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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

35: The Limit Unless Otherwise Posted - And so it goes.

Hello crocker faithful. I am afraid I am still perhaps uninspired to share the events of my own life, as they have primarily consisted of me not doing the dishes for days on end. The only insight I can provide is, therefore, a flight of fantasy into the lives I imagine others may have. Have I run out of things to say? Maybe. Or I am really that surprised that Easter is still far away and I am still writing this? Yes, that too I'm sure. Maybe it's that I've entered a solid Billy Joel phase. And not a Billy Joel the radio hits phase like I did my sophomore year of college, but more a Billy Joel "maybe I should consider alcoholism as an option" deep cuts of Billy Joel. And no worries, no drinks for me, but I'll be darned if the piano man's slow jams don't have me saying, "Billy my boy, pour me another."

That said, on to the flight of fancy...or outdoorsy casual, as the case may be.

A broken-hearted love letter from the guy in on page 73 of the L.L. Bean catalog:

My Dear, Sweet Paige,

I write to you with a heavy heart. Sure, it's not visible beneath my cotton/cashmere sweater, which is, unlike my heart, remarkably light, yet able to endure intense fluctuations in temperature and temperament by that unpredictable mistress the weather. Ah if only I were made of two of the finest fibers in the world, and of those finest fibers, the finest selections, like my sweater. If that were the case, maybe I would have been able to love you with every fiber of my being because I would possess a soul comprised of the stuff that could seamlessly transition from an early morning walk outside to grab firewood to a teleconference with the boss, to a glass of wine on the porch at sunset - paired with khakis, paired with you.

You know, I think cashmere sounds so expensive because the word "cash" is in there. It's like, you expect to pay more because they mention cash up front, and we both know it is SO worth it. I refer to all my cashmere as my cash now. Trevor - you remember him, he does a lot of pants print work because he has a nice ass, but never models shorts because one leg is shorter so the knee caps don't line up - Trevor makes all these hilarious jokes about how he's taking his cash' biz' cas' - wearing cashmere to business meetings with jeans. Man, he got going on how his jeans are now to be referred to as "dungarees" and calls his best Friday outfit his "cash and dungs," for when he wants to seal a business deal in comfort. Well, the boys love a good fabric joke. Add to that a joke about workplaces we never visit because we're models, and you have got a laugh riot on your hands. Sometimes they'll just let him talk through shoots because he always gets us laughing so, we end up actually looking like we're laughing somewhat naturally in our group shots. You know, mainly the ones where we're all on a dock, or a deck, or gathered around sailing lines at a boat's helm.

Ugh! Look at how sidetracked I've become. You know me, always off in the margins or staring off into the distance when I should be staying focused. It's hard being such a dreamer. And rugged individualist.

But anyway, here I am. With heavy heart, and a pain that is as intense as the penetrating gaze of my ice-blue eyes as they stare at the world, not betraying any hint as to what may be causing my wry smile. Ok, probably not that intense, but what is? What I'm trying to say is, Paige, when I first saw you on page 24, having a blast playing croquet in your sleeveless madras dress with double front pockets, I thought, "Wow, if ever there were a woman who could successfully bring back madras prints - it's her."

You were at once radiant and reserved, classic and charismatic, blue-blood and young blood. You were the picture of everything I'd hoped to find in a woman - the woman I hoped to find in you. And then when I met you, I could not believe it. I asked you if you were from New Hampshire. You said Maine. I called you my Maine squeeze. You laughed a little. We talked about work.
You said, "I knew you were different when I realized you were always in front of the same lake. It took me until the fall catalog to realize that your jawline was an exact replica of the rugged water's edge they always put you in front of. What beauty."

No one had ever noticed that before. I told you then that I loved you.

You turned away shyly into a sunset, then looked back, laughing over your shoulder as your red head scarf blew into your neck and provided the perfect complement to your navy blue sweater. I can see you just like that now - laughing over a shoulder casually, looking so at ease with the life you are living.

I would say it's because of my strong and abiding memories, but it's also helped by your appearance on the spring issue's shoe pages. Boat shoes, maryjanes, dress sandals. You could make them all biz cas, even lifting your foot spryly behind you on page 54. Such is your grace.

What happened to us? After I went to do those flannel shots in the snow at the cabin for the winter online catalog, things were different. You swore you did not mind my new winter catalog beard, but I still think that played a part in the distance between us. You said it was the snow, but I know Miriam has a snowmobile, I've seen her all over the outdoor section. She even did a snow shoe page!
I know, I should not blame Miriam. This is about us. But I still feel like you could have tried harder to see me. I grew a beard, you took to the fireside with a warm turtleneck sweater and a perpetually hot cup of cocoa, and it seems like ever since the lake between our pages has become the lake between our hearts.

And then the thing happened. I know you still say it's not any different than my growing a beard, but I, I am sorry. I cannot change the way I feel about it. I cannot help feeling like you lied to me. I thought you were a white blonde. That your hair gleamed pale white in the sunlight with a purity that none could sully - its own superior genetic mandate that it remain perfcct. And then I found you, hair wrapped in foil and dye, casually perusing a Lands' End catalog. "They have cheap polos" was all you could say.

Well, it tore away a piece of my heart as easily as one can tear away the long legs of detachable hiking and camping pants simply by means of a zipper. But the pieces of my heart did not get tossed in your stuffsack. They flew away, into the campfire of life. To see you, exposed. Dyeing your hair blonde. Cheating on L.L. Bean with the last resort - the End of the line. Sullied.

I felt filthy. Suddenly even the happy barks of my chocolate lab Miles from his Tartan dog bed were only semi-sweet. And that made me think of your Yellow Lab Lucy, and how you'd probably dyed her fur too, since she was always impeccably clean despite living in such rugged environs. You weren't the real thing. You were only an image of the woman I wished you would be. You had me fleeced. In a periwinkle midweight fleece. And my God did it complement my hair's natural blonde highlights and allow for breathable outdoor comfort and all of the mobility of a lightweight jacket. I already felt the pangs of regret at losing you, but then that image of you in the foils would come back to me. Haunting me.

Never again would we stand and enjoy tea in front of a fire in our matching lightweight silk long underwear, anticipating the inevitable seduction that would follow when the motion of our ragg wool socks conducted enough static electricity that sparks would literally fly. And then we'd carefully set out tea mugs on the fireplace mantle, and then make our way down to the handwoven loop rug below where we'd smother each other with smoldering glances in the fire's light.

I am sorry Paige. I cannot abide these betrayals. These truths. These are wrinkles that, though my wrinkle-free khakis can withstand their weight, my heart cannot. You have pierced my heart as my gaze pierces many many catalog shoppers. That night, when I got in my canoe to leave you on your side of the lake, it was so hard to look over my shoulder as I went and know that I was looking less than 100% rugged, but that's what I was feeling. I am sorry you had to see me that way, as I know first-hand how devastating it can be to see someone not live up to their pages. And Paige, my Paige, I can no longer look at your pages. I just can't believe you're actually having that much easy-going fun with light laughs. Trevor isn't even in the same section. It's just not feasible.

Anyway, even with all of this pain, there is pleasure. The pleasure of knowing I'll use this pain to make myself look even more rugged. More rough and tumble. More grizzled. I may even try to get a hiking boot tableau. We'll see.
And even in all of this despair, I hope you don't get the mom swimsuits this year. No one deserves that.

Know you were once my everything, now just a Paige in the past.

Keep smiling though.

Ever through the trees,

p.s.- you should probably dye yellow blonde this summer, I hear orange is going to be big and I think it'd help make your eyes sizzle.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Thirty Four-ward Progress

As I enter the crockpot today, I am finding that I'm thinking of the spot the ball at forward progress rule in football. I'm distracted by my own head's clutter, and then there are other things that are far more important than me writing this, or the crap in my head, that seem to be flooding my brain, reminding me again of just the kind of crap I am cranking out here. So, with that upbeat attitude as I sit down to write this, I am thinking of forward progress and the fact that even when you are being pushed backward while trying to move forward, you still get the spot as far as you advance.

This may just be my attempt at pumping myself up through sports metaphors, which ties into the other realization I had today - that my calling (vocation, I believe it is called by some) may in fact be to integrate sports cliches into professional correspondence and business proposals. I would be some sort of technical/loose metaphor writer for hire, writing things that said nothing in the jargon of both corporate buzz and sports cliche. They would have to be written for actual use though, not amusement. And I think that is where the challenge lies.

Writing Samples for my new Vocation:

Updated Policy for Vacation Day/ Extended Leave Requests

Per stated company vision and mission statements, our team strives to function as one unit, as we all know we are only as good as our weakest link, and we strive to optimize team productivity by always giving 110% out there. Management has seen our efforts, and knows that we are really getting into some good scrums with the work that is up for grabs at the bottom of the pile that is the marketplace. It has come to the attention of our team leadership, however, that we may not be executing what we know how to do well enough to stay ahead of the competition, day in and day out. Some guys have started to get sloppy with the fundamentals, and they expect that someone else will come in off the bench and take care of their work without any negative impact on the team as a whole. Unfortunately, that is not the reality we are dealing with here today. Guys who play in practice - yes, we expect them to know the playbook, inside and out, but there is a considerable difference in the performance of those who have "learned" the plays and those who now instinctively perform the plays as a result of repeated excellence. The whole rhythm of the team is disrupted when someone leaves the game unexpectedly. Guys who may not be used to taking many audibles now have to step up to the line and deliver. And while they do so without fail because they train to win, we ask that all employees, unless they have an illness or unavoidable chronic problem that lands them on the DL, comply with company policy for requesting use of vacation days so that other team members may be adequately prepared to step in and step up during these absences. If you have any questions, please consult with the HR team.
Thank you.

