've been writing in it and I would like to direct you to its whereabouts. It's a little artsier, but you may find some things you enjoy. Go ahead - expand your mind.

Who Dun It?

"Miss Scarlet in the Lounge with the Knife."

My roommate April says this with confidence and I cringe because I'm sure that it's Miss Scarlet and I'm positive that it's the Knife, but how did she narrow it down to the Lounge so quickly?! Agh! She is smug as she opens up the small manila folder marked Confidential. Her lips stretch into a slow, evil grin as she peeks at the cards inside. We know she is correct. Maggie has strep throat, which she was treating with apple martinis, and therefore couldn't care less who dun it, but I was fuming. How could April-Smiley-Face-Bell be a better gumshoe than me? She didn't even know what a gumshoe was until I defined it for her at the beginning of the game!

As they shuffle the cards for the second game, I call for a small break while I make peanut butter cookies; April spills her apple martini into Maggie's freshly made guacamole. I am thrilled by the accident as they have tried to force me into having a martini and trying the guac, so as both things green are ruined, I am left alone to enjoy cookies and milk. As April scurries around to clean things up, Maggie checks her email and I finish polishing my cowboy boots. The kitchen smells of comfort.

As Miss Scarlet, I get to roll the dice first when we resume Clue. For the first time in the evening (since the spaghetti devouring) there is silence. We are comfortable together: three girls thrown together in a cozy apartment in the most confusing stage of our lives in the craziest city in the world. I look at April's furrowed brow as she concentrates on her suspects and at Maggie's closed eyes as she fights off the sickness she's feeling; I almost feel Home.

I ask them, "Do you ever think that this is how life is supposed to be lived? A board game, a dinner, an entire evening without interruption - just shared with people who love you?"

"I think that a lot."


I wonder, then, if the dream I am chasing that my family and friends call "brave", should instead be labeled "blind". I wonder, then, if I left the dream behind.

When I lose the second game to a semi-drunk and very sick opera singer, I realize that a career change is not in the cards (pardon the pun). I should stick to the things I'm good at, writing and acting, and continue living this dream - wherever it leads. And maybe, fingers crossed, I will perform or create a masterpiece that will leave the world wondering, "Who Dun It?"

Sunday, March 20, 2005

In an interview, dated March 18, 2005, Jerrod Pace (when asked why he badgered others into writing in their blogs while his remains utterly stagnant) replied with an annoying whine,"I'm tired of blogs. Blogging is sooo February."
My dad always questioned me bringing home a Corbinite, but how did everyone see it but me? I'm engaged to a Valley Girl!

Monday, March 14, 2005

Identity Theft

I love those CITI CARD commercials. (One might assume that, since I have 2 CITI cards, I love the institution as well, but this is not the case. I'm just a sucker for credit card debt. That and ice cream - can't seem to say no to either.)

But I really love those identity theft commercials. For those who haven't seen them, I'll try to explain. The commercials open with some stereotype (tough guy, grandma, mom, etc) who is speaking in a voice that doesn't seem to belong to them, and they typically talk about expensive activities that you wouldn't expect them to be involved in. This is because the voice we hear actually belongs to the person who stole their identity and used their credit cards, leaving them in financial ruin while the aforementioned thief lives a grandiose, adventurous new life.

Now, for the record, I see NOTHING funny about identity theft. But the commercials are cute.

I gotta share this: I know a little something about new identities. Most of my life, I was Alecia. Alecia Kaye to my dad and grandparents. E-K to a cousin who had trouble with all three syllables. But Alecia was the standard term used to address me. Late in college, a friend of mine dubbed me A-Whit... as in the first letter of my first name and the first four letters of my last. This was after A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez the professional baseball player) and before J-Lo (Jennifer Lopez the booty icon). A-Whit really caught on and even my fiance calls me that. A-Whit. I like it. Fine.

Okay, so now that I live in New York, allow me to explain that neither Alecia nor A-Whit seem to work for my fellow employees. The Bangladeshis seem to have it down okay, but even the Americans have trouble remembering ALECIA vs ALICIA.

