My Five Favorite Movies for October

October is the first month of my favorite three of the year, the start of a season devoid of every color but brown in Florida but bright and brisk almost everywhere else (or so I hear). It’s when I wear sweaters no matter the weather because I like to act sometimes like I don’t live where wearing winter garb doesn’t make sense. It’s the month that ends a week before my birthday, on one of my favorite holidays:


That October 31 is one of my favorite days is a surprise to some of my acquaintances, probably in part because I quit trick-or-treating in fourth grade and went to a school from fifth grade through twelfth where you’d be written up for wearing black or orange on Halloween.

But there is warmth and comfort in the season, which smells like pumpkin spice, and in big bowls of candy I’ll hand out to strangers and in scary movie nights with all the lights out. It’s a sign for me, of an incoming birthday and an impending Advent, of a corner turned toward Christmas.

This season, I am — so far, by far — the busiest I’ve ever been. Odds are bad I’ll have a lot of time to dedicate to how I’d usually spend it, which includes watching my five favorite movies for October. Here they are in random order. Perhaps you’ll enjoy ’em on my behalf:

Poltergeist: Some things at first can’t be explained, like how Carol Anne — the youngest of the three Freeling children — gets stuck inside the family’s television, and why Poltergeist is one of my favorite movies. But the flick, written by Steven Spielberg, et al, has been among my favorites since childhood, when I’m fairly certain I first watched it with my maternal grandparents. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen it, but I still jump during several scenes (especially when Robbie’s toy clown turns up in an unexpected place).

The Orphanage: The first time I saw the Orphanage, I sat on one side of the couch and my best friend sat on the other. At the end of the film, we discovered we both subconsciously had scooted into the middle, because we really were that scared. The movie, produced in part by Guillermo del Toro, is in Spanish with English subtitles, has a happy ending for a horror movie, and is part of why I am kind of afraid of the dark. (Worth it!)

The Blair Witch Project: Required viewing for a class I took in college, this movie — which you’ll either love or hate — has a whole lot of nothing in it but is shot and directed so you are scared while watching it anyway. In it, three young adults embark on foot through the woods, in a search on film for the “Blair witch.” They get lost, mad at each other, and very, very scared when what they hear in the dark can’t be identified. Watch ’til the end, even if you’re bored, ’cause the end totally makes it.

Halloween: Because best theme song ever. Hear it here.

Casper: Who among us didn’t kind of have a crush on Casper, as he appeared in human form toward the end of the movie? In this film, the ghost befriends Kat — played by Christina Ricci — who moved into a haunted mansion with her dad. Lucky for the pair, her father is a ghost expert and Casper is just the kind of friend Kat needs. It’s warm and fuzzy enough to be among my five favorites.

What are YOUR favorite movies for October?

The best and the worst of my trip to the Everglades, Miami, the Bahamas and Key West.

Question: What did the Everglades, Miami, the Bahamas and Key West have in common last week?


Like any financially irresponsible grad student, I followed my spring semester’s finals week with a week-long respite from reality. A tour via car and cruise ship of a bunch of places I hadn’t been. A much needed vacation.

I am back and tan, and happy to report three of the best and three of the worst parts of the trip.

Three of the Best Parts of the Trip

1. Holding a baby alligator. I loitered beside the baby alligator exhibit at an attraction in the Everglades until the guy and the girl in charge of it showed up. Upon expressing interest in holding one of the babies, the girl fetched a gator and the guy grabbed the tape (the kind he uses to tape a gator’s mouth shut). There was not, however, enough tape left on the roll, so the guy wandered away to retrieve more. Which is when, from within the grip of the girl who helps run the exhibit, the gator took a leak. So if there’d been enough tape left on the roll at the start, the following would be a picture of me, standing in a puddle of gator pee. Instead, thank God, this picture did not come with urine:

I named him Gipetto.

2. The snapper. In Nassau, I ate at Sharkeez, where I asked our server for what she recommends of the restaurant’s specials of the day. She, in turn, asked if I wanted something Bahamian. Heck yes, I said, so she recommended the snapper. Only an hour or two earlier, from my underwater seat in a glass bottom boat, I’d listened to our tour guide gush over snapper – grilled or fried – while snapper swam past my face. So naturally, I said, “Let’s go grilled snapper.” to my server. Like an hour later (Only barely an exaggeration. I think they may have gone outside to catch it.), she brought me my dish. And it turned out to be the best fish I have ever eaten in my life. Delightful. Even if it had a face.