Email Asking for Reconsideration of a Bid for A Contract

It was great to have the opportunity to show you what our squad could do when playing at the top of our game this past Thursday. I was disappointed to learn that you had decided to go with another team's proposal for the Windward Corps. Project, but I respect your decision and am proud of my team's effort. I wanted to reiterate that we simply do not have the personnel to be able to come in and execute the plays you would need us to make in that kind of time frame with the budget that you'd outlined. I'm afraid 35 just won't be enough for us to drive that one home, and I really wonder if the other team you selected will be able to maintain a high level of performance and intensity with that type of demand on their squad. I'm going to look over some things here, really take my guys back to look and see what we did here and see if there's anywhere we can tighten our game plan to be able to improve things when we come back out. We'd really like to show you something the next time around, because the guys on my team are putting their hearts in it and really stepping up in the crucial moments here, making key plays for key players. I hope that in the future you might reconsider our proposal and the capabilities of my team to let us really get to work on the boards for you and bring home a W for both of us.
Thanks again for your time, and congratulations to our competition. They set forth a great proposal and I'm sure they'll be tough to beat in the next round.

* * * * *

A "most-emailed" New York Times article today was a profile about physicist and genius Freeman Dyson, and his recent controversial role as that old prominent scientist who thinks Al Gore is over-stating the threat of global warming. More than that opinion, however, this article really painted a vivid and intriguing picture of a genius over time whose biggest bang was early in his career, and whose opinions have become more controversial as time has gone on, but it's a fierce loyalty to the purpose of science that seems to motivate his opinions (and, I'm guessing, a brain capable of conceiving of a lot of possible outcomes at once without exploding). This was one of my favorite quotes:
"Dyson would later reflect that from then on he saw science as 'a territory of freedom and friendship in the midst of tyranny and hatred.'"
To have a love affair that intense with an entire realm of thinking, and to be a master of that realm - wow. WOW. Wow. This gentleman's story is part Harry Potter, part On the Road, and part Flubber, and if it were to be made into a movie I would want it to be made by Fellini. Though, unless Dyson figures out a way to really get string theory rockin' and time travel knockin' (and the article says he's not a fan of string theory), that would no longer be possible. This article is eight pages, but I read it all (again eight pages is not 2000 pages, but for an online article, 4 would be a usual maximum for me, and then only if I'm very bored at work). I do not know why I found this profile to be so compelling, but it definitely fits into the confines of today's theme of forward progress and a refusal to backpedal.

The other thing I very much liked - there's no right or wrong given.

So this is part cop-out because I'm sort of using today to recommend someone else's excellent writing, but this is more a recommendation to admire the subject of that writing and his commitment to science as both an ideal and a home. A lovely, longstanding, fierce dedication.
A vocation. A vocation that is far from ridiculous.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

33: A grave miscalculation

As I thought about this being the 33rd entry in the crockpot, and my initial impression that I would be composing 40 of these little missives to the masses until the masses of Easter, I was excited to see I only had seven more entries after today. However, as I did some math and thought, "Do I only have a week left to go? That can't be right," I decided to consult a calendar and found that indeed, I could not be right.

Palm Sunday is a week away. Palm Sunday is exactly one week before Easter. I thought Lent was 40 days on the dot, but I, apparently, have miscalculated. Does this reveal my lackluster application of the Biblically significant number 40 to a writing challenge for myself? Perhaps. Does this tip my hand to the fact that I am an errant church-goer by admitting I've only discovered this number difference now? Probably. I will have to consult with a religious authority about the Catholic numbering here, and where Holy Week fits into the overall Lent schematic in day counting, because Holy Week is the granddaddy of them all in terms of Lenten events. The religious authority in question will probably be my mom or dad, who both have recollections of Catholic minutiae from before Vatican II (when Latin went away [causing me to have to look up the spelling of "minutiae" whereas both parents would know that Latin plural rules without consulting a reference guide thanks to Catholicism]), and after. Hopefully they'll continue to be thrilled with my renewed interest in Lent, even though I'm using it more or less as a moral guide for secular tasks.

This realization, along with a number of recent events, and conversations, and happenstances, and email forwards about urban legends, and Madonna in Africa shopping for kids, and the return of spandex leggings as an acceptable form of "pants" have made me give more consideration to the idea of "wrong" and "being wrong," and communication and understanding in general.

While I realize that counting and numbers are generally considered more absolute than say, accurate interpretations of the word "spot" in Shakespeare's Macbeth, being wrong about counting is still fine inspiration for today's topic: being wrong. It made me think about the things I love that I probably should not, and why. And this list does not include things for practical reasons - for example, bacon - because although bacon is probably not nutritionally good for me to love, I believe its goodness as a foodstuff is nearly universally accepted. Bacon is delicious. So yes, bacon, is on a love list, but unapologetically so. The list I am about to share will involve things I love but maybe should not as much as I do. I will include as many items as I mistakenly thought there were days left to write, since this list really could go on for the next 40 days if we did not set limits.

Things I love but maybe shouldn't as much as I do:

1. Matronly clothing for the middle-aged or elderly - speaking of Catholicism, I think I took a bit more away from my years of Catholic education than a skewed ability to count and a healthy disdain for those who add "for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory" to the end of the "Our Father" when praying. I am terrible at shopping for clothes and fairly terrible at selecting fashionable clothing in the unlikely event that I do shop. A friend once described my fashion sense as "matronly." I was 20 at the time. I was momentarily offended, but then I realized she was helping convince me that it was ok to buy myself an oversized cable knit sweater with giant wooden buttons popular among the elderly. To this day it is known as my old man sweater. I kind of think my early exposure to nuns and their many blouses with simple patterns and practical, completely unflattering skirts and accompanying lace-up-yet-non-orthopaedic shoes may have had profound effects on my sense of style. Even in middle-school, I was gravitating toward racks for retirees in Sears, and the entire St. John's Bay collection in J.C. Penneys. Now at least I'm more aware of things, and like to tell myself "age-appropriate! come on! that's for people going on cruises!" when I meander through racks of blazers and slacks with elastic waistbands. But still, my love of a strongly colored floral print in a non-flattering, non-revealing, long-sleeved blouse remains a little stronger than it should be.

2. From the total absence of sexuality in appearance to preserve intact virginity to the total appearance of virginity to present the ultimate in sexuality, number two on the list: the USC Song Girls. The "world-famous USC Song Girls," to use their more accurate title, are a group of college students who are not cheerleaders, so don't even think about calling them that. They are a group of young women who assemble to lead throngs of USC fans in supportive cheers at sporting events. Big difference. They will never be seen hoisted above ground. They may flip their hair over their shoulder, but they certainly won't do any flips. You, my dear fan, will not be catching a view of their bloomers on their descent back to earth, because they do not leave the ground. Their hair is always down - long and flowing and lovely. Usually landing just above the letters U-S-C spelled across the tight-fitting white sweaters hugging their pert young bosoms, or what some might call USC's greatest endowments. All of the feminist in me should rail against this group in some ways. While this dance troupe is essentially devoid of the athleticism and acrobatic ability that makes cheerleading squads in colleges across America compete to see how many yards they can cover with forward flips before falling over, they are certainly, in my opinion, America's greatest collegiate eye candy. And their gleaming white uniforms that will not be sullied by grass or grime of any kind surely reflect the perfection of all things necessary to be ladylike that they so embody. They are a moving horde of a male fantasy, high-kicking on the sidelines with feminine wiles, but certainly nothing crude. That is beneath them. I have come to the defense of the honor of the Song Girls on many occasions. For one thing, they are fantastic tradition, and the pure white so-tight sweaters are a part of that. For two things, they are, even from a distance, visually stunning. Much like the Rockettes, it is their visual sameness and the synchronization of their motions that makes them so appealing. They are organized to move as one unit, which has great visual appeal. Sure, they are very cosmetic in the overall world of sport, but they are a classic symbol, recognizable to many sports fans. And many men with wagging tongues.

3. My wagging tongue - Ryan from the show "The OC." It's actually been so long since "The OC" that I had to reintroduce myself to this actor's actual name - Benjamin McKenzie. I recently saw ads for the new NBC show "Southland" and thought "Ryan's a cop now!" when they showed a shot of him bending over a body, telling his partner something dramatic like, "I don't take taking a life lightly, ok?"
Maybe I was only able to identify him as his old character because it really seemed like that old character had maybe, I dunno, graduated from the police academy and moved a bit north of Orange County given the fact that he was making the exact same face that his old character made all the time on "The OC" when something was troubling enough to brood about (and it always was). In any event, I don't care how they got that troubled teen off the streets, and if they made him change his name to now be a cop - I'll call him whatever his new name may be (I checked the NBC website, and his character's name is "Ben" - quite a stretch here), I'm just thrilled he's back to brood on my television with all of that muted-yet-fiery intensity that makes me certain only I could possibly understand his pain. Much like the Song Girls rely on the male fantasy that "only I could deflower the Song Girls" for their mystique, so too does that actor rely on the female fantasy that "only I could really understand what has him so completely, intensely, and hotly troubled and help him understand how to deal." I should not love an actor with what seems to be, based on the preview, 3-look range, but I do. Turns out his range is right in my range called "doin' it for me." Hope he likes matronly sweaters!

