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In Star Trek IV: The

In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and the gang are flying from Vulcan to Earth in a stolen Klingon bird of prey when Lieutenant Uhura picks up a subspace message, as she is wont to do. The message is from the President of the Federation, who reports that a massive, unidentified spaceship was wreaking havoc on Earth and no one could stop it. He finishes by saying, “Avoid the planet Earth at all costs!”

I have an equally vital message:

AVOID THE ISP EARTHLINK AT ALL COSTS!

Earthlink is a terrible service provider. I have used them before and had nothing but problems. They called recently when my new ISP (DirecTV DSL) announced it was going out of business and, against my better instincts, I signed up for them again.

I will not go into the entire saga here, but aside from being a crappy ISP technically, Earthlink’s telemarketer misrepresented their own service, openly lied about their competitors’ offerings, and displayed such extreme incompetence in processing the order that my modem could not initially be delivered by UPS. Their customer service is nonexistent: one must wait on hold for a half hour and then face rude accusations when one is presenting his case. (“We can’t trust your word that our representative made those promises,” I was told. “Then why should I have trusted what your company said in its phone solicitation?” I asked, a question that went completely unanswered.)

Essentially, Earthlink wants to charge me $150 to cancel a service that I never used because my equipment never arrived merely because I could have used the service if I had had the equipment. Sounds strictly Ministry-of-Truth to me. When I called my credit card company to refute the charge, their representative said that she hears similar complaints about Earthlink all the time.

Do not sign up for Earthlink Internet service. Do not allow anyone you know to sign up for Earthlink. If you already have their service and for some reason are not disgusted with them yet, do yourself a favor and switch away before it’s too late.

(This is my second post of the day. Scroll down to see the one I meant to post yesterday.)

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My DSL is still not

My DSL is still not working but I will not convey my mourning by reporting any other spooky encounters. Contrary to what is doubtlessly popular belief, I contain only so much morbidity.

Instead, let us discuss situation comedies.

Because of a sudden and terrible illness over the past three days, and because my computer was out of commission last week, I have had opportunity recently to watch a number of them. Here is what I noticed:

On “Designing Women,” the house that they show between scenes, intended to be the external view of the Sugarbakers’ design firm, cannot possibly be the same building upon which the set is based. In the external view, the front door is flanked by two large windows, but inside, Charlene’s desk is on one side of the front door (with bookshelves behind it), and the sweeping grand staircase is on the other. No windows in sight.

The theme song for “Charles in Charge” is weird. “Charles in charge of our days and our nights / Charles in charge of our wrongs and our rights / . . . / I want Charles in charge of me.” Does this not sound a bit pervasive, as if Charles is Big Brother with all-seeing chocolate-brown eyes? (Of course, it was filmed during the Reagan years.) Or perhaps Charles is some sort of leather daddy with a whip.

Or perhaps I need to get out more.

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The thing about telling a

The thing about telling a ghost story is, of course, telling it right. The proper significance must be placed upon the events in question. Therefore, I must point out, as I failed to do earlier, that the spookiness of Rob feeling Goblin walking around by his feet was not the sensation in itself, which occurs nearly every day, but that Goblin was several hundred miles away at the time.

What he felt was the spirit of the second Mrs. Borden making the bed.

Oooooooooooooooooo!

What I find more terrifying these days is my crazy client, who glories in transforming insignificant issues into major problems (and manufacturing major problems from scratch when no insignificant issues are forthcoming). These are the same people who objected so strenuously to hyphens (and I must point out at this late date that I refer to ubiquitous line-breaking hyphens, not those required by proper grammar). They have been calling me with such alarming frequency over the past two days, and in such utter hysteria, that I have ceased answering my newly functional phone.

Ooooooooooooooooooo!

And before I sign off, I leave you with a final spooky thought: American foreign policy.

Ooooooooooooooooooo!

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And we’re back. Picture it:

And we’re back.