3. St. Francis on the Beach. One of my favorite parts about being Catholic is the fact that no matter where  I am in the world, I can a) find a Roman Catholic church, b) go to mass at said church and c) the mass will be exactly the same there as it is at every other Catholic church in the world that day. Same readings, same prayers, same order, same Eucharist. And so it is familiarity in an otherwise unfamiliar place. A home away from home. So on the Sunday of my trip, I went to mass at St. Francis de Sales, a.k.a. St. Francis on the Beach, in Miami Beach. Great to have a home away from home, and for this one to be named after one of my favorite saints.

Honorable mentions: South Beach cab drivers, the roosters in Key West, the obligatory stop at the southernmost point in the continental US in Key West, pizza available 24/7 on the ship, running up a down escalator and the alarm clock incident. (Stay tuned to the true story series for explanations of the last two on this list.)

Three of the Worst Parts of the Trip:

1. Popular beach attire. It is perhaps special to South Beach for women to wear thong bikini bottoms (or otherwise not enough clothes) while they’re swimming and sunning, since never have I ever seen so much butt on a trip to the beach. (And I’m a big Florida gulf coast beach goer.) There is something alarming and sad about a culture in which it is not considered inappropriate to walk hand in hand with your three-year-old child while you rub sunblock into your exposed butt cheeks with your other hand.

2. Sunburn. I love a good tan as much as the next girl who loves a good tan, but on a raft in the water at Coco Cay (Royal Caribbean’s private island), I lost track of time and (as a result) a couple of layers of skin. The burn has since turned to tan, however, and I pledge to reapply sunscreen frequently the next time(s) I’m in the sun.

3. Vertigo. The cruise ended Friday. It is now Tuesday. And I still feel like I am on a ship.

Honorable mentions: Running up a down escalator, Royal Caribbean’s lack of a dessert comparable to Carnival’s Warm Chocolate Melting Cake.

Body parts and celebrities.

As is also the case for many of my fellow bloggers, I really like to check my site’s stats. Using Blogger’s basic tracking tools, I get graphs like this:

And this:

I’m famous in India!

But the best bonus, I think, of having access to blog stats is the set of search terms that Google uses to send readers to my blog. In keeping track of what people search for that brings them here, I have compiled a list.

The Top Five Most Unlikely Search Terms That Lead Readers to My Blog:

[insert drum roll here]

– “enrique iglesias nose” 
– “enrique iglesias face” 
– “where to find wealthy men in tampa bay”
– “big boobs women”
–  “enrique’s penis” 

To the folks who found my blog by Googling any of the above terms, sorry to disappoint.

I think the moral of this story for all of us is that if you want a lot of blog traffic, you ought to mention body parts (such as BUTTS!) and celebrities.

In conclusion, JUSTIN BIEBER.

Red is for blood.

Despite the post I wrote last night (not to mention today’s date), it didn’t dawn on me until I arrived at work that today is Valentine’s Day.

Which is why I was horrified to realize I am wearing a red sweater.

Realize that the red and the pink and the chocolate and the “Hi, significant other! I’ll treat you like you’re special today because Hallmark says I should.” of the Valentine’s Day in which the Americans who celebrate it partake have this much to do with Saint Valentine, whose feast day is today: ZERO PERCENT.

Sorry to disappoint.

But my day was saved by friend and fellow blogger SVB:

Me: I’m so ashamed. I accidentally wore a red sweater today and I did not intend to look festive.

SVB: If people ask about your sweater, you can just tell them you are celebrating St. Valentine’s imprisonment and eventual bloody ending.

 Martyrdom > consumerism.

Just sayin’. Thanks, SVB!

Valentine’s Day.

I traditionally don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. (That I’ve been single most Valentine’s Days as an adult is a coincidence.)

But one Valentine’s Day does go down in Arleen history as the best I ever had.
I was a seventh grader with braces and glasses, in denial that I had curly hair. One morning, a few weeks before our class’s Valentine’s Day party, my homeroom teacher — Mrs. Svendsen — passed out a sheet of paper. On it was a list of every student in our class. Our instructions were as follows:
Next to each student’s name except your own, write a good quality about him or her. 
And without knowing why, we did. 
Which is why on Valentine’s Day, when Mrs. Svendsen handed us each a sealed envelope, we were not expecting what we found inside it.
I wonder if Mrs. Svendsen expected it to mean as much to us as it did (at least, it meant so much to me).