4. Speaking of dirty, I also will admit to eventually liking when I've allowed myself to decay to the point of absolute filth - like, sweat drying on old sweat - days of stink on top of days of stink (writing IS a solitary profession!). This happens very very rarely due to constraints of "civil society" and my "job," but when a weekend happens in which I end up really not getting around to a shower until a Sunday night, I kind of like the grime a little. It's disgusting. My adult-onset acne is, of course, worse for an entire week following such periods of decay, but if the ocean or a camping situation allows me to stink it up, I like it. How I have this disgusting property but never did Outward Bound? Got me.

5. Another thing that I love that would make me think less of me if I were reading this about myself and not writing this about myself - I am a giant sucker for live music in dive bars. I really really tend to want to befriend the performers as quickly as possible. I can't even explain why. But this has happened often enough that I realize this qualifies as a trend. Taking requests? All the better. Enjoy audience interactions? Great! How about I become a groupie? Fabulous. I guess it may be part of my respect for live performance being tough to do, and my enjoyment of having a chance to become engaged in that performance, but it's also probably got a good bit to do with my love of those who will sing classic rock ballads in small spaces with bad acoustics for drunk people. Yep. Got a band? Invite me to your show! I'm already your biggest fan! Try to get the cop named Ben to do your security though...

6. From one cop to another bit of undercover work - Undercover Brother. I love that movie!!! I think it's hilarious, pretty much from start to finish, and am often unable to stop watching it if I happen to catch it airing on t.v. I love it. And I have a crush on Eddie Griffin. And even though it's making fun of blacksploitation movies with jokes that I should see coming a mile away, they still work on me every time. Oh your bellbottoms are so huge that they work as a parachute? Yes! I will laugh out loud! Every time! This entry is very close to not qualifying for the list, as I do believe the movie is a worthwhile and funny movie on the whole, I just love it more than probably makes sense. Ok, to me it makes perfect sense. But then again, so does relishing not having showered. (Again odd, because I also love showers!)

7. And finally, the closing ceremonies bring us to the Winter Olympics. I love them! I know that many people are easily able to pick the Summer Olympics as their favorite Olympic games, but I really can't choose between the two. Both different. Both good. I love the ice skating. Mens. Womens. Pairs. Short program, long program. Even some of the dancing. It works on me! The anticipation of every jump, and the gasps before landing. Butts frosted with ice from a fall. The eyeliner. The Russian accents. It all works on me. Speed skating and its crazy unitard motion also has my number. And more than that, the last Winter Olympiad I fell in love with the biathlon and curling. Incredible sports. And really, don't know that that's a commonly held belief, but the biathlon involves endurance skiing, speed skiing, and SHOOTING GUNS ACCURATELY REPEATEDLY. Maniacs! Total maniacs! I stumbled onto coverage of the biathlon while hoping to catch figure skating, and once I realized how it worked, I was hooked. You have to race to a set of multiple targets. For every target you miss, you ski a penalty lap before being allowed to get back on the long ski race course to the next group of targets. The skills needed to be good at all portions of that event - WOW! I love it.
And curling- WOW again!!! Team team team sport. What other sport employs a human zamboni competitively smoothing ice?!?! None that I know of. I could watch a LOT of curling very happily. The Winter Olympics keep me frozen to my t.v. What can I say?

Greater "wrongs" have been committed in the name of love and negligent hygiene I'm sure, but I'm pretty happily loving those things I hold dear for all the wrong reasons. Or right reasons, but just with more forceful a hold dear than is advisable.

Really though, who's counting?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

32: That's Magic Hour

A lot of things are mystically connected tonight in the city of Los Angeles. Thirty two is Magic Johnson's number. He played for Michigan State, and tomorrow they are trying to recapture magic and move forward in the NCAA tournament, claiming one of the remaining spots on the road to Detroit. And right now in Los Angeles, only one spot remains on Prince's three-performances-in-one-night concert roster. Right now I am probably within 32 minutes of Prince, maybe a sweet 16 miles away from what I can only assume is magic. There has got to be some formula as complex as Pi going on tonight between the fish crockpot, the city, and Magic Johnson. Let's just work with that premise governing our actions as we move forward...

It seems as though it could almost be Sunday here, so lackluster are my thoughts at present, and so unsuitable for sharing does that make them. I did have the thought earlier, as I realized I had not much to say tonight, that we magically slipped into a single-digit remaining day count in the crockpot. Tomorrow is the one week mark! Ay and oy both!

Because I am a worrier, I like to borrow trouble like [insert banking joke of your own making here]! What will become of the crockpot? What will I do if I don't have the public imperative dangling over me? Will I stop having 11 p.m. stress-induced snacks and fit in my pants again?
SO MANY QUESTIONS. So little time. Eight days!

In the spirit of irrational worry, obsession, and writer's block, I thought it would be best to borrow trouble and look into the future - the apocalyptic future predicted by Prince, should he and Michael Jackson release new albums at the same time.

Here, we find the record that was left behind...

"I tried to run from my destruction..."
This was the message that flashed in purple lettering across the side of the Goodyear blimp that circled over what seems it may have once been the city, in the rest of the land discovered on this expedition. The blimp was initially presumed hostile, making its low, droning hum and circling slowly, without changing pace or direction once. It took logistics two whole weeks to find a toy car on the ground circling the exact same pattern through the city as the blimp above. The toy car was assumed hostile until it was determined that its only means of propulsion was indeed the spinning key in the rear bumper of the car, and that when that eventually stopped, so too, might the blimp.
Neither of these events came to pass during my time there, in the land so close to the edge.

The most interesting piece I discovered was what seemed to be a journal. It often referenced pictures that were not present, and rambled on at length about images that did not exist in the margins of the page. Though this became tiresome, I still managed to read on, as it was my only assignment at the time.

The journal used "U" instead of the full word "you" as a stylistic device. All other language customs seemed to be observed as standard.

The opening passages seemed to describe a land of great confusion and yet, happiness. Pages described incessant dancing, and though the exhaustion of many dancers was cataloged in great detail, there was no consideration given to stopping the dance, or changing the music. Even when the music slowed, the motion continued. A local leader, distressed at the death of his wife, seemingly from exhaustion and dehydration from dance, conspired to disrupt the power flow to the source of the music to persuade his neighbors to rest. The resulting fury was so great that angry mobs made this man stand with disco balls suspended from his limbs on a spinning platform in the center of town, a human disco ball of sorts. Apparently only a song about a man in a mirror stopped the crowd's taunting of this man and cruelty toward his desire to respect the limitations of human form. Though they had spared his life, the man wandered town for the rest of his days dragging a disco ball shackled to his ankle that he either was unable, or did not try, to remove.
The journal speaks of great unifications among rivals. East and West met in the middle. A great council was formed with membership including: Ricky Martin, Whitney Houston, Lionel Richie, Mick Jagger, Prince, and Michael Jackson. For reasons of security, though the text was unclear whether that meant the security of these individuals or those they would be near, Prince and Michael Jackson never appeared in public together. Special consulates were everywhere they needed to be, with Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks monitoring mountain ranges and open flats, respectively. Even more mysterious - the secret chancellors rumored to be overseas in the form of David Bowie and Paul McCartney. No one could be sure if they really did exist even, much less if they supported the great council that apparently had united for world domination.
There was a great rumor of uprisings against the council led by a character named Bob Geldof. His relation to any of the aforementioned leaders was unclear. His ability to successfully organize a coup was unconfirmed, though he had been charged with impersonating Bono several times in the Caribbean. The charges were all eventually dropped, but the panties his falsehoods were aimed at, had not. At the time, no one thought Geldof was capable of anything more vicious than middle-aged lust, but the records are unclear. Scratched.
Fragments and details reveal an organization of an army of dance. Uniforms were issued. Choreography ensued. An uprising was in the offing. But how the destruction began, the pages I examined did not illuminate. And whether the forces of good or evil were responsible for the chaos, I also cannot report with any certainty.

At time of writing, I had just received a message from a colleague who was on assignment doing soil analyses. He reported the rumor that the toy car had veered off course, run into a wall, and that consequently, the blimp hovered in one place, casting a strange shadow on the city that was beginning to create a new climate in the area that stood in its shadow below. The scientists grappled with whether to move the car away from the wall so that it could resume its circling, or leave it in place, to see what effect the blimp would have over time. It is said that a dog found the car and moved it, mistaking it for a play thing. In the place where it had stood idling futilely for days, the following phrase had been etched into the stone:
No One Wants to be Defeated
I do not know if that is true. But it is believed.

Friday, March 27, 2009

31: Flavors of the day - Try a new one! Live on the Edge!