Picture it: April 2002. Fall River, Massachusetts. Lizzie Borden’s former residence, which has been converted into a bed and breakfast. Rob and I drove up to spend his birthday night on the very spot Lizzie’s stepmother was murdered, a victim of the infamous “forty whacks.” (She was in the guest bedroom, making the bed, at the time.) Rob awakened early the next morning to the groggy sensation that Goblin was walking around on top of the covers by his feet. Not mentioning this to me, he went into the bathroom and left me to rest for a few more minutes. While he was gone, I had the very distinct feeling that someone was pressing on the sheets on the part of the bed where Rob had been (I was turned toward the other side of the bed). The overall effect was as if someone had either sat on top of the sheets that covered me, or else had tugged them taut and had tucked them under the mattress with me still underneath. They pressed on me, held me down, and I could not move.

This was not in the least sinister, I must point out. As I came slowly awake, it seemed to me as if I had merely become tangled in the sheets. However, as Rob walked back into the room, I realized this was not so. In fact, he had left the sheet untucked and tossed halfway down the bed.

At breakfast (at which the establishment provides the same meal eaten by the Borden family on the morning of the murders), we learned that what we had experienced was common in that room. Lizzie’s poor stepmother wanted only to finish making the bed, a task left eternally incomplete by the unfortunate intervention of an axe.

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Something is horribly wrong. Perhaps

Something is horribly wrong. Perhaps I am under a powerful curse or the retrograde Mercury is having a last laugh at my expense. Perhaps I am a target of the CIA or malevolent aliens or superintelligent talking mice.

Let us review my case:

1. Last month, I was notified that my DSL company, DirecTV DSL, was going out of business.

2. The next day, Earthlink called and said they would transfer my DSL over to themselves as a generous service to me. I need not do a thing, they assured, except wait for the modem to arrive.

3. The modem never arrived.

4. That is because Earthlink wrote “West 83rdq St.” instead of “West 83rd St.” on the shipping bill, and UPS was unable to decipher this mysterious alien code sufficiently to actually deliver the package. Instead, they dropped an explanatory postcard in the mail, addressed to me at West 83rdq St. The post office, quite accustomed to mysterious alien code, delivered the postcard the next day.

5. I wrote Earthlink a snarky email threatening to cancel my service before it began (because of the error in addressing, some lies they told while persuading me to sign up, and other shoddy customer service). They did not respond, so I cancelled the service and signed up with someone else.

6. The people I signed up with did not provide dial-up service along with the DSL (which I need for when I travel), so I signed up for yet another service, called Speakeasy. Speakeasy said I would be up and running in seven business days.

7. UPS brought my Earthlink modem at long last, upon which I refused delivery.

8. Ten business days later, my Speakeasy modem has not yet arrived.

9. To backtrack a bit, over last summer, the hinge on my Powerbook broke when Goblin knocked it off of my lap. I had resisted having it fixed earlier because the only shops that would repair it informed me it would take ten days to do so. I cannot afford to let my computer go for ten days.

10. I recently found another place that promised they would fix it in two days.

11. It is funny how quickly two days can turn into seven, but I finally got it back today.

12. Of course, I still have no DSL. In an attempt to dial into my account today using my modem, I discovered something else: my entire phone line is down. NOW I HAVE NO PHONE SERVICE.

13. I called Verizon who confirmed my dilemma and said that the problem was on their end. Fabulous. I may hear back from them today; I may not.

14. My cell phone does not work in my apartment.

15. I am completely shut off from the world.

16. The walls are closing in.

17. The voices in my head are telling me to do stuff.

18. Help.

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I am expecting to hear

I am expecting to hear from my brother Mike again about why I did not write about his most recent visit. He and his girlfriend, Cate, whom I adore, dropped by on Monday night so I could provide training and software for the new iBook he bought on my recommendation. This was momentous, as no one ever listens to my recommendations, but it was not an unambiguously joyous event: the presence of Mike’s gleaming and glorious new machine also served to highlight the absence of my own precious Powerbook, which has been sent away to have its hinge repaired. I had intended to commemorate this gaping hole in my life by posting a week’s worth of stories about spooky encounters with death, however my access to borrowed computers has been unexpectedly limited.

As I think of my poor baby, strewn across some stranger’s workbench, I am moved to continue my theme.

Picture it: Edinburgh, Scotland. February 2002. The Mercat Cross. My ex-boyfriend Michael stopped to read some signs that had been posted, and as I waited for him, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the idea that people had died on that very spot, perhaps many people. My legs became weak, and I actually had to lean against a lamppost because I was afraid I might pass out. For some reason, I was embarrassed by this reaction and did my best to minimize it, but I did not forget it. Later, in a museum, I learned that it was an accurate sensation: Mercat Cross was apparently an execution site during at least part of Edinburgh’s bloody history.