Correct: Alecia (uh-leesh-uh)
Incorrect: Alicia (ah-lee-see-ah)

Jose, the pastry chef at Sardi's, has been practicing for months and has made miraculous improvements. He finally realizes that my name is only 3 syllables, although he still needs to work on his pronounciation: now, instead of saying Alicia, he shouts "Hola Aleecha!" with the biggest proudest grin you've ever seen. I cringe, nod, and we work on the "sh" sound.

The French chef just plain doesn't try, constantly referring to me as "Kentucky" (pronounced ken-too-kee) which I find to be a cute nickname. State pride.

Two bilingual American guys refer to me as "whitey", "snowflake", and/or "wonderbread", which I find to be a bit on the hypocritical and not so politically correct side, but deal with.

Ever since getting engaged on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, an older Chinese man named Kim calls me “Star”. Now Kim is soft-spoken and shy, rarely speaks unless spoken to, but as soon as he catches sight of me, a big smile unfolds from under his thick mustache and he always bows his balding head a little bit and says, “Hello, Stah!"

My favorite nicknames, however, are from the Mexicans, Ecuadorians, Dominicans, and Columbians:

Carino: dear (pronounced ca-reen-yo)
Muneca: doll (moon-yay-ka)
Rubia: blonde (roo-bee-ah)
Preciosa: precious (pray-see-oh-sah)
Princesa: princess (preen-say-sah)

Juera: white chick (wear-ah)
Flaca: skinny (flah-kah)
Reina: queen (ray-een-ah)
Loca: crazy (low-kah)
Linda: pretty (leen-dah)

I pretty much answer to any thing that is shouted at me, (which could be cursing for all I'd know). The thing is, I just got my roommate April a job at Sardi's. Although they usually call her January, March, or May, I did overhear a kitchen guy refer to her as juera. I seethed. Identity theft really is the pits.

Friday, March 11, 2005

The Golden Period

The unfortunate truth is that I don't look good in hats. I've tried several varieties: trucker caps, baseball caps, toboggans, cowboy hats, beanies, visors, berets... you name it, I can't pull it off. I'm not sure if it's my ears, my thick hair, or my large head. I think it may actually be a combination of the three.

This Christmas, my mother bought me an awesome winter coat, accompanied with a scarf, set of leather gloves, and black winter hat. Now, I see the hat and think, "Why did Mom even try? She knows I look like a bum in hats. People actually offer me the spare change from their jeans pockets when they see me in a hat."

But 'tis the season for miracles and incredibly, the hat fit like a glove - (Not to say a glove would fit on my head or that my fingers would be as nimble in a hat, but you understand the metaphor, I'm sure.) Quite snug, and impossible in a pony tail, but if I pulled it on using enough force and kinda flattened my hair, this hat became a beautiful part of me. I loved the hat... wore it every day. Not only did it keep my head warm and block the harsh winds from freezing my ears off, but I somehow managed to look normal.

So on March 9, 2005 around 11:30am, I found myself on the 1, 9 platform searching my pockets. It was a little chilly in the subway tunnel and my ears longed for their protector. My search, however, was frugal. I was finally hit with a sordid image:

Twelve minutes before, I had taken off the hat to eat a sandwich on the subway. A man was looking at me hungrily, (staring I should say), so I moved to the seats "reserved for handicapped" so that I could put my back to him and munch away. Well, being disgruntled that I didn't offer him a bite, he must have giggled with glee when he saw my beautiful black hat sitting alone on the yellow seat - abandoned - lost forever.

The lamenting in the following hour and a half was intense. I am trying to tell myself that the hat has probably found a new home, but then the thought of the hungry man nibbling on its soft brim leaves me in great angst. I have decided against children; I mean a hat is one thing, but what if I forgot my child on the train?! Also, I have decided not to attempt replacing the hat. I need the time to mourn first, and I think of the last two and a half months as "The Golden Period".

I now pray for a speedy spring.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Packing Up

In the silence of our embrace,
I hear you whisper your fear.
Your confession is not from your lips,
but it seeps through the lines on your fingers as you trace my spine.

You are holding me tight. tight.
Ask me not to leave with the pounding of your heart,
beating against your chest so hard that
I think it wants to break free and spill out all over mine.