Well, if you did not read yesterday's blog or watch The Tonight Show with Jay Leno last night, I have to begin by firmly endorsing the video clip of Prince's performance as a worthwhile use of time and eyeballs. It is available at

That said, this morning I did indeed dial the number of the soft rock radio station multiple times while driving to work to attempt to win the Prince concert tickets they were giving away. (Ok, I "dialed" it twice, I hit "resend" on my phone multiple times). The tickets went up for grabs after the station played Sinead O'Connor's version of "Nothing Compares 2 U" and then pointed out the fact that it's a Prince song. Great segue into a Prince ticket giveaway, and nearly total confirmation that maybe Prince made his way to McCartney's Mansion by way of my increased repeated exposure to his music on radio airwaves.

To win the tickets in question, one had to both be the lucky caller, and unscramble the following two words into the correct and applicable two new words: THIS TREAT.
I cannot tell you how hard, when Prince tickets were on the line and I was operating a motor vehicle, this unscramble became. Often times the soft rock word scrambles are so obvious that they should be called word over-easies, not word scrambles. (Did I just lay an egg of an egg joke there? I think I did).
Answer to this one, that was a major stumper for me, appears at end of blog.

I did not win, but the woman who did was so excited that it was, in the end, preferable that she won. I completely believed her claim that Prince was her all time favorite and this win and concert viewing would be a transformative experience for her. By the time she was done, I was happy that I had no chance with my sub-par unscrambling skills this morning. She deserved to go. I am wowed enough by the Prince appearances on The Tonight Show, let's be honest.

And speaking of being wowed-the solitary sunset...
I am very fortunate to live near the beach. I know this, but today I really appreciated it more. People always ask things like "Do you go every day since you're so close to the water?" And no, I do not, but I am beginning to think maybe that makes me a moron.

I ended up at the beach today because I needed to buy a new pair of sunglasses. My trusty Target shades (which I almost did not buy because they were a whole $12, and that seemed expensive) had, after many near misses and much abuse, lost the war of my purse's daily travels. Knocked down, drug out time-and-time again, I pulled them out of my purse one morning to discover one arm was missing. Someone call Richard Kimball, I found the Fugitive! And he's been at the end of my nose all along.

You can make due in California without a lot of things, but sunglasses is not one of them.

So today I trekked to the Boardwalk, where the sunglasses vendors may only be outnumbered by wacky t-shirt/marijuana paraphernalia stores. I stopped myself from buying the third pair I tried on at the first store I went to simply because I wanted to be done looking, telling myself I should shop around and not buy the first pair in which I don't look like the older sister of Max Headroom.

I bought the fifth pair I tried on at the second store I went to. I even spent three additional dollars to get the polarized pair. That was something good for me, right? Having made short work of my reason for being at the beach, I found myself compelled to challenge the Pacific to live up to its name and calm me down, to bring on a happy hour to welcome the weekend and wash away the week between my toes. Or at least the funk from the week that was still between my toes - sometimes I'm too lazy to get to those hard-to-reach places in the shower, let's be honest.

After navigating myself away from the boardwalk where I thought there might be an unofficial casting call for a t.v. movie-of-the week version of Lolita, but set somewhere that involved a lot more pitbulls than the Kafka version, I made my way toward the serenity of the sand and surf.

As I began walking, many things washed over me - gum wrappers, plastic bags, bits of seaweed, pieces of styrofoam plates, solo cups. Dead bugs. Live bugs. A lot of trash. There is a John Cheever short story in which the narrator says something like, "My siblings and I had always been Atlantic Ocean snobs," referring to the Pacific. Having grown up with the Atlantic as my concept of "the ocean," and that specific part of the Atlantic having been fairly trash-free, I definitely agree with Cheever's narrator on the whole. But today I was able to see the Pacific for the first time all over again. Eventually, a sense of peace and calm followed. This mostly happened when I started watching the other people enjoying the Pacific and remembering the ways in which Los Angeles is not a natural baseline for evaluation of most anything.

After a few moments realizing the ocean was awesome (and like, the actually meaning of awesome, not the pop culture meaning of awesome), I asked myself why the hell I wasn't on the beach every day at sunset. Then I asked myself why a lot more of L.A. wasn't on the beach at sunset, as the majority of people around were not, from all outward appearances, from L.A.

The answer, of course, is the good old-fashioned omni-answer for all causal relationship questions in L.A. - traffic.

Why are you late? Traffic. Why'd you break up? Traffic. You lost your job? Traffic. Oh you're getting married? Cuts down on traffic. Favorite band? Traffic.

Those whom I saw - anonymous and sun-soaked:

There were couples in love. There were people on-loan from their real lives elsewhere in the world. There were people alone. There were lonely people. There were joggers with east coast college names emblazoned on their t-shirts, still proud of the ole' alma mater though they'd wisely escaped to the west where that college t-shirt is all one needs in the way of running apparel 365 days-a-year. There were a lot of middle-aged women who had very outdoorsy versions of sandals, and like, billowing pants that clearly has some sort of "microfiber" cache in the catalogs in which they were sold. There were middle-aged white men who thought they were far younger walking with too-young-for-them Asian women. There were crazy, eccentric, and/or spiritual folks gazing knowingly or intensely at sun, sky, surf, strangers. There were people shivering when the wind blew - these were the Angelenos.

Then came the larger groupings:

Well dressed men who were either European or gay. Teenagers who looked around too much to be up to anything good. There were also teenagers on dates of three, where someone was inevitably left to bunch sand in his or her palm and then watch it drain back to earth through a loosely clenched fist while the couple he or she came with fell to the sway of the setting sun and began canoodling indiscriminately, poor third wheel be damned! Surfers glistening in the water, bobbing up and down with waves and excitement as momentum and skill collided in foamy harmony. Then Midwestern families, with parents taking pictures or home movies of their children frolicking in the water, in March of all months! The pale and pasty bodies of their children a ghostly contrast to everyone they were near who avoids the water and its perceived sub-freezing temperature simply because they have the luxury of coming back on a day when it is warmer.

I remember being SO WHITE each year when we went to the beach for vacation. Unable to wait for our tans to develop over time, or to deny our bodies the euphoria induced by doses of vitamin D that intense at once, we would stay out, in the water, playing all day, burning the hell out of our pasty white hides. But the pure joy of taking in that sun for the first time after long doses of darkness, and winter, and wool - it was too great to squelch with reason.

I witnessed
this exact phenomenon today as lily-white blonde kids stripped to their swim trunks as fast as they could, gangly limbs flailing as they went, parents yelling after them, "Wait for your brother!," and "Tie your shorts! At the waistband! Tie them!," and "Smile! Zach! Zachary smile this way!," as they tried to capture their children's essences by camera like soul-stealers of old. And the kids' reaction to all of the above requests was the same whirrrrring sound of limbs devoted to the action of release in something as big as the ocean. I loved this.

Smaller kids had shovels and were busy busy busy with the construction of sandcastles, sand piles, sand monuments. Sand on top of sand. Motion motion motion. Action action action. And some splashing. The 7-10 year-old age bracket was madly in love with sand assault. Throwing wet sand at one another seemed to be a game better than any formal sport common to American tradition. I was less fond of this one, as I both did not want to be collateral damage to a sport of which I was not a fan, and the stupid-every-mother in me came out with warning bells and risk management proclamations in my head. "That could get in someone's eye! Then what? Sand in the eye? Come on guys. Wash up for dinner." But even in this rough-housing sand fighting, the joy was everywhere. Smiles plastered to faces like the wet hair nearby, above the eyebrows. A day at the beach.

In a city where personhood is sometimes of the utmost importance, and if you do not feel personally up to the expectation of the rest of the population for you, the effects can be quite damaging to one's self-esteem, the ocean serves as the great equalizer. More powerful than any one person's status, beauty, wealth, endless adolescence - though it supports this last point with its room for vast escape of reality - the ocean can build you up, knock you down, wash you clean.

Pacific, today you did your job for me, and for that, I thank you.

When I got home and saw my new sunglasses in my bathroom mirror, I realized my new pair looks like hard plastic 3-D glasses. A little off Target (Prince knows even this, Target is the way to go [ref day 30]), but polarized, hey! And the portal to my new vision, and appreciation, of the normalcy provided unto us, those living on the edge of the world, by the world's very edge itself - that Pacific coastline.

The Pacific?
It's not that cold. Really.
Now I just need to learn to surf.



Thursday, March 26, 2009

30: Welcome to my Thirties!

I can't believe the fishcrockpot is thirty! I bet it isn't going to get carded much any more, especially with the way it's been hanging the fish lately. It IS just like the 28 - 29s again, everyone was right!

Maybe I am getting old. Ok, I am getting old. But proof of this keeps finding me in unusual ways - things like my disheartening overheard interaction by a youngster who did not find dialogue believable in a movie I liked yesterday and my immediate curmudgeonly reaction. Then I keep hearing "More than a Feeling" by Boston on the soft rock station. I thought that was just plain old rock. Who decides these things? It's like, when did Billy Ocean's "Caribbean Queen" suddenly become an oldie? Didn't that song just come out?

And it's only then when I realized it didn't, that I figured out, again, "Oh, I'm old...DAMN IT!"

