Monday, February 23, 2009

Good Word, Indignant: An Interview of Barb Chamberlain

Note to the reader: I am in bold, my mother is in regular font. The following exchange took place at Rocket Bakery on 14th. Great place. Also, the seemingly random numbers I say are the then-current word count (which will come up in conversation later) and are no longer accurate, but I have left them as they are to respect journalistic truth and all that (jazz). Enjoy.

How do you see yourself?

“How do I see myself? Professional. Um, [a] trifle compulsive about volunteering. Reasonably healthy. Happy. Ehm.. having leadership qualities…”, she said, giving me a look as I stared blankly at her. “Smart. 'Ts'bout it. I could say incredibly flawed, if that’s what you want. I see the flaws also. I see the flaws – too,” said Mom, playing with her words, probably thinking I had found the first version of that sentence unacceptable. I kept up my serene facial facade with some effort. “Always interested in new things.”

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

“Mmmm, depends on whether this coffee shop has closed by then. Write that down!” she yelled jokingly at me when I didn't let myself crack a smile. “56 years old, still alive, possibly mayor. Possiblyyyy author-slash-speaker. Married and happy. You would be 24, Kate would be 28, so I might've had the first wedding in the family. I kinda hope not… did you want more?”

Just tell me when you’re done.
“That’s it.”

Favorite weather happening some find annoying (wind, rain, super-hot sun, snow, hail, etc.)?
“Wind. I love windy days,” she said quickly.

Best word ever:

She thought more intently about this than the previous life-changing questions (well, besides the last one; but, hey, that could be important for a.. weather.. forecaster...) before answering, “I’m torn. Mellifluous, for the sound. Abstemious, because it’s one of the, I think, two words in the English language that has all of the vowels in the English language in order. Not counting 'Y'. I can’t think of the other one,” she said, trying to remember a word. This was fine by me. Moving on:

Crazy dream of yours you wish would happen but don’t expect to:

“Being able to fly,” she answered almost at once. “The downside of that is that my flying dreams always involve being chased by bad guys, and I don’t want that part.” She paused to hold open the door for a rained-on worker girl carrying dishes (which must have been slippery by then. The dishes, I mean). 
“[I] Just did an Eric.” She said this expecting a response. She was sorely disappointed. “You know it absolutely fascinates me that I MADE you?” She does this sometimes.
“And now here you are, a whole separate person… it’s pretty amazing.” Her timing was impeccably unfortunate; the question I was about to ask pertained to that very subject. Well, it would pertain to her children if she picked up on my hint. Read on. 

Best two moments of your life [hint-hint-cough-cough]?

She snorts loudly before answering, “Well, I’m not going to say childbirth… it hurts. A LOT. [The best two moments were] After that. Right after that. And I held my baby in my arms.. even though you’re the one I had without any drugs,” she said. This comes as absolutely no surprise, mind you. I have been told this. I have been told this many, many times.

Damn right.

“And, you weighed 2 pounds more than your sister at birth.”

Damn right.

We plug in her laptop when it shuts down before she continued. “It really was amazing to have you,” she said fondly as I start to apply lipgloss. She stares at the tube hungrily. “Now you’re making my lips dry.” She reaches into her bag.

Your computer just decided to tell me that it has low battery (NOTE: this is not misplaced, I was making fun of it because it had already shut down).

“Oh, yes. You can tell it, 'I know'. It’s right on top of the situation as usual.”

Favorite trash can design?

“Ornamental? I kindof like black wrought iron. Downtown has some neat designs. And I like them to have recycling as part of it.”

Type in a man? Or a boy, if that’s your thing.

“Oh, oh, no,” she said to my joke about pedophilia. Ha, ha, rape. “Like you, I enjoy the attractiveness,” she said in reference to something I had said in my interview with her (to be found on her blog,
“Reliable. Funny… smart… fit… sweet… able to say, 'I love you.' Daily. Multiple times.”

Does Eric do that (NOTE: there wasn't skepticism in my voice, but I was certainly feeling critical; I hear “you know that I love you?” probably 5 times a day from her to him. Usually he pretty much nods or grunts.)?