The regret in my hazel eyes tells you
that I have to leave. Your pretty blue eyes darken,
like a window shade being pulled down,
andI see them water before you shut them tight. tight.

I peel myself off of you like a Hello name tag when the convention is over.
I need to pack. You adjust the covers so that you can see me,
watch me fold you up into your red suitcase:
black button-up you bought me for Christmas,
sweater so soft you can't stop touching,
stiletto boots, jean skirt, red lace bra, zip-up hoodie.

You ask me if I think you could fit in there too.
I look up to see if you're joking, but the crack
in your voice and the frown on your trembling lips
reveal that you're not. Reveal the pain you are trying
to tuck under the covers tight. tight.

I whisper my fear, too.
You hear it in my footsteps as I leave.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Missus

I'm ready to be a missus.

Not ready to go home, but excited to build one with him.
Not ready to forfeit this dream, but open to entertaining a new one.
Not ready for children, no matter how hard he wishes.

But I'm ready to be a missus.

Look forward to practicing new recipes and then calling out for pizza.
Look forward to painting walls that will provide refuge for our love.
Look forward to each new day's kisses.

I'm so ready to be a missus.

Sunday, February 27, 2005


Being the celebrity that I am, it is only fitting that I hang out with fellow celebrities. One is my dear friend Ellen. Now, I'm not referring to Ellen DeGeneres - with whom I am practically sisters - but I'm speaking of my friend Ellen Hagan - with whom I can almost remember from the womb. It can get so confusing having two b.f.f.s named Ellen, so I will refer to them as Def Poet (Ellen Hagan) and Comedian (Ellen DeGeneres).

Now, as many of you know, after Comedian became famous, our friendship fell apart. We rarely spoke. The Christmas cards and family vacations dwindled off until they were only documented in scrapbooks. She let the fame and money zoom to her head and she flew off on her star without looking back. Oh, sure, she's embarrassed of the way she acted now and we've reconciled the hurt I felt when our blood-sisters friendship was dropped like a bag of potatoes; but she's recently made up for it all by pulling me up to sit on her star with her.

I guess everything works out for a reason, because while she was out playing clubs, making TV shows, doing voice-overs, and staring in a daytime talk show so good that JLo tapes it every day, I met my other half. Had I been out chasing that dream, I might have missed my soul mate. Of course Comedian and I laugh over it all now, (especially over the national television airwaves). I am amazed at my humility, because as much as I'm being photographed and signing autographs, I am still working at a restaurant to let my fans know that I am still one of them.

Def Poet is more like me. She teaches the children of New York City how to write, express themselves on the page, dream. And she leads a great example. Being a Def Poet, she has to set the bar high, which I will say that she has "def"initely done. For example, at the taping of HBO's Def Poetry Season 5 on Thursday evening, as we were hanging out with our friends Mos Def and Kanye West (poet and rapper - actor and producer - "Italian Job" and "Jesus Walks"), she kept it real by only giggling at their stupid pick-up lines rather than bat her eyelashes. I thought that this showed uncompromisable self-constraint and let them know that she was unfazed by their bling; for Kentucky vixens such as we possess hearts of gold that far surpass the glitter of their chain medallions.

Def Poet and I give back to the community. We don't let the recent stardom we've encountered alter our balanced and humble personalities. A good example of this is that we decided to blow off the Oscars this year. Yes, yes. I know what you're thinking: "How can Awhit and Def Poet not attend the O's?" Well, we gave up our seats to a couple from Texas that's been married 50 years and decided to watch from home. After all, if we aren't nominated (snubbed once again by peers too jealous to publicly admit our accomplishments) then we'd rather just pop some kernels and constantly text message Comedian (who will more than likely be in the front row like she was at the Grammy's) just to ask her if/who/how many people have asked about us.

As you can see, being a celebrity is tough. But listen, you learn important things about life:
1. Never go to awards where paparazzi will surely be if you have a large facial zit. (They won't airbrush that thing out.)
2. Never go to the bathroom expecting to be in and outta there. Women will have you sign their used toilet paper before they'll let you in a stall without an autograph.
3. Blogs are high maintenance to keep up once you've got a following, (especially when it's 2am, you've worked a 14 hour shift, and you're only writing because your fans are threatening to cancel their subscriptions); however, they are a great way to live in fantasy, while allowing the world wide web to reflect: "Maybe she should have just gone to bed."