I am not certain why I was struck by that particular location. I live in New York City, where, if chalk outlines were permanent, the streets would resemble an extensive Keith Haring painting. Maybe I am just crazy.

Luckily, I received no death vibes from my unfortunate little Powerbook, which Steve Jobs willing, should be home with me soon. Until then, blogging may be a bit spotty, but I will try to squeeze in the spine-tingling tale of what happened when I spent the night in Lizzie Borden’s house.

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Picture it: Oaxaca City, Oaxaca,

Picture it: Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, Mexico. 1996. The Day of the Dead. Hotel Las Golandrinas. I awakened in the night to find a woman in traditional peasant garb floating, face down, near the ceiling, over the foot of my bed. “Come with me,” she said in Spanish. She led me through the roof, over the city, into the nearby cathedral, where dozens of peasants hung by their necks from the gold ceiling. “This is where they killed us.” As she spoke, the corpses opened their eyes and stared miserably at me. But there was nothing I could do but witness.

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I have never before used

I have never before used the word granddaddy, and I believe I could have comfortably gone to my grave without doing so had I not seen the granddaddy of all water bugs in my apartment the other day. Two inches long, it prowled across my mantle like Mata Hari on a mission. In a rush to go out, I almost did not see it at all, but once it caught my eye, I could see nothing else.

I am inadequately prepared to deal with roaches, both physically and mentally. When I moved into this apartment, I bought a spray called Poison Free, which is supposed to murder the little buggers without, as its name implies, spreading poison everywhere, an important consideration if one has a little dog who runs around licking everything. The fact is, do not like to kill things at all. Poison Free seemed so appealing precisely because of its name. Where there is no poison, I thought, perhaps the death is symbolic. Perhaps, as in paint ball, the targeted roach would say, “Oh, you got me!” and remove itself from play. The spray can itself acts to contradict such expectations: “Kills in seconds!” it proclaims, conveniently not mentioning that a year can also be measured in seconds. Poison Free apparently eliminates insects not by gently ushering them out of the apartment, as I would prefer, but by drowning them in an inch of liquid: one has to empty half the can before the bug even slows down, and by the time it dies, the sprayer himself is ready to keel over from the penetrating minty fumes, which cling to everything and linger for days afterward.

It is a lengthy and hair-raising process.

This particular extermination operation took so long that I was almost late to a movie; I left the tiny corpse on the floor under a paper towel. Luckily Goblin was at Rob’s house for the day. I arranged for her to be there the next day, too, so I could scrub every inch of the apartment and place new giant Combat traps around the apartment. (My old Combat traps were the size of dollhouses to the granddaddy of all water bugs. The new ones are so big that I am afraid my dog will get stuck in one.)

So now my apartment is sparkling clean and fresh. There is no insect in sight. Goblin, of course, was horrified when I brought her home. “My smells, my beautiful smells!” she shrieked. “What have you done to them?!?”

“Fear not,” I said. “You will make newer and even more glorious smells soon!”

And she has.

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Long before Ron Weasley’s pet

Long before Ron Weasley’s pet rat, Scabbers, turned out to be Wormtail in disguise, I harbored the secret fear that my dog was some sort of shapeshifting human sent to spy on me, reporting my doings to a sinister entity. For that reason, I would never let her see me naked, and I always made sure I washed my hands after going to the bathroom when she was looking.

Thankfully, that delusion is shattered when she does things like lick fresh pigeon poop off the sidewalk, as she did yesterday. Yum!

*

Two days ago, Rob took me, Joe, and our friend Patty to see 42nd Street on Broadway, which was silly but enjoyable enough. Receiving top billing was Tom Wopat, a.k.a. Luke Duke, a.k.a. the guy I had a major crush on in the early 1980s (more even than Larry Wilcox, who played Jon on “CHIPs,” and that is saying something). And there he was, twenty feet away, dancing, singing, and spraying saliva across the stage in a fine mist.

Another childhood dream shattered.