This past Halloween I dressed up as Magnum P.I.
After a confusing conversation with a student about my costume, and whether I was going out with friends, I realized she thought Magnum P.I. was something requiring many people (which sure, if I'd had a T.C. and Rick or Higgins with me, I would have looked better, but you can be a stand-alone Magnum). Turns out she thought Magnum P.I. was a band. A BAND!!!
My immediate reaction was, "Oh my GOD you're YOUNG!!!!!"
Her reaction, because she's a very caring sweetheart, "I can't help it!"
It's true, she can't.

In any event, I found out today that I am old because last night I randomly caught the end of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and found Prince performing. PRINCE. Amazing. Today I heard that the soft rock station was giving away Prince tickets to its reward club members. Like, seriously, the same people trying to win tickets to Disney Stars on Ice by joining the rewards club on the website are now being offered tickets to a Prince concert. Which I'm sure they would take, as I don't understand how anyone would not want to see Prince, but again, the soft rock give away is Prince? Am I that old? Prince is not easily soft rock quantifiable, for my money, unless we're making "Diamonds and Pearls" the definitive example of Prince music (laughable). I do suppose he defies classification, but still. Soft rock is low on my list of genres in which to put Prince, and I love soft rock!

Things I learned on Jay Leno's show:

Prince is the closest thing I think we have to a demigod as the American people. He is tiny yet all powerful. Mysterious, enchanting, wily, seductive, here and not, feared and revered, capable of magic - easily disappearing and reappearing as suits his needs.

Jay Leno is visibly uncomfortable sharing a stage with demigods.

I have had the argument with many heterosexual, non-homophobic men that consists of the following:

My assertion: Prince could have sex with anything he wanted, anyone he wanted, anytime he wanted, regardless of that object or person's personally held belief in their sexual preference or desire or lack thereof, for Prince or anyone else, simply because his command of sexuality is that comprehensive. You would not even know you that choice was a choice, so complete and engulfing would be Prince's seduction.

The retorts:
"No, he's way too short! He's tiny! That'd be weird!"
"No, he's way too feminine! If I were going to try something with a guy I'd want it to be a guy's guy."
"No, Prince is crazy! He's Prince! You can't have sex with Prince as a guy, that'd be wrong."
"No, he's a dude. I wouldn't feel right."

I argue that he wouldn't feel a thing, actually, until Prince commanded it become otherwise, at which point he would feel everything more intensely than he even imagined feeling could be possible, and would forever after claim to know what purple tastes like.

My simple, steadfast belief is that, if he wanted to, Prince could and would blow your mind. Any mind he set his upon.

I stand by this claim.

His Tonight Show performance did nothing, and I mean nothing to refute this claim.

Surrounded by 80s ladies, jellyfish, images of himself and images of women/meditation/yoga/sex/himself from his new album (JELLYFISH I TELL YOU!), Prince took to the stage with topical lyrics - political messages, "the white house is now the black house, it's time to take back the radio" (I think for Jay Leno this was the equivalent of having a Black Panther on the show), messages of sex "OOOH! feel the funk!," and messages of action and truth that, to paraphrase, said, "I don't know why everyone is acting like things just got shitty and unfair here, check in my old neighborhood, the economy was never good there" and "The only thing complaining ever accomplished was bitter hearts."
Amen Prince, I say to thee, even as I feel my own thump to its vinegar beat.

The man is able to surround himself with giant fake jellyfish and look completely empowered. That is godlike. He invented Carmen Electra for indigo's sake.

And before I throw in the link so you can see this yourself, may I say that Halle Berry was a guest on this episode, and Prince out-Halle-ed her hair!
Prince has Halle's hair from the year she won the Oscar and looks better in it, modern day, right now, as a man, than Halle Berry did then or now.

Reread that and TRY to comprehend how unbelievable that is:
Prince has Halle's hair from the year she won the Oscar and looks better in it, modern day, right now, as a man, than Halle Berry did then or now.

Halle Berry is gorgeous. Genetically gifted in ways that few are. And I am saying Prince outdid her playing her.

That is the power of Prince.

Doubt me? See for yourself.

Things I learned on KOST 103.5 during their Prince segment, in addition to my advanced age:

Prince is playing three consecutive nights on the Tonight Show. Can't wait to see the joy on Jay Leno's face. Can't wait to see if Prince has something other than jellyfish tonight. I'm guessing he'll change it up.

Prince is playing three consecutive shows in one night in Los Angeles. This weekend.

Prince is releasing a new album.
Which leads to the thought that....
the fishcrockpot may be a psychic portal.

Reference day 25
Really. If you go back and re-read the madness that appeared in day 25 of the crockpot, you will find a dialogue among Prince, Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, and a member of Prince's The Revolution. In said dialogue, Prince posits that were he and Michael Jackson to simultaneously release comeback albums containing fury and funk to the level of which they are both artistically capable, the resulting dance party and funk would be so intense for the whole of humanity that it would, through cosmic circumstances, not malicious intent, precipitate the end of the world.

After I first shared my idea that MJ and Paul McCartney live together in cartoon form, I was informed that MJ is releasing an album. Then, after incorporating Prince into day 25, on day 30, I learn that Prince is in fact, releasing an album (three-in-one, it seems like, sold exclusively through Target, which shows the depths of Prince's devotion to Minnesota, corporate home of Target Stores, and Prince). While I am sure there is some perfectly reasonable explanation for all of this, like maybe KOST 103.5 has been playing tons of Prince lately to prepare the public for his new album release and I just absorbed their marketing so completely that I felt Prince was an organic addition to the McCartney Mansion, and not one that should in any way portend end times, I still would like to state for the record, just like MJ did with that Thriller video, that the fishcrockpot is in no way associated with, nor in support of, the occult. We cannot be responsible for what happens to the fate of the world, we're just working on getting to day 40 here.

So, with that legal disclaimer given, and my old age affirmed, I immediately went about seeing what it would take to see Prince in any one of his 3 parts of his 3 concerts in one night concert series in Los Angeles, by means of the internet. It would take between $109 and $2000 (though buy 2 tickets now, and purchase like it's $1999). There was also one stub hub ticket for $9400+, but it seemed to only specify seats for a non-existent row. Two tickets were available at that bargain price.

If anyone in the greater Los Angeles area or beyond feels that we should "Let's go crazy!" and try to see Prince, please do contact me. I'm sure it's a terribly wonderfully impractical awesome idea.

And so loyal crocker-rockers, I give this final (fuzzy due to ownership rights, apparently) gift to you, and challenge you to not get a tingle somewhere at least once while watching this. Sure, it can be your pinkie toe, but I guarantee something is going to feel it. Also, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for a certain surgeon who knows MJ quite well, according to day 25.

To the thirties! And where the rambling, or psychic connections, may take us!

Don't make me chase you, even doves have pride.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Twenty Nine Palms and I hear your voice on the radio...

The Robert Plant song "29 Palms" was an unexpected surprise when I first heard it, and that was before I even knew 29 palms was a place. 29 Palms was a good surprise. Today has been full of surprises, good and bad. I was hoping to get this written earlier in the day, but now I realize I am thrilled I did not have the chance as, unlike yesterday when I was wandering hoping writing would find me, today a theme took its time to appear, and that theme was the element of surprise. The out of the blue. And the resulting emotions. That theme, perhaps in an ode to itself, came out of the blue. Hit me about 20 minutes ago. And here I am now.

I should have listened to the Star Wars website yesterday. If anything is predictable in Han Solo's life, it's the unexpected. So today, when I thought I was happily frozen-in-motion, someone cracked open my Han
Solo carbonite case - the most unexpected of sources - and all the Hans inside came pouring out.

No wonder I was afraid of what was in there! What a mess!
But in action, progress. I suppose. It does not feel like progress right now.

And how fitting indeed that the sight of one portion of my surprise, and the surprise into which I will delve most today, occurred in a building funded by the fortunes George Lucas amassed from Star Wars.

Tonight I went to a screening of the new movie Adventureland which I was expecting to be not much more than the latest Apatostle following an Apatow mold and savior. Not that there's anything wrong with doing that, by the way, as there as some fine buddy buddy buddy comedies in the bunch. But this one had a bit less straight up p*ssy jokes, and a bit more heart, in my opinion. Maybe I thought this was going to be the movie I thought it was because it is absolutely being marketed as such, with Bill Hader (excellent in all things!) and Kristen Wiig (ditto!) doing wacky 80s-ish bits as out of touch carnival employees, apparently tormenting the young (like say, may have happened in Superbad) for example. Oh and then there was a ball punch too I think in the commercial.

Why I loved this movie? The ball punch was carried through 3 acts! Call backs were called back! Nerdy characters were more nerdy than charming. The unbelievable did not happen that often. Shit happened. There was somehow nerd-realism here that I felt gave this movie a lot more substance than some of its recent modern counterparts.
(SUPERBAD SPOILER ALERT!!!: how long did we make it through that movie believing cops fell for a McLovin' fake i.d.? A long time, and while funny, a different tone).

The main character is a role that in every other movie would be played by Michael Cera (also excellent!), but instead it went to the less charming, less cute, less affable, and therefore far more superbly realistic Jesse Eisenberg. My only experience with him was in The Squid and the Whale (ALSO EXCELLENT), where he played a character who absolutely took himself (and his father) too seriously to the point of overwhelming emotional pain. So borrowing that impression, rather than experiencing Michael Cera, who is lovably painfully aware of his lack of coolness in the characters he plays, was a plus for me. (Again, not saying Michael Cera would not have been excellent, just think it would have changed the movie).