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

A Man Evolves

Jerrod Pace was not necessarily known for his sensitivity. He wouldn't learn a new employee's name until they'd worked at The Chop House for 3 months, referring to them as "New Fish" until they'd finished this initiation period. When a rough-housing former team leader hit him on the head with a check presenter, he picked it up and hit her back in her forehead a little harder. He would never cry at a movie. His friends referred to him as Grudgemaster, a name he happily embraced, as he would rather lose his left arm than forgive someone a trespass.

But something has changed. Somehow, like monkeys and cavemen before us, he has evolved.

I saw those tough blue eyes tear up on February 10, 2005 when a stage door on The Ellen Show slid open to reveal the woman to whom he was about to propose. Our tough guy mob boss wanna-be has enrolled in gymnastics for the past two semesters, turning cartwheels and forward rolls with the determination of an Olympic medalist. I've heard him consider baby girl names, (he's particularly fond of "Brooklyn"), although he'll have to wait a pretty long time before he actually gets to christen one. He recently told me that he wished I would move back home so that we could take ballroom dancing lessons together. And the "Grudgemaster", after a couple of years of physical therapy, has now successfully trained his mouth to form the words "I'm sorry" and has even forgiven a couple of transgressions against him.

I love him for his machismo. But I love him so much more for the sweet spirit that hides behind the muscle.

Monday, February 21, 2005

A Wintry Wonder

I cup my long fingers around the bowl and sip cereal flavored milk. It is very late and my body is being pulled toward the bedroom, but my eyes are transfixed on the fantastic show outside of our dining room window.

As I slurp, my eyes dart over the bowl's lid and wonder at the three inches of snow sitting on a nearby electric wire. They follow the wire to poles and more wires; watch the snow fall down hard, each flake searching for a resting place - a home - a place to melt - a place to live and die. Some flakes sit atop each other on rooftops, window sills, cars and trucks, chain fences, swing sets; some dive for the streets and sidewalks and become footprints and tire marks almost instantly.

I am finished with my milk, yawning like a full kitten, but I can't stop staring out the window. The sky is lavender gray - the street light across from our building spotlighting the whole magical scene - providing light for me to write in a dark room - giving shimmer to our freshly blanketed neighborhood. Smoke puffs out of the chimney across from me and I wonder who chops their wood - where they get it.

The only things that would make this better - this sitting in a dark room, staring at a snowstorm, and wondering if anyone is staring back at me - would be a fireplace, an afghan, and my lover.

Friday, February 18, 2005

A Star is Born

It's funny. I know that I am not a celebrity. I realize that not one person on this planet wants my autograph and that most people I meet in Times Square would prefer me to be behind the camera taking their picture than in front of it. All the same, I feel a little bit like a celebrity.

Now, unlike a certain fiancé of mine (I won't name names), I am not answering the telephone as if I am a business - an entity - my own corporation. One hypothetical example could be, "Hollywood Pace speaking". I haven't let The Ellen Show go to my head as this faceless man has; but I have had a small dose of fame - very small - one tiny drop - and I'm showering in it.

At my restaurant, people are calling me over to their tables to ask me all about the show:
"Did you know he was going to propose?"
"What was Ellen like? Did you get to talk to her?"
"Did you know your parents would be there?"
"Why in the world would he try to propose via satellite?"

They also ask questions, assuming that Ellen DeGeneres and I are now BFF:
"How is Ellen's back feeling?"
"Can Ellen dance? Does she practice backstage? Does she stretch?"
"Is Houston kin to Ellen? Oh, he's from Kentucky, too? Well, then are you kin to Houston?"

I found myself waiting on Kathie Lee Gifford as she and some friends had lunch Wednesday. Now this is a lady who is a real celebrity; but rather than talk to her or ask for her autograph, a couple and their daughter flagged me down and took my picture! I looked around and couldn't help but think to myself, "Kathie Lee who?"