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I am at war with

I am at war with Earthlink and United Parcel Service, a fiendish alliance that one would think has far greater resources at their disposal than I. The examples of their insane stupidity I have witnessed in the past week, however, prove I have nothing to worry about (although I will be wary of lurking brown vans). Rob’s dear friend Richard, who was recently in an Earthlink commercial, is not stupid, but he is coming to town next month, ostensibly to be in Rob’s show, but how do I know he is not an enemy spy?

In pure Presidential form, Goblin insists that they are all in league with the squirrels, against whom we should unite in an all-out attack if they do not disarm. Squads of Boston terriers are patrolling the park even as I type this, and troops are amassing at the Museum of Natural History, which has graciously allowed the Forces of Justice to use their dog run as a staging area. In the face of such martial glee, it is difficult to ascertain exactly what the squirrels are supposed to be armed with, a question that will be further muddied when the canine equivalent of Ari Fleischer appears on the scene (and muddier still when it becomes obvious that the canine equivalent of Ari Fleischer is Ari Fleischer).

All I know is something is brewing. Goblin’s walk was hurried this evening, as I was in a rush to meet my friend Joe for dinner, so I decided not to put her coat on. And who should we encounter during our brief time outside but the very same woman who, on the first cold day of the winter, chided me for putting her coat on so early in the season, as if its protective powers would wear out by being invoked before the snow flew. She also let Goblin lick her teeth, a sight that did not do wonders for my digestive health.

Tonight, she assaulted us again, directing questions at my dog that she intended me to answer. “Who are you?” she asked, and when Goblin was not forthcoming with the introductions, she followed up with, “I said, what is your name?

“Goblin,” I said, looking down from the sky.

“Oh, Goblin! I’ve met you before! How old are you?”

“Goblin is two-and-a-half years old,” I said, pointedly pulling her away.

“Oh, you’re just a baby! What is your daddy thinking letting you out without a coat, huh? Where’s your coat, baby?”

Neither Goblin nor I answered that one.

“I said, ‘Where is your coat?’ It’s too cold for little girls to be running around outside without a coat!” This was directed at our backs as we beat a hasty retreat.

There is a true-life television program on Animal Planet about a precinct of police officers who deal solely with cases of animal cruelty. I forget what it is called, but I suspect there will be a spinoff featuring people who run around the streets of New York monitoring when other people’s dogs are wearing their coats.

Goblin is of the opinion that this woman is a squirrel spy, a distinct possibility.

All I know for sure is that Ari Fleischer is a bitch.

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My friend Tiffany is moving

My friend Tiffany is moving to Paris, and she gave me her sunlight simulator to use while she is gone. For the uninformed, a sunlight simulator is a hideously bright light that one is supposed to sit in front of for a period of time on winter days if one suffers from seasonal depression. The light is apparently the same wavelength as real sunlight; it lights up my minuscule cave of an apartment like an atomic blast.

So guess who has gone and fallen in love with it?

The instant I flipped it on, my dog dragged every one of her toys over to it, as if she was leaving sacrifices to a god, then basked in front of it for at least fifteen minutes. She has spent time there every day since.

This morning, upon arriving home from a delightful slumber party (at which I stayed up until almost three in the morning eating junk, watching teen movies, reading tarot cards, and performing facials), I was answering some emails when I heard a languid slurping sound behind me. Turning, I beheld the sight of my little dog pressed full-body against the sunlight simulator, licking it like an ice cream cone.

“What are you doing?” I said. “What. Are. You. Doing?

Clearly, a hint is being dropped.

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I realized today that, whenever

I realized today that, whenever I am speaking to my dog, I say the same thing twice. “What do you have there?” I will say, followed immediately by, “What do you have there?” Or, worse, I will emphasize the words the second time, as if she were a retarded child: “What. Do. You. Have. There?”

Sometimes, when people ask me why I do the bizarre things I do, I can answer immediately in a way that makes sense. I scratch an itch with the backs of my fingers, for example, because I have chewed my fingernails off. (I realize this still makes no sense, but I am not going to draw a diagram.) And yet, if someone were to ask me why I say everything twice to Goblin, I would not know the answer. Perhaps I feel that she did not hear me the first time, or that she needs to think about the question for a moment before she gets back to me. (“Well, Daddy, since you asked . . . twice . . . I appear to have a wadded-up paper towel with a chicken bone in it, which I found in the gutter.”)