Somehow the nerds said nerdier things to me, in a way I found more believable. Like yes, a Russian Literature major predicting a life as a drug dealer or hot dog vendor, and an emotional sap being unable to NOT express that truth earnestly and constantly to love interest BOTH seem feasible to me. This may be generational, however, as I overheard another audience member (who was, eh, let's, if I'm generous to myself, estimate 13 years younger than me) say "No one really talks like that."

My response to that was "Oh yeah? Because I pretty much wanted to stab myself in the neck with a 7-11 slurpee straw for the first 20 minutes of Juno because I never mention the fact I'm talking on a hamburger phone while talking on one, because it seems ridiculous to do so. And who do you know, aside from those who purchased them at Urban Outfitters after the movie came out, that has a hamburger phone?" But I kept that comment to my old, crotchety self. It may be that for younger audience members who were aged 0-2 years during the 80s, a movie about the 80s where people are wearing clothing much like what many of them are wearing to class now (really, ask me how often I see black sunglasses with neon-green/pink/yellow side pieces on the heads of 18-21 year olds I see daily, because the answer is OFTEN) simply does not resonate. Or I may be overly generous to this movie, and here is why:


But it's called Kennywood, not Adventureland, and it's located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as Adventureland is in the movie. And the trash people drop on the ground in the movie would be picked up by the "Litter Gitter," a cart for litter pick up. Also, there is not one maintenance man in all of Allegheny County, not just the City of Pittsburgh, who looks like Ryan Reynolds. There's not even one who weighs the same amount, unless the actual guy is about 5'0".

So as this movie unwound its premise of "stuck for the summer in Pittsburgh," my brain quickly thought "Adventureland is Kennywood!!!" And then it was. What an amazing and pleasant surprise.

My biggest problems were actually that Jesse Eisenberg sounded like he was from New York, not Pittsburgh. No one who grew up in Pittsburgh makes "A" sounds like that. Or says "orange" like he does. And yes there's a difference. But we'll let this pass. A Pittsburgh accent does not charm all audiences (though the guy who sells OxyClean and other infomercial items to everyone makes a different case).

I also could not help naming all the park rides as they appeared in the background. "That's the thunderbolt! That's the turnpike ride! He's running past the historic landmark that is the merry-go-round. That's cars from the whip! That's the Monongahela Monster! This Music Express ride is anachronistic - it was added to the park when I was a teenager. That's the Enterprise - best ride!!! Those french fries are curly fries. Potato Patch fries look like actual potatoes (very famous Kennywood foodstuff)." When characters sit in the shadow of a roller coaster (the Thunderbolt) and a hillside is shown in the background, I know what river is visible from the top hill of that roller coaster before it plunges down toward the hill (it was named above, geography buffs), and I know that Rankin is the neighborhood in the distance. And somehow having this movie serve as a one-way ticket back to happy times of childhood in this once-a-year fun destination of Kennywood Park (even though it was being depicted as fairly pathetic in the movie), was like an unexpected care package for emotional home sickness. People in bars were drinking Iron City beer. Yes. Yes. Yes.
I loved it.

And, another factoid for those of you who are totally unfamiliar with Kennywood, it's about 1-2 miles away from the neighborhoods used for the movie The Deerhunter. Pretty darned Pittsburgh.

I had to look up the writer to see if he was from Pittsburgh. He's from New York, but he studied at Carnegie Mellon. Which may be how Kennywood made it to the big screen.

Again, I liked this movie quite a bit. But if you want the definitive Kennywood movie, find "Kennywood Memories" by Rick Sebak (the Pittsburgh equivalent of Huell Howser). He made a fantastic piece documenting the history of the park. And there is a lot of history in there.

Kennywood is something that every Pittsburgher identifies with, because they probably went once a year each summer. They remember standing in lines to try to get the first seat, the seat where you looked like you would plunge to your death, on the Thunderbolt. They remember the year they were tall enough to get on the Jackrabbit, even though their mom still held them down in the seat since the flimsy, worn leather strap seemed more decorative than protective. They remember the Zambelli Brothers Internationale fireworks over the city. And they remember the tune the merry-go-round organ played while it stopped for new riders to climb aboard.

Even as a backdrop for others to come-of-age, seeing Kennywood on screen, bigger-than-life, happily reminds me of all the times I did not.

Pittsburgh is full of surprises. And the rest of the world is full of people who will fiercely defend each and every one, good and bad, simply for the sake of ownership on the emotional territory between three rivers, and us and the rest of the world.

Go see Adventureland!
Also shout out to Matt Bush, the kid from the AT&T commercial with the roll-over minute hoarding mom who turns into a young, horny version of Scott Baio in this movie. Like it.

Another shout out to my Magnificent Seven to the left. Google could not find you today, and for a moment I was adrift! You're head outlines make me happy daily. Thanks for hanging in.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

28: I think I twenty-ate too much

Today was one of those days when this did not want to happen. This writing - good or bad. And I knew it from about 11:00 a.m. onward. I actually sat under a tree and stared up at the sky instead. I returned a library book instead, and browsed for another while I was there. I did real, honest-to-goodness work at my job instead. I thought about thinking about doing my taxes instead. I did things like figure out the price differential on kleenexes that were on sale at the grocery store instead. After thinking I was not hungry, I ate about three dinners and four desserts instead. I watched two hours of reality television featuring women whose faces seemed like they had been badly broken before they'd been stapled backwards to provide the illusion of eternal youth instead. I even did what for me, is among my least favorite tasks on earth as it involves specific time commitment, spending larger quantities of money, fear of disappointing others, fear of the missing unknown big opportunity that hasn't come up yet, searching for ways to use vacation days I may or may not have on work time, all kinds of things - looked into buying a plane ticket. You'll notice I could not even fully commit to buying a plane ticket - so agonizing is the process for me. But still, I looked at some websites. I really did not want to write.

I had some false starts.

At one point, while at work, I started writing about the process of false starts with writing, but nothing more came out.

As soon as I was away from a desk, thoughts began to clutter, to scatter, to attack, but still none in a reasonable way.

Here are things I have discovered so far today that seem like newer or novel declarations:
  • I am currently in love with pretzels, and feel the need to eat great quantities of pretzels daily. I tried to make some sort of comparison between myself and pretzels as to their twists and salt, but really, I think I am just in love with pretzels right now. I am not a pretzel.
  • I realized that for the first time ever today, I actually listened to, and think I understood the lyrics "thunder only happens when it's raining" in the Fleetwood Mac song, and this surprised me - that I'd never stopped to think about what that means before.
  • I like paper versions of things, and the end of newspapers worries me in a "soon all paper will follow!" apocalyptic panic sort of way. I like actual paper greeting cards for their heft and weight and what is written in the handwriting itself of a friend or loved one for this same reason. I like sending them too because mail is one of the cheapest thrills currently available to U.S. citizens.
  • Sometimes lately I feel like carbonite-frozen Han Solo. Like mouth open in a scream of protest, but stopped dead, mid-motion, prevented from action. But I think I worry that if someone cracks through the carbonite, the rest of the sentence might come tumbling out! And I don't know what it would say. Also, while checking the internet to verify "carbonite" as the substance in question, I found gems of copy writing on the web site and really, if they have not achieved the perfect tone in web content and copy, who will? Look at this sentence from Han Solo's bio (and love it):
    But if anything is consistent in Solo's life, it is unpredictability.
  • I love both the song "Jump!" by Van Halen and "Jump! (For my Love)" by the Pointer Sisters. I sing both as karaoke standards when occasion provides.
  • If Bob Newhart actually ran an inn and had a psychiatric practice in real life, which would you rather patronize? Both is an acceptable answer.
I am punking out in grand style today crockers! And so soon upon the heels of a Sunday - poor form. I will, to challenge myself in a new and exciting way, spend the next four minutes free associating! So that you may see where my mind is racing and not going anywhere.
The start? Pretzels:
pretzels twist and shout shout let it all out of my dreams into my car 54 where are you should know better that's no way to treat a ladybug rodney dangerfield can't get no respect his last name, respect that i've never noticed that before, thunder only happens when it's raining and lightning only strikes when you curse God on the putting green in Caddyshack, the danger field itself myself herself the elf, i can't use the selfs correctly in English with any confidence and I have degrees from universities that suggest I should be able to do just that would be something an easter egg with a chick inside pretzels sometimes there is peanut butter and jelly bellys are the first gourmet candy gimmick of pop success but of popcorn flavor, they are gross anatomy and michael gross ties family ties to gross anatomy and i wish he were on grey's anatomy and told someone to make it better.

As you can see my thoughts run to t.v. mostly. Food sometimes.

I may just be a marketing ploy. Maybe I found out, which is why my real brain is frozen in carbonite, and if I am ever melted, that is the truth I would scream. But in so doing, would render myself obsolete.

I am off to squeeze the charmin of dreams.

Monday, March 23, 2009

27: Blog it! Dag-Gummit!