I am desperately trying to be humble, but I am on cloud 9. I have a constant grin on my face. And when things get busy or tense at work, I just stare at my beautiful engagement ring. I'm so happy. happy. happy.

And I gotta say, Ellen Show or not, that Jerrod Pace sure is a great guy. I'm gonna hang on to him. After all, I'll soon be looking for that perfect accessory on my arm for the Oscars.

Only one more daydream away.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Mrs. Jerrod Lee Pace

I am not sure when this will happen. I am only sure that it will.

As of February 10, 2005, Alecia Kaye Whitaker (yours truly) has actually found her betrothed and she cannot believe it. Cannot believe that someone can love her so wholly:
- Can be dragged out on the dance floor to a cheesy slow song.
- Can hum along to any song that pops into her head and out of her mouth.
- Can sit through Gone With the Wind and pretend that he liked it.

I know that my blogging fans are expecting a long involved tale about how and where and all those little details, but I'd rather just point out the most important part...

that he loves me.

The glitter in my ring is so dark and mirky in comparison to the way his blue eyes shone when he got down on his knee. I've never seen him look more handsome. I've never felt more loved. Even in a red tuxedo jacket and bow tie, I've never felt more beautiful. At that moment, I only heard him ask me to be his wife...

and I couldn't wait to say 'yes'.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Pass the towel, please.

At the Whitaker household, we conserve. We are conscientious of turning lights out when we leave rooms. We don't leave water running. We recycle our cans, but before we recycle them, we crush them so that more will fit in the bin. When we built our house, we picked up rocks around the farm and used them to build our fireplace. We mini-vanned, bunk-bedded, and still use the sniff test on our shirts. And at the dinner table, there are never napkins to be found; rather, we use towels.

Now, I don't want to give you the impression that we each have our very own towel. No. That would go against every law of conservation. I also don't want to mislead you into thinking that we at least use a clean towel at every meal. No, no. If finger foods are not involved, then that towel has a lifespan of at least 3 uses, maybe more depending on the number of mouths and fingers present per meal. No. All of the Whitakers sit around the table and "pass" the same towel:

Sticky jelly fingers? "Pass the towel, please."
Honey coated biscuit lips? "Pass the towel, please."
Laughing so hard that milk flies out of the nose? "Pass the towel, please!"
(Manners are very important.)

I did not realize that towel passing is abnormal until last year. I am a 25 year old woman who has been to dinner at many other homes, yet never realized that 5 humans sharing the same towel at a meal is odd. I just thought everybody broke out paper towels when they had guests. I mean, family is one thing, but who wants to wipe their mouth in the same exact spot as a stranger?

The Keeper of the Towel is always my mother. Somehow, at every meal, the towel ends up beside her. We have given her a hard time about this for most of my existence. It's gotten to the point that we see it down there beside her and, whether we need it or not, we'll say, "Who has the towel?" and look around as if it's a mystery. Then, the four of us laugh and laugh while Mom rolls her eyes, clearly annoyed.

If my mischievious dad spots the towel down there, he employs his stealth nod to get our attention until we're all thinking the same thing, my poor mother completely oblivious. On his cue, in a magnificent chorus, we'll say, "Pass the towel, please" in perfect unison. (I think I can justifiably compare her irritation with us to that of a small dog with 10,000 fleas.)

She usually ends up just launching it in Dad's direction, (which is such a double standard, if you ask me. We can't sing at or put our elbows on the table, but she can heave a bright pink beach towel at my father?!)

Having to dodge flying fabric at the dinner table usually leaves him wrecked. He starts laughing so hard that he has to push his chair away from the table. He usually has to take off his glasses with one hand while he's slapping his leg with the other - my mother's face set in stone. Watching my father riddled with the giggles could cripple even the toughest stone-face, and my brother, sister, and I are slapping the table and trying not to snort out our food. My mother will try to continue her meal, but eventually, she'll break down with a chuckle. She usually looks at each of us, shakes her head, and says, "Y'all are ignert."