More likely, this is related to my habit of not paying the remotest amount of attention to what comes out of my mouth (unless I happen to have food poisoning, when the things that come out of my mouth are more conspicuous). Yesterday, I had brunch with a new friend of mine, Lauri. When she showed up, I said, “How are you?” Five seconds later, I caught myself saying it again: “So, how are you?”, possibly feeling that shifting the emphasis would garner a different response.

More than one of you reading this will recall my tendency to have the same conversation with the same person multiple times, expecting different results after each.

Oh, well. Oh, well.

So, how are you?

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There is a movie called

There is a movie called The Anniversary, in which Bette Davis wears an eyepatch and insults everyone in an English accent. I know this sounds like every other movie I recommend, but this one is my favorite. I have seen it a hundred times. Last night, as a belated birthday gift, my dear friend James gave me a vintage poster from that movie, which contains these somewhat stunning assertions:

“THERE IS NO NAME FOR THEIR KIND OF EVIL! One offered sex… One killed with sex… One played the other sex—And one watched through a glass eye as they destroyed each other!”

I am not sure these are the exact sentences I would use to describe this film. No one dies, for one thing (so much for “killed with sex”), and at no point in the movie does Bette wear her glass eye (not to mention that, if one is wearing a glass eye, it stands to reason that one is not able to watch anything through it, not matter how destructive). Also, the punctuation is horrible.

Of course, all of this makes the poster even more fabulous. Thanks, James!

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I feel as if someone

I feel as if someone has chopped off my ears, poked out my eyes, or otherwise relieved me, in spectacularly bloody fashion, of important sensory input.

My high-speed Internet connection has been disconnected.

No, I did not forget to pay the bill, as I do on a regular basis with my electricity and cable television. My DSL provider went out of business, and my replacement company has yet to send me their equipment.

This is not good. After weeks without a regular high-speed connection, I returned home with the expectation of plunging back into cyberspace like a heroin addict into a cool swimming pool on a day that is hot and humid, or perhaps it is a dry heat. In any case, that was not to be, and I type this while I am on hold with Earthlink, waiting with bated breath (or is that baited breath?) to learn the fate of my new DSL modem.

I tried to look on the bright side, really I did. Without the constant interruption of email popping in, without the ever-present temptation of the Web to draw me away from my tasks, I will get twice as much done, I thought. Actually, I only get half as much done: on top of all of my other procrastination habits, I now spend hours, unable to work, reliving my plunge from the wired elite.

“All customer support agents are assisting other customers. Please continue to hold for a customer support agent. Thank you for your patience.”

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What I do not understand

What I do not understand is how anyone manages-or why anyone bothers-to drive in New York City. To label the experience pandemonium is to give demons a bad name. In the last few weeks, I have driven from New York to Western Maryland to Central Maryland to Sarasota, Florida and back; the hour I spent yesterday navigating my rental car around the West Side was worse than all the rest put together.

So I am home, and three weeks of missed work and other obligations are hanging over my head like the sword of Damocles. Today, much to Goblin’s dismay, I vacuumed the apartment and scrubbed the floors. I also worked some on a web site for my brother and sister-in-law, who just bought a wonderful restaurant in Baltimore. Goblin was indifferent to that activity.

Tonight will be my second attempt to see Far From Heaven. The first attempt, in Florida, was aborted when I got up to vomit during two early scenes, and Rob (who had already seen it) determined that what I had missed was crucial to my understanding of what was to come. So we left.

Sometimes I feel like I was out vomiting during the crucial moments in my childhood when the People In Charge explained what life was going to be like. I have been playing catch-up ever since.

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I am about to leave

I am about to leave Florida for a bloodcurdling sixteen-hour drive up Interstate 95. It has been a nice enough trip, despite a few days suffering from what was either food poisoning or the natural reaction of entering the home state of the monstrous Katherine Harris. Even evoking my patron saints, the Golden Girls, failed to revive me.

The highlight of the trip was either getting up to vomit (twice) during a showing of Far From Heaven, seeing the parts of The Two Towers I originally slept through, or watching the Spanish version of “Family Feud,” which is called “100 Mexicanos Dicieron,” or “100 Mexicans Said.”

I wonder what a hundred Mexicans would say about Katherine Harris. I suspect that no earthly language contains appropriate words.