Earlier today, I was trying to think of what was on my mind - a rather unusual proposition to consider because shouldn’t one already know what he or she is thinking about? Somehow my confusion about this fact, thoughts of what I wanted to add to the crockpot today, my enjoyment of the book I am reading, and my latent desire for pizza (which is inexplicably being exacerbated by whoever made popcorn in the office), brought Book It! to mind. Do you remember this?

Book It! The program that uses pizza as an incentive to get kids to get excited about reading? And not just reading, but competitive reading. Reading as much as possible to out-read other students and earn stickers for display on a giant button to signify pizza-driven accomplishment. Thinking back on this program, I can’t help but think what a crock! And I do not mean this blog! (Though perhaps I should consider t-shirts with this phrase for self-promotion, especially if pizza-based incentives for reading this blog become financially unfeasible).

Has there ever been a more ingenious use of marketing right in school classrooms? You earn a free product by performing an enriching, good-for-you academic task. Wonderful! Only a truly negligent parent would not be excited about this program and the reading regularity it inspired in his or her child. And once a school embraces this program and hangs Book It! marketing posters up in a classroom to track the race for reading glory among its students, there is no WAY a child is not going to participate. I remember my Dad hating Book It! for the exact reason it is a stroke of evil genius – it forced him to take us to Pizza Hut.

What was he going to do, say, “No, we cannot go collect your reward for academic performance that everyone else in your class gets to do,”? He could not very easily, though he could accurately have argued that Book It! was a ploy rewarding students for something they should already be doing anyway to force parents to buy themselves pizza while their children ate free tiny pizzas. Nor could he very easily impugn the honor system that was, by my memory, the only thing used to confirm that books had been read by anyone at all. Clearly, we would not be fudging our book numbers as the good honest kids he was raising us to be, but really, anyone could were they so inclined to have an end to trips for free pizza, bring into question the integrity of this “reading competition” on the whole. Logic was no salve for fifth grade disappointment. My parents had no choice but to be supportive.
Ah the curse of procreation.

Once my brothers and I had read enough books to qualify for a personal pan pizza of literary greatness (and pepperoni, if so desired), the five of us would head for the nearest Pizza Hut, cram into a booth, and watch my parents try to accurately guess how much pizza should be begrudgingly purchased, and whether getting pop by the pitcher rather than the cup was a better value (and whether the monetary savings were outweighed by the negative impact of dinner-time Pepsi on our sleep, our teeth, our young bones). Even as we were congratulated by the waitress for being such great readers, we could not help but notice the wincing that accompanied the orders our parents made, “We’ll take two [wince] large pizzas, one pepperoni, one supreme, and a pitcher of orange Slice. Does that come with free refills? [wince].” Here they were, watching their children’s eyes light up at being given a treat for academic accomplishment while they themselves were spending money it pained them to part with as they’d surely rather squirrel it away for the future college education of these children, who would only get there if they maintained their interest in, and enthusiasm for, academic accomplishment – like this pizza program inspired.
What a sadistic marketeer the Book It! creator must have been! And what a genius. You simply cannot say no.

I do not think the thing that my parents found most galling about these Pizza Hut trips was the cost itself, actually, as back in the day Pizza Hut did have some pretty good deals where buying multiple pizzas worked in the diners’ monetary favor. The thing I know my dad hated most was the pizza itself. His main problem with Pizza Hut was that it was Pizza Hut. This was also unfathomable to our young minds, who had yet to develop taste buds sophisticated enough to recognize when something was so overly processed and artificially butter-injected that you should only be consuming it if you REALLY have the hankering for it or are egregiously hungover. For us it was WAY better than any of those square meals mom was servin’ up. No room for vegetables on that plate! The personal pan pizza was a kingdom of goodness unto ourselves. No sharing. No nutrition. No problems.

Poor Mom and Dad.

And even as I write this, the memory of the joy in the artificially butter-injected crust in each pizza hut pizza slice makes me kind of want to look for the closest giant red roof in L.A. and head in for a pan pizza of my own. (Maybe the jukebox would still have “Electric Blue”! ref day 3).

When I went a googlin’ to see if I could find a Book It! image that would speak loud and clear to the weighty emotional significance of the Book It! program, I was shocked to find that it was still going strong! Book It! 2009-2010 is ready to roll out to a school near you! How has the overall marketing-ness of this program as a means to sell pizzas not yet outweighed the benefits of reading? And really, I know I did read more during the program, but I don’t think the pizza incentive is what had the most impact on my lifelong reading habits (which again, are terrible, given my love of television).

Also, not to be a nancy-no-pizza or anything, but aren’t we looking for ways to combat the childhood obesity epidemic that is sweeping the nation faster than the P’Zone by delivery (order two and get a free 20 oz. Pepsi)? Is not-so-good-for-you food the best way to get kids to care about reading? Is there any way we can encourage activities that inspire both healthy lifestyle AND academic habits? (This is so daunting a task, actually, that a good bit of grant money is awarded to people each year who claim that they can do just that).

Now, mind you, I still bribe myself with cookies as a matter of habit, so let me be the first one to throw a pizza box at my outrage to knock me off of my high horse. I’m just shocked that Book It! has survived! And that its utility for education versus its utility to Pizza Hut is a relationship that has not been identified and studied by enough people that the program would cease to exist. It seems like it should be a leftover by now. Do you want a to-go box for that?

My family always did.

So when I looked around on the Pizza Hut Book It! program web site, I noticed a section for those who used to read. They even have found a way to exploit the nostalgia of Book It! for those who stumble onto their site. If you buy a t-shirt proclaiming your love of the old Book It! and your sentimental attachment to things of childhoods passed (again, I’m not above these feelings, I would wear one of these t-shirts were I given one for free), the Book It! program will donate a book to current students.

Spreading the gospel of reading in shirt and deed – Pizza Hut truly is, makin’ it great! The marketing genius rolls on, targeting an entire generation they already know they own in sentimentality to advertise that beloved truth on their physical persons, and even now, EVEN NOW they understand that the behavior – reward model works. If you buy this t-shirt, good things happen – kids get a book, which they’ll use in Book It!, which means they too may end up with an attachment to books, pizza, and the cheese-like crumbles that came on the breadsticks. The model is reversed
get YOURSELF a treat, because you’re old enough now, you’ve put in your time, we know you know how to read – and then receive the additional reward of feeling gratified by helping others learn (to love pizza and reading together forever)!
Genius. Pure evil, fabulous, moneymaking genius. Reading pizza reading t-shirt reading pizza.
Let the circle be unbroken!

Let it instead be sliced into triangle cuts, for consumption among friends and readers be they small, medium, or large.

If I were reading this, though I would be pleased to reach the end of a Pizza Hut tirade, I would want to know what book has me so enthralled currently, so I’ll share on the off-hand chance that someone gives a crap. It’s Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie. The book focuses on the main character’s all-consuming drive toward murderous revenge (no spoilers here, the book flap says as much). For a number of reasons, including the beautiful, poetic writing of the author, the story’s amazing travels across time and place, and probably the character’s unrelenting rage, this book is really resonating with me right now. Maybe when I finish, I will send my parents a gift certificate to another pizza establishment along with an anonymous apology in the attitudes of my new favorite characters saying:
Your day to avenge the wrongs wrought upon you by the hut has come. Go. Order a medium pizza with two toppings of your choice. Yes, even the fancy ones, though I think Dad hates sun-dried tomatoes. Go forth and read the menu, the newspaper, the cereal boxes. But whatever you do read, this pizza shall be far more rewarding than those you had to endure for the sake of my academic enrichment. Know that in the critique of the adult reading and eating world, the book of Pizza Hut has been panned.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Twenty-Six-ty Minutes: Tick Tock

The glory of endlcss tournament basketball games has ended for the first time since it began. The buzzers that would be beaten this week have been. The tears have been shed by the fallen. The open-mouthed srcreams of the victors have been immortalized by The fives have been highed. The sweat has dried.

The sun has set. The weekend opens its final act in dramatic fashion - the death knell of laziness and relaxation is heard off in the distance.

Tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick.

I'm Morley Safer.

I'm Steve Kroft.

I'm Leslie Stahl.

These stories and more...

Sixty Minutes - For whom the clock tolls - it tolls for thee.

Sixty Minutes ticking clock has a nearly Pavlovian response set in my mind, but instead of drooling, I panic. As soon as I hear that damned ticking or see that stopwatch second hand running around on the loose, my mind goes straight to SUNDAYNIGHTIT'SOVEROHSHIT.

Things that should be done that have not been done suddenly line up for roll call at the front on my mind. Laundry piles are transformed into mountains. Unpaid bills are littered in one room like the socks on the floor of another. Thoughts get faster. Actions get slower.
Have I eaten a vegetable this weekend? Do french fries count? I have had a lot fried foods in the last two days. Lots of oil. Why can I not bring myself to get an oil change? Getting quarters to do laundry should at least show intention toward accomplishment, if actual accomplishment proved impossible. Right? Right? Is there anything good on t.v. right now? This is stressing me out...

And the answer is Sixty Minutes is on. That is it. A show devoted to exposing the cold reality of the week at large through the tight-lipped, always skeptical, yet friendly and dignified interviews of America's most active-older newscasters. It is the end of the line.