I'm honestly not sure how the towel always makes it's way back to her. It's like a magnetic force - like a kinship - like she and the towel are one. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The Sprint

It is your average autumn Kentucky day. A crisp October morning, but not too cold for the new mid-thigh plaid jumper my mom recently bought me at the mall. I have slept in pink sponge rollers and with rolled down white socks and my new brown penny loafers, I am truly a sixth grader on her way to the in-crowd. Due to the fact that I have purposefully "forgotten" my huge saxophone, which is at least half my weight, I am on the verge of appearing "cool".

What makes this day even more special is that I have "accidentally" missed the bus (again) without getting in trouble for it. It just so happens that my dad was heading into town any way, so I have manipulated the system without getting caught. Avoiding the bus ride to school (a ride wherein I and whoever chooses to sit with me have to bump along the country roads on top of my beat-up sax case) is a beautiful way to start my day. And today, as I spritz one last bang into place, I head to the garage expecting to finally look as cool as Katie Jacobs and Rob Ogden (whose parents are teachers and therefore never ride the bus).

The perfect day's first hiccough came when dad didn't join me in the garage. It suddenly became all too clear that, rather than ride to town in our light blue Previa mini-van or our deep green Corolla, Dad was motioning me toward the Sprint. In society's social standards, the "Chevrolet ultra-compact Sprint" is one step - and only one, very small step - above the bus. It's only advantage is that, being a car, the ride is only 20 minutes long vs. the hour long bus tour of the county's finest farms and trailers. The Sprint is gray (lacking all personality) and it's a two-door (a tight, tight squeeze). The steering wheel is covered in mesh, the interior plastic is dirty brown, and I am sitting on a tan beaded seat cushion. The seatbelt reaches across me, lax over my shoulder and too tight across my lap - a sticky torture strap. The Sprint is a stick-shift and, once again, my dad reminds me of its excellent gas mileage... like a sixth grader with boys and middle school popularity on her mind really cares about gas mileage.

Dad is in heaven. He drives super, super slow. He gives his usual friendly wave to passersby and I keep my head down, making eye contact with no one. I wanted desperately to look cool today. Today could be the day that Chris Cummins asks me to sit beside him at the church hayride and my father has no idea of the social damage he is causing.

Harrison County Middle School is set up like so: the sixth grade wing on the far right, the seventh graders in the middle, and the eighth graders on the far left.

As we approach the hilltop, I suggest that Dad drop me off at the local Dairy Queen. "I don't want you to get stuck in all that a.m. bus and commuter traffic."

Nothin' doin'.

"It's not every day I get to take my favorite daughter to school," I'm sure he said.

He hangs the left into the school driveway and the car audibly creaks. (I really feel that cars are not unlike bread or milk - one should really respect the shelf life and then toss them.) The busses are all edging for spaces in front of the school and I realize that if I can time it just right, I could run from the car once we're hidden amongst all the yellow. Dad begins to slow down while I'm gathering my bags and then tries to pull to the curb at the sixth grade wing. That's when I see Chris. He's helping Paul Roberts send the flag up about one bus length away. If I got out now, he'd see me for sure. So, a quick thinker, I blurt out, "Oh, uh, Dad! Uh, I forgot that I need to, um, be dropped off at the eighth grade side today. Um, you know. School stuff."

My dad grins, forces the stick shift into one of the slots, and putters away. I exhale. I can't believe he didn't give me any grief, but I thank my lucky stars and apply some kind of watermelon lip gloss. One last look into the mud covered side view mirror and I unbuckle, my nerves a wreck. The last part of Operation Get-In-That-School-Before-Somebody-Sees-You-In-This-Piece-Of-Aluminum was drawing near.

Dad is approaching the eighth grade wing when I throw him a curve. "Stop! Here's fine." He slams on the brakes and is squashed between two busses and an angry looking pick-up. I lean over for a quick peck on the cheek and slide outta that seat cushion before he could finish his "have a good day".

Five quick steps to the sidewalk and I'm a free woman! Hurrah! My hair is bouncing! My short skirt is swishing! My. . .

Dad????. . .

is HONKING?!?!!

I glance over my shoulder to see my dad - wearing a full beard, glasses, flannel, and the biggest smile you've ever seen - waving like a maniac and honking the Sprint's horn, which basically sounds like a cow giving birth.

Ironically, no girl has ever run so fast.