“Yes. [He says that] Lots. Bonus points for being able to make hashbrowns. Haha, I love those eyebrows. I love that look,” she said to me as I look up at her through my eyebrows. “Seriously, a good cook! That’s sexy! Someone who gives lots of hugs.” Pause. 
“Did you include the line, 'I shot her a glare from under my lowered brows…. And then gave her a blank stare?,'” she asked in a deep, narrator-like voice, finally causing my face to crack as I laughed, hard. She continued, “'...but I couldn’t keep up my stoic mask, and giggled. Unlike my sister, I couldn’t keep it up.' Uh, not an alcoholic,” she continued, suddenly deciding to be back on task. “Not a substance asbuser --”

– Hold your horses! They’re galloping away from me!

-- not addictive.” She paused for me while I finished typing. “You could be a court stenographer. They have a special machine. I don’t know how it works. They don’t have as many keys as a normal computer,” she said, drifting into a lovely babble about court stenographers. I didn't want to stop her, so I wrote this commentary instead of the rest of her speech on the (cough) fascinating machines used by – you guessed it! – court stenographers.
“Anyway,” she continued, “You should do something more… interesting.” Pause. “Also on the man thing--” she said, cut off when I widened my eyes and held up one finger threateningly, for she was speaking too quickly, and I was not re-accustomed to typing what she was actually saying after breaking momentarily to replace her speech with my witty commentary. This was enough to halt her. 
“– So, also on the man thing? Someone whooo can respect that I have my life, and my interests, and that I want to share interests, but I’m not willing to give up my own life and just wrap around his.”

Anyone in particular to whom this is directed?

“My sweet husband,” she said with a defensive tone. She added, “who meets all my criteria!” for effect.

I mean the wrapping comment.

“Ooh. No, really mankind in general.” After this, I stopped her and looked all over her screen for the word count. Finally, I saw it right at the bottom toolbar and made a face.


“What are you feeling silly about just finding out?”

I found word count.

She nodded. “Do you want me to comment some more about the whole man-wrapping thing?

Up to you.

“I think… there are men who say they admire strong women, but when it comes right down to it, they’d prefer she be not quite as strong as they are. ‘Ts'bout it. Trying to be succinct.

763 words. 765. 766. 77. 78. 69-hee-hee-hee (NOTE: Yes, I somehow went from 766 to 777 and 778, then back down to the 60s to 769. Also I giggled at the number 69. So sue me!).

Oh, let’s see… number one goal in life?

“Oh, I dunno.”


“No,” she said, looking thoroughly disturbed. “change the world? For the better. Specifically. Make a difference.”

Okay, Miss America.

“Write that down. I dunno, that takes different forms...”

Are you gonna do this to me, Mom? Are you gonna make me do this (NOTE: I was talking about having to type so quickly)?

“You made fun of my answer!,” she said indignantly. I explain gently that the Miss America comment was about her on-the-spot life goal, and that my “lame” comment was a joke. I explained more about “lame”:

Oh, I just figure you should know [your life goal] because you’re so old [I didn't 
actually mean that , I meant so learned] and wizened.

“I am not wizened!,” she said, indignant again. “Which I pronounce wee-zend,” she added. I pronounce it wize-end. Oh well... tomayto, tomahto, potayto, potahto.
Here, she decided to narrate her actions for me, saying,  “‘She holds herself upright… in indignation…’” I told you she was indignant. Didn't I tell you that?
Good word, indignant.

I’m still writing what I said!

She waits for me. I catch up.



  1. You are indeed in bold, as you say in the intro. :D

    Just for the record, I didn't yell. I exclaimed in excitement.

    I thought your comment in the man thing segment was, "Is there anyone you're describing?" and I wouldn't be defensive about saying "my sweet husband," I'd be more like deliriously happy that he meets the criteria.

    "Do you know that I love you?" is our sweetie talk code, but you couldn't know that. Saying he "grunts" doesn't convey the sweet loving tone of the "mm-hmm" and leaves out completely the way he stands on the front porch as I go down the block, yelling "I LOVE YOU!" for all the neighbors to hear.

    Do I get bonus points for recognizing your facial expression when you found the word count? Comes from watching Lie to Me, and having you lecture me on the finer points of reading facial expressions.

    Whoa, there are more than 2 words with the vowels in alphabetical order! I just went looking for #2, which is facetious (the word, not the act of hunting for it). If you use facetiously, it even includes the "sometimes-vowel" Y.

    I found an article with several scientific words that also do this, and a couple with the vowels in BACKWARDS alphabetical order. See for the article. How could I possibly have overlooked annelidous?

    My turn next.... Thanks for the set-up for my post. Mmwahahaha.