I remember this association taking root most firmly in my childhood at my grandparent's house. Somehow the kids would always end up sitting on the couch - too full from Grandma's food, having already bowed out of the adult conversation of parents and grandparents, seeking refuge in soft cushions and t.v. Then the clock would begin ticking on the t.v., and a call of "Get the coats. Time to go," would reach us from the other room.
A round of hugs would begin, and soon we'd be crammed in the backseat, crossing over rivers and passing alongside a sleeping city, waiting for its minions to return to work the next day.

Man I hate Sunday night!

have tried outsmarting Sunday in the past, planning to see a movie or do some sort of fun activity to coax myself toward forgetting it's the end of free time, but it never quite works.
My old roommate and I used to have improvised church at home - Neil Diamond craft nights. We'd throw on Neil Diamond's greatest hits (several of which are more than mildly spiritual, by the way), and then do some sort of craft project. Again, maybe not a recognized religion, but he certainly has followers who track his whereabouts religiously. While I do not fall into that category of Neil Diamond fanatic like those who are far more devout, I can say I've achieved great moments of peace and clarity with Soolaimon as a soundtrack.

I have definitely only grown to love Neil Diamond more as I've aged, and he's an artist who has curried far more favor with those who may be older than me. My question is then, will I one day grow to love Sixty Minutes? Will I be looking forward to it as the good part of Sunday one of these days? I mean, I watched it tonight to see an Obama interview, and I definitely stuck around for the second story.

I suppose as someone who is essentially writing an Andy Rooney entry, but with less focus and charm, to end this week's blog posts I should really be a Sixty Minutes enthusiast without shame. I should be so lucky as to have something to look forward to each week on Sunday night. Maybe they'll switch the stopwatch to look like the clock they use on the show 24 by the time I'm older and my negative association will vanish. Or maybe Neil Diamond will take over when Andy Rooney retires, and I'll really feel that it's the best hour of the week.

The pessimism would be banished by the force of the songman's suggestion:
Day-a-a-a-ay, shall provide.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

25: Could be a great time for a quarterlife crisis…but we’ll settle for something different

Well, the tournament continues to be an amazing exercise in absolute lack of exercise for my physical person, if you don’t count energy expended in jumping of the couch from time to time to yell at the t.v. from time to time. Even now I’m attempting to write this while Duke plays Texas in the background. Turns out I’m actually not that bad a no-look typist! Can’t guarantee anything of worth is being put down here, but at least the spellchecker is not getting overworked.

Due to my obsession regarding the NCAA tournament and possible repetitive subject matter of the crockpot during these game days, today I’d like to take a trip to somewhere very different - a trip to the McCartney mansion. Let’s see what’s going on across the pond with our good friends Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney.

Paul McCartney sits in an overstuffed armchair watching Jeopardy! on t.v. while having a cup of tea. He periodically shouts out answers.

Paul: What is Gibraltar? Who is Elizabeth the second?

A guy in green surgical scrubs and sunglasses walks through Paul’s sight line to the t.v.

What is the appendix?

Surgeon: It’s a body part we don’t really need I don’t think. My mom used to call me the appendix of her children, actually. I didn’t get it back then.

Paul: Who are you?

Enter Michael Jackson chasing after the surgeon.

MJ: I think I know the one I want!

Paul: Michael! What is this surgeon doing here? I thought we agreed, no more surgeries! The public finds it off-putting! And more to the point, you can’t afford plastic surgery!

MJ: He’s not a surgeon, don’t worry Sir Paul.

Paul: Michael, I’m not a bloody moron, I’ll have you know. I’m doing quite well at this round of Jeopardy. And he’s dressed in full hospital attire. Do not lie to me!

MJ: I’m not! Really!

Surgeon: He’s not lying.

Paul: Then why are you dressed like a surgeon?

MJ: Oh this is Bruce, he’s from the Revolution, You know, like, Prince and the Revolution. He says he can get me a deal on sequined surgical masks so I can add some sparkle to my look when I go out for formal occasions.

Surgeon: Yeah I’m with the revolution. Have you heard of the Revolution?

Enter a butler in formal tails reading a newspaper so we cannot see his face.

Paul: (indignant) Have I heard of the revolution? I can’t believe this guy is asking me about revolution.

The butler suddenly drops the newspaper from in front of his face to reveal himself as Prince, and turns to address the assembled. He is wearing a formal purple tuxedo shirt and bow tie under the tails.

Prince: You say you want…a revolution?

MJ: Prince! You’ve come for a sleepover! Yay!

Paul: Oh God, how did you get in here Prince?

Prince: The dumbwaiter.

Paul: You snuck in through the elevator?

Prince: No. Though I have seen many episodes of Webster, I actually had myself delivered disguised as Thai food, and then was placed in the dumbwaiter. Little did the staff know, there is no such thing as purple curry. Now give me back my surgeon.

Paul: Gladly.

MJ: But we were going to play Keytar Hero in my room in our surgical masks!!! Paul, can’t he stay?

Surgeon: I’m good at the keyboard stuff.

Paul: Well, Prince says it’s time for him to go so I think he probably should.

Prince: Yes. Come Bruce. (turning to Paul) I have thwarted your plans to steal a member of the Revolution this time and don’t forget, I am always watching.

Paul: What? Prince, I didn’t even know he was here? Why would I want to steal your keyboard player?

Prince: To reassemble a backing band capable of creating dance sounds that would give Michael Jackson a viable comeback, propelling him dangerously out of reach of the grasp of my latest hits, which have not yet been released. This galaxy is not big enough for that much funk at once. The sheer movement of every human being on earth at once to either a Prince or Michael Jackson hit would cause the earth to rotate even faster, like a treadmill with a rotating belt the runner controls.

Paul: They make those.

Prince: It would soon spin faster and faster. Ice caps would melt faster. Speed limits would be raised. Daylight savings time would be erased because humans would eventually outrun the time change.

MJ: We don’t have that in Indiana!

Prince: You see, were the end of humankind to occur because of our music, then when the next, superior life forms discovered the tattered remnants of human kind, Michael and I would be implicated. Perhaps even, misunderstood as tyrants of souls, not rulers of soul.

Surgeon: But didn’t you say life is just a party, and parties aren’t meant to last?

Prince: That was in a fortune cookie I received once. I had had purple curry for dinner, and that fortune followed.

Paul: I am not trying to steal your revolution. And do you really think you’d be able to bring about end times with two dance hits?

Prince: Yes. And that is something for which I cannot shoulder the blame.

MJ: (singing) Blame it on the Boogie!!! HEEEHeeeHoo!

Paul: Ok, well, Bruce, Prince says it’s time to scrub out, and if you leave now, I can still watch final jeopardy in peace.

Prince: I love Jeopardy!

Paul: Me too. Wanna watch while the boys play their video game?

Prince: Do not try to trick me Sir Paul. Maybe I’m amazed you’d think I would fall for that.

Paul: I’m in my bloody slippers here. I really do not care if you keep your keyboardist.

MJ and the Surgeon whisper to themselves and giggle.

Prince: Very well. I will watch final jeopardy with you. If I guess the correct answer and you do not, we will play another game, as I love them so. The second game will have higher stakes. If you win that second game, it will be a chance for you to use my surgeon for your music, and my hairstylist to correct your somewhat questionable dye job problems. Sometimes you frankly look like you’re sharing a box of L’Oreal “Copperhead 322” with Maureen Dowd’s headshot, and she has hair for newspaper, my British friend. And I will let MJ use my publicist to move him at least .02 percent closer to normalcy in the public’s perception.

Paul: What!?! They have statistics for that?

Prince: My publicist keeps them. MIT grad. This is a generous offer, I know. I understand that you are flummoxed.

Alex Trebek voiceover on the t.v. says AND WE’RE BACK! Final jeopardy.

Paul: And if I win final jeopardy, or if we both get it right?

Prince: I take my surgeon and leave.

V.O. Trebek: The category is "Birds of the World."

Paul: Deal.

Prince: (aggressively humping the air as if having sexual intercourse with it) Let’s do this.

V.O. Trebek: Though this bird, with Latin name Gavia Limmer, is primarily black, it is known to have white checkering and markings across its body.

Prince: I didn’t know Michael Jackson had a bird species. Zing!

Paul: Nothing would surprise me. Prince, I don’t know the answer. You win if you do. Though I can’t imagine how you would.

Prince: Oh Sir Paul, how you underestimate me. Let it be – the common loon.

Paul: What? That’s your answer?

Prince: Yes.

Paul: I’ll take the Blackbird.

Prince: You would.

Trebek V.O.: And now to our returning champion. Did he know the bird that stumped his competitors this evening? Your answer - the sparrow I’m sorry that is incorrect. How much will it cost you? Nothing at all. I’m afraid none of our players knew that answer was the Common Loon. Yes. Steve you will remain as champion!

Paul: How did you know that?

Prince: The Common Loon is the state bird of Minnesota. I am the uncommon loon – the king bird of Minnesota. Known for its purple crown. I continue to wear that crown - as I win.

Paul: What game will we be playing?


Surgeon: Operation!

Prince: No, neither. I will get back to you when the time is ready. The game shall be named.
Come Master Bruce! To the Bat-Dancemobile!